Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
A Brief History of Who Ruined Burning Man (burningman.org)
443 points by jseliger on Oct 7, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 241 comments

Two semi-random thoughts that struck me when reading this:

First, this Douglas Adams quote:

I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

- Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

- Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

- Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

The second was this very insightful article on the dynamics of the evolution of sub-cultures: https://meaningness.com/metablog/geeks-mops-sociopaths

For the record, I've never been to Burning Man, nor seriously tempted to change that.

People seem to have the same attitude regarding cities. San Francisco exemplifies this to the extreme: many people will criticize any change to the city that has come after the end of their teens / the year of their moving to the city.

It's just general status quo bias, I'm not sure there is anything specific to technology. Technology makes it obvious because the pace of change is faster, but I've heard (vegan) people defending a drive-in McDonald in SOMA because it was here when they grew up.

True. I miss the way Seattle was when I moved here long ago when it was still a Boeing town. There was a unique Seattle culture that seems to have faded away. Fortunately, the local TV show "Almost Live" did a great job of capturing it for posterity. Few non-locals get the jokes in it, and in 20 years few Seattlites will, either.

* Almost Live!'s Guide to Living in Seattle 1 - YouTube || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JFYAq5cAQ0

* Almost Live!'s Guide to Living in Seattle 2 - YouTube || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9Ho_PBuEYg

* Almost Live!'s Guide to Living in Seattle 3 - YouTube || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7XCImmTfFw

* Almost Live!'s Guide to Living in Seattle 4 - YouTube || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gxoi7h42jbg

* Seattle is a Changing - YouTube || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGayNX41o2w

* Almost Live! Viewers Choice 1992 - YouTube || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSqzVpfIrAc

* Gift Advice From Joel - YouTube || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YY12UoFYCKQ

Almost Live! was great television. Great 90's time capsule.

the first 3 didn't have anything too cryptic. know nothing about seattle and only joke I think I missed was the uff da sticker

Oh this is more modern than I expected

Can you explain a little more about this? It sounds so cryptic. What were/are the cultural touchstones?

It's a good question. It's a little hard to explain, it's more of a feeling. Some of the touchstones are Rainier Beer (long gone), the hydro races (kinda loved to death), the I90 "bulge" (gone), the Pike Place Market, the Bite of Seattle (loved to death), Bumbershoot (loved to death), Ivar's Restaurant's silly TV ads (Ivar died and is much missed), the freeway ramps to nowhere getting torn down, Bellevue turning into a glass towerscape, Ballard losing its norwegian flavor, Capitol Hill losing its counter culture due to escalating real estate prices, moldy waterfront cabins replaced by $5m mansions, the 1940s bungalows all disappearing, etc.

The Space Needle and the creaky squeaky Monorail and of course Sylvester are thankfully still there and going strong.

As a Seattle Norwegian I think it's too bad what's happened to Ballard! At least we still have our parade, although it's not as nice as it used to be (a lot more drinking and non-norwegian stuff) and my family isn't sure if we'll still go.

How does "loved to death" work in the case of an event such as the ones you mentioned? Are they still there but lost their culture due to volume, or did they somehow fail despite that volume?

Both of the events you mentioned still seem to exist, in some form.

By loved to death, I mean crushed by too many people attending. Some things don't scale well.

It's like when the NHRA top fuel drag racing comes to down. It lasts 3 days, with the finals on Sunday. I go on the preceding Friday. Far, far fewer people attend, and it's much more informal. You can park within a reasonable distance. You're not swimming constantly in a crowd. You can watch the mechanics at work, and even talk to them. There's no big crush in the grandstands. It's much more informal, unstructured, and with little need for crowd control. And yet there's still all the action.

On Sunday, though, I stay away.

Maybe Bellevue becoming a glass towerscape will lead to new cultural growth there. That Seattle feeling you described is beginning to plant itself in these new cities cropping up on the eastside.

Another article I enjoyed on sub-cultures and tribalism: http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/04/04/the-ideology-is-not-the...

Beautiful Adams quote ;)

Different Adams I believe.

Perhaps the paragraphs have been used to express distinct thoughts.

That'd be an okay pen name though.

Ha, yes -- the second paragraph was referring to the gp, not the linked article.

Thanks for the article. It was a very good read.

Interesting article. Thanks for the link.

The second was this very insightful article on the dynamics of the evolution of sub-cultures

You might also like "On the Origin of Posers" http://hotelconcierge.tumblr.com/post/134371738229/on-the-or...

It focuses on some different aspects of subculture dynamics, and I don't know if the two models can co-exist but I find interesting points in both.

Your article about sub-cultures strongly reminded me of the Tor project. I've been tempted to get involved, but it seems to me like the fog of war is all around it.

Makes me think of Twitter, YC, and so many areas of life. Thanks for the link.

> The mops, when properly squeezed, produce liquid capital, i.e. money.

"liquid capital" -- such a sublime, apt description/definition of money. Surprised I've never encountered it before, in awe of its simplicity and insightfulness. So obvious I should have thought of it myself.

I'm slightly worried that I might be taking your comment too literally, but it's a very commonly used term:


I'm glad you replied earnestly. I once thought "scare quotes" was a really awesome term someone invented on the spot.

Obligatory XKCD: https://xkcd.com/1053/

Well of course I had heard of liquid assets, liquidity, etc.

But I'd never heard of money described as liquid capital. It seems like the most apt definition of money.

It's also common in its verbal form "liquidate". As in, a "liquidation sale" or "liquidating some stock or options".

Well, that's what I was of course familiar with.

I like thinking of money as universal sandpaper because it's so great at smoothing out life's edges

Music seems to apply to those three points as well.

At some point you think I'm hip I like music these days but eventually you'll go OK that's it I can't stand music today.

Abraham Simpson said it best "I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was. Now what I'm with isn't it, and what's it seems weird and scary to me. It'll happen to you..."

One of the most profound moments (and episodes!) of the Simpsons.

You'll know when you're way past hip when you enjoy going to the supermarket because they play good music.

I've been to Burning Man several times and this article is spot on. No matter which year I go, there is always some new group "ruining" the event according to the "true" burners (and since BM is all about inclusivity, this group seems to grow exponentially). The first few years I came, the moaning was about "sparkle poanies", people in their 20s who came to party for a week with drugs, costumes, and glitter... without bringing a weeks worth of food or water and no tent or shade structure. This evolution is inevitable and it doesn't change the fact that there is no event like Burning Man on the planet. Standing in the middle of a dessert as a city as vibrant and alive as the Vegas strip pops up around you is an experience I'd recommend for anyone.

In my opinion, the only group that is on the path to actually "ruining" BM is the organization itself. From the rapid price hikes to the parking passes to general incompetence running infrastructure for such a large popup event to clashing egos, every time I talk to a current or former employee I get the sense that BM is run by children, half of whom want to run it like it's the 90s when the event was a tenth of the size it is today. The worst part has been the antagonism between the BM org and the BLM/local law enforcement. Every move the org makes seems to make life harder for attendees (although the cops seem to have stopped arresting for drugs, giving out heavy fines to recoup lawsuit costs instead, so I guess that's a plus).

You've probably never read the DPW handbook, well you're not supposed to, it's not for public release. The Borg staff organizations know what they're doing, and they do a great job. You don't ever notice it, because by the time you arrive it's already there. DPW and Gayte have worked hard to make everything run seamlessly. The portopotties have shade so they're not as hot and gross, there's a huge power grid, lines have been running smoothly for entrance and exodus the last three years. Arctica makes sure that everyone can have fresh food and cold drinks. HEAT ran 12 hour shifts 24 hours a day to make sure all the art projects could finish. Sign crew make sure that every street corner is marked so that ambulances and emergency services will always have a point of reference (that's what those pvc posts are for). There's many more departments that work hard to make sure that staff and volunteers are fed, taken care of, and that safety is first.

The borg is operating in their best interests, but the departments that make burning man happen work really hard to always improve year after year. So when that crusty DPW person flips you off, try saying, "thank you for your work".

When I was in high school I belonged to a club that ran two events every year. The spring event pulling in people from a 100 mile radius, the fall one from two states away. Other organizations in bigger nearby towns had a wider draw but for a town of 100,000 we were pretty well known.

When I joined the same guy had been president of the club for years. And it wasn't until after I went to college that he retired, mostly from the grumbling. The fall event was run by a local business but manned by us and workers from another local business (the owner of the latter is now the mayor). And of course without the excellent town and county infrastructure services, few would have come that far.

It wasn't until I grew up and moved away and joined other clubs that I realized how much hard and smart work these people were doing, and how tremendously hard it is to replicate.

When an event almost goes right, it's easy to forget that because you only see the thing that went wrong.

I have no doubt they work really hard and believe in what they do but Burning Man succeeds every year because of the attendees and volunteers, despite the BM org best efforts to throw a wrench in the works at nearly every stage. I'm not talking about portapotties [1] or road signs or exodus (I don't expect BM org to magically expand the two lane road from Gerlach into a megahighway anyway). DPW does a great job with what they're given by management.

I camp with a lot of volunteers, former employees, and people in charge of setting up BM's telecom, power grid, and organizing some of the other invisible infrastructure. Their work is done before the gates are open to genpop. The horror stories I hear from them every year range from missed payments for equipment and well past due invoices for infrastructure services to miscommunication among the staff that makes it hard for specialized volunteers to do their work (like setup telecom, organize logistics) to the occasional temper tantrum by leadership. Look no further than the utter hell they go through nearly every year negotiating with the BLM and LEOs, entirely of their own doing because they butt heads with the other negotiators. Pro tip: don't antagonize your only two vendors for land and security because your attendees suffer the consequences through harassment and higher ticket prices!

