X. LEARNING ABOUT WINE
The extraordinary fast growth of the Internet and proliferation of multimedia personal computers makes it close to impossible to keep up with the changes available in electronic media. Here we'll offer some tips and perhaps a few definitions for people new to the electronic arena. Have a glass of wine while sifting through this one!
The "Internet" isn't exactly a thing. "Newbies" (people new to the Internet, generally considered to be unknowing of the conventions which have grown up to try to "civilize" its nature), often conceptualize the Internet like some giant America On Line or Prodigy or Microsoft Network. It isn't. The Internet is a system where a lot of people got together and agreed on rules by which lots of computers networks (and sometimes merely individual computers) could transfer information amongst themselves. When a computer or computer network "links" into the Internet, information is passed around using those rules. With a few semi-exceptions not worth explaining in a Wine FAQ, the Internet is really just one vast e-mail system where information ("data") can and may pass between and among any machine connected to the network.
How you get to and/or view this electronic mail which is passed around on the Internet (sometimes called the "Network of networks") may take a number of different forms: for example, what we call "e-mail," World Wide Web pages, telnet, or Usenet. Since an ever increasing number of people are using a single tool, such as as a Web Browser to do all these things, there is a tendency to say that all these things are the Internet. This isn't the place to argue the semantics of the 'net, but I mention these things to avoid the inevitable quibble that many of the things that I will refer to as part of the Internet are available in other ways or aren't technically the "Internet." Fill your glass and don't worry about it.
A "bulletin board" system which uses the Internet to make available the public discussion of topics of interest. Where private e-mail goes (more or less) from one person to another, Usenet messages go from one person to everybody on the Internet who want to see them. There are about 15,000 "legitimate" (whatever that means) topics on Usenet as of this writing. Not all internet service providers (the method by which most individuals connect to Internet) give you access to every usenet topic. If the wine groups are not available to you, ask your site administrator to add them.
There are currently two general Usenet groups that deal with wine: rec.food.drink and alt.food.wine. Depending on how you are reading this, your Internet connection, and your system, clicking on one of those names may take you directly to the group. For other more regionalized news groups, check out Usenet in Appendix A, The Wine Bookmark Page.
Because rec.food.drink is more widely propagated (that means more sites make it available), time was when it carried most of the wine-related discussions. With the growth of the Internet it seems as if alt.food.wine has gained greater acceptance as the group of choice. Someone with time to spare might take the effort to establish a rec.food.wine. ("Rec" groups tend to be much more widely accepted than "alt" groups). If you think you would like to take these steps, more information is available on the process on Usenet in the news.answers group. (Many people post wine-related information to alt.bacchus. I have refrained from doing so as it is my understanding that the charter for that group is for other purposes.)
Where "web pages" provide an excellent place for static information from single individuals or companies, Usenet is the place to get quick answers from the world. In fact, the FAQ is mostly an outgrowth of Usenet. After a group has seen (and maybe answered) a question for the 1000th time, it is a lot easier to tell newcomers to read the FAQ (for "Frequently Asked Questions") before posing the question for the 1001th time. Usenet FAQs are usually prepared and maintained by volunteers who feel the urge to do so.
Where Usenet is totally public and e-mail is totally (sort of) private, a listserv falls somewhere in between. A listserv is like a private mailing list. A person sends mail to the listserv (a computer which is set up to deal with that mail). The listserv turns the mail around and sends it to every member of the list. When dealing with listservs, it is important to know that the mail address of the listserv for purposes of joining the list as a member is invariably different than the address of the list for purposes of being part of the discussion. Usually you can get information on how to join a listserv group by sending a message to the joining listserv address with the word "help" in the subject line.
For information on wine-related listservs, see the discussion on Internet Resources.
Gopher and the World Wide Web
My how the 'net has grown. When I started this document, the Internet seemed a smaller world of private individuals using educational, corporate and military computers to connect to the world in a community minded way (I'm ignoring the true reasons that gave birth to the Internet, that's another book or twenty)
Besides Usenet as a source of information, people would place informational pieces on their own computer systems which were also open to the Internet. The trick wasn't access but figuring out that they existed at all. While there were other systems that came before, one of the first really useful wide-spread methods of finding and retrieving material was by "gopher." Gopher software lets you visit a computer and view a listing (by text menu) of the documents which are being made publicly available. If you make a menu choice, the document is displayed for you. Still you had to guess what computer system had something you wanted. What if you got a computer to look at all the other computers and see what's there, keeping a list? Then you would have Veronica. The good news was that you could send a key word request using Veronica and get back a listing of files that might be useful. The bad news as that there were only five or eight or so computers in the world that would let you ask. Getting your request in got to be almost impossible.
Just as things were getting pretty bleak, along came the World Wide Web. Still just a variation on the e-mail theme (you are really still sending a message to another computer which asks it to do something and sends back the information), the key here was that the software incorporated two major elements: graphics and hyper-text links. Now you could have something pretty to read and could skip around a document or from document to document around the world in an instant. Big Business got interested. Web Browsers became more and more sophisticated. Search engines (much like the Veronica idea, but enormously faster and ridiculously vast) came on line. While there are predictions that the system will again choke up, it hasn't happened yet.
And just think, all this happened in about 18 months.
Now, when surfing the web, I'm not sure whether what I read is truly informational or a blatant act of fiction promulgated overtly or covertly by commercial interests. For that matter, why believe anything *I* say? And even if not fictional, am I getting the *whole* story when the site I visit limits their "information" only to advertisers/supporters of the site? There seems no way to stop the rush to commercialization of the World Wide Web, but I can complain about it, can't I? More sites than not are commercial, others at least appear to be private. Once again, caveat emptor, "Let the buyer beware."
There is no way a FAQ came keep up with the proliferation of web sites that deal with wine. All we can do is point you to some useful Internet Resources, just below.
Internet Resources break down into two major divisions: search engines that sample the entire web and index it and sites that create lists (often from submissions). The beauty of the first is that you might find everything (if you phrase you question narrowly enough), the nice thing about the latter is that they may do the sifting for you in advance and you may get information that is not directly from a web site (listservs, for example).
Dean Tudor's Wines, Beers and Spirits of the Net. One of the best places to start looking for wine-related information without being inundated with every site on the web is Dean Tudor's list. It is posted monthly to Usenet groups dealing with alcholic beverages, as well as being available at http://www.ryerson.ca/~journal/wine.html. The list includes usenet groups, electronic mailing lists (listservs), gophers, FTP sites, WWW sites, IRC ("International Relay Chat") channels, Bulletin Board networks and systems, Commerical On-Line system forums and miscellaneous other information. With Mssr. Tudor's gracious permission, this FAQ provides a Wine Bookmark Page which is a sub-set of his list that is, more or less, limited to wine sites. You will, however, obtain the most current information by going directly to the original list.
You can try the ubiquitous yahoo.com for more in the style of compiled lists.
Or go the keyword route using a search engine. A good listing of engines can be found at the All-In-One Page at http://www.albany.net/allinone/. The All-In-One WWW page which lists just about all the web search engines that exist is located at http://www.albany.net/allinone/all1www.html#WWW.
MISCELLANEOUS ELECTRONIC STUFF
I haven't seen either of these products, but they're out there!
Microsoft Wine Guide CD-ROM by Oz Clarke, whom many say a lot of good things about.. Reviewd by John Dvorak on C|NET Central as a "buy it."
Wines of the World CD-ROM on wine browsing, making wine, wine appreciation. On-line videos of wine regions, wine making processes, etc. Windows and Macintosh.