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Bloc shutdown – speculation about the cause continues

By | Published on Thursday 12 July 2012

Bloc Festival

What happened last Friday night when the Bloc Festival was shut down to avoid crowd safety issues still isn’t clear, with the investigation into the incident now being led by promoter Baselogic’s administrator. As previously reported, some reckon too many people were let onto the site because of problems at the gate, while others simply think the venue was set up in a way that simply couldn’t accommodate all of its audience.

As previously reported, many have suggested that problems with the e-ticketing process, powered by CrowdSurge, may have played a role, with some noting that it was possible to hack the HTML of one e-ticket to create a second with a different barcode. Those who bought multiple tickets also noticed that the barcodes went up in sequential order, possibly suggesting that all tickets did the same, so it would be easy to guess an alternative code that would be accepted at the door.

Though as those allegations spread online yesterday, CrowdSurge denied that was so, insisting that it would actually be very difficult to guess a genuine barcode number, and even if someone did, only one person using that code would be given entry. The second person to arrive with the same barcode would be refused admission, even if they were the genuine ticket-buyer. CrowdSurge adds that its system shows no problem with multiple punters showing up on the night and trying to use identical e-tickets.

A spokesman for the company told CMU: “The methodology utilised to generate barcodes and associated barcode numbers is a standard system deployed by numerous industries. It is possible for an unscrupulous individual to forge a barcode and number. However, the barcode numbering is not sequential [for any one] event, and the scanners at the entry gate are programmed with the unique barcodes set aside for the specific event”.

He continued: “Therefore, the chances of an unscrupulous individual managing to guess barcode numbers to event, to date, to ticket type and to entry gate are extremely remote. [And] even if this fraudulent barcode was correct, it could only be used once, not numerous times, because the barcode is marked on the live database as ‘used’ and would be declined by the scanners if presented again. During the period when scanning was in operation [at Bloc], at no point were fans directed to the box office with a duplicate barcode, that upon investigation by the box office team was found to be a fraudulent ticket. There is no evidence out of the 8000 tickets scanned that any fraudulent tickets were presented”.

That said, CrowdSurge has said that it plans to change the way its system creates barcodes in future in order to reassure promoters, adding: “Confidence in fans purchasing tickets through the CrowdSurge system and defence against unscrupulous operators is of paramount importance to us, therefore we are changing the methodology of barcode generation”.

While CrowdSurge insist that there were no reported problems of forged tickets at the Bloc Festival, as previously reported, the ticketing firm – whose only role at the actual event was providing and supporting the barcode scanning technology – has already revealed that just before 9.30pm on Friday night, three hours before the festival was shut down, it was told by the event’s management that no more e-tickets would be scanned. Why this decision was made, given that there were no known technical problems with the scanning kit, isn’t clear.

Whether it was that decision that caused the subsequent problems at the Bloc event we don’t know. Given that CrowdSurge says there was no sign of fraudulent e-tickets prior to 9.30pm, it seems unlikely a large number of people with such tickets would then appear after that time and gain entry once the scanning process was stopped. And even if tickets weren’t being properly scanned, Bloc staff may still have been counting people onto the site (certainly the event’s licence would have required them to).

All of which means that the theory that too many people gained access to the festival site may as yet prove to be untrue, though the decision to stop scanning tickets at the gates remains an odd one for the promoters to have made.