Playa Info

Located in Center Camp, Playa Info provides a variety of information services to Burning Man participants, including a camp location registration system (Directory), Oracles to answer just about any question posed, Found Items, Volunteer Resources, and Burning Man Information Radio.

Playa Info 2007 services included:

  • Answers to questions by our ever-so-knowledgeable “Oracles” and roving “Ambassadors”
  • The computer-based “Directory” with participant and theme camp information on a zoom-able BRC map, messaging, updated news, event information, and ride boards
  • Found items
  • Volunteer coordinators to match participants with volunteer opportunities
  • Large Black Rock City map with up-to-date camp listings
  • Bulletin boards

Playa Info had another strong team this year with a “deep bench” of more than 110 on- and off-playa volunteers—a more than 10% increase from 2007. The numbers allowed better coverage for answering questions of the increased number of Black Rock City denizens and servicing the vastly greater participant usage of the Directory computer terminals. The pre-playa meetings with our core volunteer group were critical in proactively enhancing our offered services and informational communications/materials, as well as the more artistic creation of the fabulously flowing fabric décor and night lighting ambience. Our mostly red-clad shade structure still seems to be the cool cyber-cafe in the midst of the hot days. People just enjoyed hanging out and interacting with all the latest info!

Notes and handbills of all shapes, sizes and colors cover an easel.We had some terrific volunteers suggesting ways to further improve and expand our service as well as working on fun projects. These included: heavy-duty Directory kiosks for the plazas, a large (4′ by 8′) entrance sign advertising Playa Info services, volunteer laminate design, pocket maps of BRC, and camp decorations. The large map provided BRC details—”officially” updated by the Placers and also by participants; it was easily referenced at the shade structure’s entry. Oracles and participants interacted with much artistic merriment through props, games, singing and even contests! The Playa Info Ambassadors, our on-foot-with-wagon staff, were in stride spreading much-appreciated info among the participants as well as incorporating Burning Man values in their messages.

For 2007 we extended our focus even further beyond the playa by setting up and communicating an Info Desk/Directory/Found Item toolkit for volunteers at Regional events. Playa Info volunteers ran the Info Desks at the Flambé Lounge/Precompression, as well as continued the extended service into nighttime hours at the San Francisco Decompression.

Our meetings began in February and culminated in late September with a review meeting/BBQ/decompression. While we had a great year, we noted areas that we could improve to offer even better info-related service in the next year. Successes included:

  • Attitude: making it fun and easing communication for participants and volunteers
  • Planning coordination with DPW that significantly eased camp setup and takedown
  • Coordinating with Emergency/Health Services for emergency message transfer and Nevada State Health Department permit distribution
  • Coordinating with Rangers to offer remote Directory terminals next to their stations at the three o’clock and nine o’clock plazas
  • Coordinating with Gate for regularly delivering participants’ lost airline luggage
  • The reliable Directory computer info system available 24/7 with virtually no down time
  • Doubling the number of Directory terminals to help alleviate participant wait time notwithstanding greatly increased usage
  • Fast-tracked process for reuniting participants with their lost items by directing them straight to staff located with found items
  • White Board listing of FAQ with answers
  • Walk-around volunteers assisting participants using the Directory
  • Experienced Volunteer Coordinator to help manage larger numbers of volunteers
  • Additional assistant managers along with leads who assumed responsibility for the day and shift management of Playa Info
  • Updated Playa Info training manual
  • An Info Desk Guide created for volunteers at Regional events
  • Comfortable environment for people to hang out or wait to meet someone
  • ‘Green Man’-themed Playa Info laminates with “Ask Me – I Can Help” printed on one side to clearly identify Playa Info staff
  • Volunteer training based on a service model—and on having fun
  • Coordinating with newly established Bike Recovery theme camp that allowed participants to check for lost bikes during the event

For improvement, next year we plan to work on the following projects:

  • More interdepartmental communication and planning between other Burning Man groups
  • Increasing advertising through multiple channels of Playa Info services, including the Directory
  • Recruiting more Playa Info volunteers—we perennially need more volunteers for info services on Burn Day and particularly for take-down on Sunday and Monday thereafter
  • Expanding the Playa Info Ambassador role to work with other Burning Man groups, for example Rangers and Earth Guardians, to interactively communicate important information with participants
  • Continued expanding of consultation and volunteerism to Info Desks at off-playa events
  • Adding features to the Directory, such as a search engine and improving the reliability of plaza terminals
  • Building additional kiosks for even more Directory computer systems and finding other ways to decrease wait times for Directory terminals
  • ‘American Dream’-themed Playa Info laminates
  • Pocket BRC maps with space on which to write notes
  • Updating the training manual
  • Continued cross-training of Directory and Oracle volunteers
  • Coordinating with Bike Recovery camp to improve participants’ experience in recovering their lost bikes, for example, Bike Recovery camp’s possibly staying open until Monday and then transferring found bikes to Playa Info

Submitted by,
Rob Oliver
Manager, Playa Info