30 May 2010

cellartracker and cor.kz

cellartracker.com seems to be the site to use if you want to track your wine collection. cor.kz seems to be the iphone software to use if you want to integrate with cellartracker.

as the gf and i have been buying more and more wine lately (our collection now stands at a "mighty" 17 bottles), and personally i cannot recall the relevant details needed to re-purchase a bottle we liked, i thought it high time to solve this with software.

cor.kz sells for $3.99 and allows you to create a free cellartracker account right from the app. donation levels at the site allow for extra features, such as access to professional scores and the ability to track larger inventories.

the iphone app has a barcode scanner built in, which found 10 of our 17 bottles. back to my laptop, typing in the UPC code found 2 more, which means I had to enter details of 5 bottles by hand and contribute them back to the database. frankly, I was a little surprised that we'd managed to buy 5 unknown bottles.

syncing is pretty much instantaneous. i gifted a second copy of cor.kz to the gf and set up her copy to point to the same cellartracker instance. i encountered no issues.

the app and site are a little clunky, i'm afraid to say. happily, cellartracker has a site in beta, grapestories.com, which sports a much prettier interface. it's entirely possible that cellartracker is highly functional, i just thought its 1993 web-era look is a bit of an embarrassment. the navigation with cor.kz can be a little confusing at times.

entering new bottles at cellartracker wasn't the most streamlined of processes, but it's functional enough. i'm not sure it's possible with cor.kz, nor if it's gotten better at grapestories. they make it possible to start with a similar bottle and change details, but the one time i tried it, i found one field where it was not possible to enter a new value, causing me to hit my back button about 8 times to hit the "start from scratch" button. clunky.

at the free level, there's no access to professional scores, but there is access to members' scores. each bottle you search for or add will show that average score. some bottles have a lot of scores, but our highest-ranked bottle has a score based on just one person. it seems there should be better management of that (e.g. exclude scores with fewer than n datapoints).

there are some other nice touches, like the ability to track ordering and delivery of your bottles separately, and the location and bin number in your house. of course you can also track the price and from where you purchased, and upload your own photo of the label. and one of my favorite features is the ability to sort by drinking age. i discovered with some horror that some bottles we purchased recently should have, at least according to other members, already been consumed. frankly, i don't know enough about wine to know if that's a big deal or not.

at drink time (in cor.kz, there's a nice button to indicate you drank a bottle), you can make your own tasting notes and have access to others' notes. there's also a kind of social networking built-in, where you can make friends with other members and become fans of them.

despite the clunkiness, it solves my needs and should assist in our buying and drinking processes.

additional thoughts:

it seems the iphone app doesn't cache your collection, and has to retrieve it from the server each time you launch the app. seems un-necessary and, in a pinch, could be problematic.

i think there's tons of opportunity for better data presentation. i'd mentioned the sorting, but everything is always presented as a list, with the same kind of line item renderer. it'd be nice, for example, to provide a view that occurred along a time line, such as when viewing by vintage or recommended drinking. or having views that representing groupings, such as by country or varietal. best would be a way to start with a dish/cuisine, and grab recommendations for wines from your collection that matched. good god, if they don't start implementing some of this, i may just have to write it my damn self. somewhere on the web there must be sites that provide such a service in a way that can be accessed programatically...

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