Join Date: May 2009
Location: Anywhere but social media
I'll chime on this one...
I think most, if not all, of these sites start as personal "trip report + photo" storage areas. Once bitten with mountain bug there is often no way back and as you start exploring on your own amount of info grows and becomes usable to large(r) audiences. Prime example is old Dave Stephens site (what a shame it is not around anymore), then of course Spirko, Vern and now Steven (scary to look at sheer amount on this one for kid in his early 20's) to name a few. But, as maintenance costs, logical idea is to pass it on to consumer as this type of info is often not available anywhere else.
Main problem I see in "anti-bivouac" camp is notion that you have to pay something. It is not the amount (5 trips to Starbucks), it is that it is not free. I think Eric also considered making summitsearch paid site, but gave up not wanting to "become bivouac".
At the end I'll agree with Vern -- take something then give back approach. If you used someone info, give credit and support the author. If you have something interesting, make it available to others. But as soon as $ comes into equation, can of worms is open and opinions will be polarized, no matter what.