While the list of things you can do at Burning Man is about as long as your imagination, the list of things you can’t do at Burning Man is very, very short. But things on that very short list are the things that can either outright kill you (weapons, speeding vehicles, serving iffy food) or screw up the environment (burning stuff right on the playa floor, visiting the hot springs during the event).
Why is the list so short? Because radical self-reliance, that’s why. We firmly believe that people should exercise their own personal responsibility when it comes to their entertainment and personal safety. The Burning Man organization has long resisted establishing rules when we could instead establish community guidelines that would accomplish the same thing. We believe in acculturation and education over creating a rule when something needs fixing — Leave No Trace is a great example.
But sometimes you have to make a rule, because it’s the right thing to do. And this is one of those times.
At the 2014 Burn, a member of our Black Rock Rangers reported that somebody in the crowd scanned her face with a laser, and that as a result she was blinded in one eye and partially blinded in the other. We didn’t know of any other incidents like this one in the 30 years of our event, but once her story went out on the airwaves, we started hearing from other folks who’d been hit by lasers but had not reported anything to us.
When handheld lasers first came onto the scene, they were expensive and not very powerful. In recent years, they have become stronger and more easily accessible. Lasers are now so powerful that even the handheld ones can do permanent damage to somebody standing 10 miles away. And that, by any definition, by any standard, is a weapon. And dangerous weapons — ones that can permanently and irreparably injure somebody standing literally on the other side of Black Rock City — really have no place at Burning Man.
So this is one of those times. Starting in 2015, handheld lasers will be prohibited in Black Rock City. Mounted lasers are only permitted on art pieces, Mutant Vehicles and in theme camps if they comply with specific restrictions.
To learn more, visit our Lasers page on the Burning Man website.
[Nicole Brydson is an artist and journalist from New York City. She can be found at nb.interchang.es.]
The burning question of the 2015 Burning Man Global Leadership Conference has finally been answered. How exactly did two-time presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich get to Burning Man?
“I drove,” he said.
“I’ll tell you what happened, I was in London and somebody tells me – I’m in London meeting with, um, uh, what’s his name? Julian Assange. And so he’s telling me about Almedalen Sweden and … so I go to this event in Sweden on an island, it’s called Almedalen.
“It’s like a celebration,” he continued, “it’s an elm festival, but beyond that, it’s where people merge with all sorts of political thinking and disciplines and they have this very civil discussion – so foreign to where I’m from – so I met Gustav Josefsson at Almedalen and Gustav told me about Burning Man” – the crowd roars – “so thank you! Here I am.”
A few hundred Burners from around the world cheered for Gustav, a community leader from Sweden, seated in the center of the Imperial Room of Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco’s Japantown neighborhood.
The presentation by the former congressman and mayor of Cleveland followed one by Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell on the strategy and goals of the organization as it strives to scale the culture of Burning Man in service of the next creative renaissance. Goodell shared that she will soon travel to Washington, DC to negotiate with Bureau of Land Management representatives and is positively hopeful about increasing the size of the population of Black Rock City beginning with the 2016 event.
Kucinich followed to discuss the theme of humanity as an interconnected and interdependent organism, the physics of which can be changed and progressively propelled through personal education, leadership and transformation, or alternatively set back in the face of a culture and climate of fear.
Most people are probably wondering if Kucinich really “got” Burning Man. So when he stepped across the line into Black Rock City for the first time in 2014, what exactly did he see?
“I saw the colors the textures the forms, that imaginarium that all of us hold within us, but don’t always get a chance to see a physical representation of the images and the fantasies that stream through our head about the world that could be – and suddenly I stood there and I saw a representation of it and I thought how miraculous how beautiful and how true.
“If you remember Keats, ‘beauty is truth, truth is beauty’ – the interchangeability of those principles – I saw it represented, and truth as equates to light. When you stand, when you move through the playa at night, you see how the darkness is illuminated in so many different ways, you start to think about how each person has the ability to bring their own awareness into the world, their own consciousness and to let that light of awareness penetrate the darkness in what is so beautiful, and I saw the potential of that physically represented. We all have this yearning for transformation; we all have this yearning for transcendence. I think that each one of us lives if only for a moment to experience that.”
During his half hour on the stage, Kucinich shared personal stories, including his eight principles of making change happen locally as he relayed an excerpt from his forthcoming book about challenges he faced as a politician.
“Envision the alternative outcome,” he advised. “If we are to be architects of a new world, you better have the plans in your back pocket.”
