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I read a great piece by Nick Donelly on the Usability Hell website, showing the sheer UX nightmare that is the London 2012 ticket website

I also heard on Five Live yesterday that, though more tickets are being released to fill in the empty spaces seen at venues, people can't just turn up on the day, they need to book online.

This means they have to face one of the worst ticketing websites ever...

Nick sums the issues up in his piece, which is well worth a read, so I'll just summarise a few of the frustrations, and look at whether it's possible to book via mobile. 

Searching for tickets

After setting up an account and confirming this via email, you then have the task of searching for an event with tickets available. Now, with an intuitive search interface and some decent options for  filtering out the events you're not interested in, that shouldn't be too difficult. 

However, this is a site which, as Nick points out, appears to have been designed with very little consideration for usability. 

As the site says, they can only search for tickets for you once you have searched, added them to your basket, and selected 'request tickets'.

In practice, you have to search again an again, hoping that one of the event results shows a select button, which means you then have the chance that said tickets might just be available. 

After pressing select, there are some of the worst examples of captchas I've seen. It took several attempts to find one I could decipher:

I see the need to avoid touts, but you have to give people a chance. While I'm figuring this out, someone else might be buying my tickets... 

(Yes, we do have a captcha on Econsultancy for non-logged in users, but a) it's not as bad as this one (I hope)and b)it is necessary to reduce the flood of spam comments.)

So, once you have searched and found an event, it's the moment of truth. Are the tickets you selected actually available? This means you see this screen a lot:

Then this one: 

I went through these steps five times without finding a single ticket I could actually purchase. It's unbelievably bad. 

The frustration...

Not surprisingly, this fiasco has led to plenty of angry comments on Twitter: 

I mentioned mobile before as, since London is full of people who may want to attend events with tickets being released at the last minute, this seems the ideal platform for filling empty spaces.

Also, since people cannot buy tickets from the box office and have to book online, mobile would have been the perfect way to solve this issue. Of course, there is no mobile optimised site or app, and only a very patient person could go through the ticket buying process on mobile without breaking down. 

Considering the money being spent on the games, and the number of people wanting to attend events, the state of this website is truly shocking. At a time when people are complaining about empty spaces at venues, here is a site almost designed to deter users from buying tickets. 

As Nick says: 

Ticketing is a VITAL part of the Olympics. LOCOG should have had a senior person overviewing ticketing & online that understands the Web, UX & Usability and ensured the ticketing process wasn’t an afterthought & awful hack.

If this was not the Olympics, and the tickets were available elsewhere, this site would fail completely, As it is, there are enough people desperate for tickets that they will persevere despite the awful user experience. 

It's just a shame that so many people's time will be wasted because it was beyond the capabilities of LOCOG to design (and test) a site that conformed to some basic usability principles. 

Graham Charlton

Published 1 August, 2012 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (90)

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James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Graham,

I gave up buying tickets after the initial rounds. When the second wave hit, I went back to the site to discover the shocking mess that is olympic ticketing online.

When I searched, whichever genius was behind the site decided to leave in all the sold out events as well. So I had to wade through up to 15 pages at a time to find an event that still had tickets. Then I had to go through the pain you describe above.

I know that ticketing is a complex product to manage online but even the basics have been missed. So i'm going to soak up the atmosphere on the TV instead.

Thanks
james

about 4 years ago

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Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

I wonder which parts of the site really are "powered by ticketmaster"

The BBC seem to believe it is run by them http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16590500 and if so perhaps you'd expect a better level of user experience than this

The Guardian wrote a piece on this yesterday and there are lots of comments from frustrated people that have tried to book http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/jul/31/london-2012-tickets-on-sale

I think the comments kind of sum up the thoughts of the nation captured in this Wordle http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/5535578/UX_feedback_via_The_Guardian - especially the word 'System' - why would a user want to mention the system unless there's a problem...

about 4 years ago

Jocelyn Kirby

Jocelyn Kirby, Head of Marketing at Red Hot Penny

Thanks Graham. This article was definitely due. Ticketmaster should be ashamed that their name is even on that site!

It has to be the most frustrating and un-user friendly experience that I have had in recent months(probably years) and my experience mirrors that of James', with sold out events being shown as still available.

I have also found inconsistency with what events appear for a search, with events appearing and then after following the process above, re-entering the search to find a different set of results.

In the end I opted for the paralympic swimming - lots of availability and at a time that suited my family!

Thank goodness the TV coverage is so good :)

about 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

It does say 'powered by Ticketmaster' at the foot of the page. Even more shocking if an established firm like that is behind this mess of a site.

about 4 years ago

Alex Whittaker

Alex Whittaker, Business Consultant at DigitasLBi

I think part of the problem was that the site was set up to support the original ballot process, not first come first served sales. In the context of a ballot - where you are essentially bidding for different events and won't find out the outcome for several weeks - adding events to a basket then "requesting" them does make some sense, it just doesn't work outside of that context.

We saw the same issue with the "second chance sales" where you requested tickets on Friday morning but didn't find out until the Sunday if you were successful - even though that was first come first served not a ballot - and LOCOG admitted at the time that the site wasn't really designed to support it.

