Archive for May, 2008

Huge database update (and a pretty bottle of Rioja)…

I’m liking this “publish a wine picture with a software update” thing. It just makes it all that much more interesting, almost as if writing software were some sort of sensual gourmet experience instead of a slog through endless minutiae. I suppose I could draw parallels between the undesired presence of certain bugs both in the vineyard and in one’s code, but that would be getting a tad geeky, even for me. The pictured bottle is a 1994 Gran Reserva from Bodegas Campillo, 100% Tempranillo, a lovely traditional Rioja enjoyed a couple of nights ago at Laïola, where it paired beautifully with the cigrons amb morcilla and especially with the roasted lamb with spring peas and cipolline.

Which brings me to the real intent of this blurb. I just put live a major database update, with some 500,000 new pages across hundreds of new sites, and lots of relevance improvements as well. Blog coverage has been considerably beefed up, by popular request. There are hundreds of new producers from North America to Slovenia, and lots of other goodies. If you’ve sent in a submission in the last couple of weeks, you should be in here. If you looked for something on Able Grape and couldn’t find it, well, it’s there now. Really. From press about Brunello or Robert Mondavi to new direct shipping resources to Dveri Pax, to better results for Bukettraube or Sine Qua Non. Try it. And if it’s not there, or you have any other suggestions, as always, please drop us a note (email: feedback @ our domain name). I’d like to make Able Grape the best it can be.

One more thing. I’m sure the dyed-in-the-wool bloggers out there will laugh at my naïvety when I say that I learned something from my previous two posts: If I publish something about a truly useful feature with a relatively dull title like “search preferences and other features,” I’ll get a few clicks from the most supportive (or truly bored) users — thank you, you know who you are. But then if I publish something relatively banal with a tantalizing title like Top Queries February-April, suddenly everyone clicks on that (see, you did it again!), and the poor ugly sibling post gets a bit lost in the mad rush to see what everyone else is searching for. The popular queries, as I’m sure you noticed, really aren’t all that exciting; the truly interesting queries are the unique ones which make up 99% of the traffic! So, if I may, I’d like to reiterate the kind plug of the prior posting, that is, please register; it will help me let you know as we make major improvements to Able Grape, and it enables some truly useful features. More to come of those soon.

Top Queries February-April

I thought it would be fun to share a list of the top queries we’ve been seeing come in.

Some of these are in the examples or other blog postings, so that clearly biases the results. Rather than remove these, I’ve simply indicated which they are — it’s interesting to see which ones attract the most attention. This data is sorted by the number of unique users trying each query since launch. Take these with a grain of salt — my method for determining unique users is fairly primitive, and many of these were doubtless influenced by articles written elsewhere mentioning particular queries, like Jancis Robinson’s kind plug in her recent note about dry farming.

Note also that many of the examples used filters, but I have lumped all versions of a query, filtered or not, into one. The links below are to unfiltered queries (yes, yes, and unfined, too — I just know you were thinking it!) Add your own filters, if you like, when you try the queries (for example, queries for regions or appellations tend to return official sites first, but if you want to hear what journalists think, filter by Press).

  1. champagne (*)
  2. pinot noir
  3. Read on for the rest of the list…
    Continue reading ‘Top Queries February-April’

Search preferences and other new features…

Fun bottlesJust launched a new version of Able Grape with a number of changes. What, you may ask, does this have to do with the bottles pictured? Not much; they’re just a variety of fun bottles from a dinner a while back (I mean, what picture really goes with a software upgrade announcement, anyway, a happy face? Bonus points if you can name all the wines…)

The most notable improvement is that you can now register and customize your search experience. The list of preferences is currently short, but there are some goodies that a number of people have requested. One is the ability to open your results in another window or tab. We’ve got a useful twist on this: one of the options is to always re-use the same second window to display a result when you click on it, rather than opening a new window each time. No more proliferation of windows cluttering up your desktop and sucking memory! You can just keep one window up with your result set, and another window with the most recently viewed result. We’re big fans; it saves lots of time once you break the habit of closing the new window (I know, I know, it sounds boring, but it is ridiculous how much time it saves while exploring results!). Plus you can customize the number of results per page, preferred UI language, and other goodies. This is just a start — the list of customizable preferences will be growing soon. Before long you will be able to customize your filter menus; only a handful of the more than 100 topic categories have been exposed so far!

I’ve also beefed up the FAQs/Help quite a bit. There are a few new FAQ answers, and there are lots of new examples.

Please do take a minute to register (standard blurb: it’s free, it’s quick, and we have a strict privacy policy). In addition to providing the new features described above, it will help us to keep in touch with you as we roll out big improvements. We would really, really appreciate it; we’d like to be able to reach out every once in a while and tell you what’s going on. We won’t spam you; we’ll keep the messages occasional and worthwhile: a useful newsletter about once a month with Able Grape updates, expert search “tips and tricks,” and a few interesting things we’ve found as we pick through the wine web. I’d like your few minutes of monthly reading to be interesting and paid back with hours saved while searching.

As always, if you have any questions, suggestions, or encounter any problems with the new software, please write!

Able Grape, a wine information search engine