Kucinich’s must do list for organizing change, in his own words:
Know your subject, research, research, research
Envision the alternative outcome
Create a concrete plan, your roadmap
Enlist the help of people who are like-minded
Work your plan
Be relentless, cheerfully.
“All the world loves a cheerful relentlessness,” he added.
As he wrapped up his question and answer session, a moved Kucinich shared that, “I sure am interested in working with all of you because I think that what you’re involved in is really creating a world that is not just worth living in, but that everyone loves to live in, and that really is what it’s about, its about connecting with a deeper sense of joy.”
As Kucinich’s stage time was winding down the most burning and obvious question of the morning was finally shouted out by Burning Man co-founder Crimson Rose – when would he be running for president? After all, a pile of Kucinich campaign pins and bumper stickers had been sitting at the registration table.
“Check please,” he quipped.
“I’m involved,” Kucinich continued delicately, “as we all are. It’s about being involved in our community in our country, in the world, and I would advise all of you who are looking for candidates: our first obligation is be as presidents of our own lives, and to show people that empire of self can become something that can merge with others who achieve a kind of self sufficiency and an ability to be able to function without a state,” he paused, seemingly in awe of his own statement. “Wow.”
“So rather than being accused of not answering that question, no comment.”
The Burning Man Global Leadership Conference (GLC) is an annual conference of Burning Man community leadership that happens each spring in San Francisco, and it starts April 9. The conference is for organizers and community leaders in the Burning Man Regional Network, and space is limited, so attendance isn’t open to the public, BUT …
We’re going to be covering key sessions that are of interest to the larger Burning Man community here on the Voices of Burning Man, as well as on Twitter (for a full-throated coverage, follow @burningmanglc; for more select coverage, follow @burningman and/or watch the #bmglc15 hashtag).
If live video is more your thing, we’ll be livestreaming our plenary sessions, including keynotes on Friday and Saturday mornings. If you’re not an early riser, no problem, the videos will be available afterwards. Here’s the livestream schedule:
Friday, April 10 9:00-10:30am PDT
Plenary Session 1: The Next Creative Renaissance, Busting it Out, Building it Up, Bringing it Home!
Plenary Session 2: Updates — From the Desert to the World
Saturday, April 11 9:00-10:15am PDT
Plenary Session: Keynote Talks with Marian Goodell and Dennis Kucinich
Speaking of which …
We are excited to welcome a special guest keynote speaker to this year’s GLC! Former U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich will join us in person on Saturday, April 11 to address why Burning Man culture matters to humanity at this time of great global change.
Dennis is a statesman and philosopher who believes the fundamental truth of our existence is human unity — that we are all one, and that we are interconnected and interdependent. This belief has guided him through public life and he shares it with audiences everywhere. An internationally known environmentalist, Dennis is passionate about the great evolutionary potential which comes from repairing our relationship to the natural world and to each other.
He has had a long and distinguished career in public service, including serving as a Cleveland City Councilman, Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio State Senator, and U.S. Congressman. He was a two-time Presidential candidate.
Dennis participated in Black Rock City for the first time in 2014. Through the creativity and human connection of Black Rock City and the Burning Man Regional Network, he sees that “Burning Man represents an incandescent vision of a world within our grasp.”
The Individual Sale for Burning Man tickets started at 12 noon PST yesterday. Just over an hour later, the allotment of 40,000 tickets and 12,000 Vehicle Passes had been purchased.
Nearly 80,000 people registered for the sale and each person could buy up to 2 tickets (and one Vehicle Pass). In the end, roughly 21,500 people purchased the 40,000 available tickets (the average was 1.87 tickets per purchase).
So it makes sense that a lot of people are disappointed that they couldn’t get a ticket — for every one person who purchased a ticket (or two), there are nearly three more who were registered for the sale but didn’t reach the front of the queue before tickets were sold out.
So, how does the system work?
We wanted to give you a little insight on how the ticketing system works, because while a number of people are understandably upset about having not gotten tickets, the system actually worked. We hope the technologists out there will forgive us, as we’re going to put this in layman’s terms.
The system had to process roughly 80,000 people hitting the server at almost the same time (12:00pm PST). So imagine 80,000 ball bearings being dumped into a funnel at once, all vying for a spot in line to make it through the hole at the small end. Physics (in this case, load-balancing and sorting technology) sorts them into a line (in this case based on the time they clicked the ticket link), and a queue is formed in a matter of milliseconds. Some are going to be in the front, some in the middle, some at the back — but only the first 20,000 are guaranteed to get through to purchase a ticket (40,000 tickets for sale, maximum two per person).
