C. Wess Daniels is a PhD student in missiology (the study of Christian missionary work). Not my usual reading, but he has been doing some thinking on community. Some Problems with Online Christian Communities | And Why You Should Stay Away:
[T]here is another growing trend on the web, and that’s Christian online communities (or ghettos). There are discussion boards, dating services, Christianized versions of facebook, a video web service called Godtube (though I can’t currently access it), and many others. While there is a place for something like a topic specific discussion board (you can do this on any online website with groups) there are a few reasons why I think Christians should avoid these type of online communities.
[found via Gerritt Visser at Smart Mobs]
Daniels goes on to describe three reasons that Christian-specific communities are ill-advised: Internet Evangelism, Commodity, and the Christian Ghetto. I suspect he is coming at it from the perspective of someone interested in spreading the Christian word, since I don't think there is anything wrong with setting up places for established groups of people to gather per se.
In the last of these, he suggests that Christian-specific online communities act to remove participants from the larger world in which they live. And this, particularly in his view of Christianity, is out of line with the way Christians should operate.
I suspect this same sentiment applies in any human endeavor in which there are "evangelists." If I think of myself as a "knowledge management evangelist," then I should not just talk about KM amongst my friends in KM circles. Similarly, I should walk the Theory of Constraints talk outside of discussion boards with ToC people.
There needs to be both kinds of places. One where I can gather with people of like mind to learn and discuss and think, and the rest of the world where I influence and inform and share my passion.