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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: The registration disaster.  (Read 797 times)

Kulze

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The registration disaster.
« on: 19.01.2019, 15:00:10 »

Well, as sad as it is, the 'Laden' situation from last year was pulled over to another spot simply.

So, to make it as short as possible I'll say it in the following orders: The problems I saw and the solutions.

So first, the problems:

1. No communication:
After the Server went down, outside of the Eurofurence Telegram server - which isn't an official source after all - no information regarding the issue was postet for a while. Having heard what it was I can only facepalm, but since it doesn't matter I'll just say how it came over: Either not caring enough or messing up so badly that it couldn't be done in time, both are bad.

2. Wrong communication:
Which is the more pressing issue then the missing one. While the Servers were still down and the official channels silent, the workaround for the broken system was first posted in the Telegram channel once again, not officially first. That's a huge mistake as it takes away the 'fair' part for the booking, caused by an overeager staff member seemingly.

3. Misleading Information:
Saying you need a code generated for you while it was a generic one makes you not only look like liers... but also incompetent. Sadly the last part was true, which I'll sadly have to explain in:

3. Exploits:
If your keyword is generic and leaked on Telegram groups since people find out it's the same for everyone when it crashed... well, then it's no miracle that the rooms are gone in seconds even before the official solution came out. Nobody can tell me that all 1,3k members of the EF group were exactly at the moment of the early workaround reveal present and sending it off, which I did, 12 seconds for writing the Mail with all informations attached, not even waiting list? Nobody knows how many people booked several rooms (again) as well.

4. No Solutions offered:
It's the second time this has happened, with the 'Laden' last year. It was a third-party provider, so well, they were at fault, simple as that. Secondary links were an unwanted exploit but also not in the reach of the EF orga in any way. This year though... it's 100% the fault of the orga, technical issues, fairly dumb mistaked, slow reaction time and so on. What happened? 'Oh, we got your money alright, now we don't care anymore' Is most likely the stance of the Estrel, especially since cancelling booked rooms is a literal nightmare for a business on their side.

5. 'Cheap' excuses:
'We are doing this in our free time' Ok... respectable, still, if it works it demands massive respect, if not... you failed your job anyway
'The hotel decides how booking is made' Ok...By mail, has it to come from the attendee himself or does an automated mail with all the information suffice? I guess the second would be very nice for the Estrel, far less work, no 'false' bookings as it's clear that only the generated mails are viable.
'We stress tested our servers' Doesn't matter, it didn't work anyway.

You see the notion though? It's always the same, everyone going to the con hears it since years, nothing changed from the same old excuses. It hurts the reputation of the convention, massively so. Some people come by and get the lucky roll because of a close connection, some get information which shouldn't even exist with a well made system and probably more. What about the people who literally sit with a clock open to click at the respective time, maybe having taken off work already and absolutely eager to visit your convention? It's those you're driving away, not the 'oh well, lucky me, got a spot at first try at 7:30' guys. Working your ass of to be the first just to be thrown out of the 'race' feels... shit, you have no control over it after all, a pure lottery at least lets you know in advance that the chances are mediocre.


So, the solutions:

Repair the registration system!
It's actually not that hard. The common registration works fine and has no meaning besides the number on your badge, there is nothing important about it anymore, which is good. But for booking... there are major mistakes which even someone not working in IT (like me) can easily see.

The moment it opens people have to either press F5 to load the respective page all at the same time which causes the server to send the information of the whole page again, as well as probably looking if the login token is correct I guess. That alone is too much already, clearly not needed. Even worse so if someone tries to do the same thing from Login: Login page loaded, Information checked by Server, Second page loaded, Booking room page loaded. Far far too much load.
There are several solutions for that:
1. Have a direct route to the external link, only activate it at the time of registration, not embedded inside the whole registration page.
2. An app, you already got one after all, why not use it properly and even bring out a desktop one? All it needs to do is the following: You log in a while before it starts, the the time of booking it only generates the needed code. You pre-fill all the information the hotel needs, click send and the server only checks if the code is valid, only valid for the respective registered attendee as well, everyone UNIQUE (which is important). It then fills the information automatically into a pre-made form, sends it to the hotel... finsihed.
Bonus points if you can choose a roommate before and it gets send with his data as well if the roommate accepts to be one. If the same code comes in a second time, or the roommate tries to book a room himself despite being in yours no mail goes out. I would say someone in school can programm such a small thing in a day, which is why it's so surprising that it's not even remotely implemented.

The upsides are: Less work for the EF orga, less work for the Hotel (and they get it through the channel they need and want), happy attendees as it's fair, faster overall, less stress on the servers. It's a win-win-win situation.
As a convention center the Estrel shouldn't have anything against such a system, it's professional, more reliable and saves them time and money. They are guaranteed to have all needed information (as the automated system otherwise won't let the attendee send) and everyone knows they are finished when pressing the send button, nothing lost in 'Limbo' anymore.

That was the stupidly easy part... which makes the... let's call it 'stupid oversights' of this year all the more hard to see, now to the harder ones:

Taking actions:
he exact moment the server went down the only actual acceptable solution would've been "Guys, reg on hold until server is back up again". What happened today was slow, not very professional or competent and sadly also unfair to the people standing at attention to get a room at all costs.
Putting the reg on hold should've happened last year already, and given an example because of the backlash... to see it this year happening again is just incompetent sadly, I know I'm saying that word today a lot here, but the only other one I could say would be 'uncaring', and I hope it's not that case.

Communication:

Have someone with access to the server, twitter-bot, eurofurence telegram and so on at hand for sudden fried servers as this time. Information needs to move quick. "Hey, the server went down, what to do?" "Ok, we'll talk with the hotel" 'Orga is talking to hotel' message, 2 min time, at max it should take 5 until it's out.
The official Ef channels NEED to have priority over some random Telegram chat you can barely even follow, the EF app should actually receive it as the absolutely first thing of all together with Twitter and the Telegram bot (not channel). Those channels are easy to see and take notice of and literally everyone has one or the other open anyway. It created (another of many) unfair advantages today once again.


All in all, the Laden disaster was less severe then this years, because this year you should've learned from past mistakes but didn't. Still generic codes, still the ability for booking multiple rooms and still secondary information sources a good way to get working ways to book a room earlier then others. If you don't want to keep it fair those things need to stop, otherwise it will more and more turn into a sort of 'elite club' with people only getting rooms if they know someone at the orga or stumble along dumb oversights.

I know all of this is fairly long, and with a bit of emotion written... but after 11 years of attending, seeing the start of the con deteriorate so badly actually hurts. I at least have the ability for another hotel, some actually need the room inside the hotel for different reasons, those are often sitting in front of their PCs with a clock out, pre-filled formulars and everything. It's not unfair to those '7:30 lucky guys' it's unfair to your most determined long-term attendees, and seeing that not literally everything was done after such a few bumpy years of reg literally hurts me to see it like this. It is either accountable to incompetence or uncaring, both are bad, and both need to be solved in any case, you yourself know which one it is hopefully.
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o'wolf

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Re: The registration disaster.
« Reply #1 on: 19.01.2019, 15:39:59 »

Thank you for your feedback, it's much appreciated. What happened was indeed a disaster, and we won't sugar coat this. We will include your points in our ongoing analysis of how to improve both the technical and the communication aspects of the issue.
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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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