Wine Blogger Awards: Still Corked After All These Years

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The finalists for the 2010 Wine Blog awards were announced today and I had high hopes that I wouldn’t have to write this annual column again this year. Unfortunately, here we go again.

Until this year the awards have been handed out by Tom Wark who runs an excellent wine blog entitled Fermentation. In addition to that he is a wine consumer advocate. I respect him for those things. What he is not very good at is deciding who should be given awards for wine blogging. In fact, he has serious problems figuring out what constitutes a blog at all. Perhaps that is because he also runs a PR and Marketing firm that serves the wine industry. I can see how some lines might get fuzzy for him, whether intentionally or not.

Which is why last year there was a lot of dead-on criticism of the fact that a PR guy was giving out awards that many, myself included, believed were conceived primarily to drive traffic to his site. There was also the concern, given some of the nominations, that they were being used as a means to curry favor with powerful folks in the wine industry. To Tom’s credit he responded to the criticism by announcing that he would be handing over the awards to the Open Wine Consortium.

There is only one problem with that solution; the OWC is run by a bunch of mostly good guys working in the wine industry. One of those guys is Tom Wark. I have been trying in vain for most of the afternoon to find out who the panel of 11 judges are who chose the finalists from the nominated sites. If I ever get an answer, not only will I be stunned if Tom’s name is not on it, I will not believe that the list is accurate.

Why is that? While some things have changed, way too much has stayed the same. The improvements are mainly in the inclusion of some very deserving sites, some of whose exclusion inspired me to write about this previously (hey Enobytes, Winesleuth, Twisted Oak, Catavino and 1Winedude!), albeit some of which would seem to be in the wrong categories. Progress is good regardless. There are other well-deserving nominees, as well. One is Steve Heimoff whom I have taken to task for not actually being a blogger. I never took him to task for not being a great writer, and he has dug in over the past year and has this blogging thing down pretty well these days. Congratulations to Steve and all of the other great nominees.

Thus concludes the warm and fuzzy portion of this post, it is time to roll up the pant legs and wade into the shit, so to speak. The entire process was in need of an overhaul, beginning with making the process transparent all the way through to the categories.

Let’s start with the big category. There are five nominees for Best Wine Blog, however there are only three blogs among the five. Pretty strange, eh? Uh huh. It is like turning on the Academy Awards and finding out that most of the nominees were actually sitcoms or e-Trade ads (Btw, hey new baby, you SUCK! Who told you that you could act? You couldn’t carry the old baby’s diaper bag. Just quit, you poser!). Now that doesn’t mean the nominees aren’t great, I am a huge fan of them all. 1Winedude and Dr Vino are two of the best bloggers in any field, and both deserve to win. That brings us to Lenndevours, who writes the excellent single subject New York Cork Report. Lenn deservedly won for Single Subject Wine Blog last year and as far as I can tell, still belongs in that category. That takes care of the three actual blogs, one of which appears to be a finalist in the wrong category.

The other two finalists in this category are baffling choices but for completely different reasons. Last year one of the most contentious pick was Eric Asimov, wine editor for the New York Times. This year I am nominating The Cellarist for an Asimov Award (formerly known as the Heimoff) for the best impersonation of a blogger by a mainstream media journalist. Fantastic writing which I read religiously, but blogs have to compete with the San Francisco Chronicle? That’s fucked up. Seriously. If this guy is nominated, how does he not win?

Jon Bonné is the wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, responsible for each Friday’s Chronicle Wine section as well as the annual Top 100 Wines. He covers wine, spirits and other libations throughout California and around the world, and joined the Chronicle in 2006.

Doesn’t much sound like a guy who didn’t have a voice until WordPress rolled out, does he?

Which brings us to the hardest one for me to call outs. Palate Press is an awesome site, and both Amy and I have written for them, our reviews appear in their database, and we have worked with them in other capacities as well. They are certainly deserving of an award…for best new wine magazine. But one would need to have an exceptionally broad definition to call it a blog. Some of their writers *gasp* are even paid. Oh, the horror!

So, there is the Best Wine Blog category and it contains a grand total of three blogs, one of which is arguably in the wrong category. That means that two or three deserving blogs were left out due to their inclusion. That is just not right. If the Mysterious Panel of 11 want to give awards to mainstream media writers who write columns that appear on-’line, then they should create a category for them. And if they want to recognize on-line wine magazines, and I am of the opinion that they should, it should be in a category for them. As for single subject blogs, well they already have that category.

This is already getting to be a long post, and I don’t plan to go through every finalist and every category. I also mean no disrespect to any of the finalists. But these are the wine blog awards, not the wine retailer awards, or the wine editor for a major newspaper awards, or stroke the PR guys’ ego by letting them play king maker awards.

There is one more category that I want to touch on however, since it is very near and dear to my heart. That is the award for best design. Wark gave it some long name that included a bunch of unrelated items, but you don’t have to be named Carson to know that design school ain’t on his resume. Another clue is that design and photography are lumped together in this category, and presumably his mind. Perhaps, like on his site, design is merely an afterthought. Or, perhaps he truly doesn’t understand what design is. Tom, as someone who makes his living with Photoshop, let me assure you that design and photography are two entirely different beasts. For example, I have seen some great photos on your site, but it still looks like ass. Don’t make me repeat what kind of ass again, you know I will!

Design is about combining graphics, typography, usability into a unique user experience. Last year one of the nominees was a site that was poorly designed, but it did mock wine bloggers and had lots of tits on it. This year I have to say that every nominee exceeds the standards used to select that site, although I have to admit to being a big fan of tits and kind of miss them. Boobs aside, there are sites nominated with barely altered stock templates. That is not design, that is convenience.

In closing, let me tell you a little story about the Mysterious 11. This morning when the names of the finalists were announced, there was a blog on the list that no longer appears on there, and has been replaced by another blog that was not originally on the list. Why? Because they did not bother to check and see if it met their own criteria. So, I think that when I ask for their identities and their qualifications, we all deserve an answer.

