Thanks for correcting me, my post was really misleading. I participated heavily on eplaya in the months leading up to my first burn, and well in advance was scheduled to be there working. I was expected. I showed up three days early, to set up and decorate the greeters station, and I worked my ass off. It was wonderful, would not have had it any other way. But you are right for correcting me, as there are not too many places where a first timer can be effective before the event starts unless they are really commited. SO I will amend my statement
First timers should get there the first day and STILL find some way to contribute to the community. There is NO BETTER WAY to get the most out of your experience, and minimize culture shock, than to directly participate in the functioning of Black Rock City......greeting, recycle camp, lamplighters, Burning Band, simple stuff. In no way do I advocate showing up unexpected to heavy DPW detail or RANGERS as a newbie, you'd be in WAAAAY over your head. Not to mention, kicked off the playa.
As far as getting there early to get good spots. Getting there early doesn't do anything of the sort. Camping close to center camp is TERRIBLE, and you have no way of picking your neighbors if you are the first one there.
I, more than anything, want to encourage newbies to PARTICIPATE if they can spare the time and energy. It makes it a much more personally transforming experience.
"Abnormal Pleasures kill the taste for normal ones" A. Nin