Burning Man is dead, proclaims the San Francisco Chronicle. Grover Norquist and some hackers killed it. So, what comes next? Apparently, low tech partying with carrier pigeons in Bakersfield…
Burning Man got killed by hackers and Grover Norquist. What’s next?
Burning Man is so over.
This isn’t exactly news in some quarters. It’s been 10 years since I last went to Burning Man, and I remember meeting burners who were complaining about the “new people” and their “new ways” back then…the last couple of years have brought such an avalanche of sad developments — from Grover Norquist’s caravan to the luxury camps of tech millionaires — that I think we can all agree it’s time to close the book on Burning Man’s “10 Principles” of radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, blah blah blah.
It was always a stretch of the imagination for the Burning Man organization to espouse those things when tickets cost hundreds of dollars and attending the event requires a time and material investment of several hundred dollars more…
So what comes next? It’s an interesting question, because the need for something like Burning Man has grown, not diminished.
The Bay Area may have a secular culture, but we’re still deeply attached to religious ritual — hence all the desperate talk of meaningful work and businesses that are going to change the world. Burning Man’s annual cycle, detailed behaviorial restrictions and ethos of purification all served the ritual purposes that so many people seem to need. Whatever comes next will likely have some of those elements as well…
My hunch is that the next “event” will start in an unexpected place and focus on being as low tech as possible.
I’m thinking about a place like Bakersfield or Fontana — a place with a lot of foreclosed houses and a distracted population.
It won’t sound as attractive as partying in the desert, but in time that will become a bonus. An unsexy locale will weed out the riffraff and be more environmentally friendly, to boot — reusing and recycling are always better than having to restore an environment that should have been left alone in the first place.
As for the low-tech element, that too will become part of the event’s founding mythology: “Imagine a brief moment in time and space where people gather together to celebrate, via information they receive from handwritten tickets, word of mouth, and carrier pigeons.”
If it sounds good now, it’s going to sound amazing by 2020.
a) The important financials, of the owned subsidiary corporation, Black Rock City LLC, dba Burning Man, the Burning Man event, are hidden from donors of art, labour, cash, and stock. The 990 form of 2013, of the Project, does not include the financials of the BRC LLC.
b) Prof. Mittendorf misses of that Burning Man is a crowd sourced event, much information is owed towards the awesome Burners whom provide the entertainment, the EDM sound camps, the Esplanade camps, the mutant vehicle owners, the artists, and the numerous volunteers, none of whom are paid from the $31.5 million of ticket sales for their labours.
d) The payments for the Burning Man(TM) name and trademarks, owned by Decommodification LLC, of which, it is owned by the six prior owners of the BRC LLC. There is a contract, hidden from donors, stating the amount of cash to be paid to them, within 2018. In addendum, what is the deduction upon tax levies that is to be permitted towards them, within 2018, upon this?
e) Images of the art at Burning Man is owned, in parts, by the BRC LLC and Decommodification LLC. The photographers pay a licence fee upon publication of the images, zero dollars of the cash of the licence fees, is paid towards the awesome artists. Whom takes the cash towards their pockets, the BRC LLC, or Decommodification LLC? Whom is taking cash from movies in the manner of Spark A Burning Man Story, and what occurs with this within 2018?
f) The information stated with the 990 form of the project might have been stated near to one year prior of when the information was finally released within January 2015.
g) Larry, within his role of Chief Philosophical Officer of the Project, evaluates, and proposes towards the Project board, many ventures, some ventures of which might be joint ventures. The conflicts of interests are stated towards the Project board, but the conflicts of interests are hidden from donors.
h) An audit was completed, within the prior month, upon the financials of the Burning Man Project, and upon the BRC LLC, upon the years of 2013 and 2014, thus the financials are signed by the auditors, in addendum to being signed by the Burning Man Project. The Project board is of the power to vote to publish the detailed 2014 income statement and 2014 balance sheet, of both the Project, and of the BRC LLC subsidiary corporation, at the present time, in place of hiding the financials, from donors, for near to yet another year upon the release of the 990 form of 2014 within January 2016. Burning Man requires this transparency of all regionals, to publish their ledgers of when the ledgers are signed, it is most hypocritical of the BMOrg to hide this information from donors for near to yet another year.
i) Prof. Mittendorf compares of Burning Man, a crowd sourced event which has had many changes within the ownership structure within the prior brace of years, to the big Red Cross, and other organizations, whom have operated for numerous years; his comparison is utter rubbish.
j) Prof. Mittendorf misses of the outage, of the Burner community, upon his statement of ‘ … has also played out in astounding ways, such as billionaires spending their fortunes to create elaborate tents featuring top chefs and sleek models being paid to provide entertainment.’
j) Prof. Mittendorf misses of how little cash is paid, from the $31.5 million of ticket sales, towards the crowd whom sources the Burning Man event. My belief is of the BMOrg owes transparency, and cash, in support of their efforts and labours. Of the $390, or $450, or $800 of the cash paid towards each ticket, solely
– EDM sound camps – $0 in addendum, they must buy their own tickets. It might be most fair might the BMOrg gift several thousand free tickets, towards them, towards the camps whom provide entertainment, and towards mutant vehicle owners, in support of their efforts and labours.
