What drives you to blog?
It’s summer! And I don’t know about you, but I have a little more time on my hands during the summer, so I am ‘wrestling’ with how much time and energy I want to put into getting involved in discussions and post tea tasting notes here on Steepster. Which means, I am doing a little soul searching (and making it public).
I became active on Steepster about three years ago, and I find my approach as to whether or not I step out here to read and/or post is different than it used to be. For example, I rarely read tasting notes about herbal tea or flavor-added teas anymore, as I rarely drink them; and, although I know there are some great herbal teas or flavor-added teas out there I haven’t yet tried, and I know may be ‘missing out’, I have recently discovered that my time and energy is limited, and therefore, precious to me; consequently, I have chosen to read tasting notes about the teas I primarily drink: green, Chinese red, and more recently, pu-erh.
I find I am more likely to post tea tasting notes and post to a discussion if I approach Steepster first more as a kind of journal of my own experience, and secondly edit my ‘journal’, or thoughts, so it makes sense to others. And, if it turns out no one is interested, and/or no one responds, I’m OK with it. If on the other hand I approach my desire to post more from a place that I want others to respond, then I find I am often disappointed (even though I understand that others may ‘get’ something from my posting and, for a myriad of reasons, decide not respond).
In an attempt to organize the process of whether or not to post, I listed a few questions that help me:
Before I decide to create a new discussion:
What do I want out of this, i.e. what do I get out of: 1) the act of putting my thoughts and feelings into words, 2) making my thoughts public, and 3) any potential responses?
How much time do I search to see if a similar discussion has been started, and if I do find a similar one, depending on how similar it is, do I post there, or start a new discussion?
Is the process worth the time and energy I put into it?
Am I OK if I make a few grammatical mistakes, if it is wordy, unclear, incomplete, or, god-forbid, uninteresting to anyone but me?
Am I OK if no one responds to my post or ‘likes’ my tea tasting note?
Before I address the responses of others to my postings:
If it is a discussion I started, do I address each response in kind whether I want to or not, or do I address only the ones I want to address?
How much time and energy do I want to put into my response?
Am I OK if no one responds to my own contribution to the discussion?
So, what is your approach to creating new discussions, posting to discussions and creating tea tasting notes on Steepster?
I see Steepster tasting notes moved more to reviews in feel and format, than a daily tea journal it was previously. I feel more directed to do more review style notes than journal notes or encouraging a discussion. Even on the preview of tasting notes of a tea listing, we only get a glimpse of the first part of the note – with that, I feel wanting to get into the meat of the review up front, rather than tell a story to set up the tea experience or a discussion then, as if someone (and more likely now) using Steepster to read reviews of a tea, is wasting their time.
I started my own blog so I can have more flexibility in what I write about, expand more in reviews and be able to ramble if I have time to do so, these days Oolong Owl has been hectic!
Awkward Soul: I appreciate your response.
You raise some interesting points. Determining what to put in a tea tasting note and what not to put in it is an ongoing struggle for me. I agree that one view is to stick with the review of the tea (great idea of yours to jump right in with the review now that only the first few lines are immediately visible) and leave non-tea related ‘ramblings’ or personal notes, elsewhere, but as one without their own blog (I love yours, btw), I feel the review is an OK place to put those kinds of notes. I vaguely remember this being discussed on previous threads, but I personally enjoy reading some of the personal notes a reviewer includes (whether related to tea or not) as it provides me with an interesting kind of connection to that person. Still, if I am l looking for information—how best to brew, how ‘good’ it is, etc.—about a specific tea then the personal notes can seem to get in the way. It’s a hard balance to strike.
One your last note above: after reading a discussion on Steepster that you posted to, and then seeing the link to your blog on your profile page I read your recent postings about the World Tea Expo; I enjoyed reading about your time there (the Tusken Raider Pic was great). I would have loved to have seen the Korean Tea Ceremony, as I have recently gotten interested in doing tea tastings with others ‘gongfu’ style. I look forward to reading more about your experiences there. And, I have to say that I LOVE those owls!
I know what you mean, I forgot to mention that I like reading others notes on what they were doing while drinking the tea, entertaining steeping failures, etc – but also being informative to help others (and also read other brewing experiments) is super great.
I think moreso on my dashboard, I like reading more journal entries. But looking up specific teas for help the casual tasting notes seem out of context at times or I’m missing the whole story. Bleh, sorry it’s more of a steepster format critique, but yeah it’s weird. Maybe it’ll get smoothed out in the future.
woot, ty for the comments about my blog! I got more posts coming, I should be working on them now, but I’m just exhausted from the expo and my stash went into chaos!
I look forward to reading more on your blog about your stash and other things once you get your energy back.
I would love to have a mechanism on here for posting the more personal notes vs. having them in the tasting notes forever.
Marzipan: I agree with you. Thinking about this issue, I remember that some reviews structure their review by including two fairly distinct parts: one part for life experiences, and another part for the specific experience/data of brewing up the tea, such that they even delineate one part from the other, like this, < Things posted here about my life right not necessarily related to the tea > ‘Now, on to the tea.’ < Things specifically about my experience with the tea >. I don’t often include much personal info in my reviews, but sometimes I do, and I will keep in mind the advantages to others of separating the parts out while writing my next review.
I think the issue is, while this was maybe conceived as a review site, what keeps it alive is the social media aspect of it, but it’s not built for that.
Especially with the advent of the tasting note snippets I have also been thinking about revising my posts. For me, it comes down to how I use Steepster. In general, I write a tasting note for myself – to record the ecperience and the results in case I layer forget what I thought of a tea or how to prepare it. At the same time, I try to include information that might prove useful to others who are curious about the tea, as I also appreciate the input of others. Ultimately, I am keeping my notes fairly personal as I think of myself as someone who enjoys tea rather than a professional reviewer. As such, I include my personality with the ‘facts’ of the tea. Accordingly, I now only post on a tea once or twice since further notes don’t tend to add anything to the tea experience. I’ve also noticed that if I am reviewing a sample that was sent for free, I am much more focussed on the experience with the tea and I try to omit the personal details.
All that said, I don’t think there is a wrong way to post your notes. I enjoy the personal notes all the more, as long as they talk about the tea in there too. It feels more like a community than a textbook when you can read and empathise with others and their experiences both in tea and life.
Uniquity: Thank you for your response.
I’m with you on what you stated here on many levels, especially regarding your habits (for example posting a review only once or twice and in how you approach reviewing a free sample) and how you generally use Steepster. My approach, similar to how I approach writing in general, is that I find if I am too focused on how useful and/or readable my review is (i.e grammar, complete-ness, clarity, being inclusive of all variables, concise, etc.), then I tend not to want to write and post about my experiences. As self-centered as this may sound (and in a sense, it is ‘centered on the self’), my wants/needs must come first, for if I am writing and posting the review for others first, then I have found it’s not enjoyable to me, and the reality is I won’t do it (that is, unless I am getting paid or otherwise compensated for it).
I like what you said in your last sentence. When I think about it, as important as the data are, its the nuanced experiences that spring out of the fullness of all of the things that go into the review—the idiosyncrasies of the person drinking the tea, where they are drinking it, what is going on with in their life while drinking it, why they chose to drink it, what feelings/memories it brings up for them—-that make review most valuable to me.