Jason Scott, guestblogger at BoingBoing, talks about the energy that has to go into keeping any "community" afloat. It rings true -- I think anyone that has had any experience in groups from garage bands to government will recognize the dynamic he identifies.
The online environment suffers from the same problems a lot of communities suffer from: power issues, political infighting, and a wavering sense of the sanctity and baselessness of the entire endeavor. These issues are human, not electronic; they happen in spelling bees, book adaptation efforts, and quilting. Trying to solve human problems with electronic solutions is hit or miss at best, but shouldn't be considered a huge surprise if it fails to do so.
Those of us (and I deliberately include peanut-gallery dwellers like myself) involved in using new tools to create new forms will do well to carefully consider these basics. I'm not sure they're "natural laws," like gravity, but they do have an awfully long history -- like all of known human history...
The unspoken words are the ones that define a place, even an electronic one, but they're never clearly stated: we are all alike of a way, we are all huddled against the darkness, we are here for this moment but that moment may end in an instant. That's what keeps us coming back, and if we find those feelings betrayed, based on whatever internal scale we measure them by, then we feel the place is "lost".
We are right smack in the middle of making/observing something that will have long-lasting implications. For example, will the Dean, Clark, and other campaigns use new tools to either create a new paradigm, retool the old paradigm, or crash and burn without making much of a difference either way? What works and what doesn't? Which is better for a "campaign" and will it work for governing?