Is this sour grapes on my part? Perhaps I’ll address that tomorrow. Especially since so many of our reader’s were given a stiff middle finger by 11 guys…and rumor has it, they are all guys. No women allowed. Hmm…

  • http://2daysperbottle.blogspot.com dhonig

    Joe, There is no question Another Wine Blog is terrific, one of the very best, and I am once again surprised you are not a finalist. Your combination of high quality writing, great reviews, and good food/cooking/pairing content is unique in the wine blog world and deserves to be recognized.

    Thank you for the kind words about, but more important the articles and reviews in, Palate Press. I won't even deal with the debate of whether we're a blog or not, for I suspect we straddle the edge, both blog and magazine. Maybe we're a blogazine. Yeah, that's it, a blogazine. No question, though, that Joe, Lenn,* and Tyler all do a good job. We're honored to be mentioned among them.

    Just curious, which blog disappeared and which one replaced it? Also, which category? I missed that.

    d

    *In all fairness, isn't Lenn's New York Cork Report built on a similar model, with multiple writers contributing content?

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

      Thanks Dave, but that post isn't about our exclusion. I saw that one coming a mile away. Yeah, the petty political bullshit they pull pisses me off, but that is not my point. At least not in this post. Check back with me tomorrow.

      Like I said, PP is awesome and deserves all the accolades and awards it can collect. But we both know what constitutes a blog, and it is much more than a blog.

      As for NY Cork Report, even 100 writers writing about the same thing would still be a single subject. In this case, a damn good one, but stil…

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com WineWonkette

      Wow, I didn't even notice the change, but here it is:

      Current nominees from Survey Monkey are:

      7. Best New Wine Blog

      – A Long Pour (http://alongpour.com/)
      – Drink Nectar (http://drinknectar.com/)
      – Swirl, Smell, Slurp (http://swirlsmellslurp.com/)
      – Notes From the Cellar (http://notesfromthecellar.com/)
      – One Brilliant Bottle (http://onebrilliantbottle.wordpress.com/)

      And this was Copied and Pasted from the Voting Page at 11:00 a.m. Central:

      7. Best New Wine Blog

      – A Long Pour (http://alongpour.com/)
      – Drink Nectar (http://drinknectar.com/)
      – My Wine Words (http://mywinewords.org/)
      – Notes From the Cellar (http://notesfromthecellar.com/)
      – One Brilliant Bottle (http://onebrilliantbottle.wordpress.com/)

      Criteria:

      Criteria: 1) Should have the first blog entry posted sometime during the applicable period of the current awards year. No minimum number of posts is required. 2) Should have already made or show potential to make an impact on the worlds of wine or wine blogging via its reporting, writing, number of followers, etc. 3) Should present a credible appearance as a serious new entry in the realm of wine blogging, based on graphics, title, depth of posts, etc.
      Best New Wine Blog Criteria: 1) Should have the first blog entry posted sometime during the applicable period of the current awards year. No minimum number of posts is required. 2) Should have already made or show potential to make an impact on the worlds of wine or wine blogging via its reporting, writing, number of followers, etc. 3) Should present a credible appearance as a serious new entry in the realm of wine blogging, based on graphics, title, depth of posts, etc.

      How completely embarrassing!

      • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

        No minimum number of posts required? Hmm, I don't recall it saying that during the nomination process. Hmm, changing it after getting busted would be highly unethical, if that is what they did.

        • http://2daysperbottle.blogspot.com dhonig

          Joe, there was always a minimum number of posts requirement. If you're saying they added that, there's a misunderstanding here. If you're saying they dropped it, well, that would indicate a real problem.

          • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

            Dave, I am saying that they appear to have dropped it, Yes, there is indeed a problem. See above where Amy cut and pasted it.

        • http://notesfromthecellar.com Steve Paulo

          “No minimum posts required” was always a stipulation of this category. But thanks for proving I'm not crazy, I thought for sure My Wine Words had been listed in this category at one point!

          • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

            That is the problem with going on memory alone, especially with such a closed and secretive process. I remember it differently, but am quite aware that I could be wrong. The fact that one site was replaced by another hours after the announcement is going to rightly cast suspicion on other parts of the process. It would be helpful to be able to see their revision history, but considering that they won't even disclose who the judges are, I don't plan to hold my breath.

      • http://twitter.com/palatepress Palate Press

        MYSTERY SOLVED!

        The “currrent awards year” ran from April 1, 2009, to March 31, 2010. It looks like My Wine Words had its first post in January, 2009- http://mywinewords.org/video?page=4

        It probably had nothing to do with (my incorrectly alleged) minimum post requirement.

  • Anonymous

    I have one quibble with a nominee. I think it's in the best single subject blog, but I'm talking about “Good Wine Under $20″. Great site, and I've been reading it for years. Dr. Debs is awesome and has done a lot of great work to critically elevate this class of wines. However, her posting has slowed to a trickle. It was a solid 15-20 posts per month, down to an average of 4 per month since September, and she hasn't posted anything since April 7.

    I understand real life gets in the way and, especially if you're writing about a narrow category, it can get old after a while. I'm just surprised to see it mentioned so much in the past few months when the site appears on its way to retirement (this would include the Saveur award for best wine blog 2010). Being listed as a finalist for this year's award seemed odd when so many other blogs are putting out content consistently.

    Love ya, Dr. Debs, and want to see you write about what you love even if it breaks the $20. Heck, even if it's not about wine. I miss the blog.

  • http://yakyakwine.com Chris

    Interesting take, Joe. I've only been blogging about 6 months so don't know the players and blogs or blogazines as well as you do.

    My first take is you're taking this way too seriously.

    My second thought is that in any industry/award show as new as this one it will certainly evolve organically, but criticism from within and outside the house certainly will help the evolution.

    One blog nominated that I think you might criticise it's inclusion, but didn't mention is Paul Gregutt, who was nominated for best writing.

    Paul is a professional wine critic who has written for the Seattle Times, Wine Enthusiast, and independently for close to 30 years. He also has a blog. The blog is, in my mind, a separate intity from his other wine writing and is in fact, no different than this blog or any of the hundreds of others out there. Just because Paul's a wine pro, shouldn't eliminate him from being a wine blogger as I think you have implied with your Eric Asimov ward. The title of the award is Best Wine Blog, not Best Amateur WordPress Wine Blog. If non-pro bloggersw want to be taken seriously, in my view, they should be compared to the best wine writers period regardless of prior credentials or pay scale.

