In 2004, Playa Info continued its successful effort to combine access to all Burning Man information resources under one roof. The services included:
- Answers to questions by our ever-so-knowledgeable “Oracles”
- The computer-based Directory with participant camp information and message sending capabilities
- Found items
- Volunteer coordinators to match participants with volunteer opportunities
- White board postings of updated news and event information
- Dynamic find-a-camp board: A layout of the city posted to allow on-the-fly mapping of theme camp locations
- Bulletin boards
- Census desk
- Scheduling for RV pumping
Playa Info returned with another strong team of more than 70 on-playa volunteers. Pre-playa meetings with our core volunteer group were critical in establishing our identity, services we would offer, informational materials, and of course, the wonderful decorations and signage. Our shade structure seems to be the cool meeting place in the midst of the hot days — it even functions as an inadvertent alternative to the Center Camp Cafe. People just enjoyed hanging out and helping out!
We had some terrific volunteers suggesting ways to further improve our service and working on wonderful projects like making creative, functional tables for the Directory terminals plus other camp decorations, designing laminate badges, and producing pocket maps of Black Rock City. Volunteers also organized our red-and-blue-themed cocktail party.
Our meetings began in March and culminated in October with a review meeting and barbecue. Playa Info volunteers also ran the Info desks at the Flambe Lounge and San Francisco Decompression events.
While we had a great year in 2004, we discovered areas that could use improvement and places where better communication with other departments will simplify our job. Successes included:
- Attitude: We created a fun time while easing communication for participants and volunteers. The atmosphere was improved by singing and employing some accessories like magic eight balls and a dart board to help answer some questions.
- We completed our conversion from paper to computer-based participant camp information and messaging.
- Increased numbers of Directory terminals led to a decrease or elimination in participant wait time.
- Coordination with the Department of Public Works significantly eased camp setup.
- Adding a Directory terminal at the Greeters Station proved a great idea for increasing communication and coordination.
- Walk-around volunteers helped participants using the Directory.
- A great volunteer coordinator helped manage larger numbers of volunteers.
- An assistant manager and leads assumed responsibility for the management of Playa Info.
- The totally revamped and improved Digital Directory was a tremendous success.
- We updated the Playa Info training manual.
- White board listings of the top questions of the day helped participants with common concerns.
- We expedited tear-down by starting the process Saturday evening and completing most of the work on Sunday.
- We established a comfortable environment for people to hang out or wait to meet someone.
- Playa Info camp made resources available practically 24 hours per day.
- Vault of Heaven-themed laminates clearly identified Playa Info staff with the legend “Ask Me – I Can Help” printed on the flipside.
- Volunteer training improved effectiveness.
- We provided assistance finding lost bikes.
- The Red Shift Party rocked!
A continued concern regards the trash left by participants in our camp. Also, Johnny on the Spot stopped picking up participants RV dump request forms left at Playa Info on Thursday of the event.
We plan to work on the following projects for 2005:
- Expanding communication and planning coordination with other Burning Man groups, for example, advance planning with DPW for tear-down activities
- Expanding the Playa Info Evangelist role to work with other Burning Man groups, for example Earth Guardians and Rangers, to communicate important information to participants
- Offering consultation and extending volunteerism to Info Desks at regional events
- Implementing a “missing person” form and process
- Gathering more information about events and art on the playa
- Improving the Digital Directory to help participants locate camps, friends, and events by adding features such as a search engine
- Composing an Oracle cheat sheet or white board list of top issues of the day
- Updating the training manual
- Cross-training Directory and Oracle volunteers
- Posting event locations
Manager, Playa Info