Burning Man’s official Web site is a year-round, evolutionary project that provides a steady flow of event news and documentation as well as burner-related features and highlights of our globally expanding community. The team of individuals who participate in this effort are both long-standing volunteers and fresh new faces who appear after the event, riding on their post-burn elation, and who join the team to help collaborate on the improvement and future expansion of Burningman.com. This continued involvement, year after year, is a wonderful example of generosity and provides new and inspiring energy that helps keep the rest of us coming back for more. Another testament to the team’s commitment is that although the Web team meets regularly throughout the year, during the event, many of us step away from our computers and moonlight with the Café, the Rangers, Media Mecca, DPW, Fire Conclave, and nearly every other playa volunteer group there is.
In 2003, the San Francisco-based Web Team realized its goal of increasing remote volunteerism, and we welcomed key participation from various locations such as Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, New York, Texas and Washington. We also tried something new by holding meetings once a month instead of twice. Instead of having all team members gather every other week, a “Skill Lead” group began to meet and assumed the task of sending out weekly reports to our discussion list. Our hope was these reports would provide equal information dissemination for both local and remote volunteers and we thought our team would appreciate the reduction in meetings. Instead, though, we found that people felt less connected and less a part of the process. We have since returned to meeting every two weeks and discontinued separate Skill Lead meetings altogether.
At Decompression 2002, several Web team members spent the day interviewing attendees for comments and opinions about our Web site, and an additional 500 people responded to an online survey regarding improvements to Burningman.com. Guided by this information, the Web team embarked on a collaborative, multi-continent effort to give Burningman.com a complete visual redesign. After 4 to 5 months of design submissions and the input of many people, this project resulted in an applauded new look for our Web site and the implementation of a new XHTML Transitional and CSS driven layout. Our efforts, with your input, gave birth to an exciting new home page, designed to provide a clear separation of information along with links pertaining to our upcoming and/or latest event, current and important news, and ongoing community features to nurture involvement and demonstrate how burners stay connected off the playa and throughout the year. In addition to this Herculean effort, the Web site experienced an impressive collection of upgrades and enhancements, including:
- Annual archive of notable information from the 2002 event in our “What Is Burning Man?” section
- Upgrades and enhancements to our Search courtesy of Atomz
- New Black Rock City Polls user-feedback application
- Introduction of our new PHP-based ePlaya community discussion board
- Revamp of the Flambé Lounge/Decompression and “Tales From the Playa” pages
- Increased functionality and a refined layout for our Image Gallery
- Launch of a new Playa Artifacts image gallery
- Debut and development of our new Regionals.burningman.com domain
- Integration of a new Ride Share feature in all Year-Round Calendar listings as well as feature enhancements to the Calendar application itself
- New Building Black Rock City Web-log application that was updated directly from the playa during the event
Last year, we also published our annual 2002 AfterBurn Report that, unfortunately, appeared much later in the year than we had anticipated. It seems that wrangling and coding more than 70 reports from various departments and staff members proved to be a more daunting task than we had originally expected. This report was released at the same time that our new site design was launched: 4:20 PM on June 24, 2003.
It was a very productive and impressive year for the Web team, and as 2003 draws to a close, new projects and goals for 2004 are starting to emerge. One of our long-standing goals for 2004 is to move our growing site to a content management framework/system that would allow improved collaborative updates for all the owners of Web site content. Ideally, this would allow and assist less technical staff members or volunteer leads to change content themselves, exactly when and where they want. How we will achieve this is yet to seen, but we are currently undertaking the first step in the process by taking a complete inventory of our current site content, more than 1500 pages. In a related project, we are also creating complete, up-to-date style guides that will serve as knowledge bases for all additions to the site (eg, code, design, text, images). Other Web site projects currently in motion include a new implementation of all site-wide input forms and a refined theme camp and art installation registration experience.
If you are interested in flexing your design, content, or geek muscles for Burning Man, check out the Web team volunteer needs. And remember, you can work from the comforts of home!
Webmaster/Web Team Lead