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