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back to article Fringe organisers launch inquiry into ticketing fiasco

Officials at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe are to launch an independent inquiry into the failure of its box office system. Tickets for the Fringe – which runs from 3-25 August – were supposed to be available from 10 June. However the festival’s new box office system suffered several major technical cock-ups that forced …

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Pivotals web site ...

.. seems to have been unavailable for a couple of weeks....

They've had lots of Government funding though - SMART and SPUR awards galore.

Normally considered the "kiss of death".....

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Coat

teeheeheee...

so a "major technical cock-up" forced the box office system to go titsup

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Next years big hit show....

implementing a tickiting system for dummies

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Boffin

They broke the basic rule of ticketing systems

I work in theatrical event ticketing, working on the web front end. Reading through the recent history of this debacle, I am not surprised at least at the major balls-up; my bet is that it was blatantly obvious in advance to the festival's IT crew, but they were overruled by management.

The problem? The 'Liquid Box Office' system appeared to have been designed for the specific job. That sounds great in theory - commissioning a bespoke system is bound to fulfill your exacting needs, with no nasty last minute 'oh-but-it-can't-do-that' surprises, right?

Wrong - ticketing systems are seriously f**king complicated. They are often the single most expensive investment for a venue or festival. And it is CRITICAL that you source an existing, solid system, rigourously tested and improved in the real world. Because no matter how much virtual testing you do, when ten thousand users descend on your system at once, online, on the phone and on the steps, all demanding the same twenty tickets, you had better be damn sure that the system will cope.

This is why there are very few major ticketing systems out there - when it comes to renewing licenses and checking out alternative options for a venue, I can generally count the suppliers on the fingers of one hand. And, I hate to say, Pivotal Integration Ltd has never been allocated a pinkie - before the Fringe festival, I'd never heard of them.

My guess is that Pivotal wowed the festival's upper management with a whizz-bang demonstration, and they enthusiastically decided to go with the local, low cost, nu-tech option. No matter how crappy your ticketing system is, it's very easy to pull off a convincing demonstration - as you are one single user, going through a pre-scripted setup and purchase path.

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Trust!

Perhaps they shouldn't trust a company that can't be found on google's first page(s) with a search for their full company name.

http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Pivotal+Integration+Ltd

They must be good.

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Coat

Considering...

The average Fringe show loses about 4 grand over the weeks of the Festival then there is great scope for minimising your losses through compensation.

"My show 'Me and my mates make whining screeching noises for three hours' would have sold 300 tickets per night if it wasn't for your lousy ticketing system."

Coat? No, I'm leaving early to catch Jocasta TrustFund at the Underbelly. She's less amusing than syphilis, so she'll be on BBC3 in a year.

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Bronze badge
Flame

Pleas, please ...

... let Pivotal Integration get the ID Card contract.

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Paris Hilton

Criminally Injoke Sheeturt.

I went to the endibugger festival and all I got woz these 3 bags from Heathrow.

Well I got 4 but had to let NoamI Camp go. (Too butch.)

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RW

@ Ian Ferguson

It's my distinct impression that __any__ online business (e.g. retail sales as well as ticket sales) is extremely foolish not to use off-the-shelf software. If you try for a homebrew or bespoke system, you'll end up with a malfunctional mess, invariably.

Perhaps the underlying issue is that a lot of IT people don't realize how complex the real world is. Or maybe it's that they don't follow the established protocol of paper prototyping system designs before writing even a single line of code. Whatever the details, it's clear there are a lot of IT people out there who are much less competent than they think they are. An ability to write good code is almost irrelevant. You can hire code monkeys for peanuts and bananas. Who you need are serious thinkers.

Moreover, putting an important IT contract out to tender and then taking the lowest bid is a sure recipe for disaster: you get exactly what you pay for.

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad" seems vaguely relevant.

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Anonymous Coward

A bit of due diligence was all that was needed to avoid this.

Published Accounts for the latest financial year for which accounts are available 04/06-03/07 show Pivotal Integration Ltd had a negative balance sheet of minus 105K, negative working capital of minus 25K, and a negative net worth of minus 320K. All this despite chunky goverment handouts of taxpayers money to them. E.g; £27,723.00 SMART payment 2003/4 £102,109 2005/6.

Not surprisingly they have a zero credit rating with most agencies.

I've no idea about their technical competence but basic due diligence on financial criteria alone should have eliminated them from selection for this project.

Ho hum. Back to more hours of evening work on my unashamedly profitable and sensibly (self) capitalised small business so I can create tax money for the goverment to hand out to those business that can't seem to make money by conventional free enterprise methods. Or maybe I'll just start applying for grants instead.

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@Anonymous Coward

If you're worried about your positive tax position, we should find a deal, I'll happily sell you some loss to reduce your tax bill, I'll even form another shell company to do it ;-)

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@RW

Moreover, putting an important IT contract out to tender and then taking the lowest bid is a sure recipe for disaster: you get exactly what you pay for.

And yet no one seems to get that small fact.

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Coat

How Long Before People Learn...

Not to give work to companies with damned silly names.

Mine's the one hanging on the door marked "Solutions".

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Bronze badge

Was EU funding involved?

Not so long after the Maastricht Treaty came about, there were suggestions that a significant amount of the EU funding which was being provided to promote integration was being creamed off.by organised criminals via grants to promote Scottish Tourism. The word 'Mafia' was mentioned by some, although this can be used with a variety of different meanings.

Clearly it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between the effects of nepotism, incompetence and organised crime. It would be interesting, though, to have more details about government funding for this debacle.

Personally I'm opposed to the growth of the EU bureaucracy and the centralisation of powers that it entails. But I think that even my opponents, those that are genuine about the project at least, agree that misuse of tax revenue undermines the implicit consent of the taxpayer who provides it.

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Anonymous Coward

Risk Management...

did not exist? No contingency plan? Even a call center to manually take ticket sales would have been a good contingency plan, and foot the bill on the vendor for the cock-up. This of course assumes that they have a solid contract with "performance measurement" terms and conditions properly spelled-out. Were the requirements specifications for this new system suitable for the job? Too much common sense to consider, I guess.

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@RW

Often in IT, being a good code monkey often translates to management that you should be an architect since there is no-one specifically qualified around.

How many job adverts have you seen and thought, "There is at least 3 separate jobs in there" ... sysadmin, developer, desktop support, system architect etc...

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