Security Weekly

The Quest for a Shmoocon Barcode

Tomorrow, December 1, 2009 at noon the second round of Shmoocon tickets sales begins. I got lucky and scored my ticket in round 1. But, I made several mistakes when trying to register and almost missed out. I thought I might throw out a few pointers based on my experience in round one out there for those of you who are going to try and register tomorrow.
First here is a general overview of the process in round one. At noon, tickets went on sale at the website. On the registration page I was asked for an email address and how many tickets I wanted. I was allowed to register for either 1 or 2 tickets. If the number of tickets selected was available, I was taken to a site where I entered a CAPTCHA to verify I’m human. If I entered the CAPTCHA correctly, I was given a code that can be used to register. With the code in hand, I could relax and come back later to register for the barcode. An hour after the initial registration started, they turned on a page where I could use the code to register.
Last time tickets appeared to have been gone within the first 15 minutes, but there were actually tickets in the system for about an hour. With that in mind, here are my tips:
– Be ready at 12:00 noon EST.
– Start at the registration page
– Don’t just sit at the top of the registration page refreshing. The link may not be at the top! It may be anywhere on the page including the bottom. I suggest looking through the entire page once registration begins at noon.
– Check for updates and communication from the shmoo group on both the websites NEWS section and their twitter feed. In round one, only the news site was updated, but you never know. At 12:00 noon they did post a note on the new site announcing that round one had begun.
– Continue attempting to register from 12:00 noon until you see an announcement on one of the afore mentioned sites. They did post a message when all the tickets were gone.
– If its a tight race, only go for 1 ticket. If you select 2 tickets and only 1 is available you may miss your chance at that one ticket.
– Don’t be discouraged by error messages or messages telling you that all the tickets are sold out until you see a note from the group saying all tickets are gone. In round 1, tickets were still available but I repeatedly got a message telling me they were all gone and to come back on December 1st. I continued trying and did get a ticket after being told many many times they were sold out.
– Past performance is not an indicator of future results. Everything could change between rounds.
The rest of this is my speculation on how I think I lucked into a ticket. Its all conjecture, but it might be helpful. I THINK that several people tried to get creative and register automatically and didn’t anticipate the CAPTCHA. As a result, their bots would tie up tickets until some timeout period was reached and then the ticket was added back into the registration system. This resulted in the “All tickets are gone” message appearing until they timed out and were released back into the system. When they were added back into the system the first person, or perhaps the first COUPLE of people to grab the ticket were given the CAPTCHA. The first person to enter the CAPTCHA correctly got the registration code. That leads me to my last tip…
That’s it! Good luck tomorrow. See you in DC in February!

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