Words by Solar Santa with The Tim Doyle, May 2020
Photo by Stu Shapiro and featured image by Jan Verboom
This HomeBurn story is writing itself. And like the real Burn it contains all the twists and turns that create the wonderful event in the desert. The pixie dust penetrates even into the virtual playa.
Some background: The Tim was my very first interface with anyone at Burn HQ. He knows everything so I was up to speed really fast. Without his enthusiasm and guidance, I’d be sitting on the stoep in my rocking chair mulling over which biscuits to have for tea. Now I get to take naked showers with nubile wenches in the desert. I have a lot to thank him for.
The first 3 parts (one, two and three are here) of this story gave you a pretty good idea of the inside track making the historic virtual Burn a welcome remedy for the cancellation of the real thing in 2020.
Introducing the CIA. Communications, Infrastructure and Analytics. Like their American counterparts, most of their activity is covert but vital to a dynamic organisation. We take you into their secret cave to reveal a world of utter chaos, constantly being rescued by brilliant people. With a bit of luck thrown in from the side.
SS = Solar Santa; TD = Timothy Doyle aka The Tim.
SS: Please share with us who is the very stable genius who conceived the idea of HomeBurn?
TD: I’d say it was the result of synchronicity within a very aligned community. It was less conceiving the idea, and more just realising what needed to happen.
SS: Who rounded up the hapless victims required to produce content?
TD: Initially we were not sure how we were going to do this, so we kinda just chatted to people. They were all immediately interested, so we opened the registration forms. That was a mistake. Everyone wanted to do something and within a week we had multiple rolling schedules being haphazardly updated and managed by a range of different people who had no way to meet in person. Exactly like a burn. And the results were? Exactly like a burn.
SS: How did a group of geeks put this complicated show on the road at short notice, with limited resources and without a dress rehearsal?
TD: We had a LOT of tech that we’ve been working on for years that we could suddenly re-purpose and use for the HomeBurn. We had a Jitsi server (which is for video conferencing), chat.afrikaburn.com (which we were about to launch as a new comms platform for our community), as well as some servers and programs that we needed to find uses for. You know, once the ball was rolling, there was no turning back. It ended up being way bigger than we thought it would be.
SS: Name the geeks. If the system crashes we want to know who to blame.
TD: What do you mean, “if”?
There’s a lot of people in the background for the CIA, and many I don’t even know the names of. There’s the music wranglers Dino and Snake who I only met at the end of the event. There’s a guy named Robbie who we call “The Voice”. There’s Jeremy (Spicy, not Original Recipe), who’s the glue that held the streams together. The original ICT geeks came back with advice and input on the day – that is the Bishop and Wayne McDermid. Wayne also helped with the Minikring tech on that end.
There was a highly trained Swedish guy at some point, and a man in a business suit who I couldn’t place – I believe they both helped. Subhas for doing weird in-person tech support during the day and video editing through the night. Oh, and the remote support of our premium VIP Admins – Anita and Alexandra. Hell, each and every participant though.
SS: What is the next plan? What are you going to do next?
TD: Fix the website that broke on the first day of HomeBurn. Then make a better registration process, and hopefully have another raging success of an online event.
SS: What was your most memorable moment? Can you tell us a story?
TD: I guess it would have been on Sunday morning. I spend Saturday in a blind panic, underslept and mentally incapacitated. The server crashed at about 10am and I had spent the entire night updating it with schedules and information – so with about an hour’s sleep, I basically broke down and spent the day poking a computer with a stick and being incredibly self-deprecating. On Sunday, I kicked the day off having a moerse argument with Scheepers, and completely throwing in the towel. Everything went blurry, and the next thing I knew, I was learning how to stream on OBS (the software we used) and running my first stream AT THE SAME TIME. About an hour or two in, I began to get the hang of it, and it started getting fun for the first time.
Eventually, I could actually use the software, but that was Monday afternoon, a day after the event was over.
I could not have done it without Isa. At some point in the day, my phone stopped ringing, and I thought the battery was dead or something, but it turned out that she had managed to make herself my assistant/manager and was taking all my calls, and facilitating all the people that I normally would have. I never thought I would run a TV station, nor would I have ever thought that we would (or even could) run one of the largest online events in our community. It ended up being incredibly rewarding, and I know there wasn’t a single person in the audience that made it through the entire day with dry cheeks. We all needed that. And Scheepers and I are still best friends.
And that’s another wrap dear Burners. We’ve exposed the wonderful world driven by a goddess, a large and unseen team of highly motivated and specialised people and a large dose of pixie dust.
Eat your heart out default world.
That’s a wrap, but if you have no context whatsoever, start the saga here.
Fiddle with tech here – if you’re interested.