More importantly, infrastructure has not gotten that much better over the years despite the sky rocketing ticket prices and attendance. It wasn't until a few years ago, too, that someone with actual experience in logistics and infrastructure was finally put in charge of the work.

Also, DPW handbook not for public release? It's right there on the BM website accessible through a Google search [2].

[1] When did portapotties get shade? They should have had them since the 1990s and I don't remember any in 2014.

[2] http://dpw.burningman.com/docs/dpwhandbook2016.pdf

Fuck that, throw a bottle full of liquor at them.

> no event like burning man on the planet

Check out regional burns. They're smaller, but many are not ruined yet.

Ha. I've gone to AfrikaBurn a few times (largest burn after Burning Man). It started circa 2007 and the old-timers are already complaining that its ruined. Also juicy politics like this: https://medium.com/@kurtsiegfried/fear-and-loathing-at-afrik...

That is perhaps the most densely phrase-ridden rant I've ever encountered. it's worth reading just to marvel at how much can be implied while saying so little definitively. The author effortlessly weaves idioms and references to create a narrative of abuse, which makes it easy to relate to the circumstances alluded to.

It's masterful work, because even though I know nothing about any specific details, and this leaves ,me wanting to know those details before I take it as gospel, the truth is that a few months from now if AfrikaBurn came up in conversation, what I would likely remember is that I had read that it has real organizational and sociological problems. So, I guess that's goal achieved for this author, no matter how much at this point I want verification before accepting this.

You're right. I proved it to myself by reading the whole thing replacing AfrikaBurn with IBM. It really works; e.g.:

> By sleight-of-hand and the wholesale and completely unnecessary import of an unwieldy American pop culture franchise, a group of creatively blocked shadow artists, bureaucrats and box tickers are making an elaborate and specious lunge at celebrity through curation-by-funding. Employing savvy redistribution of money, they stand on the shoulders of established, older artists and their fashionable, younger counterparts, thus hoping to crown themselves the fairy godmothers of local pop culture. In short, involvement in IBM appears to be nothing more than a cynical exercise in associative branding for themselves and, in some cases, the products they promote in the real world.

With apologies to IBM. You can use Monsanto or Tata Motors if you prefer.

A masterclass in the art of vagueblogging

Masterful, indeed, and with some absolutely inspired turns of phrase in there. However, seeing the list of literary acknowledgments at the end, I have to wonder if there is more plagiarism that poetry happening here. Well, no matter; I particularly loved this sentence, and intend to appropriate it myself, at some point, after `s/burner/$TARGET/` has been applied:

> The burner mindset is parked on bricks in the stultifying cul-de-sac of hipster insouciance.

I stopped reading when I got to the "white privilege" part.

This looks autogenerated. I can tell from the Markov-model artifacts, and from having written plenty of wharrrrrgarbl in my own good time.

I've been to a few of those and while they're fun, they're only like the modern Burning Man because of association ans they don't have the same scale or funding. Burning Flipside, in Texas, was really really fun though.

For those on the west coast, Fourth of Juplaya is the big gathering of Burners early in the summer but there isn't really a sense of community and everyone is really spread out.

SHHHHHHH, don't tell anyone. You'll ruin it.

You just ruined them. ;)


The map in that would probably overlay nicely with a global wealth map:


> many are not ruined yet.

From my "recently having read the article but never have been to burning man" mind, that makes it sound like it's just not succeeding.

So what you're telling me is next year, regional burns ruined burning man.

Maybe I'm just ignorant to BM, but what does BLM have to do with this?

The Bureau of Land Management, aka the original BLM

Gotcha, that makes more sense.

Yeah you might want to spell that acronym out next time. BLM certainly has a bigger association for Black Lives Matter with most people, I would think. Was equally baffled.

You know, there is no reason you can't volunteer and instantiate the unfuckotron.

Complaining is for spectators.

There is always a place for constructive criticism.

Similarly, there is always a place to tell the critics to get off their asses and pitch in effectively.

From elsewhere in the comments, the author is supposedly a volunteer. So I guess I don't see how this is pertinent here. Also, the tone is a little harsh.

I'm sure he appreciates your constructive criticism.

A lot of the rapid price hikes come from local police and the BLM hiking fees as much as possible over the years.

AFAICT all of these price hikes are a direct result of BM org behavior which has cost the event a lot of goodwill among the federal, state, and county authorities. The event is so big that Walmarts as far out as Reno section off a large part of their stores just for Burners and a significant portion of the Washoe County economy is dependent on the event. BM should have great leverage in negotiations but this leverage has been eroded over the last decade through unprofessional behavior and unnecessary antagonism.

The lawsuit against the county police was especially egregious after they couldn't get two negotiators on decent terms with each other into the same room. After that, the police fees went way up and they started trying to recoup their money by any means necessary, including enforcing laws that were never before enforced during the event. BM's principals of radical self reliance and care of the environment set it up to be a great citizen to the land, but relations with the BLM have only gone down hill despite the fact that BLM goes out of its way to support community uses of federal land like Burning Man.

This is a really different perspective than I've ever heard, and I'm intrigued. I've built up a lot of skepticism especially toward the Nevada authorities and their own good will (maybe not so much BLM) after hearing so many anecdotes of them making unreasonable demands and disinterest in even trying to integrate with the broader community.

And of course there's the standard argument that while BM should have leverage, they're also so wedded to the site they're essentially a captive audience. And all the authorities know this. So I'm not sure they really have so much natural power.

Anyway, I'm open-mindedly curious about your own perspective. But I still remain really skeptical about the natural good will of local law enforcement and especially that there was anything reasonable about them jacking up usage fees (e.g. the new Nevada live entertainment tax), which just feels like a plain old power play fleecing at heart.

> And of course there's the standard argument that while BM should have leverage, they're also so wedded to the site they're essentially a captive audience.

Then they should move. Really. Moving it even once would bring the local authorities to heel.

Montana and the Dakotas have a lot of space. I suspect some Indian tribes might be very enthusiastic about hosting something like Burning Man.

> I suspect some Indian tribes might be very enthusiastic about hosting something like Burning Man.

Yeah, I wouldn't be so sure about that. I get the feeling that BM might well and truly offend some of the elders. I could see a council or two wanting the money, but I wouldn't expect smooth sailing.

Montana would be terrible for burning man, the Dakotas are a much better fit.

Why would Montana be terrible? Montana may be socially conservative, but it has a very strong "Leave people the fuck alone to do what they want" streak.

For example, if I remember correctly, when the 55mph speed limit was being forced on everybody, Montana simply abolished speed limits on the big roads. When the Feds got pissy about that, they simply dropped the speeding fines to something ridiculously low with no license points.

They only want to leave you alone if they approve of what you do. For instance, they still have very harsh penalties for simple possession of marijuana and even medical marijuana still faces heavy opposition from the state government (there's a ballot proposal to reduce some of the barriers currently in place). It'd be extremely risky for Burning Man to be held there, IMO. Edit to add: this is from last year but gives some context: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/why-montana-going-backwa...

I'm also extremely skeptical of the NV police but I've heard stories from opinionated people at both extremes and many in the middle and I've settled somewhere in the center. I think both sides deserve a generous heaping of blame but it's up to BM org to make sure that the festival goers don't have to feel the fallout. They haven't done a great job of that. Here's where it gets complicated because there are several levels of law enforcement involved with decades of history with the event. Black Rock desert is also a hodge-podge of federal and local jurisdictions so it pretty much guaranteed a mess.

From what I understand, Burning Man was a curiosity in the 90s that the NV LEOs were largely ambivalent about but the relationship started to sour in the early 2000s when BM started really growing year after year. The county police did start to pull some sleazy power moves, I'm told due to an overzealous/tee-totaling Washoe county sheriff, but the BM org response was naive at best and absolutely childish at worst. The event was straining the police departments and other services in ways neither side had never imagined so I don't know if the police were power tripping or if they did genuinely need more capital to carry out their duty. Instead of capitulating to some demands and compromising like any other large scale event has to, BM org tried to get everything they wanted and in the process acted like "a bunch of big city Californians who think they're better than small town hicks" (I talked to a county LEO about this after a domestic violence arrest at an adjacent camp and those were his exact words). Mid-2000s is when I believe the relationship became antagonistic and after that there was pressure from law enforcement and the BLM to bring in more feds in greater numbers. Luckily, BLM and LEOs didn't try to use the atom bomb and block the event entirely but behind the scenes there was a year long struggle to get the event up and running on time.

After a while (late 2000s/early 2010s) BLM decided that the event had grown too big and put on another layer of bureaucracy that BM org had no experience dealing with, which again strained the relationship. Meanwhile, something happened that angered the feds (who were only there to show the public they weren't ignoring a oasis of drugs in the desert) and they started involving themselves with BLM's negotiations which further weakened and emboldened BM org. I don't know what really happened in the early 2010s but it all culminated in the 2012-13 lawsuit which cost the county millions and left a sour taste in everyone's mouth. After that LEOs went crazy with enforcement and tried to recoup their losses, which meant that all the nastiness behind the scenes started to spill over into the main event.

I've built up this perspective second and third hand over the years so take it all with a grain of salt. At the end of the day attendance and ticket prices skyrocketed, law enforcement became more and more obstructive, and the quality of the infrastructure didn't really improve but its hard to know what's going on unless you're in the org.

My goodness, so what you are saying is that Burning Man is ruining Burning Man?

