I Am the Paul Konerko of Wine Blogging

It seems like I am the Paul Konerko of Wine Blogging. Or maybe I am the Benard King, the Kenny Anderson, or perhaps even the Bernard Thevenet.

Who are all these people and what do they have to do with wine?

Paul Konerko

Paul Konerko (from Wikipedia)

Well, they are all sports figures and as far as I know, they have absolutely nothing to do with wine. But they all have something in common. Paul Konerko was a first baseman, mostly for the White Sox, and is 42nd on the all-time home run list. Bernard King played 14 seasons in the NBA and is currently 42nd on the all-time scoring list. Kenny Anderson, the long-time Cincinnati Bengal quarterback, is 42nd on the NFL career touchdown list.

Then there is Bernard Thevenet, the popular French cyclist turned broadcaster, who is listed by the Cycling Hall of Fame as the 42nd greatest cyclist of all-time. It is not entirely clear how the Cycling Hall of Fame derived the list, but they no doubt attributed points and weights to various races, thus coming up with the final “score.”

That brings us to yours truly.

top-100-wine-blogs-smallA few days ago, Exel Wines, an online wine shop in Perth, Scotland, put out a list of the “Top 100 Most Influential Wine Blogs of 2015” and there was The Drunken Cyclist at #42. On the website, Exel Wines claims that “never before has there been such a statistical measure of influence in the wine blogging community as what we’ve put together over the past several months.”

Being the math geek that I am, when I read the word “statistical” I immediately become both excited and wary. Excited because, well, I am a math geek and wary because as a math geek I know that people often misuse statistics to prove (or disprove) a variety of things.

Since I have been blogging, there have been a few such rankings that have emerged and each one of them had their positives and negatives, but most have been fairly easy to understand, so I was anxious to see what Exel had done that was different and “statistical.”

So I read on: “the rankings … include a detailed breakdown of the ranking algorithm and methodologies.”

Whoa!

Now I was really excited! Not only was there a ranking, but they were going to share the algorithm and the methodologies. As many of you know, I went through the torture of writing a dissertation, which as a whole is pretty worthless, but I did enjoy the statistical aspect of that work. So much so that I now use it pretty much everyday in my “real job.”

I ignored the Exel rankings at first and just scrolled down to find the “detailed breakdown of the ranking algorithm and methodologies.” For you non-math geek types (of which I am sure that there are a few), in layman’s terms: “in mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is a self-contained step-by-step set of operations to be performed” (Wikipedia).

In short, an algorithm is a formula or a procedure used to solve a problem. They can be relatively complex, or fairly simple, but they all have a series of steps that need to be followed, a recipe, essentially.

The point? While Exel lists the different components (or ingredients) that went into their algorithm, they do not provide any further detail as to the calculations involved. Imagine if you wanted to bake some bread and I told you simply: “Get some flour, yeast, water, and salt, mix it together, and put it in an oven.”

I am afraid that is the extent of the “detailed breakdown of the ranking algorithm and methodologies” for this ranking by Exel Wines and, as a result, the extent of my math-geek excitement.

Generally speaking, in the research field, you instantly become dubious of any study that does not include a detailed explanation of the methodology, since a key to any good study is its replicability (the ability for others to go in and examine the work).

I started looking at some of the data and, well, there is a pretty glaring warning sign right at the top. While there is a gradual decrease in the “Site Score” from #2 through #100, the top rated site, Madeline Puckette’s wonderful Wine Folly, has a Site Score that is a whopping eleven times higher than the second rated blog.

So I did what every good quantitative researcher would do. I plotted the data. Here are the scores for blogs 2 through 20:Scatter2

So far so good.

Then I included the #1 blog, WineFolly.

Whoa.

A simple plotting of the top 20 Site Scores. When you see an extreme outlier like this as a researcher, you immediately think something fishy is going on there.

A simple plotting of the top 20 Site Scores. When you see an extreme outlier like this as a researcher, you immediately think something fishy is going on.

I dug a little deeper and compared the top blog, Wine Folly, with the #5 blog, Jon Thorsen’s Reverse Wine Snob. According to Exel’s figures, Jon has 12 times more Twitter followers, half as many Facebook followers, twice as many Google Plus followers, but has a score that is one fourteenth of Wine Folly’s score?

Sure, there are some other metrics that they cite that might play a role, but there is no indication of either what they mean or how they were weighted. I thought about contacting Exel to see if they would send me the actual algorithm, but, well, I already have enough enormous time sucks on my hands.

Don’t get me wrong, I am sure that it took considerable time and a bunch of work to put this together. I am also flattered to be one of the Top 100, but I would advise taking this with a grain of salt, as my grandmother used to say.

But hey, for now? I have no problem being the Bernard Thevenet of Wine Bloggers.

Bernard Thevenet with the Eddy Merckx (the Madeline Puckette of Cycling) on his wheel.

Bernard Thevenet with Eddy Merckx (the Madeline Puckette of Cycling) on his wheel. (www.telegraph.co.uk)

 

 

 

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About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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21 Responses to I Am the Paul Konerko of Wine Blogging

  1. Kristy says:

    Love this! Congrats on the listing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fiona says:

    Hahaha! Although not a math geek – not by a long shot – and with the research for my “real” job being more qualitative than quantitative, I also look askance at most market research and rankings. Speaking of rankings, there is a whole other debate around those for academic institutions and universities are rather selective when they choose which one they tout, when.

    All of that said, warm congratulations on having been featured in that list. Loved your take on it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think with these types of lists it is the perception that controls the reality. My Blog FB followers have gone up as well as additional requests for samples and virtual tastings. Related? Not sure but if perceived as a top 100 matters to PR companies, wineries, etc than it works.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did not mention it here, but ranking wine bloggers on a host of different metrics that are not static, would be extremely difficult. I have thought about trying it, but the sheer volume of blogs out there make it close to impossible. I certainly have noticed an uptick in attention as my numbers grow, however….

      Liked by 1 person

  4. lulu says:

    Very clever to make the connections. Good job to be on a list of your own.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like that Merckx is following the wheel…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Duff's Wines says:

    Jeff,
    Congrats to you and the other 99. I really agree with your analysis and cynicism. The disconnect for me is the term “influential” and the awkward equation of that with media interaction, traffic, followers, etc. None of that traffic measures real influence – which, BTW isn’t truly defined.
    I know of Natalie MacLean and she isn’t even the most influential blogger in Canada, her home and native land (no criticism of her intended. I follow and appreciate her stuff).
    There are data, I assume, that would measure ‘influence’. Messy data. Controversial data.
    Until they come up with those, I’m stickin’ to the belief that you are number 1 with me a close 2 and we won’t tell Anatoli. Why us? Because we know of friends and family that buy stuff we recommend. How many? A ‘bunch’ which is more than ‘lots’. And, since, I’m in Canada that’s a Metric ‘bunch’. Hope you’re OK with that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Really, I have no idea about what kind of traffic I get. WordPress tells me one thing, and then these third party sites say something entirely different. I had this conversation with a PR person the other day, and it seems as though they are scrambling to find the truth. You would think it would have to be easier than it seems to be.

      Until then, I agree with you, but you be #1 and I will be #2. That will give me something to shoot for….

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lynn Millar says:

    Jackie Robinson was #42.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey Congratulations on #42! No matter what algorithm they used, it must be nice to get the free publicity!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. cyardin says:

    I had to laugh when you pulled out the Thevenet reference. I was wondering where you were going with that. I don’t know how you compare a GC rider versus a Classics rider versus a TT specialist and then rank them together.

    Liked by 1 person

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