So even if you clicked the link right at 12:00pm PST, you may not have gotten to the front of the line. Is that fair? Inasmuch as everybody’s in the same boat, it’s about as fair as it can be.
What about the fluctuating wait time indicator?
The wait time is an estimate — it fluctuates based on the time it’s taking people to actually make their purchase, which is determined by how fast people click and type, how fast the servers are processing, and how fast the queue is releasing people into the purchasing stage. A few minutes into the sale the queue was intentionally paused for 5 minutes (to allow the system to catch up to all the people hitting it), which is why your time estimate changed.
So what about the rumors of people sneaking to the front of the line?
Unfortunately there is some truth to this. Approximately 200 people created a technical ‘backdoor’ to the sale and made their way to the front of the line. Absolutely no tickets were sold before the sale opened at 12:00 pm, but they were able to purchase the first batch of tickets when the sale started. The good news (for us, not them) is that we can track them down, and we’re going to cancel their orders. The tickets from those orders will be made available in the OMG Sale in August. Of course, steps are being taken to prevent this from happening again in future sales.
Did the servers crash?
No, they never did and the ticket buying process was never stopped — the queue was intentionally paused (briefly) to allow the servers to catch up to the demand — and nobody lost their place in line as a result.
Why were people held in line for so long only to find out tickets had sold out?
The system lets people into the purchasing stage, and then people purchase their tickets. Until they’ve all successfully purchased their tickets, it’s not sold out. If for some reason somebody doesn’t complete their transaction (bad credit card, they bail out, etc.), then their spot is given to the next person in line. So we don’t remove people from the line until all the tickets have been successfully purchased, because technically you still have a chance to get one.
Why was there still an opportunity to donate to Burning Man Project once tickets had sold out?
Honestly, that was a mistake — we didn’t realize that option would still be available once the sale had ended. We totally understand how that came across as adding insult to injury, and we feel badly about it. All transaction pages including the donation page should have been pulled as soon as tickets sold out.
Were people given any advantage if they made a donation?
No, not at all. It was first-come, first-served for everybody.
What about the other reports of glitches in the system? There have been some additional claims of technical issues with the sale, including a report of an individual bypassing the line by going through Ticketfly’s homepage and one about someone using multiple codes to buy more than two tickets. So far we haven’t found any proof to substantiate these claims, but we are continuing to look into it and committed to its resolution. When we have more information to share, we will certainly do so.
What about all the overpriced tickets being sold on StubHub, eBay, and other reselling sites?
Our community has historically demonstrated its commitment to buying tickets at face value — a very small percentage of participants in the past have paid inflated prices, and we are certain that “scalpers” are not responsible for the high demand for tickets. While our options for preventing this behavior are limited, we do actively weed out known resellers as part of the registration process (that’s one of the reasons we have you register for the sale). But as long as people are willing to buy tickets at exorbitant prices (we wish they wouldn’t, but some apparently do), there will be a market for predatory resellers. It’s antithetical to our community’s ethos, but it’s also the reality of supply and demand (and technically legal). When we’re able to find out the serial numbers of these tickets (see below for how to report them), we void them. We’ll publish a list of voided ticket numbers on tickets.burningman.org this summer (so you can double check the number if you are buying a ticket on the secondary market).
Here’s how to report marked-up tickets on different sites:
Send an email directly to yourfeedbackmatters here: yourfeedbackmatters (at) stubhub.com containing the name of the event (2015 Burning Man Festival and 2015 Burning Man Festival Vehicle Pass), the dates of the event, and if you want to get super detailed you can also list exact URLs for each ticket you want to report. IMPORTANT: Include your contact number so they can reach you if they have further questions — they’re far more likely to take the complaint seriously if they can actually reach someone to respond. They want to help, so don’t abuse the StubHub folks, they’re not the ones who listed the tickets.
Offer the buyer face value plus fees. If that doesn’t work, flag the post and it’ll be taken down … do it often enough and maybe the seller will be more willing to listen to reasonable offers.
If you see marked-up tickets being offered anywhere else, contact ticketsupport here: ticketsupport (at) burningman.com so we can pursue it (and yes we really do). The more information you can provide us, the better, including screenshots since people often pull down posts if they think they are being flagged.
As part of our multi-pronged effort to reduce the number of vehicles traveling to and from Black Rock City (which is one of biggest challenges Burning Man faces, and a significant risk to the future of our event), we started requiring every vehicle driving into Black Rock City to have a Vehicle Pass (VP) in 2014. The intention of this program is to encourage carpooling.
