The Database team is a part of the Burning Man technology staff responsible for all databases that support daily operations and help to make Burning Man happen each year. We are involved in creating, maintaining, and massaging the databases and the systems for inserting, storing, and extracting data.

Our primary responsibilities include:

  • PeoplesDB – A Human Resource Database of volunteer interests and skills
  • Contacts & Sales DB – Tracks mailing addresses and ticket sales
  • Theme Camps & Art Installations – Supports registration and placement
  • MediaDB – Handles press registration
  • Scholarships – Helps track scholarship applications
  • Snail Mail Bucket – Gathers mailing address changes
  • Additionally, some of our staff volunteer to assist the Black Rock Arts Foundation with database upkeep.

We moved our main FileMaker-connected web server, from MacOS 9 to MacOS X. This project involved setting up another server to field requests during the upgrade process. The upgraded primary server is now back online and running the latest and greatest OS X software, serving the volunteer questionnaire as well as the Snail Mail Bucket. This machine also handles requests by various applications in the Burning Man extranet and registration questionnaires for theme camps, art installations, and the Department of Mutant Vehicles (DMV).

We updated each of the following web forms for 2004:

  • Scholarships
  • Snail Mail Bucket
  • Theme camps
  • Art installations
  • MediaDB
  • DMV
  • Volunteer questionnaire

These changes required gathering input from the various departments, implementing the required modifications, and testing data storage and retrieval. These web questionnaires feed directly into our databases for efficient processing of information.

The team also completed many smaller tasks throughout the year. We increased automation and efficiency of processes on the database web servers, ensuring that they boot up cleanly, execute the proper services, and maintain good security. We improved database backup systems, increasing the reliability and redundancy of data storage processes. We also printed the staff directory for the annual staff meeting using the data in the PeopleDB, after creating a customized FileMaker layout for this purpose.

We moved team membership data in the PeoplesDB from 2004 to 2005 tables after the 2004 event. We repaired our duplicate matching system within the Contacts & Sales Database. The Database team pulls addresses from the contacts database for mailings, using specific criteria to narrow down our huge list of ticket buyers into useful, relevant data. Mailings that rely on the Database team include:

  • Ticket postcard
  • Flambe Lounge postcard
  • Survival Guide

We have ambitious goals for 2005, which include migrating away from the FileMaker Pro platform, on which all of our main databases are hosted, to a Zope/Plone system running on LINUX. This move is intended to increase the reliability, scalability, and usability of our main databases, while greatly simplifying remote access to data.

Submitted by,
David Brenneman
Database Administrator