Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Why are you not a Member of BPL?


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Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 12:59:18 MDT Print View

This question is being tossed out here not to stir a debate or to shame anyone into becoming a BPL member.

I am simply interested in knowing the reasons why someone has not chosen to become a paying member of BPL.

The future of BPL is going to be rooted in paying members, so it will be important to know the reasons why someone has chosen not become a paying member and to also know what changes there might need to be on the BPL website to offer value enough for someone to decide to become a paying member.

So please feel free to openly share your thoughts so that BPL can become a better place for all of us.

1. Tell us why you are not a paying member

2. What changes would you need to see at BPL to make you become a paying member?

Edited by Valshar on 07/20/2011 13:00:00 MDT.

john chong
(johnch) - F
I might not renew on 07/20/2011 13:33:22 MDT Print View

I'm a member right now, but I might not renew, since I learned more from the forums than the articles. And other than articles, there's no other reason to sign up for a membership.

Maybe do a one year membership and read up on all the articles.

But if the price for lifetime membership was a lot cheaper, I'd get one just to support BPL.

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Northern Europe
Re: I might not renew on 07/20/2011 13:49:28 MDT Print View

Raising an interesting question: what would the half-life be on a half-LIFE membership?

Alex Wallace
(FeetFirst) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 13:51:31 MDT Print View

1. The forums are free, which is why I visit the site. I have considered becoming a paying member for the "M" articles, but it seems like eventually that information trickles down into the forums.

2. If BPL offered a more in-depth, region specific (e.g. Sierra), trip advisor/planner section, kind of like a real time up-to-date guide book with current trail conditions and other relevant beta, then I would probably stretch these short arms into my deep pockets to pay for a membership. Maybe publish a quarterly "season" guide with unique routes, hidden features, or specific challenges presented by an author who has experience in that given area. Yeah, I'd pay for that.

Daniel Smith
(scissor) - F
re BPL on 07/20/2011 13:51:54 MDT Print View

I just refuse to put down cash for any internet subscription. You can get any info you need for free if you dig around enough (no matter here or another site). I also do not consider myself to be a hardcore UL guy either.

Edited by scissor on 07/20/2011 13:52:33 MDT.

Eddy Walker
(Ewker) - M

Locale: southeast
Re:"Why are you not a Member of BPL?" on 07/20/2011 13:59:41 MDT Print View

I have thought about for a while but decided against joining every time. The forums offer more than the articles IMO.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: BPL Membership on 07/20/2011 14:04:18 MDT Print View

Am a member. Been a member. May not remain a member.

UL content is dwindling.(The Articles and Reviews are great!)
Chaff/Ought-to-be-Chaff is growing.
I'm not here for entertainment or the "social hour."

I here for learning and sharing.
I know that storage, admin, and maintenance is not cheap. And just because the forums are "free" doean't mean someone isn't paying for them. (I'd guess there is $100k+ in salary and services somewhere.)

I would gladly continue to fund this site ($20? come on, that's your tip to the bartender on a good night) if the BS content was lowered.

Edited by greg23 on 07/20/2011 14:06:32 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 14:11:02 MDT Print View

At one point in time, I had a paid membership. The articles weren't much good. Immediately I started getting spam to the email address that only BPL had. So, I had to cancel. No way would I rejoin for money.

--B.G.--

John Frederick Anderson
(fredfoto) - F

Locale: Spain
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 14:15:19 MDT Print View

I was a member my first year of UL, learned some, but found I learned more from the forums, where I now try give back what I can considering my experience.

Pay per view reviews and articles of highly technical things don't really interest me, so I didn't renew. You can also find most of this information for free on the net.

Sometimes the forums can be very biased to North American themes, of which I can understand as the site is located in the USA, but some topics, such as guns and so on, are not something I wish to pay to support, or find interesting from my perspective as a european hiker. There's more and more chaff too, which is turning me away. I'm loosing interest in other people's meaningless opinions as I get older and more grouchy- better if this place stuck to hiking related topics.

My favourite things are trip reports and people's shared experiences, which, if developed into a more professional globally shared 5th estate culture, I might consider joining.

I also find the equipment in the gear shop overpriced with ridiculous international shipping fees, so there's no benefit in joining for that. The scaled membership, yearly, and life etc seems elitist and classist too. YMMV, of course.

The other reason is that I'm a Marxist at heart- Groucho of course, and wouldn't be a member of any club that would have me. ¡¡Vive la diference!! ;)

Edited by fredfoto on 07/20/2011 14:17:53 MDT.

Ron Bell
(mountainlaureldesigns) - F - M

Locale: USA
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 14:19:39 MDT Print View

Now is the best time ever to join BPL!

As they close the gear shop I know the great folks at BPL will be refocusng many resources on the publication experience.

If you are not getting the M membership access to the key articles,; you are missing the meat of the information, entainment and overall experience.

In addition, when you participate in the forums with the M by your name everyone knows you are informed on the article topics and so your opinion and comments have more direct bearing on the discussion and contribute even more to the great community here.

19.99 is a steal for an annual membership.

For the next ten customers at MLD who place an order over $200 I will refund $20 if you will use it for an an annual BPL subscription. Just note BPL Subscription in the comments when checking out and we will process the 20 refund.

Any other mfgrs want to match us?

Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
$19.99 for first-timers on 07/20/2011 14:29:05 MDT Print View

Ron, you're great!

Those who write me in the support issues with a screen shot of their receipt to take advantage of Ron's generous offer, I'll make sure you get the $19.99 price instead of the $24.99 price.

Teamwork is so fun.
Thanks all!
Addie

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 14:35:35 MDT Print View

As for content, I have to be honest:

Quickly looking over and counting the last 17 features (current page and first archive page), 10 features are members only. I only read 1 that required a membership.

Out of those 17, I've read 3 total. Clelland's tips (which I like, but is not limited to members), the piece on Balls and Sunshine (also not limited to members), and Luke Schmidt's backpacking with kids parts one and 2.

Didn't even bother to browse anything else. None of the gear reviews, shoe reviews, pack reviews, etc. have interested me in the slightest. Generally, I already have what I need and I know what I want. I'm not into backapacking to buy gear (anymore) so that makes the majority of content irrelevant to me.

3/17 on features isn't a very good ratio.

Personally, it's been going this way for some time now: pretty rare (like 3/17) that I find BPL content I care about.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Save for the Chaff, which is fine for kicks, I think the forums make this site. I've met many good people, done trips with them, and continue to meet more. I get great advice. Trip reports are great. I've been sent things I've needed for free from others. I've given away stuff to others. There are a lot of generous people around here. It's the diverse community.

So what's the future of BPL if it's beginning to sound like the majority think the best part- the forums- is free? Who knows.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Edit:
And one thing I find strange...

I think Ryan Jordan's blog content (though much is simply brief reflection on gear, philosophy and trips) is better than the majority of BPL featured content: primarily because it's not completely gear-centered. For example, I feel a recent piece on group gear was better than a good deal of the content I've seen here in a while.

???????

Why wouldn't that stuff be published here? He's a good writer, great photographer, and has some great insight on life in the outdoors. In some ways there seems to be a weird conflict of interest going on between his site and BPL.

Edited by xnomanx on 07/20/2011 14:47:50 MDT.

Edward Zwibel
(YetiEddie) - MLife

Locale: Sunny San Diego
Feels like the right thing to do on 07/20/2011 14:44:51 MDT Print View

I felt it's a difference of could vs should. Can I use the forums and snark around on the internet? Yep. Can I buy gearswap and essentially demo goods till I find my sweetspot free of charge? Yep. How much is this worth and how do I ensure that it remains in perpetuity? Throw down a bit of my money. I appreciate the articles, I like the gear reviews somewhat but I also would LOVE to see more trip related articles, gps routes, technical trip experts and practice driven articles less related to the hydrostatic head of this or that. Video content, articles of people setting up tarps, taking them down, discussing nuisances of UL practices a la Mike Clelland etc.... This would make this membership much more easy to make for many people I think. However, I feel that the people who can steer this the most are the members, if you have a dog in the hunt and money in the game, perhaps you can make more of a difference from within than otherwise. This is a community as I have seen many times recently, not just a forum. So, can I do it free? Yes. Should I? Hell no. I also like seeing the attitude of mlifers and members taking a more interested role in shaping this for content..... Please BPL pay attention to the article theme requests and when these are for members, maybe the attractiveness will swell. The 100 bucks or so I paid for life is the single best investment I feel I've made in the backpacking closet.... and I've spent a few lately getting outfitted.

Just my .02 cents.

To each their own!

Ed

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 14:50:18 MDT Print View

Re: Ryan's site vs. BPL-

I could probably give you a pretty good answer, but I'm sure he'd prefer to do it. More content direct from Ryan is probably a good thing to add to the list of what can make the site better. Maybe a recurring column from people like Ryan and similar others? Mike C.? Andrew Skurka? Dave C.?

In reality, like Ryan, there are a lot of us who develop great content, but do it on our personal sites and rarely post it here. Not even a link back to the content. Is that something we should try to change?

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 14:57:36 MDT Print View

"In reality, like Ryan, there are a lot of us who develop great content, but do it on our personal sites and rarely post it here. Not even a link back to the content. Is that something we should try to change?"

Yup. Definitely. Even if you have an editor culling great blog posts and posting them here (with permission, of course) with links to the original blog, you could easily and cheaply add some stellar content. Dave Chenault's and Roman Dial's blogs are an exemplary example of this, for just two. There are many, many others. You could start a new 'blog' section where you add such posts - I think it'd be popular.

Perhaps even a BPL app that works like Pulse, only for backpacking and such content. That would be cool.

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Northern Europe
Awesome ideas! on 07/20/2011 14:59:27 MDT Print View

+1 to everything Chris and Doug muse about above.

The content on BPL is great but there is no stopping it from getting better.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 15:01:39 MDT Print View

"Is that something we should try to change?"

Definitely.
I though it was pretty weird to see an interview with Skurka on Ryan's site yet nothing here.

On another note, I think it's interesting to include more members in the content; I've been seeing more of this. If I were BPL I'd be all over trying to get David Chenault (or another member/participant in the race) to do an article on the AK Classic the minute it's over.
There are a lot of people with good adventures and blogs around here. I think rounding up some of that content and getting it onto BPL would be good.

Granted, everyone can't be paid or compensated for their work...so BPL becomes a good hub to link to blogs, trip reports, etc.

But if BPLs content fails to become the draw, and people simply come here to get in touch with each other and find out where the better info is and all the cool blogs are...That sounds like trouble; you could do that through any free forum.

rOg w
(rOg_w) - F - M

Locale: rogwilmers.wordpress
deleted on 07/20/2011 15:45:56 MDT Print View

deleted

Edited by rOg_w on 05/28/2012 14:52:07 MDT.

A. B.
(tomswifty)
no point in paying on 07/20/2011 16:30:07 MDT Print View

The value of this site to me comes from the forum. I see no point in paying for the privilege to share and hear the experiences of my peers.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: no point in paying on 07/20/2011 16:37:21 MDT Print View

The value of this site to me comes from the forum. I see no point in paying for the privilege to share and hear the experiences of my peers.

Which begs the question, what would you do if you had to pay for forum access?

Daniel Allen
(Dan_Quixote) - F

Locale: below the mountains (AK)
Re: Re: no point in paying on 07/20/2011 16:50:42 MDT Print View

"The value of this site to me comes from the forum. I see no point in paying for the privilege to share and hear the experiences of my peers."

"Which begs the question, what would you do if you had to pay for forum access?"

Maybe make the SUL forum for members only? Those zealots will pay almost anything, right?! ;-)

Daniel

rOg w
(rOg_w) - F - M

Locale: rogwilmers.wordpress
deleted on 07/20/2011 16:51:24 MDT Print View

deleted

Edited by rOg_w on 05/28/2012 14:53:51 MDT.

rOg w
(rOg_w) - F - M

Locale: rogwilmers.wordpress
deleted on 07/20/2011 16:57:26 MDT Print View

deleted

Edited by rOg_w on 05/28/2012 14:55:33 MDT.

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
membership on 07/20/2011 17:03:22 MDT Print View

If my yearly membership can help keep this site going, that is worth it enough for me. I don't need any extra perks compared to non members.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 17:11:10 MDT Print View

I "lurked" on this site for a couple of years before finally joining. I originally planned to be a member for only one year, primarily in order to read the backlog of articles. So far, each year I have decided to renew. However, unless things change, I probably will not renew this fall. While the old articles on technique (such as the various articles on coping with cold, wet conditions) were quite useful, I have seen very little of that nature recently. The State of the Market reports have been interesting and I've learned a lot of general information, but either the items in which I might be interested are not included (such as the ULA Ohm) or I'm just not in the market for such an item at the time. During the years I was "lurking" here, I found most of what I needed in the forum responses to articles!

Nearly all the knowledge of the new "cottage" vendors, new technology and weight-saving tricks I've learned here in the past few years have come through the forums, not through member-only content. I realize that it takes some time to evaluate new gear and to write up an article, but consistently the forums are more than a year, often several years, ahead of almost every article.

Like others, I wonder why Ryan is posting interesting material to his own website but not here. To me, the content of his own website indicates that he is no longer interested in BPL and is setting up his own separate business. I hope I'm wrong!

IMHO, with the antiquated software here, the forums themselves--admittedly the most useful part of this site--are so difficult to use that I can't see paying to support them. (I do support several other worthwhile--and far better organized--forums through donations approximately equal to the member dues here.) By the time I wade through "recent threads," skipping over all the "for sale" and chaff items (and inevitably missing something interesting wedged in the middle of ten "for sale" items), there's not a lot that I want to read compared with the time I have to spend finding it. In other words, I spend a lot of time for relatively little content. If I'm gone for as little as a weekend, there's absolutely no way I can ever catch up with what's going on here. In other words, in simple frustration I may end up leaving the forums as well as the paid membership.

What will keep me here as a paying member?

(1) A larger number and wider variety of articles each week, about techniques and trips as well as gear.

(2) An easily findable list of articles for beginners to which we can refer people just starting out, many of whom post on other forums with which I'm involved. This particular aspect, IMHO, should be free as a public service. They should be updated every few years. The old "Backpacking 101" is a prime example--in fact, just updating that article (10 years old now) would be sufficient. Having this public service base to which to refer beginners would bring in a lot more members here--consider it advertising!

(3) Inclusion on "SOTM" reports of at least the most popular gear items (back to the ULA Ohm again!).

(4) While we're at the Ohm, how about a bit more coordination on SOTM reports, so an extremely popular pack isn't omitted from the "frameless" category because that author considers it "framed," while the author of the "framed" SOTM considers it "frameless."

Forum improvements (for which our membership pays, since this site doesn't solicit donations or outside advertising):

(1) Better forum software with automated functions for links, bolding, quotes from other posts, etc.--in other words, the standard features common to other forums.

(2) A greatly improved search function. While no search function is perfect, this one could be a lot better. Since we have to use google all the time anyway, you might as well eliminate the current search function altogether and instead display how to search through google.

(3) The ability to modify the "recent posts" function to omit certain forums. (For me, this would be "For Sale," Chaff, MYOG.) This would really help us cope with the overwhelming volume of traffic on the forums. We of course should be able to change these easily, so if, for example, I want to buy a piece of used gear, I can check out that forum.

(4) A bit more moderation on these forums (maybe a few volunteer moderators?) to tone down some of the name-calling (there's a reason I don't read Chaff!) and keep the discussions more polite and on-topic.

Edited later to correct abbreviation confusion!

Edited by hikinggranny on 07/21/2011 15:46:01 MDT.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 17:22:04 MDT Print View

+1 on everything you've said Mary D, especially the search functions and lack of stickies or beginner's articles. It is a drag to see the same questions and responses about every 3 weeks. And what incentive is there to become a Mlife if you are a M already? If BPL gave me a break for having been here 2 years I would consider it , but otherwise it gets more tempting not to renew because you know enough already and can just infer the paid content from the responses.

Edited by Meander on 07/20/2011 17:22:56 MDT.

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 17:25:27 MDT Print View

A better search function would be good....but I like the simple format here; no bolding, jumping people, long quotes, colors...I hope it will stay this way.
As for more moderation? Nooooooooooooooooooo. We are doing just fine like this. The only problems I see with Chaff is that some don't want to scroll down through all that when looking at recent posts, and that is legitimate. Keeping discussions friendlier by moderating them just irks me. We have had unpleasant exchanges but people got out what they wanted to say and then , in most cases, we move on and I would like to keep it that way. Actually, as a paying member I DEMAND IT!!! ; )

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 17:28:43 MDT Print View

"And what incentive is there to become a Mlife if you are a M already?"