What I find odd is it seems that LOCOG / Ticketmaster never considered that they may need to ultimately support on the day sales, were they so convinced that it would all sell out in advance? And now that they do need to support it why not revert to the standard Ticketmaster process which works pretty well and has been used successfully for Wimbledon (to name one event) releasing tickets on the day?

about 4 years ago

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Chris Hobcroft

If this lack of usability means that only the most enthusiastic fans get tickets, can it be such a bad thing for the atmosphere at the events?

about 4 years ago

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Edw3rd

Sorry, but when it said powered by Ticketmaster, frustration is what I'd expect. Their site is also quite unfriendly, in their meek attempt to stop bots.

about 4 years ago

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Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

@Chris that's a load of waffle - the most enthusiastic DOES NOT equal the most persistent fans - you're also discriminating against less technical fans who are most likely going to bail out - most sites should attempt to make their content accessible to all types of users

A site run to represent a nation should damn right work flawlessly for everyone - after all we are an advanced nation when it comes to digital and there are more than enough high class digital agencies in London for this not to have been a better attempt

I agree with Alex that they could have spent a little time rebranding the Wimbledon ticketing site, connecting the Olympics ticketing system and giving this to users - big let down

about 4 years ago

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Matt Roberts

That's the second time in a couple of weeks I've read an article that highlights the awful user experience that CAPTCHA presents and yet the comment system uses just as bad an experience. See: http://min.us/mMdsa7IEq

I understand the need for blogs to use mechanisms to avoid spam, but seriously... practise what you preach.

about 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Matt Perhaps I'm wrong here, but whenever I've checked our captcha, the phrases are decipherable, unlike some of the examples I saw on the Olympics site.

I dislike captcha as much as the next man, and I'd gladly do away with it if those pesky spammers would pack it in...

about 4 years ago

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Peter Ballard

I think we should start the search now...has any body been able to successfully buy a ticket from this site in the last 72 hours?

about 4 years ago

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Diane Kingston

The Olympic ticket website is a disgrace - from trying to find a ticket (any ticket will do!) to being shown events for which there are none available, to being told that what you eventually find is not available. So frustrating when there are still empty seats.

about 4 years ago

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Ryan Wilson

Graham, You said you done this 5 times..? Try over 5000 then feel my pain, the tickets are thee but not there. I want to know how the system works? does it select at random who gets through to the payment page? or does recognize how many requested attempts that particular user has, the its fair...if it simply chooses at random then that's outrageous for people like me who have spent weeks on the computer requesting tickets.

about 4 years ago

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farina

i think this tops it all " We are currently completing our nightly maintenance"!!!! Absolutely awful website, if not fit for prupose for these sort of sales then use another site where people can actually buy a ticket!!

about 4 years ago

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Steve Robertson

I am absolutely devastated and appalled by the ticketing process and this website. I applied in the initial lottery, the second wave and every single day since the start of the games. Most devastating was not once, but twice getting tickets 'reserved' (after dozens and dozens of attempts) only for it to give an error code TWICE while entering new card details (as card from original account was lost) as inexplicably you cant't change card details on your account until this step. They were tickets fro the 400m final, something I spent most of my teens and early twenties competing in, so to see that the Olympic Final in London would have been amazing. I also give up a lot of my free time to coach sport and I feel utterly let down by what I should be enjoying as the pinnacle of what I love on home turf. Complete and utter disgrace.

about 4 years ago

Mark Pinkerton

Mark Pinkerton, Director of Optimisation at Practicology

Graham

You missed out the part where you wait for an hour for the search result only for it to time out, losing all your selections! Happened again last night after LOCOG released some cycling tickets.

This is the worst type of usability possible as the site structure means one conducts many more searches than necessary, purely because they didn't think it through. All of which slows the site down with the volume of searches being conducted.

It's a total disgrace and Ticketmaster shouldn't win any more ticketing business in th UK as a result. Others do it far better, but I concede might not have the scale needed for the Olympics - mind you neither did Ticketmaster.

about 4 years ago

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Manny Coulon, Director at IdeasForTheKids.com

In addition to all the issues above, I've noticed that the filters don't work properly either.

Pick a date (any event, any location) and then see what comes up if you search on different combinations of morning, afternoon and evening sessions. The results don't stack up.

For example I've seen morning=5, afternoon=3 evening=6. Select all three and you don't get 14 (or less if sessions span the time bands), but 18! On other occasions, selecting all day didn't show results that appeared on searches for a specific session.

If they can't even get this simple, basic thing right, what hope is there for the rest of the ticketing allocation process.

Truly awful

about 4 years ago

Mark Plant

Mark Plant, Associate Director at Lab49

Just to echo Edw3rd, it seems to be the exact same process Ticketmaster use on their own site - just re-skinned for the Olympics.

I've certainly experienced exactly the same frustrations when trying to book tickets for popular concerts - search to find tickets for a concert, all looks good, add to basket, then suddenly have to "search" for tickets again and then nada (nothing available).

Looking from the outside in, I suspect someone in management there believes people will add tickets to their basket and then abandon, so they don't actually check/reserve them until you checkout. I can possibly see some logic (but not much imagination) in that as a "solution", but it certainly creates a massive expectation gap and an appalling experience overall.

about 4 years ago

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Alan Charlesworth

I agree with Mark about the Ticketmaster's concert tickets. I'm a regular at Sunderland AFC's Stadium of Light and so when Springsteen was there in the summer I knew where I wanted to sit. However, I had to request - and reject - a seat in roughly the area I wanted 12 times before I was offered one somewhere close to where I wanted to be. The Boss was on stage for 3 hours - nearly as long as it took me to book a ticket!

about 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

It's so bad it's hard to know what to criticise first.

@Mark Having added a ticket to the basket, surely a site has to hold that ticket for a period of time so the customer has a chance to complete the purchase.

