I got to thinking about Plans on Plans again yesterday, and I really like the analogy I came up with. If I could think of one this good every day, I would totally be okay with the resulting burned food:
Any old online community would provide its members the ability to "keep in touch in a communal way"; that's what a community is. What I was trying to do there was suggest that the particularly insular and limited nature of Plans might actually be what attracts some (including me), even as it repels others like [stone].
It feels strange, that point of view, because...FUCK! I've been thinking about this for 45 minutes now, and now the kitchen's full of smoke and I don't think rice is supposed to be black. Hold on. ...Okay. It feels strange to actually want an online community to be the way Plans is, since the rest of the time, I can't shut up about open standards and open content, not to mention transparency of administration and some other stuff that an ideal online community system would have.
Plans is to that ideal online community system as the CTA is to the light rail system here in Portland. Yes, it's more backwards, more corrupt, buggier, and more dangerous, and people are elitist pricks about it, and sometimes it doesn't smell too good. But it's got more character and more charm, especially when seen from a distance, and it feels like home and comes bundled with the entire complex tangle of emotions thereof. Show me any syndication format that carries all that.