So, to answer Mike's question, I think a researcher who wishes to include web-based information in her/his research needs to become familiar with all three types, and to understand the limitations and advantages of each.
Your post has many good ideas, John and is more to the point of Mike Veach's question than was my first post on this topic. Even though I have an almost Master's Degree in American History (I never completed my thesis), my approach and participation in BE is only partly from an historian's angle.
I do read and enjoy the information posted by the gentlemen and ladies who know a great deal about bourbon, its history, and its characters. It has been said that to really know America, you must know baseball. I would add that to really know America you must know the story of whiskey here. It is extremely revealing of American character (we are very, very, interesting folks, we Americans) to follow whiskey's ups and downs, its achievements, its follies, the reactions of the public (e.g. The Whiskey Rebellion, Prohibition, Repeal of Prohibition, State Alcohol Boards, tax policies etc, etc). It is likewise very interesting to see the parade of characters and their relationships, the ownership and label changes, the business management transactions, etc, etc. BE is the best of the whiskey websites that I visit for that general information. That is directly related to the quality of the gentlemen and ladies I mention in my first post.
I have participated in a few other 'special interest' forums and they contain far more BS than BE does. In fact, there is very little BS on BE and lot of what there is comes from yours truly.........although I do make no claims of my views being well-informed or anything other than my opinions.
It is very unfortunate in my judgement that Americans as a people know so little about their own history.........and foolishly display that lack. To know yourself, you must not only know about your own personal past, but also the past of your culture............without being blindly worshipful of either.
Still, my particpation here is not just about the history of American whiskey. It is also about enjoying whiskey, discussing my particular enjoyment through reviews, opinions, and discussions. Participating as I do is fun, interesting, and relevatory of myself to myself. I sometimes say things I wish I could retract (and even occasionally do retract postings), but I am egotistic enough to think that I can be an interesting fellow at times...........even interesting to that future mythical historian or researcher who might happen here and see my clap-trap.
I am blessed, or cursed (being at times gullible) as you prefer, with a very tolerant view of other humans. I think this is because I see my own flaws and must, in all fairness, allow others theirs. When I complement the people on BE for their strengths as they participate here, I am doing so because I derive pleasure from their posts and ideas and enjoy being in conversation with them. I am not often in the business of passing judgement on them, but prefer to marvel at their human-ness. Absolutely nothing, in this life, comes close to human beings as worthy of study and love. Whiskey history is about human beings, whiskey tasting is about human beings, learning to manage yourself while drinking whiskey is about living. I will always be a student of whiskey and of living..... unlikely to be the master of either.
Will future historians and researchers be interested in this forum for its information about Americans (and some distinguished non-Americans) and our whiskey? You betcha.......because whiskey making in America is alive and well and still revealing of us and our culture.
True, as John says, one must read this forum as mostly opinion and speculative and, it is not primary material on the history of whiskey........always the most important stuff for researchers and historians. And also true that it takes many sources for a clear picture to emerge.
I submit that BE can be a valuable resource for the future researcher........along with all the other sites. But to stray again from Mike Veach's original question, I, being an amatuer researcher in the now, get a lot of infomation from this site..........more infomation that is more reliable on whiskey than any other site of which I am aware.