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Eurofurence 25 "Fractures in Time" - Estrel Hotel Berlin, August 14-18, 2019Follow eurofurence on Twitter

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Author Topic: EF25 Room Registration FAQ: What the heck went wrong this time?  (Read 4005 times)

o'wolf

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We sincerely apologize for the failure of the room reservation web app. There is no way to sugarcoat it: it was a disaster. Due to the high amount of questions on social media we're not able to answer those individually. We collected the most frequent ones and try to answer them here.

What happened?

Our registration became unresponsive due to high load.

But haven't you run any load tests?

We tested the system with 50000 concurrent requests, but the system processed 390000 requests within the first two minutes before it stopped responding.

So was this a Denial of Service attack or something?

We don't know. Many attendees hammering the F5 key would have a similar effect.

What is the problem properly sizing and configuring the registration system?

We are growing and the demand for rooms at the main hotel is way higher than the supply. Thus, we constantly need to adjust procedures. It turns out that even the smallest change can have a massive impact. It's near impossible to get a realistic estimation of the implications.

But it's only Eurofurence having this issue!

Other popular furry and non-furry fan conventions of our size and larger are facing similar or even the same challenges. This cannot be an excuse for what has happened, but it means that there is no general solution for the problem and every event must find its own ways to cope.

By the way, your underlying software is outdated and has known vulnerabilities

This is wrong. A lower version number of a software package doesn't mean it's vulnerable. All packages are being kept on their latest maintenance update level with backports of available fixes for known issues.

Have you considered to move the system to a cloud service or CDN?

We are currently evaluating our options. One would be delivering the static content from a CDN and just serve the API calls by ourselves.

Would a proxy service such as Cloudflare help?

It's on the evaluation list, but we'll first have to find out how to use it in a GDPR compliant way and how many false positives their DoS protection generates. We don't gain anything if our backend runs perfectly but a third-party frontend randomly refuses access.

Why did the reservation start this early in the morning?

This was requested by the hotel to be able to work through the requests during fully staffed office hours so they could provide a timely answer to each request.

What's up with some having got the instructions for the alternative reservation process earlier than the announcement on Twitter?

The instructions were published on the registration system, but it broke down again ten seconds after deployment. Someone was lucky enough
to catch it during these ten seconds, and they posted the instructions on social media before we had a chance to get the registration
system up and running again and post an official announcement on Twitter.

Why were all deluxe rooms and junior suites already gone before general hotel room reservation?

One reason is that there are only few of these rooms, another is that more staffers requested a deluxe room or junior suite for three people. This significantly adds available rooms for attendees. The hotel also might have moved some rooms of the small contingent that is not available to us to these categories. Sometimes an amount of rooms in some categories may be unavailable due to refurbishing or repairs.

All in all, we don't have a significantly higher number of preregistered attendees compared to last year.

Wait, some were able to register earlier?

Staff members of Eurofurence and of two partner conventions that have a high amount of staffers working for Eurofurence were able to preregister as well, along with their significant other. Each can reserve only one room that is not transferable.

I heard someone bragging about that.

We do not appreciate people bragging about what can be perceived as perks. It's annoying.

Someone claims to have reserved more than one room

It's highly unlikely, as the hotel ensures that this doesn't happen. This rumor comes up every year, but it always was not more than a rumor. In any case, if you think someone actually has succeeded in doing so and know their name, please use the contact form at https://help.eurofurence.org/contact/reg to notify us. We'll talk to them.

How about making it a lottery based system?

Frankly, it's one right now, it just gives the illusion that if you're fast enough you can win it... We'll see if there is a way to avoid the impression that it's possible to game the system. It's certainly one of many options we're currently discussing. It's still not completely fair, because it does not take into account that many attend to spend time with their inner circle of friends - the current system does not take that into account, less so a formal lottery.

Or the Chaos Computer Club C3 token system?

This is the opposite of a lottery. It works by giving out a bunch of tokens to a number of individuals, who'll receive another token on reservation that they can pass to someone else. This ensures that groups of friends can meet, but would leave out less well connected people. This is more suitable when the convention itself reaches a maximum number of attendees, which is nothing we expect to happen anytime soon.

What is the reason for this weird "web app"?

The hotel requests that everyone uses the same email template so they can efficiently handle the large amount of requests and reduce the amount of replies asking for missing information. For legal, liability, tax and data protection regulation reasons it is important that the booking is done by everyone requesting a room themselves, from their own email account.

It's email because the hotel's external booking provider wasn't up to the task, either.

How about providing a static email template, create secret token for each attendee on registration, and publish a code word on start of room reservations?

This is one of the many possible alternatives we're evaluating.

Why is your official communication so slow?

There are many individuals of many Eurofurence departments involved and we need to coordinate answers so we don't publish contradictory information.

What are your next steps?

We have analyzed the technical cause of the issue, we are currently collecting feedback and proposals, and we'll discuss ways to make the hotel reservation less frustrating by making it more reliable and transparent.

When will the tower be completed?

Construction of the hotel tower hasn't started yet. We don't want to take part in speculations when it is going to be finished. For the time being we need to rely on overflow hotels. Here are some options: https://www.eurofurence.org/EF25/hotel/overflow

We will provide a bus shuttle during the S Bahn service breaks on weekday nights between 1:20 and 4:20 AM, as well as the fursuit locker service. More information on these topics will be published some time before the convention.
« Last Edit: 20.01.2019, 19:52:07 by o'wolf »
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Is it that things really change? Or does the outside rearrange?
Is perception genuine? Or does truth lie deep beneath the skin?
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