Home Con News SDCC Parking 2014: Day 1. ACE Parking debuts new purchasing system –...

logo - comic-con (distressed)It was supposed to be so smooth sailing. After being struck by server crashes and technical disruptions in 2012 and 2013, ACE Parking – the company that administrates the parking throughout the duration of San Diego Comic-Con at various locations in the city, including the Convention Center – built their own site to handle the load. Safe to say, today’s Parking Sale has not gone exactly to plan.

As attendees prepared to enter the site (which had opened a number of days earlier for account creation), Jon Gjerset, Chief Information Officer for the company, was in bullish mood…

…and many were supportive and confident of a successful sale.

At 5pm GMT (9am PST), the new site went live – and visitors were instantly plagued with server errors, locked purchasing windows and frozen browsers. Parking applicants who were hoping to pass this one last organisational hurdle for the Con (after flights, badges and hotel sales) turned to social media to vent their frustrations, within seconds of the site opening:

At first, one of the first major issues was that the Convention Center itself was not being presented as an available option to be purchased, missing from the location selector.

And, most frustratingly, applicants that did make it through to the last screen for payment experienced site crashes and pages stating there had been ‘500 Internal Server Errors’:

In previous years, the site was administrated by a third party company (iPaq) and was, in turn, simply overwhelmed by the sheer level of online volume that has become indicative of the event. So, after months of research and testing, ACE decided to create a custom built site, especially for Comic-Con, to be designed and manned in-house. The resulting system was apparently load-tested to handle excessive traffic – numbers being talked about by Gjerset, were in the tens of thousands.

Indeed, ACE Parking were confident that they could rise to the challenge of what had become referred to in their office as ‘the SuperBowl, or World Series, of parking sales’. Gjerset had previously spoken to a number of SDCC online bloggers, talking up the company’s efforts; indeed, he was found expressing the pride in his teams efforts, as evidenced by an interview conducted with this very website:

At the half an hour mark, some were attempting to put a humourous face on proceedings:

…even referring to the giant monster, currently stomping over big screens this week.

But these attempts to lighten the mood were very much in the minority as hundreds of people took to Twitter to express their displeasure. Around the half-hour point, ACE programmers had managed to restore the Convention Center to the selection options but these efforts were fruitless as users still unable to pay and checkout of the site. Forty-five minutes after the site went live, ACE Parking bit the bullet and pulled the plug:

Jon Gjerset took to Twitter in an attempt to stem the tide of complaints heading ACE’s way, trying to reassure applicants that every effort was being made:

At 10:45pm GMT (2:45pm PST), ACE scheduled a second attempt at the sale:

…explaining that they had attempted to reset the DNS registration for the site in an attempt to resolve the problem. Users were advised to start the whole process with a new browser, the site went live – and instantly was struck by the same issues.

By this point, the #sdccparking hashtag had been trending on Twitter in North America for over two hours as users across the country (and, indeed the globe) attempted to make any sense of the bedlam that was befalling the site. The whole situation even garnered its own Twitter parody account: @AceParkalypse. On a more serious note, users observed that many had taken time off work to make this effort – and was now effectively costing a lot of money to peoples incomes.

By 11.20pm GMT (3.20pm PST), ACE Parking announced that it felt that the failures to operate correctly were down to a DDoS attack – an attempt by some quarters to unscrupulously bring down their website. However, many online commentators simply observed that, no, this was the massive rush that comes with putting on a sale with demand coming from across the country and in such high numbers – the one thing that the new site design was supposed to have combatted.

By 11.30pm GMT (3.30pm PST), the company finally gave up the ghost and stated that, while ‘identifying the issue, the site would not be up and running for the remainder of the day (sic)’. Indeed, by 1am GMT (5pm PST), they officially gave up the ghost, stating that they were now in a state of repair, with their software engineers working diligently to fix the problem through the evening.

ACE Parking (Facebook)

ACE Parking (Facebook)

While this means that the system would be effectively on a staggered launch for the remainder of the sale, thanks to the valiant efforts of the ACE Parking programming team, it does not give any comfort to those applicants that have been patiently trying to buy prised parking passes throughout the day. With 8am on the West Coast equating to 4pm here in the UK for the sites ‘fully functional’ deadline, we will check in throughout the day (Wednesday) to see how the Americans have fared during their tense and frustrated night…

LAST MINUTE EDIT: Looks like persistence can pay off…

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