    On the Best New Blog minimum post requirement, I am pretty sure the “no minimum number” was advertised when this years awards were announced.

    Look forward to reading your other thoughts!

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

      Hi Chris, thanks for stopping by and joining the discussion.

      I am definitely taking it quite seriously, as I always do when any group decides to band together to protect their interests to the exclusion of others. Especially in a closed process that gives them full control of the outcome. They have also so far refused to disclose who the judges are, and what their qualifications are. As for whether I am taking it too seriously, I don't believe that I am, but others are free to think otherwise. This was the year this nonsense was supposed to end, and it didn't.

      My point about the pro writers should be read again. Asimov and Bonne both edit the wine sections of their very distinguished newspapers. Their 'blogs' are hosted by their employers, and are branded as part of the newpaper. As a fellow blogger, I am surprised that I have to point out the difference between that and what the rest of us do. Also, if what we do is to be judged against Wine Spectator or any of the fine, existing professional publications, then why do we exist? That is the specious argument that Wark makes time and again when suggesting that most of us should get out of his private sandbox. Fact of the matter is, as a new blogger you probably don't have the resources (readership, industry contacts, etc.) that more established bloggers do. That makes it hard to compete, but over time you can. Established bloggers do not have the resources that the NY Times or SF Chronicle do. It is not a level playing field, and no amount of hard work or time will change that. There is a reason bloggers are called New Media and are looked at as distinct from the Old Media. Nominating these guys as bloggers is just a reach around from some folks who want validation from those they consider above them.

      If there was no minimum post requirement, and almost everyone I have talked to agrees that there was, then why was one of the finalists removed and replaced?

      • http://yakyakwine.com Chris

        My blog was picked up by the online version of a local magazine, Yakima Magazine, that is associated with the daily newspaper, Yakima Herald Republic. I've been given indication that eventually my blog may become part of the main newspaper web-site as well. At that point, they may exersize editorial control, provide some design resources, etc… Would I then be excluded from the “blog” category?

        Granted this is a small town, and my blog is locally focused, but imo wine media is wine media. Yes, the blog is a new digital media, and newspapers and magazine everywhere are folding because they cannot compete with the “free” stuff, but if we create a wall between the traditional media outlets and our club, we might as well put a sign on the door of the convention hall, “No Pros Allowed”. And if we do that, who've ever going to pay us anything :)

        To your main point, I agree more disclosure of judges would be better for the health of the WBC and Blogger awards.

        I can't answer why the rules were changed. It happens every day. I've even heard rumors that the NBA is considering giving THREE points to guys that can make baskets from further away.

        Again great topic and I appreciate to chance to give and recieve feedback.

        I've seen the list of Washington wines you guys have reviewed and can't wait for you to sample some of the more obscure stuff that Washington has been keeping to itself for the last 5-10 years.

        • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

          Do they have the resources of the NY Times? Will you be their wine and food editor? If so, yes you should be excluded. If not, then there is no way of knowing one way or the other. However, blogging of the sort we do, would seem to be an independent endeavor. Ceding that independence is not something I would personally do. What happens when your advertising department complains that you gave one of their biggest clients a bad review and they have pulled all of their business? Does your small, probably struggling newspaper back you? Do you back down rather than being replaced on your own blog?

          Did the NBA change to the 3 point rule in secret, without consulting the team owner, and have it effect games played prior to the rule change? If not, I'm afraid I don't quite get your analogy.

          We're looking forward to tasting all of the Washington wines too. So far, we have had some pretty impressive stuff. Can't wait to taste those special ones!

          • http://yakyakwine.com Chris

            All good and valid points. I've never worked in journalism nor had to deal with those issues re: advertisers, editors, etc… I'll cross those bridges if and when I get to them for my own writing, which is now a fully independent endeavour. When I asked YakMag about editorial review, they said we trust you for now. No cursing. I had a track record of maybe 25 articles so they knew my style and so far they haven't changed a word in another 40 or so articles.

            As far as independence from advertising and influence of those being reviewed, many blogs solicit and/or recieve wine samples for review at no cost to themselves. Many also have adversting on their site and directly or indirectly market wine for sale. I don't have a problem with any of that, but I can't see much of a difference between that and newpaper advertisers. If you write a bad review, the samples and buyers may dry up.

          • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

            Really? No swearing? Shit, I would have been done before I ever got started! ;)

            Chris, I have no doubt that you will navigate those treacherous waters responsibly and ethically. It will not be easy, which is why I said that I wouldn't do it personally. But just because something isn't for me doesn't mean that I don't think other people should feel the same way. On the other hand, if you are looking for recognition for your efforts, it probably isn't the best way to go.

            Your samples analogy kind of falls down on a lot of levels. If I give a negative review and someone doesn't want to send me more samples, someone else will. No one can tell me that I can't publish something, I don't have an advertising department that has power due to being the sole source of income for my employer. And most of all, I would never, under any circumstances review wine that I had accepted advertising dollars from. All of which are huge differences between blogs and newspapers. I'm not making value judgments, just pointing out that they are two different beasts in this area.

  • http://www.newyorkcorkreport.com Lenn Thompson

    Hey wait a minute…because we're a single-subject wine blog, we can't be the best overall blog too?

    I'm not saying that I expected to be in that group (I certainly didn't) but I'm not sure I understand the overall logic.

    There are going to be issues with ANY awards program like this, they are inevitable. I think this is a step forward (you know, 'letting' non-U.S. sites play, etc.).

    I'm sure the organizers will take your feedback and incorporate some of it next year. We're all still pretty new to this, remember? :)

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

      Hey Lenn,

      While there is no reason that a single subject blog couldn't be the best, and I truly mean no offense here, but I can't think of what would make a regional site that mainly does reviews worthy of being the overall best wine blog in existence. Can you? I find it truly remarkable, to be quite frank. It would be like us being finalists for best regional blog, or best reviews. As bloggers we choose the niche we want to be in, and that's why there are categories, and why there should be more.

      As badly as the previous awards were mishandled, tiny incremental improvement is as bad as none at all. This process was in need of being blown up and then rebuilt. Instead we still have Wark, his badly chosen categories, his secret processes, and most assuredly, his biases.

