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University News

BSA site crashes, students snoop for answers

By and
Senior Staff Writers
Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spring Weekend rain-capacity tickets sold out yesterday morning after trouble with the Web site that hosted sales left frustrated students refreshing their browsers for 40 minutes.

The tickets were advertised to go on sale at 8:00 a.m., but students from Brown and Rhode Island School of Design who attempted to buy tickets were not able to do so until about 8:40 a.m., according to Alex Spoto ’11, the Brown Concert Agency’s administrative chair. By 9:30 a.m., the 6,500 tickets available — 3,250 for each day’s concert — were completely sold out.

Inadequate capacity MGMT

On April 21, at 1:30 p.m., students, staff and faculty who were shut out will get a second chance — if BCA determines that the weather will be good enough to hold the concert on the Main Green. Until then, the number of tickets is restricted to 3,500, the capacity of Meehan Auditorium. BCA could only offer 3,250 tickets per day in Wednesday morning’s online sale because the agency reserves 250 tickets for people such as the artists, security, volunteers and stage crew, said BCA Hospitality Chair Abby Schreiber ’11.

Of the 3,250 tickets available, a “negligible” number were reserved for RISD students, staff and faculty, while the rest went to the Brown community, according to Spoto.

As students attempted to purchase tickets online, “the server’s capacity to handle the amount of data transfer at 8 a.m. was inadequate,” Mike Caron ’12, technology and e-commerce coordinator for Brown Student Agencies, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.
Caron attributed the crash to “a lack of sufficient bandwidth for such a high-volume day.”

BCA and BSA members still do not know why the bandwidth was not large enough to accommodate the demand. Caron wrote that either the bandwidth had been decreased from last year or the demand was greater.

BSA uses an outside software company called TouchNet to handle the ticket sales for Spring Weekend and other events. BCA was “working closely with the software developers” before Weds. morning’s sales, Schreiber said. “We were told it should have had the bandwidth to function with every person logging on at once,” she added.

“As more information comes in, we’ll be able to provide a more accurate picture,” Schreiber said.

“The system did not work the way we wanted it to,” Spoto said. He added that when the crash occurred, both BCA and BSA members did everything they could to get the Web site up and running again. “It was frustrating. It was something that we were trying hard to fix for an hour, with the phones ringing off the hook,” he said.

While BSA specifically is responsible for managing the online ticket transactions, “it wasn’t their program that they could fix,” Spoto said.

BSA has no control over the server TouchNet uses and how the program functions, Caron said.

Spoto said he has been in contact with TouchNet to attempt to figure out why the bandwidth was set inappropriately.

“In light of the situation, I think it is fair to say that BSA was very quick to respond to all questions and issues with sales, be it by e-mail, phone call or visit to one of our offices,” Caron said.

The possible heightened demand for tickets could have been due to BCA “making a bigger push to accommodate grad students, faculty and staff,” Schreiber said. “Last year we didn’t publicize it as well,” she added.

“Demand certainly seemed much stronger this year, with this Spring Weekend marking the 50th anniversary and promising a strong list of performances,” Caron said.

“Tickets sold out much faster this year than they did in previous years,” he added. Last year, tickets did not sell out until just past midnight on their first day of sales. While there were reports of slow loading times, the response to last year’s online sales was mostly positive, The Herald reported at the time.

BCA did not sell any tickets to the general public this year, Schreiber said.

Before last year, tickets were sold in person to the Brown community. After 2008 Spring Weekend ticket sales led to multi-hour lines, online implementation was seen as more effective, The Herald reported in March 2009.

BCA sent to the Dogg-house
Stories of just how students did — and did not — get tickets were everywhere on campus yesterday.

Sam Barney ’12 has a story that might make certain Brown students turn green with envy.

After failing to get through to the Brown Student Agency Marketplace Web site at 8 a.m., she called her parents. Confused at why she was awake so unusually early, their immediate question was, “Are you hurt?” Barney explained the ticket situation, gave them her Brown ID number and went back to sleep. Her parents — “huge concert buffs,” she said — tried for an hour, and were eventually successful. When she woke up, she had tickets.

At 8:40 a.m., Melanie Johnson ’13 woke up her roommate, who told Johnson she had been dreaming about not getting tickets. Johnson had been trying since 8:30 a.m., though she did not get tickets until about 9:00.

Catherine Freije ’13 wasn’t so lucky. After trying to log onto the Web site, and making it as far as the ticket selection menu at one point before being shut out, she had to go to her organic chemistry class at 8:45, ticketless.

Early on in the day, Facebook became a repository for misery and schadenfreude.

“Everyone’s status was really angry or really happy,” said Rachel Zolno ’13.

Sometime before noon, Benjamin Mossbarger ’10 created the Facebook group “Spring Weekend Riot” in response to the ticketing controversy. At press time Thursday morning, the group had over 400 members.

Mossbarger had hit the BSA Web site’s refresh button “continuously for an hour,” but failed to get tickets before he had to leave for his 9 a.m. quantum mechanics class. He later found out that tickets had sold out as he sat in class. “I was livid,” he said. He created the group and e-mailed BCA, frustrated, he said, that the agency hadn’t prepared adequately. BCA should have instituted a policy of one ticket per student, he said, since many people got tickets for a friend from another school.

Additionally, he said he believed BCA should show preference to seniors because this Spring Weekend is their last. Mossbarger said he has only been to one Spring Weekend concert while at Brown — his sophomore year, he got shut out of tickets, and the following year he went abroad — and he is worried that he might not be able to go this year.

“Both BSA and BCA understand the frustration people have after today with the payment site,” Caron said. He added that nobody, including BSA members, could access the site in the 40 minutes it was down. “The majority of the BSA staff did not end up with tickets to the events, highlighting the fact that everyone had the same chance of obtaining tickets,” he said.

With or without glitches, BCA is still limited by the capacity of either Meehan Auditorium or the Main Green.

“If it had run smoothly or not,” Schreiber said of this morning’s sales, “there would still be a couple thousand students without tickets.”

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