This year, we reduced the total number of Vehicle Passes we’re making available from 35,000 to 27,000, based on the number of passes that were actually used in 2014 (e.g. 27,000 of them). And since Black Rock City will be the same size this year as last year, there should be plenty of VPs to go around — in fact, people were literally giving them away on Gate Road last year.
So why did VPs sell out before tickets did in the Individual Sale? We analyzed the buying habits and demand for VPs in each of our sales last year and then cross referenced that with actual use. From there we allocated specific amounts to each sale to ensure that every sale would have an appropriate number available and they wouldn’t just all be gobbled up in the earlier sales. As a result, fewer VPs were made available (12,000) in the Individual Sale than tickets (40,000) and some of you were able to purchase a ticket (or two) but not a VP. But the good news is that the ratio of purchases of VPs to tickets was actually really good today — 36,000 tickets were sold before the 12,000 VPs sold out.
If you didn’t get one, please know that you’ve still got options:
Vehicle Passes will be sold in the OMG Sale. In fact, there will be more VPs available than tickets. For those who have not purchased a VP from us yet, there will be an option to register to purchase just a VP — so if you didn’t get a VP in the Individual Sale, you’ll be able to register to purchase one in the OMG Sale.
A lot of folks bought a VP not knowing if they need it or not, and will be looking to offload theirs. Ask around, and keep an eye on the open market for them — they’ll be out there.
And if for some reason you can’t get one, there are alternatives to driving your own vehicle to Burning Man:
Burner Express shuttle buses run from San Francisco, Reno and possibly a third location that has not yet been determined.
The Individual Sale is coming up on Wednesday, for those who registered — you DID register right? Well, a lot of you certainly did. Around twice the number of tickets available, in fact. Yep, that’s right … the secret’s out about Burning Man, and the reality is that some of you aren’t going to be able to get a ticket in the Individual Sale.
The size of Black Rock City is relatively stable (peak population at this year’s event is expected to be very close to what it was in 2014) — so while demand for tickets is steadily increasing, the number of available tickets is not. However, if you don’t get a ticket in the Individual Sale, here’s why you shouldn’t despair:
Historically, many tickets exchange hands among Burners during the summer as people’s plans change. Be patient, get the word out there, stay connected to your Burner community, and one could very well make its way to you.
Some things to consider when purchasing tickets in the open market:
Don’t buy a ticket from someone you don’t know unless you’re certain they aren’t ripping you off (with this much demand, the predators will be out there).
If you purchase a ticket from a stranger, be absolutely sure it’s not a counterfeit before you buy it. (Stay tuned for a post about how to recognize a counterfeit.)
Buying a ticket above face value perpetuates the scalping system. Don’t be part of the problem. Use STEP, or buy from people you know and only pay face value plus fees.
And remember, making it to Black Rock City is not the only way to get your burn fix. There are many official Regional Burns throughout the year, including Nowhere in Spain, AfrikaBurn in South Africa, Israel’s Midburn, Flipside in Austin — there are over 60 Burns happening around the world. Heck, there’s even one in Korea! And these Burns, like the one in Black Rock City, are as amazing as you make ’em.
Best of luck in the sale, and we hope to see you on playa.
Hello! I’m Rebecca Throne, aka nimbus, and I manage Ticketing for Burning Man, including Box Office operations on the playa. 2014 was a tough year for the Box Office, and if you were one of the many people picking up tickets at Will Call you may have had the misfortune of experiencing that firsthand. For some context: the Black Rock City Box Office operates 24/7 for 11 days. In 2014, some participants on five of those days experienced excessive wait times of up to seven hours or more, which is unacceptable by any standard.
As has been our policy in previous years, all tickets sold through the OMG Sale, STEP, the Low Income Ticket program, and those sold to international participants were held for Will Call pick up at the Box Office. This is in addition to tickets bought in our other sales by those who choose Will Call pick up.
In 2014, the Box Office was faced with even more volume than ever. We were able to add some late-season ticket releases, which were all distributed via the Will Call-only channels of STEP and the OMG Sale in August.
With the change of ticketing partners in 2014, we had to get up to speed with learning a new system and training the Box Office team, some of which took place onsite.
The introduction of vehicle passes in 2014 meant we were handling twice as many physical things, so each transaction took a bit longer.
We were understaffed for the flow of tickets and people coming to the Box Office for tickets.
A tremendous amount of information-gathering, research, and strategizing has taken place since the event. In addition to collecting input from community discussions we’ve been monitoring online, we’ve also conducted our own in-depth debrief process, and hosted a cross-departmental forum to gather potential solutions. We’ve gotten a ton of valuable input, and we’ve incorporated much of it into our approach for 2015.
