One of the nice things the internet has to offer is the creation of, and participation to communities outside of our real world. In particular, forums (yes, more commonly used than the formal fora) that cater to special interests.
In one of the forums I belong to, a dynamic exchange of ideas and opinions related to design and technology that is also specific to my location (e.g. the Philippines) continues to expand my knowledge of these issues, and deepens my appreciation of and trust on other people's opinions.
The internet, according to its creator, Tim Berners-Lee, believes "In fact, [that] it is a really positive time for the web. Startups are launching, and being sold [Disclaimer: people I know] again, academics are excited about new systems and ideas, conferences and camps and wikis and chat channels and are hopping with energy, and every morning demands an excruciating choice of which exciting link to follow first."
So, a big part of my alt.life is participating in forum discussions according to what catches my fancy at the moment. I have dropped out of some forums (meaning, my participation in them have become intermitent or inactive), as I register to ones which I find both exciting and insightful. Real-world applications culled from these virtual communities have proven to be valuable. Hopefully, real-world connections made from them can be also be as fulfilling.