      The organizers won't even tell who is judging, it is a cynical process, and they aren't listening to anyone but their own counsel.

  • http://www.newyorkcorkreport.com Lenn Thompson

    As someone who dishes out with the best of them, it certainly wouldn't be very fair of me to take any offense, Joe. Don't sweat that.

    I'm not here to defend the NYCR's inclusion in the finalists for best overall blog. I didn't nominate myself OR judge myself to be worthy, but I'd like to suggest that you visit the site sometime ;)

    To call us a site that “mainly does reviews” just shows that you don't visit often (or haven't lately). On our main page right now, we have I think 18 posts. Only 4 are reviews. You're right though, we do publish a lot of reviews, as any regional sight should.

    My guess is that if we were just a review site, we'd not be finalists in the industry category, right?

    I think you right to question how things are run with the awards, but to be so negative and cynical makes you come off a bit jealous. I'm not saying that you are, but that you come off that way and that I may be the only one willing to actually say that to you.

    If it'll make you feel better, I'll nominate you next year.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

      Actually, I do visit your site now and then. I am not a New York wine fan, nor am I much of a proponent of local food and wine. I think the movement takes everything way too far, and inevitably ends up tired of playing defense all of the time and attacks. That said, I do like your site. It is well designed, the writing is good, etc. I like it. But it appears we have a different idea of what constitutes a local wine review. My count is a wee higher than yours.

      No point in you nominating us next year. We were nominated in almost every category, and more often than just about anyone else, including you. With a closed process involving zero accountability, not much matters but the secret vote of a certain old boys club, many of whom seem to be in it strictly to reward their pals, regardless of whether they even qualify for the category or not.

      I don't much care if you, or anyone else thinks that I am jealous. That would be a fairly stupid assumption to make. What I am is pissed, infuriated, and disgusted that the OWC would continue the same corrupt system that caused so many of us to deride Wark's version. It is reprehensible and arrogant in the extreme. And I expected better from them. We all deserve better from them.

      • http://notesfromthecellar.com Steve Paulo

        And those of us who were nominated for an award? Are we in on the cabal, pawns in a game, or what? I haven't been around long enough to be owed any quid pro quo from anyone…

        • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

          Who knows? For all anyone knows, you could be one of the judges. That is the point of all of this. There is absolutely no transparency or accountability. Any attempt to get any is met with a resounding 'NO', and a 'because I said so' in answer to why.'

          Steve, you make my point for me perfectly. With all of the secrecy involved, the screw-ups and subsequent cover-ups, everyone involved is impugned, whether it is justified or not. It did not have to be that way.

          • http://notesfromthecellar.com Steve Paulo

            And you, I'm guessing, have nothing to do with this impugning. You're just an innocent bystander and commenter, with no ulterior motive and nothing to gain from all this. You say that coloring you jealous would be “a fairly stupid assumption to make” yet you give every reason to think this at least in part informs your perspective on this.

            I cannot imagine that had you been a finalist in any of the many, many, many categories you were nominated in (per your earlier statement) that you would not be so quick to fire off conspiracy theories about the reasons why this or that is done.

            With all of the secrecy involved, it's interesting to me that you think you have it all figured out.

          • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

            Personal attacks, aside from being an admission that you've run out of logic, tend to work better when you don't make stuff up.

            I am pretty open about what has gotten me worked up over this, and seriously, it is not jealousy. Do I feel we were unjustly snubbed? You're damn right I do. In fact, that is the one and only thing that I truly do have figured out.

            Look, I don't have anything against those that were selected. I don't begrudge them anything. My issue is with accountability and transparency, plain and simple. The more I get stonewalled, the harder I push. It truly is no more complex than that. That all stems from the fact that I don't have it figured out, and there is no way to figure it out. You know what else I can't figure out? Why are so many people getting so defensive about a call for transparency?

            I do not actually believe that you are one of the judges, or have anything to do with this other than being a nominee. But the point stands that anyone could be.

            You know what I would gain from all of this? What my not-so-ulterior motive for this is? If I am getting screwed over, I would know who was doing it. Or, if I see the names and there is no one whose cornflakes I pissed in, then I can quite peacefully accept that it just wasn't in the cards. There you have my 'conspiracy theory' in a nutshell, or did you happen to see another lying around?

            Btw, I assume that they have left the nominating comments up. Feel free to go read them. It probably won't be as much fun as pretending I made up my earlier claim, but it will certainly be more informative.

          • http://notesfromthecellar.com Steve Paulo

            Calm down, Joe. I never said you made anything up. I simply hadn't the interest in going through all those comments to verify your claim, so I was simply pointing out that I didn't know anything about your blog's status for nominations until you mentioned it.

            And I'm not defending anyone, except myself. You're following a very common pattern in cable news and entertainment magazine shows: By simply appending “I'm not SAYING this, but what if…” you can make any claim you want, and some people will take it seriously.

            But whatever. You're getting all kinds of traffic and attention for this post, so yeah, I think the controversy does benefit you. And I still stand by my belief that had you been nominated, you would not be loudly calling for transparency.

          • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

            I am quite calm. Sorry if I come off as anything but. Context is sometimes hard to come by with language alone. The context I received from your use of many 'manys' was sarcasm. If I was mistaken I apologize. FWIW, I just checked and the comments are indeed there, and other than that darned 1Winedude guy, we pretty much led the nominations. Joe is who beat us out when we were both finalists for a Foodbuzz Best Wine Blog award. As much as I wanted to win, I couldn't have been happier for him. He's a great guy, and a fantastic blogger. Why do I bring that up? Quite self-serving and apparent reasons. In fact, you might say open and transparent, eh?

            While still calm as can be, I do take exception to the characterization that I am using underhanded techniques in any way, shape or form…particularly the form you suggest. The lack of transparency is bad. The flat out refusal to be so when asked, and the resultant hostility is inexplicable. Unless there is something to hide. That is not me asking someone to prove a negative. That is not me asking someone a question that should not be asked and then being outraged because someone claims their right to privacy. Back to my self-serving points above. This site is ranked quite high in Google, and is always in the mix when discussions of awards or accolades come up. Except this time. Forget right and wrong, forget general accountability to the wine blogging community in general. Pretend I care nothing about any of that at all. Just based on the fact that we were snubbed after all of that, I feel quite justified in asking a simple question and getting a simple answer.

