And now, the Newb II
The first post: http://www.chess.com/blog/hop-along/bereshith
When I first joined Chess.com, I had the advantage of joining with someone I knew. This made it easy to learn the interface and get some games under my belt. I recommend talking someone you know into joining with you.
My wife did not have this option (won't endanger our marriage by beating me). She had to pick up games with the "Open seeks" or "Start New Game" option. About half of her first games were won on time. "Open seek" players can be sketchy. This can be frustrating. Games that peter out in 5-7 moves won't teach you much.
I've had good results with joining groups. It weeds out a lot of the "casual" new members that lose interest before they finish their first game. And it exposes you to the better vectors for playing chess - team matches, vote chess, and building friendships.
There are over 16,000 groups on chess.com. Choosing your first one (if they don't choose you first) can be daunting. I haven't found a field guide to groups. I've joined (and quit) a few dozen and there seems to be some basic types.
The Borg (Supergroup)
These are usually 1000+ member groups (unless you catch them in the early stages). Most of them encourage their members to invite other players in and once they reach a critical mass, they seem to gobbling up everyone. Their alerts are non-stop. Their matches have to be joined within the hour to be assured of playing. But, they've got the best features. They have active forums, decent vote-chess commentary, and they're very active in matches. They also have more member contributions - special stuff that other groups can't do - like participation statistics and external websites.
The Underdog (Lake Inferior)
This is the opposite of the Borg. These groups are/were ideas that just never took off. They typically have single-digit memberships. When they do participate in a match or vote chess, you're going to be one of two participants. You'll have to play the other club's 1st or 2nd ranked player. They will beat you. You will be sad. Groups that I admin fall into this category.
These are groups focussed on a particular (usually chess-related) function. Sometimes, they're active in match and vote chess. Sometimes, not. It's not what they're about. What they're about may be pretty cool, though. And there you are! You just found 50 other people who like to play over-the-board in a bathtub!
This is kindof like Functional group but it's about a particular style of chess. Playing fast, playing slow. Playing like Bobby Fischer. Playing like Fisher-Price. Whatever. These are great groups once you know what kind of player you are. I thought I was a fast player till I joined the fast player group. Apparently 6 hours to move isn't considered "fast".
Nationalistic (Holy Roman Empire)
These are your people. These groups are usually based on your country membership. Some will let you join even if you just wish you were Canadian. A lot of people wish I was Canadian. None of them are in Canada. These are great groups if you strongly identify with a home country. I'm a little embarrassed to be in a group that won't allow members from other countries who may admire or wish to someday visit that country. Chess.com doesn't have border crossings. Let's keep it that way.
This is the bulk of the groups. They're like t-shirts. Anything you can put on a t-shirt will make a theme that someone, somewhere will identify with. And this is what's unique and fun about chess.com. Chess is, after all, a game. Have some fun with it. I was recently invited (and you probably have, too) to join "Space Angel's Dancing the Chattanooga cha cha in the Andromeda Galaxy's Infinite Stars". A few weeks later, the same admin invited me to join "Space Angels Strategic Flight Training Center". You get the idea. Correct punctuation of group names is optional.