Someone really should stop Burning Man from participating. I mean, someone needs to stop Burning Man from being destroyed and what better way of doing this than by stopping Burning Man itself?

>there is no event like Burning Man on the planet.

There's another event that happens I'd like to tell you about.

It's a place where people get together with friends and strangers to share thoughts, ideas, drugs of one kind or another, and even gifts.

It's a place that sometimes does get ruined, and sometimes does not--most often ruined by the organizers themselves. It has a lot on common with burning man.

There are people there who will agree with your attitudes about art, music, culture, and technology. There are people who will disagree so hard they want to punch you in the face.

We even burn things down--sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively.

It's a great event, and I speak for everyone involved when I suggest that you participate.

It's called real fucking life. Feel free to join us any time.

Bringing Burning Man's inspiration into real life is one of the great outcomes of the experience. It gives me and many people I know much greater confidence in being open, giving and playful toward friends and strangers in the real world when we get back. It's really neat to bring out moments of spontaneous interaction and smiles, i.e. simple moments of raw human connection, in interactions that would normally be met with people buried in their cell phones, avoiding eye contact, and basically doing anything possible to avoid having to acknowledge their fellow human beings.

There's another word for this that doesn't use phrases like "Burning Man" or "real life". That's: "community". My experience has been that it's harder to find and sustain enthusiastic community in the real world. When it happens it's of course great, but people in their day to day tend to be resistant to it. Temporary experience with a more open, enthusiastic, and non-judgmental community than you're normally used to can be an invigorating experience for some.

That's because community in the real world is hard. It shouldn't be, but it is.

Cowering away from that difficulty isn't something to be proud of. Isolating yourself in a shell of people who agree with you isn't the right way to go about making dreams come true or enacting social change, which we badly need.

If you want a community in your life, go build one. Don't sit around telling us all how awesome it is to be a part of one that was pre-built and probably won't exist tomorrow.

You're fundamentally misunderstanding what I and others are saying.

We're talking about the opposite of cowering away. We're talking about the exact community building you value - both out there and back at home.

You're also clearly writing with a chip on your shoulder. I don't know what bad experience created that chip, but I'm not interested in fighting you or putting down your own experience. Please try to offer the same in return.

Nobody's cowering from the difficulty; many of us go to Burning Man precisely because we are strongly motivated to invest in community-building, and the combination of a challenging physical environment and a wide-open social environment make it a great place to exercise and improve our skills. People very commonly come back and build interesting new community organizations in the "real world" using the skills and connections they've developed through their trips to Burning Man.

A temporary city turns out to be a great place for experimenting with new or at least different ideas about social organization, because it reduces the risk. Every organization has an opportunity to rebuild itself every year, so you can always decide to try something new, if you think it might work better than what you did before; if it fails, well, you just muddle through until it's time to go home and then try something different next year. There's a rhythm of organizational renewal and evolution that comes from the evanescence of the infrastructure. At home, organizations are never so flexible, and you get far fewer chances to go through the process of building one, so it's harder to develop the kind of experience that makes you good at it.

Furthermore, you can't underestimate the significance of the prohibition on commerce. Capitalism is such a pervasive element of everyday life that it's easy not to notice just how often our communities solve hard problems by simply retreating, and restating the problem in the form of a transaction. You can't get away with that at Burning Man; you have to engage with people socially if you want to get anything done. It's an extra layer of discipline that makes things harder, but more satisfying - not easier.

I downvoted you because your comment was gimmicky and needlessly antagonistic while not making a substantive point. Do you think Burning Man attendees don't live in the real world? Do you think you've achieved that much more than Eric Schmidt or Elon Musk (notable attendees) that you can talk down to them?

Sorry but those are NOT notable attendees. Notable attendees have CREATED something notable that they shared on the playa.

Elon Musk and Eric Schmidt are also notable attendees in Real Life.

That's fine. You're totally allowed to downvote me.

But pulling celebrity names out of a hat is not an argument. It's actually a fallacy. It's called appeal to authority. You should check it out, but I doubt you will.

I'm upvoting you for honesty. You're not right, but you're honest about it. I approve.

You chose to reply only to the final, weakest part of Tossrock's comment. Yes, you're quite right, dropping celebrity names isn't much of an argument. The rest of his comment seemed pretty bang-on to me. I'd be curious to know if you have any reply to "Do you think Burning Man attendees don't live in the real world?"

Whoever said "there's no event like Burning man on this planet" was a bit breathless, but going <<durr, try real life instead>> isn't much of a reply. If you want to start listing fallacies, I think what you have there is a false dichotomy.

Celebrity name dropping isn't appeal to authority when the question is "are there no people who attend that are successful?"

Naming successful and wealthy individuals is a good counter, and we reach for naming celebrities because everyone knows them as opposed to naming Joe from accounting at XYZ corp, who has 1.2M in the bank but no one knows.

I'm very familiar with appeal to authority, which is not what I've done. Appeal to authority is when you argue "Statement X is true because authority Y said it is". This is not what I said - I listed examples of successful, well regarded people in the "real world" who have attended Burning Man, as a refutation of your (poorly stated) premise that people who attend Burning Man do not also accomplish things in the real world.

I actually enjoyed this post and voted it up. Provocative, probably too harsh, but one of those rare comments that are incredibly unpopular, far too snarky and yet made me think and showed a lot of insight.

I'd take the downvotes as a job well done. I don't suggest you do it again though.

does real life have any of these sparkle ponies the burning man savants are so afraid of? they sound cool.

Try this band: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-jN3vH26NQ

(Warning, NSFW!)

NYC has sparkle ponies pretty much year around. You learn to ignore them after a while. I'm from a pretty small farm town in Texas. What you learn after a while in a big city is that anyone who is trying to get your attention is trying to take your money. Sometimes it's a sparkle pony hooker; sometimes it's Comcast. Other times it's someone who went to burning man "when it was cool."

Every individual I've ever met who went to burning man was irritating, broke, begging for money, and full of "good" business ideas that were either "stolen" by huge megacorporations or just straight up idiotic business ideas "that would totally work if people weren't so close minded."

Whatever. My experience is anecdotal, and I'm not going to judge 8000 people based on my interactions with a couple of dozen.

Wait, no, that's not true. I'm totally judging all of them. You want a real human experience with unsanity and sharing and creativity and ugliness and real human stuff and burning things?

Go home to where you live. Be poor there. Hell, be moderately wealthy there.

Look, I'm about as in favor of arts and philosophy as a person can be. I spent 20 years as a professional violinist before I got in to technology. I spent years teaching music theory and history. Now that I have a better living as a developer, I volunteer for a dance company in Brooklyn, and I run an El Sisteme program in the Philippines with my brother.

I get it. There are more important things in the world than material wealth, and exploring yourself and other people in a non-traditional way is valuable.

But this is ridiculous. There are better and more honest ways to do this than burning man.

BM pisses me off because it's a waste of resources. All those people in the desert doing whatever it is they do is person-power that could be directed at a worthy cause that could accomplish the same thing.

Aside from my volunteer work I write 8 checks a year, for a thousand bucks a piece. I give them explicitly to the kinds of orgs that I don't work with on a daily or weekly basis. I give my time to orgs I know and love and care about. I give my money to those that I don't.

You want to do something good for you? You want to find out who you truly are? You want confidence to know that you're doing okay? You want to find out if your ideas have legs?

Spend a day with the homeless. Go to a foreign country and teach their poor what you already know.

Spend your Burning Man money on something that is worthwhile and will actually teach you something about yourself and your fellow man.

I really, really, really strongly despise Burning Man people. You don't actually want good for yourself or for others; you just want to feel like you are good to yourself and others.

Fuck you, I hate you all.

I hope that a hater on HN has now ruined burning man.

The best and most intellectually honest thing BM could do right now is shut the whole thing down. Burn it down.

But that will never happen. And we all know why. BM is a business now.

Businesses never commit suicide. Only people do. Maybe think about that the next time you want to go to burning man. Just sit on a phone waiting for someone who has a problem that's so bad he or she wants to end it.

None of you will ever do that because you are extreme and insane narcissists.

We are fucked. We live in a world where it's sort of okay for David Foster Wallace to kill himself, but it's also okay for idiots to go to burning man to "find" shit.

To put it the way the kids do: "I can't even . . ."

This entire comment is deeply ignorant and ill-spirited. You don't understand Burning Man. There's nothing wrong with that; it's not an easy thing to understand, particularly if all your knowledge is second-hand anecdotal.

Where you go astray is when you pass judgment anyway. You are not qualified to judge the moral value of peoples' experiences at Burning Man any more than they're qualified to judge the value of your own experience and efforts.

There's a lot to legitimately critique about the event. I'm sorry you feel unwilling to see it at face value - at which point interesting discussions can really happen - and instead want to go for a fatalistic scorched earth policy of bringing down an entire community based on your own biases and personal projections.

That community will continue to welcome you if and when you ever approach it with some humility.

I really cannot say anything either way on BM, having never been on the same continent and all. I do respect your point, violently creative energy is a spontaneous phenomenon to me, something that emerges on the fringes and gains momentum inversely proportional to its factor of acceptance. I for one, ex *-addict turned sysadmin with a few stories from the darker corners of life, have found that to be generally the case, but there are exceptions every now and then. I know very little about BM, people here only rarely have heard of it and of those nobody ever went, so one person tells tales of a drugged out Sodom & Gomorrha kind of place, others of a syndicalist camp, others again of pretentious Silicon Valley guys letting off steam playing the bohemians for a week. Don't know what is true, no immediate plans to find out.