            That said, you are partly correct. Had we not been left out, I would be treading a bit more softly. But not all that much. I made the argument for transparency last year, and I would do it now even if I were nominated in every category. These awards either mean something, or they don't. If they do, they demand to be done correctly. I don't mind the extra traffic, but I'd prefer that we, as a community, were to demand accountability. Other on-line groups shout it from the rooftops. Our best and brightest seem to be shrugging it off.

            The additional traffic is nice, but I would do quite a but better with a good recipe and mouthwatering food porn shot. Does the trick every time, and has the added benefit of not having to argue with some folks that I would much rather be drinking with. You know what I mean?

      • http://www.newyorkcorkreport.com Lenn Thompson

        You're probably counting our (almost) weekly What We Drank as a local wine review, but look more closely, unless I ask the team to write about a local wine for a particular week, we rarely do. Point is, we're far from a review site. Again, I doubt we'd be in the industry blog category if we were.

        I don't think many regional/local blogs are playing defense, but maybe I'm wrong. We just happen to feel that a niche blog — a blog with a unique angle — is the future of the medium. There are two many wine blogs out there that recycle the same content and are written exclusively for other bloggers. The “general wine blog” is just boring to some, including me. But let's not make this a discussion about regional blogs vs. not.

        The process is far from perfect, but to say that you are “pissed, infuriated, and disgusted” about it just makes you look arrogant and self important in my opinion. I mean, does the OWC owe you anything? Your tone certainly doesn't make it seem that you're genuinely interested in bringing about change or helping the organizers improve the process. Very much the opposite.

        “Strictly to reward their pals”…really? If we don't know who the judges are, how can you accuse them of helping their pals? Is it possible that your blog simply wasn't deemed good enough? I'm not making any comments on your blog here, I will admit that I don't read it, but is it POSSIBLE?

        Your argument just has a million holes in it and the delivery is even worse. The organizers need hear what you have to say, but you don't need to be a jerk about it (spoken as a jerk myself)

        • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

          No, we won't make it about regional vs. not, particularly since I never intended to. The point is that there is a category for single subject sites like yours. Period, no other point was intended. We also won't make it personal, despite your best efforts.

          The OWC owes all of us something with these awards. They either represent us and the wine blog community as a whole, or they sit on high and they dole these things out as a reward for whatever it is they want from us. Does the community own these awards, or are they gold stars to be handed out for secret reasons by people with secret qualifications?

          It is a very simple and hole-free concept. Take a step back from being a beneficiary of the system and it might be a bit easier to grasp. What possible reason would anyone have for getting so defensive about a call for accountability and transparency?

          • http://www.newyorkcorkreport.com Lenn Thompson

            Joe: Again…I have no issue with most of your argument. The process should be more transparent. I don't like not knowing how the whole thing worked or who was involved. That's not how I operate.

            But you are not delivering your message in a good, or smart, way. You come off as either an arrogant jerk or a child throwing a tantrum. I'm not saying that you are either of those things — in fact, any interaction I've had with you in the past has led me to believe otherwise. But I think you're so angry over this that you can't possibly have any perspective.

            This is an awards program where no money is involved. No one's livelihood is on the line. Why the anger and attitude?

            You continue to ignore the questions I ask you, by the way, but I guess I should expect my questions to be ignored. And yet I'm going to ask another:

            Would you mind telling me exactly how I'm a “beneficiary of the system”? I won and award last year. What did it get me? A mini-spike in readership for a few days and then nothing. NOTHING. Sure, it's great to be recognized by ones peers, but you clearly have a group of readers who appreciate what you do. Focus on them. Put out an ever-improving product.

            I'd rather have my readership steadily increase because the NYCR is putting out good content every day then win any award. Wouldn't you?

            It's not like there is a cash prize tied to this. It's not as though AOL is going to buy up all of the winners and pay the publishers to keep doing what they are already doing.

            If you're not happy with the OWC, leave the community. It's that simple. I decided quite a while ago that OWC wasn't a good use of my limited wine-related time, so I'm no longer active and haven't been. Yes, some of the leadership was less-than-pleased with my decision, but who cares? Wine is a HOBBY (and unpaid obsession) for most of us in the wine blogging game. Let's not lose sight of that.

            If you think you can run an awards program in a better way than the OWC folks, start your own program. Tom caught a lot of crap from a lot of people for how he created and launched the program, but at least he put his time/money where his mouth was. He started something new. He took the chance.

            It's EASY to criticize and critique. What's not easy is to do something about it and do something better.

          • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

            Lenn, you are dead on with almost all of your points in this one. In fact, you even inadvertently hit on the source of much of my anger and frustration. Last year there was a push for a new set of awards. Some of the 'new' group of finalists were part of it. We made no secret of our desire to be involved, and were probably the loudest supporters of the idea. When the OWC announced that they were taking these awards over, the new awards idea was dropped. I don't like feeling duped.

            To answer your question, I meant that you are, and have been rewarded by the current system. That is not a negative thing, or wasn't meant to be, it was merely to point out that you seemed to think that I was attacking you by attacking the awards. I was asking you to step back and not make it personal. You did exactly that. Thanks.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

    I am quite calm. Sorry if I come off as anything but. Context is sometimes hard to come by with language alone. The context I received from your use of many 'manys' was sarcasm. If I was mistaken I apologize. FWIW, I just checked and the comments are indeed there, and other than that darned 1Winedude guy, we pretty much led the nominations. Joe is who beat us out when we were both finalists for a Foodbuzz Best Wine Blog award. As much as I wanted to win, I couldn't have been happier for him. He's a great guy, and a fantastic blogger. Why do I bring that up? Quite self-serving and apparent reasons. In fact, you might say open and transparent, eh?

