Turnkey vs Plug-n-Play

In my recent article about a new Burning Man director’s involvement in a million dollar plug-n-play camp, I commented on Disorient, giving them praise for the way their camp seems to operate like clockwork. Just like I did in March 2012, when I first started covering plug-n-play.

It seems that Burners can survive life in the harsh desert for a week, tripping over re-bar and Darkwads. They can survive Playa lung and Playa foot, sun burn and wind burn and sinking into the mud. They can line up in queues for hours, party for days on end and still not be offended by ugly people shirtcocking. But use an ambiguous word in describing their camp? Oh my god! “WE DEMAND A RETRACTION!”

Here’s what I said:

Leo Villareal is the founder of Disorient, who certainly share a great deal with Burners. They also have one of the most impressive turnkey operations I’ve seen on the Playa. They are turnkey in the sense that there are meals and regular RV services available, and members pay camp dues. It’s harder to argue that they are the ghastly “plug and play”, where sparkle ponies show up but don’t participate adequately. Everyone who camps there has to do volunteer shifts, such as being a Greeter. It ain’t cheap, but it ain’t in the stratosphere either. From what I hear, their budget is pretty reasonable for such a large camp with so many amenities

 Deb said:

I camp at disorient for years, where did you gain your informatio?n,.. You should have checked your sources, disorient is NOT a plug n play by any means. What a fucking slap to all of us here who contribute to the building, alpha team, disengage, LNT, love ministry, .. We ALL wash dishes, we all take shifts at disorient, who the hell do you think builds our camp? We do, all of us, AND we do a greeters shift, AND we have teams of art cars AND DJs, we do it all ourselves. Retract that now please , because that’s a fucking lie!

burnersxxx: I never said Disorient was a plug and play camp. Turnkey was the word I used. Surely you admit that you pay camp dues, have meals provided, private as well as public camp areas, RV services, private bathrooms? Disorient contributes plenty, and if you read the post you will see I pointed out that everyone who stays there has to do volunteer shifts.


So, any camp where your camp dues pays for your food, portable potties and shower and biodiesel for campers and rvs is considered “turnkey “? That’s pretty fucking hilarious , I invite you over to our lovely ” turnkey” camp , hahaha, yeah, all I had to do was show up, hahahahaha, hahahaha, sorry, having a hard time breaThing here, hahahaha,..


“where do you draw the line” is a good question. Is it Sherpas that make it turnkey (vs plug-n-play)? Chefs? Private bathrooms? Showers? Pre-arranged RV services? Or is it all about having the Segways and bicycles ready?
Disorient is a big camp with a six figure budget, and people who arrive early and stay late setting up and tearing down. Are any of those people paid for their time? Regardless, it’s hardly a small group of friends putting their tents up next to each other. I can’t see where you think this article is being critical of Disorient. The point of this article is not “plug and play camps are ruining Burning Man”. It’s “Burning Man’s new director is promoting a million dollar camp with the names of artists he didn’t get permission from”.


I think the issue here was simply the terminology of “turnkey” vs. “plug-n-play”. DISORIENT is certainly not a plug-n-play camp, but if some come away with the impression that our operations are turnkey, I’ll happily take that as a compliment! It’s due to the incredible hard work, creativity, and dedication of hundreds of active burners, honing the camp over 14 years to continually improve how we set up, maintain, and break down our infrastructure, how we conceive of and produce our art projects, how we welcome new burners into our camp and the community as a whole, and how we interact and give back – on playa and year-round. Everyone at DISORIENT participates in the working aspects of the camp, and anyone who doesn’t is politely encouraged to camp elsewhere the next year… In 2014, we were as large as we’ve ever been, yet the camp felt tighter and brighter than ever.

On the topic of Plug-n-Plays, I’m not a fan. In a nutshell, I think they contribute more to the “mainstream-ization” of the playa than the “burnification” of the default world. And _that_ is a bad thing.


thanks Tejawe, it was meant as a compliment. Disorient got their shit tight!

Bacchus said:

bacchus cartoon“Turnkey” just isn’t a compliment in terms of what Dis0rient is all about, and it isn’t accurate. Burnersxxx was (uncharacteristically) sloppy in his word choice, whether intending to be compliment or a slight…. A handful of people in a camp of a couple hundred plus, go that route, and usually aren’t allowed to do that for more than one time. We bring our own “drive trains”, we are our own “owners”, we are not just handed keys to a functioning business, or sold a pre-packaged experience. It is wrong, and conflates different problems with a lot of hard fought, well thought out solutions to various challenges. Here’s Wikipedia on turnkey. Burnersxxx, we await your retraction, and rethinking of the epitaph …

“A turnkey project or contract as described by Duncan Wallace (1984) is:[citation needed]

“…. a contract where the essential design emanates from, or is supplied by, the Contractor and not the owner, so that the legal responsibility for the design, suitability and performance of the work after completion will be made to rest … with the contractor …. ‘Turnkey’ is treated as merely signifying the design responsibility as the contractor’s.”

Common usage

Turnkey refers to something that is ready for immediate use, generally used in the sale or supply of goods or services. 

…Burnersxxx and anyone who has really looked at Disorient or spent time their knows (or should know) better. I think you owe DisOrient a retraction/-apology. We are NOT “turn-key”–never. We work shifts, build our shit, break it down, and everyone pretty much pays our modest dues, except for a few who work extra hard or contribute a lot more in effort than the cost of dues… There may be an rv or three delivered to the playa, but turn-key implies fully stocked, unlocked and loaded when you arrive with your key you simply turn. Ain’t Got No Sherpas.

It seems like by the definition Bacchus has chosen to use, turnkey is where someone else designs and sets up the camp. Camp members pay their dues, show up and get allocated a spot that’s been reserved for them, and enjoy the facilities brought and erected by others. Campers are different from owners, or designers. Just because you paid the dues, doesn’t mean you’re involved in the design, or responsible for the camp as a whole if a disaster happens.

