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


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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
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
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
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