What I strongly, absolutely, vehemently dispute is that David Foster Wallace killing himself was anything but the worst hit English literature took, ever. Guy wouldn't have been as sharp and witty and beautiful without a long standing relationship with pitch black despair, but man how I wish he'd have lived to produce an oeuvre of Pynchonesque dimensions.

Hey Gruselbauer,

In specific response to your pondering the many faces of Burning Man - at core it's a temporary city of 70,000 people. That means it's a large and diverse place. That's why you can hear so many wildly different stories about what kind of place it is - it's each of those to the different people who seek those things.

Think of it like any other city - is New York a debaucherous party destination? A crucible for art and theater? A whitewashed yuppie land of banks and condos? An immigrant melting pot? A loud and dirty merry-go-round that never stops? A home of amazing, beautiful, inspired people who try their hardest to craft a community where people can live and thrive?

It's all of those things. And more. Cities are too complex and diverse to be reduced to a single dimension. Burning Man is no exception. There's a reason they call is Black Rock City.

In that sense, it's in so many ways a reflection of whatever you seek and however you feel. If you go into it looking to party that's what you're going to find. If you bring open energy and enthusiasm for your fellow human being, and a desire to simply connect and bond with others, you'll find that in bounds. If you bring a fear of pretentious Silicon Valley tycoons using it as their own self-serving dumping ground, you can find that if that's really where you want to direct your energies. And so on.

That's of course also why you'll continue to hear so many varied opinions on it (and so many explanations of how it's been ruined). Some people are convinced it's the epitome of civilization's decline. Others see it as the most important and nurturing community they've ever known. Etc. It's large and diverse enough to serve as a really big mirror to all the myriad ways people project their own identities onto it.

Dude, it sounds like you REALLY need a big HUG! Don't worry - I love you man.

Here's a virtual hug for you! Really great post and some insightful points of view that really make me think about what you are carrying along for the ride. I hope your post helps open your own mind to all of our biases, preferences and unanswered questions that everyone faces daily.

* Don't Burn the Man, Burn the Man inside You!

Seriously, you infuriate me with your writing, and I want you to do more of it so I can get more infuriated! I've upvoted you. Everyone who downvoted you just proves I was right to do so.

How so?

It's the contrarianism version of an appeal to authority.

I would like this article a lot better if they included some of the legitimate criticism about what Burning Man has become.

The number one "ruined" point I hear about from early attendees is when it went from a volunteer effort to something with a year-round staff. Seeing a small band in a pub is different than a giant, commercialized stadium show. Neither is wrong, but nobody is served by pretending that they're the same. As most developers know, things change when you go from "I do this for the love" to "this is my job".

I don't think Burning Man was "ruined" by that transition, but I don't like how this article mocks the whole notion that something might have been lost along the way. Of course, it was written by somebody whose job is Burning Man, and as Upton Sinclair says, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

I don't think it mocks the notion that something has been lost along the way.

Instead, it seems to say that there are many ideas of what the "one true essence" of Burning Man is, and each of those "essences" have been lost, often times more than once in a single event.

So if one points to a single event that "ruined" burning man, you're picking out one thing that was its True Essence, inadvertently putting yourself at odds with all the other people who thought that something else was the True Essence of Burning Man.

All in all, perhaps the essence of Burning Man is more resilient than we think.

I agree with wpietri's interpretation more than yours. ("Mock" might be a bit strong, but I don't think it's totally unfair.)

The article talks about people integrating into BM's unique culture, and defending that culture. It talks about how things that once "ruined" BM are now accultured into it. It doesn't seem to ever indicate that the culture changed along the way.

I think a similar article could have been written with the thesis that you indicate; but I don't think it was this article.

You are right its become a "corporation" of its own. I know a company/app that was shutdown by Burning Man lawyers this year because that company had an app named "Burningman" that was about burning calories. Completely unrelated. They spent good part of last year fighting their lawyers but in the end gave in.

The article's main point is simply that change is not necessarily bad.

You assert that transitioning from a volunteer effort to something with a year-round staff is a "legitimate criticism", but to others that is just part of the natural evolution of the event.

The article's main point is that none of the changes Burning Man has made have been bad, although somebody always thought so at the time. But it ignores one of the biggest changes.

To decide whether change is bad or not, we first have to honestly look at the change, at what has been gained and lost.

I believe the author is an unpaid volunteer.

More broadly, I'm not sure I fully understand the criticsm. There is paid staff, yes. But that's still a vanishingly tiny percentage of the effort that makes Burning Man what it is. It is still first and foremost a volunteer effort, and lives or dies by that effort. It's exceptionally few people, to my understanding, who earn money. I believe you can find a list of all of them on the BM financials page.

I count 84 people listed as permanent staff on the website, which is not something I'd call "exceptionally few". And I'm not criticizing the fact that people are permanently employed; more power to 'em. But as Pica_soO says, things change once it's your paycheck.

Consider the difference between "music" and "music industry" for example. Or the difference between coding on one's personal open source project and coding on somebody else's dime. Consider how many startups compromise their vision to become commercially successful. Or go talk to somebody at an ad-supported site; you can hear them defend things (e.g., auto-play video ads) that they would have previously reviled.

If people don't like how a hobby project is going, they have no problem shutting it down. But once it's one's living, that becomes almost unthinkable. Which in turn means that other things become almost unthinkable.

So my criticism of this article is that it's basically an exercise in refusing to think about the legitimate issues people have with what Burning Man has become.

Yeah, I get your point. It's an interesting one worth real consideration. And that's an ongoing conversation between the community and the permanent staff that the community understandably remains hyper-vigilant about constantly.

But my specific point was that I don't believe the author of the blog post is paid by Burning Man. So I don't believe the content of the blog post would be inspired by that angle (correct me if you find out otherwise). That inclines me to consider its viewpoint more seriously, precisely for the reasons you mention.

I read his bio again, and those sound like paid roles to me. If you'd like to claim some authority here beyond "random internet commenter" to assert he's never been paid by them, please do.

Year round stuff will depend on burning man to continu and to grow.

It will reduce risks, excluding risky groups and activitys.

It will allow for companys to advertise with edgy art projects.

You can not compromise, when everything you have at the stake is your vacation. You will be compromised, if you start to hate the freaks that might cost you your job.

I'm of two minds about this.

The first is the one that had so many wonderful and valuable experiences out on the playa and considers it such a special place. How dare someone without the proper deference for that special place come out and ruin it. So I understand where the criticism is coming from, but...

The second is that Burning Man is about inclusivity and impermanence. It's what made the event so special in the first place. What was isn't unimportant, but maintaining it as anything other than a memory is. Like meditation, what is in the current moment is what's important. And lamenting change prevents fully embracing that new experience.

What strikes me as necessary to "save" Burning Man from being "ruined" is to embody the values of the event. Be as inclusive as possible and embrace the impermanence of the event. Meet exclusivity with increased inclusivity. Meet clinging to past experience with increased focus on embracing the present moment. New burners won't understand what the event is about and old burners will have forgotten. Inform/remind them by example, not by condemnation.

I don't like thinking about anything having been lost. That's clinging to the past in a way that feels antithetical to the Burning Man ethos. Every year, many burners will ask themselves, "is this event still for me?" I started answering, "no" a few years ago. But that doesn't mean I think Burning Man was ruined or has failed. It and I have evolved in ways that are no longer compatible. It's changed me and I like to think that, in my own small way, I helped change it. And as much as I'd love to still be in my 20s and still experiencing all the wonder of those late-90s burns, that reality doesn't exist anymore and pining for it only creates craving and misery.

The article should mock (or at least not dignify) people who believe that something has been lost. Those people have forgotten the purpose of the event. Listening to a beautiful song can be a sublimely moving experience. But you cannot capture that experience by choosing a single note and prolonging it indefinitely. And yet people believe they can capture their experience on the playa and relive it year after year. The song changes over time and eventually ends. Acknowledging that doesn't make it any less beautiful.

If you don't like thinking about something, that is also a kind of clinging. An honest accounting requires looking at strengths and weaknesses, gains and losses. To look only at the parts you like is part of the cycle of desire and aversion that meditators seek to break. (See, e.g., the desire and aversion talks here: http://seattleinsight.org/Talks/Browse-Series/Series/SeriesI... )

And it's funny to say that Burning Man is about impermanence given how stable it has become. One of the critiques ignored in this article is that impermanence is exactly what it has lost. What it had to lose when it became the bread and butter of a bunch of people.

Again, I don't mind that. Permanence creates possibilities. Disney World and the Catholic Church can accomplish things that a one-man band or a lone wise teacher can't. Structured organizations gives movements historical traction. But I'd like to see an honest accounting of what was gained and lost, not somebody mocking the very idea that something could have been lost.

I don't think many (any?) people working at Burning Man think "this is my job" more than "I do this for the love".

I can't imagine it pays well enough to justify hanging around in the desert for a month with a bunch of burners, if that's not your thing.

The two aren't exclusive. I love writing software, but it still changes things when I'm doing it for money. I do it differently. I make different choices. And am more likely to justify those choices, because my identity becomes to some extent bound up with my job.

As an example, I used to work for financial traders. Once got out of that, it was easy to see how I had adopted some of the perspective of the industry, of my colleagues. But I'd never go back, because I can now recognize the moral issues with it.

I think the point of the article, in many ways, is that the details of why people think burning man has been ruined don't actually matter that much.

Yes, that's exactly his point. Which is why his refusal to look at some of the most substantive reasons is especially disappointing.

