And I should mention Clay Shirky's observation that a "group is its own worst enemy":
"Religious veneration. [...] You can see this pattern on the
Internet any day you like. Go onto a Tolkein newsgroup or
discussion forum, and try saying "You know, The Two Towers is a
little dull. I mean loooong. We didn't need that much description
about the forest, because it's pretty much the same forest all the
"Try having that discussion. On the door of the group it will say:
"This is for discussing the works of Tolkein." Go in and try and
have that discussion.
"Now, in some places people say "Yes, but it needed to, because it
had to convey the sense of lassitude," or whatever. But in most
places you'll simply be flamed to high heaven, because you're
interfering with the religious text.
"So these are human patterns that have shown up on the Internet,
not because of the software, but because it's being used by
I frequently think that online forums perceive nonconformist outsiders to be the enemy, when oftentimes their own hostility and overreaction is the real problem.
This can hold true for offline groups as well.