So what are we doing to fix it?
It’s important to understand that there is no single silver-bullet panacea that will fix the problem. Just as the long wait times were a byproduct of numerous systems buckling under increased stress, the approach to solve it will also need to be multi-pronged. Here are a few of the changes we’re working on:
For the first time, you’ll be able to choose to have your STEP and OMG Sale tickets shipped to you. This alone can reduce volume by thousands of orders, and has the potential for the largest impact in reducing overall traffic to the Box Office. We are also investigating alternative shipping options for international ticket buyers.
We are increasing staffing levels at the Box Office. With more people to assist participants, we’ll be able to process more requests in a shorter period of time.
We’re designing a better model for Box Office operations, including changes to our roles, reengineering our training process, and expanding the number of days the Box Office is open to take care of Early Arrivals and staff.
And finally, we’re redesigning our physical infrastructure (adding more windows and shade, implementing some ‘queue theory’ best practices, increasing informational signage, etc.) so it can better handle the load and make for a smoother experience for everyone (it wasn’t fun for us, either!).
While print-at-home tickets has been floated as a possible solution, there are a number of practical reasons we believe this is not the best fit for Burning Man, the most important being our commitment to preventing counterfeiting (there is no way to prevent print-at-home tickets from being photocopied). Other, more cultural reasons, include the fact that gifting physical tickets is a longstanding tradition in our community. We’re positive we can address the Box Office’s challenges without that solution right now, but we will continue to revisit the idea as necessary.
We are learning from our experience in 2014 and making changes in order to get it right in 2015. We’re using this as an opportunity to optimize our systems, and to ensure you have the best possible experience at the Box Office in the future. All told, we hope to cut the number of transactions at the Box Office down by nearly half.
How can you help?
There are a number of things you can do to help both before, and when you arrive, at the Box Office:
If at all possible, have your tickets shipped to you. Choose the delivery option that works best for your travel plans. Last year we expanded our offerings to include UPS 2nd day, which is especially helpful for those traveling long distances who leave home long before the event begins, and have opted for the security of Will Call in the past. This option gives more people the viable option of delivery instead of Will Call.
If you or anyone you know (like somebody in your vehicle, for instance) is expecting to pick up an order from the Box Office, encourage them to be prepared, with their order confirmation and valid legal ID handy. This will speed up processing times.
Join us! We’re greatly increasing our Box Office staff this year. We screen folks heavily for accountability and specialized skillset, and so we frequently rely on personal referrals. If you are looking for a new playa family and have great in-person customer service experience, are savvy using point-of-sale systems, are the epitome of grace under pressure, and/or are a front-of-house ninja, please get in touch with us at boxoffice here: boxoffice (at) burningman.com and fill in/update your volunteer questionnaire to indicate that you want to work with Box Office. (Keep in mind that because we make a significant investment in training people, we require our crew to work a minimum of four 6-hour shifts.)
I hope this helps give a better understanding of what created the situation we faced in 2014 and what we’re doing to address it. Please know that we are keenly aware of the problem, we agree that what happened in 2014 was unacceptable, and we are confident the changes we are implementing will significantly improve the Box Office experience for 2015.
I invite you to leave your thoughts in the comments below – we look forward to reading them and continuing the conversation.
Earlier today we published some important financial information on the Public Documents section of our website. As part of Burning Man’s transition to a nonprofit, we are sharing our 501(c)(3) financial and operational information as it becomes available. The 2013 Form 990 is the first step in this process.
Public benefit organizations file a Form 990 each year with the IRS. It is, essentially, the nonprofit’s tax return. The Form 990 has information about the organization’s mission, programs and finances. Burning Man’s 2013 Form 990 includes detailed information about the transition of Black Rock City, LLC from an independent entity to a subsidiary of the nonprofit, as well as financial, salary and programming information.
A Form 990 can be overwhelming for those that have never read one before. So, we’ve created an FAQ (below) to help everyone understand the information included in the Form 990 and what it means about Burning Man’s programs and activities.
We’ve also added information to the FAQ that isn’t included in the Form 990 to give a more complete picture of Burning Man’s finances. There are questions that come up from time to time, for example, around Burning Man’s transition to a nonprofit, relationship to regional events, intellectual property, and the role of Decommodification, LLC. We are taking this opportunity to answer some of the those questions along with the release of the 2013 Form 990.
We’re looking forward to continuing this proactive effort to provide more information about our nonprofit activities. Stay tuned to the Jackrabbit Speaks and our new website, Burningman.org, for more information in the future. [If you have any questions that aren’t answered below, pop them in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer the ones we can.]