LOCOG & TicketMaster blocking ticket alert tool not what it seemed

An Internet developer (Adam Naisbitt) seemed to have hit upon an idea to help alleviate the frustrations of people seeking to obtain tickets for the London Olympic games.

 

After Adam’s fiancée had spent over an hour trying to obtain tickets from the official website he and his friends decided to code a program to automatically check the http://www.tickets.london2012.com/ website for when LOCOG add a batch or even just a few tickets for sale. Subscribers to the @2012TicketAlert Twitter channel would then be notified of the new ticket release.

 

Judging by numerous Tweets many others were frustrated with the time they had to spend attempting to purchase tickets.

 

These are just a few of the tweets sent to Seb Coe’s Twitter account demonstrating the widespread frustration:

 

@sebcoe cant get tickets Website useless What do you expect people should sit by the computer pressing refresh all day?

 

@sebcoe All I want is 1 ticket to any event in the Olympic park , why’s it so hard.

 

Select tickets, put in basket, wait.. wait.. wait.. Oh no sorry no tickets available ARGGHHHHHHH stupid system! @sebcoe

 

@sebcoe Please please please, family of 4 from devon, spending hours trying to get tickets, website wont work. 5th – 9th. Thanks so much

 

Couple that with the media paying increasing attention to the number of empty seats at many of the venues, and you have a bit of a PR challenge on your hands.

 

Yesterday the @2012TicketAlert Twitter channel caught the eye of the media but even by then it was already looking like a hit just by word of mouth. By the time Adam Naisbitt came to be interviewed on the Vanessa Feltz show the Twitter account had attracted over 6000 followers, which at the time of writing this post has now reached 10,309 followers. A second back up Twitter account was created (@2012TicketAler2) which now has 4320 followers.

 

But as yesterday drew to a close & after all the welcome media coverage for http://www.2012ticketalert.com/ it seemed those nasty people at LOCOG had taken some spiteful revenge and blocked the little program from probing the london2012.com website. But in this instance the people at LOCOG probably were not even aware of the finer details of sever defense used by TicketMaster.

 

The timing of the block was really unfortunate and must have helped add fuel to the a “nasty LOCOG” theory.

 

It was time to put on our tin foil hats and watch the conspiracy theories circulate around the Twittersphere.

 

Seb Coe’s Twitter account came in for another wave of tweets bashing the way tickets were being distributed:

 

PlsRT- Outrage as LOCOG block free @2012TicketAlert App |@Mashable @TechCrunch @BBCNews @sebcoe@TheSunNewspaper @SkySportsNews @MailOnline

@London2012 @sebcoe shame on you for blocking@2012TicketAlert

it’s just a ticket alert website - @sebcoe and#locog - allow them access.

LOCOG: Cut the anal behaviour and set the data free:http://www.2012ticketalert.com/  @2012TicketAlert

 

Now there’s no one who likes a kneejerk reaction more than Nutsville, and we could even see us asking the IOC to consider making ‘LOCOG bashing’ an Olympic sport. But some of us have a bit of an IT background, could there be another explanation for the plug seemingly being pulled on this ‘Big Society’ initiative.

 

We first contacted the LOCOG press office who confirmed what the BBC had been told earlier (BBC story here):

 

Ticketmaster automatically blocks software which drives traffic or could be related to touting. It is NOT a case specifically targeting this website. We are talking to TicketMaster about this.

 

In the IT world that all seems plausible when running a massive e-commerce operation like the Ticketmaster powered Olympic ticket website. Your servers will constantly be probed for weaknesses, often by automatic bots, so you in turn use automatic programs to block off holes, sometimes temporarily or sometimes permanently.

 

Just to double check, we asked a TicketMaster insider for their view, someone we knew and trusted who had no agenda either way.

 

She told us “There is a system that hunts down ‘bots’ or automated tools and blocks them. Its aim is to prevent touts buying out tickets for events.  The 2012TicketAlert tool would have been generating too much suspicious looking traffic and triggered TicketMasters automatic bot hunter. There is no cover up between LOCOG and TicketMaster.”

 

Now we cannot name our source or expect you to believe us, but we hope those with just a little experience in running servers on the Internet will see the sense in the above statements and just question what’s happened a little more deeply than what’s on the surface.

 

LOCOG’s press office did also tell they hoped to release a further statement later today, so that would indicate the will is there to find a solution.

 

For this story we are putting our tin hats away. We do hope a solution can be found, but we can see the problems facing both LOCOG and TicketMaster, and the fix, if there is one, may not be quick.

The Daily Mail have also championed Adam Naisbitt’s idea, which we agree is a good one but the newspaper seem to know more than we do as they lay the block on Adams ticket finding program only at the door of LOCOG saying in their artical “LOCOG pulled the plug”.

Daily Mail  Officials stop computer expert who helped sports fans with Olympic ticket alerts on Twitter

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