The Engineering team builds and maintains custom-developed software solutions to support the Burning Man organization and community. These solutions include all the dynamic and interactive applications on the Burning Man website as well as the internal collaboration tool, the Extranet. In addition, the team occasionally helps with the Black Rock Arts Foundation and Burners Without Borders websites.
For several years, two developers were at the heart of the Engineering team, and they developed much of the core application infrastructure for the organization. In 2006, they moved on to new and exciting opportunities and the department faced a complete turnover in the Engineering team. Much time was spent focusing on knowledge transfer of the numerous complex and sometimes undocumented systems. The new lead developer did a great job of rising to the challenge, and thankfully the previous developers continue to lend support as volunteers when their busy schedules permit them.
The knowledge to support and maintain generalized network infrastructure and a dozen other domain-specific technologies was transferred and documented, including Art Installation, Mutant Vehicle, Disabled Persons Vehicle, and Theme Camp questionnaires, the Department of Mutant Vehicle Registration Processing tool, and the Extranet. There never seems to be enough time to thoroughly document all projects, however, and despite best efforts a few web applications can only truly be maintained or repaired by the developer that initially implemented them – and sometimes that developer has since moved on. This has caused some delays and challenges when there are problems with the systems, but fortunately most of these systems are due for a replacement or an upgrade.
In addition to the knowledge transfer, the team made excellent progress in 2006 performing annual updates as well as deploying new tools and tackling new development projects. Engineering continues updating and refining the Plone-based questionnaire system. This year we added Plone-based Media and Snail Mail applications, and added many new features and updates to the existing questionnaires.
The Extranet is a vital part of the infrastructure collaboration. Engineering maintains and supports it, as well as looking constantly for new optimization methods and ways to improve the tools that support the organization. Engineering conducts a series of Extranet trainings, and the use of the Extranet continues to increase.
The Burners Without Borders (BWB) outreach efforts are growing. With the help of several BWB volunteers, Engineering has completely reinvented their site, which invites BWB projects all over the world to organize through its use.
In addition, Engineering continues to support the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF). This year Engineering finished version one of the BRAF website in Plone. The staff of BRAF has been able to update their own website, with minimal intervention from the technical team. Though a content management system (like Plone) is always a complicated thing, and, as with all systems, improvements can be made, Engineering has managed to use it to bridge the technological divide.