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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Are You Positive?

A bit of back-and-forth between HardknottDave and Tandleman has again got me thinking about blogging about bad beer and bad drinking experiences.

On one hand you can argue that the blogger should use their writing to reflect the state of the beer landscape in which they drink; it’s not all good beer out there and it’s misleading to suggest otherwise. Putting questions about the influence that bloggers even have to one side, you could argue that pubs and beer won’t improve unless the landlord or brewer is told where they’re going wrong. If you mislead a new drinker into a bad pub and they walk out thinking that that’s as good as it gets, how many come back for a second pint?

The converse argument is that you catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar. If you spend your time telling people about all the bad beer you drink then your message becomes wrapped in negativity. Tweet about the three bad beers you drank whilst enjoying the three great ones silently and give the new drinker no reason to ask for beer.

For me it’s important to remember that judgement shouldn’t be cast quickly. One bad pint doesn’t make a bad pub; one bad batch doesn’t make a bad brewer. The things I tweet and the things I blog are almost always opinion based; opinion does not equal fact. Humility is important, especially when your opinion isn’t a positive one, and when you’re opinion is potentially damaging to a brewer or publican’s brand it’s important to consider how you share it.

It’s a balancing act for sure, a balancing act that I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t mastered. I want to champion beer as a great drink because I know how great it is. I want to focus on the good stuff and get other people interested in beer by sharing that with them, but I also think it’s important to be honest and for a drinker to know when something isn’t as it should be.

Personally I think it’s more effective to focus on the positive. I’m more likely to persuade people to drink beer that I describe as good than beer I complain about being bad. Generally people are pretty smart; a set of posts about great beer doesn’t necessarily mean a leap to the conclusion that bad beer is nonexistent.

What do you think?

I wrestled with whether or not to post this entry. It feels, to a certain extent, like I'm crashing someone elses argument and I'm not really keen on blogging about blogging. This is something that came up at the European Beer Bloggers Conference though, and it's something that I think is important. If the influence of the beer blogger continues to grow, so will the relevance on this issue.

Image from here.


Unknown said...

Good post. I think it is all about balance. Some people focus more on the negatives, some only write that everything is awesome.

Also, when pointing out faults, it is very helpful to be constructive and also not exaggerate. I suspect that no pub would ever sell beer you would realistically be able to poach an egg in.

Tandleman said...

I was going to write about this after our discussion Dave and still will. I know what you mean about hyperbole, but the idea about the poaching an egg bit was to convey that it was WARM, not just warm.

I'd guess around 17 or 18C. That ain't good.

Now it IS a fine line and thanks for bringing it up Mark, but for now I'm going to wait until I write my piece tomorrow. Sorry about that.

Kristy said...

Interesting post Mark - it's no surprise my glass if half full and I'd always go for the positive, there's enough beer criticism out there already without us adding to it!

But.....honesty and objectivity is important, a "happy clappy, life is wonderful" blog is just as bad as a negative one in my book. I would say be honest but constructive - if you don't like a beer say why and call out better examples (in a diplomatic way) that way non drinkers see that that particular beer is not your favourite rather than all beer is bad.

Anonymous said...

Great post Mark! I'm of the opinion that this industry needs as much positivity as it can get.

After watching Pete Brown in his final video blog and him mentioning there is still little in the way of beer in the mainstream media, in some ways blogs are a way to spread the word about good beer and the people behind good beer.

That's my attitude towards it all!


rabidbarfly said...

Great Post Mark, it's about time Tandleman stopped being so happy clappy ;).
Seriously though, some very good points, I can't stand overly critical or nauseously gushing blogs about anything, not just beer,there must be some level of constructiveness(not that Ranty McBarfly here can comment on either of those point really).
Nice one. - You're so sensible, Damn you!

Tandleman said...

In my own defence, apart from a reasoned piece about warm beer in the Dean Swift in May, you have to go back to around Feb to see me complain about beer and my blog is littered with praising pieces in between. Too many to count.

On twitter I do sometimes let people know my views too, but unless they are in my blog, I kind of regard them as "off the top of my head " contributions.

So perspective guys.

Mark said...

Thanks for the comments guys. I like Kristy's point about referencing alternatives when writing about something you didnt enjoy or like - a good way to be honest and negative whilst still leaving the reader with a reason to go out and drink beer.

Another point for me is that I personally find it more fun to write about the things I like than the things I don't like. If blogging isn't fun then why do it!?

Glynn: Sensible? Me? That's not something I hear often ... :P

Tandleman: I tried hard not to reference anyone specifically in the blog. Obviously I'm not in control of the comments, but as far as the blog goes I wanted to make a point without pointing.

beersiveknown said...

I don't moderate what I post, if I think something is good or bad then I say so. I always try to back this up with reasons and give suggestions for improvement where necessary. The provisio is of course that being one drinker's subjective opinion doesn't necessarily mean its the absolute and correct one!

Chunk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...

Steve: One of the things that frustrates me most is when people assert opinion as fact. Being able to hide behind an internet persona seems to massively increase how willing people are to do this.

beersiveknown said...

I think a lot of comments on the brewdog blog attest to this. I think as long as you're open about them being opinions (and taht doesn't mean you have to post a disclaimer on every post...) its fine. Especially if you're sent stuff to review, as long as you disclose that it was free then its up to the individual how they want to review it.

Tandleman said...

Mark - I think it might be instructive to count my negative comments and then count the positive ones. I think poistive wins by about 10 to one.

Just saying.

Mark said...

Steve: Agree that a disclaimer isn't needed every time. Often the tone is enough.

Tandleman: Don't doubt that for a second. It was just the talk about positivity in your exchange with HardknottDave that got me thinking (and blogging). I wasn't aiming any particular part at any particular blogger.

Pivní Filosof said...

It's great to recommend good beers to people, but it's also important to let them know which ones to avoid. But the important thing here is fairness, one thing is a beer I just don't like, for whatever reason, and another is a beer that hasn't been well brewed, of course, you have to say what you believe is wrong with that beer.

Mark said...

PF: I agree, I think that comes back to my point about stating opinion as fact. I also think it's important to keep in mind that one badly brewed beer doesn't mean a bad brewer.

Dan said...

Nice blog, first comment here, great post! Here's my take, I hope it's vaguely original:

One overlooked variable in the quandary of how to approach negative criticism is the nature of your blog itself. No one is a mere "blogger" — our blogs are driven by different aims and angles. A blogger identifying as a straight reviewer or appraiser absolutely has the responsibility to be frank about poor experience, whereas the philosopher or geek of beer minutae can dodge even having to think about how to handle it.

Bloggers who consider themselves more generic or personal in their approach are obliged in other ways. You build up a relationship with your reader who — in turn — trusts you and expects things of you. If you have spoken candidly on poor experiences in the past, or made gestures at cutting through the crap, then you would serve your reader best by spilling the beans. But if your tone is overtly sympathetic and your readers view you as a convivial proponent of the whole good beer scene — then would not be misleading anyone if you were to damn with feint praise now and then…

-dan smallbeer

Mark said...

Thanks Dan, appreciate the feedback!

Great comment and some good points. I think you're dead right. I, for example, write some content for the My Brewery Tap blog and I've realised that I feel obliged when writing there to say if something isn't right. The series of posts I'm writing there are specifically reviewing a set of beers one after the other, it forces me into a corner where I have to comment on a bottle whether I like it or hate it. Context, as you say, is incredibly relevant.

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