07 October 2006

So I’m trying cork’d, the new web-based wine-tracker. It’s a keen idea, and looks very nice. You enter information about the wines you own, and about the wines you try, and that information is shared with the cork’d community. You can add “drinking buddies” — Rich has already joined me, and maybe Jeremy will someday. (If you want to join, let me know, and I’ll e-mail you so that we automatically buddy up.)

But the thing is, cork’d is frustrating to use. It feels like an application where the designers were able to get it to work for them and the way they work with this information, but failed to test it in the real-world. (I’m not saying that this is what occurred; it just feels that way.) It’s also an application that’s prettier than it is functional. (It’s very pretty.)

Here are some specific things that bug me about cork’d. (And this list comes after only entering half a dozen bottles!)

The idea is that this is a social wine site. That is, after one person has entered the data for a particular bottle of wine, anyone else can use that information without having to re-enter it themselves. For example, here’s a bottle of two-buck chuck. If you go down to Trader Joe’s and pick up a case of this, you don’t have to enter the data because it’s already in the system.

But what if you find the wine you want and the information is incorrect? That is, what if you find this entry for the exact same bottle of two-buck chuck. What do you do? Well, you probably try to create one of your own. So right away, there’s one problem: with a system like that, you’re likely to have multiple instances of the same bottle of wine.

So should the designers limit the information that people can enter? That presents problems, too. Speaking from my own experience, here’s a bottle of Willamette Valley Vineyards 2003 Pinot Noir that I’d like to add to my wine cellar. The information is basically correct, except for two things:

  1. This user paid $23.99 for his bottle — I paid $14.89 the same wine. It does me no good to have this in my cellar with his pricing information. I want my pricing information.
  2. The region listed is wrong. Yes, it might make sense that a bottle from a Salem winery called “Willamette Valley Vineyards” would have an appellation of “Oregon – Willamette Valley”, but in reality the correct appellation for this body is simply “Oregon”. A small thing, but it bugs me. I’m not allowed to edit this information if I want to add the bottle to my cork’d wine cellar.

So what should I do? Create a new entry for this wine? That seems like a poor choice. But I don’t want to use the info as-is, either. It’s a stalemate, which basically means I don’t enter the wine at all, and I write a weblog entry complaining about the website.

There are other problems, too, such as:

  • cork’d calls appellations “regions”. I can deal with that, I suppose, but I can’t deal with the fact that you have to choose your region from a drop-down menu of pre-defined choices, a menu that out of seven bottles, was missing two of the regions I wanted. I want a way to add appellations.
  • I’m attempting to add all of my wines to my cork’d wine cellar at the same time. First, there’s no obvious way to add a wine from the front page at all. I eventually found out how to do so by clicking to a different page where adding a wine was an option. But why not on the front page, too? And after I add each bottle of wine, I’m taken to that bottle’s individual page. That’s fine, but there’s now way to just immediately add my next bottle of wine from this page. I have to click through a bunch of stuff again.
  • I want a “personal notes” field — something that isn’t a review, but something that isn’t a “description” either. I want to keep track of where I bought a wine, or who gave it to me. I just entered “purchased at Costco on 07 October 2006” for several bottles in the description field, and now that’s part of the permanent record. Oops. But it doesn’t belong in a review, either. It’s a personal note.
  • The search system seems broken. Searching for “willamette valley vineyards pinot” generates a “can’t find it” message, even though there are several wines that should return matches. But searching for “willamette valley vineyards” works as expected.
  • When I add a wine to my cellar from search, I’m given a choice of how many bottles to add, but when I add one by entering the data, I’m not. It just enters one bottle. If I actually bought four, I have to go to my cellar, find the bottle, and change the quantity there.
  • I’d love the ability to add actual images of each bottle instead of the generic graphics that are currently used.
  • Wines are rated using an Amazon-like star system. My ratings are shown in a sort of brightish pinkish red. If I haven’t rated a wine, its rating is shown in a sort of darkish winish red. This is fine if both colors are on the same page, but when they’re not, I have a hard time remembering whether what I’m seeing is my rating or the system-wide average.

Don’t get me wrong. I like cork’d and think it’s a fun idea. I’m hoping that several friends will join and we can have quite the drinking party. But in its current form, it feels very much like a piece of software in beta.

I like the idea of Cork’d but it still feels very beta to me…

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