I don't have a gripe, but an observation; when I would go in the 90s, I could afford it easily even when I was in highschool - as the years progressed, I couldn't decide on a whim that I wanted to go, and the cost (aside from just ticket) is way to high now

I love this breakdown; it really demonstrates how the "ruining" of Burning Man is no different than the sort of aversion to change that occurs with basically anything that people are enthusiastic about.

* Bands? "They used be all about the music, then they went mainstream"

* Video games? "Now they just cater to beginners; they don't care about real gamers anymore"

* Movies? "They're so focused on the special effects, they don't even bother with the story"

...and the list goes on. Name just about anything that people enjoy, and you'll find a vocal contingent complaining about how recent changes have "ruined" it.

I think people like to feel special about themselves. When you were part of a small group of people who liked some band, and went to see them at small local venues for $5 a show you are "in the know". You are a part of that local music scene, and not one of the masses who just listens to what's on the radio. On one hand, you have discovered music that is good and not everyone listens to. You might say it is all about the music, but I think a big part of it is knowing that you "know" something that others don't. This makes you feel special about yourself. You aren't just a boring, uncritical person who listens to whatever commercial music is presented to them.

Then that band becomes slowly more popular, you are happy for their success until a certain point is reached. Now kids who you thought were just random lame kids with no taste in music at school are listening to them. If you want to see their show you have to buy tickets on ticketmaster, pay much more, and worry about sold out shows.

From a practical standpoint, it is now more difficult to see your favorite band. But I think the part that really bothers people is losing that feeling of being special. Everyone likes them now, there is nothing special about you liking them.

This same process can be applied to video games, films, craft beer, clothing/fashion trends, and probably any thing where you get very passionate fans.

Those seem to be legitimate complaints that seem to be "take something specialized that caters to a small crowd, then water it down so it appeals to everyone."

That said, sometimes such complaints are clearly a bit whiny, but then again, sometimes they are warranted critiques.

I don't have any data to back this up but I would argue that as the total number of video games has increased, the number of good games (as good and better than the games when you were 20 years younger) has also increased.

We didn't take N good games that 10% of people like and turn them in to N bad games that 90% of people like.

Instead, we have something more like 10xN good games that 10% of people like and 100xN bad games that 90% of people like.

With movies, as opposed to games, I think this is less pronounced given the age of medium but still present.

I think there are two situations here that account for this.

[1] Technical barriers to entry. Photography had huge barrier to entries when it first started. With wet-plate exposures you had to be at a high level of technical ability in multiple disciplines to even take a picture. Only the people deeply interested in the subject participated. Also the high cost (in time and money) to take a single photo meant that a lot of effort was put into a single frame. Today it's trivial to snap a photo on my phone. However there is still great photography being today! It's just that there is a bunch more crap photos being taken. This is similar to developing a game (there were still plenty of crap games being made then too!). Personally, I think it's all awesome.

Ignore the crap and enjoy the awesome. No one judges a guitar based on how bad players sound. People listen to the players they like.

I don't know why this is being downvoted; there have never been more or more diverse games, and the old ones don't go away quite so readily, between emulators and GoG. Gaming is now mainstream and very nearly respectable. Kind of like football ("soccer") in the 90s, just with a different kind of hooligan.

We've lost a bit to genre crystallization, but there's no shortage of people willing to experiment with weird things in Unity or mods to existing games.

The hyper-mainstream games are of course boringly predictable, but it's a short step away to other things.

I would agree about video games. I haven't seen the supply of games slowing down any, and there's a lot of high-quality stuff mixed in there - way more than any one person could ever hope to consume. Of course there's a lot of shovelware too, but Sturgeon's Law.

Movies seem to really be hollowing out the middle more. You've got a lot of very low-budget fliers and indie prestige stuff and a lot of $100M+ mega-movies, drifting now into attempts at Marvel-esque cinematic universe perpetual money-printing machines for increasingly dubious IPs.

Most movies have always been trash. It only seems better historically because we don't tend to remember all the trash that got released in decades past, while all the trash in the past year or two is still in memory.

For your reference, that's a restatement of Sturgeon's Law.

I don't think so. Surgeon's law basically just says that most of everything is crap. I'm talking more about a form of rose-colored glasses, the "everything is crap now" mentality. It's sort of the same thing that makes everyone think that the music industry peaked when they were 20.

Sturgeon's law is a response to somebody asking "how come most of X is crap, when that's not the case for Y?". The response is that most of Y was crap too, you're just remembering the good stuff.

So yes, it's definitely the standard reponse for the "everything is crap now" mentality.

> Sturgeon's law is a response to somebody asking "how come most of X is crap, when that's not the case for Y?".

That's true but it's not the scenario posed. The scenario is not "why do most movies suck when most games don't?" It's "why do most movies suck now when they didn't years ago?"

These are related but different things. The "why does it suck now" stuff is nostalgia and romanticism, which is not what Sturgeon's law addresses. Sturgeon's law along with recency and forgetfulness lead to this nostalgic effect. But saying that Sturgeon's law is the same as nostalgia because it contributes is like saying radiation is the same as cancer because it contributes.

> The response is that most of Y was crap too, you're just remembering the good stuff.

Sturgeon's law was not phrased this way. It wasn't "you're remembering the good stuff" because it was addressing criticism of SciFi vs other contemporary genres. There was no question of remembering the good stuff. It was a question of sci-fi getting criticism that other genres simply didn't.

I get that you're trying to make X be "movies now" and Y be "movies then", but this is an awkward (mis)use.

If it is awkward mis(use) and I don't think it is, then pretty much every invocation of Sturgeon's law is also awkward mis(use). The typical invocation is "the type of music I like" vs "modern music".

And like any popular adage, what counts is popular usage, not original intent. Most popular adages have generalized and shifted over years of usage.

I guess I don't agree that this is the common definition or use. Maybe it will become so.

Movies seem to really be hollowing out the middle more. You've got a lot of very low-budget fliers and indie prestige stuff and a lot of $100M+ mega-movies, drifting now into attempts at Marvel-esque cinematic universe perpetual money-printing machines for increasingly dubious IPs.

I'm not sure I agree. Those two types have certainly risen, but if you look at films from last year, there a are still a ton of "middle" films with decent budgets (10-30M) and high praise from the critics - Selma, Spotlight, Carol, The Big Short, etc. I don't see a hollow middle.

I pretty much agree. Honestly, even with the ready availability of rather low cost digital cameras, editing software, etc. it still takes a pretty decent budget to create something that really looks "professional." Certainly there are some indie/art films (perhaps especially documentaries) that stand out but most true low budget looks it and is probably hard to fully appreciate it outside of the smallish demographic that's into that kind of thing.

All of those are Oscar-bait prestige pictures. They aren't really aimed at the middle.

So, except for good expensive movies, good indie budget movies and good middle budget movies all movies are crap?

That's sounding a little bit like Sturgeon's law.

My own experience seems to reflect this. The availability of quality work seems to grow logarithmically in relation to the quantity of something.

Yes, quality is a function of quantity. This applies to all kinds of things besides games such as the relationships between friends and family members. The more time you spend with someone, the more likely a certain percentage of that time will be of high quality.

I think the level of quality has also increased compared to pre-2005.

Games like Factorio and Minecraft didn't even exist. It's not a stretch to call FTL and Spelunky the best rouge-like games so far. Ocarina of Time, even with its huge nostalgia bias, is less re-playable than A Link Between Worlds. CS:GO basically amplifies everything good about CS 1.6 and CS:Source then adds the competitive support. Similarly, DOOM (2016) takes everything (Except perhaps the mod-ability and level design) that made Doom so good and improves it.

Doom4 is fantastic for those of us who grew up on Doom1.

OOT is a classic simply because of its weirdness and innovative time mechanics, but I prefer the bright joy of Wind Waker and the more recent Twilight Princess is just better in so many ways.

Many people (myself included) would argue that CS:GO is worse than 1.6 or source. CS has always had competitive support by nature of being able to host your own servers.

I don't think Burning Man could yet be called "appeals to everyone". Got a ways to go? There's still a core of weirdness that proves its still got something going on.

It appeals to a certain kind of everyone.

But this always happens in anything that starts out as counter-culture. Always.

First the freaks and the true believers invent something that appeals to other freaks and true believers. Then it gets bigger and becomes a mainstream business. Then eventually it crashes as it starts to feel sterile and commoditised, and it becomes more about management and money than expression.

Then the cycle starts again elsewhere - sometimes with the same people.

(Any similarity to software is intended. Although sadly I think we have too few real freaks and true believers in software. Certainly not too many.)

Any favorite examples of freaks/true-believers in software?

Stallman? Also Erik Naggum springs to mind.

Erik Naggum's rant against XML, which I discovered thanks to the great uriel's site on harmful stuff, is a treat to read: http://harmful.cat-v.org/software/xml/s-exp_vs_XML

By the way, I wouldn't call him a freak, but I greatly admire Joey Hess, writing great Free software from his off-grid cabin.

I don't think it can be said to be 'about money' yet. Still a principle of no commercial presence. Again, got a long way to go yet.

It never really appealed only to a small crowd - that's the point of 'feeling special'.

In a country of 300M people (leaving aside international visitors), let's not pretend that only one hundred people (early 90s) or even the mid 90s 8,000 attendance are the only people to whom the idea appealed.

Popularity, and prominence are distinct, and tangential from these complaints.

