Web communities leave their marks

layout: post published: true Date: 2011-03-12 Tags:

posterous_url: http://blog.ajdecon.org/web-communities-leave-their-marks posterous_slug: web-communities-leave-their-marks

Only speculating here, but I'm starting to think that people's online styles are heavily influenced by the styles of the online communities they've been involved in before--especially the first ones.  There are obvious examples--for example, it's always been easy to spot 4chan refugees--but it also seems to extend to less obnoxious communities.  

For example, I find it possible to recognize many fellow kuro5hin refugees, because that site encouraged a certain style of discourse which involved long and detailed comments, which were nevertheless modded down to hell if they seemed too pretentious.  This isn't necessarily a good style, I should note: it encouraged obnoxious Internet libertarians, and simultaneously celebrated intelligence and hated intellectualism.  But I notice its marks in my own Internet behavior, years after kuro5hin fell apart and became a haven for trolls, because I was involved in kuro5hin during my formative Internet years.  Metafilter users are similarly recognizable, albiet with a much lower incidence of Internet libertarians and a higher toleration for hipsters.  And the Digg refugees who recently fled their sinking ship are now spreading their memes elsewhere.

A common lifecycle for an online community is to grow, develop, attract too many users to be sustainable, and then fall apart; the lucky ones retain enough of their core base to keep their personality for a small group.  So most people will be involved in a series of communities, and pick up different influences.

For the curious, my own chain of communities looks something like this:

Slashdot -> Kuro5hin -> ScienceBlogs -> PHD Comics Forums -> Hacker News