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Published onApr 03, 2019

The sixteenth-century Frenchman Michel de Montaigne wrote that “because there are few who can endure frank criticism without being stung by it, those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship.” I thank those who were kind enough to send me constructive criticism—what fan-fiction folks call concrit. Whatever merit this book about comments has is dependent on the comments of others. As I tell my students, “Your writing can only be as good as the feedback you get.” Of course, it is still the author’s responsibility to realize that potential; I hope that I have done so and apologize for where I have fallen short.

I begin my acknowledgments with my colleagues at Northeastern University. Carole Bell, Gregory Goodale, Sarah Jackson, and Brooke Foucault Welles read and commented on one or more chapters. Thank you. Also, Fleura Bardhi gave me some pointers about rating systems, and Alan Zaremba referred me to Montaigne. Other scholars who were generous enough to comment on draft chapters include Thorsten Busch, Eric Goldman, Jeff Loveland, Kelly Page, Trevor Pinch, Andrea Weckerle, and David Weinberger. Devon Powers, a fellow New York University graduate, continues to impress: she read the whole manuscript over a couple of days and sent detailed feedback. The reviewers at the MIT Press were exemplary: they provided timely and productive suggestions to help me write the best book possible. Finding those reviewers is one of the many tasks that MIT Press’s Margy Avery undertook on my behalf. Katie Persons reliably responded to my frequent emails. Deborah Cantor-Adams and Rosemary Winfield helped produce and polish the book.

Also, thank you to those who spoke with me about your experiences at the bottom of the Web, three of whom also made suggestions on the manuscript: Brianna Laugher, Foz Meadows, and Denise Paolucci. Four friends also contributed to this project, each in a different way. Melissa Ludtke and I regularly discussed our respective book projects over rosemary french fries. Greg Reagle helped me with the references; it was a delight to collaborate with a fellow geek and a brother. This is Nora Schaddelee’s second book with me, and she patiently acted as a sounding board, copy editor, and loving partner. And Casper kept me company through the long days of writing, reminding me when it was time to take a typing break.

Northeastern students are bright and online, and I benefited greatly from discussing this work-in-progress with them in the classroom. Many students were generous enough to do the extra work of sharing their suggestions with me, including Michelle Binus, Stephanie Chaloka, Kitty Cheung, Patrick Christman, Rose DeMaio, Tameka Geaslen, Mark Howitt, Christina LaPenna, Jennifer Lawlor, Adisa Reka, and Sarah Shaker. Anna Glina merits special thanks for reading and giving feedback on my work beyond the syllabus.

I also want to recognize a few institutions that are important to me. I was apprehensive when I first arrived at Northeastern’s Department of Communication Studies but it now feels like home, in part because of our chairperson Dale Herbeck and the administrators Angela Chin and Lauren Gillin. I also have had the pleasure of being associated with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society as far back as 1998; it is a wonderful hub for fascinating conversation.

Finally, my thanks to John MacFarlane and the other contributors to the pandoc conversion tool. I write everything in Markdown (books, articles, slides, and email), and this is possible only because of all those who contribute to the text-editing ecosystem.

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