Monday, January 11, 2010

Rant: Is Snark the Oak of Wine Writing?

Some wines are aged in oak while others never see a touch of it. Some people complain about too much oak in certain wines, yet others enjoy those same wines. Some complain that overly oaked wines get all of the attention while more subtle wines get neglected.

Is snark the "oak" of wine blogging?

Snark is variously defined, though generally consists of sarcastic, smart-ass, and biting humor used to verbally attack someone or something. It is a common element on numerous blogs, including some wine blogs.

So, like oak, some wine blogs have snark while others do not. And some people complain about too much snark in certain wine blogs, yet others enjoy those same wine blogs. Some complain that overly snarky wine blogs get all of the attention while more subtle wine blogs get neglected.

It is my opinion that snark does get over used by some bloggers, and that overly snarky blogs detract from the pleasures of snark-free blogs. Snark gets lots of attention, yet can add little, if anything, to an actual discussion. The same discussion could easily occur without the snark, but it might not warrant sufficient attention. Snark is more a form of entertainment rather than adding anything useful to a debate.

In print media, you are most likely to see snark in the editorials. And sometimes I think they overdo it as well. But they are doing it to get attention, to make a big noise that will attract readers. How is that different from producing overly oaked wines to draw attention?

If you are snarky on your wine blog, why? Is it just to draw attention to your blog? How snarky is your blog? Is it like an over-oaked wine, dripping in excess snark? What do you see as the benefits of being snarky? Do non-snarky blogs get sufficient attention, or do they get lost within a large field of snark?


drinknectar said...

This, my friend, is an interesting question. While I've noticed that the majority of wine bloggers write for other bloggers, it takes quite a bit of effort to break through to the avg consumer. I've used some sex to sell my posts, but I'm not pretending to be something else.

I think we're all like Pavlov's dog. If a snarky post gets us 50 comments, then we're more inclined to be snarky in a future post. Each of us has our own degree of narcissism in us and are like dogs who pee to mark our territory.

That is after a bottle of wine, so...take it for what it is...

Josh @nectarwine on twitter

Robert Dwyer said...

Very interesting topic, Richard.

I've not come across many snarky wine blogs myself, but I do see a *lot* of snark on wine forums. Tons of it.

That's why I spend more time reading wine blogs and connecting with people on Twitter than in participating in wine forums. It provides a way to hand-craft the content you read and dial in the snark to the desired level.

The Wine Whore said...

I think you're right, snark is like oak. Use too much and you'll ruin things. Instead it should be used to add flavor and character.

Now that's not to say that some people don't LOVE oversnarked blogs. I guess there's a palate for every type of writing!

Great post!

Tom Johnson said...

I say this as someone who is fairly regularly snarky: There's not much easier than standing on the sidelines and cracking wise about what other people do.

Snark is a legitimate form of commentary, but because it's easy it can become reflexive. I think if you pay attention, you'll find that snark-driven blogs don't last very long. Those who depend entirely on snark become utterly predictable. Reading them is joyless, and after a while it stops being fulfilling for the blogger, too.

MC Slim JB said...

As a food/drink blogger and semi-professional restaurant critic who wields snark on occasion, I think it depends. Is your stuff actually funny, or does it come across as mean-spirited, ungenerous, sophomoric? Does it pass a smell test as satire -- is it attacking something that might reasonably be thought of as folly, fraud, shamelessness or absurdity -- or is it just niggling and caviling? Does your blog ever have anything original and substantive to say on its own? In other words, do you ever actually play a hand, or are you just a kibitzer? If any of these questions gives you pause, maybe it's time to seek other rhetorical tools besides snark.

Couves said...

It’s the internet – just adolescents doing their thing to get attention. Another Boston Wine blog recently made the jump to a 90% T&A format. It’s not my thing, but heck, the world needs a place for people to buy their horney goat weed and learn how to clean their colons. Oops, there’s that snarky thing again!

Dale Cruse said...

It's not 90% - it's 50%. If you're going to accuse me of something, at least accuse me accurately.

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Josh:
I do agree about the Pavlov comment, and it can be compelling to continue to be snarky, if that draws in more readers and commenters.

Hi Bob,
I would agree there is more snark, and downright nastiness, on the forums as opposed to blogs. I do wonder how many of the authors of snarkiest blogs started on the forums.

Thanks Randy, and I agree there is a palate for every type of writing.

Hi Tom:
Yes, snark is very easy to do, though not easy to do well, in the proper measure.

Hi MC:
Thanks for the additional questions, which are all very valid and would help to separate the proper users of snark, from those overdoing it, for snark's sake alone. BTW, I have never seen your own snark ever be overdone.

Hi Couves:
I don't think it is just a adolescent thing. Snark has been used so often that many people, of all ages, think it is valid all the time, and decide to use it theirselves.

Couves said...

Richard, people don’t need to be adolescents to act that way - the internet just seems to encourage such impulses.

Also, while snide and sarcastic comments are hardly new, the term “snarky” is very new. I would be surprised if its development wasn’t closely tied to the internet.