Here are some simpler definitions, from Urban Dictionary:

– Something that is finished and ready to go

– Work left to a competent source to complete, ready to go when needed.

And from Google:

– involving the provision of a complete product or service that is ready for immediate use.

I apologize to friends and strangers in Disorient if my use of the word “turnkey” to describe their large, organized, big-budget camp, hurt their feelings. I thought “plug-n-play” was the bad term, I didn’t know “turnkey” was also a bad term. I grew up in the military and have spent my career in business; in both worlds, a “turnkey operation” is considered as high praise indeed.

Perhaps there is another word that is more appropriate to use?

Here are the elements of Disorient that I consider combine to make camping there different enough from pure self-reliance, that their should be some sort of word to differentiate it from plug-n-play:

Elements of a Turn-key [or, Word X] Camp:

– dues cost nearly as much as tickets

– camp budget above $50,000

– someone else cooks your meals

– private bathrooms and showers

– people with early access passes get there to set up, so you can arrive when much of it is built

– you can leave the camp before it has all been packed up

– some of the workers in the camp get paid

– generators are available to plug into and someone else takes care of running them

– RV service regularly comes to the camp

– you can fly in and meet your RV on the Playa

– if you need extra tickets the camp will be able to find them

– use of an art car you didn’t build

Not every camp has all of those elements. If it does – like Disorient – is it turnkey?

I’m not sure what their prices were this year, but this is from 2012:

Our camp utilizes dues to help meet our budget, including dinners, porta potties, showers, sound, art, epicness, and a communal water tank

Our camp dues are:
– tier one – $275.00 per camper through July 22
– tier two – $325.00 through July 29
– tier three – $375.00 through August 06
– overdue – $425.00 after August 06 (this goes up sharply because registering late creates a lot of extra work for our registration team!)

  – $50 rebate for campers working on Disengage through 8pm on Sunday, Sept. 2.
  – additional $50 rebate for campers working on Disengage through 8pm on Mon., Sept. 3.
  – additional $50 rebate for campers working on Disengage through 8pm on Tue., Sept. 4.
  – additional $50 rebate for campers working on Disengage through the end on Wed., Sept. 5.

If your application is approved on a tier deadline, you will be given a seven day grace period to make the dues payment at the lower dues level.

RV campers: Please note that there will be an additional required fee of $725 per RV.This pays for the RV to be serviced with fresh potable water and pumped (grey/black water waste) every other day connection to our bio diesel generator grid. (Use of on board generators is not allowed because of the exhaust they produce.)

It’s pretty clear that the whole camp doesn’t stay to break it down and completely de-MOOP, since they have to pay $200 to incentivize people to do that. The fact that the payment occurs in the form of a rebate is a nice touch, but it is what it is. Clearly, the option to pay more and clean up less is available.

farnsworth-umbrella-holderPersonally, I don’t see anything wrong with these elements. I’m not hating on camps that do this, Hell, I’m not even hating on plug-n-play camps. And I never have been. I’ve been telling you they exist for years, and saying that I think Burners should direct their ire towards BMOrg, not their fellow Burners. I care as much about P.Diddy’s sherpa as I did about his umbrella holder: ie., zero. Whether or not someone had a sherpa does not change my Burn in any way. It’s bizarre that people define their own happiness by the actions of others. To each their own – what are you bringing to the party to share with everyone else?

There is no doubt in my mind that Disorienters work volunteer shifts, and I commended them for that in my original article. Likewise, Disorient itself is a gift to the Playa. I have been praising their logistical and operational abilities in this blog since early 2012 when we first started talking about Plug-n-Play, holding them up as the example that other camps should be like. There is nothing in my article that is criticizing Disorient in any way, but some of them see my words as the compliment they were intended as; and some are butt-hurt.

Sorry I ever called Disorient a turnkey operation.

I throw it over to you for suggestions, readers. What sort of word should we use to describe camps where guests pay fees and enjoy private showers and meals cooked for them, and pay others to stay and pack up…if we want to differentiate them from “plug-n-play”? Is it just “camps”?


81 comments on “Turnkey vs Plug-n-Play

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  5. Disorient emeritus here from way way back (like when BM was a circular camp with rave camp 2 miles away, and you could blow stuff up and ride as far as you wanted into the desert, only to return and realize that you had a severe case of DISORIENT and would spend the next 3 hours wandering around in a state of serendipity, meeting tons of new people, trying to find your home base)

    Disorient is really a co-op.

    Merriam-Webster: “a co-operative is a jointly owned enterprise engaging in the production or distribution of goods or the supplying of services, operated by its members for their mutual benefit, typically organized by consumers or farmers.”

    Key here is “operated by its members for their mutual benefit.”

    It is definitely not a “turnkey” operation. It’s not “pay to play.” Everybody works and participates. Like any organization this occurs at different levels. I haven’t been there in many years, but as far as I know there is no paid foreman, no paid construction contractor, no event planners, no independent contractors serving as paid staff/help.

    One could also take cues from Disorient own wiki. They call themselves a collective: http://wiki.disorient.info/index.php?title=Disorient_Model.

    But the main point here: Disorient has been around for a very long time. It has a history. It’s part of the DNA of BM at this point. It has a self-evolved guiding philosophy. It has seasoned vets that bring along the greenhorns. It is an institution and co-operates with the main BM org, has affiliations with other camps that go deep, and really tries hard to be a positive and contributing member of BM.

    On the other hand a camp like Caravancicle is a new kid on the block. It’s a playa MacMansion: expensive, ugly, new, huge, crass, and lacking context, depth, and real connections (bought board seats dont count). It’s members, certainly to their disservice, are sheltered and encapsulated in an isolating comfort bubble that has a one-way valve. Let’s hope that like any nube, they are eventually able to grow, evolve, adapt, open up and create great experiences for both their people, and all the people that they are interacting with in every way.