Some MLife members are trying to add value to MLife membership on their own. There is a gear lending closet - only for MLife members, run by MLife members - with such things as a Backcountry Boiler, a cuben MLD Cricket, a Tenkara Iwana 12' flyrod, various Caldera Ti-Tris, an Exped Downmat 7 Short, an SMD Gatewood Cape, and an MLD Superlight bivy. And we're trying to think of other ways to add value to MLife, FWIW.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 17:34:07 MDT Print View

Well Doug that IS something concrete. Don't get me wrong -I just don't understand why "time served " doesn't translate to a discount on Mlife .

Aaron Benson
(AaronMB) - F

Locale: Central Valley California
Re: Re: no point in paying on 07/20/2011 17:35:45 MDT Print View

""Which begs the question, what would you do if you had to pay for forum access?""

With the numerous ["free"] forums and blogs out there--as suggested several times above--my guess would be that many would simply spend their time on other forums; most of us frequent quite a variety of forums and blogs, already, I assume.



Here are a few of my thoughts about this place that I've truly come to enjoy, FWIW:

I paid for an annual membership because I wanted access to a 'few' of the M* articles and, because I was wet behind the ears at the time, wanted to positively contribute and say "Thanks" to BPL. I don't regret that, but do agree with a lot of what has been said above. Ironically, most of the articles that I reread are accessible to everyone. Had the forums not been so informative at the time, I would not have thought the articles alone worth the money (money is tight, as I'm a Grad student).

-I almost upped for a LifeM when I [mis]read that Lifers got free shipping from the Gear Shop, as I thought that generous perk for dropping the $100 would help offset the high prices...but I hesitated and thought about it for a while longer when I realized that that was only for New/Preorders. Shortly after, it was announced the shop was closing anyway.

-I wasn't around when the Podcast(s) production stopped, and don't know why they did, but quite a few of them were informative and enjoyable. (Why, BTW?)

-I'm a little more learned now and--again considering what has been said above--I don't honestly know if I would have made the same decision, today. The articles are good, but the forums totally make this place - at the moment, the "Forums = BPL." Lately, as suggested--because it's become a little stagnate in here, I think--Chaff and Gear Swap stick out like sore thumbs. Those who enjoy this place visit often out of loyalty, but because it's a bit slow, Chaff becomes busier, as it's become a kind a compensation of use/interaction/involvement, if you will...but that is frustrating for many because that is not worth the price of a paid membership (IMO).

-I realize no one is saying that BPL is going to start charging for forum access, but since the question was brought up: I will gladly renew my membership if BPL comes through in other areas (informative articles, thorough trip reports, podcasts, etc, as suggested above). I certainly won't renew for forum access alone. I don't know how may others would either and I wonder if there would be enough relocation to bump-up a few of the other, less-busy forums that are geared toward light-weight backpacking.

I "heart" BPL, so please be careful - your Customers are talking. ;)


EDIT: very well said, Mary D! I should just say "+1."

Doug - I had no idea there was a MLifer closet; that's pretty cool, actually. I wonder how many more didn't know.

Edited by AaronMB on 07/20/2011 17:41:05 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Life Membership on 07/20/2011 17:39:08 MDT Print View

I personally think that the Life Membership concept is going to do BPL in about 5 years down the road. With Life Membership, the big chunk of cash comes in up front, and is equivalent to about 5 years' annual membership. Once the 5-year mark has passed, Life Members will be getting all services for free and the cash flow will not be coming in.

This is not to insult any Life Members; you are all great people who were intelligent enough to take advantage of a bargain, protecting yourselves from future inflation! I just want to point out that this concept may turn out to be a poor business decision in the long run. In case you haven't already figured it out, I am an accountant (retired)!

As for me, being somewhat "stricken in years" as they say, I may very well be gone from this earth before 5 years are up. (I hope it will happen out there on the trail.) I therefore don't see much point in paying that far ahead for anything!

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 17:40:25 MDT Print View

Regarding the issue that has been put forth on making the forums only for paying members.

I think that focusing on this idea really is distracting from the original point of this thread.

The forums, by themselves is not a good and compelling business model for sustaining a long term business.

What is important is to find out what changes in the website and content offerings would sway someone to find enough value in the website/subscription.

Thank you to everyone for taking the time to add their comments.

This is all about trying to make this a better website for all of us.

-Tony

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Is that all it is? on 07/20/2011 17:40:40 MDT Print View

I thought the yearly subscription was more? Like $10 month. Still, so many other bp forums I belong to and contribute to which cost nothing. Something to consider.

Duane

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 17:52:49 MDT Print View

What I was getting at about the forums is that they are never truly free. Someone has to pay for the website, hosting, and all of those wonderful associated fees. Generally that's done via advertising, which BPL doesn't have. The site is member supported and there is a ton of content that doesn't exist anywhere else. Without the members, we'd either have to endure intensive advertising, which I personally despise, or lose the content forever.

Edited by simplespirit on 07/20/2011 17:55:13 MDT.

Jacob D
(JacobD) - F

Locale: North Bay
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 17:55:02 MDT Print View

Tony, My general fear of those who wear quilts prevents me from committing.


All kidding aside, I'm happy to pay $20 / yr. to help support the site. The lack of banner ads, bot-generated posts, and all of the hoopla that comes along with sponsorship is a welcome departure from other forums for me.

As a paying member I would like to say that it would be nice if the forum itself was given a complete overhaul with some modern back-end such as vBulletin, Powerboard, or even phpBB.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 18:02:03 MDT Print View

I agree with Tony--

"The forums, by themselves is not a good and compelling business model for sustaining a long term business.

"What is important is to find out what changes in the website and content offerings would sway someone to find enough value in the website/subscription."

Duane also has a good point--the relatively low price of membership ($25 annually the first year, $20 for renewals) is not publicized on this site--you have to work down a step or two to find it! Most people see "become a member" on the home page and are turned off right there! Why not state on the home page: "Become a BPL member: Only $24.99 the first year; $19.99 per year thereafter."

Duane, those other forums aren't free at all; they take in advertising and rely heavily on such things as donations, sponsorship, calendar sales, etc.

If BPL goes, this forum will go, too. Only you can decide if it's worth saving. Never mind the opinions I've expressed; these are the hard economic facts.

Edited by hikinggranny on 07/20/2011 18:09:16 MDT.

spelt the enigmatic
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
fundamental disconnect on 07/20/2011 18:32:28 MDT Print View

I'm not interested in so many reviews, or market reports. Figuring out my (nonconsumable) gear, while exciting at times, is ultimately a chore. I wouldn't pay to read reviews--no matter how excellent--of things I have no intention of buying. I'm not interested in the highly technical stuff, either. Is it interesting for its own sake, yes. Is it interesting when I'm just looking to answer a question, no.

What I would pay for is esoterica: why backpacking, why UL, why SUL? Dave C's blog is a good example. Some of Ryan Jordan's posts as well. I would think the Philosophy and Technique forum would be for this, but most often I see posts about which way of doing something is more authentically UL. I've found good musings by following the Trip Reports section and combing through the blogrolls of everyone who posts. If that sort of content were here, I think I'd pay for it.

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 19:10:40 MDT Print View

I was a member back when BPL was a physical magazine. The 3 main reasons I don't bother joining again:

1- articles are too few and far between, Reviews are not only too few but they review gear thats been out for a while and reviewed in detail already on forums like this. I would be more interested to see reviews of gear thats just, or not yet on the market. Also I don't need another review of a ruck sack with mesh pockets and other stuff thats been done- I want to see NEW stuff and new ideas that make me rethink the way I do things.

2. There is only so much to say and learn about carrying a light pack. Its not rocket science for most occasions.

3. The forums are the best part of the site- there would be little reason to come here without them.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 19:26:42 MDT Print View

I used to buy annual memberships, then converted to Life membership.

Actually, I agree with Brian's point that backpacking is not a rocket science. While every article and gear review used to be wonderful and exciting to me when I was a newbie hiker 7 years ago... the subject matter, technology, techniques, etc. just don't change that much from month to month or even year to year. So no fault of BPL's, but the reading does become repetitive and increasingly boring...

So why did I pay for the Life membership? Because I enjoy the forums. If we want BPL to continue, then we all have to do our part to support it. And since I don't want to freeload, then I may as well pay the Life option and be done with it. To those who benefit from BPL articles and/or participating in the forums or simply lurking... I encourage y'all to show support as well.

Edited by ben2world on 07/20/2011 19:28:38 MDT.

Mat Tallman
(wehtaM) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/20/2011 20:24:02 MDT Print View

My take:

As others have stated, I only use the forums here.

I've been a member on a LOT of forums over the last ten years, and have never once seen one where paying to be a part of the discourse was commonplace, or even really a possibility. Some have had the option to donate, but never any sort of "membership" aspect. All of these forums were successful communities packed with information which was free to all. The general consensus was that you pay your due by sharing your own personal wealth of knowledge, not dollars. Forums were funded primarily through advertising (isn't everything anymore :( ). I, being the type who is irritated by pervasive marketing, simply block ads within my browser (and other firewalling steps) and am none the wiser to their presence. The domain name is paid for, forum software stays updated, users benefit from the exchange of information, everyone's happy.

In light of the time I've spent on other forums, which actually have useful features like a search, the ability to easily quote/reply to other users, doesn't require someone to insert a goofy subject line to reply, allows links, has a functional private message system, etc. the list goes on. The software this forum runs on is really bad in my opinion, and until some time/money is devoted to bringing the forum software up to a reasonable level, there stands a snowball's chance in hades on a hot day that I would spend any money to become a member.

It has also been my perception that having "members" and "life members" seems to tend towards an occasional attitude of elitism or entitlement, and sometimes some insinuations that non-members are somehow "freeloaders" here. This is, from what I've seen, not especially widespread, but it's certainly not been a 1-time thing. Perhaps I'm the only non-member who gets this vibe sometimes...

As to the question of what would happen if a "forum membership fee" were instituted, I'd surmise that someone(s) would simply start their own forum, probably using modern forum software, paying for it with ads from gear companies that I would block, and that a fair portion of non-members would jump to such a forum. I've seen situations on other forums take MUCH less than demanding payment for forum access to drive scores of members away to newly started forums which take off and thrive on their own. This is usually an overall detriment to the "community" though as it serves to decentralize much of the information and discussion. This would essentially be segregating groups whose only uncommon trait is a willingness or ability (or lack thereof) to pay for a subscription. You'd probably save the domain a fair bit of bandwidth though, if money is the subject of the discussion.

My take on it, YMMV.

Steve Robinson
(Jeannie) - F
More likely now on 07/20/2011 22:01:57 MDT Print View

Was a member, but let it slack. Felt that the gear shop compromised the content. There were certain items that weren't included in reviews because they were in the shop.

Now that it is being closed, I am more likely to sign up again.

Kimberly Wersal
(kwersal) - MLife

Locale: Western Colorado
BPL membership on 07/20/2011 23:02:58 MDT Print View

I'm in agreement with Ed Z and Ben-- it's largely a matter of wanting to pay my share in support of a forum that I enjoy frequenting-- not whether I could manage to scrounge up the same information without HAVING to pay for it. Since it is not particularly a financial hardship to contribute, I would feel like a freeloader NOT to. Plus, I would like to see BPL continue to exist a few years down the line!

Yuri R
(Yazon) - F
Well on 07/20/2011 23:09:22 MDT Print View

Because PM (private message) system here is a PAIN !

Now on a more serious note:

For me to join BPL I need to have a benefit for doing so. Accessing reviews or articles behind the "pay wall" is not that attractive. I can always read reviews at Amazon.com, REI.com and others. There are plenty of blogs and sites with articles on every topic imaginable and all of them are only a single search entry away.

The shop...I've never even looked what's in the BPL shop. I assume it's all the lightweight gear, but I also assume that prices are not lower than on Amazon, REI outlet, and other discount stores.

What would it take for me to join BPL? Perhaps if BPL was organizing outings, guided trips, lessons of some sort then I would see more value in the membership. But they would have to be in my area where i can actually join them and not across the state/states.

The information and community (people on the forum) are great and a lot of help, but if it wasn't BPL providing this space and forum facility - it would be another forum on another site.

Is it selfish to expect something I actually want in return for money that it takes to join? I don't think so...Especially if you consider the fact that forum and activity on the site are largely kept up by the non-paying members. So trying to limit access to forum through pay-wall would cut out some of the very active and helpful people.

I was actually planning to setup my own backpacking/camping forum until I found BPL and another well established site with many members...


Ah - as someone mentioned on the first page of this thread - i would probably pay for subscriptions to articles of TRIP reports that have many pictures, are well written, have detailed information about the trip, locations, navigation tips and most importantly - INSPIRE me to visit that place.

Trip reports + pictures = crack for outdoor junkies.

Edited by Yazon on 07/20/2011 23:14:39 MDT.

Gerry Volpe
(gvolpe)

Locale: Vermont
membership on 07/21/2011 07:00:27 MDT Print View

I was a member for a year and thought it was a valuable investment and BPL is actually the only website if have ever supported. I'm not now a member partially because I let mine lapse and now cannot take advantage of the member discount on resubscribtion. I am sure that I will join again to read some of the articles I have been missing, while I won't be a continuous member I will certainly contribute to the revenue stream in some way. I also think that as I have spent more time on the forums I find less and less that is new and exciting which is natural obviously. I still think this is a top notch community of people and an excellent resource more than deserving of financial support.

Erik Basil
(EBasil) - M

Locale: Atzlan
Reponse to the OP's Q on 07/21/2011 07:54:25 MDT Print View

I response to the OP's question: I am not a paying member because I am a casual reader of the forums for information and insight, but frequent several similar sites per day, all of which are as "free as radio" --meaning supported by endemic and non-endemic advertisers.

I've seen some commentary regarding the software used here, and I don't know much about the platform being used here, but I do know a fair bit about phBB and vBulletin. Most of the "desires" voiced here regarding the onboard search engine, PM system and etc... would be resolved with either of those two BBS systems and vBulletin now provides a CMS that would enable the entire site to run on one platform if desired. These would also allow for insertion of Google Adsense ads, and to make them visible only to those not logged-in if desired, and also some endemic ad links for companies that support the site. Notably, vBulletin would also allow for management of the Meta Data on the content articles and a robust Search Engine Optimization that would increase traffic to the site.

The costs involved with migration to new software can be significant, in terms of cash and emotion, depending what's currently being run and managed, but vBulletin will do most of it for a low fee. The traffic this site generates won't make Adsense income enough to pay for even the new software, but the nature of forum software upgrades and SEO is that they pay off over time with ever-growing traffic and ad-views.

Those who ad-block do frustrate the system by denying the host some income, but you can set up endemic ads into the template, that everyone will see... and then know which companies support the site. One can also easily create membership levels for access, with effects such as limitation of classified/sale postings to paying members, for example.

Okay that all said, my point is that if BPL wants to invest in new software, there would be a net improvement in happiness and ad-income, following a period of pain and anguish during the migration. The upgrade would also enable the Admins to make more choices and to have more options regarding methods to monetize the site and yet preserve its feel and utility for the Silent Majority: those who enjoy the free intarwebz.

Brian Dickens
(briand) - F

Locale: Colorado
Value? on 07/21/2011 09:08:28 MDT Print View

How about I place the question back to you.

I will post this for 2 reasons. 1) It is my opinion 2) stirring the pot.

Can you explain to me, what value I get for $20 a year?

Access to Members-only content at BackpackingLight.com
-- I am fine with existing forums and cannot justify any amount for communication with other backpackers.

Member discounts on goods and services offered by Backpacking Light
-- Goods are dwindling and not available. No interest in services.

Subscription to the Members-only email newsletter
-- I do not need any propoganda.

Advance notice of new product availability
-- Seems like there are better products out there than BPL offers and companies in the business of UL Gear have websites.

Access to Members-only forum for the discussion of issues unique to Backpacking Light membership
-- Never interested in stuff like this. That is for the elitist.

Access to an "ask-the-expert" forum moderated by Backpacking Light staff and athletes (in development) .
-- I view other backpackers as sufficiently expert.

Cost savings over time with protection from subscription price increases
-- Sounds like BPL is trying to justify the fee.

Invitation to BackpackingLight.com's periodic "friends and employees" sales
-- I seiously doubt that the savings with this would be any better than any other sale on the internet UL gear. Plus you have to want the BPL gear, which seems OK, but all the stuff I like from BPL is not available.


Free ground domestic shipping for LIFE for all pre-purchases of new Backpacking Light branded products
-- Is this really a value? I have yet to find a BPL product that I like AND is available.

Participation in Backpacking Light's strategic planning process
-- LOL. I can voice my opinion right here.

Edited by briand on 07/21/2011 09:20:09 MDT.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Value? on 07/21/2011 09:45:00 MDT Print View

Brain,

Thanks for taking the time to respond back to my original question to provide your thoughts and to provide insight on why people chose not to become paying members of BPL.

