The Database team maintains all databases that support daily operations and help to make Burning Man happen each year. Additionally, some team members assist the Black Rock Arts Foundation with database upkeep.

During 2005, the team finished moving the main FileMaker Server from MacOS 9 to MacOS X. This move completed one step in our project to upgrade all Burning Man FileMaker systems to version 7 or above.

The team also revised the database interactions and updated each of the following web forms for 2005:

  • Volunteer questionnaire
  • Media questionnaire
  • Snail Mail questionnaire

Team members updated database support and user processes for the following activities:

  • Scholarships questionnaire
  • Theme camp registration
  • Art installation registration
  • Department of Mutant Vehicles (DMV) registration
  • Fire Conclave management

Beyond these participant-focused activities, the team completed many tasks to improve internal systems, including database and web server maintenance, assisting end users with database queries, and maintaining data integrity in the organization’s various data structures. In particular, projects significant increased the data integrity of the main Contacts and Sales Database, held productive user training and documentation sessions, and generally increased operational effectiveness. An asset tracking database implemented in FileMaker 7 is currently in use.

Membership data in the PeoplesDB moved from 2004 to 2005 tables after the 2004 event. Further significant improvements to the Contacts and Sales Database tweaked the duplicate matching system, reducing the time needed for a de-duplication procedure (which ensures that an address appears only once) by one third. 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 groupings.

In 2005, mailings that relied on work from the Database team included:

  • Ticket postcard
  • Decompression postcard
  • Survival Guide
  • Newsletter

Plans for 2006

Ambitious goals carrying into 2006 include improvements and customizations to the FileMaker Pro platforms, and moving web services to Plone. We envision a world where FileMaker and Plone/Zope/Python happily share data together.

The team plans on running all FileMaker solutions in FileMaker version 7 or higher beginning January 2006. The web server continues to handle requests by various applications in the Burning Man Extranet and registration questionnaires for theme camps, art installations, and the DMV. Soon, however, Lasso Server will be eliminated, and all web questionnaires will be implemented in Plone as of January 2006. The web server will continue to handle the web services necessary to connect open source technologies to existing custom FileMaker solutions.

Submitted by,
David Brenneman
Database Administrator