    Your gaffe was not about one descriptor or another, or nitpicking a list of logistical camp differentiators, but lumping in the MacMansion in the same breath as a deep, authentic, original, longtime, soulful, real participant. That was the offputting and offensive aspect of your first comment in my opinion.

  6. how about…..an “ORGANIZED” camp? or a “COORDINATED” camp?

    i can certainly see the point of the Disorient people, who may not want to be associated with the negative perceptions of plug&play, and also because “turnkey” and “plug&play” do somewhat get used interchangeably sometimes.

    Even though some people from Disorient show up eraly to set-up, and some “plan” while others “help”, it sounds like everybody helps out and gets involved, which is a FAR cry from what the plug&play camps are….paid sherpas and all.

    So really Disorient is just a more “organized” or “coordinated” version, or evolution of, the camps where a group of friends come together to pull together their space in a coherent fashion.

    Go Disorient! Fuck Plug&play!!!

    • Organized and Coordinated also describes the $13,000 pp camps, as well as virtually all theme camps, as well as ANY camp I am involved in.

  7. Really, who really cares about turn-key, plug and play camps — aren’t we all there to meet new friends, have fun and experience the burn. For all of you that don’t have a life and feel the need to vent and be negative, too bad you didn’t get self help at the burn — it was free. Quit pointing fingers at each other and grow up, didn’t your mother teach you anything.

  8. Well, this seems to be the hottest ‘issue’ this year. I can safely say that our camp is all over the board with opinions on plug-n-play and I appreciate the discussion and emotion everyone is sharing. We did camp dues for the first time this year and also camped across from a major plug-n-play. To me, it is all a matter of degree regarding the actual camp. We had a porto this year which was amazing…and we locked it so only our camp could use it. I wouldn’t give an asshole that walked into our camp a drink if they asked. It seems to be more about the participants in that camp. I imagine there are some that paid the 25k and then blended in with the scenery and others that stuck out like a plain clothed horse at a unicorn party.

    I would like to see you suss out another issue that probably has many opinions all over the place. The crowd funding that has become integral in so much of what goes on out there. Indiegogo and kickstarter have made it easy but I get upset sometimes…I contribute a lot to the projects I love….but then there have been times on playa when I want to try to hitch a ride on a car only to find that it is ‘private for people that funded a certain amount’….I guess that is ok…is it? Like when an art car puts up a campaign to help with ‘gas money’….like they wouldn’t get that thing out there if people didn’t chip in. As I write this, it seems that my opinions are all over the place so it would only seem that the population is as well. I guess it all comes down to intentions..or does it? Burnersxxx you can take it from here! (please)

    • Given the existing paid-members-only art cars and toilets, can we be that far away from camps pre-selling tickets or badges?

    • I see your point with the crowd funding issue, but my own opinion is Burners should be encouraged to do whatever they need to bring their projects to the Playa. If that includes crowdfunding, great; if it includes showing photos of their previous works at Burning Man, great; if they use the word “Burning Man” in their fundraiser, great. If you make an art car, it belongs to you; it doesn’t get seized by BMOrg in some weird Tin Principles RICO law thing to become a Public Conveyance for randoms. Yes it sucks if you can’t get on an art car, but if you don’t know the people who own it then you’re a random and giving you a ride should be at their discretion, not a requirement.
      BMOrg came out earlier this year with a post aimed at discouraging crowdfunding; later, they went the other way promoting “their” links to Kickstarter and Indiegogo. If they had their druthers, we would only donate to the Burning Man Project, and then BMOrg would decide which art cars got funding distributed to them. I believe in a decentralized system like the Internet, not centralized planned economies like Soviet Russia.

      • Well said. I agree. Just thought it seemed like a topic worth discussing and looking into (both things you are good at). As stated, I fund projects I believe in (early believer of eternal return) but think (as with the degree of turn-key to plug-n-play) the crowd funding sometimes gets carried away.

  9. As another camp lead: just want to reiterate what Coco said!

    – no one gets paid.
    – I wish there was a bit more research and outreach to people (like me) who would have gladly answered questions about what actually happens to make camp happen.
    – I wish that someone had emailed camp@disorient.info (clearly stated on our wiki) so as to bypass a lot of confusion.
    – i hope everyone realizes we wouldn’t do anything if there wasn’t a clear vision of “do more” as in, do more than what you think what you are able. I know that’s what drives me, beating MY best and creating great things. I <3 YOU. You who do great things.



      • Yes, in that they are being paid to be the cleanup sherpas. But if everyone stayed for cleanup, then no one would get paid, and then there would be less effort by everyone in the cleanup. They are using money as the fungible compensating commodity.

      • A rebate or offering other financial incentives is not the same as getting paid, getting paid means you walk away from Burning Man with more money than you came with. IE Burning Man is a job that you do and would do it for the cash even if you had no interest in the experience. This clearly isn’t the case with Disorient.

  10. Apology graciously accepted. I think the comments make clear this is an issue worth hashing over, and I think it is pretty clear that the word turnkey can, when used a certain way, be offensive to a camp that is pretty clearly not plug and play, and not the “new word for that” and not, as it is generally used, turnkey. Disorient is trying to get our campers to all be participants, to contribute, to be part of making something. You have heard from the leads, who are tireless. Again, no one gets paid. Some come early, some stay later. Some come to laugh the past away….

    Some come to make it
    Just one more day
    Whichever way your pleasure tends

    We plant nice vibes….

    Keep up the good work I and I look forward to Burnerland, and Disorient being a part of your vision…

    • thanks, but rather than “sorry, now it’s all over”, this is more like “I said sorry, now can we please continue the dialog.” There’s still a great big vacuum where that new word should be. Any suggestions? Because there does have to be a word. I need to be able to talk about “camps like Disorient” and “camps like Caravancicle” without causing offense. There is a distinction, and I am not buying into BMOrg’s plan to smear the distinction with language. Even BMOrg agree that there is a spectrum between behavior that should be encouraged, and behavior that is frowned upon if not expressly forbidden. There are different types of Burner, and there are different types of camps, let’s get the language agreed upon. Disorient is a ______________ camp?

