AFTERBURN REPORT 2006
All in all, 2006 was a relatively steady year for the Burning Man Web Team. Enjoying the fruits of our previous efforts to build processes, teams, and technical infrastructure, we were able to spend the year primarily maintaining the website, keeping it fresh and up to date.
The Web Team took on the daunting task of reworking and updating all training manuals and documentation, in both PDF and HTML. This allows the Web Team to be more flexible in bringing on new volunteers and getting them up to speed outside of our normal twice-yearly intake cycles.
The Web Team section teams have been working well, spreading the ongoing maintenance load per section across multiple volunteer resources, giving the Web Team added flexibility in development efforts. This has been particularly helpful, because, as has become the norm, this year saw long-time volunteers resigning (usually busy with daily life), veteran volunteers returning, and new volunteers joining on and stepping up to make a great contribution to the team.
The Web Team volunteer coordinator position was transitioned from a one-person to a multi-person shared role. One challenge the Web Team seeks to overcome is that there are many opportunities for volunteers to fall through the cracks.
The Web Team restarted the design and development of the heretofore-dormant Environment section, with the intention of launching the section soon after the 2006 event. To accomplish this, the Web Team assigned a development manager to the effort who performed a content audit of all the environmental information on the existing Burning Man website and determined what existing pages can be included, what needs to be modified, and where content needs to be created from scratch.
Remote meeting communications remain an ongoing challenge: the Web Team tried a number of remote communications solutions that would be cheaper than a standard conference line, including online VOIP conferencing solutions such as Skype and TeamSpeak. After tweaking, twiddling, and fine-tuning the system, the Web Team has settled with TeamSpeak, to connect with remote volunteers.
As in every year, the Web Team took on the annual task of posting archives of the previous year's information, the year's art theme, the Black Rock City map, theme camp and art installation listings, the survival guide, the rideshare system, year-round special events, the Afterburn Report, the Building Black Rock City blog, the regionals pages, and archiving all event-related media.
Noteworthy Web Team efforts in 2006 included:
The Galleries sub-index page was the first to feature the Web Team's new magazine-style layout, which will become the standard template for all sub-index pages.
The Web Team updated the right navigation of the Black Rock City Year Round section, making it more intuitive to navigate the bounty of information.
The Web Team created a Health and Safety section, highlighting web pages dedicated to playa health.
The Web Team continued to improve Jackrabbit Speaks (JRS) newsletter archives, creating a team dedicated to JRS maintenance, and building a tool that automatically generates nearly complete HTML from imported JRS articles.
For the first time, the Web Team put the ARTery art tour on the website pre-event, so participants could download the tour to their portable music player, or burn it to a CD, and bring it with them to the playa to enjoy the art and learn about the artists and the artwork.
In 2006 the live Gerlach web-cam continued to be popular, getting hits year round. Granted, the scene from atop Burning Man's Gerlach office doesn't change much, but it is home. We know it is popular because inevitably the Web Team receives a handful of emails when it goes down, or when the view shifts from wind! The web-cam is now encased in a protective box and it is rare that the web-cam shifts.
Unfortunately, the January 2006 ticket launch once again faced huge technical challenges. The problems originated from the system created by the ticket vendor, but a significant amount of the fallout from the problems land squarely on the Web Team. It took several days of concerted efforts to clean up the mess and get everything back in order.
A group of Reno locals took the initiative to create incredibly detailed and thorough pages about local Reno resources and other information helpful to event participants passing through the town and the Web Team hosted the web pages on the Burning Man website.
For Larry Harvey's birthday this year, the Web Team popped a little Stetson hat on the Man on the Burning Man homepage, including a link to a picture of Larry from 1989 (doing his best Marlon Brando, on his motorcycle). Participants could email Larry their birthday wishes (via a proxy), dozens flowed in, and Larry was very happy to receive a binder full of them.
On playa, the Web Team kept the website up to date with the latest information about the event and pointers to the live webcast of the event and the Burn. The webcast was beefed up by enhanced streaming servers, and a shared effort with TV Free Burning Man, and was smoother than ever (until radio frequency conflicts brought down the webcast).
For the first time, the art theme for the 2007 event was announced via the website the night the Man burned in 2006.
This year saw several side-project efforts come together for the Web Team. After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, a group of intrepid participants traveled to the devastated area to help with disaster relief and reconstruction. To support their efforts, communicate to the world what was going on, and to raise money, the Web Team created the Burners Without Borders website, using Plone as its underlying technology.
The Web Team overhauled the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) website, implementing it with a flexible, user-friendly content management system using Plone. This allows the BRAF staff to update the website on their own, without needing assistance from the Web Team.