You can put a counter on the checkout to make the point clear, as Ticketmaster does here: http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/5794-when-should-etailers-empty-customers-shopping-carts, but you have to give people some chance of actually purchasing their selected ticket.

about 4 years ago

Phil Ward

Phil Ward, Director at Works Digital

I really can't believe how appalling it is to not have a mobile optimised site or app for this. As Graham mentioned many users (tourists) would be looking to pick up additional tickets and will not have access to desktop browser.

about 4 years ago

Alex Whittaker

Alex Whittaker, Business Consultant at DigitasLBi

Graham is right - it's not the same process as Ticketmaster normally use, in that process you select a ticket and request it once and if it's available it's reserved for you until you complete the purchase. You also normally have the option to search by price band. And in most cases it's up to date with availability, if something popular goes on sale at 9am by 9.05am it correctly shows as sold out.

The Olympic site both adds an additional step - add to basket and then request - and also confusingly lists tickets as available when they're actually not (and likely haven't been for a long time) and forces you to wade through countless events to find a price band you can afford.

I have certainly had frustrating experiences with Ticketmaster before, normally when lots of people are all trying to buy tickets the moment they go on sale so when you get to the site they show as available but it's essentially a race to request them first. But the Olympic site takes it to a whole other level of frustration - if an event is sold out then show it as sold out, don't tantalisingly give the impression that tickets may be available.

As I said above, this all seems to be because the site was designed to support the ballot, not first come first served.

And as to whether this process rewards enthusiasm and persistence I'd say sadly not, rather it's just pot luck.

about 4 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

The problem also means the Ticketmaster servers are having to generate more pages per customer purchase - exactly the opposite of what you want on a site where you're expecting big traffic spikes !

about 4 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

Acually, to be fair to TicketMaster - there are not a few online retailers who also force users to Add to Basket before telling them that the product is actually not buyable.... http://www.scivisum.co.uk/blog/out-of-stock-or-out-of-your-mind

about 4 years ago

Mark Plant

Mark Plant, Associate Director at Lab49

@Graham

I think there's about 20 ways of solving the problem better than they have - whether that's a countdown on the cart, getting rid of the cart altogether and doing an Amazon style "one-click" purchase model (probably the best seeing as you have to register anyhow and it removes any latency problems). It definitely smacks of some kind of paranoia around tickets sitting in people's carts without being actioned which I have a tiny bit of sympathy for when handling events that sell out in seconds.

I was surprised by the example in your blog as I'd never seen it before, but when I just checked it seems to be yet another (yes - another) step in the process, which thankfully doesn't exist on the olympics site - or maybe I've just never got that far.

It seems that, for _all_ Ticketmaster events the process is:
1) Search for your event,
2) pick your tickets,
3) add them to a cart,
4) search for actual availability
5) wait for results
6) fail to find tickets that were supposed to be available
or
6) pick your seats with countdown
7) keep calm and eventually actually get to buy things

Phew... after that sequence of hurdles I kinda think the ticket should be free ;-)

about 4 years ago

Alex Whittaker

Alex Whittaker, Business Consultant at DigitasLBi

@Mark - I think it varies by event but it is often (normally?) the case that step 3 in your sequence - adding to cart - is when the availability check takes place and tickets are reserved for you, I just tested it on a few events on the TM site - including BT London Live & Saracens rugby - and that's how they worked. In fact for most events the availability information is up to date prior to you even picking tickets - i.e. step 1 where you search only returns available tickets - and it's in step 3 that they're reserved for you (because in between steps 1 & 2 someone else may have reserved them). There is not normally an additional availability check after step 3.

Regardless, I think we're all in violent agreement that the 2012 site leaves an awful lot to be desired.

about 4 years ago

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James Hoeksma

As as seasoned UX/UI professional who has delivered experiences to many blue chip company's for the last 12 years I am very very upset that we have built this to show to the worlds visitors. If I wasn't so angry and frustrated that I cant even buy Olympic park tickets to take my children along I would cry at the shear scale of failure of this interface, I want to swear now, but I shan't. How do we hold these buffoons to account? Who made this rubbish? I say out the individuals and get them to explain how any back end system could force you to be this bad! Once you then try and move on and decide to take the family to one of the events in London (or elsewhere) that doesn't require an Olympic ticket - it actually gets worse! No dates, no descriptions of what is at the event site, appalled.

about 4 years ago

Mark Plant

Mark Plant, Associate Director at Lab49

@Aled - I think you're right, there's definitely some kind of forking in the process (maybe venue based? maybe something more subtle?).

So for The Levellers concert and Donavon Frankenreiter (just picked at random) I just tried you don't get the seating plan straight away - but the same two-stage cart process as the Olympics. When I tried the Tenacious D concert it went through the happier path you describe...

Weird.

As you say, I do have some sympathy for them - I can see how it's difficult allowing people to book multiple events without locking others out of tickets for minutes at a time and an unknown cart abandonment rate.

about 4 years ago

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Vicki Kirk, Marketing Consultant at Consultant

Too true! We took our two young children to the park yesterday as the press have said and other comments online that you could buy a Day Pass to get into the park just to savour the atmosphere. You couldn't! We were amongst many others who tried to do this and one of the people we spoke to said she had called the organisers direct and been told that she would be able to do get Day Passes so traipsed to London to do so only to be told no. We were told at the Box Office at the Olympic Park that all the Day Passes for this week had been sold in batches and that they were being sold on. Are they actively encouraging touting?! Why not hold some back on a first-come, first-served basis so that people can come and enjoy the atmosphere at the "Greatest Show on Earth". Needless to say we had two very disappointed youngsters.

about 4 years ago

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Vicki Kirk, Marketing Consultant at Consultant

Agree with James - no information available except through searching Google on the mobile. Found activities in Victoria Park - free entry but extortionately expensive to do any of the activities i.e. Zorb experience £5 per person for a two minute experience, two ice lollies £5. Rip-off Britain is working well!

about 4 years ago

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Jason Cross, Marketing Director at Incentivated

Very frustrating, as I and colleagues had conversations with LOCOG marketers in the summer of 2010 about sorting out a mobile website "well in advance" to ensure testing etc.

And then... a big wall of silence from Canary Wharf from every attempt to extract any kind of desire to make it happen.

about 4 years ago

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Nick Spragg, Lead Content, Design & Delivery Manager at Bupa

Not sure why people are surprised about this as the main Ticketmaster site runs in exactly the same way. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen "Sorry, the tickets you were looking for are currently unavailable. Please try the following:
1)Reducing the number of tickets you require.
2) Changing the seating area you requested.
3) Giving up completely rather than wasting another four hours."

I have no idea why a "live stock" system, implemented on so many other eCommerce sites, cannot be used for tickets. And Ticketmaster still charge more in fees than everyone else. The only reason I can see why they still take you through to the "Sorry" page is so they can try and flog you stupidly priced tickets through their tout like "partner" service in a lovely right hand ad.

It's been like this for years, so unfortunately I can't see it changing.

about 4 years ago

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Keith David

Not posting as my normal account on here as I don't want to get into trouble!

Despite the bad design you have to give the web designers and ticketmaster some slack. If anyone here has had to work with LOCOG you will know how many hoops you have to go through and how everything has to be done their way, even if that is the wrong way!

PS the first captcha on here was actually worse than the one you listed above!

about 4 years ago

Angus Phillipson

Angus Phillipson, Director at Byte9

@mark

>> "as you say, I do have some sympathy for them - I can see how it's difficult allowing people to book multiple events without locking others out of tickets for minutes at a time and an unknown cart abandonment rate."

really - a modicum of common sense, a (half?) decent development process & team and (some?) testing is all that is required.

Given the budgets they are working with there is absolutely no excuse, it is a bloody shambles and they should be held to account.

angus

about 4 years ago

Angus Phillipson

Angus Phillipson, Director at Byte9

@graham; there are plenty of alternatives to captcha; honeytrap, Q&A, simple task, open authentication etc

that is basic stuff...

regards

angus

about 4 years ago

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Jason Cross, Marketing Director at Incentivated

@Keith - they certainly make (made?) a rod for their own back

@Angus - they should be held to account... but are all about to disappear as LOCOG will cease to exist very shortly as they hand over to ROCOG.

about 4 years ago

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Rachel Collinson

I think this mess is actually a result of the way Government tenders work. Online experiences have to be completely specified and bid for by cost up front. Thus, the minimum standard is met technically, but the UX is HORRIBLE. I see it again and again on Government sites and IT projects - unusable mess, going way over budget and timescale, and so on. The tendering system is completely broken for IT projects.

about 4 years ago

Patrizia Pilosi

Patrizia Pilosi, Senior Project manager at Travelfusion

Just wanted to give my penny worth of comment, as the conversation seems to have taken quite the stand already.

I have just tried to purchase a ticket and it is not the easiest and friendliest journey for sure. So I agree with many of you and points brought up are spot on.

But, for the sake of the argument and to break down how to resolve a problem like this, there might be a fundamental distinction to make.

1. Overall User Journey: navigation from identifying event, selecting tickets, making purchase, receive confirmation. This is poor and all of the comments above have already highlighted why.

2. Back-End data availability. Ultimate availability might be sitting at the 'supplier' end --which might be each venue. Here a 'client' in this case Ticketmaster or who ever has implemented the retrieval and/or eventual display of the tickets might have encountered problems.

The issue is management here and who coordinated these two. Fundamental design, implementation and QA flows that lay at the basic Product specs.

Whos is the Project Manager? And who approve the site to go live?

about 4 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

Keith

> If anyone here has had to work with LOCOG you will know how many hoops you have to go through

Getting ready for the Olympics was tough for some, I'd agree.

We helped Transport for London do a bunch of website + mobile load testing for their special Olympic travel microsites as well as journeyPlanner etc and they probably had more folks looking over their shoulder than usual!

about 4 years ago

Chris Rourke

Chris Rourke, Managing Director at User VisionSmall Business Multi-user

The Olympics ticketing system seems a case of inside-out rather than outside-in design . It appears to be based on the capability and processing steps of the backend system rather than the way a user naturally imagines it working (which is learned from their lifetime of e-commerce transactions). That natural way is
1. I see if what I want is available, if so
2. I put it in the basket,
3. proceed to checkout
4. give them my money and personal info

The added steps confuse and concern the customer especially with the frequent rejections. Terrible UX is the result. Also drives people to try out the many dodgy illegal Olympics tix sites out there.

This system-driven process is a common challenge in travel sites but even there most have worked their booking engines to deliver the bad news of no availability as early as possible in the process.

Nice example to include in my next usability training course though so thanks for that.

about 4 years ago

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Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

@Patrizia you may be right in that TM may have to work with each venue's own ticketing system (especially established venues like Earls Court and Wembley Stadium) however since the Olympics specific venues are new I'd be very surprised if they're not using TMs very own in-house ticket management system thus with TM potentially owning some if not most of the end to end ticketing process (including fulfillment) they'd have to accept the criticism

As for LOCOG they have less overall power than the Olympics committee itself and are probably being directed by the IOC over all matters large and small. Why else would we have a French introduction for everything at the opening ceremony?

