Category Archives: Hacks

Websites, tricks, tips, find your wine hacks here

Winexpression to Close

I must fly away to another flowerAfter almost 8 years, I have decided that my Wine Blogging journey has come to an end. Thanks to all the readers, PR staff, and fellow wine bloggers that supported me through this journey. I have a few posts to finish up and will explain a bit more, but basically this forum has run it’s course in my life and I am ready to move on. I have valued the feedback I have received and thank you all for your support. Stay tuned for a few more posts with the most valuable wine lessons I’ve learned, tips for wine bloggers, and some final reviews and notes from recent tastings I have attended.

Best,

Jathan.

Winexpression hacked!

Thanks to a security hole in an older version of wordpress, and a hosting company that is slow to provide approved updates, a malicious script installed harmful links in a hidden part of this website. I was able to completely delete all of the malware, and upgrade the site. Just goes to show how important it is to stay on top of these things, especially when using a publicly open platform like wordpress that malicious users have code access to.

Back to our regularly scheduled program.

Upcoming: Tasting 2005 St.Helena Wines, Book reviews – Wine Wise, The Billionaires Vinegar, Dr. Vino’s new book, Value wine recommendations for winter, Wine Wipes and more!

Hack Wine Spectator, Again!

Hack Wine Spectator, Again!

I don’t know why I do this, it’s just ingrained in me for some reason. I guess I just don’t like how Wine Spectator, in an effort to control searches for wine, allows Google to index deep into it’s site, only to taunt users who click on those results with the solicitation to sign up as a paid subscriber to view the story/review/blog post. Well, here is yet again, another way to use Google to get around it:

Change your user agent to Googlebot

Googlebot is the famous search engines program that indexes web pages, and a lot of sites block googlebot access to paid content. But not Wine Spectator! So all you need to do is trick the site into thinking that you are googlebot. Here’s how to do it.

Firefox Users

1. Download and install this extension [Mozilla.org]

2. Go to Tools > User Agent Switcher > Options > Options

3. Click on User Agents on the top left, then click Add

4. For Description type in Google or Googlebot, and for the User Agent enter this:
Googlebot/2.1 (http://www.googlebot.com/bot.html)

None of the other fields need to be entered. If you’d like a huge list of User Agents to choose from, here is a handy XML file that does the above few steps for you. Just import the file into User Agent Switcher.

user agent switcher5. Select Googlebot from the User Agent Menu (go to tools > user agent switcher> then click googlebot – click thumbnail for pic), browse to Wine Spectator, and enjoy!

One note: an annoying pop-up in between pages says “this browser isn’t supported”, but just click O.K. and the page you’re after comes up.

I.E. Users

You need to change your registry key for this to work. Simple go to your start menu, click on run, and paste the following code in, then hit enter. To revert back when you are done, do the same thing but enter the second code below.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionInternet Settings5.0User Agent] @=”Googlebot/2.1″ “Compatible”=”+http://www.googlebot.com/bot.html

and to revert back:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionInternet Settings5.0User Agent] @=”Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)”

You can save these as .reg files on your desktop for easy switching, just name them something different, like ua.reg and oua.reg

Opera Users

This functionality is already built into your browser. I’m not sure what the process is for changing user agents, but I’m betting you can figure it out.

Thanks digg.com

Free Access to Winespectator.com Until October 31st, With No Registration!

To celebrate 10 years online, Wine Spectator is offering free access to it’s website until the end of the month. When signing up, they require an email address to send a link to (a smart way to get some new subscribers if you ask me). Since I’m not a fan of mailing lists, I signed up using a fake email, [email protected] If you’d like to receive access without giving them your email, Click here. If that doesn’t work, try this:

  1. Go to www.winespectator.com
  2. Enter any name you want @mailinator ([email protected]) as your email address
  3. Go to Mailinator.com
  4. type the email address you choose @mailinator.com into the box at the top right
  5. Click on the email from: [email protected]
  6. Click the link

Enjoy!

NEW – Hacking Wine Spectator: Full Access!

Over the next week or so, everyone will be keenly interested in how the 2005 vintage of Bordeaux is going to turn out. Many are claiming this to be a great year for the region. To keep you up to date on the goings on in that part of the world, Wine Spectator has commissioned James Suckling to update his blog during the festivities in which wine industry professionals from around the world will be partaking. However, since this is a paid part of Wine Spectator’s site, I can’t see it.

Here is a simple hack for you to keep up with the action if you don’t subscribe. This process is inline with the previous method of hacking the site mentioned by Winexpression, but I have discovered that this new method works with every part of the website.

Click here, then click the top link. Easy right?
Here’s how it works:

  1. Navigate to the front page of Wine Spectator and right click on any link you want, then select copy link location (or copy shortcut if using I.E.)
  2. Open a new window or tab, and paste that link into Google
  3. Search for it, and you should get an error that says: Sorry, no information is available for the URL www.winespectator.com/Wine/blahblahblah.html
  4. Right below that it will say: “If the URL is valid, try visiting that web page by clicking on the following link:” Click the link
  5. Voila! You have access to that story!

The only problem is you have to repeat this process for any other page on the site you want to see, you can’t simply click through the hyperlinks on the page. But, if you’re patient, this will work for any page you’re interested in, even videos.

This seems to be a problem with them allowing Google’s cache to index their site, and that opens up some sort of back door. Whatever it is, I’m now up to date on 2005 Bordeaux!

Update: This doesn’t work for Wine Scores, because those aren’t static pages, however, you can navigate to areas like Value wines, and get a list of recent reviews.

Edit: Simply click the link on the right under HACK WS, then click the first direct link to the story from Google.

Hack Wine Spectator with Google Part II


It’s back! I know Wine Spectator will get wind of it soon and fix it, but for now, access to Wine Spectators paid content is available.

Click here

Now Click Here

The power of Google’s cache strikes again!
This time instead of using Google News, we use Google’s Cache through search. Here’s how it works.

  1. Go to Wine Spectator’s site.
  2. Click on Articles and Features > Headlines and scroll down to a headline a few days old.
  3. Copy and paste that headline into Google with quotes. (e.g. “A Week in the Rhone: Part 3″)
  4. Click on the Cached link in the top search result
  5. Read!

Here’s a few recent stories:

Note: Looks like there is a two day lag before the stories are viewable on Google’s Cache.

Disclaimer: Again, I am not showing you any illegal hacking here. The problem lies with Wine Spectator and Google, and I am just pointing it out. Hopefully they’ll get it fixed soon.

Six Steps To A Successful Wine Blog

Over 2 years ago, in August of 2003, I got an idea. This new medium called blogging would be great for information on wine. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the first to get this idea (there was one other guy I knew about [at the time]), but I figured I would dabble here and there for a while and see what happened. Nothing did, for about a year and a half, and I was getting bored. Readership was low, and I was ready to delete the account. One day in one of my MyYahoo news feeds, I saw an article on Wine Blogging, and a list of sites that were growing in popularity. What? A whole wine blogoshere has sprouted up right under my nose and I wasn’t a part of it? Wine Blogging Wednesday’s, Wine Blog Watch, what was going on here? Needless to say my excitement was renewed. I started taking it a little more seriously, and average daily readership of Wine Expression has gone up nearly 15x what it was in March of this year.

Along the way, I’ve learned a few things about blogging, and how to get noticed, so I wanted to write a quick “how to” for those that may want to get started maintaining a wine blog, or for those that may need a little help getting noticed. If you’re already blogging about wine, you can skip the first few points.

1. Define

Before you get started, define what you want your blog to accomplish. Is it going to be a news site? Are you going to provide reviews? How is your site going to be different from other popular blogs already out there? Is this going to be for profit or for fun?
Once you outline what your goals are, you’ll be ready to get the site rolling.

2. Medium

There are a lot of different options out there to write your blog with, from free to paid, easy to difficult. If you plan on registering a domain name, you’ll need your own hosting, and a little tech know how to get your blog set up. Some good options for this are www.wordpress.com and www.moveabletype.org.
There are also a lot of great options that are free, and don’t require setup, like www.blogger.com, www.livejournal.com and www.blogeasy.com.
Then there are some sites that have a little more functionality and charge minimal monthly or yearly fees, like www.typepad.com. All are great options, and have their pros and cons.
I originally signed up with blogger for it’s ease of use, but due to wanting to upgrade some features, I’ll be moving soon to my own hosting and utilize wordpress. It’s open source and looks and works great.

3. Design

The right look and feel are important to set yourself off from the rest of the wine bloggers out there. Try and come up with a color scheme pleasing to the eye that is also unique. Here’s a link to a list of websafe colors you can use on your blog. I didn’t really do this to start, and I think branding of Wine Expression has suffered because of it. Stay tuned for my new site with a new look, feel, and some exciting new content. (Donald Trump voice) It’s really going to be great. (end Trump)

4. Links

You’ll want to put links on your blog, lot’s of links. Link to other wine bloggers, wine websites, anything wine related. Then feel free to ask the bloggers you’ve linked to to return the favor, we’re happy to oblige.
I can’t stress how important links are. Google is all about pagerank, so the more links you have to your site, the more you’ll come up on searches. Readers also visit more than one wine blog, so it’s important they find your site from some of their other favorite blogs.

