Posting takes time and there are significant, enduring risks with the pleasures.
There are superficial aspects ....
I'm having fun, more fun than girl watching and almost as much fun as taking corners in the Z.(1) I've always enjoyed calling out in class, debating, and competing in fairly direct ways. Some of my professors seemed to enjoy it; others frosted quickly. The risks are smaller for me now. My son is launched and no longer occupies Active Status on my case list or my expense accounts. I work for myself, not an HMO; I have limited involvement with insurance companies. I have no affiliations except Behavior OnLine. Even though I've told my Rotarian friends of this Forum, I doubt they recall the details or stop by to check on what I say or believe about them. The forum is a secret stage with a small audience where I can clown freely with the harlots of Overgeneralization, Speculation, and Confounded Variable. I especially love Speculation; she feeds my soul while she laughs, dances, and almost never disagrees with me. I can also poke fun at peers who visit my girls in other arenas, peers who don't even know I'm watching them.
Penalties for clowning are less onerous than in school. I can tease an Alpha such as Richard Dawkins. He correctly follows Chimpanzee Rules for Alphas; he ignores me totally just as a senior male chimp usually does in regard to an adolescent's pestering. The Forum is fast (no months of waiting editorial review) and erasable. It's also relatively anonymous and there is no absolute time requirement. The format is simple if limited. For many of us, misspelling is even stylish. And there is a select audience; people who seek this topic are likely to be informed either about evolution, ADHD, mania, or the other clinical material. I suspect that many of us have relatively short attention spans; thus, there is little market for exhaustive essays. You can work in brief chapters, reach closure on a point, and come back to it a day or a week later.
There are significant but relatively casual responsibilities. Behavior OnLine is a lovely oasis; it gives me an audience and a structure for expressing ideas. It challenges me to discover ideas in a systematic manner. I try to express them with some clarity before an unseen, varying, and unpredictable audience likely composed of bright, educated people. BOL is a good place for me to be; I've spent a half-century finding it.
There are moments when the old fears surface. I have the academically reinforced dread of making public mistakes. I miss some facets of university times and animal research; however, I do not miss the obsessive risk management that occurs. Academics often have a terror of error, especially the mistakes that are written and available for all generations to come. Eternal gremlins wing back from the future, gremlins that haunt the anal, the easily embarrassed, and pursue them even into dank, private coffins.
Of course, I'm likely to be on some lists as is anyone who contributes to the forum. I was told in 1963 that both the KGB and the CIA listed my name (even before punch cards!) for taking elementary Russian. Should humanity go into a competitive frenzy, I'm sure the mullahs would delight in catching me. Nonetheless, these are risks to be taken for a larger, long term benefit.
The Big Result ...
Loren Eiseley (1979, Darwin and the mysterious Mr. X, NY: Harcourt) remarks that the evolutionists often were non-academics. Independent, "gentleman scientists" were vital in earlier days and probably would have been on the Net if it had existed. Darwin may have held back or adopted a persona; certainly Ed Blyth, Alfred Russel Wallace, & Thomas Henry Huxley would have been in the thick of things (1) and all of them for a larger reason than I've mentioned so far.
The greatest gain (2) to writing is both selfish and altruistic. Every so often a new connection is formed, an idea mutates, concepts in one bin take control of those in another. There is a multiplicative increase in complexity as each association elicits scores of new ones. I afterwards go on a "manic roll" for hours, days, or weeks, integrating a new insight and attempting to reorder much of what I thought I already understood. The largest consequence of all, the one that passes even Speculation and the gremlins of ridicule is that I may sometime elicit a similar change in another thinker.(3) This Big Result keeps many of us going; the smaller outcomes eventually get boring. Thus, I try to get it right and I try to make it clear. T.S. Eliot's lines from the Wasteland, "...the awful daring of a moment's surrender which an age of prudence can never retract, by this and this only we have existed ..." applies to all of us.
1) I wonder if the alliances that formed around 1859 were similar in spirit and mechanisms to a troop of our clade siblings on a hunting or a raiding party. I'm encouraged that we're still competitors with ideas more so than with footballs. It's as if creating an idea allows a piece of us to live forever. We rally for a principle, a notion, a meme that may outlast any of us. It happened in 1859; it happens today in small and in large ways.
2) Goodwin (1994, How the Leopard Changed It's Spots, NY: Simon & Schuster) and Wright (1994, The Moral Animal, NY: Pantheon) argue that altruism and competition are intimately woven such that within evolution, you do not have one without the other.
3) Writing on the Net is like single-neuron recording. My sponsor was interested in mapping the layout of neurons in the trigeminal nucleus in cat brain, way down and in back but the first relay between the cat's lip and the rest of her brain. You crank down the microelectrode a few notches and gently run your fingers through her whiskers. Every so often, there's a loud "pop" from the speaker overhead; you've made contact but will never see it while the cat is living. That neuron could as easily be on Rigel instead of a half-inch under your fingers, even though you are contacting it from two directions, both the cat's lip and your electrode. Every so often you get too close; the frequency of pops rises even if you're not touching the lip. Eventually there's a continuous roar, then abrupt silence that will last forever. I grieved each loss then and now.