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Open Letter: Don't make the Gear Swap for members only
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Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Disappointing & Not the Best of BPL on 12/18/2011 10:57:51 MST Print View

It is sad to see that this thread has become a serious of personal attacks that will amount to nothing productive that will benefit the community or further the advancement of BPL.

The community is what makes BPL more than a website and a collection of knowledge and it is sad to see BPL members and guest turning on each other, when what brings us together is our common love of the outdoors and backpacking.

Yes, I would love to see more people sign up to become members and for BPL to grow financially and evolve the website to become better for us all.

However, seeing Chaff like this where guest are berated for not being members with personal attacks really does seem disappointing and sad to me.

We are all very passionate about backpacking and I am sure our views outside of backpacking are equally passionate, but perhaps we can be better and more civil with each other.

There will always be people who will never become a member of BPL and I think that is okay.

Rather than shaming people into becoming members, I would rather see a discussion on how BPL can change to entice guest to become members. Maybe the fault is ultimately with BPL in not giving a good reason for guest to sign up vs. blaming the guest as free loaders and leeches?

Anyway, for my part, I would like to say sorry to all the guest/non paying members visiting BPL....I think your input is valuable. Hearing criticism is better than having people blow smoke up your butt and praising you because that never results in improving or getting better.

Do I believe that there should be limits on content for guest/non members, yes. I have been in favor of that for a while, but it does not mean that I don't think that guest/non members don't have value.

Hopefully, going forward, we can be more civil and agree that we all love backpacking but disagree on the model of how BPL is run...and that is okay.

Many voices means Ryan has many more options to consider for the future of this place we enjoy.


rOg w
(rOg_w) - F

Locale: rogwilmers.wordpress
deleted on 12/18/2011 17:09:11 MST Print View


Edited by rOg_w on 05/28/2012 17:08:55 MDT.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Future Direction of BPL on 12/18/2011 17:59:11 MST Print View


I am not on the staff, but I fully admit that I am a fan-boy for BPL.

What I have learned from BPL, Ryan Jordan's book, and from the generous community here has allowed me to take some amazing and life changing backpacking trips.

In my eyes, a profitable BPL means that this website can continue to evolve and help spread the UL wisdom to others and to make it a better place for us all. To that end, I do what I can to foster conversations to ask hard questions that might help Ryan and the BPL staff.

Maybe it is my way to give back to the community that has been so patient with me and answering my own questions as I have quested to perfect my backpacking kit.

Anyway, I hope this does not upset Ryan, but this was a posting that he made back in Oct to kick off a discussion about the future of BPL, which was in a section that was for MLife members.

There were a lot of ideas put forth and I am sure that Ryan took all of them into consideration.

One of the concerns voiced was that it would be nice to hear from from Ryan Jordan, the "voice" of BPL.

He did respond and said that he is giving a lot of thought to everything and would not be hastily making changes.

Two things that I would point out about Ryan Jordan...he has an engineering background and I believe that personality wise he is an INTJ from the Myer Brigs testing that was posted online a long time ago. To me, this means that as an introvert, I don't expect to see him posting all of the time on the forums (though, I think that from a business perspective that it would better serve BPL & himself if he were posting on the forums much more frequently). Secondly, I would think that Ryan is going to be "scientific" in his long term approach to making changes to BPL. Which means we have to be patient.

Key thing that I have been hearing is that replacing the forum software is high on the list and I believe is biggest focus for 2012. The BPL staff knows that the search function on the forum is inadequate and that there is a lot of room for improvement.

That is all that I can tell you from what I have heard and I don't have any special access to the staff....I just lurk on BPL alot. :)

Here is the posting from Ryan back in Oct.

Hello All,

I'm now in the process of kicking off an intentional effort in strategic planning.

This weekend you saw me wipe the home page slate clean. This was step 1 :D

One purpose for this change was to start the process of refocusing on what BPL is, now that the gear shop is gone.

Another purpose of that change was to strip away just about everything that nobody (or few) were clicking on, and making room for what is perhaps the most important function of the home page:

Telling new visitors what BPL is about, and why they should subscribe.

So, the first part of this strategic planning process will involve two steps:

1. Identifying, analyzing, and changing (as needed) the process by which a new visitor progresses from seeing the home page to subscribing; and

2. Identifying, analyzing, and changing (as needed) the core model by which members get benefit from subscribing.

Necessarily, this process will be iterative.

I'd like to open the conversation up in this thread to brainstorming ideas for either #1 or #2.

In order to keep this thread digestible, please refrain from long essays and be concise and clear in what you are communicating.

The best feedback, at this point, will be the suggestion of actionable items that can be performed quickly -- that is, the lowest picking fruit we accomplish with little effort up front.

Once this initial phase is complete, then we can peel back the onion and dive into the deeper philosophy of what BPL can grow into, and work on more complex projects to make BPL irresistible to the masses.

Thank you very much for participating!

rOg w
(rOg_w) - F

Locale: rogwilmers.wordpress
deleted on 12/18/2011 18:39:31 MST Print View


Edited by rOg_w on 05/28/2012 17:08:15 MDT.

kevin smith
bpl member debate on 12/18/2011 20:12:43 MST Print View

>>The fact is that persons who PAY to support this site so that it can be here and operate are basically subsidizing those that do not.

>>Of course they can feel more deserving for doing this, and non payers SHOULD feel less so, if they have a conscience.

>>There is nothing "free" about the forums,or the site. Someone pays to set them up, host them, police them, and maintain them. They are only free to YOU because others allow them to be.

>>The unbelievable thing, is that some have no absolutely no appreciation of this

if this is a true statement and most of the paying menmbers feel this way then why not just make bpl a members only site and eliminate the non members from the site
they can t use the most useful sub forums on the site (gear swap) anyway so why not just let the paying members take over the site and then they will have all the decision making power to do what they want to with the site then there is absolutly no more debate over whether or not to charge people for using the gear swap no ??
keep in mind this is only my humble opinion and since im a non member i guess i should feel (LESS SO??)FOR STATING IT


Jordans comments on 12/18/2011 20:24:44 MST Print View

Here is Ryan Jordans comments, from before the changes occured.:

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.

Kevin, most members want to keep it TOTALLY open too. But apparently that is not going to happen. Ryan was precocious in his acknowledgement that non paying complainers wouldnt recieve much sympathy from members.

Very few people here are so destitute they cannot afford 25/yr. And there are likely plenty of members too for whom $25 is too much to spend on a whim. But we all must choose what we spend our disposeable income on. Those that believe there is something good here to support, do that. Those that dont, dont. Its really that simple.

Regardless, no one wants anyone else to go away (at least as far as Ive been able to tell).

Edited by livingontheroad on 12/18/2011 20:47:49 MST.

Aaron Croft
(aaronufl) - M

Locale: Oregon
Well... on 12/18/2011 21:04:46 MST Print View

It was fun while it lasted, but honestly, if you use the gear swap forum so much, chances are it is worth the 25 bucks to support it and keep the lights on.

I like the gear swap, but I also like the community here. It's nice to have a place to discuss backpacking and gear in an intelligent and (most of the time) respectful manner. I feel that alone is worth 2 bucks a month (this coming from a poor grad student).

kevin smith
kind of an oxymoron on 12/18/2011 21:33:25 MST Print View

its like putting three fisherman on a PUBLIC RIVER FULL OF FISH and then telling two of them you can t fish here unless your rod cost over $100 its a public river but
you cannot have fishing rights either go buy a $100 rod or don t use this river

bpl is a public online forum right??? therefore in a lot of minds if you suscribe to a PUBLIC FORUM you should be able to accsess and use any thread in that public forum reguardless of which sub forum you decide to hand out in

SAME CONCEPT IF YOU ASK ME BUT ITS ONLY MY NON MEMBER OPINION and apperantly it doesnt mean anything anyway :(


fish on 12/18/2011 21:50:27 MST Print View

On a public river, you dont need a $100 dollar rod to fish.

But you DO need to buy a fishing license.

Ill leave it to you to figure out why.

Hint: the fisheries management is not free and must be paid for by somebody.

kevin smith
however on 12/18/2011 22:01:34 MST Print View

you do not have to pay to throw your line in the public river??? RIGHT!!!

David Goodyear
(dmgoody) - MLife

Locale: mid-west
adopt -a - member program on 12/18/2011 22:09:24 MST Print View

I am totally serious about this.

If you are really cash strapped and can't afford a membership,(I've been there) I propose that members that can afford it - gift a 1yr membership. consider that a membership is less than one trip to a fast food joint per month, two starbucks coffees, 4 gas station coffees, 5 doughnuts, 2 netfliks.

If this is trully your reason, then please pm a member or post below.


Aaron Croft
(aaronufl) - M

Locale: Oregon
Member vs Non-member on 12/18/2011 22:09:26 MST Print View

I think this while "member vs non-member" thing is being blown out of proportion. For the record, I signed up for a membership to access articles. So whether or not the gear swap required a membership was a moot point for me.

The people who run BPL have decided that if you profit from the gear swap, you should also support it and the rest of the community. There should be no member vs non-member vitriol going on, or elitism. If you don't feel the gear swap is that important, then it's your choice not to pay for it.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Elitism on 12/18/2011 22:27:18 MST Print View

Elitism isnt a matter of having an M next to yr name or not

It is the attitude that only the lightest or best gear will do, or only using UL techniques such as no toilet accessories, etc ...

The "elitist" attitude affects both members and non members alike ... Just witness those old rei or walmart threads ... Or those threads where only the lightest, shiniest, UL gear will do

I remember not long ago when anyone mentioning the word fleece or synthetic would get derided by certain members and non members

The true elite are out there, likely sponsored, possibly unsung, definately too busy doing the sickest stuff to worry about bpl or any other forum arguments

Most of us are just pale imitations

There are "elitist" members and non-members on bpl, some on this thread and more concerned about winning an internet argument

BER ---
(BER) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
This is not a public forum on 12/18/2011 23:10:56 MST Print View

Kevin and others propagating the elitist arguement:

I think you hold what is a common misconception. This is NOT a public forum. It is not government subsidized or paid for with your tax dollars. It is owned by a private interest. As a private interest, the owner(s) are able to make the rules as they see fit without your, my, or anyone else's input. This private interest has decided to set levels of access. Whether one elects to pay for more access/privileges is completely up to the individual. That choice makes you no better or worse than any other individual, it only affects your access to the site. The analogy to a public access river is not valid. A better analogy would be access to a privately owned lake where the owner chooses whether to allow you to fish.

Access to BPL was never a "right". It is a priviledge that was granted. It is unfortunate that certain priviledges were ever free in that now that the access level has been changed there has been bad feelings on the part of those who's access has become limited. But again, this is a decision that is well within the rights of the owner(s) of the site. And it is a decision available to all users of whether the access is worth the price. The individual always has the right to go elsewhere or start their own site where they get to make the rules.

Like Tony, I don't think the individuals decision in this regard says anything about the worth of their input in the forum in general. I have learned a lot from many users, members and not. I have, in the past questioned whether I felt I was getting my "money's worth". Bottom line, I like the forums here. I read many of the articles. I have sold items on gear swap a couple times. For me, I think, it is worth the price. But I cannot make that determination for anyone else.

My hope is that this bickering will stop and we can get back to the thing that brings us together in the first place.

Edited by BER on 12/18/2011 23:19:20 MST.

Backpack Jack
(jumpbackjack) - F

Locale: Armpit of California
RE This is not a public forum on 12/18/2011 23:49:46 MST Print View

"Amen" to that Brian and Tony, let's stop talking and go hiking!

(beenay25) - F

Locale: Intermountain West
fishing license on 12/18/2011 23:59:08 MST Print View

Fishing licenses ensure that our limited freshwater fisheries are not fished to depletion -- and that if and when that does happen, there is money in place to re-stock them. I can see the relation to server funds, but under the assumption that BPL is (or at least was) a business, I don't accept it.

Reading Ryan's post (and reading BPL Staff member Roger's dismissive comment) was enlightening. I had no idea that BPL had become a charity masquerading under the guise of a business. I am a fan of clarity, and only wish that "donations" were not sold under the false pretense of being a subscription to a magazine, which no one (including the owner, apparently) seems to believe that subscribers are buying. Just call it a donation and make the whole website members-only because the current "guest account" bull-oney creates an atmosphere that is obnoxious and aggravating to the guests. At the current rate, it's only a matter of time before BPL goes the way of the Practical Backpacking Forums, where every post (beyond the first few dozen words) is censored to non-members, and a heavy-handed moderator locks threads when they stray from the original topic.

I will add in one final appeal to Ryan or whoever calls the shots on this website: please use more advertisements on your website. Ad revenue keeps content free, free content attracts more users, and more users are better than fewer users, both in terms of the quantity and quality of expertise available at any given time for an on-going discussion. I think this would be a desirable thing for BPL. What do you think?

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Open Letter: Don't make the Gear Swap for members only on 12/19/2011 00:01:07 MST Print View

I honestly believe this entire argument could have been avoided had the original poster more carefully chosen his words.

Here is a quick example of how I believe it would have been more effective:

"To the staff and members of BPL -

I respectfully request that you reconsider the decision to restrict "For Sale" postings in the Gear Swap forum to members.

There are several advantages to allowing non-members to sell their lightly used gear in your forums. These include providing members and non-members with a greater amount of used UL goods from which to choose. Further, a robust Gear Swap will likely serve as the impetus for some to visit your website in the first place. While some may choose only to sell their gear a percentage of these visitors will undoubtedly be attracted to the quality content your website has to offer, and will choose to pay for the privileges of membership.

Those that do not become members may still choose to participate on your forums, adding their voices to the growing legion of UL and SUL backpackers. An active community can provide the inertia necessary for growth, help foster interest in the UL/SUL movement and create enough traffic as to make it viable for advertisement-sponsored content, if you choose that route in the future.

If there were a mechanism by which to earmark a portion of the proceeds from the sale of used gear to your website, I would gladly do so. This seems fair as it would help cover your costs associated with your business. As someone who only posts occasionally to Gear Swap and is on restricted budget, I believe this makes much more sense than to invest in a membership I will not use.

Thank you for consideration in this matter.

- The Original Poster"

Edited by dirk9827 on 12/19/2011 00:01:39 MST.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
More ADs on BPL & Other Forms of Revenue on 12/19/2011 00:12:08 MST Print View

I am all for having ads on BPL, however the balancing act will be keeping the perception that taking AD money will not bias the reviews.

I don't think that would happen....question might be, would having more ads offend people to the point of not signing up for a membership?

I don't think so....BPL thought long and hard before putting the ads that are on here now. They are tasteful and discrete.

If there was a way for BPL to get a small cut of the gear sold via the gear swap, that would be great too and therefore would open up the gear swap for everyone to use.

However, I am just not sure if AD revenue could bring in enough money to outpace the income from memberships.

In either case, it seems clear to me that priority one would be to change the content here to bring in more memberships and to continue to develop a stable of consistent advertisers to pay for Ads to supplement the income of the website.

Any other suggestions for bringing in revenue?

1. Memberships

2. Ads

3. Possible income from getting a cut of the sales from Gear Swap?

Problem that I see with #3 is that wouldn't this involve investing a lot of money and effort into creating a mini Ebay to capture that percentage????

Keep the ideas rolling in.


John Frederick Anderson
(fredfoto) - F

Locale: Spain
Content on 12/19/2011 02:48:16 MST Print View

I applaud your efforts to keep things constructive in this thread. You asked for non member feedback with some specific questions, so here goes...
The thread regarding BPL's future and what people would like to see that occurred in the summer was also something informative and I contributed to it, so I won't repeat myself here.
What I find strange is that Ryan only issued a reply to members, which is like talking to the converted. I'm sure people on the fence like me would have liked to know about BPL's plans before we join up.
In general, you ask here and in another thread what would it take for non memebers to join. I can only speak for myself, but can summarize with one word: Content.
If you look at the home page, there is a banner sequence of five links. Three are for subscription or BPL promotional gift ideas, one review about ski bindings, and a mini article from the Tips book. That hasn't changed in over a week. If BPL is a magazine, this is pretty poor, especially if they are trying to lure people in to read and discover the site. No content there.
What has happenned in the last few weeks in just gear alone? Two new packs from GG, two from MLD, the new sleeping systems from ZPacks, new shoulder strap fixings from ZPacks, etc You get the point. Even small artiicles like 'first looks' would entice people to get into the site. Ads from the companies involved would keep the site free and provide continuity. If you are worried about objectivity, hey, there will always be people moaning about that. A good example of a site that functions like this is Owned by Amazon, impartial reviews, scrupulous standing in the photo community, and FREE and making money for the owners and employees. It can be done, there's enough content out there for several articles a week here, not to mention interviews, trip reports by readers, international sections and comparisons in techiniques... I'm a journalism professor, I could go on.
Next look at the banner at the top of the page. The first link is to subscribe, next to the home page, next to a blog that doesn't exist yet, next to the articles that you need to be a member to read, then the forums, and last to the school offerings of BPL. Where is the content? it is already behind a pay wall. The forums are free, and will be according to Ryan's quote you provided, except they aren't, you have to pay to be a member to buy and sell on one, the gear swap, OK, now you've reduced the market to members with no obvious benefit to either seller or buyer, what was that all about?
BPL is a great place, but there's nothing worse than a good idea done badly (Ansel Adams).
Reading Ryan's response about his other blogs etc seems to me he doesn't know what to do with BPL, has tried other things, spread himself to thin and doens't want to take responsibility. No problem from me about that, I'm not perfect either, but I like to know what I'm buying before I plonk down the readies as a customer.
I'd like to see a mission statement about BPL's future, the content they will provide, and the direction they want to go. Right now it looks like a charity masquerading as a community that sells a school when it could be so much more. Hell, I've even offered to participate/contribute and heard nothing, so where's the motivation in that?
This is meant in a constructive way, and while it may sound critical to some degree, I think it won't get any response, just like my other two posts in this thread, as people don't seem to want to address wider issues collectively. (Except Dave T- thanks). So, I'll just keep browsing the forums for the real news, and infotainment, and let the site (d)evolve into what the owners want, whatever that may be.
cheers, Fred

David Goodyear
(dmgoody) - MLife

Locale: mid-west
nice to hear other viewpoints on 12/19/2011 04:42:52 MST Print View

It is very informative to hear other people’s constructive viewpoints and critiques of this site. For me, it is more than adequate for the required membership, as I enjoy the articles, gear reviews and tips. I am an old dog and my time is valuable. I don't like sifting though ads to find what I am looking for.

For example, my other passion is woodworking. I subscribe to an old school printed magazine (woodsmith) that does not contain ANY ads. It is packed cover to cover with projects, tips and how-to's. I pay $24 a year and I get one issue every other month. For me this is plenty and I have made many air loom pieces as a result of my membership. I have had other subscriptions, but let them go as my tastes/needs changed.

Please don't junk up this site with too many ads. The speed and volume of the articles may be one area of improvement, as I see in Ryan's post above. I would rather have quality articles than a breaking newsfeed type of site.

Thanks for keeping it civil.