TM are a market leader in the UK I'd be surprised if TM had 100% say on the look and feel of the olympics ticketing site however the back-end would I assume be 100% driven by TM - question is which came first, the front end or back end spec!

about 4 years ago

Rob Jackson

Rob Jackson, UK Managing Director at Elisa Interactive Ltd

If people want something bad. Does it really matter how bad the usability is? Steve Krug goes out of the window when something is a) only available from one site and b) only happens every 4 years

about 4 years ago

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Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

@Rob that's easy to say for us on a digital marketing blog, being digital marketers - but for the average person in the UK many won't be as tech savvy and able to navigate a site so quickly to secure tickets - its very non-inclusive of the general population - as an MD of a digital agency I'm sure you'll understand the need for accessibility and usability for brands small and large

about 4 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Afternoon all

@Rob - yes it does really matter. It's a central part of the Olympic experience and when you are asking people to spend potentially £hundreds, you should make life as easy as possible for them.

Plus, the Olympics has a significant chunk of taxpayer funding. We shouldn't settle for low standards given how much money would have been thrown at the site.

I'm with @Depesh. It's not inclusive. It doesn't help people who are inexperienced at using online ticketing + even for me, someone spends his life online, it was a massive headache.

If we start justifying shockingly bad web design/UX etc and accepting it for 'big occasions', what does that say about our standards and expectations?

Thanks
james

about 4 years ago

Angus Phillipson

Angus Phillipson, Director at Byte9

Turns out Ticketmaster's system and LOCOG have created such a monstrous shambles that athletes families and friends are being turned away from venues...

http://bit.ly/MSVboT

Outrageous.

Heads should roll..

angus

about 4 years ago

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James Aufenast

@Chris Hobcroft Sorry Chris but I'm keen fan and I try every day and night to get a ticket for an event but have completely failed to do so. It is a truly awful experience – try it for yourself and see.

about 4 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

Kind of ironic that this blog has Gold, Silver and Bronze all over it!

about 4 years ago

Angus Phillipson

Angus Phillipson, Director at Byte9

@deri

if they created gold medals for being outspoken, I'd be on top of that podium ;)

angus

about 4 years ago

Nico Koepke

Nico Koepke, CEO at KODIME LtdSmall Business

Overdue article on a major letdown for digital Britain - Ticketmaster #fail here, and don't make excuses like "it's a big event" - yes it is, but surely not an insurmountable challenge to get the database look-up going to check whether events at price X are available BEFORE the user is forced through the loops? And then not auto-delete the NOT AVAILABLE event from the shopping basket? Come on.

Next time give the job to a Brit business.

about 4 years ago

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Mike O'Shea

The website is appalling. And really Rob if you think it doesn't matter, you really should not be working in a digital agency. Not getting my account ! The reason it only happens every 4 years, is it's a big deal....And I hate captchas

about 4 years ago

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ellie

spent so many hours, nights,days trying to get tickets,plus the costly tel number 08 (premium number) number the olympic website has provided. only to be cut off automatically after few minutes!!!!..

it is extremely difficult to get tickets!!! the website will lure you it has tickets available, but once you clicked request tickets, voila NO TICKETS HAVE BEEN FOUND!

this olympic ticketing plan is designed for the few...

about 4 years ago

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Christine

After seeing so many empty spaces on the TV I am amazed at all the hastle TRYING to get tickets. The hope you get when you can select tickets and then wait an eternity and then to be told they aren't available. HOW IS THIS SANE! Find it extremely frustrating that the hope of getting seats is lost after raising such hope. I suppose keep trying and am visiting London tomorrow - sure we wont be successful there but worth a try. Its a farce!

about 4 years ago

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Saenz

Thanks for finally writing about >Why is the Olympic ticketing website so bad? | Econsultancy <Loved it!

about 4 years ago

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Jo Turnbull

What a great post. I am so surprised about how bad the site is. You are supposed to buy all tickets online, yet it does not let you. Then you see in the paper that there are lots of tickets for sale.
The Olympics does not come around often, so why not get it right? The bidding process to get the first set of tickets was bad enough. I thought with the embarrassment of so many empty seats you could at least buy them online and at the Olympic Park. But.... you cannot do either.

For those lucky enough to buy tickets and go to The Games, there should be Olympic representatives asking them before they leave the venue if they want to buy anymore.

What a waste of an amazing opportunity for London.

about 4 years ago

Mark Pinkerton

Mark Pinkerton, Director of Optimisation at Practicology

Just been on it again to try for Athletics tickets. Noticed that one of the page requests is actually for livenation. That makes this system even more cobbled together, doesnt it?

Does anyone know when TM were awarded the ticketing contract?

It was a major mistake whenever it was!

about 4 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

Most points have already been made, but here are a few extras just in case useful in some way.

TICKETMASTER & LOCOG?

In terms of the "Is it Ticketmaster / Isn't it?" question - I'm pretty sure it's all TicketMaster. All of the tracking code across it is TicketMaster/LiveNation, and the code is v similar to theirs.

To be fair to London 2012, this was by far the 'least risky' option. Ticketmaster merged with LiveNation & essentially own the ticketing market. There is no real alternative.

On top of that I'm pretty sure TicketMaster are paying LOCOG (as a sponsor). I have no idea of the financials on ticket sales, but 'we paid for this as taxpayers' is probably less of an issue here than it is with logistics/construction/etc.

