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I am answering this post before reading any of the replies in hopes of offering a completley unbiased and uninfluenced opinion - so please forgive me if I reapeat certain things that may have already been said.
Coming from a background with no formal training in any computer related field (except for a really badly executed online class in CGI) and being one who has taught myself everything I know (like many of the other memebers of this forum), I must say that PerlMonks in itself has been one of the greatest resources in the advancement of not only my Perl knowledge, but my knowledge of programming as well. Not only being able to ask questions and have them answered in a timely and correct fashion, but also being able to help others and read the questions of others is one of the greatest strengths of a forum such as this one.
Refering to your comments on other types of discussion forums (c.l.p.misc or IRC), I will start with clpmisc. Before I found PerlMonks, I was frequently utilizing the resources of clpmisc to help answer my questions. Everytime I asked, I was answered, and usually (but not always) without flame or embarassment. However, I believe that PM fosters a more friendly atmosphere because unlike clpmisc where one day you can be Person A, and the next you can be Person Z and no one is the wiser, here most people are firmly attached to their identies and strive to advance their reputation (both perceived and real (with XP)) of their "character" if you will. I believe that the concrete identity that people have in PM and the voting system that allows them to advance in rank or caste level is one of the most important features of this community that seperates it from others on the Internet.
In reference to #perl channels on various IRC servers, I must say that although people may argue that the concrete identity exists there as well, it most defintely does not. For some reason, however, even though many people try to remain the same "nick" all the time, I have had similar experiences in IRC channels - the feeling of not being welcome at all, and of being a target of major flameage. I am not a saracastic person by nature, but I realize that I do joke around alot, and I think that because IRC is so much more of a "converstaion"-like medium than PerlMonks or clpmisc (where in IRC it is near-real-time converstaion where as PM or clpmisc is nearer to correspondence (ie: letters) than true converstaion) that people "say" things in IRC that they would say in the normal world as being sarcastic or joking, but since no facial expressions or vocal inflections can be transfered in simple text, they are often perceived incorrectly and may offend - hence the reason for much more animosity in IRC than here or in USENET.
Finally, in conclusion, although there are certain obstacles to overcome when conversing on the Internet (I recently posted a question on the same subject and recieved some really great replies), I believe that the human interaction the Internet offers is very important to those that are used to it and who rely on it on a daily basis. I can defintely say that my Perl skills would be no where near the level they are right now no matter how much money I spent on books and no matter how much time I spent reading docs. Well, that is my two cents...feel free to flame :).
r. j o s e p h
"Violence is a last resort of the incompetent" - Salvor Hardin, Foundation by Issac Asimov