    While still calm as can be, I do take exception to the characterization that I am using underhanded techniques in any way, shape or form…particularly the form you suggest. The lack of transparency is bad. The flat out refusal to be so when asked, and the resultant hostility is inexplicable. Unless there is something to hide. That is not me asking someone to prove a negative. That is not me asking someone a question that should not be asked and then being outraged because someone claims their right to privacy. Back to my self-serving points above. This site is ranked quite high in Google, and is always in the mix when discussions of awards or accolades come up. Except this time. Forget right and wrong, forget general accountability to the wine blogging community in general. Pretend I care nothing about any of that at all. Just based on the fact that we were snubbed after all of that, I feel quite justified in asking a simple question and getting a simple answer.

    That said, you are partly correct. Had we not been left out, I would be treading a bit more softly. But not all that much. I made the argument for transparency last year, and I would do it now even if I were nominated in every category. These awards either mean something, or they don't. If they do, they demand to be done correctly. I don't mind the extra traffic, but I'd prefer that we, as a community, were to demand accountability. Other on-line groups shout it from the rooftops. Our best and brightest seem to be shrugging it off.

    The additional traffic is nice, but I would do quite a but better with a good recipe and mouthwatering food porn shot. Does the trick every time, and has the added benefit of not having to argue with some folks that I would much rather be drinking with. You know what I mean?

  • http://www.1winedude.com 1WineDude

    I do agree that pro writers who a posting on a website that is on the company payroll probably aren't “bloggers” in the spirit of the WBAs. I also am curious about the judging. However, I think it's worth noting that a LOT of progress has been made on the WBAs over the last two years. Certainly not perfect, but thanks to posts like this one, and the strong community of wine bloggers, they are improving, I think.

    • http://corksandcaftans.wordpress.com Carey

      re: the judging, I know at least one is hosebeast, hoserface—whatever his name is. I only know because my Google alerts pointed me in the direction of a post of his where our blog got torn to absolute shreds by a bunch of nasty commenters. So, there—that's one.

      • http://www.hosemasterofwine.blogspot.com Ron Washam, HMW

        Carey,

        I was not a judge. I was never a judge. I don't care who judged. A relatively simple reading of my posts would demonstrate that I write everything I write in jest. Do you really think that if I were a judge the nominees would look like that?

        Anyone who wants to read my take on the WBA Poodle Awards is welcome to visit my little piece of the Internet.

        Carey, it's nothing personal. If I offended you, well, join the club. You have every right in the world to have fun with your wine and fashion blog. But turn off the Google Alert, for God's sake. It doesn't matter what they say about you, as long as they spell your blog right. I'm guessing you got more hits than usual after my post.

        Feel free to insult me as often as you like.

  • http://www.1winedude.com 1WineDude

    I do agree that pro writers who a posting on a website that is on the company payroll probably aren't “bloggers” in the spirit of the WBAs. I also am curious about the judging. However, I think it's worth noting that a LOT of progress has been made on the WBAs over the last two years. Certainly not perfect, but thanks to posts like this one, and the strong community of wine bloggers, they are improving, I think.

  • http://corksandcaftans.wordpress.com Carey

    re: the judging, I know at least one is hosebeast, hoserface—whatever his name is. I only know because my Google alerts pointed me in the direction of a post of his where our blog got torn to absolute shreds by a bunch of nasty commenters. So, there—that's one.

  • Tom Wark

    Joe:

    Let's get some facts straight.

    1. I never decided “who should be given awards for wine blogging”. And you should know that. I'm going to assume you simply didn't know how the finalists or awards were given out rather than assume you are making an attempt at misleading anyone.

    2. I do just fine at figuring out what a blog is. Now that definition might be at odds with your definition. But until you can show me a certificate that designates you as the arbiter of what a blog is, I think we'll just call this a push.

    3. Until you have some really good evidence that the Wine Blog Awards were conceived to drive traffic to my blog, I think we have to go with my own account of their founding and spending three years running them: I wanted to increase the visibility for wine blogging and the best wine bloggers.

    4. Really? Was there “also the concern, given some of the nominations, that they were being used as a means to curry favor with powerful folks in the wine industry.” You make it sound like this was some sort of a widespread concern. Who else besides yourself had this concern? And while we are at it, give that I never was responsible for naming the finalists or the winners, how exactly was I going to use the awards to “curry favor” with poweful folks in the wine industry? You really do need to explain this one. Because after all, I've curried a certain amount of favor already without the wine blog awards. Still I'd like to know what drives you to be so concerned that you'd disparage me and my motives and my integrity.

    5. Finally, why is it a problem at all that I sat as one of the early board members of the OWC and then gave the awards (GAVE…by the way…not SELL….And I could have sold the rights to them) to the OWC. What exactly is the problem with me being involved with the awards in this way? You really need to explain this too since it suggests some sort of nefarious or problematic posture on my part. Just exactly what is the problem with me being a judge?

    I think it's you, Joe, who has a good deal of Splaining to do.

    Tom Wark
    Founder, Wine Blog Awards.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

      “Measure the quality and competency of the wine writing community today, which includes a huge number of bloggers as well as shrinking crew of edited and well established wine writers, and it's impossible not to conclude that the average article about wine is less authoritative and more poorly researched, and therefore less beneficial to truth seekers, than was the average article of 20 years ago. Why is this? Simply because more amateurs with far less accomplishment, knowledge and perspective are writing about wine.”
      -Fermentation, May 19, 2010

      You just love you some wine bloggers, don't you Tom?

      Other than to chuckle at the idea that anyone would have had to pay you to give out awards, I think most everything has been covered here, and elsewhere. Man, that's funny…and your sense of ownership of the whole shebang is exactly what I've been talking about. On that note, I think I'll end my little personal pissing match with you. You may be the source of most of the problems with these awards, but my concern is really with them and not you.

      • Tom Wark

        Ending the pissing match is probably a good idea, Joe. Afterall, you just aren't very good at it. Plus you've failed to demonstrate you have any idea of what you are talking about.

        So unless you want to continue on with your snide, unsubstantiated, careless and quasi-libel screed concerning me and my motives and my integrity, I'll consider your current inability to respond to my concerns a sign that you've been co-opted by the better angels of your nature.

        Tom Wark

        • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

          Thanks for stopping by our decent little blog, Tom. Always a pleasure.

          And on that note, I think that all that needs to be said has been. Time to lock this one down. Thanks to everyone who contributed positively, and for those who didn't, better luck next time!

