I've been active in internet writing/critique groups for at least the past five years, beginning with my explorations into poetry groups that ultimately led me to Wild Poetry Forum. I also have a small critique circle that is hosted at Forward Motion for Writers. (hiya, Dreamers!)
Internet based groups have many advantages for me, primarily because of the needs of my family. With two children and a spouse who works insane hours, it is quite difficult for me to attend a regular 'in person' writing group. Net based groups also appeal to the geek in me. I love that I can regularly connect with writers from all over the globe.
However, today I sat in on an in-person writing group at a local library. It was a small group--just 4 writers today, including me and consisting of very diverse writers representing many different genres. One of the major differences between the "IRL" (In Real Life) group is that we all read our work aloud for one another. And hearing the writing samples rather than reading them off the computer screen makes a huge difference.
Not only could my ear hear what my eye had just skipped over, but in reading my work to a live audience, I could gauge my effectiveness in their real time reactions. All in all, a very positive and valuable experience. I was able to tighten up chapter 1 of "Heal Thyself" into something I'm very pleased with.
I am not looking to replace my on-line writing communities, but this in-person group fills a need that online communication can't easily match--at least not without video conferencing. And then how will I write in my pajamas and fuzzy moose slippers??
Happy writing, all!