INEVITABLE?

From Ticketmaster's point of view:

1) It's obvious they had no idea (as none of us did) that there would be these ongoing 'spree' sales of tickets throughout the games. It's obviously not put together with that in mind. The goalposts moved due to too many tickets being handed to sponsors & sponsors not turning up. (caveat: based on my limited understanding!)
2) There are always, always complaints about ticketmaster. They're probably a top 1,000 website trafficwise, a $5billion company with thousands of employees. Their overall annual volume of ticket sales probably vastly dwarfs The Olympics.
3) Their focus on robustness & 'getting all the tickets sold' rather than flexibility & customer satisfaction.

ie. they were never going to make any major changes to core functionality 'just' for The Olympics, and the risk of doing that - without a couple of years' run-in time - would be a much bigger risk for them than the risk of us complaining about the UX of their sites.

Related to that - here's a quote from a guy who runs a basketball arena (from an old Wired article):

“Yes, a variety of niche competitors have emerged, but when you flip the switch putting three U2 shows on sale at once, you need to know that the system is going to work. And that’s what Ticketmaster delivers.”

If a guy running a basketball arena worries about that, what do you do when you're LOCOG's commercial director trying to sell £600 million of tickets? (probably not "I'll go with this small shoreditch startup - job done!")

IRONING STUFF OUT

A couple of people have asked "why wouldn't they just switch the system now they've realised?" - I can imagine the disaster that would ensue if they tried to do that & it all utterly failed. I'm sure 'Avoid Risk' is higher up the priority list than 'Iron Out 3 Dozen UX Issues'. Especially as they're often selling tickets for 'tomorrow'.

USABILITY & THE ACTUAL OUTCOME

The usability issues are really frustrating (& so obvious that it feels a bit boring to laundry list them), but the demand is so much greater than supply that the overall outcome - while annoyingly protracted - is probably the same. (ie. hardly anyone gets tickets)

A quick search of twitter shows a few people who managed to get some today (inc. athletics), and they seem very happy.

ie. we're all essentially complaining about being jostled in the queue, while the tickets sold out way before we reached the front.

BUY PARALYMPIC TICKETS!

On the plus side, there are still lots & lots of Paralympic tickets still available. For me, that's a shame of this - there is 'supply' for some tickets out there - one thing that *would* be genuinely easy for them to do is to nudge people across to those & for us all to be (at least a little bit) happier.

Take a look here & do buy a ticket: http://bit.ly/paratickets . Take a moment to post the link on Twitter/Facebook/wherever too.

about 4 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

ps. top tip: on CAPTCHA forms where one word looks fine & the other looks a total mess, you usually only have to get the 'fine' one right.

Explanation of why here: http://www.google.com/recaptcha/learnmore

Interesting, eh?

about 4 years ago

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Harriet fisher

after trying to get tickets through the ballot, second wave, and every day since, I finally got lucky last night. I say lucky because that's what it is with this website - put your finger in the air and hope for the best. The problems with the site have been well stated above and I share your pain. I wanted to point out a couple
of bugs with the search which dont make sense to me but wondered if a more IT savy person could explain them.

Firstly, when you search for events on a single day (say Saturday) you
get 5 sessions returned, Sunday you get another 5 - a total of 10. but when you search for events from Saturday to Sunday, you get 12 - why do some sessions only appear with certain search criteria even though they should appear with either criteria?

Even more worrying is the phenomenon that I have nicknamed the long weekend. Search for events from Saturday to Sunday and you will get 12 sessions. But search for events from Friday to Tuesday and you get 22, including extra 'hidden' sessions that weren't displayed when you restricted your search to saturday to Sunday. this is extremely frustrating and means you can't trust the search facility at all.

about 4 years ago

Nico Koepke

Nico Koepke, CEO at KODIME LtdSmall Business

Dan Barker, you are making too many excuses for what is a big #fail. Let's not try to explain away the issues, but face the facts. I just went back in (8.15am UK) , selected" Athletics = all", got shown several AVAILABLE events including Sunday evening, which I then selected to buy - and here is the next page and message:
-----------------------
Tickets to this session are currently unavailable for one of the following reasons:

Tickets to this event are not on sale yet. Tickets will go on sale at 11.00am 08 June 2012.
This event is no longer on sale.
We are currently completing our nightly maintenance.
----------------------

This is a JOKE and sorry I don't agree that only monopolies such as Ticketmaster are "capable" of providing the ecommerce infrastructure for this British flagship event. It was the EASY option, and noone will get fired for taking the decision - "I picked the largest provider, but even they were overwhelmed".

Nico

about 4 years ago

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Natalie

Ive got through to the reserving tickets page so many times! sometimes it says your wait time is more than 15 mins, and it takes 2 hours to then say no tickets can be found... sometimes it says your wait time is less than 1 minute and after 10 seconds it says no tickets can be found! I now give up! I'm not sure they are even releasing any tickets and they need to stop being so greedy trying to sell tickets for an unaffordable £700+ It makes me so mad!!

about 4 years ago

Mark Pinkerton

Mark Pinkerton, Director of Optimisation at Practicology

And now Ticketmaster has blocked @2012ticketalert twitter feed which at least allowed people to work out when to start wasting hours of their life waiting for the TM Olympic tickets to respond. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19112520

These guys really know how to please their customers.