  • http://twitter.com/WineHarlots Wine Harlots

    “Don’t mind the man behind the curtain.”
    Openness and transparency are the hallmarks of the internet and the blogosphere.
    Secrecy and anonymity is for executioners.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

      Amen!

  • http://www.theoregonwineblog.com ORWineBlog

    Joe, Thanks for speaking your mind. That is what blogging is all about, after all. The ability to share a thought, opinion, review, idea, or otherwise, whether positive or negative, in an open community without fear of the editorial red pen or advertisers pulling out or influencing coverage.

    I haven't drawn an overall conclusion about the Wine Blog Awards quite yet. We were nominated in a few categories but I'm not upset we didn't make it to the finalist stage. That's fine, although I agree that some of the finalists cause me to raise an eyebrow and my definition of a blog doesn't seem to intersect with the judges.

    Speaking of judges, to me that argument carries the most weight in this post. What is gained by keeping that information secret? All it does is cast shadows on the process as in the absence of transparency comes suspicion.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

      I agree 100%. No secrecy, no problem…and if there is a problem, it is one that is out in the open.

    • Anonymous

      “That's what blogging is all about, after all.”

      Really? Maybe 10 years ago when blogs first came to prominence that was true, but I'd like to think that he medium has evolved.

      • http://www.theoregonwineblog.com ORWineBlog

        I certainly agree the medium has evolved in the last 10 years, but I'm interested to hear what you feel a blogs place in the media is at this point. To me, it's still all about anybody with a computer being able to share to their hearts content on whatever they desire. If people like it, great – read it. If people don't, no that is their choice.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnOnWine John Cesano

    Hey, great post. I wouldn't sweat your views being taken as sour grapes; you didn't waste a post to outline how your blog is superior to the blogs named as finalists for a category.

    I think your crusade to have the judges unmask themselves is worthwhile, entertaining at least. I also spent a bit of time shaking my head in wonder at the poor fits and questionable merit of some of the choices made by the judges.

    Immediately after the reveal, I sent Allan Wright an e-mail letting him know his crack team of judges were a team of judges on crack. MyWineWords had 20 posts and 3 months that should have kept them from ever appearing on the New Wine Blog finalist list. He responded that he would look into it, and shortly after, SwirlSmellSlurp appeared on the list as a replacement.

    Read in tandem with HoseMaster's Poodle piece, you have captured my feelings about the awards quite well.

    The judges should man up and not hide in cowardly anonymity, take responsibility for their choices and face judgement about their own competency. I don't think reading the guidelines for categories is too much to expect from the judges.

    There are some deserving finalists; the silver lining to the daft choices by the judges is that voting will be much easier with fewer worthy choices. I'll be voting, I just won't have to deliberate as much as I should have to.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

      Thank you for sharing that story, John, and I very much appreciate your speaking out. I have been getting most of my support from people in private because they don't want to anger our self-appointed leaders. Seeing how they operate, I can't blame them. I'm glad that you and some others are taking this on.

  • epdaws

    This discussion seems to be missing a vital component: incentive. Without the context of incentive, things get a little muddy.

    Much as you like to say you “saw it coming,” the fact is that you have incentive to malign the awards. You've conceded your frustration at your lack of inclusion. The original post would have been much stronger with a clear indication that you're aware that your audience will perceive the incentive and potential bias. That's not to say you're jealous or vindictive; as you'll see, I agree with some of the major pegs. But the perception is that you have clear incentive.

    Building on that, your aggressive language only heightens that perception. Lenn – the bad cop to my good cop, no less! – is right to point out that your tone is deleterious to your goals with this post.

    Now, I have incentive to defend the awards. I'm part of a site that has multiple nominations. So take my comment with that context. So I'm aware of my potential bias, and yet I mind myself agreeing with some of your premise. Why not reveal the judges? What's the big deal? Further, I write about the importance of transparency in winemaking and wine buying. Why not total transparency with wine blogging awards?

    But then I find myself asking a question that only hinted at, unfairly. What is the incentive to keep the judges secret? My guess is that the organizers would say it's to make sure the process is not easily corrupted or influenced. That's a decent incentive. Maybe it's misguided. Your implication is that the incentive is some nefarious plot designed to enrich and promote a select group of wine blogging darlings. I prefer to compile evidence before leveling that charge. And no, I don't buy the notion that “without more transparency, they allow us to ASSUME that!” Baloney.

    But I share the desire for transparency. It's a noble goal when stated more tactfully.

    Tom Wark is justifiably offended at your comments, and I hope you follow up about that.

    Finally, a word about the single-subject versus best overall wine blog. Lenn and I believe that the most successful wine blogs focus on a single-subject — niche, if you like — and take a true journalistic approach. Wine reviews are a rather small part of our work, authored only by Lenn, and they generate only the smallest fraction of feedback and debate. It's a silly thing to say that NYCR is primarily review-based, but we've covered that ground. More importantly, should a single-subject blog be eligible? I would argue that if there were a comparable blog in Napa, no one would blink if it were nominated in this category. New York is still considered on the fringe of the mainstream wine world. The issue with blogging is quality. We've attempted to raise the quality bar so high that it creates a model for other regions to follow. Are we on our way to seeing the Virginia Cork Report, the Michigan Cork Report, the Willamette Cork Report? Very possibly. We are writers, story tellers, occasional reviewers, and journalists. We're not cheerleaders. We don't receive a pile of free samples and write from our dining room. We travel, incorporate video, spend many hours on research, and edit carefully. I think this nomination is at least some recognition of that effort.

    Cheers on a valuable discussion.

    Evan Dawson
    The New York Cork Report

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

      Thanks for your comments and your civility. I don't see it your way, but that's been covered pretty thoroughly.

      • epdaws

        Joe – Fair enough, though again, I think something positive can come of this discussion. I hope it does.

        • http://www.1winedude.com 1WineDude

          Evan – eloquently stated (as always!): I agree and want to see the WBA continue to improve so I too am hoping that positive progress comes out of all of this.

          • epdaws

            I think it will, Joe. I share Joe Power's desire to see this awards process legitimized as much as possible. Of course, that's not to say it's illegitimate now – not at all! – but any steps that add confidence and transparency are welcome.

  • Anonymous

    This discussion seems to be missing a vital component: incentive. Without the context of incentive, things get a little muddy.

