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Extranet Team

The Burning Man Extranet was born out of the desire to enhance the level of participation and communication of its participants, regardless of time and space. The event itself brings kindred souls from around the world together for one glorious week; the mission of the Extranet team is to help keep them together after the playa dust has settled.

Many regional artists and artists' groups already employ the web as their medium of choice for planning the logistics of their camps and art projects, sharing ideas and working on internal projects, and notifying each other about social and political events. By providing common areas on the web with easy-to-use groupware features such as calendaring, file saving, links sharing, etc., the Extranet will continue to nurture and connect this thriving community of participants in other cities, states, and countries, starting with the 30+ volunteer groups vital to the creation of Black Rock City.

The Extranet team is a collaborative effort whose members have shown tremendous dedication and creativity, putting in hundreds of hours of work on a budget of nearly nothing. The team is well represented by a rainbow of cutting-edge skill sets: system administration, data modeling, information architecture, user interface engineering, usability design, database administration, and programming. It is the collective desire of the team to develop the Extranet as open-source technology, which, after implementation, could be offered to the public for free, giving back to the community that has helped make Burning Man what it is today.

In 2001 thus far, the team has made great strides in the design and development of the Extranet tool. It has:

  • Defined the scope of the extranet project, selecting features and prioritizing them into realistic phases for development

  • Conducted a survey of staff and volunteer needs to inform and validate the prioritization of the feature set

  • Evaluated a number of development platforms, deciding on Zope, a burgeoning open source technology with a strong security model and a cult following

  • Taught themselves the skills needed to employ this technology - while only one team member had had any previous experience with Zope, the other developers jumped in with both feet to learn it, hosting group Zope training sessions and individually exploring existing documentation and web resources

  • Designed and built a server, graciously hosted by Lan Mindzs Internet, in Berkeley

  • Installed and configured the development environment

  • Developed the information architecture on the Zope platform

  • Defined user types that will encourage the use of the Extranet as a volunteer recruitment tool without compromising security

  • Designed and implemented a sophisticated database backend to meet the needs of the application

  • Built a central repository for documentation of the ongoing project

  • Designed the basic information architecture for the user interface, emphasizing simplicity and elegance while providing for future feature additions

  • Designed a basic look & feel for the extranet site pages
In the immediate future, the team is focusing on creating a prototype of the highest priority feature: the group calendar function. Once this is in beta and has passed quality assurance (QA) testing, it will be followed by a number of other high-priority features, including contact list, file-sharing, Wiki Web and a links section. The coming year will see this first version of the Extranet being made available to the volunteer groups, followed by revisions based on staff and volunteer feedback, and the addition of new features as they are developed.