To sum things up, the forum by itself offers you the most value and the reason to visit the BPL sight, which is free.

The products and services are of little value because there are other vendors of products that can fill your needs and the discounts to members is not sufficient enough to warrant spending money on a membership.(I would say that if the only reason to buy a membership is to receive a discount on products, then BPL has failed as a website/business).

The articles available to paying members does not appeal to you perhaps there is the perception that maybe that information can be found elsewhere on the internet for free or provided to you by others via the BPL forum.

Bottom line is that BPL has failed to give you a reason to reason to join.

1. Lack of unique information that appeals to you

2. Failure to provide the perception of value in the event the articles might be of value to you


As a side note: Signing up for a membership as a means of "charity" to support BPL is also not a viable long term business plan.

Edited by Valshar on 07/21/2011 11:29:09 MDT.

Andy Schill
(Aschill) - F
membership on 07/21/2011 09:53:51 MDT Print View

I originally lurked for a while and learned so much that I decided to join. I generally just use the forum and read the articles. I guess I could do everything without being a paying member, but I've taken a lot away from this forum. I just re-upped, however, I'm not sure if I will do it again.

I think BPL could REALLY use a forum software update that includes a better tagging/watching function for threads, a quote function, and a much better PM function. There's also small nit-picks that would be nice to change (not having to enter a subject when responding, being able to see the thread as you are posting) It seems like this forum software is ages behind others; however, this forum has some of the best information out there.

Edited by Aschill on 07/21/2011 09:56:00 MDT.

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - M

Locale: Southeast
Why I waited for a while on 07/21/2011 11:46:17 MDT Print View

Like many others, I lurked for quite a while visiting the forums and then bought a membership because I enjoyed the forums that BPL has. It also gave me access to the articles which were OK, but nothing I didn't already learn from the forums. Will I renew again? Most likely no.

The common theme amongst a lot of the people here is that they enjoy each other, but not BPL itself, which is a bad thing for a site w/ a membership fee. This isn't the mid-90's, people don't pay for site access now days. I wonder if a better model would be to have the cottage mfg'ers pay a monthly/yearly fee to advertise here in a tasteful fashion instead. They already advertise here now to an extent, why should they have access to the site population for free? As part of the deal, no other mfg'ers can advertise here unless they too become members. They rarely participate in the forums except for Lawson and Ron B., maybe that would give them more of an incentive to add. If you think about it they have the most knowledge/experience for the most part. Nothing against the cottage guys, I'm just brainstorming.

Ryan

Brian Dickens
(briand) - F

Locale: Colorado
It depends... on 07/21/2011 12:07:25 MDT Print View

@Tony

>>>As a side note: Signing up for a membership as a means of "charity" to
>>>support BPL is also not a viable long term business plan.

I have another site that I have frequented and was also a major contributor to for a while. It is a .org. Non-profit. The only reason it exists is for the community to have a forum 100% free of ads. IMO, it is much more active community than BPL and also has a fair chunk of tech weanies contributing time, equipment and knowledge.

If you are trying to make profit on this site, I agree.

One idea for you ask for 5-10% donation on anything sold on gear swap (likely a bit hard on this site since many swap items are not really that large of a price).

Can you tell us how many paid members you have and how many unpaid members you have... or percentage?

Edited by briand on 07/21/2011 12:08:56 MDT.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/21/2011 12:49:41 MDT Print View

Brian,

Appreciate your input to the conversation, which I hope is valuable to those who are running BPL and deciding the future of this website.

I wish I could answer you question about the percentage of paying to non paying members, but I don't work for BPL.

I simply started this conversation with the hope of learning why people are not members and by extention, to learn what changes would need to be made to this website in content and function to encourage more people to become paying members.

To try to answer you question, I am assuming that the goal for the people who own and run the BPL sight is to make a profit.

For me, the ability to make a profit means that people can work on the website full time and additional money, in the form of profits, could be reinvested into improving the website and offering better content and experience to visitors to the sight.

I do like your idea of being able to capture a small percentage of the money in the transactions on the gear swap.

Any ideas on how to improve the BPL sight for user and how to generate revenue would be much appreciated.

-Tony

Edited by Valshar on 07/21/2011 13:54:25 MDT.

Jozef _____
(DerJosef) - F

Locale: The southern border of Holland
Hints on 07/21/2011 13:31:34 MDT Print View

"Why are you not a Member of BPL?"

+ forums with a fair amount of people sharing stories and input
+ BPL seems organized with a vision (not just any other hiking site)
+ one of the bigger hubs online that talks gear
+ bundled trip-reports

- forum software
- none of the "benefits" of membership appeal to me
- as I live on another continent gear deals are not very beneficial
- sometimes it's a bit repeating

If the question is about gaining insight as to what is needed to save the future of the website. My guess: it would be better to jump on the "website with donations" train...or go for ads.

tommy d
(vinovampire) - F
Re: Hints on 07/21/2011 13:54:21 MDT Print View

I think Jozef _____ summed things up pretty well in his post. I see the real (and for me only) value of this website in the forums, which have inadequate software. Just look at the menu, which includes: HOME, Articles, Shop, Community, Wiki, and School. Forget HOME and Shop is going away, while there's not much offered at the School or going on at the Wiki. The leaves community and articles. Honestly, when I look at the M articles, there's just not much that appeals to me. Also, I already get discounts from my local gear store.

Articles will always have limited value. I was reading trip reports on blogs and talking to friends before I ever saw this website (which I thought was just a forum). I backpack in northern New England, so there's not much I can't already find from the AMC or GMC guides, blogs, or my own experiences.

That said, I really like the idea of donations. I donate to the AMC and GMC already, and am much more likely to support that type of model. A friend of mine who ran bake sales for a local women's group in my area always told me that you NEVER set prices at a bake sale. She always said that people are much more likely to throw a couple extra bucks in the pot when they're donating.

Bob Salcedo
(Baughb) - F

Locale: So Cal.
Recent lurker on 07/21/2011 14:16:52 MDT Print View

I just discovered this site(2 months ago?) in an effort to lighten my load and I enjoy it immensely.

No interrupting advertisements is key for me! I don't mind some site related ads on the sides but anything like Backpacker magazine and I'm gone. Through the Forums and Reader Reviews, I have found those manufacturers that might advertise on here and I am preparing to buy some of these products. So their Un-advertising has worked well on me.

I may consider paying for the ad free site but, I have found in the past that any site with no revenue source beyond membership fees dies the death of a hobby bulletin board so my money would provide me nothing. And what is the point of having me pick a "screen name" and then display my real name along with it?

I will miss it if it is gone and I will enjoy it while it is here yet I know passionate geeks/bloggers will always find a place to ply their opinions... and Google will tell me where they are.

Edited by Baughb on 07/21/2011 14:20:53 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
ads on 07/21/2011 14:22:07 MDT Print View

just do it ... as long as it doesnt affect yr reviews ... it doesnt matter

you dont need to accept ads from manufacturers ... but i suspect online retailers will be more interested ... you accept gear from manuf to test anyways

as to BPL ... most of the recent articles have no value for me ... i dont need to know about a UL pack whose review i can get elsewhere or on the forums ... you can get trip reports anywhere else for free

what matters to me are factual articles on techniques ... mr caffins article on gas canisters was the last good one i saw

since then there hasnt been anything that made me want to renew

Laural Bourque
(lauralbaby)

Locale: PNW
comparison on 07/21/2011 14:34:11 MDT Print View

The only other ad-free paying forum/site I frequent is eGullet, where you only have to pay to post, and the donation can be from $5-hundreds. But the forums are far more advanced than these. And every article is free.

BER ---
(BER) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
would i do it over again? on 07/21/2011 15:40:43 MDT Print View

I joined in 2009, if I remember correctly, because there was a particular article I wanted to read. I renewed as a Lifer at my first anniversary, because I hate payment reminders and I figured there would probably be some articles that I would be interested in the next 5 years. I certainly plan to be camping for longer that that.

I like the trip reports. But I get more of them from the dozen blogs I follow than from BPL. The vast majority of the the other articles are glanced at but not often read.

I used to like the forums. Still like the MYOG threads. Some of you peeps have amazing skills. Wish I could make my thread injector do that.

Now that I have been here a while the rest seem repetitive. No offense to the referenced individual, but I am sick of hearing it repeated how he likes to manage his excrement process. Seems to come up a lot regardless of the topic. And there seems to be a lot of opinionated, but not very helpful, folks that bring the tone down. Perhaps cutting out the Chaff section and staying on target would be an improvement, but that might require the moderators to moderate. I don't know if they get paid for that.

I'll never be UL, much less SUL or XUL or whatever comes after that. My 42# canoe assures me of that. But I have dropped 10# of extraneous crap and lightened up the big 3, so I'm OK with that.

So would I do it over again? Probably not. Are there refunds for Lifers with a change of heart?

Edited by BER on 07/21/2011 17:03:27 MDT.

Leigh Baker
(leighb) - F

Locale: Northeast Texas Pineywoods
re: "Why are you not a Member of BPL?" on 07/22/2011 06:28:23 MDT Print View

Well, since you asked, and I'm glad you did :)
As a green newbie, I became a member a yr ago and recently rejoined after letting it lapse, missing the rejoin incentive, but at the time it just wasn't feasible (there was a good chance I was going to be laid off from my teaching job). I first have to say that I love this site, I have learned so much! But truthfully, most of that knowledge has come from the forums. I recently went with a group of "non-enlightened" packers and was stunned to see the weight they were carrying! I was eyed suspiciously for my 20 lb total wt. pack. I had to hear more than once that my Steripen was ineffective and unreliable. I also got the same treatment about not wearing hiking boots. It was hysterical really. I didn't preach about UL gear to anyone, but just laughed to myself as on the last day of the trip the same negative ones were complaining about their knees and feet :) I on the other hand felt great...but I didn't rub it in.( I'm a nice person:))

Anyway I will recap some of the posts that I can relate to. +++1 on all.

Chris Wallace: Maybe a recurring column from people like Ryan and similar others? Mike C.? Andrew Skurka? Dave C.?

Doug Ide: Even if you have an editor culling great blog posts and posting them here (with permission, of course) with links to the original blog, you could easily and cheaply add some stellar content. Dave Chenault's and Roman Dial's blogs are an exemplary example of this, for just two. There are many, many others. You could start a new 'blog' section where you add such posts - I think it'd be popular.

Daniel Allen: Maybe make the SUL forum for members only? Those zealots will pay almost anything, right?! ;-) LOL!!!!!! I know that was said tongue in cheek, but it was just stupid funny.

Kat P. If my yearly membership can help keep this site going, that is worth it enough for me. I don't need any extra perks compared to non members.

Mary D: (1) A larger number and wider variety of articles each week, about techniques and trips as well as gear.

(2) An easily findable list of articles for beginners to which we can refer people just starting out, many of whom post on other forums with which I'm involved. This particular aspect, IMHO, should be free as a public service. They should be updated every few years. The old "Backpacking 101" is a prime example--in fact, just updating that article (10 years old now) would be sufficient. Having this public service base to which to refer beginners would bring in a lot more members here--consider it advertising!

Matt Tallman : In light of the time I've spent on other forums, which actually have useful features like a search, the ability to easily quote/reply to other users, doesn't require someone to insert a goofy subject line to reply, allows links, has a functional private message system, etc. the list goes on.

Yuki Maki : Trip reports + pictures = crack for outdoor junkies.

Gerry Volpe: I still think this is a top notch community of people and an excellent resource more than deserving of financial support.

Aaron Benson: I "heart" BPL, so please be careful - your Customers are talking. ;)

Lastly, I have found this site, especially the forums, but articles too, to be invaluable to someone just getting into the sport (the right way) and I do spread the work when people ask about my gear. I hope it will continue to thrive.

Edited by leighb on 07/31/2011 15:03:04 MDT.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
forums on 07/22/2011 07:38:25 MDT Print View

I'm a member since it isn't that much money for me. I have a full time job. ;)


And I like to support what I enjoy. I paid for a membership to help fund the site, not for any benefits although I have gotten a lot of good info. Enjoy the trip reports and some of the articles.

The SotM reports are fun just to keep up to date.

I also buy annual park passes even when I won't get the use out of them...my way of supporting what I enjoy!

Curtis B.
(rutilate) - MLife

Locale: New England
Interesting hypocrisy on 07/22/2011 08:32:55 MDT Print View

I find it interesting that people are scrutinizing a $25/year purchase far more carefully than their titanium stoves, sporks, or cuben rain skirts.

This doesn't excuse BPL for losing sight of their competitive advantage and failing to offer compelling value.

Knowledge is wealth and experience is treasure. Investing in obtaining knowledge and richer experiences is guaranteed to make us all rich. BPL needs to focus on providing knowledge not available elsewhere, and experiences that all levels can revel in, either first- or second-hand.

Curtis

Joslyn Bloodworth
(JoslynB) - F

Locale: Southwest
My 2 Cents on 07/22/2011 11:44:28 MDT Print View

First I'd like to agree with Curtis. People say $25 is "too much", but isn't knowledge supposed to be our greatest piece of gear?

In line with that comment, the biggest reason I haven't joined is because if I'm going to pay anything, I'd rather pay the one time fee for the life membership than constantly pay each year. Right now that's not in my budget but I'm hoping it will be soon.

When I do become a member, I'd like to see a lot of the same sort of things that everyone else has been mentioning, like trip reviews. I'd love to see video articles. As someone who is fairly new to backpacking, I've learned the most from watching videos of people trying stuff in their homes, backyards and on trails. There is nothing better than being able to be shown how to do something. For example, it's one thing to tell someone how to set up a low profile UL campsite, it's another to show someone what that looks like in a real life situation.

And that leads me to my other favorite idea I've seen mentioned here, Columnists! I would totally pay money to read a weekly or monthly column and/or some videos by guys like Mike C. and Andrew. Mike's Books are what got me into UL Backpacking in the first place because reading his stuff is fun and engaging and his cartoons helped me visualize the ideas being discussed. Guys like that make ideas really accessible and doable for the average person.

P.S. I don't know if this is something Members get or not, but I'd love to see some articles and stuff geared toward women every now and again and if that's something that does happen in the Members only articles I'd be much more likely to go member.

A. B.
(tomswifty)
if it went for pay on 07/22/2011 14:46:24 MDT Print View

If the site decided to go 'for-pay' only then I would just go somewhere else. I would feel more comfortable donating my money to an enthusiast run site rather than a for-profit company.

Who's to say I didn't scrutinize my spork purchase as well? (If you can call being solicited for feedback as scrutinizing).

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: BPL membership on 07/22/2011 15:13:41 MDT Print View

Like others, I really dislike the forum software and PM system. FWIW.

But overall, reading through this thread, there seems to have emerged two broad audiences: those who mostly see this site is a business and those who mostly see this site as a community.

While I belong to the latter, I certainly take no exception at all to those who see it as a business.

I would, however, offer this (with, truly, no malice or insult intended), I think, perhaps, many who seem to see this site as a community are a bit discouraged that the community leader seemed to stop seeing it as a community and instead began seeing it as a business some time ago, and a somewhat neglected side business at that. Which has, perhaps, caused some who used to see it as a community to now see it as a business, and one not quite worthy of their financial investment.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
BPL membership on 07/22/2011 15:57:22 MDT Print View

"I would, however, offer this (with, truly, no malice or insult intended), I think, perhaps, many who seem to see this site as a community are a bit discouraged that the community leader seemed to stop seeing it as a community and instead began seeing it as a business some time ago, and a somewhat neglected side business at that. Which has, perhaps, caused some who used to see it as a community to now see it as a business, and one not quite worthy of their financial investment."

To me, this is certainly where the confusion for many may exist.

An example:
http://ryanjordan.com/blog/2011/05/group-gear-for-lightweight-wilderness-travel/

A great article on group gear on Ryan's blog.
There was just a long, ongoing discussion/debate about shared gear on the BPL forums a while ago; I thought this article did a great job of highlighting many of the issues discussed in a clear, concise manner.

But was it on BPL?
Nope.

Then, if you read the article, you'll notice that at the bottom there's a solicitation to learn more through either the backpacking boot camp (I presume the same one being pitched through BPL?) or through Ryan's personal online courses/mentoring. But it's becoming hard to tell which is which.
Which really leaves one wondering, who's in charge of what at BPL?
Nothing against Ryan, but it strikes me that his personal site is beginning to directly compete with BPL in some ways...content, classes, etc. If you follow both sites, there certainly seems to be more of an effort on Ryan's to create a thriving business.
So when the question arises- why should I pay for BPL?, when it's uncertain who or what is behind BPL these days? It seems that much of the energy that Ryan poured into this site years ago has been shifted into personal endeavors, that again, seem to compete with what BPL was started for.

I've got no horse in this race either way and don't think we need a cult of personality to run BPL...but I think the mission/purpose of BPL has gotten seriously confused as compared to 5 years ago, and it shows.

