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Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
It's not just me on 11/01/2013 23:58:35 MDT Print View

I deleted this earlier to clean up the edits so that you can't tell who said what. I received most of these comments after RJ's end of year letter last year. That is why some of the comments seem dated. Though still so relevant. If you recognize your words and don't want them posted I'll edit them out.



I'm getting a kick out of your MLIFE forum bumps Ken. I feel they're falling upon deaf ears and closed eyes on the staff end. Seriously, where's the content? Participation? Material? They're dropping the ball and they don't want people to vocalize their frustrations. Pfffff.

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I think Ryan will announce either the demise of BPL in a few months or once again another announcement of "change". I just don't see them caring much on their end, at least not enough to actually do anything and uphold their end of the deal.

Ahhhh, BPL.

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You hit the nail on the head and I share your frustrations. Keep poking that stick into the side of the dying horse that is BPL, maybe someone will listen. It is a bit sad that Ryan hasn't made a concerted effort, as far as I can tell, to mobilize his staff and individuals within the community here to put into action all that he laid out almost a year ago now.

The GGG has to be the most underappreciated thing going on within BPL, the staff refuses to acknowledge its existence. That is unfortunate. One thing is for certain, BPL sustains itself, the forums, contribution, beta, user feedback, etc... the necessity for a regularly contributing staff of "experts" is diminishing. They need to rethink and cast a real vision for what they/we want BPL to be, not just knee jerk reactions to disappointed members, otherwise it will just be a place to catch a few glimpses of quality information amongst a sea of junk.


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I don't worry too much about your rants, We do agree, though. Ryan has completely and utterly blown it. There was a group of folks willing to really pitch in and push BPL ever higher, but he p*ssed it away. It's the main reason I became an MLIFEr, I wanted to attend the yearly meetings in Bozeman and really have a hand in building BPL to be ever so much better. Sad, really. But f*ck him.


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Ignore the distractors. They have their opinons; you have yours.

I agree with you. I raised a similar issue with Ryan two years ago

Many of us hear and share your frustration, but we've also seen that member input - even when openly solicited - produces very few results. To what extent that input is considered, I really do not know. The only time it was really a factor was during the design phase of the BPL backpack - which ultimately did not sell well.

The other times - what to do about the BPL store and who could sell items on the Gear Swap Forum - I feel were attempts to validate decisions that Ryan had already made.

From a purely pessimistic viewpoint, I have always felt that the whole Life Membership offer was little more than a desperate attempt to quickly raise capital to meet a potential cash flow issue (maybe bills for store inventory or to cover the costs of closing the CA warehouse and moving inventory to MT?). Incentives were offered without a good plan of how to deliver them later.

Bottom line - IMO, nothing is going to change significantly, no matter how many members protest, suggest, or whatever. Ryan is busy with his guided tours and BPL classes. These are a source of income; BPL has been reduced to essentially just a series of forum and articles by mostly no-name authors, which are of only passing interest. I would love to be proven wrong.


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I meant to reply to this PM earlier, but got distracted. Things seem to have reached a bit of balance in the forums, of course the issue that you're concerned with hasn't been addressed.

I didn't express it in your thread because I don't want to stamp all over the feelings of those who get uptight about any kind of complaint, but I do feel there is a double standard going on in BPL when RJ can be excused and let off the hook, but people like Bob Mullen and Bender can be raked over the coals as if they don't have other concerns in their lives. I'm not sure why Ryan gets special treatment and status.

Anyway, while I agree with your points and think about them as well, none of it is worth getting stressed or emotionally overwhelmed by it. Take care of yourself, first.
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It's sad, but the only guarentee in life is death.


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I don't like the lack of explanation when threads or posts are deleted unless it's obvious spam or inappropriate. I believe that an explanation should be posted for a thread deletion or an individual PM/email sent if a post is removed. I agree that the BPL approach of not getting involved in forum disputes goes to far, laying out reasonable rules and explanations for actions would be greatly preferred.


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Ryan's dedication to BPL, communication abilities and leadership skills are apparently MIA.

