Very interesting question Mace!
Having come from the industry and seeing how the amount of actual "repair work" has declined here in the northeast, I'm very interested in people's opinions on this.
Back in the day (late 80's early 90's), bikes had reached a developmental stage where carbs were king and parts were getting smaller in design. The market was FLOODED with massive amounts of bikes, easily adapted aftermarket parts, and required a level of "hands on" ability to fix them. They were initially brought to the dealer for initial service, then would never return because that age of owner already decided that no one was going to touch their bike but themselves. I fell into that category, in addition to not being able to afford the dealer's hourly rate. I learned early that I needed to learn fix my own sh!t. Well, that ship has sailed.
In 2004 when I left the industry, sport bike sales and service fell to an all time low. It wasn't because of the internet. Young people buying sport bikes were now realizing that FI was a "maintenance free" type of addition. Bikes needed oil changes, tires, brakes and that was it. They didn't need to learn to work on them, because there was nothing to fix. In addition, the decline of American professional road racing took a huge hit when the GP guys got old, hurt, and retired. The pool of Americans in local roadracing fell short when the AMA stuff stopped happening. It was weird, and it sucked.
I had a thread here called The Good Old Days, where in 2000 we had to build so many 929's that we couldn't keep up with the sales or keeping them on the floor. We built 8 in one day and they were all already accounted for (sold). When the 1000 came out in 04, we sold 1 that I knew of, and had one on the floor that sat for a while. I can honestly say I haven't seen a 1000RR on the floor there in over 4 years. The industry took a huge swing, and cruisers, motards, dual sport stuff and tourers took over. But that take over wasn't something that was going to overtake the sales push that the 90's sport bikes had. The industry here flatlined.
My shop had 4 techs then, and we were pushing appointments out 4 weeks sometimes. Now, the shop has 2 techs, and the mandatory tech on a Saturday is no more. The schedule can have bikes turned around in 1 day for routine maintenance, and the struggle to get bikes back to customers is gone.
I don't think the invention of the forum has had any effect on the shop mechanic - dealer or independent. We offer advice to the guy who has already decided he's not going to a legit mechanic. IMHO