Playa Info

Playa Info continued its successful model of collecting all Burning Man information resources under one roof. The services included:

  • Answers to questions by ever-so-knowledgeable “Oracles”
  • The computer-based directory with participant and theme camp information, message sending, updated news, and event information
  • Found items
  • Volunteer coordinators to recruit new Playa Info workers
  • Dynamic find-a-camp board, a layout of the city posted to allow on-the-fly, interactive mapping of theme camp location
  • Bulletin boards

Playa Info had another strong team in 2005, with more than 70 on-playa volunteers. Pre-playa meetings of the core volunteer group allowed critical planning to establish services to offer, develop informational materials, and of course complete the wonderful decorations and new signage. The Playa Info shade structure still seems to serve as the cool cyber café in the midst of the hot days and an inadvertent alternative to the Center Camp Café. People just enjoyed hanging out and getting all the latest info!

Some terrific volunteers suggested ways to further improve and expand service while working on fun projects like laminate design, T-shirts, pocket maps of Black Rock City, camp decorations, and the red-themed Center Camp cocktail party.

Meetings began in February and culminated in October with a review meeting and barbecue. Playa Info volunteers also ran the Info desks at the Town Hall Meeting, Flambé Lounge, and San Francisco Decompression.

Some areas emerged as opportunities for improving info-related services in 2006. Successes for 2005 included:

  • Attitude: Volunteers had fun while easing communication for participants and themselves. Techniques included singing answers and employing accessories like magic 8 balls and a dart board to help answer some questions.
  • Planning coordination with the Department of Public Works (DPW) significantly eased camp setup.
  • The reliable directory computer info system served participants 24/7 with virtually no down time.
  • Increased numbers of directory terminals helped to alleviate participant wait time notwithstanding greatly increased usage.
  • Walk-around volunteers helped participants using the directory.
  • A great volunteer coordinator smoothed management of larger numbers of volunteers.
  • An additional assistant manager and leads assumed responsibility for the management of Playa Info.
  • Updates to the Playa Info training manual kept everyone organized.
  • The Playa Info team created an Info Desk Guide for volunteers at regional events.
  • Starting camp takedown Saturday evening allowed for completion of most work on Sunday.
  • Playa Info Ambassadors and Mobile Info Units roamed the city acculturating citizens.
  • The comfortable environment of Center Camp location encouraged people to hang out or wait to meet someone.
  • The Fourth-a-ja-Playa work party gathered helpers to sort and clean storage container items, particularly computers.
  • Brain-themed Playa Info laminates with “Ask Me – I Can Help” printed on the flipside clearly identified Playa Info staff while supporting the Psyche art theme.
  • Volunteer training improved performance.
  • A white board listed the top questions of the day.
  • Playa Info provided assistance returning found bikes to their owners.
  • The team created an exact replacement of one of the big i signs on the radio antenna.
  • The Blush Party was a blast!

Concerns following 2005 include continued questions about trash left by participants at Playa Info. Also, Johnny on the Spot failed to meet their agreements, in fact performance decreased from previous years, for picking up participant RV dump request forms left at Playa Info during the event.

Next year, the Playa Info team plans to work on the following projects:

  • Continued communication and coordination with other Burning Man groups, for example, advance planning of takedown activities with DPW
  • Increased advertising of Playa Info and its services
  • Recruiting new Playa Info volunteers
  • Expanding the Playa Info Ambassador role to work with other Burning Man groups, for example Earth Guardians and Rangers, in communicating important information to participants
  • Offering consultation and extending volunteerism to Info Desks at off-playa events
  • Improving the directory to locate camps, friends, and events by adding features such as a search engine and GPS location
  • Possibly offering directory terminals with other community services located at the 3 and 9 o’clock plazas
  • Maintaining within the Playa Info trailer a white board list of top issues of the day
  • Updating the training manual
  • Continued cross-training for directory and Oracle volunteers

Rob Oliver
Manager, Playa Info