The 2005 – 2006 ‘burn year’ saw a lot of changes for the Technology Department. After an unexpected departure of a member of our team just before the event, immediately post playa we focused on finding a replacement lead system administrator. We found a great new teammate as an interim solution, but it worked out that the role transitioned again the following spring.

A new lead developer joined the team around the start of 2006, taking over responsibilities from two members of our development team who were ready to move on to new opportunities. Our existing database administrator picked up Plone development skills and worked on expanding our questionnaire system. In addition, the engineering team focused on enhancements to the homepage of our internal collaboration Extranet, the rollout of a new Plone-based websites for the Black Rock Arts Foundation and Burners Without Borders, and our ongoing quest for a robust calendar tool for the organization. To accommodate the growing number of development projects, we expanded the role of our webteam project manager to include project management of some of our development projects. These transitions brought with them the need for a great deal of knowledge transfer and team collaboration.

Our technical support team continued to support the staff in both the San Francisco and Gerlach offices, and helped implement an improved teleconferencing solution to better enable remote participation in meetings held in our San Francisco office. Though we continue to explore new cost-effective technologies and the solution is far from perfect, some of our teams, especially the more technically savvy groups, have really benefited from the system.

The web team continues to maintain the website through the support of a large team of wonderful volunteers. The team continued to improve the readability of and navigation through our huge website and produced a number of major and minor site improvement projects throughout the year. This team meets frequently and has a great deal of remote participation, so it also serves as a test group for new remote participation technologies.

The web team and systems administration team collaborated on a successful move of our website, and many of its applications, onto a newer server. The playa network administration team hosted the first ever Playa Wireless Summit, in a fairly successful effort to coordinate and collaborate on playa wireless technology for infrastructure and art projects. Over the summer, there was a major migration of our email services to a new software and hardware platform. The migration faced some challenges during our busiest time of the year, and was combined with a system administrator transition and some communication issues, but the end result was a much more robust and stable system and a lot of lessons learned.

The database team successfully completed a major project, upgrading and migrating all of our existing FileMaker databases to provide much more robust and friendlier web tools for our growing number of remote users. A great deal of user support and training accompanied the upgrade.

To respond to the growing demand for technology support and playa network planning and operation, an additional technical support person was brought in to assist with Nevada operations before, during, and after the event. On playa, our Network Operations Center moved to a new location and members of the tech team each assumed technical support responsibilities for a specific infrastructure ‘node’ or group. This worked well as it distributed the workload to more members of the team, allowing for fun time at the event, and allowed individuals to develop relationships and working knowledge with each of our on playa ‘customers’. This approach will continue and be expanded on in future years.

The technology department management, in addition to the technical, staffing, administrative and financial oversight of all the other technical projects, undertook a few significant projects. The first post-event technology team debrief was conducted, in the spirit of and in continuation of our staff retreat process. A ‘State of the Geek’ presentation was made to members of the LLC, giving them further insight into the core technology staff and the many projects in progress or planned for the year. The technology department provided guidance to the accounting and purchasing departments in their evaluation of potential Purchase Order system. In the end, none of the systems met our unique needs, but a great deal was learned by everyone.

Submitted by Heather Gallagher (CameraGirl)
Technology Department Dominatrix