While I regularly read Salon.com, it was by happenstance that I found OS last November while playing around StumbleUpon.com. The particular blog that came up was Chicago Guy's wonderful essay about Obama and his daughters at their Chicago soccer match. I've been addicted ever since.
I know there's a controversy that this isn't supposed to be a "community," but it is. And I've found it to be a very pluralistic one. I'm continually amazed at the talent and voices. More importantly, I'm impressed as I watch writers grow and improve. OS allows writers a venue to experiment and has inspired many to get out dusty novels to finish or to begin major projects.
An often-overlooked virtue of OS is that it is an exercise in therapy for many writers and a salvation for those who are unemployed or going through difficult times. I sometimes thing the "S" is OS should stand for "support."
When I taught school, students would often tell me how they hated this tecacher or that. A principal. Even a parent. My response was always the same, "So what?" And then I asked them if they liked everyone in their class.
The point is that we don't have to like everyone we know or meet or read. But it doesn't mean we have to go out of our way to be disrespectful or vulgur. There's criticism and then there's just plain insult and rudeness. Tolerance can be a redeeming and liberating virtue.
We all write to be read. And that includes being "rated." I don't see it as a popularity ploy or ego trip since we all have the option not to rate. In fact, we have an even greater option: to comment. And tip. Yes, some people make the cover or EP more than others. But I think that's because they devote more time to writing. I don't see it as a 'conspiracy' or a clique.
I, for one, am grateful for OS and consider it a great favor to the cyber world. And I am grateful and impressed by the many people people I've met and those who are committed to making it succeed.