I used to go to sleep away camp, I went there for 7 years. In the 6th year, they got a new head of camp, the boats were made heavier (compared to their motors), kids were observed more strictly, and the spirit of the camp never felt the same. I think you make a fair point that people are adverse to change, but I think there is an equally fair point that changing the spirit of a place or thing does truely make it worse, atleast to those who had enjoyed certain aspects that were lost. I am sure the new kids are perfectly happy with the camp, I am sure they are having a great time, but that place will never be the same to me and my friends, and the loss is disapointing. Ultimately, I don't own the camp, I only own the memories of my experience there, and I think is alright to be disappointed that others can't have the experience that I had.

To me, one of the key points of community inclusion is democratization but also global responsibility of enculturation (aka https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September ).

Explaining and communicating culture is hard. When faced with a choice between "pitching in and helping do it yourself" and "have someone else do it so I don't have to" most people would choose the latter. Which never scales.

If you want a community to stay true to its values, then it has to be the responsibility of every member to do their best to help communicate those values to newcomers. Sometimes the newcomers ignore those values and sometimes they deserve to be ignored, but you can't delegate personal responsibility for helping maintain a great community.

PS: Thanks to everyone on HN who has put thought behind a community etiquette-driven up or down, or who has taken the time to explain to someone why their comment's tenor doesn't mesh with the community we try to create here.

As a fan of punk music this attitude is exhausting. It seems that you aren't truly punk unless you are literally the Sex Pistols. Punk was declared dead when The Clash signed to a major label decades ago and has died a million deaths since then. It has continued to evolve and influence all sorts of music, but apparently that's not real punk.

Yeah, those are all disappointing things. The hipsters are right. Not everything can get away with being good art. Some people don't "get it", and it ruins a good thing. There's a good reason people push back on homogenization. Plenty of run of the mill stuff already exists; something different and genuine is valuable.

But one shouldn't spend too much energy focusing on keeping things the same. We still have recordings of art when it was good (Burns of yore, I guess memories would have to suffice) Things change, and the new things have their own merits.

I will always object when people refer to Skrillex as Dubstep, but his stuff isn't that bad either, whatever it is. What I experienced this year at Burning Man was no doubt missing some of the magic from 10 years ago. I didn't fully "get it" though I did my best to fit in. But whatever it is today is also pretty damn impressive.

You say this like the people aren't in the right to complain, or that their complaining is unjustified.

If I went to a jazz festival and all I heard was electronic music, I might be understandably upset, even if I liked electronic music. The expectation was that there would be jazz. It wouldn't matter to me if you could trace the lineage of electronic music back to jazz, they are still different in very important ways.

It is not about aversion to change - it is about maintaining an elite position.

>* Bands? "They used be all about the music, then they went mainstream"

Whenever a band starts to play with a full orchestra you know they've jumped the shark.

I went to Burning Man twice. What I found the last time was that it was so biiiiig that it was hard for me to have fun. Large traffic jams getting into and out of an event just aren't my cup of tea. I also stayed for a very long time in a tent; if I were to go back for longer than a 2-3 days, I'd need to stay in an RV.

What I did realize, though, is that in order to really get the most out of Burning Man, I'd need to really get into the culture. People get into Burning Man like they get into their churches, where there are lots of social events. Ultimately, the groups that enjoy Burning Man the most are large groups of extended friends that like can be found in a small church.

The hardest thing with Burning Man, IMO, is the participatory prep. Meaning, the easy part of the prep is like planning for a long camping trip. What ultimately is required for me to be more than a tourist is much more than what I was able to do as an introverted person who just doesn't like to make artwork or run games for other people.

I grew up in Nevada along a main highway that people take to burning man. I really wish "leave no trace" included places outside blackrock.

People would also routinely leave their playa covered and broken down vans, RVs and cars in my neighborhood. In the desert by my parent's house we would find numerous trailers abandoned full of trash, empty water bottles and old clothes. You knew it was from burning man because the stuff was covered in playa dust.

When was this? I lived in Reno for a while, and I remember having a similarly disgusted response to the trash strewn along the road when I happened to pass by shortly after the burn in 1998. My understanding is that the org has tried hard to deal with that problem since - there is certainly a lot of messaging before the event about where you can and cannot dump water or trash, and how not to be a dick to the locals, generally.

I didn't start going to Burning Man until after I moved to Seattle, so I haven't actually seen what the fernley-wadsworth road looks like post-event these days, but my impression of Hwy 447 going northwest is that it generally stays clean.

Last time I saw it was probably 2005-ish. It was along 445 near Spanish Springs.

As soon as I heard about burning man, back in 1996, it had definitely jumped the shark. If this guy knows about it, it's no longer hip.

2016: OP's blog post ruined Burning Man.

I think we can agree that the guy at 2016 IAC ruined BM this year.

Lol its like usenet. The first rule is there is no usenet.

I've never encountered this sentiment regarding usenet. Or maybe I'm misinterpreting your comment? Do you mean that knowledge of, and participation on usenet is elite/special? I find it fascinating if that is what you mean. I was born in the 80s and never really had that feeling from anyone in my circle of friends; more like, "Hello! What is wrong with you? We have forums on the web now."

Around the time of fight club being popular, usenet was the place to find pirated media and software. The inspired formulation of the "rule" gathered steam because it seemed no one in authority noticed this while they freaked out about napster and descendants.

Haha, got it, that makes sense.

It has something to do with Eternal September, which is also Burning Man's "problem".

I've never been to Burning Man but for a few years I was heavily into meditation, dabbled in psychadelics, and was reading Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, and any other mind-expanding literature I could get my hands on.

I get the sense Burning Man used to attract people like my younger self. From my Facebook and Instagram feeds, I now see many startup scenesters I know attending. If I want know, I feel I'd have to be much more careful to suppress my "weird" side. I can understand why the original attendees feel the event has become too diluted to be appealing.

Not having been, I don't know, but from a distance it looks like a pattern I've seen play out in other communities. One thing I've noticed is that many people who are genuinely cool, interesting, curious, adventurous and so on, don't see themselves that way at all - and many people who see themselves as cool and creative are in reality vapid and shallow.

This is a great little comment/insight

Swap [Burning Man] with any modern or long lasting festival. Here in Germany it would be "Rock am Ring" or "Southside". Very well written. We all will sooner or later act like our grandparents and say "in the past everything was better". If we are honest, it wasn't.

Many of these German festivals have actually become worse after getting lots of media attention. You notice it by many small issues that gradually appear; e.g. choice of music acts that aims towards getting more random people paying for a ticket (e.g. popular "gangsta" rap at a former indie rock festival), people who are more interested in booze or in their makeup than in the music, etc. Gradually the people who are actually into the music will disappear if organisers don't stay true to the original ideas behind a festival. (Of course with financial pressures such is often easier claimed than done..)

But nothing is ever black and white, and one other observation is that organisers actually do have control, and are not bound to cross a point of no return.

Take Leipzigs Wave-Gotik-Treffen [1]: This is one of the biggest Goth and Dark Culture Festivals in the world. Events are decentralized all over the city, so the city of Leipzig turns black for a couple of days every year around whitsun.

Lots of creative people are around, so similar to Burning Man in Germany it received huge media attention during the past couple of years, just by being well suited for a photo series. Search for "Viktorianisches Picknick" (Victorian picnic) on GoogleImages.

Yet they only sell full time (4 day) tickets. Due to the popularity for years organisers have been urged to introduce day tickets, but they have refused to do so because they only wanted to serve to a dedicated community. They could have made more money and rent better concert halls, however decided for keeping the community. The festival stayed small, no more than 30.000 attendees each year, not many big acts, it actually still has "Treffen" (meetup) atmosphere for Germany's goth scene, and the creative people continue attending.

[1]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave-Gotik-Treffen

> Swap [Burning Man] with any modern or long lasting festival

You can't really do that. Burning man is different from a normal music festival.

I've never been to Burning Man, but I've been to other similar week-long psychedelic festivals, like Boom in Portugal and it's definitely not your 'normal' rock music festival.

First there's the 'non-commercial' side - no companies or logos or other publicity displayed anywhere, then there's the international aspect - literally, it's a gathering of people from all over the world. Then there are the drugs, the virtual lack of alcohol, the psychedelia and the 'unsanity' that people experience for a week, which manifests as all kinds of forms of art, music, yoga, martial arts, shamanic rituals and so on.

'Leave no trace' means people are conscious and careful about the place, so the festival ground is always clean.

People change, they become non-competitive, extremely nice and generous to each other - sort of like a sect, but in a good way :)).

So the festival is not just a great amount of fun and suffering from weather extremes, but also a very 'spiritual' and introspective experience - in which I personally regain hope in humanity..

Boom Festival is always a powerful experience, but 'burners' who've been at both claim Burning Man is even more powerful.

Of course as these events gain popularity, more and more people are going to be attracted to them and inevitably that's going to change the 'old spirit' of the festival.

But this is the rule of life - old gives way to new and it's been like this since the beginning of time, right ? :).

I have been to burning man and there is nothing remotely approaching a lack of alcohol, virtual or otherwise.

Come to Burning Man one day! The community would love to have you, and you are clearly ready to connect (and grow) with it.

That's like, your opinion maaaan.

> Here in Germany it would be "Rock am Ring" or "Southside".

I think Fusion would be a more apt comparison.

How about the Chaos Communication Camp?

Or the Chaos Communication Congress, though that's admittedly not a tent festival with tents?

> We all will sooner or later act like our grandparents and say "in the past everything was better". If we are honest, it wasn't.

I don't know — I think maybe it was. Not on some absolute scale (although I doubt that no single aspect of the past was absolutely better than an aspect of the present), but on a relative scale. I recall reading that part of the reason most of our musical tastes don't really change after high school is due to physical and emotional components of discovering music young vice old. Can't that be the same for other experiences too?

Imagine you're twenty-four at some event: you have food in your belly, friends around you, and you're having a ball. You don't really have any other responsibilities other than making it back to work once your vacation is over.

Now imagine that you're 36 at the same event: you have a wife and a few kids, food in your belly, friends around you, and you're not quite having a ball. Maybe you brought your kids, and maybe some aspects of the event aren't kid-friendly. Maybe you didn't, and you've got that constant back-of-the-mind worry that all parents have. Maybe your wife is with you and you're both enjoying the event, or maybe she's with you but you had an argument, or maybe she's not with you because the event's not her thing, and you miss her while still enjoying the event, or maybe she's not with you because you had a fight and you just want to leave the event and apologise. Meanwhile, the project back at work is still going on, and while you have faith in your subordinates, you know that they really do need you for a few key decisions every week, and you worry that they might be blocked until your return.

You're 48, at the same event. One of your kids is driving now. You can't believe the law lets someone that unaware of his circumstances to drive, and you're worried that maybe you shouldn't let him, but you're worried that if you don't he won't learn to notice his circumstances. He's not at the event, and you've got that constant low-level dread every parent has that he'll kill himself or someone else on the road. Maybe you and your wife have kept your relationship strong through all the increased cares and responsibilities, or maybe you've let it slip because there's only so much time in a day. Meanwhile, you've realised that some of the hopes you both had for your lives will simply never come to fruition: at this point in life, some doors are forever closed. And then there's your career: you've reached a high point in terms of capability, but you're still just one man. Most of your subordinates are good and trustworthy, but they don't see the bigger picture. You try to show them, but they're too caught up in the trees to see the forest. And then there's D—, who was a great and loyal guy, but you raised him up a little fast just as things began to go wrong in his personal life. Now he's underperforming, and honestly you don't believe that he can get better. You want to repay his loyalty, but you also want to repay the loyalty and hard work of all those D— is shortchanging.

Which of those people is going to enjoy the event better?

Wise words man. You just described perfectly why I hate growing up. It not only has nostalgic reasons why we think the past was always better, you nailed this down. But in fact this is an illusion then and obviously a complete subjective opinion. I'm in my mid 30s, not married, would say solid career. I try to stay around young people, that's my thing. Makes me feel and stay young :) so at least for me the present can be as awesome as the past and I hope if I have kids that won't change and someday I can go on festivals with them together ;)

> "in the past everything was better". If we are honest, it wasn't.

According to Socrates it was [0]

[0] http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/63219-the-children-now-love-...

TIL Hacker News is a wonderful thing

Have a bonus quotation:)

"Nobody ever goes there anymore - it's too crowded."


I feel like this takes the term "ruining" too literally. Yes, clearly nothing was completely ruined with each subsequent change, but the current incantation is certainly not the same as the first, and people are right to criticize the change (just as people are right to defend it). No one change might have been the death, but all together, it is very understandable that some people might call it "dead" and have moved on.

I think that's the joke.

The post seemed to claim that because each small change didn't ruin it, it's not ruined. I'm saying that it's ruined to some because it's no longer the thing they fell in love with.

Huh, you know, I've never really noticed it as Xeno's Paradox applied that way before. I'll have to keep an eye out for it, since it can lead to such a different conclusion with the same information.

Zeno's paradox or Ship of Theseus?

There's a song that has the lyrics, about a drunk Irishman singing of home:

"He sings his songs of Ireland far away,

and of how he's going back to Dublin one fine day."

but carries on:

"And the Ireland of his heart's recall, If it ever did exist at all,

Now only lives and wistfully moves,

Through Paddy's dreams."

So many of our memories are very... rose-tinted.

More of a "You can't step into the same river twice" kind of thing.

I am impressed, this was a really good article that I thought was just another rant going in.

The universal rule of groups: its always the next guy who ruins the coolness of a group

As to Burning Man itself, it always felt like one of those events that I was not cool enough to go to. Camping in the desert would be interesting, and probably a lot less stressful than some of the camping I did during high school.

> As to Burning Man itself, it always felt like one of those events that I was not cool enough to go to.

So you're playing your own gatekeeper? If you wanted to go, just go, you might just learn a thing or two about coolness, yourself and other people.

Coolness is largely an illusion.

In any case, isn't being uncool the coolest thing nowadays? At least that's the impression I get when I look at hipsters. 20 years ago, no-one would be caught dead looking like they do, it would have been totally uncool. Now it's cool (perhaps not for long anymore).

In my opinion, there's no substitute for authenticity, and anything that's considered cool or fashionable is merely an imitation of real authenticity (see e.g. late-stage hipsterism).

Well, here's the thing. Some of us have deeply mainstream tastes. We mostly like the food that's served in chain restaurants, the music that plays on the radio, and the movies that play at the multiplex. If we venture outside that to more exotic material, the experience is usually more alienating than delightful.

Burning Man is made for the exact opposite type of people. It's for people who find all things mainstream stifling, and are driven to break out of it in some way. It's for people who are into producing or consuming something, anything, that's several sigma off mean. That's what it celebrates. And for those of us who are really not into that stuff, going there is at best a waste of time.

You sound like you're not a good fit for Burning Man.

I hope you don't take this as a negative comment. That's not why I'm writing this. It's definitely not for everyone; it helps no one trying to make it an event for everyone, and anyone who considers it needs to do real soul searching about their own identity and how that might intersect with the event. You're showing clear self-awareness which is leading you to a particular intuition. I respect that you can see with confidence who you are and where your cultural fit is.

I went to Burning Man with a good friend of mine, who also had mainstream tastes, and his experience is well summed up by this comic:


As an uncool person myself, a tiny fraction of the reason why I generally avoid festivals and parties is so that I won't spoil everyone else's fun by being there.

You have to trust me on this. There are some genuinely, permanently uncool people in this world, and we ruin the "cool people" parties. We are not the kind of pretend-uncool that is actually a rebellious alternative kind of cool. We are actual, irredeemable squares.

The authenticity is there; it's just really, really boring. And not particularly attractive.

So please, don't tell me to just go to Burning Man if I want to go. Everyone would go home early, and no one would come back the next year. (Rationally, I know that couldn't possibly be true, but I still believe it.) Also, the "cool people" have been rather rude and horrible to me my whole life, so voluntarily walking into a concentration of them seems masochistic and ill-advised.

Coolness may be a mirage that may be chased forever without catching it, but uncoolness is real.

Sorry, articulacy is cool.

> So you're playing your own gatekeeper? If you wanted to go, just go, you might just learn a thing or two about coolness, yourself and other people.

I think it has more to do with the expected enjoyment value. I really didn't get into frat parties in college, and Burning Man seems to be the art scene version of a frat party. So, I think it would be interesting, but I really don't have the friends that would make the trip worthwhile.

> In any case, isn't being uncool the coolest thing nowadays?

Not if reality TV is to be believed.

> In my opinion, there's no substitute for authenticity, and anything that's considered cool or fashionable is merely an imitation of real authenticity (see e.g. late-stage hipsterism).

Looking around, that doesn't seem to be the majority view. I think authenticity is dead. The majority of the people want their opinion reinforced and not contradicted.

Frat parties are the least compelling cultural experience I could possibly imagine. But Burning Man has changed my life (for the better) and given me some of the greatest boosts of inspiration and self-love and purpose I've ever known. I'm still deeply thankful for my first introduction to that community in 2013. I'm still a slightly different person as a result of it.

The feeling of "I'm not cool enough for Burning Man" makes 100% sense. I know many people who have keenly felt that. I've felt it myself off and on. If you let yourself fall into the wrong mindset it can definitely bring you down.

But some of my greatest inspiration from Burning Man comes from having learned how not to give into those insecurities, and to have let myself see with open eyes the supportive community that really is there and shows authentic enthusiasm for you just because you're you: no matter how uncool, introverted, shy, awkward, or whatever other non-sexy self-label you apply to yourself.

One of the greatest strengths of Burning Man's community at its best (in my opinion) is offering such unique support for people proudly being whoever they are. Even if they're uncool. Especially if they're uncool. You are loved and accepted simply because of who you are.

Yes, this sounds like hippie nonsense. Yes, it's not universally practiced and there are elements that don't buy into it. It's definitely not a walk in the park. But that magic is really there. I felt it through some combination of dumb luck and personal openness to the world and I'm deeply thankful to have found it.

Maybe your path can help you find that too, maybe not. I'm lucky to have found some amazing personal community there that continues to support me even in my weaker moments. But I assure you, as best as I'm able as random words here on a computer screen, that you could be a deeper fit in that community than you may realize. Maybe you'll never go there (and I'd be the last to judge you if you don't). But if so, it's not because you're not cool enough for the party.

It's worth noting that Black Rock City is divided into zones (radially, like a clock! Google for bird's eye images or maps!) and there's a zone for everybody, even you, gentle reader.

I know a someone that goes to burning man a lot (they call themselves "burners"). I asked how it was this year and was told one of the best years ever. Last year wasn't so go according to this person. Its probably who you are and what you're looking for. For her, its all about the art installations.

The logistics and planning of getting everything out to the dessert from the east coast was more significant than I had imagined.

I borrowed her popup tent that was covered in burning man dust, its weird gray and alkali. Its remarkable that burning man actually happens.

Incidentally, last year had the worst weather in many, many years. Frequent sandstorms and freezing temperatures at night.

I first became aware of Burning Man in the late 90's. It sounded interesting, but a lot of people said it wasn't worth going to anymore because all the new people had ruined it and it was nothing like it used to be. The argument doesn't seem to have changed much since then - "it's gone downhill over the last few years and is nothing like it was 8-9 years ago when I first went."

It wouldn't surprise me if in 2026 people are talking about how terrible Burning Man has become and how it's nothing like the wonderful Burning Man of 2016.

I also first heard about Burning Man in the mid '90s, but didn't actually attend until 2001. I was worried that I was going to be seeing the decrepit, watered-down remnants of something that had once been wild and wonderful. Well... I'm here to tell you that it has certainly changed over the last fifteen years, but it is still wild and it is still wonderful.

I think that this pattern exists in part because you can't really have the same mind-blowing experience twice. You can keep going back to the playa, and the event will keep offering you new experiences and even some surprises, but you do get accustomed to it. I suspect that many people claiming it is not as good as it used to be are failing to distinguish their reaction to the novelty of the experience from the nature of the event itself.

It is very common for people to go every year for 3-5 years, then move on - not because Burning Man has gone downhill somehow, but because they have gotten all they need out of it and are now ready to spend their summers doing something else.

That doesn't make them wrong though. It may truly be mostly different people every 10 years.

turn down for what?

because you're 38 and reminiscing about how unappealing burning is compared to when you were 25

The confusion stems from the idea that Burning Man is still a cultural phenomenon rather than just entertainment/art installation. An erroneous belief that the promoters seem to have internalized to their own confusion. Indeed, part of the entertainment value is the perception that just showing up in costume means you are engaged in significant culture production. So easy!

Disappointment stems from attendees expecting a cultural phenomenon and getting a show; the expectation that Burning Man is still important but finding it's just a show. You don't get this problem at Disneyland because and talk of 'Disney spirit' is tongue in cheek.

Here are some more substantial questions than the sort of feel good straw-man in the article. What new ideas have come out of it in the last 15 years? How do you create culture by showing up for a weekend to a catered camp ground and show? Is there any overlap at all to what attendees think about the meaning/point of Burning Man? So if you come west just add it to the Vegas-Disneyland circuit because that is all it is now.

Indeed there is one advantage to Vegas and Disney, the cops don't shamelessly hassle gay people.

Burning Man is fundamentally different than Disneyland and is still pumping out extremely strong culture. 99% of the disappointment people have at Burning Man is precisely because of that - expecting a "show", or something that's going to be on display to entertain them, then feeling bored / disillusioned / shunned when the reality that they have to do real work to connect into it sets (or doesn't set) in.

Your interpretation sounds excessively jaded to me and irreconcilable with the communities I know that continue to nurture and grow from BM.

I notice in particular your comment about coming to catered camps. That's precisely what Burning Man's community is pushing back hardest against, because the community wants to avoid the exact degeneration into vapid entertainment that you're claiming it's become. It's deeply deceptive to suggest this is a lost battle, or that the heart that makes this community something more isn't still strong and fighting very hard for the good fight.

Edit: I didn't notice your comment about gay people. What are you trying to express there? Black Rock City has to be one of the most gay-friendly places on earth. Where are you getting these ideas?

I hope you are right about some culture production still going on, I can not speak to the whole event or even a statistically significant amount. Perhaps limiting ticket sales to a tiny time window has helped.

Yes, the bulk of the community is gay friendly. The cops (which were not there in the early days) sure as hell are not. Aside form being told of other harassment by them, I personally witnessed an event in 2006 when two friends of mine were detained for the weekend in Reno on some ludicrous indecency charge and released on Monday without charge.

So good luck to the event and its narrative but I and every one I know are sure as hell out of it.

A number of my close friends are part of the gay community there, so I strongly care about that issue. My experience has been that the gay community is very strong and has as good relations with police as anyone. Of all the complaints I've heard about police, I really haven't heard that as a theme. I'm sorry your friends had that bad experience.

The (overbearing) presence of police is dispiriting, and is most definitely a sunk cost of the growth and notoriety of the event as it now is. No one enjoys that. It is what it is. That said, it's easy to overstate its impact - they're ultimately a very small part of the experience and don't really stop you from doing whatever you want to do out there.

Burning Man is not what it was in 2000. People who really enjoyed what it was then may not enjoy what it is now. But it really isn't Disneyland or Vegas. Thankfully (in my experience), there's still a long, long way to go before it gets there. When it's getting there I'll be the first to step off the ride. But I'm still enthusiastically in love with what it is now and proud of the communities I know and have been a part of. They're some of the most solid people I've ever known. That's mostly, in the end, what keeps me there.

Our conversation sounds like a "changing of the guards" dialogue. I'm glad you have good memories from your times and I hope you can find some joy knowing there are still people with fires in their heart stirring the flames.

I am infinitely glad there are people with your sprint putting effort into making things work at burning man or anywhere else. I sincerely wish you the best.

Huh... and here I was thinking that Burning Man was ruined when they decided to run their infrastructure on Oracle and Salesforce

The very first thing I ever heard about Burning Man was how it wasn't cool any more. This was in the 1990s.

I've come to believe that the real purpose of Burning Man is to have these kinds of meta-discussions. The actual gathering in the desert is nothing but a side effect.

But each time, what it "was" did get "ruined" ... at least enough to change it into something different.

It's like the old koan about a radio: if you replace the speakers, then the housing, then the circuitry, then the controls, is it the same radio?

Or the older version about a ship: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus

Koan about the radio?! Try nearly 2000 years old, also known as the Ship of Theseus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus).

If you replace the object in the analogy is the thought experiment still the same?

Yeah, it pretty much is.

I've been to burning man 8 times, first was 2001, most recent was this year (hadn't been in 7 years).

the shark has definitely jumped higher since the last time I went. Hardly saw any naked people this year. There were lots more "coachella" types - doing a lot of instagramming, but the worst for me was that there really wasn't a lot of room to be by yourself out on the playa. There were always people around. In past years, I could be out there by myself if I went out far enough.

That being said, BM is still incredible and I'm not against it evolving. The spirit is still alive and well.

I do wish there was some way to ban cell phones out there. You may have noticed there's even reception now - this started in 2015 and, to my knowledge, isn't BM's fault - one of the cell companies decided to put up a tower nearby.

That change saddens me.

That said, in the end I basically adopt your last sentence as my ethos. Change is inevitable and the saddest thing of all is to miss what's still great because you're too focused on what's lost.

There is an intriguing consilience between this post and sama's "We're in a Bubble" (http://blog.samaltman.com/were-in-a-bubble).

The most powerful line is the last one:

   "The 10 Principles are at their most powerful when given to strangers."
So quit resenting new folks joining; that's kind of the point of the whole thing.

All the true scotsmen joined burning man 10 years ago!

I guess this must be true of any strong subculture. Subcultures are, by definition, "sub" or differentiated from some other mainstream culture. So the subculture's very existence is based on this boundary between itself and the mainstream culture. Participants in the subculture are obviously concerned with who is closer to or further away from this boundary.

No mention of This Is Burning Man and other media coverage in the early 90s? I'm vaguely surprised.

There's some interesting parallels between Burning Man and the Cremation of Care. The latter started at the Bohemian Grove in 1881-


The way this relates to FOSS communities and the culture that surrounds them is really interesting.

pfft. It was better next year.

Time aka change ruins everything.

Every wave of people, SF residents, phone phreakers, immigrants, every generatuin; bemoans the next wave of people are ruining it.

Burning Man is an enabler of some of Silicon Valley's deepest pathologies and I'd prefer to never hear about it ever again.

I have not yet planned to go to burning man, lack of fund or motivation, and I don't plan to. Am I too ruining Burning Man ?

God, I know, it was so much better next year

The same people who ruined the Internet and every other unconventional new thing.

Burning man was pretty awesome this year. Can't wait for next year :D

Next years headline, "HN post ruined Burning Man" ;)

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded"

He could have simply summed his "who ruined it" assertions.

He could have said "Allowing an uncontrolled influx of new participants ruined burning man".

And that is precisely right.

Some clubs should be exclusive.

So what is the newer untainted version?

I've never been to BM, but I think there are many art/music festivals which you could go to that are more accessible and very similar themes and things happening burning man has, but on a smaller scale. I just attended my first "art/music" focused festival a few weeks ago. It had meditation/yoga/various educational workshops, artists displaying all different kinds of wares for sale, people trading and giving small things freely (think shared water, wristbands, food, trinket). There was a rock that had a sign, purposed to "give something, take something". The downsides were there too. Lots of people just there for the music/drugs/party aspect or whatever. There are probably 100's of alternatives to burning man - regional burns and music/art festivals, that are much more accessible to get to and experience. Most are 2-3 days long, and that is more like prepping for a regular camping trip than something the scale of burning man.

Your question is too vague. What's important to you?

Is it the culture of being totally present, here and now? Well, then you need to find something that without cell phones, computers, etc.

Is it the culture of sharing? Then you should find something that tries to run itself without money.

Is it the art and the spectacle? Find your local arts community. That's probably the easiest.

Find something doing stuff you like to do, go in and participate--even if you are an introvert. There is something very different about standing on the stage than standing behind or beside it.

those sound like the same people who ruined my indy band.

The New Radicals said it well (http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/newradicals/jehovahmadethiswh...):

"So original in her black lipstick

Listening to some obscure band

But isn't she pissed at all the other non-conformists

who listen to that same obscure band"

'Next year you'll say last year was so much better.'

I predict overseas tourists will ruin Burning Man soon™

This guy just ruined burning man...

Ooh the delicious irony... The very demographic (overpaid valley types) who ruined burning man now upvotes a story about Who Ruined Burning Man.

Applications are open for YC Winter 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact