On May 11, Brian Bennett, national accounts manager for Patagonia, and a founding member of an industry blog named The Piton -- www.thepiton.com -- sent out the following letter to let us know The Piton was shutting down. It is a good letter, and in the spirit of The Piton, challenges industry thought and the status quo. You may not agree with what was written, but we do ask you to take what The Piton has to say with its final parting words and use the letter as inspiration to perform a gut-check on your business. Could you be better? More passionate? More customer-centric? More employee-friendly in an outdoor-inspired way? Could you? Read onâ€¦.
"'It's not that I don't enjoy it, but it's kind of like a trip to Disneyland. You get so excited about a ride on the Matterhorn, and then when it's over, you realize you wasted all that time in line for a minute and a half upside down and the chance to throw up.' -- Murphy Brown
Bomber's announcement that he was pulling back from his duties at The Piton is just the latest in a long decline of creative interest in this blog. Many lessons have been learned since we started The Piton. The main one being that a good effort takes time, time that we had to steal from our jobs, our sports, and our families. Many times our greatest inspiration came in the middle of the night when we thought our significants (SIC) wouldn't notice, only to realize that we paid the price the next day as we nodded off during an important meeting. Love it or hate it, The Piton was a lot of work, but at first it didn't matter. We were fired up. Years of pent up opinion now had an outlet. It spewed forth. Much of it total crap, funny only to us. It was great, and it didn't matter because nobody was reading it. We used the site to exercise our strategic opinions, practice our (aberrant) writing skills, and learn about a new powerful medium that we knew nothing about. Somewhere along the way it got serious. People we respected were reading, we really pissed off a few companies; we received our first cease and desist letter. We started to get real traffic, which was great, but a sense of "having to perform" crept into our actions. So for now, this is it. We're turning off the authors' passwords, letting our Typepad subscription run out, and ceasing all new content. We're going to keep the URL alive because we've learned we should never say never.Thank you to the authors and contributors. We had a real community here at The Piton and many of you were active participants. Your jokes, comments, and encouragement were what made this a great experience. The Final Rant:
How this industry got taken over by such a bunch of uptight fuckwads is a story that could top the New York Times non-fiction list. The outdoor industry was built on equal parts of inspiration and innovation. Crazy people like Dana Gleason, Yvon Chouinard, Royal Robbins, Fred Williams, Dick Kelty, Wayne Gregory, Bill Masters, Chan Zanzwig, Steve O'Meara, not only innovated gear, but they inspired a generation to flip-the-bird at the life their parents had prepared them for. They inspired a generation to follow a new path that placed the value of experience ahead of climbing the corporate ladder. They could even inspire those who were already stuck with a mortgage to drop it all for three weeks a year and go climb, ski, and explore. Times change. Companies were sold, rescued, consolidated. Founders quickly tired of the corporate bullshit and bailed to higher ground. Awesome brands were analyzed, leveraged, and expanded. Products improved. Sales grew. New highly trained business ninja's rolled in and had all the answers. All the answers except one, how do we inspire a new generation of believers? Press releasing that your company just bought another brand, that your sales results are up double-digits, that you just opened a new warehouse DOESN'T MEAN SHIT. Your brands (this includes you Specialty Retailers) must inspire people to get off their asses, and our current state of industry just isn't all that inspirational. The Piton has a solution. A three (five?) point plan to get you, and a whole new generation of people off the computer and into the river. Demote your CEO
You may need a highly skill(ed) business killer, but DON'T LET THEM GUIDE YOUR COMPANY. Make them report to some hardworking, tele-turning, river guiding, single tracking, genius. Become customer focused
Cancel all subscriptions to Leisure Trends, paid news publications, and group trade organizations. The bulk of the momentum in this business was created before these groups existed, and there is no proof that they are helping us in any way. Let your people get the hell out of the office.
Install a shower, make sure they know you value non-paid leave.
Stand for something besides shareholder value.
Pick anything. Access, human rights, hoods in the woods, the environment.
Find something you're passionate about.
Inspire your employees to be passionate about it, and hopefully you can transfer that passion to your customers."
SNEWSÂ® View: We tip a hat of respect to The Piton and the small but merry gang of industry veterans who discovered that it isn't so easy after all to publish a daily or sometimes-daily industry rag that would challenge thought and hopefully cause a few laughs. Writing, reporting and covering the outdoor industry, especially when you care what others think and are reading, is a full-time job, for more than just a few individuals.
When The Piton was trying to be funny, and poke fun at an industry that, frankly, does take itself way too seriously, it was very, very good. However, when they weren't trying to be funny, The Piton found out very quickly that the opinions of a few resonated sufficiently to inspire curiosity and passions and responses from many more -- sometimes requiring posts to be taken down, apologies to be issued, head scratching to begin. More than anything we heard, and we share this view wholeheartedly, the biggest issue with The Piton postings, especially when they were trying to challenge a company position or decision, or trying to report news, was that they were anonymous. It became too hard to separate an honest opinion seeking feedback from a statement colored by hidden agendas. Perhaps the biggest lesson for all of us in the past year of reading The Piton is that if you have something to say about another company, or an individual, have the courage to put your name on the piece. Accountability doesn't necessarily mean what is said is right, or fair, but it does give those who are challenged, or called onto the carpet, an opportunity to honestly face the music knowing the intention and source.
There is no question we will miss The Piton. The individuals behind the blog, and we knew many of them (and no, we are not going to name them for you), are very talented, skilled, and passionate industry veterans who care so very deeply about this industry, its health, and its future. This industry needs a place to be able to speak up, sound off, discuss ideas, call bullshit on silly crap that does go on in our humble little world, and a place where even a voice that resides on a sales floor in a small retail store in Anytown USA matters as much as the voice from a CEO for a large company.
To that end, we have significantly expanded our SNEWSÂ® Forum to create a place where the industry can engage in meaningful discussions and casual conversation threads. A secure place that can only be read by those of us in the industry, and a place where you can say anything -- as long as you are not simply flaming or nuking another person or company for personal reasons. Click on www.snewsnet.com/forums -- your Forum is now open for business.