Real Time Collision Detection has an entry on optimizing particle rendering which is a good survey of many techniques you can use to make your particles fly. Don't forget to read the comments, there are some good suggestions in there, too!
Over the last five+ years or so people have been a lot more open about this kind of stuff, and I like it. There's just too much you have to deal with these days to write a good game to have to figure it out on your own. I don't know about other people's experiences but earlier in my career there seemed to be much more of a secretive culture in game development than other types of software.
Whether it is entries like the above or things like Insomniac's Nocturnal initiative, people are much more open about ideas these days. Ultimately, we all have to execute, and doing that well is hard enough on its own. Being more open is healthy and ultimately will lead to better games across the board.