Aaron Benson
(AaronMB) - F

Locale: Central Valley California
Re: BPL membership on 07/22/2011 16:16:38 MDT Print View

I'd not seen Ryan's site until you linked to it, Craig. Interesting that there are levels of paid subscriptions there, too.
...$25/year here - $5/month for the 'basic' Letters, there. [/off topic note]

Edited by AaronMB on 07/22/2011 16:18:51 MDT.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Re: BPL membership on 07/22/2011 19:53:39 MDT Print View

Man I had never seen that ryanjordancotcom before. I've been around a few years, and kinda know what Craig is getting at. (and Doug, too)

After seeing his website... yeah what's up with that? Its really weird. Why make BPL, then make a presumably refined version of it elsewhere? Wouldn't you want to talk about it on the first website to get it popular too? Then you can pit you against yourself in a BPL vs RYJ in a UL barbed-wire landmine death match for UL website supremacy.

No, seriously he was just ashamed at the footprints vs LNT rants, elitism, and thread-endism, and wanted to make a family-friendly version that he could show his inlaws

Ryan Tucker
(BeartoothTucker) - M
fees on 07/22/2011 20:10:56 MDT Print View

i don't mind paying the yearly fee. i appreciate the forums and would be willing to pay for them if required. assuming the forums were still as valuable as I see them today.

the BPL vs RJ stuff. i have been watching his blog for sometime and i guess i saw the recent upgrade as an evolution of BPL, i.e. looking for a long term sustainable income. i guess BPL doesn't seem like a cash cow.

how many yearly members are there? 500 only brings in $12,500. hardly seems like enough cash flow to live on.

i guess i don't understand the concern about his blog going more commercial???

John S.
(jshann) - F
State of BPL on 07/23/2011 10:45:16 MDT Print View

The STATE OF BPL, as it may appear from the outside:
1. No participation in forums by founder in three months, yet he blogs and tweets regularly. His blog is incorporated into this site, but to respond to a post you must leave the site.
2. Closing gear shop.
3. WTS (school) doesn't appear to be happening this year (or ever?) since no trips posted for fall and it's mid July, yet trips (online courses with optional trek) are sold out on founder's blog site and even advertised here separately from WTS.
4. Not much happening in the wiki.
5. The community (forum) is busy as always.
6. The articles (couple a week) keep coming with good content. Last article by founder is April.

It looks like RJ has mostly delegated BPL to others and is doing his own thing. It seems BPL should be answering member questions about the changes. I wonder how many more days that will take ; ).

Richard Rini
(rarini) - MLife

Locale: Southeast
John's Thoughts are My Thoughts on 07/23/2011 11:02:20 MDT Print View

I joined as an Mlife to support BPL into the future. I love the articles and reviews as well as the forums. Great information and input from the community. However, I must say I was very curious as to what Ryan was doing with his separate site. Seems no matter how you slice it his new site will cannibalize the BPL site. It also telegraphs a message to the community that at this point is not answered, “what is Ryan’s Priority”?
This really is one of the best sites around for UL information. I'd really like for BPL to stick around. There - that's my $100.00 bucks!

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: State of BPL on 07/23/2011 11:08:20 MDT Print View

Just for clarification on the WTS thing, the UL Backpacking Bootcamp course is being offered through a partnership design. There may also be another more advanced course offered in the same fashion later in the year.

My hope is that things will be retooled and we'll be able to offer the longer courses in the Rockies along with shorter courses in regional areas for 2012. Unfortunately, we are primarily limited by what the USDA/USFS will allow us to offer. We've gotten extremely lucky the last couple of years with getting a permit since most of the districts have been doing use studies, and not allotting any commercial days for temporary permits.

I'm a contract employee, as are most (maybe all?) of the BPL staff so I only have limited insight with my area. I'm pretty sure Ryan has been out of town for at least the last week, but I've made sure to alert him to this thread so we can get an official response.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Ryan Jordan- Where are we? on 07/23/2011 11:09:09 MDT Print View

How much longer for a reply indeed. I too feel like there is some conflict of interest between this site and Ryan's own. How about trying to fix things here instead of running off to do your own thing. Making promises and not delivering is uncool.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: Ryan Jordan- Where are we? on 07/23/2011 11:10:46 MDT Print View

As an update, it looks like Ryan should be back in town tomorrow so we can probably expect an official response then.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
Re: if it went for pay on 07/23/2011 11:54:30 MDT Print View

@evan swanson: you're a Bastard. every time im out in the wild for 3 days eating twigs and berries, im gonna think of your medium-grilled ribeye avatar. thanks for that. ;)

Edited by mikeinfhaz on 07/23/2011 11:56:58 MDT.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: BPL membership on 07/23/2011 12:51:52 MDT Print View

" many who seem to see this site as a community are a bit discouraged that the community leader seemed to stop seeing it as a community and instead began seeing it as a business some time ago, and a somewhat neglected side business at that. "

+1

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/23/2011 13:42:52 MDT Print View

I fail to see why there is the perception that having a successful business that is also your life's passion that has the ability support your family is somehow considered selling out or a bad thing.

Most people would say if you could have a livelihood that was around backpacking and sharing that love/passion with others it would be a dream come true.

Why can't someone have a profitable business that also creates a passionate communities of like minded people?

That said, I do find it a bit puzzling why Ryan Jordan's website and the BPL website are not merged into one website- the BPL website.

Just looking at an expenditure of time and resources, it seems like an inefficient and possible duplication of money and time to have two websites.

However, I would disagree that BPL has been neglected.

Recent events, such as the decision to close the gear shop, shows the beginning of what I hope is a renewal, reinvention, and vast improvement of BPL in the future.

Could things be better or different in the past?

Yes....which is why this thread exist.

Though many of the complaints and issues that have been raised are valid, I do think that it is getting away from the intent of this thread:

How can this website be improved for the betterment of the community and for the people who's livelihood revolves around maintaining the BPL website?

Things that stand out to me so far are:

1. Underlying website technology needs to be vastly improved

2. Easier & more effective search and private messaging system

3. More relevant content that appeals to new and seasoned backpackers

4. More articles on in the field techniques, using the gear vs. gear reviews

5. Video review and reports to more easily show people how to use gear

6. Photo essays, trip reports, video reports that inspire people to take trips

7. Articles, blogs, weekly columns from Ryan Jordan- the face of BPL

8. Easily accessible content, articles aimed at the traditional backpacker

9. BPL outreach/events around different parts of the country, classes, trips??

10. Quality & Content more reminiscent of the old print version of BPL magazine?

11. Content not so United States Centric. (Guest authors from other countries)


We do have an incredibly passionate and intelligent community here. Why not leverage just a fraction of the energy that we put into researching and selecting our gear into finding ways to help make this a better place for all of us. As people have said, the best thing about BPL is the community of users and the vast wealth of knowledge they have and are so eager to share with others.

Any other things that people would like to see that they think would encourage visitors to become paying members or to simply make the sight better for the community?

-Tony

Edited by Valshar on 07/23/2011 14:00:39 MDT.

Ryan Tucker
(BeartoothTucker) - M
bpl vs rj on 07/23/2011 16:43:35 MDT Print View

could it be that BPL isn't completely owned by RJ and thus profit sharing is required? where selling trips through RJ's website is a way to mostly completely profit from the endeavors...

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: bpl vs rj on 07/23/2011 17:04:29 MDT Print View

I think that is a big part of it Ryan. I know there are partners in BPL and lets face it I don't think Ryan is getting rich either way.

I know I am the only one that doesn't mind the forum software. It is quirky at times, but it does't look as generic as the Proboard, Yuku, etc. forums. It is simple.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/23/2011 21:31:30 MDT Print View

I wanted to respond to this thread when I saw it first posted a few days ago, but needed time to evaluate how I thought about all this. I've been a member since the beginning, years ago, and have been a part of the early days of great innovation and tight-knit community, through the spurt of growth in the early 2000's, have been both a helpful and disruptive contributor, and have watched with dismay as things began to deteriorate in the last few years. I recently renewed, but it was a difficult decision; as many have voiced here, I see the advantages of being a member mostly come to naught, especially with things like the Store and supposed member contribution. I was quite taken aback when the BPL staff first introduced the MLife offer, with its supposed ability for members to contribute to the site and to the things going on at BPL. My understanding with membership earlier was that was what we were supposed to get... so why did those of us paid members who had been here for years, but didn't want to pay the MLife fee, suddenly get sidelined? Too often that has been the way BPL has changed tactics (I'm sure to clean things up for their business, so understandable in a way), by springing something on us without allowing us to have a say.

And that is the thing, BPL IS the community. It would be nothing without it. None of the BPL staff could have gotten anywhere without the continued, freely given, contributions of the community. So when Tony brought up the proposal of only paying members being able to access the forums, I thought, "Wait! This whole community grew out of thousands of free contributions and thousands of hours of free dedicated input and offered knowledge by hundreds of members and there would be nothing here today were it not for them. Now there's a possibility that all this freely offered knowledge might only be available to a few paid individuals? That's just not right." I can predict with great certainty that were BPL to ask for paid access to all forum members BPL would suddenly see a huge drop off of members. I think the BPL staff sometimes fails to see that in many ways this forum is not theirs; they didn't make the community grow...that happened organically and through the efforts of those who decided to stay and be a part of the community. BPL staff (especially Ryan J. in the early days) started it, and provided the groundwork upon which to build, but the community itself is an entity all its own, so that BPL is just as dependent upon the goodwill of the community as the community is dependent upon BPL providing the tools and location. Once BPL begins to think that, because they want to run a business and make a profit, the community is somehow beholden to them, then BPL has lost sight of what has allowed them to become a business at all, or that Ryan Jordan made a name for himself. Remember, a lot of the BPL marketing and visibility is based on the popularity of the forums. BPL did not pay most members to contribute. To suddenly now, after years of contribution without asking anything in return, require members to pay for being able to contribute, well, that would be quite a slap in the face.

I do see the need for paying for all this site maintenance, bandwidth, hosting, moderation, site development though. It costs to run a site, especially a big one like this. Where does that money come from if not from advertising? I would not be happy with being required to pay in order to be a contributing member, and would not think twice about moving on if I was asked to do so, but to be asked to donate, well, that is a different matter. I think it would work a lot better if, like NPR and Wikipedia, every six months a donation campaign was set up in which a set amount of money needed for operating the site was posted and a contribution account set up, with the goal to be met in a week or two weeks. This could be done through Kickstarter, with the whole payment scheme already in place. This could be further made into a yearly BPL community event, with a chance for members to come together and be part of the ongoing BPL community upkeep and spirit.

Which brings me to community participation by founders like Ryan and others. I'm of mixed opinion about this. I understand Ryan's need to get away from the online aggravation of social networks, with all their mean-spiritedness and constant controversy. I myself am guilty of having started up some real doozies of threads here and upset a lot of people, including, I'm quite sure, Ryan himself. While I never meant to upset or anger anyone and always meant for my contributions to be helpful or to try to right what I thought might be a wrong (yes, I've often been way too opinionated that way. Sorry...), those times have certainly added to the difficulty of being a moderator for the forums. So Ryan's wanting to get away from all that, as evidenced by his often referencing "simplicity" on his site, makes a lot of sense. I know I'm tired of the arguments and constant flow of criticism, and have been a lot less active in online sites than I used to be. It's just not worth it.

But without Ryan's and many other people who started BPL's daily participation in the forums something big is missing. As other's have pointed out, there is now a very strong sense that Ryan and company no longer care about BPL and have moved on. And that makes for a very unfocused and confusing vision of what BPL is and why it is that people are paying for it. It was disconcerting to read several MLife members now voicing discontent with the services and wishing that they could get a refund. Makes me think that implementing the MLife service was ill-thought out and a bit of a rip-off. I guess because Ryan no longer really seems to be at the helm, much of what is happening at BPL seems to be listing here and there and there is no real idea of what is going on or what the vision is. This seems to be happening with a lot of UL sites and stores, many of which have closed down or have not updated their products in quite a while. Whereas a lot of cottage manufacturers used to be actively present here in the forums, cynicism seems to have moved in and only a few, namely Rob Bell, Ron Moak, and a few people like from HMG, Katabatic Gear, and a few others still post regularly. I don't remember the last time I saw Glen Van Peski, Brian Frankle (who quit his ULA business), Henry Shires, or the folks from Jacks R Better say anything in these forums. The UL community momentum seems to be losing a lot of steam these days.

I would, however, offer this (with, truly, no malice or insult intended), I think, perhaps, many who seem to see this site as a community are a bit discouraged that the community leader seemed to stop seeing it as a community and instead began seeing it as a business some time ago, and a somewhat neglected side business at that. Which has, perhaps, caused some who used to see it as a community to now see it as a business, and one not quite worthy of their financial investment.

Very valuable insight into the what is going on, Doug, and echoes a lot of my own feelings. My feelings also with no malice or insult intended, just strong concern from someone who very much values this community and wants to be part of keeping it from dying.

I've got no horse in this race either way and don't think we need a cult of personality to run BPL...but I think the mission/purpose of BPL has gotten seriously confused as compared to 5 years ago, and it shows.

Further evidence of widespread worry about the fate of the BPL community.

No, seriously he was just ashamed at the footprints vs LNT rants, elitism, and thread-endism, and wanted to make a family-friendly version that he could show his inlaws

I suspect that some of the big firestorms over issues like stories on guns and perceived censorship and such gave RJ and others rather a distasteful view of all this. In part the cynicism is our fault, too, I guess. I know I, at least, am guilty of fanning the flames in the past. I've tried hard to moderate myself and keep my strong opinions to myself, but bitter pills tend to stay in people's minds and opinions are shaped by past experience.

I fail to see why there is the perception that having a successful business that is also your life's passion that has the ability support your family is somehow considered selling out or a bad thing.

That's just the thing though. It may be Ryan's passion and he of course has the right to live out his dream, but there is money involved and there has to be something the money is compensated for. It would be different if everything was volunteered here, including Ryan's time and expertise, but he's asking for money for what he offers, and the perception here is that he is no longer offering anything here. If we are still paying the money, but getting nothing in return, then why are we still paying the money? Some people perceive the articles as being good enough to pay for this (I do, to some extent), others see the financial support of BPL as reason enough to pay (I don't. Mainly because I see the community as self-determined and no different from other, free online communities). But there are quite a few who do not see what BPL offers as enough to ask for the money. They have a legitimate beef, which seems to me to hardly be listened to (Chris Wallace, it heartens me to see your oft repeated willingness to step in and explain things. Makes me feel someone is listening). The many-years-long heavy criticism of the forum software, for instance, is one area that should be seriously addressed, and yet never really is.

We do have an incredibly passionate and intelligent community here. Why not leverage just a fraction of the energy that we put into researching and selecting our gear into finding ways to help make this a better place for all of us. As people have said, the best thing about BPL is the community of users and the vast wealth of knowledge they have and are so eager to share with others.

My experience over the years has been that very little that the community asks is ever really answered. Now it seems that only the MLifer's have a say anymore. (So I pay my M membership fee, but, like unpaid members, get no say in what happens here?) There are spurts, like when the wiki was entertained and then implemented (and which never got off the ground, due, mainly, I think, to its invisibility. It should have been intimately incorporated into the forums, and not made separate where it wasn't readily visible to all members). I and several others offered to create a separate, community driven wiki, in a way that was run by and benefitted the whole community, but were discouraged from trying when we were told that BPL wanted to own the content and control how it was presented, the implication being that BPL owned the forum community and wanted exclusive rights to whatever was put into the wiki... the very antithesis of what a wiki is. You can't have a democratic information source that is controlled by someone at the top. It has to be.... democratic. If I may be a bit contentious, I don't think BPL staff properly understand how a lot of online communities work.

So why did I renew this time? Well, recently, I've seen a slew of articles that I really enjoy (mostly the trip reports), so that gave me good enough reason to renew. If articles like that continue coming then I know my renewal will have had some worth. But I'm almost certain that I will not renew next year.

Closing the shop down was a wise decision, I thought. For far too long the products that BPL staff have been trading among themselves and touting as the bees knees in all their articles and blog posts, have almost never been available to members. Product delays and overly quick stock depletions and simply outrageous shipping costs overseas, just never made them viable options to confidently include in one's gear list, simply because if you tried to order any of the products more likely than not they would not be available. Supposedly one of the main benefits of paying for membership was to be able to get these products at a discount... but what is the point of having this benefit if those products are never available? It doesn't make sense. But still, other members insist that there is something in the offerings that makes the payment worthwhile. Other than simply wishing to support the BPL community and the articles... what exactly?

