Really good post, Doug, thanks!
I've noticed some changes in the 5 years I've been around (just lurking for the first 3). Some for the better, some not. Of course the first year after I became a member I read most of the articles in the archives, so it's a bit hard to see patterns since that first year doesn't count. I do notice a lot fewer articles devoted to techniques in the past few years, and more weeks with only one article posted. And, has often been remarked, there appears to be much less visible involvement from management--although it sounds as though management is now hearing that message.
One item that is probably an issue on the forums for some--we have a lot of folks come in here who are just starting out. Their frame of reference (gotten from Backpacker Magazine and trips to REI) is that of traditional backpacking. If they google "backpacking," the first items that come up are Backpacker Magazine, a Wikipedia article (defining "backpacking" in the European context of international budget travel, without any reference to wilderness trekking), thebackpacker.com (weird site, not a lot of activity there, IMHO nothing to explain its position in google rankings) and then BPL (which just recently got ahead of my other favorite site, backpacking.net alias The Lightweight Backpacker). If they read the other stuff first and then come here, they are obviously going to be thinking in "traditional" terms. These beginners need our help! Unfortunately, from the beginners it's going to be the same questions and same answers, over and over again. It may be dull, but IMHO it's our responsiblity to help these folks, and that's where new BPL members will come from. Over on my other favorite site, there is a body of free articles to help the beginner, so many of those beginner questions can be answered with a simple link to them. Unfortunately, BPL doesn't have such a thing, and IMHO, we badly need it!
Mike, in the past 60-some years I've been caught in many situations where the thermometer dropped 15-20 degrees below the "normal" temperature for that time of year (basically an average). I want my sleeping bag to be for the "normal" low so that with my clothing I can stay warm during those temperature drops. I was on one long trip, in August, during which it snowed and went down to 10* twice during the trip. The difference between a 20* and a 30* Western Mountaineering bag is only 6 ounces (it helps to be short!), and to me it's worth the 6 ounces not to be shivering when the weather pulls such an act. This may be "traditional" (about the only area where I still am in that mode) but at least I will be comfy!
Roger, Oregon is having a dry winter. Only 0.5 inches (1.27 cm to you) rain so far since the beginning of December. Send some of that rain our way! Please face northeast and huff and puff really hard!
Stephen, just go north in Michigan. Even though I've lived most of my life in the Rockies and Cascades, I found Michigan beautiful, especially in the UP. It's just a different kind of beauty than the alpine.
A very happy Christmas, Hanukah, whatever holiday you celebrate, and a Merry New Year!