– Esplanade camps, and other camps whom provide entertainment – $0 in addendum, they must buy their own tickets
– Mutant Vehicle owners – $0 in addendum, they must buy their own tickets
– Artists – $13 within 2014, lower within 2015. Art grants are for solely near to one third of their costs, $0 for labour, and are solely for a small number of artists whom sign a most horrible hidden contract
– DPW labourers, whom construct the city – near to $10, many are not paid
– Gate labourers – near to $3 for food, their tickets, might they have laboured for numerous hours the prior year, are not counted within the paid population cap of near to 70,000 of Black Rock City, thus are not paid from ticket sales.
– BRC Rangers – near to $3 for food, their tickets, might they have laboured for numerous hours the prior year, are not counted within the paid population cap of near to 70,000 of Black Rock City
My belief is of Prof. Mittendorf must retract his rubbish PR article upon transparency in due of his utter cluelessness upon these matters.
It’s amazing how this narrative is so quickly being spun by BMOrg’s PR machine to “Silicon Valley techies hacked Burning Man and stole tickets from everyone else”, and away from “the ticketing system was not First In First Out and all you had to do to buy tickets was go through Ticketfly’s web site and ignore the queue”. Once again, the Burners get the blame – just for exercising Radical Self Reliance. And BMOrg, rather than accepting responsibility for the unique system they’ve designed and the problems it caused for tens of thousands of their most loyal customers, gets to play the innocent victim.
Despite the story going global, BMOrg haven’t even looked at the report from Ticketfly yet. From SFGate:
While Burning Man organizers confirmed they had been hacked — and that the suspected parties would be stripped of their tickets — they said they needed to see the report from Ticketfly to get into the details. Whether actual hackers posted their exploits on social media was unclear.
“We may have more information later, but Ticketfly is taking the lead on figuring out what happened,” Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham said Monday. “We don’t want to say anything that is incorrect.”
BMOrg confirmed they had been hacked? Not Ticketfly? Hmmm….
I was in at 12:00:56 and didn’t get tickets. Some were there at 12:00:02 and didn’t get them. Others logged in at 12:10 and later and bought tickets. THAT is the biggest problem, and is nothing to do with hackers.
Let’s take a condensed look at the ticket problems, as reported by Burners:
People wrote scripts to connect to the link at exactly 12:00:00
People looked at the source code of BMOrg’s web page and found what the URL would be for the link to the waiting room; entering this URL in their browser meant they didn’t have to wait until the button turned green to get in the queue
Bots were for sale for $750 that automatically bought tickets from Ticketfly
People logged in after the “Pause” and got straight through
People logged directly into Ticketfly, chose Burning Man, and entered their code
People on mobile devices on Verizon got straight through
[if you’re aware of any others, please share]
According to BMOrg, echoed through the world’s media:
200 Burners used sophisticated software hacking techniques to place themselves at the front of the queue
The comments to the WIRED article (and at Burners.Me) have been quite dismissive of the use of the word “hacking” in this story.
None of the numbered examples I listed require any hacking, or any code to be written, although #1 and #2 do require some very basic technical knowledge. So do all these methods get a pass, and there was another hack that we don’t know about? Or is BMOrg trumping up #2 as the scapegoat for all their ticket woes – before they’ve even received the report from Ticketfly? Is this whole story they’re telling simply based on speculation on Reddit? “We found these 200 people in the queue before 12:00:00, they must all be hackers”.
Even if there were more techniques used to circumvent the system, including hacking directly into the servers involved…it does not change the appalling delay between the last ticket being sold, and the 60,000 unlucky Burners in the queue being notified that they were only waiting to make a donation. For that one, they can’t blame hackers.
Meanwhile, tickets are now being offered for $1 million each on Stubhub. No word how many Mistresses of Merriment come with a million dollar ticket…
Burning Man has practically gone mainstream. The once-fringe desert camping festival is now cultural fodder for The Simpsons and Taco Bell commercials. Celebrities and CEOs routinely attend. So it’s no surprise that 40,000 Burning Man tickets sold out in less than an hour last Wednesday when they went on sale.
But software engineers in Silicon Valley hacked into the Burning Man ticketing system powered by Ticketfly to cut to the front of the queue. Who needs luck when you have engineering skills and you’re willing to use ‘em for your advantage?
“They left code in the page that allowed you to generate the waiting room URL ahead of time,” said Michael Vacirca, a software engineer at a large defense corporation. “If you knew how to form the URL based on the code segment then you could get in line before everyone else who clicked right at noon.”
Burning Man admits the error and says those hacked tickets will be put back up for grabs during the scheduled last-minute sale in August.
It’s interesting to watch the corporate spin machine in action. Rather than any sophisticated hacking being required, simply entering your code directly into TicketFly seems to have worked. According to hundreds of Burner comments on the Interwebz, clicking the emailed link ten minutes after noon pretty consistently got Burners in to buy tickets immediately, whereas clicking the link a few seconds after noon led to many Burners being stuck in the queue for 90 minutes with no success.
To me, these are the real issues here: it was definitely notFirst Come, First Served, and it was trivially easy to bypass the queue – multiple methods were used, and most did not require the ability to write code or hack into systems. The focus on these “200 hacker tickets” is smoke and mirrors around the obvious explosion in the number of tickets being listed on the secondary market. Even BMOrg are now encouraging Burners to get tickets and vehicle passes “on the open market”. With software to automatically buy as many tickets as you want from TicketFly selling for a mere $750 – about the profit margin for a single ticket right now – it seems that there continue to be some serious issues with BMOrg’s ticketing system.
Who would have thought they could make it even worse than the lottery? As BMOrg proved with their Spark movie, perceived ticket scarcity makes a nice story for the media.
The way this year’s sale operated, however, didn’t help to dissipate the resentment. Those interested in purchasing tickets were placed in an online queue as each sale was processed and given a time estimate as to how long they would be kept waiting before they could purchase tickets. The time estimates kept shifting, going from an 24 minute wait, to 46 minutes, back down to 18 minutes, to then “more than an hour,” which might as well have read, “abandon all hope ye who enter here.” At one point, the line was inexplicably “paused” for several minutes, causing another nerve-wracking moment on social media.
This drastic, back-and-forth change in wait times gave those in line the illusion that somehow hackers were cutting in front of them and bumping them out of scoring tickets. Burning Man’s social media team responded by saying that the wait times fluctuated based on how long it took each buyer to complete the purchase. It surely didn’t qualm any anxiety to have used such an unpredictable factor as a counter, instead of a fixed number (“There are 39,999 people in front of you trying to buy tickets”).
See the comments from ZOrg in Emotional Roller Coaster From Hell about why this theory of wait times fluctuating because of some people taking a long time to complete transactions doesn’t add up.
This is not the first time Silicon Valley has been criticized for tampering with Burning Man’s ideals and processes. Last year’s festival garnered unflattering feedback from Burning Man die-hards after venture capitalists, executives and celebrities descended on the desert with air-conditioned camps, personal assistants and other VIP-perks. In recent years, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg have all scored tickets to Burning Man.
It seems like now, Silicon Valley is leveraging more than its money to get in front of the line.
Way to shift the blame to your customers, BMOrg. “Silicon Valley is using its technical might to cheat the system and get Burning Man tickets”: it sure makes a great angle for a story, compared to “some people typed the code into TicketFly”.
Actually it’s BMOrg’s leadership that has been criticized for tampering with Burning Man’s ideals, not Silicon Valley. No-one gives a flying fuck if Zuck brings his P.A., but many Burners do care when some on the Board of Directors are selling $17,000 hotel rooms like it’s some sort of Mega-AirBnB in the desert, and getting an unlimited supply of tickets for their customers and sherpas.
Cancelling 200 tickets will do nothing to fix the problems that occurred in the Directed Group and Individual ticket sales. There is no evidence that it will hurt scalpers, indeed it may even punish some Burners for being radically self-reliant. BMOrg have said they will void these tickets and add them back to the OMG sale – so now there are 1200 tickets left, for 60,000 Burners to attempt to buy in milliseconds on August 5.
BMOrg’s latest post on ticketing does nothing to quell doubts about the motivations behind Ticket Hell. Taking us on an emotional roller coaster from hell, and generating and focusing a massive amount of psychic energy around a totem, are clearly uppermost in the minds of the rulers of Burning Man:
it takes time to process all those transactions. Maddening time. Anxiety-inducing time. Time people spent on an emotional rollercoaster from hell, as they waited helplessly to see whether or not the winds of fate would blow a golden ticket into their hands. And during this time, probably more intensive psychic energy was heaped onto one single thing than anything else in Burning Man’s 29-year history: The Little Green Man.
The Little Green Man (yes, we’re capitalizing it, shut up) was the little dude standing, strolling or running along the progress indicator bar, marking one’s advancement through the ticket queue. As ticket-seekers urged him on with a fervor worthy of a filly at the Derby, he ascended to the level of a little green mythical being of possibility that would make the average totem, rune, relic or fetish (wait for it…) green with envy.
So wait a minute – one of the world’s largest occult rituals, with a city of 70,000 people anchored around the symbol of The Man, sitting awestruck as the effigy burns – and even that doesn’t generate as much “intensive psychic energy heaped onto one single thing” as this ticketing process?
Most people wouldn’t consider the idea of making someone “green with envy” over a magical symbol like a totem, rune, or relic, as a thing to brag about. We are investing all our psychic energy into the alien-looking avatar of BMOrg’s creation, and being taken on an emotional roller coaster ride from Hell that puts us in a helpless position. This has been deliberately engineered, and now BMOrg are crowing about how well it all worked.
At one point there were Pac Man ghosts chasing the man:
The ghosts are yet another occult symbol. They emphasize the cycle of Death and Rebirth being celebrated in this annual sacrificial ritual.
Image: Emilie Ogez/Flickr (Creative Commons)
[Update 2/23/14/ 11:53am] – Reader JV informs us that the Pac Man screenshot above was Photoshopped, and posted on Burning Man’s official web site in the discussion forums as a joke.
In another post de-briefing us on the situation, BMOrg said:
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.
This conflicts with reports from at least 5 different Burners who got a message that Ticketfly went down. Here’s a screenshot from one of them:
If Ticketfly had crashed, and the system had to be brought up again, that would have explained why some who were in the queue at 12:00:07 or less didn’t get tickets, while others who entered around 12:10:00 did. The queue was re-started on a new server, and all the people in the original queue were left hanging. If the system worked as planned, then how did people who logged in later skip the queue?
Whether the system crashed or not, it is becoming extremely clear that this did NOT operate on a FIFO (First In, First Out) basis. People who logged in at seconds past noon didn’t get tickets, while people who logged in 15 minutes or more after did.
Why did some Burners get offered a $20 donation to make, and some a $40? Something is obviously segmenting Burners into groups, before they get to buy. Is this segmentation based on Burner profiles? If not, then how do they decide who gets shown a $20 donation and who gets the $40? Random? Or once the tickets are sold, the donation cost rises?
It should be: every Burner is equal, first come-first serve, process the transactions simultaneously. This is a computer system, after all. It’s not like we are all actually standing in a line at a ticket booth, waiting for someone to type in our details and get back to us. I can see no technical reason why 21,500 transactions couldn’t be processed in less than 10 minutes.
What about the massive waste of time from when they sold the last ticket, to when they let Burners know there was no point waiting in the queue any more?
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.
While this statement may be accurate on the face of it, it’s not the whole truth. If you are #50,000 in the line when the last ticket is sold, there is no chance for you to get a ticket, technically or otherwise. The statement does not adequately explain how 60,000 58,500 people were kept waiting in line for 15+ minutes after the last ticket had been sold. It takes no-one 15 minutes to complete the transaction with Ticketfly, not everyone.
Putting the pieces together, it seems like what happened was the queue didn’t shut down because there was still soe inventory available. The inventory was the Donations, which were unlimited.
Were people given any advantage if they made a donation? No, not at all. It was first-come, first-served for everybody.
Another statement that is clearly not true, according to hundreds of Burner reports online. Some people were logging in to buy multiple tickets for their friends, because they could get straight through while their friends were still waiting. If it was “first-come, first-served for everybody”, this would have been impossible.
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).
An admission here that Burner profiles are screened, and “undesirables” on their list are “weeded out”. Do they ever receive a message, being told “your Burner profile has not been accepted because we know you’re a reseller”? Or are they just sitting there in the queue, waiting like everyone else, but with no chance to get through because their code won’t be accepted?
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).
“We wish they wouldn’t”…and yet they hiked the price of VIP tickets to $800 this year. I guess $800 is no longer considered “exorbitant”, so long as you give the money to BMOrg instead of a fellow Burner.
The lack of vehicle passes is looking to be a huge problem, they have leaped to $325 now on Stubhub. Some Burners are prepared to go to extreme lengths to get the little slip of paper: