I'm rather new to Craftster membership, though I've been lurking for a while, and as a fellow academic (& feminist) I'd like to support your interesting project, even if my responses are similar to those above. I think this is a fabulous website: it is really well-designed, maintained and opporated (more thanks to Leah & team), it is a great resource for methods, sources of materials, and ideas, and I do think of it as a community.
1. Why do I come back? Well for the reasons mentioned above. The tutorials are great and convincing. I agree with wifeofbath above that making clothes is somehow intimidating. I have sewed other items before, but only ventured into making clothes since finding this website and reading encouraging posts. I have more experience in printmaking, painting and sculpture, so am pleased to be able to return the favour of information where I am able to do so. The photos are great and inspire creativity. My own background is experimental physics, a highly competitive, male-dominated field. So I find this really a refreshing, encouraging, female-dominated (though I think it's great that there are crafty guys here too and hope they enjoy the sometimes flirtatious responses from women) site. It may seem strange that if I am not intimidated to build circuits and machines that I was intimidated to make clothes, but I needed to be told that it was okay to use the trial-and-error method and have my first attempts look a bit odd. The spectrum of skills, someone else mentioned above, is also nice. So I can think, "oh, this isn't so bad, I think I'm a bit more proficient than X and might aspire to making things like Y". I also am relieved to find a set of like-minded people. It is almost a stereotype that one can find a group of people into absolutely any bizarre fetish on the net, but I am pleased to learn that I am not the only one who obsessively collects seemingly useless things (like broken guitar strings) on the basis that I may one day make something with them. There are even suggestions about what I might do with said collection!
2. Craftster is unique because of the nature of the supportive community (even as mentioned above, when views do clash), the tutorials, the variety of subject matter and the swaps. It has a very different feel than other on-line communities. It is more useful and more supportive. People do feel comfortable to post almost anything (except insults)! The ethnic diversity of members, the variety of ages, and the diversity of lifestyles has been mentioned, so I'll point out the diversity of language. Members communicate despite various proficiencies, preference for American or British "dialects" (as a Canadian, I have the advantage of understanding both easily and enjoy the amusing discussion of the meaning of say, "loo tube") or even l33t. Many members have English as a second language and freely throw in bits of French, Spanish, and make themselves understood, or leave brief comments to fellow speakers of their own languages. I think I've seen Dutch and Swedish and a few words of Japanese. People are even encouraging about language ability. It is immediately understood that this is a safe environment to discuss projects that relate to a minority culture in every possible sense of those words.
3. A great source of ideas and information, a unique cast of characters and some great challenges to come. I've got to do a swap... and maybe one of the newly created challenges.
4. Deserving of attention? I think the boards about gifts/brain blockages are particularly interesting because they are less likely to contain tutorials, but nonetheless attract sufficient numbers of people just wanting to help out. I think it's a function of the sense of community created over the site as a whole that people donate their time and energy to strangers or those they may know only by their avatars (there's a fabulous word for you to consider).
Now if you can tell me how to incorporate the craftiness into my scientific career I'd be grateful!
So far, I'm the only one I know who thinks about colour theory when designing circuit boards. Best of luck with the research.