The last year has been a pivotal one for the Burning Man Technology Team, because it has seen the focus of the team grow beyond merely providing specific solutions to specific problems. The team is now taking a high level view of all of the technological challenges facing the Burning Man Project, and it is designing and developing systems that can scale and adapt to meet these challenges.
This is not a simple process, however, as there are a great many independent systems upon which the Burning Man Project has come to depend. Many of these systems are now awkward to use because the demands placed upon them are much greater than what they were originally designed to handle. But antiquated systems cannot be retired until suitable replacements have been implemented. This challenge is further complicated by the fact that nearly all development has to take place in the off-season; it would be highly problematic to try to replace a critical system while it is being heavily used.
The Black Rock City Extranet is at the core of the Tech Team’s “master plan”. It has proven to be not only a useful tool for promoting collaboration among Burning Man’s many teams, but also a solid platform upon which to implement content and database management utilities. (More can be read about this system in the Extranet Team’s report.) Over the next two years, the Technology Team will be re-implementing nearly all of the myriad stand-alone tools that Burning Man currently uses as modules within the Extranet system.
Also of note, this year the Tech Team has been improving its procedures and documentation, a process which has been greatly facilitated by (you guessed it) the advent of the Extranet. The team has established new volunteer intake processes, and is using them to fill roles and create opportunities for more people to become involved.
In addition, there is now a new Technical Operations (“Tech Ops”) team that will consist of folks who are directly responsible for maintaining Burning Man’s mission critical systems. Tech Ops was created primarily to bring the technical needs and concerns of Burning Man operations in and around Gerlach together with those of the San Francisco office.
Spanky, aka Tom Kapanka and Rob Miller
Engineer Team Lead and Tech Department Lead