I have been active in online communities for a long time. Having been introduced to the wonderful world of the Internet in the late eighties when I took out Clifford Stoll's Cuckoo's egg from the public library, I was enthousiastic (to say the least) when I became a student at Tilburg University in 1992.
I was lucky enough to be selected for a pilot program for "Student Email". The membership of a small elite group of Internet enabled students (as I viewed myself) spurred me to look further. At university, I found a "Library information management system" (LIBS) which consisted of predefined telnet and/or gopher sessions organized in a menu structure. Fortunately, some of the telnet sessions were broken and generously provided us with a prompt that allowed us to connect anywhere we wanted.
It was then that I started hanging around on bulletin board systems. The first one that I spent time on was on a bulletin board at the US national center for supercomputing applications. After getting booted of that system because we were not American, we ended up at Auggie BBS (currently residing at bbs.sunspot.org). There, I was introduced to other online activities such as IRC, muds, moo's, empire games, etc.
The reason for this remeniscing is that for one reason of the other, I am getting the impression that there is a critical mass to these online communitities that should never be exceeded. If, for some reason, the community grows too large, it will explode. Any online community that I have ever been a part of blew up at one point in time. Usually, the fall-out affects many people deeply. The fact that the community is online does not mean that the members of that community do not care. People are deeply involved and take such breakups very hard.
The cause of this "life cycle of online communities" eludes me. Is it simply a matter of too many people trying to push their way of thinking onto the comminity, or is it simple statistics that determines that in any community, the few "rotten apples" will show up.
Ego, or Destiny?