The school is apparently struggling, unless you are a online noob, or BSA, they offer nothing this year.


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I've been tuning into BPL for a couple years and after the deletion of the 'Is life membership worth it thread' I've decided to throw in the towel.

I knew from the get go that the Mlife offering was a cash grab from the get-go and never bothered. The guys and gals at BPL simply didn't offer enough editorial content to make it worth it... not even close. That is when I seriously began to doubt the leadership and direction.

Forward a year or two and thread 'why aren't you a member?' comes up (11 months ago). People are confused as to why they should join. For days if not weeks, RJ's on-staff apologists run interference for him. He eventually does post and panders like a politician offering timely change and improvement... again, 11 months ago. Then he does his Howard Hughes impersonation (cue the 'Poof' sound effect until...

the 'Cottage Stagnation' gem of a thread where his brief diatribe attacks the very people who make his theology possible... Again people are confused and/or upset. Then the apologists arrive and next... the crickets (cheap, cheap, cheap).

In my opinion RJ did what anyone else would do. Try to make money off of a passion. Everyone is making cash of the internet somehow and why not try. Internet + a Passion = $$$. Except he forgot about the one crucial and missing component...Effort.

Turns out you can't run a business without a little effort. Sure, he found Dave C. to write some articles but that's is far as it goes. And in my opinion that's as far as it will go, because like the homepage says we're a community. The community will do the work and he will cash the checks. And then you go and let the truth be known that Mlife isn't worth it. Are you really surprised to see the thread disappear? Can't say I am.
In reality, BPL.com is the forum. The knowledge comes from the members. Who really gives a rat's ass about how breathable 5 rain jackets are? The articles are window dressing to get the new customers in and spend the money. Reminds me of the tonic salesmen in the 1800's. Lots of claims and very little substance.

I've been backpacking for over twenty years and the only thing I have learned from this site are the existence of Tarp Tent, ULA and Levagaiters.

Sorry about the novel. Just dropping you a line to say I understand where you're coming from. The frustration of multiple issues festering.
I wouldn't hold my breath on any response, save RJ's apologists. After all, this all came up a year ago and what has changed?

Sad times at BPL.



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And good luck on getting answers at BPL. I agree it's very frustrating and while they do have the right to delete anything without notice, since they run it as a business, that's just very bad practice.

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Ken the whole deltetion issue is not good. I do appreciate you calling them out on it, and I too at times share your frustration with BPL..
I know your intentions are well meant and good. To be honest I just don't see BPL continuing in another few years.

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Thank you, too, Ken, for having the courage to speak up and say what everyone else was afraid to say. It is because of you that I had the courage to open my mouth. Unfortunately, I'm doubting the future of BPL. There are too many signs of a dying business, and part of that is Ryan loss of enthusiasm.
Anyway, hope you're doing all right. It's been quite frustrating, hasn't it.

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Still unhappy with the lack of business ethics from Ryan.

Asked a polite question.


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Do they want me to ignore their question on interest in a MLIFE class for months, or would they appreciate an answer sooner than that.
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I feel Ryan is just out for the buck doing what he loves to do and we are supposed to be his means while he gives back as little as possible only when he has to. Like faithful followers of the church of jorden we should just have faith that he will continue this. Good Luck Ken

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I agree with your stance that BPL has not fulfilled their obligation.



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Thanks for showing me Ryan's letter. The website is quickly becoming obsolete. With the advent of Blogs that cater to the backpacking world with no perceived (or real) hidden agenda, these are becoming preferable to me. I still really like the BPL forums, however.

As I read (and re-read) the letter, I feel that the MLife promotion was really a cash grab to permit Ryan to buyout a partner immediately, with a.) no 'vendor holdback' on the part of the partner (nice! He gets to take cash off the table immediately) and b.) based on a subsidy to the debt that Ryan would have had to take to pay out the partner. I don't buy the 2008 economic collapse reason for the misdirection of the site. Really Ryan?

