Playa Events: The What, the Where, and the When

Let’s talk about Playa Events for a minute. Let’s talk about the 4,300+ events y’all input already, a jump from a mere 3,626 last year. Let’s talk about what gets a playa event accepted, rejected, or printed in the WhatWhereWhen guide. Let’s talk about… the print-your-own WhatWhereWhen guide!

Playa Events is a website. It’s where the WhatWhereWhen comes from. And the online playa events listings. And all those apps people build with the API. And the print-your-own!

How does it work? The process goes like this:

Once you input your events at playaevents.burningman.org (new this year! Log in with your Burner Profile!), they go into our moderation queue where a team of volunteers reads each and every one of your lovely events to see if they meet our, um, stringent criteria.

I’m joking; our criteria are really pretty simple:

It’s gotta be legal. That one’s kind of a no-brainer when you think about it, but Black Rock City is such a freedom-loving place that people forget that bit sometimes.

It’s gotta be in line with the third principle, Decommodification. Wanna give away free snacks? Great! Wanna sell those snacks? No dice. Give them away with a big sponsorship banner and ad placement? Nope. Generally sell, buy, advertise, or commodify things? You’re outta here.

It can’t be a test event. This is actually a thing — we test this thing pretty thoroughly, and a lot of people help, so there are always a few that sneak through. There’s no point in having “TEST EVENT, at CAMP TEST, on TEST day, at TEST:30” taking up a spot in the printed WhatWhereWhen guide. We hunt ’em down and delete them.

We also sometimes make case-by-case decisions about edge case stuff like copyright infringement. Bottom line: if the BLM wouldn’t allow it, neither can we.

Finally, we look for duplicates. This happens all the time — two members of the same camp input the same thing, or someone tries to make a correction, or inputs three separate events instead of one event with three recurring dates.

Lituanica Birds (Photo by Paulius Musteikis)

So, how does your event get selected for the printed WhatWhereWhen guide? First come, first served. Remember those 4,300+ events I mentioned earlier? We only have space to print the first 1,500 or so. Any more than that, and the fat little booklet becomes too big to stuff in a pocket. We also shoehorn in a few things planned and hosted by Burning Man Project, but basically we just take the first ones that come in and call it a day.

Now, you probably noticed that there was a glitch or two this year. We’re really, really sorry about that! We only get one shot at this every year, so no matter how carefully we test it, it’s not as thorough as thousands of people hammering on it. One of the glitches was around events that started in the AM, and one affected specifically events that had multiple dates and started at 12:00 noon. We got both of those fixed as quickly as possible, and most of you figured out the obvious work-around of putting in different times and then coming back and updating it after we rolled out the patch. Again, we’re really sorry about that, and we super appreciate your patience.

Did My Event Make It In??

Your next question is gonna be, “Did my event make it? Huh, huh, did it?” but I’m really sorry — I have no idea. We don’t keep track of who made it and who didn’t. The best I can tell you is that the first 1,500 were submitted less than half an hour after the form opened. Notice I say “submitted” and not “moderated.” Moderation date has nothing to do with whether it gets printed, and we make sure that everything in the queue is moderated before we export for print. Got an event moderated and then edited? Back to moderation. Those are usually super quick, since it’s typically just things like spelling corrections. We moderated over 3,600 events in the first 48 hours, and we’re still moderating new ones and edits.

On that topic, you can edit your events as much as you want, but once it’s exported for print, that edit won’t make it into the printed version. It will make it into the online database, though, and that’s super important. How important? Check this out: All those playa apps, that fancy spreadsheet Justin Klein made with all the events in it, and the print-your-own guide all use the database. Some camps are even using it to make custom schedules of all their events. The printed guide is cool, but it’s not the only game in town anymore.

You’re probably wondering why I keep talking about the print-your-own guide. Check this out: If you go to the Playa Events web page and log in with your Burner Profile, you can favorite events. Then you can display a list of all the events you liked. You can even export them in a print-friendly format, or as a PDF for your mobile device or to email to your camp mates. It’s the way of the future, and definitely the way to see the ⅔ of the events that didn’t make it into print.

There you have it! The WhatWhereWhen guide and Playa Events demystified, common questions answered, and a little bit of light shed on this crazy process.


Top photo: Center Camp Café Stage, photo by Bill Klemens

About the author: Anselm Engle

Anselm Engle

Anselm is a relative newcomer to the Burning Man scene (Burning since 2013), but a long-time citizen of liminal spaces everywhere. He thinks with his hands, believes specialization is a mistake, and makes the user support systems work at Burning Man Headquarters.

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