I forget exactly how we used to manage it and what the "rule" was but back in the old days here, we had a ban on "OMGGID!" (Oh My God, Google is Dancing!) threads. Most of the other forums would light up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree with wild speculation and we'd patiently wait. After things would settle out and some tests were done to confirm some changes, someone would sometimes post some notes with data on the subject. (For a while, I think it was Rand "Mr. Test It" Fishkin who typically got the data first and put it out there - I'm sure there were others though).
We had other huge advantages here over many of the other SEO forums - primarily based upon the fact that Cre8asite was never truly an SEO forum. We had designers, developers, marketers, SEO people, do-it-yourself site owners, and everyone in between. We were as likely to be talking about fluid design in 2003 as were were about anything directly related to SEO.
Most forums seemed to be looking at SEO from the top-down approach - watch the results and try to figure out what was happening. The problem with that method is the risk of Egoogle Vision. Here at Cre8asite, we attacked it from that side and by using a bottom-up approach. Several of us - most notably Bill Slawski who has since made a career out of it - would sit around in virtual dark, smoke filled rooms and discuss Google patents, projects, and reports trying to understand what Google was trying to do from their perspective in order to try to understand what we were seeing from our perspective. It helped us a lot.
The funniest thing about SEO is that when it comes right down to it, almost nothing has changed. A great thread to go back to is one from almost 15 years ago. Dan Thies published a paper called "How to Prosper in the New Google". (You'll need to get about 1/3 of the way down the page on that thread when Ammon and Bill and the rest of the real experts start to jump in before it gets really interesting). In that thread (and in Dan's paper) you can see almost all the various things going on in today's SEO world as they are first being implemented. The only real difference now is that things have expanded and Google has gotten better at doing them. Some things have altered course slightly. Other things have changed in respects to the level of importance. In the end, though, it's all the same.
This isn't to say that no one else was doing this same bottom-up approach. All it says is that in most circles, that type of information was held close to the vest. I was probably one of the loudest when it came to giving away secrets of SEO (much to the chagrin of others) because I really had no skin in the game. I've never made a penny off of SEO. My interest has always been in understanding the mechanics of how it worked and where it was going so that when I developed a site or some functional feature for a site that it could be spidered and the SEO folks could then do their thing to it. For others, the great secrets of how it all works had value to them. It is sort of like military secrets, in a way. If they are talking about this recently revealed stealth plane in public, you can bet your life that they have already built a new stealth plane that is ten times more effective than the one we're talking about.
And so... the idea that the new batch of SEO people are less informed or coming from different sectors or whatever isn't really sound. The majority of the SEO people who are talking out loud aren't (and never were) ones who really practiced or understood everything that was going on in SEO. Most of the forums (even here in a lot of cases) would just talk about the "trick of the day" - the one or two things that you could do to get the most result for the least amount of investment. The so-called Black Hats loved this approach. The so-called White Hats often used the less controversial tricks because of the simple fact that they worked and you didn't have to try to understand all the million moving parts and see how they all worked together to make something happen.
What is different today, I suppose, is that there are just so many different things going on - and so many of these things are actually working pretty well instead of being in their infancy where it was easier to find an exploit. There simply aren't as many of those "That One Thing I Can Do For Big Results" type tricks that work, anymore. Sure, you can prioritize things and there are some of the "Without This, You Have Nothing" type things - but there simply aren't any real magic bullets in today's SEO.
Another thing that is different today is that we're getting older. A bunch of big names and even more not-so-big, but equally knowledgeable ones, have retired or otherwise re-positioned themselves this year. As such, these people have less skin in the SEO game. My big prediction for the future of SEO is that eventually (after the requisite rest and relaxation period) some of these people are going to start spilling the beans. By this time next year, we will likely have more information available to us than at any other time in the history of search engines. Granted, the SEO professionals will still need to figure out how to put all that information together, but it will almost certainly be more readily available. And, of course, by the time they start to open up about those things, the technologies will have advanced by a year and the SEO peeps will need to be able to extrapolate a vector of progress in order to see where it's all going to end up a year after that.
And then there are other folks who will simply smile and tell you that SEO is dead.