This week’s STL guest post comes courtesy of Paddy Collins, Head of Strategic Sales at The FT:
As the lights flashed, music boomed and a cavalcade of British talent poured forth in the opening ceremony you could be forgiven for passing over the brief cameo from Tim Berners-Lee. The father of the world wide web appeared, tweeted ‘This is for everyone’ and swiftly made way for Dizzee Rascal. It was a typically reserved and thoughtful reminder of the depth of British invention from a man who quietly changed the world forever.
Elsewhere in the UK, just outside Milton Keynes, Adam Naisbitt was facing a challenge of his own. His girlfriend was desperate to attend the Olympic gymnastics and he had struggled unsuccessfully with the LOCOG ticketing site, powered by Ticketmaster. Rather than wear out the refresh button, he began programming and quickly produced an application that searched the LOCOG site automatically every three minutes, reporting back any new ticket availability.
Gymnastics tickets secured, Naisbitt took the decision to link his robot to a Twitter account (@2012ticketalert) but was frustrated when, after receiving thanks and praise from over 600 different people who had taken advantage of the alerts, Ticketmaster blocked him.
There were numerous ways the block could be circumvented with proxy IP’s or randomising the timing of the script but Naisbitt steered away from them, choosing instead to open dialogue with Ticketmaster and eventually forcing them to back down.
He is relaxed about the invention and the effect it has had, “Admittedly I didn’t realise how much time it would soak up in improving it and replying to questions etc, but hey – it’s two weeks of effort to make a difference to a lot of people, so definitely worth it.”
Opportunities have now been turned down with different Ticketmaster affiliates to convert the service into a commercial entity, and while offers of donations and remuneration have been many, they have all been redirected through JustGiving to the British Olympic Foundation. The amounts are small, but the memories created by the tickets will not be.
Ultimately, I suppose it is unlikely that Tim Berners-Lee and Adam Naisbitt will ever meet, but I suspect the former would wholeheartedly approve of how the latter took the spirit of a simple tweet to heart and reorganised some simple digital tools so that people could get to the greatest show on earth. With LOCOG so far behaving impeccably in clawing back seats from wasteful corporations it will be interesting to see how simple services like this are adopted going forward. This is indeed for everybody.
By Paddy Collins