Fiindex: The Found Item Index

We Are Not Burning Man

If you’re looking for the actively running lost and found services, this page is not it. Please go to Burning Man’s own Lost and Found site:

History of Fiindex

Late 2015, a group of very smart, highly motivated volunteers got together to design a new lost and found system for the world’s largest annual art festival.

Such was born “Fiindex: The Found Item Index.”

The first version of Fiindex deployed autumn of 2016, and the festival’s 70,000 or so attendees were well served. To this day Fiindex continues to fill this role, both at the festival as well as after-event support from headquarters.

How Fiindex Works

The heart of Fiindex is the idea that people recognize their own lost belongings.

In the Fiindex workflow, event volunteers photograph found items as each item gets turned in. Volunteers will typically take at least two photos of a found item:

  1. a public photo of the exterior of a found item
  2. a private close-up photo of some distinguishing feature on the found item

Event participants do not get to see the private photos, but they are encouraged to search an index of public photos to look for their lost item.

When a participant finds a photo they believe is their item, they come to the Lost and Found office already having an inventory tag number.

At the office, a staff member challenges the participant to describe the distinguishing feature that’s in the private photo. With relatively high certainty, only the item’s true owner is able to correctly answer this challenge.


Imagine a backpack is lost at the event, and some well-meaning anonymous stranger drops the backpack at the Lost and Found trailer.

Staff volunteers initially photograph the backpack against a plain backdrop for the public photo. For the private photo they open the backpack and photograph whatever contents are most obviously visible. Then an inventory tag is printed, attached to the item, and the item is placed into storage.

Eventually a participant shows up at Lost and Found and tries to claim the backpack. They already have the inventory number with them. A staff member uses a tablet to look up the inventory number, then referencing the private photo they ask the participant to describe what is inside the backpack.

The staff member retrieves the item from storage only after the participant has correctly met the challenge.

Advantages of Fiindex

The advantages of Fiindex are efficiency:

  1. Item intake is faster and less subjective
  2. Participants show up at Lost and Found already knowing an item claim number
  3. Volunteers do not have to visit the storage room unless a claim is valid

The way that Lost and Found was traditionally done before Fiindex:

  • a volunteer cataloging a found item is usually responsible for describing the item in a text-based log, which is highly subjective
  • participants have no way to know before visiting Lost and Found if their item has been turned in, which results in long queues of people, most of whom get disappointed
  • a participant who’s looking for an item may not describe their item the same way as the intake volunteer did; as such, staff are usually required to visit the storage room for each and every claimant and look for an item that matches the claimant’s description, regardless of how carefully items were cataloged on intake

With Fiindex, all these pain points are eliminated:

  • item intake is not subjective
  • participants can search found items for themselves, negating any need to visit the Lost and Found center unless their item is known to be turned in
  • during a claim, staff members do not need to enter the storage room unless the ownership check is passed

Fiindex Today

Fiindex v1 was used to run Lost and Found services both on-playa and off in 2016. Fiindex v2 streamlined the process further and was used in 2017. Our software is still used by the same festival to this day.*

* = modulo pandemic years where the festival did not (officially) happen.

But Fiindex needs an update.

The underlying app framework that Fiindex is built on, a project called Octoboxy, has matured substantially since 2017. The Octoboxy framework has many new features that would be highly advantageous for a system like ours.

octoboxy versions

How You Can Help

What we need today are sponsors: people or institutions who want to support a refresh of the Fiindex software.

We have many great ideas for Fiindex. We want to see the project evolve, and would dearly love to see the system grow beyond the first festival that it was born from.

So please, if you are interested in helping our project in any way, please write to us below.

Thank you ever so much for your support!

~ The Octoboxy Team


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