BPL has been a big part of my life, especially learning-wise and making some good friends, and I'm grateful that I found it and was so long a part of it. I'm not sure, were I to leave, what I would replace it with. It's not often that I find an online community in which so many like-minded people, with basically the same temperament, participate. That's why I've been here for so long. I've not been part of any other community for such a long time, both online and real. I miss the excitement and creativity and camaraderie of the early days. I will be greatly saddened to see BPL die away.

Edited by butuki on 07/23/2011 21:40:01 MDT.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/24/2011 12:03:55 MDT Print View

+1 to your whole post. The last paragraph resonates my feelings especially well.

Ron D
(dillonr) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/24/2011 15:42:13 MDT Print View

The forums and BPL aren't separate, if BPL disappears so do the forums and I don't find sites like Whiteblaze or 14ers.com to be a substitute. On a personal basis I've enjoyed BPL and its' forums for years and it has been the key to me being able to continue backpacking as I got older. It's only $20 a year, that's about the same as the cost of buying an average cup of coffee or half a gallon of gas a month. The benefit I continue to get from BL is way more than $1.67 a month. If they restrict the forums to members only I'll still continue and I think most of the paying members will also continue. We'll lose some of the non members and I will genuinely miss many of them, but BPL will continue to be a great site that's worth a lot more than $20.
Ron

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/24/2011 19:08:04 MDT Print View

Miguel,

HooRah! I agree with Ken +1 and then some especially for the last paragraph and your entire post.

@Ronald,

I just became a "lifer" and was welcomed and "gifted" by another "lifer" just because I re-upped for the lifetime commitment.

BPL is a community! People that have never seen each other talk and share like lifelong friends. We do favors for one another without being able to shake each other's hand. No where else do I converse freely with members of a community in Finland, Germany, Australia, England, Japan, Scotland, India and the entire U.S.A.

I gladly became a "lifer" and have no regrets.

Partying On,

Newton ;-)

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/24/2011 23:36:52 MDT Print View

Miguel,

Thanks for taking the time to post up a really well thought out response that addresses a lot of people's concerns.

I agree with you that BPL is the community and would be nothing with it and respect should be paid to the community to hear their grievances and to address them.

Furthermore, you have convinced me that the forums should be free and remain free to all. My initial thought was that the forums are as much as a help as they are a hindrance to getting people to sign up for membership. Because the community is so passionate and so giving, often times it seemed to me that they were able to provide the answers to visitor's questions to the point that it made signing up for membership pointless.

Due to your post, I do see that making the forums accessible to paying members only would be a mistake and a poor means to compensate for failing to properly promote and provide clear value/incentives for the visitor to BPL to sign up for a membership.

In regards to this issue of the MLIFE vs. Regular BPL Membership, I do see that offering the MLIFE membership has created a two tier social structure that really fails to foster a sense of community and does quite the opposite by creating resentment.

As I am not on the staff of BPL, I can only surmise that the MLIFE membership came out of financially desperate times where an influx of cash was needed and the MLIFE membership was a quick solution to an immediate problem. As such, I don't think that the BPL staff considered the negative ramifications that have resulted. Personally, I thought that the MLIFE was a great value to me in that I planned on being a long time member anyway and that $100.00 was a bargain that I could not pass up. At the same time, I did feel that it was a short sighted move by BPL that cut it off of long term future revenues.

I have said this on another post/thread and I will said it here, I would be happy to give up my MLIFE membership and continue to pay a yearly subscription fee just to support this website and keep the forums going.

(Addie, if you are reading this, you do have my permission to change my membership back to a standard membership).

Again, it is my hope that this thread will be heard and read by the BPL staff, that they will take our constructive criticisms and suggestions to makes this a better website for all of us.

What type of articles and columns would you like to see on BPL?

Ones I have suggested or just thought of:

1. Seasonal reoccurring and updated articles covering the basics of going UL

2. Weekly Columns such as: Question of the week answered by RJ or Staff, open to all

3. Photo of the week, submissions by members and non members

4. Weekly Spotlight: UL Product, UL Gear Manufacture...not a review, but quick facts about a product or manufacture that the traditional backpacker/new BPL visitor would not know about and link to that Product or Manufacture's website

-Tony

-Tony

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Re: Reponse to the OP's Q on 07/25/2011 00:10:45 MDT Print View

Super discussion going here. I can see some real positive changes may come out of this.

There has been a bit of talk about different revenue sources (ie. subscriptions, Adsense, cottage manufacturers advertising etc), but I think what really matters most is the content. If the content is great, any of these will work. I personally kinda like that BPL is using subscriptions to generate revenue because it keeps them on their toes (or it should). If the content quality drops, less people renew even if they still use the forums. BPL's revenue is directly related to the quality of the content.

I think for anyone, the content is going to be less appealing that it was on day 1, because most of us probably signed up because there was some article(s) we really wanted to read. I personally think that there is room for improvement in the content (i'd like to see more skills/techniques being taught and regular columms from guys like Skurka) but I'm still happy with it. Probably every second week there is something I'm excited to read and I'm about 3 years in now. This is why I subscribe.

"The traffic this site generates won't make Adsense income enough to pay for even the new software"

I'm not sure how much vBulletin costs, but this seems hard to believe. A quick bit of research indicates BPL does ~7K pageviews daily, which would be roughly $50/day under typical Adsense numbers. There is the whole question of maintaining journalistic integrity, but BPL might want to look at affiliate marketing with some of the cottage manufacturers and maybe other brands. I know ULA participates in this (AvantLink). If the ads were classy and relevant, then it could work or it could be a part of a larger solution with some affiliate marketing combined with lower (ie. $9.99) subscription rates.

Edited by dandydan on 07/25/2011 00:11:18 MDT.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/25/2011 01:03:02 MDT Print View

I think many of the M-Lifers have naively missed a very important benefit of the M-Life membership. I too, originally looked at the M-Life membership as a good deal for me and a cash grab for BPL.

After thinking about it for awhile I realised who the real winner was in this game... BPL has in most instances, locked their most valuable asset (the long time contributors) into being members forever... you CAN'T QUIT!!! Even if the forum becomes a pay for use forum, a huge number of their most knowledgeable contributors on the forum are going to remain. This works very well for BPL as all of us know, the forum is what drives this website and it's nothing without the expertise that the long time members contribute for free to this site... so lock'em in!

I agree totally with Miguel's post. However, as a long time member, Miguel has the option of quiting his membership as a means of protest when things go bad (like now), because he didn't take the M-Life bait.

Edited by skopeo on 07/25/2011 01:03:39 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
My perspective on 07/25/2011 01:30:10 MDT Print View

I only visit two websites on a fairly regular basis. BPL and popupexplorer.com (PUX), which is a forum for tent trailer owners. There are some parallels I would like to share.

Today PUX has over 20,000 registered users and it is free. And it is only a forum, with a store, and a printed magazine that is fairly new to the site. I do not subscribe to the magazine. It also has a lot of ads on it, which is a pain but acceptable as it helps pays the bills.

Before PUX, there was a large tent trailer forum called Pop Up Times (PUT). In 2002, that forum went paid subscription. That was not a popular move, and a member left it and built PUX. Most of the PUT membership went over to PUX. Those who remained on PUT and paid the subscription, seemed to be somewhat "clicquish" and it was a strange forum to me. You could read the posts, but had to join to post. I was never a member of PUT. I joined PUX about 6 months after it was formed.

Eventually PUT removed the subscription, but it never regained its membership and is no longer in existence.

PUX is somewhat like BPL. There are those who camp in commercial campgrounds with full utilities, those who camp in minimal campgrounds like the NFS, and those (like me) who camp in remote dispersed sites. Sort of like Light, UL, SUL. What makes PUX work, like BPL, is the community. Subscription would kill BPL. Now tent trailers are a little different than BPing. Trailers are mechanical and members seek information on how to repair broken items, how to modify and improve their campers, how to negotiate new purchases, how to finance, how to get the right insurance, etc, etc. They get cost saving information on the forums, so one might think subscriptions would work, but as PUT found out it does not work at all. PUX members post trip reports, how to information and ideas, etc.

When I first joined PUX, it was to get some ideas on rebuilding my trailer. And I made some good friends; several I have camped with... my wife and I have made trips to Arizona and RMNP to camp with our new friends. I even made a trip to Ontario, Canada to camp with some guys. But like BPL, after a while there is little that is new, or not much of anything new to learn. I still visit PUX once or twice a week, just to stay in touch with some friends and acquaintances. And like here, the newbie questions really get repetitive, but I don't mind sharing or answering questions if I have something worthwhile to say.

The PUX store does not stock much merchandise. Most of it is stuff that is readily available elsewhere at a similar price, and PUX has the items dropped shipped. I have bought a few items from the PUX store over the years to help support the website.

The owner of PUX does not post much. Most posts are to get feedback on improvements to the site or on ideas for additional services. Also PUX is fairly heavily moderated. Discussions of the the 3 G's (god, government, or guns) will result in a locked message thread. "The Carbon Flame War" would have been locked before it ever made it to page 3. The heavy moderation doesn't bother me, it is up to the owner on how he wants to run his site. But threads there rarely get ugly, like here on BPL, because they get shut down.

The owner of PUX does not need to post, because the community self-generates longevity. The community is PUX. I don't see a problem with Ryan running a separate blog. A blog is more like a journal and you do not feel the need to monitor or answers question, as you would on a site you own.

What is missing from BPL is a clear mission. Without ads or other income it cannot be self-sufficient. And here is the biggest challenge. How does BPL stay viable? Charging for forum access would kill it quickly. The store failed. And the articles often contain little information that cannot be found elsewhere. I have found a few well written and useful topics, but they are few and far in between. I have learned more from Richard's Nicely's posts than from any article I have read.

I never would have purchased a yearly membership. Just wasn't much value in it. The discount in the store was minimal. I have purchased a few items from the store over the years and it was hit and miss. Beartooth merino hoody is awesome as is the cuben nano tarp. The thoroghfare clothes were awful for me. The BPL torso air mattress is a fair piece of equipment. I bought a few other small items, but only when I could bundle them with a larger purchase. I bought the M-Life membership because it was lifetime (should BPL remain in existence and should I remain interested), and it appeared that BPL was in financial straights and I had a rare charitable moment :)

The only thing BPL has going for it is the community, and BPL ownership has provided the opportunity for that. But BPL is nothing without the community. I do enjoy several people here... even the ones I don't always agree with. And should BPL shut down, I might go to another BPing site and run into them there. I do not visit any other BPing site. One thing I will say about the overall membership here versus PUX; BPL is more mature (tent trailer campers tend to be younger on average), BPL members are more likely to be "stewards" of our natural resources, and with a much higher average age are probably more educated and informed about current events. I am in no way criticizing the other forum, as I have been a member there for 8 years.

The forum software limitations are not a big deal to me. I don't need to search it often, and Google advanced search meets my needs. I hate it that you do not have icon buttons to automatically format text (e.g., bold, underline, or even quickly link to ULRs or pictures). Posting pictures on BPL is a giant pain in the rear.

So the real question is what does Ryan Jordan and the ownership want BPL to be when it grows up, and are they willing to put the effort into to it to ensure it grows and survives. But people are not going to spend a dime if it does not provide value to them. And most people are not going to spend money to join a community.

Just my 2 cents.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Why are you not a Member of BPL?" on 07/25/2011 01:43:38 MDT Print View

I enjoy the older articles from the likes of Dial, Skurka, Jordan, and think soliciting their contribution would be excellent, their trips are great and often large in scope, challenging, however I think that there is a competent, talented, insightful, and creative group of individuals already amongst us that contribute with regularity here in the forums, why not better utilize the existing membership into the editorial content of this website? It's already being done, but could be accomplished in a more cohesive and consistent manner. I realize that some of us pay the membership so that we can sit back and relax, relying on the staff to do the work, but we've already established that this is a diverse community that expands beyond margins and subject boxes, much of the editorial content that we pay for is already being supplied by Members and non-Members alike that desire to contribute to BPL. If the BPL staff better equipped, encouraged, and provided opportunity for contributors, I think it would open up a wealth of content that people would gladly pay for.

The brief '24' series was an awesome little glimpse into the world of Jordan and his short forays into the wild, these were encouraging, motivating, and personal pieces that engaged the viewer.... but for whatever reason that series wilted away before it even had time to fully blossom- it was promising content, the kind I want to see more of- bring it back. Here's an idea, what if we did a 12 month '24' series and allowed 12 different members to share their 24 hour experiences? Encourage individuals to explore the outdoors at their capacity in a 24 hour period, whatever that is to them, turn them loose, and see what they bring back to share with the community. Personally, I would immensely enjoy understanding how and why other BPL members experience their wild places over a full calendar year, whether this is through word, photographs, or video medium.

The MYOG forum is blowing up, the amount of creative work and talent that is shared freely in this community is mind boggling, much of the work is not accounted for and lost in the shuffle of threads, what about featured articles on the burgeoning ideas of those who contribute there? This could be done in tutorials, 'show and tells', brainstorm sessions, video and photograph instructionals, and feedback could be provided as usual in the accompanying article thread. Many innovative ideas are starting right here in the forums....Backcountry Boiler aka Montgomery Kettle anyone!?

Hendrik just raised a few K for his upcoming Ultralight A-Z video project through Kickstarter, this was a testimony to the willingness of the UL backpacking community to contribute monetarily and give of their time and resources to a cause worth investing in, if BPL maintains the quality of content and respect of it's members, people will continue to rally and support.

I'm just throwing out ideas into the mix, it's late, I'm tired, so much of it is a conscious stream of ramble. TIFWIW

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: My perspective on 07/25/2011 07:52:42 MDT Print View

> Without ads or other income it [BPL] cannot be self-sufficient.

That depends on what one consider BPL to be. It seems the consensus to that as far as members are concerned is the "community" (eg, forums). As Nick's example pointed out, the forums could be recreated easily for as little as $30/yr. Granted, you would lose all the history from here, which would be a HUGE loss (and will also be the biggest challenge for them moving to new forum software).

I do realize BPL proper has more overhead with paid/contract staff (and maybe the non-staff authors of some of those articles are being paid?) so if you're wanting true editorial content management, THEN you would need some sort of revenue stream.

Oh, and I'm NOT saying I WANT to spin off from here - just pointing out that revenue isn't really needed for the forums (community) themselves. If for some reason the community becomes non-viable in the future, it could then be reborn nearly for free.

Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Over the weekend... on 07/25/2011 10:13:54 MDT Print View

I make a deliberate effort not to check work email or work-related stuff. At least, I do so as little as possible. :)

As a result, this forum blew up in the two days I was away! I literally do not have enough time to even read all the new responses (though I've read the vast majority of the thread and swung from "Yay!" to "Oh no!" many many times over the course of this dialog). My primary reason for not responding until now is because I tend to want to overanswer or shoot my mouth off or divulge proprietary information. I have no boundaries, which makes for a dangerous online experience... so I will answer a very few things:

Tony, I have no intention of making your Lifetime membership Annual. Your heart for the community here warms my own, however.

Everyone else: Ryan is dedicated to BPL. He's also dedicated to paying his bills and providing for both his family, BPL staffers, and the BPL community as a whole. Shuttering the Gear Shop should free us to pursue many of the things mentioned here that have been high on our priority list but difficult to fund in a recession where no one is buying anything. Nearly everything we'd like to do revolves around a better online experience for our readers (though regional courses are also a goal), and Ryan will be the first to say it: the community on BPL is our biggest asset.

RJ will be responding, but given the pile of "reentry" stuff on his plate, I cannot say for sure when, other than soon. I've given him a brief synopsis of this thread, so he's definitely aware of the tone if not the specific points. And now, I'm off to clear the rest of my "start of the week" pile myself.

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtfulness and detail of the many answers here.
Addie out.

Edited by addiebedford on 07/25/2011 10:15:39 MDT.

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: "Why are you not a Member of BPL?" on 07/25/2011 18:20:23 MDT Print View

After a little time I thought about it some more. Why am I not a member? The only thing I can do is try to put it in perspective. I didn't learn about backpacking light from this site. I learned it from Jardine's book. I also learned some from Backpacking mag from a few articles on UL they had in the day. They also introduced me to ULA and a few others that where around then (remember the Mithril pack?). I don't remember where or how I heard of BPL ( maybe from ULA s site?). At first it was magazines with ads mostly from cottage gear makers. Then they added this site but I still preferred the magazine and didn't put up money for the online subscription. Soon the articles built up online and eventually they discontinued the magazines. I don't remember how many years I was a member off and on here. I did learn from those early articles but I probably learned more from the forums on here and on other free sites.
Im also waiting for the day that "Backpackg light/UL" is just "backpacking". I mean 20 years ago gear was out of control. Designers and outfitters did not even consider weight. Gear was designed more from a marketing perspective than a practical one. An alternative way needed to be voiced. It was from the experienced /thru-hikers that the word spread( not as some seem to think from the "fringe/extremist" ).
And since the mainstream made crappy gear people had to start designing and learning to make their own gear- thus MYOG. These days things are different. There are even real UL double wall tents.
What Im getting at is I liked BPL because I knew here, I could get gear reviews and trip reports in which the weight you were carrying was a real consideration. Also the efficiency and quality of that gear was a real consideration. To me this is how "backpacking" should be- it just makes sense. Not that the weight is the most important (its not) but it does need to be addressed !
So I guess what Im looking for in a BPL M is just a place to stay updated on new gear without having to go digging for that info on various blogs and forums but BPL doesn't keep up and reviews are far and few between.
I think the store closing is good. There was a time when UL gear was harder to find so it made sense for BPL to stock a store. Thats not so anymore and it obviously became too much of a distraction from the content.
I would also like more trip reports. The kinds that let me see different places around the world as well how to deal with their particular environment.
Instead of preaching the UL message BPL should just be what it is -move past "UL" and concentrate on good consistent content. I would not mind tasteful ads to fund the site.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Membership, BPL, Forums, My Oh My on 07/26/2011 12:12:12 MDT Print View

OK, wow, y'all have been busy.

First, thanks for the feedback. I'm blown away.

Second, I've not read it all yet, but I promise I will. Unfortunately, I'm not able to respond to five forum pages of feedback right now, we're in the midst of the last 4 weeks of the logistics of closing the shop and it's a busy time, and this is where I'm needed right now.

Third, a few things.

1. The forums aren't going anywhere and we're not going to start charging for them.

2. If you can afford a membership and you get benefit out of the forums, then please consider subscribing. If you're freeloading and spending your coin on the latest Lady Gaga albums on iTunes, then you're not going to get a lot of sympathy from the "M"s when you try to advance your "the Internet should be free" argument, because everyone here who has an M or MLIFE next to their forum ID is subsidizing your entertainment. This site would not exist the way it does in a Marxist society.

3. If you can't afford a membership and you are getting benefit out of BPL and its forums, no sweat. You're always welcome here.

4. I'm really looking forward to a number of new projects that will be highlighted at BPL:

- sharing my own writing, photography, and video as a BPL author again!
- production of feature films about wilderness travel that will be traveling the festival circuit and distributed in HD online and via DVD; the first of these will be launched in Spring 2012...more soon!
- expansion of the Wilderness Trekking School to include regional offerings
- revamping the article production pipeline to include rapid publication of articles and reviews about new gear
- lots more ideas, but these are some highlights in process.

5. My blog is an experiment. Don't get too excited over any perception of conflict of interest. I'm not going to offer private guiding to BPL, so it makes sense to offer those services at my blog. The online courses are actually part of the BPL School, but the logistics are managed by the technology at ryanjordan.com (we're evaluating how best to integrate them into the BPL site as well). And the letters allow me to experiment with something new that I may or may not fold into BPL later. I see the blog as a place to try new things that may or may not make it into the BPL Member experience. I've been using that model for 10 years - first with gear, then with the WTS, now with a more service based approach. Also, the blog gives me a low key platform to test some content ideas, and if they resonate with readers, then they motivate me to invest more time to create more comprehensive content for BPL. Finally, there are some things that go on at the blog that just aren't about backpacking, or BPL, or the outdoors, and are best kept to the side.

Finally, thanks. Love the feedback, the discussion, and the commitment to BPL you all have.

Best,
Ryan

Mark Hudson
(vesteroid) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Sierras
minority on 07/26/2011 16:34:31 MDT Print View

I have to admit I seem to be in the minority view on most of my opinions, but I could not have said it any better than Ryan did.

I found a value in this place, and I could see that easily within the first few months. I almost immediately joined, then after seeing that it was not a passing phase with me, I signed up for a lifetime.

I constantly see folks on here who post 10 times a day, who buy cuben gear, and then dont see the value in paying 20.00 for a membership.

I personally dont get that point of view, but each to their own.

I actually do this on all forums that I visit. I got into hammocks (or so I thought I would) and joined over there and paid the donation. I think I have an obligation to support things that bring me information or pleasure. No one made me or asked me to, i just found it the right thing to do for me.

And as to the comparison to white blaze? REally? I left that place in a week. Thats not what I consider a positive online community.

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: minority on 07/26/2011 16:37:43 MDT Print View

Well said.

Douglas Wolf
(munnin) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: re BPL on 07/26/2011 19:56:14 MDT Print View

what is on the internet is probably <1% of 'information' (as useless as that is), let alone wisdom

Edited by munnin on 07/26/2011 19:58:19 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Membership, BPL, Forums, My Oh My on 07/26/2011 23:05:19 MDT Print View

Ryan,

Nice post.

But who is Lady Gaga? Does she post here? What is her base weight?

Mark Hudson
(vesteroid) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Sierras
gaga on 07/27/2011 07:02:56 MDT Print View

I hear she is a guide in denali, and is too high up the professional ladder to post here.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/30/2011 20:49:52 MDT Print View

Bump...would like to hear other people's thoughts on this topic or ideas to make the BPL sight better.

What sort of articles would you like to see on BPL in the future?

-Tony

Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/31/2011 06:24:57 MDT Print View

Tony, I wanted to say thanks for starting this thread it has resulted in some great dialogue and ideas. I also wanted to thank Chris, Addie, and Ryan for providing the staff insights. I think it shows the importance of having the staff being as active in the forums as the members.

I was gone while most of this thread came alive so I have only had a chance to scan the replies. Here are some thoughts. I, like so many other, are really decidated to this passion and to this site. This site provides immense value to me through the forums and the articles that are published. I'd encouage BPL to focus 80% of the efforts on these with the remainder on education. Here are some ideas...

Forums:
* Overall I'm fine with the basic technology, let face we get a ton done with less, and this is true even with the simple forum tool we have. less can be more
But!!!....
* It would be nice to not loose so much information. If the staff could organize links to important threads that would be great. Much like the BPL member (I cant recall who) that put together the links organizing the trip reports. I'm afraid this too it lost to new members as the posts get buried.
* I'd like to see a way for members to vote on threads or maybe allow us to make "stickies". So this doesn't get out of hand maybe limit to one/month. Maybe in our profiles you can see our top ten threads or stickies. I don't want a popularity contest but I'm trying to make a way to not loose valuable threads.
* Bring back some sort of member ranking system, even if it is just how long you have been a paid member followed my non paid members. I really liked looking at gear lists and even though the ranking was flawed it did let me see those that had been around for awhile. And generally all the top people had gear lists and they were good. Now the member list is basically random and a lot of people don't have lists or they are incomplete or just "ideal" lists not what they actually use. I have stop looking at peoples gear lists since the dropping on ranks.
* Expand the gear lists. Let us have multiple lists (summer, 3 season, winter, SUL, XUL, whatever, but one is not enough). If it could be spreadsheet form (google docs) then so much the better, but I can work with simple pdf.
* Lets encourage new members and look to increase this base. Remember we all started as non paying members so please encourage them to see what is offered, help them like a paid member and we will grow our paid membership base as they convert. This provides the sight the funds to grow its offerings increasing value and increasing members...a snow ball effect is what we want.
* I'd like to see staff contributions to forums increase. I can not say enough about what it means to put up a gear list and have it critiqued by one of the worlds top experts, Mike Clelland. Line by line, item by item with ideas on how to improve your setup. WOW!!! and it is free service.
* Better search capabilities would be great
* Maybe just me but I really need a spell check button
* Make some new features available to paid Members. This is fair, allow unpaid members access to all info, but the links, stickies, advanced searches should be for those that help pay to make them happen.
* I'd like to see a space for the cottage guys to promote their gear/sites. I would move it out of "gear deals", but I would have them pay a higher fee for what becomes advertising. Also BPL would only allow those contributors to start threads that have applied for commercial contributor status. Some of the cottage guys promote their stuff under gear deals and they aren't even paid members! This is really weak.

BPL articles
* I like gear reviews. Will's articles are something else. Now that the gear shop is gone it should be easy to not have conflict of interests. BPL should be the place to come to find out all the latest info on gear.
* I like trip reports articles. I like details on the logistics and gear used as well as the scenary.
* I like MYOG articles. This site has a crazy set of talented folks doing MYOG gear. There are several articles that have supported this Roger's quilt and Jay's 5 yards articles were off the charts. Give us more.
* I like technique articles. One thing I really like doing is trying new things each time I hike. I always intend each to be about learning something new. I didn't even realize I was doing this until I read tip #6 from Clellands book. Great book by the way!...alot of these tips could be entire articles. Teaching skills should be regular feature....even reviewing the basics is great, but with a perspective on current knowledge.
* I'd like to see a gear list feature...maybe headed by Mike. Once a month we see a new gear list based on location, weather, and technique. 3 season poncho tarping in the appalachians, 12 lb comfort camping on the PCT, XUL - is Alan's list still the benchmark, etc?
* I'd like to see regular feature articles we can count on. It would be nice to know that once a month we will get a new MYOG article. I would look forward to this.
* Innovate thoughts on the sport. I really like the 24 hour idea. It had me thinking in new ways. +1 to the member who suggested doing a member 24 hour article once a month for 12 months.
* Articles on the staff would be interesting. Let us know the staff better. Where they live, what they like to do. How they contribute.
* Behind the scenes at BPL. It would be interesting to know more about the what, where, who's of the company itself. Once a year feature should be a look back at the previous year, and what's planned for the next
* reach out to key forum members and recruit them for articles. If a forum post looks interesting ask them to flush it out into an article.
* Develop a strategy on what articles non members get to see. I know you already do this...but make sure think about how to make members want to join for the article content. Maybe every 4th MYOG is open to all, maybe all part 1 in series is open to all, etc.

OK enough of my thoughts, I just wanted to make sure I contributed to this great thread. Again Tony thx.

Jamie

Edited by jshortt on 07/31/2011 06:32:32 MDT.

Rick Horne
(Rick778) - M

Locale: NorCal - South Bay - Campbell
Re: Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/31/2011 11:04:39 MDT Print View

+1 on a lot of what Jamie said.

I really like trip reports. Gives me ideas on where to go. Need more ideas on where to take my 11 year old daughter. Good places to BP and fish.

Also, like the gear reviews. I am a gear geek and am always debating which is the better “whatever”. Articles that speak to specific gear usage; ex: what are the best stoves for group use.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/31/2011 12:03:26 MDT Print View

I am broke and without a job, so 25 bucks is a lot of money for one site. However, many of the articles on here look very, very tempting. It's only a matter of time.

Jeremy Platt
(jeremy089786) - F

Locale: Sydney
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 08/01/2011 02:38:21 MDT Print View

+1 also to alot of what Jamie said, I am here primarily for gear and techniques. The OR market was actually what got me over the line to buy the subscription and is what I would love to see more of in the future - the breaking news on new gear, especially from the cottage manufacturers. I also love reading about thru hikes and beautiful places especially with an international focus (such as the photo journals from Patagonia).

What I would like to see more of:

- Announcements of brand new gear and highlights from gear retailers shows from ALL OVER THE WORLD (it was a shame to have to go to other sites to read about the european markets).

- Trip reports (even smallish ones if it means an increase in the number of articles/week)

- Tips and tricks: Those from Mike C are a perfect example (though I generally knew most of these the undiscovered ones are absolute gold!!)

Diana Vann
(DianaV) - MLife

Locale: Wandering
Do you want to be sponsored as a new member of BPL? on 08/01/2011 11:00:33 MDT Print View

Hi, Justin.

Thanks for your honest feedback on why you haven't become a member of BPL. I'm a lifetime member, and I'm very interested in helping the effort to reorganize BPL. Ryan has been very honest with us about the state of BPL, and I've been considering making a donation during this time of transition (lost revenue as a result of reorganizing and closing the gear shop).

One of my favorite things about the lifetime membership is that when I go on a long trip, I don't come back home to find that my membership has lapsed in my absence. I appreciate the information and the sense of community at BPL. I also appreciate the many people (both paid and unpaid) who spend so much time keeping it going. The forums alone are well worth the price of membership.

So I'd like to sponsor you for a one-year membership. If you agree to this offer, I'll contact Addie to make it happen. Are there others out there who would like to become members of BPL? I would be willing to fund 3 additional (for a total of 4) memberships.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: Do you want to be sponsored as a new member of BPL? on 08/01/2011 11:07:46 MDT Print View

Wow Diana. That's awesome!! Kudos to you for going that extra mile.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Do you want to be sponsored as a new member of BPL? on 08/01/2011 11:16:25 MDT Print View

Wow, Diana, very cool. Good on ya.

Curtis B.
(rutilate) - MLife

Locale: New England
Re: Do you want to be sponsored as a new member of BPL? on 08/01/2011 11:54:11 MDT Print View

Extremely generous and a great idea. Diana, if you find a college student or an educator who needs a boost I'd be happy to sponsor them as well.

Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Incredible on 08/01/2011 12:24:20 MDT Print View

Being a part of this community blesses me to my toes. So many that I get to interact with are generous, thoughtful gems.

Diana Vann
(DianaV) - MLife

Locale: Wandering
Re: Do you want to be sponsored as a new member of BPL? on 08/01/2011 13:12:54 MDT Print View

Thanks, Curtis, for the offer to help. Just want to say that anyone who would like to be sponsored can feel free to send a PM, and be sponsored anoymously if you'd prefer.

R S
(rps76) - F
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 08/03/2011 16:01:19 MDT Print View

I'm in Justin's shoes. Struggling economy has "forced" me to go back to school. I wished someone would have told me that a college degree wasn't going to be worth a d**n after I graduated high school in 94. I would have had a lot more fun during those years.

Josh Platt
(EasternBox) - F

Locale: Southeast
same... on 08/04/2011 13:31:34 MDT Print View

Feeling the same here. Not back in school yet, but I am planning on going back in the winter just to get some grant money and not struggle. Been selling a bunch of stuff to get backpacking gear, which has been nice I must admit. More backpacking and less clutter in the house!

Tyler H
(ctwnwood) - F

Locale: Utah
kindness on 08/04/2011 13:58:51 MDT Print View

Diana thank you so much for your generosity. It won't be wasted.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 08/04/2011 20:42:31 MDT Print View

I guess I'm late to the conversation. Why am I not a member? Once in a while there was an article I wanted to read and I thought about it but I put it off and never joined. Other than reading the articles, I don't think any of the other membership benefits are of interest to me and I didn't even know about them until now.

It does sort of sound like, even though BPL doesn't have a big Donate button, that they are treating their memberships like a donation. If you like the forums then you should be a member. Why don't you just go ahead and put a big donation button on the site then?

I tend to avoid purchasing memberships as a general rule. I pop in here every now and then and try to contribute positively. I stop short of purchasing a membership because I do not want to be punished for making a donation/purchasing a membership by being put on sucker lists that get sold over and over. As a result of past purchases and donations, I've been plagued with solicitations by snail mail, email and telephone. I might quit the Sierra Club and every other thing I belong to because of this. I'm certainly not going to join anything else. They all promise not to sell your name but they all do it.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 08/04/2011 20:59:21 MDT Print View

"I might quit the Sierra Club..."

That won't help

Once you're on their list they keep sending you donation requests

Based on my own experience

I generally have a favorable opinion of the Sierra Club and other similar organizations, but I fear that any money I've contributed is more than offset by the cost of them sending me requests to donate.

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Lists on 08/04/2011 21:00:16 MDT Print View

I don't know about anybody else, but name has not been sold to any list. I can see the dangers of signing up on for some online offers and cards, but I cannot imagine BPL doing that. Anyone else ?

Jeffrey McConnell
(Catalyst) - F
I have my reasons on 08/05/2011 00:15:32 MDT Print View

I just read through the entire post and my brain is a little foggy so hopefully this makes sense...

Well, compared to a lot of you I'm a "newer" member. I've been around for about two years. Like most, I found the site through the forums. I learned a lot reading through the posts and posting questions. I felt I received a lot of value and I wanted to contribute, so I did. Then I realized the site wasn't limited to the forums and they were articles. That was a bit of a bonus. Some of them seemed dated, but they were still interesting. I learned a lot.

A year later I didn't renew. There's really two reasons for this. The first is financial. I had just graduated law school (think loan payments) and I was unemployed. At the time, I really couldn't afford it. Nothing BPL can really do about that.

The second is the value of the site was not as great as before. Through the forums I learned a lot about gear and techniques and the information started becoming repetitive. My traffic to the site started becoming less frequent. Then, I read a great article on someone's PCT experience. It was actually a series of articles I think. I loved it! It was very well written and had some cool pictures. I learned a lot about the hike. More articles like that is what I'm willing to pay for. I like dropping in the forums every so often, but I'm looking for some good article content. You can also through me in the camp that hates the forum software. Even some small improvements in that area would be great.

Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Selling names on 08/05/2011 19:15:06 MDT Print View

Never never never never NEVER.