    Much as you like to say you “saw it coming,” the fact is that you have incentive to malign the awards. You’ve conceded your frustration at your lack of inclusion. The original post would have been much stronger with a clear indication that you’re aware that your audience will perceive the incentive and potential bias. That’s not to say you’re jealous or vindictive; as you’ll see, I agree with some of the major pegs. But the perception is that you have clear incentive.

    Building on that, your aggressive language only heightens that perception. Lenn – the bad cop to my good cop, no less! – is right to point out that your tone is deleterious to your goals with this post.

    Now, I have incentive to defend the awards. I’m part of a site that has multiple nominations. So take my comment with that context. So I’m aware of my potential bias, and yet I mind myself agreeing with some of your premise. Why not reveal the judges? What’s the big deal? Further, I write about the importance of transparency in winemaking and wine buying. Why not total transparency with wine blogging awards?

    But then I find myself asking a question that only hinted at, unfairly. What is the incentive to keep the judges secret? My guess is that the organizers would say it’s to make sure the process is not easily corrupted or influenced. That’s a decent incentive. Maybe it’s misguided. Your implication is that the incentive is some nefarious plot designed to enrich and promote a select group of wine blogging darlings. I prefer to compile evidence before leveling that charge. And no, I don’t buy the notion that “without more transparency, they allow us to ASSUME that!” Baloney.

    But I share the desire for transparency. It’s a noble goal when stated more tactfully.

    Tom Wark is justifiably offended at your comments, and I hope you follow up about that.

    Finally, a word about the single-subject versus best overall wine blog. Lenn and I believe that the most successful wine blogs focus on a single-subject — niche, if you like — and take a true journalistic approach. Wine reviews are a rather small part of our work, authored only by Lenn, and they generate only the smallest fraction of feedback and debate. It’s a silly thing to say that NYCR is primarily review-based, but we’ve covered that ground. More importantly, should a single-subject blog be eligible? I would argue that if there were a comparable blog in Napa, no one would blink if it were nominated in this category. New York is still considered on the fringe of the mainstream wine world. The issue with blogging is quality. We’ve attempted to raise the quality bar so high that it creates a model for other regions to follow. Are we on our way to seeing the Virginia Cork Report, the Michigan Cork Report, the Willamette Cork Report? Very possibly. We are writers, story tellers, occasional reviewers, and journalists. We’re not cheerleaders. We don’t receive a pile of free samples and write from our dining room. We travel, incorporate video, spend many hours on research, and edit carefully. I think this nomination is at least some recognition of that effort.

    Cheers on a valuable discussion.

    Evan Dawson
    The New York Cork Report

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

    Amen!

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

    “Measure the quality and competency of the wine writing community today, which includes a huge number of bloggers as well as shrinking crew of edited and well established wine writers, and it’s impossible not to conclude that the average article about wine is less authoritative and more poorly researched, and therefore less beneficial to truth seekers, than was the average article of 20 years ago. Why is this? Simply because more amateurs with far less accomplishment, knowledge and perspective are writing about wine.”
    -Fermentation, May 19, 2010

    You just love you some wine bloggers, don’t you Tom?

    Other than to chuckle at the idea that anyone would have had to pay you to give out awards, I think most everything has been covered here, and elsewhere. Man, that’s funny…and your sense of ownership of the whole shebang is exactly what I’ve been talking about. On that note, I think I’ll end my little personal pissing match with you. You may be the source of most of the problems with these awards, but my concern is really with them and not you.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

    I agree 100%. No secrecy, no problem…and if there is a problem, it is one that is out in the open.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

    Thank you for sharing that story, John, and I very much appreciate your speaking out. I have been getting most of my support from people in private because they don’t want to anger our self-appointed leaders. Seeing how they operate, I can’t blame them. I’m glad that you and some others are taking this on.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

    Thanks for your comments and your civility. I don’t see it your way, but that’s been covered pretty thoroughly.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

    Lenn, you are dead on with almost all of your points in this one. In fact, you even inadvertently hit on the source of much of my anger and frustration. Last year there was a push for a new set of awards. Some of the ‘new’ group of finalists were part of it. We made no secret of our desire to be involved, and were probably the loudest supporters of the idea. When the OWC announced that they were taking these awards over, the new awards idea was dropped. I don’t like feeling duped.

    To answer your question, I meant that you are, and have been rewarded by the current system. That is not a negative thing, or wasn’t meant to be, it was merely to point out that you seemed to think that I was attacking you by attacking the awards. I was asking you to step back and not make it personal. You did exactly that. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Joe – Fair enough, though again, I think something positive can come of this discussion. I hope it does.

  • Anonymous

    “That’s what blogging is all about, after all.”

    Really? Maybe 10 years ago when blogs first came to prominence that was true, but I’d like to think that he medium has evolved.

  • Tom Wark

    Ending the pissing match is probably a good idea, Joe. Afterall, you just aren’t very good at it. Plus you’ve failed to demonstrate you have any idea of what you are talking about.

    So unless you want to continue on with your snide, unsubstantiated, careless and quasi-libel screed concerning me and my motives and my integrity, I’ll consider your current inability to respond to my concerns a sign that you’ve been co-opted by the better angels of your nature.

    Tom Wark

  • http://www.theoregonwineblog.com ORWineBlog

    I certainly agree the medium has evolved in the last 10 years, but I’m interested to hear what you feel a blogs place in the media is at this point. To me, it’s still all about anybody with a computer being able to share to their hearts content on whatever they desire. If people like it, great – read it. If people don’t, no that is their choice.

  • http://www.1winedude.com 1WineDude

    Evan – eloquently stated (as always!): I agree and want to see the WBA continue to improve so I too am hoping that positive progress comes out of all of this.

  • Anonymous

    I think it will, Joe. I share Joe Power’s desire to see this awards process legitimized as much as possible. Of course, that’s not to say it’s illegitimate now – not at all! – but any steps that add confidence and transparency are welcome.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

    Thanks for stopping by our decent little blog, Tom. Always a pleasure.

    And on that note, I think that all that needs to be said has been. Time to lock this one down. Thanks to everyone who contributed positively, and for those who didn’t, better luck next time!

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