Buying ShmooCon Tickets – Top 5 Lessons Learned

I’m sure many of us went through the process last month of trying to get our ShmooCon tickets. I think overall most people that wanted a ticket got one. Once you learned several tricks … eventually the web app would hiccup and allow you to reserve a ticket. Anyway here are the top lessons learned I took away from last month. Hopefully people who missed out can use these tricks and recommendations tomorrow to snag their own tickets … as long as the ShmooCon organizers don’t change the way the web app works.

Lessons Learned 5 – Read and Become Familiar with the ShmooCon Purchase Instructions: This piece of advice comes from the organizers themselves and one I took seriously. They explained the whole process in the Purchase Process section on the registration page. Basically, you reserve your tickets first by simply entering your email, choosing the type of and number tickets you want (only 1 or 2 at this point), and completing a Captcha test. At that point your receive a reservation code that you can later use to purchase your tickets. The nice part was not having to worry about entering all your credit card details during the initial rush.

Lessons Learned 4 – Carefully Enter those Captches: Overall, I think the new purchase process worked very well last month. It allowed you to quickly reserve tickets without too much fumbling around and then take a break before going through the nuances of entering your credit card information. The only thing you could have screwed up on was the Captcha, which I’m sure many of us did. Those 1’s and l’s as well as g’s, p’s and q’s look mighty similar when you are under the stress of the ShmooCon ticket purchase wave.

Lessons Learned 3 – Look at the Bottom of the Page for the Link to Make Reservations: Next was the whole “link being on the bottom of the page” thing. Like an idiot I kept refreshing the page and didn’t see any differences. After 3 minutes of refreshing on two computers, I decided to scroll around and noticed the link on the bottom. Tricky but from a server load perspective, it was probably a wise choice. Forcing people to scroll down before refreshing again probably reduced the load on the ShmooCon servers by half I’m guessing.

Later they did put out a blog post saying that they weren’t trying to trick anyone. Supposedly, it was an “inadvertent overlook” on their part… Regardless, be sure to scroll around a bit instead of blindly refreshing. As their blog post continued on “That being said, it is a hacker con. Maybe next time we’ll put the link in the middle. ;)”.

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Lessons Learned 2 – Keep Refreshing to Buy Tickets Even if You Get a Sold Out Message: And then there was the deal with it starting to say tickets were sold out in 3 minutes … but then according to those I followed on Twitter, the last one sold was at 3:27 PM. ShmooCon even posted a blog at 5:48 PM (that’s when it appeared in Google Reader for me) saying the first round was sold out. So even if you get that message saying to wait until the next month, just keep refreshing…

Of course it doesn’t end there. You’ve only made it through the first gate. Now you have to enter your email, choose the type of and number tickets you want, complete a Captcha test, and hit Submit. In a lot of cases the system would fail at this second gate, again giving you the dreaded try back in December message. So basically the planets had to align long enough for you to get two successful submits. If either failed then it was back to square one for you.

The whole process does work most of the time though. All I can say for those that might get caught up is to just keep trying. Persistence pays off!

Lessons Learned 1 – Keep Trying to Buy Early Bird Tickets Even if You Were Only Able to Get Open or I Love ShmooCon Tickets: The one tweet I noted above that was posted at 3:27 was for an Early Bird ticket. When I first tried to get tickets after 3 minutes of useless refreshing, I selected two Early Birds but the system said that there weren’t two of these tickets available. So I refreshed again and tried one Early Bird ticket. Same message… So I begrudgingly refreshed again and bought Open tickets for $75 more each.

I’m not one to complain but I feel the ShmooCon organizers owe some of us a refund. Or maybe those that got Early Bird tickets at 3:27 (I won’t mention any names) should pay us $75 each. 🙂 Anyway, the idea here is to keep trying to buy Early Bird tickets even after you already have a reservation code for the more expensive ones. If you get lucky and snap up an Early Bird at 3:27, you can always give your reservation code up to someone else … maybe make a contest out of it. 🙂

There was a bunch of ShmooCon chatter on various mailing lists and Twitter from last month. Two tweets that caught my attention the most was @mubix’s as well as another similar one from @rybolov.

  • @mubix Well it’s official, @ShmooCon has utilized the security community to do their Captcha cracking 😉 #
  • @rybolov I swear Shmootix are hooked up to The Mechanical Turk and TSG is skimming some kind of click-through CAPTCHA scam. =) #

Well that’s all we have to say on this whole hacking contest … err I mean ticket buying process. Speaking of it being a contest maybe that was the gist … to ensure only those who truly are hackers get tickets. I guess you could call persistence by continually refreshing through two levels of security controls “hacking”; however, I do expect much more from the actual ShmooCon presenters. 🙂

And good luck to everyone tomorrow. Remember, it starts at noon EST! So be ready with two computers constantly refreshing the ShmooCon registration page. 🙂

5 comments for “Buying ShmooCon Tickets – Top 5 Lessons Learned

  1. November 30, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I’ll be on site tomorrow, and you did a much better job of explaining the ins and outs of this than I could for the non-hacker who will be trying to get me a ticket.

  2. December 1, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Considering the amount of typos made under stress, this wouldn’t work well for hacking CAPTCHA mechanisms. 🙂

  3. scriptjunkie
    December 2, 2009 at 12:34 am

    Wish I saw this article before, but I did try refreshing a bunch and just never got the tickets. Anybody have extras?

  4. January 2, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Shmoocon tickets on sale now; read our top 5 lessons learned for buying Shmoocon tickets: http://t.co/i5I6TC2o

  5. Ty Moody
    November 1, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    So……2014 ticket snafu? Dam***!

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