I hate that garbage, and I have multiple aliases with valid email and street addresses with BackpackingLight (for testing purposes). I wouldn't dream of such things if I knew my information would be sold. We hate that practice as much as you do. The only way someone is going to get your email or street address from our site is if YOU display it. I regularly counsel folks to change a username from their email address to something else, especially if they ever think they'll comment in the forums.

We're not a non-profit, so donate buttons are a non-starter, unless you think donate can also be spelled "subscribe". :)

As mentioned earlier in this thread, I'm off for the weekend. Thanks to Diana V., I got to square up four folks with annual subscriptions. Thanks to "Anonymous," I got to set up two avid forum users with lifetime subscriptions. It's been a good week.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Membership, BPL, Forums, My Oh My on 08/20/2011 20:10:48 MDT Print View

Just returned a few days ago from the JMT and had a chance to jump back onto the forums.

Wanted to know if Ryan Jordan had an opportunity to comment further about the comments here and the future of BPL.

-Tony

Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Further comment on 08/20/2011 22:07:05 MDT Print View

Not right now. We've been busy taking care of the nitty-gritty of closing the Bozeman office location (see Twitter and FB about the garage sale yesterday and Thursday). The only reason I am working right this moment is to catch up on support issues for those same days. Until we can sew up the office details (in the midst of regular work duties and Ryan's UL Bootcamp Course and Trek), take care of personal things like kids starting school, and actually have a meaningful meeting, further comment will be frivolous. RJ has ideas up the ying-yang (I have a few too!), but just spouting them off without plans for implementation won't be helpful. Give us a bit of time to come up with ideas that make sense, matter, and can actually be effected reasonably (reasonable = soon + affordable). I'm keeping an eye on this thread and an email exchange along the same lines. I won't leave you hanging!

Thanks, on to support issues. Then on to bed. Oh, sweet bed. I love sleep.

adam spates
(adamspates) - F

Locale: southeast
its just American's today on 08/20/2011 23:27:12 MDT Print View

People in America want not just freedom, but free things. The same people who won't pay for this site gripe about paying ANY taxes. Sure, none of us want our tax money to pay for Mrs Obama's obesity campaign, Pres Obama's golf game, welfare abusers etc etc......however we sure like our military! Well it takes money for our military to operate to defend the freedom we all cherish. Just because you may not EVER read a member article you receive benefits from using this very forum everyday if for nothing else just pure entertainment. So just like our military the forums are worth the $2 a month (just give up one coke or starbucks or whatever your luxury choice a month) this site charges. Don't be the welfare recipient who doesn't strive for achievement and just reaps the benefits of everyone elses taxes. Chip in with the rest of us and maybe, just maybe the staff will have more monitary resources to write the very articles you wish for!

If for nothing else, me being new to UL backpacking.....greatly benefit from this site! I would think that most of you are like the other hikers I've met on the trail over the years and would like to grow this sport for future generations. This site is an educator for young folks with kids like me. The more people who hike, the more voices and resources exist to help preserve our places of escape we enjoy so much! ......as always this is just MHO!

Thanks to the staff and everyone who has contributed knowledge on this site!

Edited by adamspates on 08/20/2011 23:42:39 MDT.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Re: no point in paying on 08/21/2011 09:29:41 MDT Print View

I've actually decided NOT to renew my membership. I think the deal breaker for me was the MLife program which decidedly segreggated the membership even though some of us (like me) had been paying members for 5 years. Where was the benefit of loyalty? The company obviously needed a cash injection for a re-organization. It implied that the company needed a large cash injection to assist in divestiture of the company's assets and left a bad tast in my mouth. Now the store is gone. I will still participate in the forums occasionally but for now I am heading to the hills.

Yuri R
(Yazon) - F
Wow... on 08/21/2011 10:40:01 MDT Print View

Adam, your post is incorrect on so many levels, that writing a though out response is just outside the scope of this site and conversation. I'm not going to go into your hook for the politics and all, but it's a good idea to not mix a simple idea of paying/not paying for site membership with military, taxes, freedoms and everything else.

Lets just say that those who are not paying either : 1- can't afford, 2- don't see the value. Why that's the case is different for everyone and some have put in the time to explain it. Appealing to emotions, guilt, etc is not going to convince many (if anyone) to pay.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Membership, BPL, Forums, My Oh My on 08/21/2011 11:39:57 MDT Print View

I've been continuing to read this thread and thinking a lot about the direction that BPL needs to head in now, especially since the focus on selling gear has gone. For my part as soon as I have more time after the summer vacation and beginning of the autumn semester teaching schedule, I'd like to offer something for the articles: trip reports, etc, and possibly, if it's accepted, a cartoon series.

One thing that has really stood out is the necessity to strengthen the community much further, to keep the interest up by participation rather than just passive reading. That means somehow providing platforms for members to contribute directly to the main site, rather than just the forums. The entire BPL website should grow into a worldwide community effort, with the emphasis on "community" rather than just a reader's educational site. There should be an element of fun and anticipation that lures people here and makes them feel they are part of something. There should still be an "experts'" section, but why not also a more visible members' photo gallery, or a MYOG workshop section with rotating instructors, or a podcast station with interviews of both famous ULers, but also of members, weekly or bi-weekly columns that are regularly and consistently published so that a following is built up and people look forward to the output of a popular writer or artist, a regular food and recipe section for a notoriously difficult subject in UL backpacking to get one's head around, or even a local chapters section where members can coordinate and set up BPL gatherings in the local areas, but managed under one roof.

The community is what makes BPL what it is. So much potential is lost by not fully recognizing that. Use its potential and energy. There's so much talent and knowledge among members. And so much knowledge that is forever lost because, 1) of the time sensitivity of forum posts 2) of the clunkiness of the forum search engine. That one single change, a better search engine, would transform the forums into a place of easily sought out wealth of knowledge.

But if members are going to be segregated and deprived of incentive and not given value for becoming members, what's the point? And if the leaders are unwilling or unable to see this, and don't want to participate in the group effort, then how can there be a revival of the spirit of the whole site? People need leadership and vision, but they also need to feel that they are actually doing something, too. Otherwise they are just spectators, and the initial dazzle eventually dies away with the same old same old.

What makes a group trip in the mountains so exciting and that entices people to come back again and again? If it's just the leaders having all the fun, then eventually the others will lose interest and go somewhere else. It's the same thing here. Appeal to the emotions, beyond just the intellect. Make it fun and exciting here. Create a sense of belonging.

adam spates
(adamspates) - F

Locale: southeast
re:wow on 08/21/2011 11:40:58 MDT Print View

It's hard for me to believe that that almsot everyone who posts on this forum can't afford it. $24.99 anually breaks down to just over $2 a month. That's less than one Cliff bar. You're average combo at Mcdonalds is $6. I pick up enough change off the ground every month to stick in a jar and have $25 a year. If you post on this site or at the very least get on just to read others post, then you obviously see the value in it! I'm sure there are some who really just can't afford it. But its hard to believe that the majority can't.

My previous post was not aimed to be a political discussion, but an anology and reference to the mindset of America today.

In my job I collect past due billing for a major utility company. I see on a daily basis people who say they "can't afford something". When I get deaper in the situation it usually boils down to priorities. Just sayin.

spelt the enigmatic
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
. on 08/21/2011 11:52:35 MDT Print View

While you are generalizing about shiftless, greedy Americans, keep in mind that this site has many international participants who are active in the forums and give the same thoughtful criticisms of BPL's direction as the lazy, entitled Americans do.

Also bear in mind that for most here backpacking is a hobby and not a necessity like paying the gas bill. People *are* prioritizing. The problem is they aren't prioritizing what *you* think they should be.

Edited by spelt on 08/21/2011 12:01:47 MDT.

adam spates
(adamspates) - F

Locale: southeast
re: . on 08/21/2011 12:40:48 MDT Print View

Again its an analogy: I know BPL is not as important as the Gas Bill.

Some people I deal with will pay for HBO and Showtime on cable and not pay their electric bill. What good is that? My point is that this site(including the forums) takes cash to operate. If everyone ( USA or International) has the mindset that this site is not worth $2 a month set aside in a cookie jar, then it would not exist at all. My example of priorites just means if you want a website devoted to Lightweight backpacking where you can learn, teach, discuss and have friendly banter , then someone has to pay for it! Is this site worth more than an extra couple of Snickers bars amonth to you?

As a side note: I think monthly gear give-a-ways to members whether annual or life would be a great asset!

spelt the enigmatic
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: re: . on 08/21/2011 12:53:43 MDT Print View

You say Americans want something for nothing and that supporting the site to maintain its knowledgebase should be motivation enough...and then you want the chance to win free gear for being a member. The difference between "something for nothing" and "more for the same amount" seems to be one of degree and not kind.

spelt the enigmatic
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
although on 08/21/2011 12:56:49 MDT Print View

Setting member privileges aside, raffles on awesome but pricy gear could be a way for the site to raise money. Lot more people will pay $10 for a chance on a $400 quilt than would buy the same quilt outright from the gear shop.

Edit: just realized it may be illegal for for-profit orgs to do raffles. Also laws may vary by location which would exclude some people unfairly. So maybe not such a great idea.

Edited by spelt on 08/21/2011 13:02:18 MDT.

Joslyn Bloodworth
(JoslynB) - F

Locale: Southwest
Re: re: . on 08/21/2011 12:57:03 MDT Print View

I got into UL Backpacking initially because I couldn't afford most of the gear otherwise, so your idea that all BPL visitors are middle class Americans who throw away $25 a month without thinking about it, is false. I actually have to meticulously save every last penny I spend on backpacking and end up going into the MYOG realm just to afford things at all and while I may not be a huge majority in that, I know I'm not the only one. The type of people you are dealing with are up to their eyeballs in overspending and indulgence, trying to have everything their parents took years to earn. I don't believe that's not a proper assessment of the average UL backpacker at all. For me that $25 right now is sitting in a jar waiting for it to be $150 so I can make one big purchase order of material to make my husband and I quilts and a solo shelter for me. I can't afford to spend it on a membership.

adam spates
(adamspates) - F

Locale: southeast
re: americans on 08/21/2011 13:21:01 MDT Print View

@spelt..... my thoughts were that free gear would entice people to pay $25 anually to be in 12 drawings a year for gear.

@Joslyn....I said $2 a month...not $25....also I said in an earlier post that I'm sure there are some who just outright can't afford it. But again I think most can.

Jeremy Pendrey
(Pendrey) - MLife

Locale: California
write an article on 08/21/2011 13:32:42 MDT Print View

For those who think the membership, life or annual, is expensive, let me throw out a suggestion: Write an article. You can opt to get a gift certificate in lieu of cash and can use it to pay for your membership. It's how I paid for mine. I realize not everyone is a writer, but for those so inclined, it's a good method, and allows you to contribute to the overall discussion with your article. (Note: I haven't written an article since the gear shop closed, so not sure if they are still giving gift certificates for articles. This only applies if they are.)

spelt the enigmatic
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: write an article on 08/21/2011 13:37:01 MDT Print View

Now see, I didn't even know you could do that b/c I've only accessed articles through their topic pages and the submission info is only linked on the main page of the article section.

Joslyn Bloodworth
(JoslynB) - F

Locale: Southwest
Re: Re: write an article on 08/21/2011 19:51:38 MDT Print View

Ok I just read that wrong...

Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Articles for subscriptions on 08/22/2011 12:35:25 MDT Print View

I'm still happy to trade subscriptions for good writing. Submit proposals here.

A. B.
(tomswifty)
Charity on 08/22/2011 12:38:01 MDT Print View

Interesting mentality that someone should give up $25 just because they can afford it. If I'm going to do that I would rather donate to a nonprofit.

Ryan Jordan implies this makes me a free loading Marxist which is an odd statement coming from someone looking for a handout.

Again, I'm just here for the forums. If they can't afford to keep the forums free then they can change their business model.

Adam Wallace
(A.Wallace) - F

Locale: somewhere
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 08/22/2011 18:03:06 MDT Print View

I no longer see the value in becoming a member, maybe for beginners, but the experienced have moved on.

Ron D
(dillonr) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 08/23/2011 09:28:47 MDT Print View

The comments in this thread have been interesting, particularly the large number of ones that see no value in a membership. I've been a member for years and have always considered it to be one of the best investments I've made. The knowledge I've gotten out of BPL (both articles and forums) has been the key to making my time in the mountains a pleasure again. The forums are part of BPL and BPL is a business not a non-profit or club. They go together and I don't see anything that approaches the quality of BPL anywhere else on the internet. I do not believe that it is easily and quickly replaceable, if you lose BPL you lose the forums as they currently exist. I believe that if you are receiving the type of value BPL offers us then you should pay a fair price which is why I have just upgraded to a lifetime membership. It's easy to take a free ride on the internet, but if everyone does it you generally get what you pay for. On a separate note I use a fairly restricted alternate email for BPL and have never had it sold commercially over the years I've been a member.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Follow Up To Issues Raised on 09/28/2011 12:39:28 MDT Print View

Addie,

Just wanted to follow up on this.

Know that there has been a lot of things going on at BPL behind the scenes with the shop closing.

However, was there any word from Ryan or anyone else regarding the number issues and suggestions that came up in this thread?

I have seen that there have been some changes and reorganization of the forum, but can anyone tell us a little aobut future plans for BPL?

-Tony

Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
This is prickly for me on 09/28/2011 12:48:53 MDT Print View

Because I have a tendency to overshare. I can tell you with absolute certainty the following things:

1.) Ryan's really excited about being a bigger part of BPL (and I'm excited for that too), and being more visible on the public side of the site.
2.) We're making some changes to the way things are structured on the back end (and I can't say more without risking divulging more than I'm comfortable sharing without explicit permission).
3.) We really want to improve upon the platform of the website but are finding that the budgetary constraints of a HUGE amount of forum bandwidth makes that tricky/expensive.
4.) I'm working on developing a faster turn-around for reviews (there's a three-month lag built into my publishing schedule) while cultivating even better content for each week, and making past gems easier to locate.

I have this forum flagged for follow-up, and once there's more face-to-face time with the big boss man, we hope to hammer out some specific strategies to revisit past commitments and make new ones with a framework for seeing them through. I know this is vague, and I'm sorry that I can't be more specific - better in trouble with you than in trouble with the signer of my paychecks though!

Ryan's off on a Wilderness Trekking School trek, so I'm flying solo(ish) for the week. Bear with us and thanks for your patience - I dearly hope not to try it overmuch.
Addie

j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 09/28/2011 13:10:07 MDT Print View

I originally became a member because of member sales in the BPL shop which was an incredible shop. RIP. I did not renew when my membership lapsed, but am strong considering MLIFE if I know that the forums are not in risk of closing.

One option to consider is closing off the forums to members (or at least certain portions such as gear swap) and reducing the member price with allowance for paypal payment of member fees.

One thing i really appreciate about the forums and site is the minimalism of the software and open/low moderation feel of the forums. I know many people are calling for PHPbb and flashy forum software, but the lack of smileys/green text/sigs is one of the main reasons I want to support this forum. Maybe just a little code update for auto recognizing links?

Thanks to all the BPL staff for being level headed and going out of their way to help.

J

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 09/28/2011 15:07:04 MDT Print View

"One thing i really appreciate about the forums and site is the minimalism of the software and open/low moderation feel of the forums. I know many people are calling for PHPbb and flashy forum software, but the lack of smileys/green text/sigs is one of the main reasons I want to support this forum. Maybe just a little code update for auto recognizing links?"

+1 on all of that.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 09/28/2011 19:10:44 MDT Print View

"One thing i really appreciate about the forums and site is the minimalism of the software and open/low moderation feel of the forums. I know many people are calling for PHPbb and flashy forum software, but the lack of smileys/green text/sigs is one of the main reasons I want to support this forum. Maybe just a little code update for auto recognizing links?"

+2 on all of that.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 09/28/2011 20:14:21 MDT Print View

"One thing i really appreciate about the forums and site is the minimalism of the software and open/low moderation feel of the forums. I know many people are calling for PHPbb and flashy forum software, but the lack of smileys/green text/sigs is one of the main reasons I want to support this forum. Maybe just a little code update for auto recognizing links?"

+3 on all of that.

Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Update on 10/07/2011 12:46:02 MDT Print View

Just culled this forum and a series of emails between me and Tony to provide Ryan with a bullet list of the pertinent points behind folks not seeing value in membership.

Not sure where it goes from here, but our meeting yesterday was helpful, encouraging, and productive. Thanks for the insights and patience!
Addie

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Update on 10/07/2011 16:32:28 MDT Print View

Addie,

Thank you for taking the time to let all of us know what is going on and that all our concerns are being hear vs. falling upon deaf ears.

Think there were a lot of good suggestions from people here and leveraging the intelligence of all the BPL members will hopefully help BPL move forward in a better direction.