4 B. Update: Comments

Water into Wino makes a good point that I forgot to mention: Post comments on other wine blogs. This is a great way to show you’re taking an interest in some of the hard work other bloggers are doing, and will help you boost your pagerank when you link to your site automatically from the comment. It also gets the attention of that blogger to check out your site and leave feedback.
Comment Spam: Also, many evil people write code to automatically post comments on your blog right after you post a new page. This inflates their google ranking and drives traffic to their site. You can turn on things like word verification, or comment approval and this should minimize or eliminate your comment spam. Check your blog host for details.

5. Post

Post frequently. Tom at Fermentations averages over 2 posts a day! You have to give people a reason to return to your site. If you can’t consume yourself in your blog like Tom, at least try to post a few times a week. Don’t feel pressure to post an article everyday. Post often, but only information you really feel is worthy of your site. Lame stories will probably just frustrate your readers leaving them less likely to return. The blog is just the medium and the real meat behind it is quality content.
Edit: Don’t forget to take part in Wine Blogging Wednesday once a month, host once if you can.

6. Optimize

Writing a review on a wine? Include all the information you know about it, name, varietal, producer, winemaker, this will help you later when people start finding your site through google. Here at Wine Expression, we frequently break stories on new wine related products. I usually see a serge in traffic soon after thanks to google, and an interest in the story by the public. For Example: The Wine Scepter. About a day after I wrote that, google had me up on the first page and for the next week half of my traffic was from searches for that product.

It’s also important to submit your site to directory type sites. Wine Blog Watch, Yahoo’s Wine Blog directory, Blog Top Sites, and a new site by Craig Camp: Wine Camp Blog a forum for wine bloggers.

The old adage “Build it and they will come” DOES NOT WORK for blogs. With a little thought, time, and dedication, you can have fun and build a great blog.

In Vino Veritas!

Find a winery with Google Maps

Winerybound.com aims to make it easy to find the wineries you want to visit by integrating Google maps. Google released it’s API, or code if you will, for it’s map service so people could integrate it onto their site. A few mixes that I like: www.housingmaps.com (uses craigslist housing listings for rentals and for sale homes), Risk- The old board game of Risk, and Weather Maps- Weather info across the US.
It was only a matter of time before a database of wineries was integrated, and Winerybound seems to have done a nice job.

Check it out [winerybound.com]

Sign up NOW for mailing lists!

As the population continues to grow, and more and more people become interested in wine, it is becoming more difficult to buy the wine you want. One of the best ways to be assured you’ll receive wine from your favorite producers is to sign up and wait on their mailing list. If you sign up to late, however, it can be a long time before you ever see a bottle. (I’ve been told the waiting list for Colgin is about 8 year’s out now.) Thanks to new premium vineyards coming online, and a great growing season shaping up for 2005, you may be bumped up on some lists in a few years when this vintage is ready to be sold. In 2000 Growers saw the highest yield ever at 3.32 Million tons. This year is shaping up to be about 3.15 million tons, that would be the second biggest yield in California’s history! However, the difference between the two is quality. Since 1998 over 100,000 acres of grapes have been ripped out in the San Joaquin Valley alone, an area that’s known for it’s sub par fruit. That means this years harvest consists of more grapes coming from quality vines in quality regions, the perfect recipe to move up on a waiting list.

Mailing lists I recommend you sign up on?

Herb Lamb Vineyards
: Jennifer and Herb probably don’t need anymore people on their list, but until they close it, get on there!

Hourglass Vineyard: A new winery that has received marks already in their first vintage.

Blankiet Estate
: Doing things the French way, this Turley / Wetlaufer / Abreu project is sure to be great every year.

Harlan Estate: Edit: Pass on this one…

Sloan: Good luck with this one, it’s worth a shot. Made by Bob Levy’s wife, Martha McClellan.

Note: Bob and Martha are planning their own project to debut early 2007 with less than 200 case production, sign up on their website – www.levymcclellan.com. – Edit: Just released pricing, a little crazy in my book, might be a passer.

Linne Calodo: Probably the best wine from Paso Robles.

Don’t say I never gave you anything.

Wine Spectator Free Access Eradicated

It was fun while it lasted (I never should have posted about it, I’m sure that’s how they found out). The Wine Spectator hack with Google News is gone! The last of the articles you can read are from September 15th and previous. I checked the other News aggregation sites, Yahoo, MSN, and it appears Wine Spectator stopped their news feed to all of these sites, not just Google News. I’m not one to let the man get me down, so the moment I find something else, you’ll be the first to know.