My Open letter to SDCC for 2012 Tickets

To whom it may concern,

My first visit to San Diego Comic Con was in 2010. On a whim, myself and three friends decided to get tickets and fly down to see SDCC and all the cosplay first hand. As an amateur photographer I saw it as a great opportunity to get some fantastic shots of people in all their cosplay glory. We went and had a great time.

Fast forward to 2011. We realized that with some of the craziness with new movie releases we may not be able to get tickets. We try anyways and the online ticket system seems to be a digital yoyo. The ticket system is up then crashes numerous times. We tried as often as possible to get in when the system was actually working.  Some of us even burned vacation time to see if we could get in line and stay in line that year. Unfortunately between the tsunami of interested people and the worst online experience ever we were unable to get in at all. In this day and age of technology, there is no reason to not expect a huge surge of incoming interested people for SDCC tickets. I dont necessary blame SDCC directly for the debacle of 2011 as they did not own the online ticketing system. I do however shake my head and wag my finger in a very condescending way at the company who tried to host the ticketing system that year. Epic Fail on so many levels. If you ask me it was an a horrible implementation of  online ticketing that was completely unable to deal with the surge of connections…. in a word….unacceptable.

The reason I can say this is unacceptable is I have had the opportunity to work in high availability datacenters with servers that needed to take millions of hits at a moments notice. I did it with load balancers and lots of hardware. I would have assumed that There would be a ton of resources behind the SDCC online ticketing system. I would have assumed that a crap ton of money was spent to ensure it was a smooth experience for everyone. I would have assumed that the service that SDCC would have used would be able to employ Akamai edge caching and global load balancers to enhance the end user experience and a crap ton of processing servers to handle the load. I assumed wrong in 2011 but was hopeful that 2012 would rectify the situation. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

Fast forward to today …2012. SDCC seemed to have the situation from 2011 under control. You had to preregister and then only if you were registered you could buy a ticket. I was beginning to be impressed with the rebound SDCC had made. Unfortunately, my happiness was soon to be dashed. I receive an email stating that even if you are registered you can still buy up to 6 tickets if you knew the registered email and password of the parties. This was not going to deter scalpers as its really easy to set up lets just say… 6 Gmail accounts and buy 6 tickets and then sell 5. Seriously? Those types of people will always find a way to defeat the system but what SDCC put in place was not really going to change much. My friends and I rallied on and were hopeful that if one of us got in we could buy the other two tickets. Again, it was not the case.  Only one of us was actually able to make it to the virtual lobby and we were all excited that we could actually get a ticket….. As the numbers ticked down to about 8 thousand left from 40k people in virtual line we heard the news …..the tickets were sold out.

I really think the system should be more focused on if you want to go you need to log in and get in line. one ticket per person or maybe two at most for those couples who are going but thats it. Too many people bought tickets for people that were not frantically refreshing the lobby screen hoping to get in. If it was limited to only one or two tickets per registered person you would be assured that that person logging in was really going to go and use the ticket. It also seemed (perception being reality) that if you were not on the west coast you were later in line. I for one was logging in using the time from the Atomic clock in colorado set to California time. Still no dice.

SDCC I hope you read this and rectify the remaining issues with acquiring tickets.  You have made some moves in the right direction but I really hope that 2013 SDCC will see me and the others who were left wanting for tickets satisfied. No system is perfect but, with a few tweaks the current system could be improved a bit more.

Chris, aka Head Geek