  11. Radical inclusion people cannot be watered down. It is what it is. No more and no less. Which rich plug and play person ruined your burn? Exactly. So chill and accept organic evolution of the experience. Burning Man is greater than the sum of its parts and will absorb, morph and transform. It continues to be quite a ride!

    • Given the current incarnation of the BOrg’s Burn… does it REALLY feel strange to have a cover charge for someone to come into your camp? A tips jar on the bar? Maybe charge for a cup of coffee? Absent principles and goals, you can really absorb, morph and transform into anything. And that will tend to be monetization.

      Ask yourself what would be “too far” in commercialization, how that might happen, and if we are not already on that path. Does Disney buy out the BOrg? Does Thunderdome come back as an E-ticket ride? All under the guise of a non-profit. Everyone has their price.

  12. lol. …funny situation.

    anyways! lets go back to the tape.

    as much as I hate to quote Will Chase, he said this about “plug n play” back in 2012 in a burning blog post….

    “Whichever way you look at it, it’s hard to precisely define Plug and Play camping — because we ALL pool resources to survive on the playa, and we all have to take care of each other”

    ( http://web.archive.org/web/20120322222954/http://blog.burningman.com/2012/03/tenprinciples/plug-and-play-camping-in-black-rock-city )

    in a subsequent post on the topic.. the blog post had this in the beginning:

    “[6/25/12 UPDATE: We’ve changed the nomenclature for these types of camps from “Plug & Play” to “Turnkey” to better reflect the way they function.]”

    ( http://blog.burningman.com/2012/04/tenprinciples/turnkey-camping-a-clarification/ )

    in a 2012 ‘workshop’ about camps at the BMHQ.. they discussed the topic,.. and they lauded the fact that many camps at burning man, big ones we all know and love, are “plug and play” (i think this was before the name change to turnkey) ……and what they were saying made sense, in terms of fitting pieces together to make some great infrastructure (of course, at the time they were sort of in spin mode, ..so trying to relate the for-profit operations to the camps we know and love)



    • Thanks for posting this.

      I’m not going to change an expression I’ve been using my whole life to denote something I look up to, just because BMOrg wants to re-define the term to make “plug and play” camps harder to distinguish from well-operated big budget camps which offer a variety of camp-only amenities.

      However, I can see how BMOrg’s carefully chosen language re-definition from 2 years ago (which I did cover here) has led to butthurt feelings from some in Disorient for being associated with the word “turnkey”, since BMOrg now defines “turnkey” and “plug-n-play” as the same thing. Whatever you call it, it’s a thing that they also have decreed is quite acceptable.

      It is interesting that one of the links you posted has been taken down from BMorg’s site, thanks for finding it in the Internet Archive. Here’s the definition of “Plug-n-play/turnkey” suggested by Will Chase then. Disorient do seem to meet all the criteria Will listed, except the bike:

      “In the last few years, a new phenomenon emerged – an increase in “Plug and Play” camping in Black Rock City. What is “Plug and Play” camping? It’s a shorthand that has emerged around those camps where a group of people (it could be individuals, or a commercial outfit) set up a camp not just for themselves, but in advance of the arrival for others to arrive in Black Rock City and have things ready to go for them. Depending on the camp, this could simply include camp infrastructure, or it could also include food preparation, or it could go so far as providing an art car, a decorated bike, or a schedule of activities, for instance. It’s most often for a fee, ranging from reasonably close-to-cost setups to high dollar luxury style RV camps.

  13. ALL HAIL DISORIENT!!! There are few better examples of what I like to call “legacy camps” that have been ‘bringing it’ to the playa long before most attendees even considered heading out to this big desert rave camping trip. The core Disorient crew get this shit like few other organized groups that throw-down big time right on the Esplanade year after year. How many groups can you name that could actually hold down a week long party placed @ 2:00 & Esplanade (The FIRST address of BRC) for even ONE year. For this amazing crew, “been there, done that.” DisOrient gets Burning Man like few other ‘theme camps’ in that they work, play, and efficiently and effectively use their ‘placed’ playa real estate in a way that few groups of 50+ people can only hope to aspire to. Do people even know why they are called DISORIENT? I may be speaking out-of-school here, as I have never been officially connected to this awesome NYC/LA/other places group, but one of my best friends in the group, Jason ‘Jaymac’ McHugh is a Disorient elder, and I have been welcome among them for years and don’t have time to list how many amazing moments I have had within the wire weed placement flags that define the boundaries where so many real ‘playa playas’ make their home each year. Oh yeah, DISORIENT. This crew likes to fuck shit up in BRC by actively (but also subtlety and elegantly) “disorienting’ people on the playa. Real ‘prankster’ cred here. One year they had an art car with their camp name lit up on two vehicles that could separate the word in two just to fuck with fucked-uped fucks; their signature camp art piece “the drop” – a giant inflatable orange road cone – was sometime moved around just to fuck with stoner’s heads – fucking genius! Too bad they never got around to blowing “the drop” up this year: probably too busy tending to the needs of all the new clueless first/second time burners they invite to ‘participate’ with them for some very modest camp dues to help pay the costs for making Burning Man Burning Man. As much I dislike the vibe at EDC, at least Pasquale pays the people who put on the show. So once again, I made my stops at Disorient to vist Jaymac, his pregnant wife goddess Hruby, Tedward, and my boys Captain Nemo & Hyena in the Nautilus art tour art car and all I can say about this amazing group is FUCK YEA!! They are not a “turn-key” camp but a “Key Camp” within the Black Rock City limits. They are not a “plug & play” camp but a “plugged in, dialed-in, tuned-in, turned-on and play-hard, play-safe, play-pro” camp of Playa Playas’ one could ever hope to be part of or aspire to their ranks of awesomeness in the City of Black Rock. Oh yeah, they also THROW DOWN BIG TIME at Decompressions and regional events from coast-to-coast. Just sayin’ Admiralllll

  14. This is a ton of BS. Disorient is an AWESOME CAMP (that should have been the descriptor) that provides so much to the playa. How could you say their name in the same breath as those who have chefs/no creative elements/insulated existences – just pampered living at Burning Man. I’m a lead from a camp from 7:30 Plaza – 70 or so guys. We have dues that are significant to help purchase structures, common areas, booze for our parties (our gift), transport, etc. Sometimes we have members of our camp build bikes while others serve as foreman or camp layout. How the hell does everyone think the playa is created?! It’s from people who understand that to create awesome things, you need specialists. Those specialists time are best used doing what they are good at – not building their bikes or stopping the build to make their lunch, unless they want to. With food – so much efficiency is found from group meals (and some people specialize in cooking so the food is better). So don’t confuse smart leadership with loaded, negative words like “turnkey” and “plug-and-play.” They produce awesome things each year and are some of my best memories- how they achieve that and also have a good time for themselves is really their business (and personally, from what I’ve seen, I think they run an awesome operation full of creativity, spectacle and the essence of what we go out there for). Stop applying broad labels, we have the rest of the year for that.

      • No. Absolutely not. Just as Burning Man has morphed into it’s evil doppelganger, so no group or organization should be seen as “the example to follow.” You must define what is right, and cite those criteria as the goal. You need and operational definition, not an example that can change.

        • that’s the problem with labels. Get the label wrong, and people are heart broken. Ask them what their label is, and they’ll say “we don’t have one” – or, there will be dozens of different ideas on what the correct label should be.

          I agree with you Nomad that clear definitions will greatly help future discourse. BMOrg saying “plug-n-play and turnkey are the same”, as justburnus points out, seems like an attempt to muddy the waters. I like your “commodification camps”

  15. The horror… Rich people are ruining Burning Man! Tech execs have ruined Burning Man! Plug-and-Play! Turnkey! We’re all going to DIE! BM has jumped the SHARK!

    Excuse my horrible use of punctuation and occasional mis-guided word in all caps. Doesn’t anyone see the absurdity of all this non-sensical divisive blogging? Imagine this, “back in the day” no one had RVs on Bake Beach. Back in the day, “we could shoot machine guns” at BM. Back in the day, BM was so much better.

    Unless you’re building a shelter from Baker Beach driftwood, eating good that you foraged/caught/ killed with your bare hands, and consuming drugs extracted from natural plants found on your walkabout journey to the playa… …then you’re probably contributing to the downfall of BM. Oh, and the music you listen to and dance to? Yeah, it better come from a pan flute you picked up in Tibet.

    The number of self-righteous bloggers and journalists that are driving a wedge in the heart of the Burner community is appalling. Whether you come to the playa by bike or helicopter, whether you stay in a tent or a $70k RV, whether you dine on quesadillas or caviar… It shouldn’t matter a damn, if you exemplify the BM principles in a manner you see fit.

    There are pundits and liars everywhere at Burning Man. People that choose to point out our differences, ignoring the notion of radical inclusion and acceptance. How many articles have been written thanking the BLM, law enforcement, and first responders for providing us a safe place to live and play? How many articles thank the generous people at Distrikt and other camps for providing open bar for thousands? How many people thank White Ocean, Robot Heart, Pink Mammoth, and others for their gift of music for everyone to enjoy? What happened to gratitude, people?!?

    Get over the turnkey and plug-and-play and “this person or those people are ruining BM” debate. Focus on what you can do to make BM a better place for yourself and others around you. Evoke a sense of community and talk about what you’re going to do to make BM better the next time you come to the playa. Talk about what you’re going to do to build stronger ties to those people that propel BM to new heights, instead of ripping everyone down around you.

    I, for one, am grateful and thankful that we have a diverse community that purports to be accepting of so many types of people doing so many great things. The real rewards of BM come from those that give, those that include, those that accept. We should all put energy in to those principles and the people that embody them and leave those that don’t by the wayside… Or better yet, embrace them and get them to understand how BM can be even better with their participation.

    • Right on TaxiFish! Great words, especially, “Whether you stay in a tent or a $70k RV, whether you dine on quesadillas or caviar… It shouldn’t matter a damn, if you exemplify the BM principles in a manner you see fit”).
      I don’t blame the author for stirring things up, though. It’s a bloggers job to get peoples juices flowing. Peace!

  16. Whatever the terms, I would suggest the following differentiation:

    First, NO ONE should get paid for their efforts.

    Second, the people who pay should follow the Figment 11 Principles:

    Certainly DisOrient might not score well on Self-Reliance for the individuals, it does for the camp, scoring extra points for Communal Effort. As it has been described here, I would say it is a good, creative solution to a Burn camp. And I don’t think they necessarily need the term Turnkey. “Communal Camp” is likely better and more accurate.

    The “Commodification Camps” (Plug-N-Play, 1%) achieve none of these goals. While an individual from such a camp might achieve participation, they have side-stepped the others.

  17. Thanks to Cats & all others mentioned above for pointing the short-comings of our common language; this looks like a case for Discordian Semantics. Camp dues are something I prefer to avoid myself, but a camp of great size & scale -one which contributes mightily to playa pals, art projects, and the basic feel of community/family that we all treasure & enjoy- requires precise organization. I’ve run small themecamps, so I can see where my modest designs would not scale up to the intricate beauty of an outfit like Disorient.
    I’d suggest we encourage more free expression & discussion on how our reactions to words impact us- was my 17th burn & first time I heard the words “turn key” on the playa refer to anything other than opening a lock! Now I do take issue with camps that wall themselves off from the world- a bulwark of stoic, undecorated motor homes, or semi trailers & shipping containers right alongside the road is distinctly isolationist & uninviting. Let’s cover up those brave corporate logos on the rental trucks! Paint up some tarps to drape over those unsightly containers & motor homes! Leave a welcome mat & a clearly marked path of entry for folks to come visit you if those mighty wind brakes were absolutely essential to have placed along the road.
    Pardon my ramblings, but I must add a swift aside regarding “PlugnPlays” where everything is catered by sherpas ect (insert all things you dislike here). Back in 2001 was the first year I recollect NARCS on the playa- made for a more pronounced air of paranoia than I’d ever seen in BRC; nowadays, some folks have cause to fear sting operations (heard tell of a public fornication charge this year after midnight) and general worries can follow from the default world onto the playa. Best I can figure is to lure out our isolated neighbors & make them feel safe & welcome- nevermind what KIND of camp they stay in, these are people first & expletives second, just like the rest of us burners. That whole PLUR thing from way back sounded like nonsense at the time, but feels more like a sound policy now, doesn’t it? I love tent camping & getting sand-blasted in my home made shade structure, but I can’t fit 60,000 folks under them- show some art, show some love, show that snarky kindness only a week on the playa can show and I’ll gladly call you my friend.

  18. I think of Plug n Play and Turnkey as the same and can both be used for camps where a contractor is paid to do everything (set-up, maintenance, take-down, cooking) and the campers just show up. Both imply that the campers do little if any work and others are paid to. Otherwise there are just theme camps, small or large, where the people of the camp work together to do everything. While First Camp and other BMorg staff camps might be turnkey in the sense that BMorg staff are setting it up and cooking meals, etc., those people are being paid to put on the event and work hard throughout it, much different than PnPers.

  19. We already have a term for camps like disorient, it’s called a theme camp.

    Regardless, the universe rarely compartmentalize itself into neat little boxes for convenient categorization for those who play games with words. You are the one who has an obvious agenda in telling people to their feelings are invalid regarding camps which model themselves after capitalistic cash in exchange for human servility. Your belief that there is nothing wrong with that way of thinking *is* the problem in my opinion. You keep searching for ways to stretch the edges of what nobody has problems with into “see it’s just like plug-n-play!”: i.e. sanitation concerns (RV/bathroom servicing) and food safety (ice).

    Really?!? You think it’s beyond the pale to not see that as the same thing as a plug-n-paid staff for exclusive door security, entertainment, massages and chefs. You think it’s unreasonable for me to feel that’s not in the spirit of what of most of us came to escape from? Do you think these staff people are just as likely to have an authentic of a human interaction with guests as the rest of us do on the playa? No hindrances to being a participant?

    Stop bringing the rest of us, including respected theme camps, into your sick headspace.

    • Where do you draw the line? I keep asking. Rather than attacking me for asking the question, perhaps you could offer some suggestions as to what actually is theme camp (good) versus turnkey (I say good) verus plug-n-play (others say, bad)
      Is it the massages? The security? Bring us into your headspace, if mine is so sick. Comments are enabled here for a reason, many choose “shoot the messenger” as a reason but I am genuinely trying to get some dialog going here and ask the community for their input.
      All I’m trying to say is plug-n-play has been going on for years, it’s not illegal, and it’s unstoppable. Just ignore it and move on to the real issue: where is this culture going, who is going to take it there, when will they do it, and how?

      • I just listed a bunch of questions to answer. Don’t answer questions with more questions to play the game of infinite regress. I also stated that word games are of no interest and line drawing in the sand is a fools game. I feel angry and sad when I see people playing inauthentic roles (staff/guest/servant/master) instead of the universal “participant” of burning man, if a person wants to play those roles they have the rest of the world as their oyster.

        What is so hard to understand that saying people’s feelings about what everyone brings from the default world to the playa matters?

        • Let me answer your questions directly then:

          1. Really?!?
          2. You think it’s unreasonable…to feel that’s the spirit people came there to escape from?
          3. Do I think sherpas will have authentic interactions?
          4. Do I think there are no hindrances to sherpa participation?

          1. I guess. Hard to say what you’re really referring to.
          2. People are entitled to their feelings, that’s radical inclusion, but if their feeling is negative because someone else can afford to live more luxuriously, that’s jealousy – an unhealthy emotion. All these attempts to dress it up as some sort of political issue are just to mask the underlying bitterness some have-nots harbor towards the haves. In my life, when I didn’t have as much as someone else, rather than hating on them, I determined to make something of myself so I could have too.
          3. Yes. If they are authentic human beings. No-one is working 24/7, even sherpas get breaks.
          4. I think hindrances exist, but they are few. The shifts the sherpas have to work is a hindrance, that’s time they could’ve spent getting wasted, and if a shift is coming up they might have to get less wasted. They probably can’t bring randoms back to the camp where they work. Other than that, I don’t see the hindrance. They walk two steps away from the camp and they’re in Black Rock City, indistinguishable from any other Burner.

          Maybe the 11th principle should be “you must Burn the way others say you should”

          • We do actual set community limits on behavior by the way: speed limits, DMV, sexual/physical assault, vending/commerce, bikes parked in the street, … shall I go on?

            There are exceptions to every rule <– except this one.

            We ultimate use our feelings as a guide when we need to break the rules and when we need to follow them. The known exceptions to the rules (coffee/ice/RV servicing) are ones that don't generate much ire. I am surprised your are so quick to discount the increasing ire generated when people perceive ulterior motivations to blatant skirting of vending/commerce rules for PnP camps. That's actually a healthy sign something is going wrong somewhere and more attention needs to be put on what is happening.

            I sad I feel sad and angry when people in Black Rock City can't interact in an authentic manner (i.e. paid security telling an inquisitive ranger to buzz off). I'm now expressing my distaste for such behavior and you call that unhealthy? How do you think social change (positive or negative) happens, through robotic discourse and dictionary definitions?

            If you haven't seen how easy it is for our egos to create a pleasing explanation for our behavior, you haven't been paying much attention. What you consider "few hindrances" isn't what I'd consider minor nor without side effects. I don't want to be out there rangering and get into the back and forth of "Where is my sherpa?" with a guest when he/she is missing out on their afternoon massage because the staff had a bender last night.

            BTW, I specifically asked if the interactions between staff and guests and as authentic as the participant to participant. You seemed to have misread that one. Care to rephrase?

          • what do you think someone in DPW does when Maid Marian asks them to move their truck? You think they have an authentic interaction as two equals, or does one follow the orders of the other?

          • Do I need to remind you… “There are exceptions to every rule <– except this one."

            You seem to keep coming up with gotcha scenarios. Is the pseudo-authoritarian way burning man deals with the illusion of authority ideal? No, but it's better than all the other shitty ways I've seen so far. I don't know how that scenario will come out because it's missing the realistic context of how it would occur, which is why only fools play games with gotcha scenarios (we're creative monkey and can always pull an exception to the rule out of our butts).

            So how about the rest of what I wrote?

          • I think anyone reading these comments can see that I’ve made a more than fair effort to address all your various questions. I’m still confused about what it is you’re trying to say, and what you want me to do about it.

          • Let’s say we (as in burner community notion of “we”) convince BMorg that paid staff by camps falls under the vending/commerce rules, and that with some additional compassionate exceptions (mobility/needs-based assistance, child care, etc) we evict violators.

            Would you be against that?

            My impression is yes, because… (i’m guessing here) you disagree with rules against vending/commerce?

            or are you only against those rules being applied to situations where money is exchanged for human servility?

          • I would not ask for these camps to be evicted, no. They are part of the city too. Radical inclusion does not mean “only poor people are welcome”. The scenario you describe is already happening, with 44 licensed vendors on the Playa this year. http://burners.me/2014/09/02/population-control-through-sleight-of-hand/
            The idea that there is no commerce on the Playa is a load of bullshit, as is the idea that plug-n-play camps are somehow breaking the rules.
            I never said I’m against commerce. Clearly you’re not a regular reader of this blog.

          • You did not read my previous mentions of the exceptions to the rule and why they are in place. I actually read that article you linked to previously. I’m not ignorant about contractors and they most seem to be healthy accommodations based on real needs for any large population. The fact that you can list them means we get a pass from BLM for those exceptions to the population limits that have been imposed on our event. Good, more tickets for real participants! The truck drivers, RV service people, etc do not have the same freedom obviously as citizens of Black Rock and that’s fine because we made those exceptions deliberately and with decent amount of transparency.

            You’d be fine with BM turning into Coachella with every block hawking their wares? “Stay at slutgarden hotel for only $10,000!”, “Full body massage by the official comfort & joy masseuse, only $99.99!” “You sir look like you could use a refreshing Black Rock IPA, only ten bucks!”

            Is that your utopia? Please take it elsewhere.

          • It’s already like that. My argument is you can’t stop it, especially when it goes all the way to the top.

            There are better fights to have. Please take your trolling elsewhere.

          • “It’s already like that. My argument is you can’t stop it, especially when it goes all the way to the top.”

            I don’t think it’s already like that, but I do have many issues with BMorg, yes. I think we are sliding towards it and the visible signs of bureaucratic entropy and authoritarian exclusivity by those at the top are showing themselves with PnP.

            I’ve actually enjoy your site for a long time, but it strikes me as weird that you are treating a major symptom of the problem (and a potential path of illuminating the problems with the monkeys at the top) as a non-issue. Money isn’t evil, but the love of money and the ability to buy exclusivity that comes with it, is absolutely not healthy in any community as we see demonstrated all the time in the default world we live in 99% of the time.

            As to trolling, I am speaking from my heart. If you think that these words are inauthentic I suggest you loosen your grip on that idea. I’m drawn to problems with bureaucracy, politics and authority in all areas. It’s a problem I’m passionate about and what I spend a lot of my free time researching and working on which is why the Burning Man experiment (and it’s decay) is very important to me as it allows me to view alternatives to the way we operate everywhere else.

          • maybe your heart has ideas for how we can all go forward together, as well as just criticism of Burners.Me. If it’s so important to you, share some constructive ideas with the rest of us. “evicting plug-n-play camps” seems divisive, not inclusive.

          • If it was known to everyone “Don’t hire staff in the guise of participants or if we find out your camp gets kicked out.” then I don’t see the divisiveness since it applies to everyone (just like other vending, fireworks, 5 mph, guns, etc).

            Maybe it feels divisive to those who think “I don’t need to follow any community rules” and follow a more primordial form of individual anarchy, but that’s been true since ’97. However good or bad you perceive that turn, it’s been interesting to watch the community, LLC and external forces shape the boundary of how these rules are created, interpreted and enforced.

            You’re wealthy? Start a camp, find volunteers who like your vision of awesomeness and pay for the materials they need to make it kick ass. Sure, you can invite your rich friends, but if your rich friends are assholes to the volunteers and don’t participate, the volunteers should be able to say “suck my tits” without worrying about losing a monetary payout for non-servile behavior.

            If money becomes the goal, fakery is what follows.

  20. Friendly chime in from one of your Disorient camp leads here, for both 2013 and 2014.

    As a volunteer run art collective our playa efforts are year round. No one gets paid. Not even the camp leads who are spending 6+ months planning. No one slides by. Most of the “services” we provide, which are managed by fellow campers as their contribution, exist simply because, at our size, trying to manage 250+ people cooking their own food, running their own generators, managing their own fuel, building their own showers, shade, etc. is a nightmare, for logistics, LNT and beyond.

    Yes, not everyone stays for disengage, but thats simply because not everyone can, myself included. (Many of the people who can, can do so because they are un-employed or freelancing, a consideration we take into account by offering disengage rebates). We take pride in making sure that even those people whose schedules only allow them to be on playa for a few days contribute actively. Our kitchen crew works our kitchen as a gift to us, we merely provide them with the supplies they need. Our water services are managed by one of our campers, who gives up a lot of his burn to run around and make sure that we get water service, for RVs and camp infrastructure. RVs get serviced as often as they can, but regularly doesn’t exist on the playa (it is the playa after all). We have no private bathrooms. We build and maintain our own showers, half of which are just stalls with standard sunbags, like many campers use everywhere. Do we have generators that we need to have serviced and maintained? Of course we do, didnt you see our frontage and all the things that need to be built? All of that takes power.

    Yes, we are big and bright and damn proud of it, but every one of those campers lends a helping hand in some way, and I am not talking just about one volunteer shift. I can honestly go on and on as to how Disorient is not the “turn-key” operation it seems, especially as the lead wrangler, but I think the more important thing to remember here is that not everything is the way it seems and everyone’s perception is different. Just because a camp is big and bright, doesn’t really make it much different than yours.

    Some of us may be butt hurt and some may be proud of what has been said. I am happy that others think we are efficient and that being part of the Disorient family provides for a great experience, but I am happier to bust my ass with all my friends and create a home for all of us, 24/7 & 365, on and off the playa.

    Call us what you want, Disorient is an open creative platform, powered by love. A love so bright, you can see us straight across the playa.

    • Turnkey is not something to take as an insult, just a point of reference in comparison with the majority of the rest of the city. Now plug and play, that is an insult. Personally, I pissed on the wheels of any of those camps I came across. Even went so far as to write “Money makes you weak, and you are all rich” in the dust of one RV window.

    • Not wanting to split hairs, but Disorient has come here and demanded an apology, which I gave – so let’s get the facts straight.
      Disorient has port-a-potties with a combination lock – yes, or no?

        • I didn’t think it was a gotcha question. I am trying to establish facts and clarity. I went to use one of the portapotties in Disorient’s camp one year, and it had a numeric combination lock. It seems that must have been provided by a sub-group of their camp, one of their pods – and I mistakenly assumed it was part of the camp amenities.
          What is there to prove? I have apologized to Disorient for something that came from me as a compliment. I don’t think turnkey camps are bad, and I don’t think it is plug-n-play that is ruining Burning Man. How do you think such things can be “proved”? Grand Camel is behaving like Grand Troll.

          • Thanks for the article! The other camp lead for Disorient here. Coco said pretty much all of it. Personally I don’t think any kind of apology is in order and I am really happy to see this article, and really enjoy outside perspectives on the camp. Others think an apology *is* in order and that is reasonable too. These differences are what make us who we are.

            I just want to address the locked portajohn thing directly and set that matter to rest, since it really did happen (2012 I believe?). For a few years we tried portajohns; we thought it would be nice. The problem was, six portajohns serviced even daily wasn’t enough for 300+ people. More portajohns and more service = more money, and in my opinion portajohns are a gross thing to have in a camp anyways, and camp-only portajohns are very non-Burning Man in a philosophical sense. Standard portajohns are generally close and relatively well-maintained (for a 60000+ person event, United isn’t doing all that bad). That year, once we realized that the portajohn services we were providing were inadequate, we locked them because we had to out of health and environmental concerns. We locked them to everybody. We have not had portajohns back since, and as long as it is up to me, it will stay that way!

      • Nope! And a note on tickets… We encourage campers to practice radical self-reliance when it comes to tickets. We match a small number of campers in need of tickets with those who have extra tickets for sale. Disorient participates in the Directed Group Sale like many other large camps.

  21. don’t know if it’s Turn Key, Plug and play, but for God’s sake could you please lead the way, in stopping use of the term “Sherpas”? Sherpa’s are an ethnic group. While people seem to have tried to co opt the name to use as hard workers or those who are paid to work, it is still an Ethnic group (means eastern people, they live in the Himalayas in Nepal and Tibet) and many work as mountaineers.
    If you want to use a term for people who are catering to those going to Burning Man, maybe you would like to choose a western ethnic group who are considered hard workers, being at beck and call, and see if they are ok with that.

    • I grew up in New Zealand. Our greatest hero is Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first person to climb Mt Everest. It’s a bit like how you guys have George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, except that Hillary only died very recently. When I was a kid, he came to my school to give a talk. With him was Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese who he employed as a sherpa to carry his gear on the expedition. Norgay is also hailed as a hero, and in Nepal is as famous as Hillary is to New Zealand.

      When it came to question time, I didn’t want to question Hillary. I wanted to question Norgay. My question was “how do you feel about being called Sherpa Tenzing? Aren’t you a mountain climber and explorer too?” His answer was that he was proud to be called a sherpa, and that because he had become famous from this expedition, all the other sherpas back home were also proud to be sherpas. He felt that rather than Sherpa being a derogatory term, it was something that he had helped to symbolize an aspirational one.

      So I’m going to go for what the greatest of all sherpas personally told me, rather than your Wikipedia link. If you need one, though: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenzing_Norgay

      Political correctness is part of the problem, not the solution.

      • I’ve just checked the stats and we have had 239 visits from Nepal since Burners.Me began. There are 152,000 sherpa people in Nepal out of a population of 27.5 million. It seems pretty unlikely that any actual sherpas have been offended by us. If they have, I apologize to them too.

    • From the article you quote: “Today, the term is often used by foreigners to refer to almost any guide or porter hired for mountaineering expeditions in the Himalayas, regardless of their ethnicity. Because of this usage, the term has become a slang byword for a guide or mentor in other situations.”

  22. The more complex, nuanced, precise definitions of every type of camp according to the definition most favored by a certain number of every camp’s members (and/or random people reading about and reacting to the question here), the more “fair,” I suppose — but it will probably also accomplish little more than reinforce the divisions inherent to the issue itself.

    “Hey! We’re not a quick-turn, low-impact, high-concept set-field right-wankle rotary dualist objective startup camp! We’re a low-impact, medium-term, left-concept, mixed-field right-wankle rotary dualist objective followup camp! HOW DARE YOU.”

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