Comic-Con’s EPIC Registration Fail

comic-con-logoComic-Con, the San Diego event that happens each summer, was a delight to take my 18 year old son Alex to last year. Buying the tickets in advance was a huge disappointment (we didn’t get the preview night nor Saturday as they were sold out) but we still had a great time. 

I’m unable to get in to buy tickets and he’s still waiting. The reason I couldn’t get tickets was not solely because of demand, but more because the EPIC registration Comic-Con uses failed and it is not designed to scale.

The exact second our computers ticked over to 9am PST (11am CST here in Minnesota) my son and I clicked the button to register. Six minutes later I received an ASP.NET failure screen and my son’s browser is still trying to load the registration page, well over an hour later (and we’re not holding out hope he’ll get in at this point). published this post within the last hour that says in part:

How long did it take for 2013 Comic Con International to sell out? According to some reports, it took all of six minutes. According to posts on both Facebook and Twitter, many people who tried clicking on the link right when tickets went on sale didn’t even make it into the waiting room. Reports of the page not loading, error messages, and other issues were frequent.

As someone who works with serious I.T., software and web app experts, I continue to be stunned by how incredibly weak the EPIC registration system is and how easily it could be improved. As I mentioned, my browser received a server failure screen 6 minutes after I clicked and, after refreshing, I instantly received the “waiting room” page you see below (click for larger view):

The EPIC Registration "waiting room" page received at 9:06am PST

The EPIC Registration “waiting room” page received at 9:06am PST

ASP.NET is Microsoft’s web application framework and, out of the HUNDREDS of serious developers I know—especially those who have created web apps that can scale to MILLIONS of concurrent users—think that ASP.NET is a joke and would NEVER use it for anything but low-level, minimal use corporate web applications.

A smart registration company would:

  • Have a scalable solution that would let everyone get to a lightweight page with a queue-counter on it, would automatically queue everyone up, and then would “let them in” to the registration system as the “slots” opened up. All of us would know the moment we landed on the “counter page” whether or not we had a chance of getting in or not rather than simply FAIL with a server crash
  • Anticipate demand by using an edge serving company like Akamai and their web application accelerator.

Unfortunately Comic-Con is a non-profit who is using a dumb registration company, EPIC, and doing a quick search on Twitter shows there are hundreds and hundreds of disappointed people like my son and I. I’m stunned that the Twitter account, @Comic_Con, is saying nothing. Even THAT is a fail since they should say SOMETHING to their potential attendees. Get your shit together Comic-Con.

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  1. mardihearti on February 16, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    people were getting that “waiting room full” page at 3 minutes in.

  2. Steve Borsch on February 16, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    “You could have stayed at that waiting room, and it would have eventually loaded.”
    Um…actually no. The “overflow” page—which is that screengrab above—doesn’t reload. Perhaps you’re thinking of the page with their ‘counter’ on it…that one does reload but I got a server crash and my son never got to the actual ‘waiting room’.

    “We got 4-day passes at around 9:40, 40 mins after it opened. At around 9:50, our other friends got cut off from Saturday, but still had the other days. That’s a whole hour that most of the day passes were still sold…”
    Glad you got them. But again, you were in the actual ‘waiting room’ queued up but we never got there. I’ve been through this before last year so know how this (crappy) system functions.

  3. Reneaue Railton (@Slave2Cisco) on February 16, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    I was in the waiting room at 9:00:30 am and was #5069 in line. That was as far as I got. at 10:20 I gave up because the waiting room never refreshed.

  4. Hidajunshin on February 16, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Interesting. For me, I was clicking on the green registration button on the landing page 1 minute prior to 9:00, at least according to my computer. At 8:59:38, I was redirected…somewhere. I basically got the white screen and it stayed that way for about 10 minutes. I knew something was wrong, so I arrowed back to the landing page, refreshed the landing page, clicked the green button again and got right into the waiting room at around #5400. A friend got into the waiting room around #46000 BEFORE I clicked ‘back’; he never refreshed or went back to the landing page. How was I able to get through at such a good place in line, I wonder?

  5. Jeffrey Yoders on February 16, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    Been going since ’92 and could not even SNIFF a badge this year. Got in exactly at 9:00 and my “counter” page never refreshed. Eventually went to the white screen of death. What bothers me MOST is that the instructions COMICON ITSELF puts on its website were wrong! I never ONCE refreshed my browser, which they instructed users not to, and it never worked right while people on the comicon facebook page were saying they got in by refreshing their browsers. HORRIBLE technology. Time to bring in ticketmaster or someone who can make online registration work.

  6. Tim C on February 17, 2013 at 1:16 am

    My firefox hung saying “Connecting”… I gave it 2 min and tried another browser. But it was a done deal – all shut out for me. This SYSTEM SUCKS !

    You guys make so much money — why are you NOT treating the real fans right ?

  7. DanMan on February 17, 2013 at 6:31 am

    CCI has proven to be a very unprofessional organization. Time and time again, year after year of failed registration procedures has not prompted CCI to upgrade their miserable EPIC system. They don’t even answer to peoples posts on their Facebook page, where if you check other Facebook convention pages, they are very helpful and post all the time. Everyone should really boycott SD Comic Con.

  8. A.t. Lovecraft on February 17, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    I find the interesting part of this fiasco were people who were “behind” others in line got their passes before those who were ahead. The guests and vendors will be at other more accessible conventions. Flying in and staying for two nights at a hotel will run almost 14 hundred dollars for just one day at the convention. I am a fan, not a fanatic. Bye Bye Comic-Con.

  9. Doug on February 17, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    To those who have been going to Comic-Con for years, why did you not purchase badges in August during the pre-reg. open to 2012 attendees? That’s when I attempted to get my badge, and there were zero problems.
    Just curious what some of you didn’t do that (or did you try and not get in then either)

  10. A.t. Lovecraft on February 18, 2013 at 5:55 am

    I was one of those who did purchase back in August. The system worked fine because the number of people logging in was much more in line with what EPIC REG could handle. I was barely the last one in line and snagged Thursday and Sunday. Logging in took a few minutes. But after reading several Facebook comments about the hazards of wireless logins, I used a direct line. Which initially looked like it was working. The bar started to feed across and then slowed down and locked up. Server failure kicked in and any further attempts were fruitless. The system in August posted updates every quarter hour showing how close I was to the front of the line and what was left. Something that should have happened but the crush of people logging in was akin to a size 12 foot trying to fit in a size 10 and a 1/2 shoe. CCI should not be concerned with the size of the venue or how many days the convention runs. Perhaps CCI is contractually bound to EPIC and can’t break the contract. I kind of miss the old style pre reg line wait. It was almost a rite of passage and enjoyed the conversations and communal bonding that took place. The registration system that was used in 2011 for 2012 was about as bad as it should have ever gotten.

  11. Matt P. on February 19, 2013 at 12:10 am

    I am a long time attendee who couldnt register in August simply because it was too soon after the Convention and it takes me some time to save up. I thought for this upcoming 2013 SDCC I should maybe work at getting my Pro status back but even the Pro registration got capped.

  12. […] The CCI folks language this year (which we didn’t think to copy) definitely encouraged wanna-be attendees to the “hit the website all at once” method by explaining that everyone should, well, hit the button to the waiting room at exactly 9:00 am on the dot. This led to the lottery of white screens and not refreshing. Comments around the web from that moment on reflected irrational frustration more than anything. There was The Conspiracy Theory: […]

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.