The Mlifers are effective debt holders of this site with very little if no compensation for lending. No measurable benefit over standard membership and certainly no financial interest! If I was an Mlifer, I would be pissed too. You were lied too.

There is no benefit to the articles anymore (see my commentary about the blogs above) and the forums are free.

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With all the talk of shareholders and business models it just solidifies the fact (not that I ever had any other illusions) that BPL is a business. To you and I and many others it is a community, but to it's owners, it is a business. Fair enough, I have no qualms about that, they have to pay the bills. But it certainly points to the fact that at the end of the day, their interests are not necessarily our interests. And I honestly do find it to be a bit sleezy to literally charge people to be able to give feedback and "strategic advice" to a business. I think BPL should be giving the incentives/rewards to those that wish to spend meaningful time to help Ryan's family business grow. It doesn't sit well with me.

In the end, I just don't feel like I have too much of a stake in it all. To be honest, I'm pretty "over" gear and reviews. I don't see much happening in the way of sharing philosophy and technique that isn't already being said on the forums. I feel like the forums and many personal blogs out in the world are actually quite a bit ahead of BPLs editorial content these days.

But BPL is a great hub, a place to meet and talk and share, and it is still very valuable to me on that level.

Problem for BPL with this, I suppose, is that it really gives me little incentive, other than simply wanting to be supportive, to contribute financially. 99% of what BPL provides- for me- could be provided in the context of a free forum, not a business.


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Ah, Ryan. He's a lousy businessman, but so many BPLers are always willing to give him yet another chance. I don't really understand it, but it is what it is, I guess. The funny thing is, I started looking at some older posts, and his letter to us contained much the same information as a post of his last October - so very little new info, but folks are like "thanks for your openness Ryan!" and "thanks for letting us know what's going on!" People give him so much slack, and he p*sses on it time and time again. Ryan was never part of my BPL experience, so I've never really cared whether or not he was around.

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And I do appreciate a copy of the letter. I honestly think BPL is barely surviving from a funding standpoint. No staff. I should have known something was up when Sam left, the store closed, and Ryan was MIA. I give it a few months only.
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Don't see why people keeping thinking the money is the problem. The money was delivered. Ryan completed his buyout. The problem is RJ, all talk, unable to keep his end of the offer.

He still has not addressed his active online community regarding any of the issues publicly raised over the past many months. One email to MLife. And then he said not to discuss it.

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Unfortunately, for Ryan, BPL won't be getting any more financial support from me. I wouldn't recommend a membership anymore, as i have in the past. I just looked back at SOTMR from years past, particularly the shelter review from 08....wow, what a difference in content quality. No excuses.

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Edited by kthompson on 11/02/2013 10:23:21 MDT.

Peter S
(prse) - MLife

Locale: Denmark
Thanks Ken on 11/02/2013 10:14:22 MDT Print View

I'm glad I read this before it gets deleted.

Btw, I used to be an annual member, and the article contents where worth the pay. Now there's a lot of time between the interesting articles, and the forum is the only reason for me to keep using this site.

I like the openness - Ryan this is your chance, don't delete this post from Ken. Give a proper feedback right here and now in this thread.


Deletion of posts without explanation is bad style, it's the first step to killing a good community. Take a step back.

Peter S
(prse) - MLife

Locale: Denmark
Wow on 11/02/2013 10:15:12 MDT Print View

Wow, why did you delete it Ken?

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Wow on 11/02/2013 10:24:46 MDT Print View

Thanks Peter for your ongoing support. I had a little editing to do.

Peter S
(prse) - MLife

Locale: Denmark
Makes sense on 11/02/2013 10:25:50 MDT Print View

Regarding privacy.

Edited by prse on 11/02/2013 10:26:56 MDT.

Peter S
(prse) - MLife

Locale: Denmark
Re: Re: Wow on 11/02/2013 10:31:26 MDT Print View

I really appreciate your efforts. I hate this closeness. This forum is very passionate, and deserves better. I used to be a fan of RJ when I first discovered BPL. I really hope he turns this around.