|Think about Loose Coupling|
OK, having read this entire thread, here I go...
First, having had experience with EFnet that turned out to be very negative, there is virtually no incentive for me to go there for any reason. This holds slightly less true for USENET. USENET's basic problem is that I can't devote excessive time to separating signal from noise. EFnet's basic problem, and this is only my perception, is that it's simply more stressful to sign on and try to live in peace than it's worth.
On participation: This has been in the back of my mind for weeks, now.
For slashdot, it was simple: why bother participating when the S/N is approaching zero?
For IRC, I can lurk and log and have scrollback, so unless the channel disallows lurkers, things aren't so bad. Being able to hop in at any time without fear of ye olde /kick (or, if people are really nasty, ye olde /kill) is a huge plus. If that's discouraged in any way, there's much less value in non-established people going there.
Which brings me to this place that I'm wasting my time at currently... only much of my time -isn't- wasted. The main demotivator of participation here is the almighty downvote. A secondary demotivator all my own is that I shouldn't post garbage in hopes of gaining XP, so I don't, and it's been a really steep hill going up. Very discouraging.
However, I've been able to participate when I could (read that as "when it's safe" if you're so inclined :o) and I've learned a lot in the process.
For KM and mothra trading views on #perl: I think this duel is one of perceptions. I know I'd probably form the same perception as mothra given what I've heard about the place. IMO, downvotes should be spared here. :o)
On a big sabbatical: If you think you need one, GO FOR IT! But don't hesitate to come back the instant you have an urge or when you think you're done recovering. It could take a day, a week, or a month... or however long. When existence suffers, don't force yourself to stay.