|Perl: the Markov chain saw|
1.That personality conflicts are an inescapable element of a community, and
2.That a community needs rules before it is justified in punishing its unpopular or seditious elements, and
That depends on what you mean by "rules". Communities work by social rules, which are more fluid and variable than systematic rules.
3.That princepawn's departure is a failure on the part of the Perl Monks community, not on the part of princepawn
I disagree, for the most part. First, I suspect princepawn has not departed, merely stopped using either the princepawn and metaperl accounts. Read his "conclusion" carefully: he never says he's leaving, only that those accounts will be inactive.
But getting to your central point: Perlmonks is in many ways not new. Online communities have been forming since the early days of Usenet (and I can't say anything about earlier). These communities develop their own customs, traditions, and styles. The constant flow of new members joining and old members leaving allows this community to evolve. Traditionally, a new arrival will show up, and broadly display ignorance of the customs. They will be chastised, and the rules explained. Over the course of further communication, the new arrival will adjust to the community, and the community will adjust to the arrival. A quick glance at the list of saints, pontiffs, and bishops shows many users in our community that followed this example here, and I'm sure many of us have done so elsewhere.
Obviously, this didn't happen in the case of princepawn. Why? Certainly some people developed a grudge against him. He had to fight an uphill battle. This became worse when he continued his unliked behavior beyond the normal "incubation" period for new users. Were we too harsh?
We certainly could have been better, but looking over the threads, I see monks patiently explaining again and again the unwritten rules of social conduct here. It makes me proud to see how patient everyone has been, far more so than other online communities. (We all know some that flame the newbie mercilessly) princepawn did not face troubles because he questioned...he faced troubles because he refused to comprimise.
In any merit-based community, you have to first learn exactly how muhc merit you do or do not have. princepawn did not learn that.
When he returns, as I think he shall, the same rules will apply to him. If he uses his princepawn persona, he'll have the baggage he created, if he uses another, he can start tabula rasa. Either way, if he learns to work towards a goal rather than against something, if he learns to not assume the failure is always elsewhere, and if he learns that others don't spend their days plotting to drop his XP, he can still become a respected member of the site.