In 2005, the Burning Man Web Team leveraged team infrastructure improvements achieved in 2004 to implement some significant changes, in addition to ongoing maintenance to the Burning Man website.
The Web Team has regular, yearly tasks to undertake. These tasks include posting the Survival Guide, the Summer Newsletter, ticket information, the annual art theme statement, each year’s list of theme camps and art installations, the AfterBurn report, lost and found items, the rideshare board, all the media hits from the year, the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter, monthly polls, playa tips, and Regionals page updates. After the event, the team gears up for the following year, beginning by archiving everything from the previous year before rolling over to the next.
Constant random maintenance tasks also demand attention, which accumulate in a task repository called the Collector as “issue” and “change request” tickets. The number has fallen from around 150 open tickets to a running average of 30 in the past year. For 2006, that total will fall even lower.
All that work keeps the team busy, but throughout the year members still took on some important projects that have really improved the website and the way we work together.
The web team pioneered the use of advanced communication technologies to foster more productive meetings with remote volunteers. We used a combination of live webcasts of meetings, internet relay chat (IRC) for text chatting and note-taking, and voice over IP (VOIP) for conference calling. We’re in the process of propagating these technologies to other Burning Man teams who have similar needs (read: all of them).
The reworked Art of Burning Man section provides a much more dynamic experience, with great information that really conveys art as the cornerstone of the Burning Man ethos, both on and off the playa. The effort made this section a significantly more vital resource.
Themecamps and Art Installations were split into their own sections, and each area became more robust with helpful guidelines and process information for each type of project. The Art Installations section was expanded to showcase art registered before the event and to demystify the experience of bringing art to the playa.
Other improvements consolidated, normalized, and published the full collection of Building Black Rock City blogs. An open source blog infrastructure developed in the process will pave the way toward fuller, more interactive blog features in the future.
Efforts began to refine the information architecture of the website, and to redesign the index and sub-index page layouts and visual style. Other projects focused on smaller projects, such as improvement in the navigational user interface of the Regionals, Art of Burning Man, Art Installations, and Black Rock City Year Round sections.
The subdomain team created the financials.burningman.com website, containing financial information about the organization from its inception.
New content on the home page and throughout the site focused on the strategic need for acculturation, helping to educate new (and returning) participants about the Burning Man ethos.
Heroic defenders of the site fended off Brazilian activist hackers, who managed, for a few hours, to replace the home page with their socio-political diatribe—in Portuguese.
A new Gerlach Webcam feature proved very popular with its live picture of downtown Gerlach, updated every 15 seconds.
The Web Team faces some challenges each year in the timely publishing of the AfterBurn Report. It is a huge endeavor to wrangle, edit, code, and perform quality checks content and images for approximately 75 articles that span the entire breadth of the organization. Each year the process gets more refined and the team (made up of mostly volunteers) rocks out at crunch time to get the report out the door. The fact that you are reading this report is a testament to the hard work of countless members of the staff and Web Team.
Organizationally, the Web Team significantly expanded the pool of trained, productive volunteers. Great improvements to the organizational structure and processes include creation of a Quality Assurance team, a Project Management team, and a JRS team that archives all of the Jackrabbit Speaks Newsletters on the website. And, overall, the group had a really great time working together.
As a result, the Web Team is very well positioned to take on more ambitious initiatives for the website in the coming year, and hopefully to implement them in a quick and effective way.
Web Team Project Manager