1.) As a newbie, my knowledge base benefits from the recommendations of others. Honestly, I don't even know what I don't know. So when I hear what others enjoy, I add it to my shopping list. Will the tasting notes of others sway by opinion? ...perhaps but not usually. Those who know me know that I make up my own mind. However, I am a strong believer in making an informed decision.
2.) My Jim Murray Bible toting, thumping friends could stand a smack down. When they quote the ratings of their whisky god, I simply pull up the posts of the wise, sage tasters on this forum. You guys are my Jim Murray.