There are a few adages that go with comments on the Internet. Among them: “if you don’t have the energy to read something, you shouldn’t have the hubris to comment on it” and, simply put, “never read the comments.” It’s rare that comments and forums on the Internet are seen as something positive. Ian Milligan has written on ActiveHistory.ca about the Internet Archive and the preservation of old hosting websites like Geocities. But, what of the comments?
I used to be a detractor of “the comments.” I saw mean, angry things written there, so-called trolls (those who sow discord on digital forums), and people who didn’t understand the crux of the original content. I rarely comment on the Internet and I rarely read the comments. Until recently, I didn’t fully understand their value.
Yet online comments are another public, digital forum. They offer a unique tool for research and content space especially since public history increasingly demands a digital presence, whether through methods of its inquiry or interpretation.