Does this show that customer experience isn't important to succeed online? (hopefully they will get their comeuppance soon).

about 4 years ago

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Lucinda Palmer

absoutley useless site, ive spent hours sat here and to no avail.

about 4 years ago

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feester

Lots of interesting tickets apparently available this friday evening for tomorrow but I can't get past the 'request tickets' button to see if they really are available.
Actually the recaptcha here is as difficult as the locog site.

about 4 years ago

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feester

And now they've cancelled my request and I didn't even get to find out whether my requests weren't available.
:-((((((
What a scam

about 4 years ago

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jcburnham

I purchased tickets in the USA months ago. Unfortunately, I have tickets for field hockey I cannot use because of scheduling conflicts (soccer events I purchased later were not available when I settled for field hockey tickets) and I can find no way of reselling these tickets. What a shame with so many empty seats. I would happily sell them for a loss and let someone else enjoy the experience.

p.s. your captcha sucks too. It took twenty attempts to find one that I could read!

about 4 years ago

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GDG

I am in the same boat as jcburnham.I am one of the apparently 'lucky' few (let us not count the hours poised before computer clicking the magic button only to find out that the tickets had already gone) who is now doubly unlucky because I cannot attend the event I bought the tickets for.I have been trying for the last 5 hours to log into the official LOCOG website to re-sell my ticket and guess what? That's right, the system does not let you log in therefore I can neither view nor re-sell my tickets.I would rather just give away the tickets now and there are many people who would want them) rather than watch them go to waste. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that this partially explains the rows of empty seats. I might just as well have set fire to the cash.Well I hope that VISA, Lloyds, Ticketmaster et al are all very pleased with themselves.

about 4 years ago

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Scubba

The site is simply not fit for purpose. But then again we shouldn't be surprised, as others have pointed out, the main Ticketmaster site from which this has been derived is a borderline basket case as well.

However, I've worked on a few projects implementing e-commerce sites of comparable scale, and I can well imagine how LOCOG were steam-rollered into accepting delivery of this mess. I mean what other option did they have?

I only hope the contract was loaded with penalty clauses, but I would imagine the Ticketmaster legal team were far too shrewd to accept anything too punitive.

about 4 years ago

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sarah

I am on the "Reserving tickets" screen which originally said my wait is aprox 10mins. It has been 45 minutes and it still says 10 mins. My husband has just gone on the website on his phone, but it says no events found at all for Wednesday. What am I still waiting for if the event is no longer showing???!!! Do I sit here a bit longer in the hope that I am close, or has the website crashed on me and I'm wasting my time? (most likely answer) Been on here since 16:30 trying to get just 1 ticket for any event. It is now 20:51 and it has timed me out. I'm embarrassed I have sat here so long. I have spent at least 2 hours every evening the past week and over 4 hours this evening hitting refresh waiting for an event to become available so I am on it the second they appear only to get no tickets found. You can't get any quicker than that!

about 4 years ago

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mike

Immensely frustrated at putting tickets in my basket which are then not available at the checkout. Again and Again. How comes a £9bn event with a professional Ticketing company in tow cannot sell it own tickets ? What a disgraceful display of technology illiteracy by not-so-Great Britain for all the world to see...

about 4 years ago

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Archieflatface

Al Murray was right all along - it's definitely a bit shit!

about 4 years ago

Faseeh Shams

Faseeh Shams, Marketing Manager at Adthena

It truly is the worse experience ever. I have wasted a good couple of hours trying to buy one for my self.

about 4 years ago

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MandN

Simplified, this is truly a shambles. Although think back to early on in the process when Locog were being cagey and opaque about ticket allocations and prices. The Ticketmaster experience was already awful and opaque long before the Olympics came along, so who would be a better fit than Ticketmaster if that is what y0ou are after? What kind of organisation puts up 'They may not be on sale yet' and 'They may be sold out' in the same response page. Cretinous. Also TM have been displaying events this past week with lines such as 'Tickets go on sale May 10' etc. They don't even read there own postings. Says it all sadly.

about 4 years ago

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D R B

I agree with those who identify the critical problem as the ludicrous lottery system, rather than the design of the ticketing website per se. I hope that any post-olympics inquest focusses on this, rather than obsessing about the ticketing website itself.

As has been pointed out, the lottery created this website design - i.e it was designed for a lottery system, not a normal e-commerce situation of checking availability of a product, then ordering and paying. Not only did the stupid lottery unsurprisingly fail at its probable objective of filling less popular sports (hence Lord Coe's embarassing claim that all venues would be full) IMO it was largely responsible for the empty seats. I don't buy the excuse that they were all corporate/official no-shows - I doubt corporates were allocated swathes of weightlifting tickets, or the significant random empty handball or boxing seats near to me last week. The fact is that the lottery put off many people on low incomes who weren't prepared to gamble - that's what common sense and my own anecdotal evidence suggests. That fact, compounded by the inflated prices in a recession (especially considering the hype about the "people's games") should be the focus of some searching questions for Lord Coe after the games.

When the sh&t hit the fan and LOCOG were embarrassed into finding more tickets, it created a stampede that the no site could have coped with but with which the Ticketmaster site was particularly badly designed for.

