Bob wrote:Agree w/everyone, I guess, sort of, and don't take any of this personally.
I haven't ever logged on to the eplaya or the newbieplaya with any expectation other than that Burning Man's Black Rock City LLC owns the board and desires a forum, call it "official" if you want, for current participants and new people to interact by sharing information and personal experiences.
That's always been my starting point on this BBS, as well as in other online communication (the Web, email, mailing lists, etc.). My primary aim is to further what I consider to be good and beneficial for the event and the people who participate in it. While I've consciously tried to keep my own ego not-an-issue, I've certainly not avoided having a faceless personality. My goal here is basic sharing of information, but I also want to see Burning Man continue as an event open to all who want to experience and participate, without having any overly narrow cultural, social or political agenda. Hence my first-principle slogan, "It's just a fucking, camping, trip".
That said, the new format and the process by which it came about shocked me plenty. We have developed a certain culture here, even in the practice of rejecting narrow definitions -- at the same time, the process has satisfied Irony, another first-principle concept I attach to my experience of Burning Man. Irony is always a moving target.
So, the new thing was... like having a bunch of shop students try to make a new engine and a prefab aftermarket art-car body fit onto an old Detriot iron chassis, albeit with distinctive Burning Man touches. In the end, if it runs, it's just fucking transportation, even if it looks for the time being like a bar-car full of Baja party doods.
I came to Burning Man in '96 via word-of-mouth, via a college friend who also found out via word-of-mouth and had been going for a few years. Within a year I plunged into volunteering and was hooked into a few official and unofficial email lists, albeit that some were only peripherally involved with the actual event. In the same time frame I made the putting together of not-unuseless web content one of my goals. My first project was a web page for Recycle Camp, then on to a Desert Structures web page to support my work with the theme camp crew in providing answers to basic questions, inspiration, and starting points for people building whatever on the playa. Then on to DPW matters, burn scar prevention issues, etc. With all of this, of course Burning Man was a touchpoint, but I also do desert camping and share information with people outside the context of the event, who may or may not be your stereotypical "participants". So, my online experience has ranged from casual and seasonal encounters, to the extremely inside aspects of this elephant-by-committee. I've also been on Usenet for years, which is another world altogether, but undeniably has some amount of crossover in the context of mostly-online worldwide communities that occasionally meet face-to-face locally.
One thing I've learn from Usenet is that "October" is not just a month, it's a phenomenon. Younger people and student types, like "burners", coming home from a carefree summer to the cares and woes of school and work obligations, start up new computers and online accounts, log on wherever, and naturally want to express themselves, as fecklessly as young people are accustomed. Not a lot of civilized models are out there, so you have to expect some tension between the old and new hats in longtime online forums.
Here on the eplaya, a volunteer team was tasked with grafting a new software like an ill-fitting costume complete with body-mods onto an old community. I see a similar "October"-like tension among that largely faceless, anonymous group of toilers, the regular old-hat codgers, and the newbies who appear every single year between events wanting to feel things out.
On the plus side, for me -- the basic stuff of the interface still generates legible text on the topic pages in a sufficiently bearable and attractive manner, with enough flow to follow people's serial contributions. If I get sick of the colors or other layout aspects, I know I can always switch to my own style sheet or default settings to change things (running MSIE 6).
However -- I can see how it could have appeared that "smileys" might make a certain class of newbies feel more comfortable, but they're utter crap -- the equivalent of having a tee-shirt and glo-stick booth on the Gate road to the event. No artistic involvement either in their creation or use. Having this default feature in our faces at the posting front-end is like putting a first-year acid casualty in charge of a Greeter shift.
Usenet-style "true" threading would be a big plus, if the software people could find something to adapt for the purpose. This would help further clarity and prevent some of the misunderstandings I've seen develop.
I think what upsets me and some of the regulars comes down to lack of trust. We aren't going to rake anyone, not the newbies or the tech people, over real or virtual coals. Well, maybe the completely clueless, and only if their actions seem to have the potential to completely drag things down, to the point of harm to others or the board in general. We (and any interested participants) could have more explicitly been offered the opportunity to try a new interface and hammer on it for a while, but that's water under the dam at this point. We're all inventing this as we go along.
As I recently wrote here on the new board, I authored the only thing resembling a TOS (Terms of Service) statement for the old board:
"We reserve the right to maintain this board for the benefit of all. Please behave."
Feel free to use and amend it.