I really that not everyone can be made happy and that change is hard, people will be disappointed while others will be welcoming the changes.

Just like lightweight gear, change is always coming and it will be great to see what the future holds for BPL.

Good luck and please let us know what comes of it all.

P.S. Did you also grab some of the suggestion in the BPL members area? There were one or two threads there that also had some ideas that Ryan might want to see.

-Tony

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Followup on 10/18/2011 13:37:06 MDT Print View

Just following up:

I have reviewed what Addie put together from this forum. A lot of fantastic feedback, and special kudos to Tony for helping drive this discussion.

We have opened up threads in the MLIFE Strategic Planning Forums related to the issues brought up in this one. We are in the midst of our fall strategic planning process for 2012 and this is a big part of it.

We are considering a variety of ways to:

a. Ensure BPL's long term sustainability;
b. Improve benefits for Members

Thanks for your patience as we work through this, and I for one, am very excited about BPL's prospects for refocusing our energies into reinforcing our online presence and services for BPL Members.

Best,
Ryan

Todd Hein
(todd1960) - MLife

Locale: Coastal Southern California
Backpackinglight virtual gear mall on 10/18/2011 17:11:02 MDT Print View

I've seen this come up in this forum and I wanted to reiterate that many (most?) of the cottage (and non-cottage) manufacturers might want (and pay for) a mall-like structure on this website. They could pay or maybe give BPL a slice of the gross for use of this forum. People could review gear, offer suggestions for improvements, etc. right on the site. There could be side by side comparison options and other shopping tools. This action would have the potential of bringing a lot of backpacking gear information under "one roof".

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Backpackinglight virtual gear mall on 10/18/2011 17:17:45 MDT Print View

I like that idea Todd!

chris kersten
(xanadu) - F

Locale: here
membership on 10/18/2011 18:56:07 MDT Print View

I was a member for my first year but after that, I didn't renew because I am in to fishing and other hobbies during the summer and rarely read anything backpacking because it makes me miss it. I like the idea of a smaller monthly membership option. I would rather pay $5 a month for 3 or 4 months and you still get the same amount and I feel like I am using my money when I need it and not feel like I wasted it.

James DeMonaco
(jdemonaco) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco
I joined... on 10/19/2011 00:45:18 MDT Print View

I joined because I wanted to support a great community. I know that its more supporting to share information, which I try and do as much as I can, but some times it takes a little money as well.

For me, the membership has been worth it. I've learned SO much about backpacking, camping, fishing, gear, techniques, geography, ultra-light backpacking, home-made gear, cottage industries, etc since I became a member. Obviously you can learn about almost all of this from the forums for free, but I didn't feel right just using leeching the service and experience of others.

I do like Todd's idea of replacing the old BPL shop with a mall of items from all the cottage industries that are part of this community, that would be great! It gets more traffic for BPL, they get to retain a shop (and possibly sell small things here and there if they want), they don't have to spend as much time or resources on the shop as it is mostly handled through the cottage shops, cottage shops get more attention and recognition, product reviews can be more centralized and easier to find, and boosts cottage shops so that they don't die out so easy and are able to compete with the larger companies.

I think its a win/win and a natural relationship between the two that should definitely happen.

I also think that it would be great if you got some swag for buying a membership. Maybe a sticker or something for a year membership and a patch or something with a lifetime membership. Just an idea (that has probably already been stated previously in this long thread)

Ross P Hemphill
(rbimli) - F

Locale: PNW
I was... on 10/19/2011 01:51:12 MDT Print View

Very glad to've noticed this question being asked. I've been a bit concerned about BPL lately. (The front page change is some part of that.) I think that the relevant people would be more likely to see some important things if there was an obvious way to easily see official BPL requests for input. (PS Search engine still stucks!)(Whoops, this isn't an entirely "official" thread!")

1. Anywho, I am not a Member because I have been very broke for a while. I have been a Member in the past, and intend to rejoin in the future.. (But, I wish I knew when the cashflow will stop sucking so hard.)

2. There's nothing of the top of my head that BPL would have to do to regain me as a member. The next paragraph might be an answer to the question, if the issue was something other than poverty.

I should probably mention that the articles I like best are also the least numerous. These would be from Technology, People, Gear Lists, and Techniques. (I prefer Solid content with lasting value, and recognize that such articles can't necessarily be as common as simpler ones. However, the distribution still feel a bit screwey to me. (Only 33 People articles? Are they really that unpopular?))

Well, I'll quit my blathering, now. Thanks a bunch! Stick around BPL!

Oh, and HECK YEAH on the cottage company mall idea! Would be particularly helpful for small/new/no-web-presence/obscure shops to be visible to people without the time or interest to hang out on the forums all the time. It should be clarified whether a company would have to actually "manufacture" something, or if just reselling/retailing would fly.

Edited by rbimli on 10/19/2011 02:00:47 MDT.

Ross P Hemphill
(rbimli) - F

Locale: PNW
a haven of non-crapiness on 10/19/2011 02:12:20 MDT Print View

"One thing i really appreciate about the forums and site is the minimalism of the software and open/low moderation feel of the forums. I know many people are calling for PHPbb and flashy forum software, but the lack of smileys/green text/sigs is one of the main reasons I want to support this forum. Maybe just a little code update for auto recognizing links?"

+4(?) Almost totally agree. Please, please... let BPL retain (or gain) some sense of aesthetics and design, and not turn into "the rest of the internet!" (I remember when most web sites/pages were personal and/or academic, and many had terrrible design... but I still feel that was way less annoying than how things are now.)

Edited by rbimli on 10/19/2011 02:15:50 MDT.

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Re: Update on 10/19/2011 06:00:29 MDT Print View

I joined because that great "free" forum I used and abused for months of knowledge before gear purchases wouldn't of been there if it were for members who support the forums financially and with their knowledge. Of course there are personal financial hardships that prevent some from giving back, but for the others, I hope they realize it's not "free" in the slightest and I hope they have a backup "free" forum to go to with all this UL/SUL/XUL knowledge because I sure as heck haven't found the same knowledge and like-minded people anywhere else, haha.

I'm looking forward to some of the changes the admins are cooking up. I generally go straight to the Gear Swap and Gear Deal sections to check things out (I'm a gear wh_re!), then to recent threads. I hardly ever go to the main page. If those three pages were incorporated to an RSS feed or someone on the front page that'd draw me there more (and non-members too), we might get more traffic and members. GL!

spelt the enigmatic
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: a haven of non-crapiness on 10/19/2011 06:50:22 MDT Print View

>>(I remember when most web sites/pages were personal and/or academic, and many had terrrible design... but I still feel that was way less annoying than how things are now.)



Yeah...the good old days.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: a haven of non-crapiness on 10/19/2011 07:15:18 MDT Print View

"One thing i really appreciate about the forums and site is the minimalism of the software and open/low moderation feel of the forums. I know many people are calling for PHPbb and flashy forum software, but the lack of smileys/green text/sigs is one of the main reasons I want to support this forum. Maybe just a little code update for auto recognizing links?"

+5(?) Almost totally agree. Please, please... let BPL retain (or gain) some sense of aesthetics and design, and not turn into "the rest of the internet!" (I remember when most web sites/pages were personal and/or academic, and many had terrrible design... but I still feel that was way less annoying than how things are now.)


Been like a huge family whose visits you can't control. Would hate to lose that.

James Castleberry
(Winterland76)
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 12/01/2011 15:50:32 MST Print View

Bryce said "I joined because that great "free" forum I used and abused for months of knowledge before gear purchases wouldn't of been there if it were for members who support the forums financially and with their knowledge."
Ditto Bryce. Same here and can't say it any better. This is actually one of the best virtual communities I have seen. I have young kids and can't participate as much as I would like but the knowledge offered here has been priceless. I can tell by the summaries and ensuing comments that the content is first-rate.

Nick Larsen
(stingray4540) - F

Locale: South Bay
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 12/02/2011 05:03:12 MST Print View

To many free forums out there for me to consider paying for it. I'd rather see a few advertisements on the side or top, than pay to browse a forum. It would be nice to be able to read the articles, but paying for a forum subscription doesn't fit into my budget. I'd rather spend the money on gear.

Have you guys ever considered putting ads on your site? You could make it so paying members don't see ads, but you could still make some money off of freeloaders like me. That would allow anyone full access to the entire site(articles included). Free members would just have to put up with ads.

Craig Savage
(tremelo) - F

Locale: San Jacinto Mountains
"Why are you not a Member of BPL?" on 12/02/2011 10:43:52 MST Print View

I'm broke, so no real need to research gear/use.

Dunno that I'd buy new gear if I did have the money, pretty happy with what I have and how I use it.

Chad Miller
(chadnsc)

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Used to be a member on 12/02/2011 10:56:50 MST Print View

I used to be a member for quite some time (five years) but I've found that after absorbing a great deal of information from the pay portion of this site I'm not really learning anything new.

Now as for the form section of this site I'm learning new things every day. Alas with the hard economic times I simply can't justify paying for a site membership when all I use is the free forms. When the economy picks up for me I'll renew my membership but right now we simply can't justify it.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Used to be a member on 12/02/2011 12:08:31 MST Print View

One thing that eek's me the most right now is the 1000% increase in "Gear Swap" over the past few years.
To me it's just more garbage to sort through in order to get to the good stuff.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Re: Used to be a member on 12/02/2011 12:38:34 MST Print View

BPL certainly offers a wonderful and free forum. I appreciate the opportunity to read and interact here without paying to do so. If that ever changes, I'll be sorry to go (but I will).

I did quite a bit of work with a volunteer group that involved teaching people how to do something (complicated). It had a similar model: membership, benefits, annual dues, a magazine (an actual print magazine in that case). A fundamental problem the organization had was the "graduation effect". Folks learned what they could or at least about as much as they were going to, and then they in effect "graduated" (dropped their membership). This is in a way a good thing for a non-profit, 'mission accomplished', but ultimately a huge issue for an organization that took in a lot of dollars in member dues and perhaps more in advertisement revenue based on the size of their stated membership --- as the membership declined they had to radically alter their expenses and approach (not being the U.S. government they couldn't print more dollars, but certainly would have if they could have ...).

I personally think the right solution to that sort of thing for a non-profit is to have as lean an organization as possible, driven by volunteers as much as possible.
BPL follows a different model here, and I wish them luck with it, but as a for-profit enterprise, I don't feel the least incentive to join just to give them money to succeed/survive. Insofar as they offer something that I deem to be of sufficient value, I'll pay for that. For me personally, and perhaps more relevant, in my particular situation and circumstances, what's offered does not seem worth the money. If I were to volunteer more in this area of my life I might be more inclined to do more work for www.backpackgeartest.org. But in fact I'll do so more locally.

Sorry to ramble on; an interesting, if somewhat uncomfortable topic of discussion!

Edited by brianle on 12/02/2011 12:39:54 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: "Why are you not a Member of BPL?" on 12/02/2011 13:03:37 MST Print View

This place costs money to run, and the ownership has mostly gone the membership route (along with other methods) to finance it. No matter what method they use to generate the money to keep it solvent, it takes money... probably a lot more than many people think.

So as part of the community, each person needs to make their own decision whether $25 a year or $110 lifetime is worth it. To me $25 a year or 7 cents a day is worth it; and it is even cheaper with a lifetime membership.

However, there is no guarantee that after you spend your money, BPL will remain. I hope it does.

So in a sense, if you are unwilling to spend 7 cents a day, then maybe one should not be too critical of how things are done, because the other members are financing it for you. It does not matter to me if you pay or not, but please don't criticize those who are providing you a free service. If it isn't worth 7 cents a day, then it won't matter to you if BPL fails.

Now there are some very savvy non-members here who are major contributors to the forums, and I don't see what they get out of BPL, other than helping others and a little conversation. To me, they give more than they receive. And I can understand why they have chosen not to join. I cannot criticize them for that, and I hope BPL stays around a long time and these folks do too.

To be honest, I really don't like Websites that need paying members to stay solvent. That business model usually fails, and other than BPL I have never paid to be part of a site... but then there is only one other site that I regularly visit. But the method of generating income is up to the ownership of BPL. I joined because I enjoy it and my investment is worthwhile to me, assuming BPL stays in business. For others it isn't and that is fine by me too.

Just my 7 cents of opinion.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: "Why are you not a Member of BPL?" on 12/02/2011 18:15:19 MST Print View

+1 with Nick. Well said.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 12/02/2011 18:17:38 MST Print View

I was once a paid member, but then I started getting spam to an address that only BPL had, so I cancelled the paid membership.

--B.G.--

Tony Beasley
(tbeasley) - MLife

Locale: Pigeon House Mt from the Castle
Re: Re: "Why are you not a Member of BPL?" on 12/02/2011 21:19:01 MST Print View

Some good points Nick.

Here is my 2CW.

To me the BPL forum is not what BPL is about, while the forum is important it is the actual magazine that is most important to me and is why I am a member, it is the gear reviews, most of which are without peer, especially Wills and Rogers scientific approach to testing, it is the trip reports most of which are in areas that a lot of us can only dream of going to, it is the MYOG articles, most of which are inspiring and makes me want to make all of my own gear.

BPL is the only magazine that is willing to publish truthful reviews about crappy gear, that is because they do not have any fear of having some their advertising revenue pulled and I think some here on BPL forget that BPL main stream of revenue is from membership which allows them to do this and without this members revenue BPL may cease to exist. Australian bushwalking magazines are so frightened of upsetting there advertisers that their reviews are pure rubbish, the so called reviews, are obviously written by the advertiser itself and are just another name for advertising feature.

These days a large part of the BPL forum is Chaff and I do not read it and I do not want to read it, as far as I am concerned Chaff is a total waste of my bandwidth and if I could I would like to be able to turn Chaff off. I also think that sections of the BPL forum should be restricted to non-members, the Editors Roundtable and member’s trip reports should be members only.

As far as I am concerned the survival of BPL is the most important, and it has to do what it has to do to survive, as long as BPL does not loose its honesty with gear reviews, I am all for BPL making changes to help it to keep being the best backpacking magazine around.


Tony

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
reviews on 12/02/2011 22:01:24 MST Print View

i resigned up just for the SOTM reports and WPB tests ...

what i find most useful isnt the particular gear reviews ... but those reviews that go over concepts, techniques and particular gear types

examples would be the last WPB on the latest fabric, and the integrated canister stoves .... while the information on individual gear tests will be outdated ... the basic concept lasts quite a long time ... the condensation articles are still the best ive seen online

note that there are very few publications left IMO that review gear fairly objectively ... BPL and backpackgeartest are the ones i know of, alpinist and outdoorgearlab is OK for climbing gear

every other mag/site that most people frequent are just regurgitated PR releases for the marketing departments

while im sure some of these mag/sites test out the gear ... note how they almost always say positive things, or insists it fits a "particular situation" (best cheap, best UL, best durable, best for resort, best something...)

the outdoor industry is one big marketers dream ....

Gordon Green
(nodrog) - F

Locale: UK
Why I resigned as a member of BPL on 12/03/2011 03:49:21 MST Print View

Here in the UK we have a very good and free forum.
It is funded by advertising.

I did join BPL some years ago and then found that there was a bit of mud-slinging going on. The recipient of this was someone who I know and respect. And, there were some high handed stances being taken.

So, I resigned.

Later, I re-joined. Ok, time had passed.

But, TBH, there is so much that other, free, web-sites can offer. When it came to re-newing my subs, I thought, No.

So, while I'm happy to look at the forum, I'll save my money for some gear rather than fund BPL.

Gerry Brucia
(taedawood) - MLife

Locale: Louisiana, USA
Re: Re: "Why are you not a Member of BPL?" on 12/03/2011 06:26:44 MST Print View

Nick,
+2. Once again, you very eloquently express yourself. I could not agree with you more and thanks for all of your input.

dan mchale
(wildlife) - MLife

Locale: Cascadia
+2 too on 12/04/2011 14:05:49 MST Print View

Yeah Nick, I signed up again as a result of this thread. I missed the articles. I don't see my big red M though. :>)

OK - there it is. I was getting worried.

Edited by wildlife on 12/05/2011 21:35:18 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: +2 too on 12/04/2011 23:46:48 MST Print View

I think someone has to manually add the big red M. High tech, you know.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: +2 too on 12/04/2011 23:47:46 MST Print View

I believe it takes a full business day....

Chad Miller
(chadnsc)

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Hehehehehe on 12/14/2011 13:35:28 MST Print View

Despite my reasoning for why I didn't see the need to renew my subscription someone just gifted me one.

Thank you for your generosity.

Bob Salcedo
(Baughb) - F

Locale: So Cal.
in addition to others... on 12/15/2011 10:23:48 MST Print View

Now a non-member cannot create a new thread on the gearswap forum... since it is the most active forum.

thank you