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Why I stopped using Corkd.com (and the 5 simple enhancements that would have kept me happy)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cork'd is a niche social networking site focused on wine. A couple of years ago, when I surveyed the available options in this space Corkd.com stood out because of its simplicity, "Web 2.0" aesthetics, and affiliation with Wine Library TV.

I was really looking forward to effortlessly and enjoyably keeping tabs on the wines my friends were trying. Along with its ability to feed my most recent tasting notes to my blog, Cork'd seemed like the perfect solution. I asked some of my friends to sign up and I enjoyed adding my tasting notes to the Cork'd database and exploring tasting notes from other users.

The site was created by Dan Benjamin and Dan Cederholm, and was sold to Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library in May of 2007. When Wine Library acquired Corkd.com, it seemed poised to be taken to the next level. However, since it was acquired almost 2 years ago, the site hasn't been meaningfully enhanced at all. In fact, Cork'd development has completely stalled.

I wish it hadn't. With just a half-dozen new features, Cork'd could have gone from good to great. Features currently not present but I wish were:

  1. E-mailing you when a drinking buddy sends a private message
  2. E-mailing you when a drinking buddy posts a new review
  3. E-mailing you when someone else reviews a wine you've had
  4. Allowing you to comment on other people's reviews
  5. Allowing you to comment on things people write on your cork board
This is an excerpt of something I wrote on the Facebook fan page for Cork'd almost a year ago.

"I can tolerate the sloppy naming conventions used in wine ratings, the all-over-the-map ratings, and even the flaky search interface. I can tolerate these things because Cork'd has a ton of great attributes. I think that its foundation is really solid. It is intuitive and easy to use. I really want to continue using it, but the lack of innovation in the past 2 years is really depressing since it is so close to being perfect. Could "Cork'd" (the user) give us fans some sense of what is in the works for the site?"

The response to this inquiry has been the proverbial "crickets".

Looking back, I stand by almost everything I said. The only exception might be regarding the foundation. The more I've gotten to know Cork'd, the shakier I've found it's foundation to be in terms of its duplication of wines and its fundamental architecture for adding new wines into the Cork'd database.

Around the time that I was starting to be frustrated with Cork'd, the site was apparently hacked and was down for 4 days. Once it returned, I began looking into what it would take to export my wine reviews out of the site as an Excel spreadsheet. Cork'd has an export function, but when I tried to leverage it, I experienced a "401/page not found" error. I pinged Gary on Twitter but no response. And that's the last I played with Cork'd for the most part.

If I sound a little bitter, it's because I am. Sure, these services are free so what do I expect? Well, for starters I'm a little embarrassed that I asked my friends to join this wacko wine social networking site that ended up being half-baked. I know that I've received invitations from people to join strange new/up-and-coming social networking sites and I've been like "whaaaa?" I pride myself on sifting through the available options and making good recommendations on things like this, and I missed the mark on this one. If you joined Cork'd because I asked you to, I'm sorry.

Excerpting a piece from Dan Benjamin's blog entry from when Cork'd was acquired, it doesn't seem that continual investment has occurred:

"Would he want to keep it alive, invest his resources into making it better than ever, keep the community alive ... His answer was a resounding yes."

Where did I go instead? I've been incredibly impressed with the capabilities and value added by CellarTracker on a number of levels. I initially decided against using CellarTracker for aesthetic reasons, but when I heard via a newsletter from Eric LeVine that the site was undergoing a significant user-interface redesign I was sold. Since then, my experience with CellarTracker has been nothing but positive, including quick turnaround on some enhancement requests I had for Eric. Very cool.

Other wine social networking sites to watch (entirely from my gut instinct in this space):
Further reading:
Question of the Day:

If you had to place a bet on a niche social networking site would be the most valuable 2 years from now, which would you choose?

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