It might be true that Ken sometimes expresses his displeasure with the way things are handled in BPL, and if you only take what he has written over the last year you might think he thinks of nothing but trashing BPL, but if you take the time to get to know him (as I have for a long time now), you'll know that he actually does a lot in the UL community to help promote it and provide positive experiences, a lot of it in the real world. His Bay Area GGG gatherings are very popular and have nothing to do with negative attitudes. My take on his critical posts is that the community, of which he has been an integral part of for many years, is beloved to him and he doesn't want to see it degrade into oblivion. Recently there is a strong sense here that things might not survive much longer. I, too, am very concerned about this, and having been a member of a few very popular forums that imploded and disappeared, the atmosphere is much the same here now as when those forums went kaput. This sense of foreboding did not exist in BPL just five years ago, no matter how hot the arguments got. Please note that Ken's criticisms are specific; they are only concerned with the running and survival of the site and community. I think he brings up legitimate points. Whether or not you agree with him is beside the point... as a paying member he has the right, and you could even say the responsibility to speak up when things are going awry. I'd say he has done more to kick the ball back into action than anyone else here. If he hadn't said anything about the mess with membership benefits how many people would have spoken up? It's usually the squeaky wheels that everyone complains about, and often the squeaky wheels are ridiculed, ostracized, and disliked. It takes courage to stand up to that.
I think it is the mark of a good community member to be involved at different levels in the community, and I think it is the mark of a responsible and concerned member when they have the courage and take the time to express what they see as problems. Always being nice and skirting over the problems do nothing to identify and address those problems. Sometimes you have to throw in some seemingly hurtful insights that make others uncomfortable in order for everyone to become aware of what the problems might be.
As I've stated before, I think that the BPL community does not belong to Ryan. The site does and the medium through which we have access to one another does, but not the community. The community was created by each of us, in our willingness to be active and talk to one another. Each of us puts in the work to listen to, think about the topics, and speak to one another. We volunteer this, on our own time, with our own resources. Many of us (now all of us) pay for the access to this community. I'm not sure whether that makes this a better community or not, though I suspect it has nothing to do with the quality of the community discussions. Serendipity brought all these unique people together, and good timing on Ryan's part.
The pivot to the genesis of the community of course were the original articles and insights Ryan and company provided in the early years of BPL. Ryan created the interest and the dialogue that got us all started, and he gave that insight a certain bent and a voice. In that way Ryan has become one of the "leaders" of the movement; he brought together all the disparate information that was floating around the Ineternet before BPL came into existence (anyone who has been around that long will remember Michael Conner, John O, Ultralight Joe, Centerwalk, Onestep, and Adventure Alan... all of whom started writing about UL while Ryan was still writing his earliest blog). But he did not start the movement, nor was he the earliest adopter of the UL methods.
One of the exciting things about the UL movement was the organic development of the community. It grew out of an informal interaction of people who were very eager to share their ideas for free. If not for this freewheeling, voluntary sharing of information, the UL movement would never have taken off. BPL would never have taken off. Nowadays that laissez-faire attitude has changed somewhat, with more emphasis on somehow making money. Once that started, the carefree community was bound to lose some of its spontaneity and creativity.
That the community that Ken and I and others care about and get serious about. The BPL community itself had grown into something worth protecting and putting our hearts into. When things started to lose integrity and direction, people like Ken called it out, not to cause trouble, but to get people to do something about it before the whole community petered out.
Edit: Backpacking Lightweight was actually the first forum on lightweight hiking. It never caught on the way BPL did