I hope LOCOG don't escape the hammering they deserve by slipping between the cracks of the Team GB euphoria on the one hand and people tilting at the wrong windmill of the website on the other.

about 4 years ago

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P'sdoff

My understanding is it's very difficult to make a computer be completely random ... but I have to hand it to whoever scripted that website they've done a good job at it.
running two laptops searching identical searches and getting different results back. not entirely sure how that is even possible.

anyway I finally got tickets I wanted in my basket and after trying about 20 different events I got the perfect ones, and the checkout link died ... it refuesed to checkout it just refreshed /cart

so ive given up I really hope that there are some reprisals for ticketmaster for souring the olympics.

about 4 years ago

Mark Pinkerton

Mark Pinkerton, Director of Optimisation at Practicology

Lord Coe was asked about the ticketing website on TV last night. He said they had between 1 and 2 million people on the site almost continuously and that the site hadn't crashed, which was an achievement in itself.
He was then rather let off the hook as there was no follow up question about why the site was an appalling experience...

about 4 years ago

Angus Phillipson

Angus Phillipson, Director at Byte9

We should be pleased that the site didn't crash under load?

wow.

angus

about 4 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

I can understand having continuously > 1M users on the main LOCOG sites.

But to have that many on the ticketing website itself.... sounds too high. Even allowing for the fact that each potential buyer is kept online for far longer than is necessary.

Wonder if Mr Coe didn't ask the right questions of his team? and got told concurrent users on the main site?

about 4 years ago

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Richard

And why does a wheelchair user have to phone up for a space? Presumably there are a fixed number of spaces at an event so it isn't difficult to include this in the coding.

This applies to many venues by the way, cinemas, theatres etc.

And please remove the captcha from this comments box. First one is completely unreadable.

about 4 years ago

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TM

I think people's main frustrations lie with not being able to get tickets, and this is down to the fact the games are so popular. The fact is tickets are in short supply so not being able to buy tickets easily should not really be a suprise.
O.K the website isn't perfect but have never received any dreaded 500 or 404 error messages (I remember the days of trying to get tickets for glastonbury!) When I search the event results returned seem to make sense and the tick box for only showing events which are available works.
Agreed however that the extra step to search and then buy tickets appears unnecessary (though I guess it has something to do with the steps between reserving and then actually paying for a ticket).
P.S. This website's CAPTCHA is just as bad!

about 4 years ago

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Jay Marathe

Ticketmaster's replies and many online articles suggest that the problem with the site is that when you SEARCH, some tickets are available but by the time you click REQUEST TICKETS they have been bought.

However, this is not true. The main problem is that the initial search itself is showing INCORRECT RESULTS. I was online with a ticketing agent at ticketmaster who confirmed to me that absolutely no basketball tickets are available at this time. I did a live search on the website several times while he was on the line and the website showed that many basketball events were available. The agent confirmed to me that his computer system was accurate and that the website results were inaccurate.

The problem is not too many people logging on, it is not about the time gap between searching and requesting, it is simply that the ticketmaster system is terribly designed and is giving INACCURATE SEARCH RESULTS.

In today's digital age is is possible to have every system connected to a single 'one truth' database so that each interface always shows the correct results in real time. It is a shame that the world's leading ticketing company and the world's most watched event in the digital age are served by a website that does not work correctly.

JAY.

about 4 years ago

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Rak

The search function on the website is indeed buggy!

Try the following:
1- Go to the search events page http://www.tickets.london2012.com/browse
2- Select the Paralympic events tab
3- Select 'Wheelchair Basketball' under the sport dropdown
4- Click on search
5- You'll get results for 06 September 0830-1700 Women's semi-final (2 games), £15 tickets
6- Now still on the search page select the From dropdown to Wed 29th Aug 2012 and To dropdown to Sunday 9th Sept 2012
7- Click on search
8- You'll see one addition result this time, 08th Sept 1900-2330 Men's Bronze Medal

So basically results appear depending on which search parameter is triggered, how inconsistent!

Don't think the website's properly tested, what a shame!

Rak

about 4 years ago

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Gill Kilroy

You should try getting ONE senior ticket for anything!! they obviously don't want us oldies there or to sell these as they are cheaper!!!
I have had same experience as above. Also hen you do get to something to actually requestit comes back and says your session is timed out and you have to re-sign in - how ridiculous is that. I am fuming, and sent them plenty of feedback on what a sh...e website it is.

about 4 years ago

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engkoh

This will be bad social marketing for the event. We should manage and re check again.
Give second opinion will be the great resources.

about 4 years ago

Angus Phillipson

Angus Phillipson, Director at Byte9

So as an obvious voice of digital development in the UK are econsultancy going to do anything about this?

Accountability in these type of contracts, and encouraging investment is UK talent and (smaller) companies is what we should be concerned with.

@graham? and @econsultancy thoughts please...

regards

angus

about 4 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

I'm with Angus on this one !

> ... encouraging investment in UK talent and (smaller) companies is what we should be concerned with.

about 4 years ago

Angus Phillipson

Angus Phillipson, Director at Byte9

@Graham

Any thoughts on this?

I would be interested to hear Econsultancy stance / plans.

An open letter perhaps?

Regards

about 4 years ago

Mark Pinkerton

Mark Pinkerton, Director of Optimisation at Practicology

To make matters worse Ticketmaster/LOCOG haven't removed the Olympic games tab from the events search and often the search defaults to Olympic events!

@Angus - totally agree. Econsultancy is surely best placed to raise this?

about 4 years ago

Angus Phillipson

Angus Phillipson, Director at Byte9

@Mark yep, econsultancy would be the obvious mouthpiece.

Not much enthusiasm for it thus far though..!

angus

about 4 years ago

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Devries

It's hard to come by knowledgeable people about this topic, but you sound like you know what you're talking about!

Thanks

almost 4 years ago

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Wilhelm

Appreciate this post. Let me try it out.

almost 4 years ago

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