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Had a ticket but didn’t come to BarCamp London 5? For shame…

Posted on October 1st, 2008 by Neil Crosby. Filed under Blog Posts.

This weekend was BarCamp London 5 (I know, this is the third post on the subject, but keep with me on this) at Ebay’s office in Richmond. It was a great weekend, with some very high quality talks. In fact, I don’t think I went to a single session that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy.

As with all the London-based BarCamps that have occurred so far, this one was heavily oversubscribed. When signup opened, tickets vanished in the blink of an eye and plenty of people were upset that they hadn’t managed to get a place. Eagerness to be involved was so high that the first ever BarCamp London Spillover was organised as a one day event to let some of the people who had wanted to be there have their own mini event.

Then the day of BarCamp London 5 came, and a lot of people who had managed to get tickets didn’t bother showing up. Anecdotally, between 40 and 75 people just didn’t come. If those people had handed back their tickets prior to the event that could have let a lot of the people who went to Spillover come to the main event. Not turning up is just not cricket. Part of the fun of a BarCamp is the diverse number of people who attend and contribute to the event. Not turning up just dilutes that horribly.

I’m not the only person who feels this way. In fact, chatting to people over the weekend it was a common theme. Various people were mentioned who have done this on more than one occasion, and the general feeling seemed to be that something should be done about this trend before it continues. Maybe that would involve naming and shaming. Maybe a blacklist to stop no-showers from signing up during the first couple of rounds of tickets for the next BarCamp? Maybe charging a nominal fee to attend, like BathCamp did, would be a way to make sure people turned up? I don’t know what the answer is, but I really don’t want this trend to continue.

What I do need to applaud the organisers of BarCamp London 5 for though was the large number of newbie tickets. New people and diversity are the lifeblood of BarCamps, so it was fantastic seeing them going the extra mile to bring new people in. Likewise, the sponsors were great and a special “shout out” has to go to MyMuesli who provided some awesome custom muesli for breakfast on the Sunday morning which seemed to go down incredibly well.

I had a great time at BarCamp London 5, and I look forward to the next one. The only thing that could make it better would be if everyone turned up next time!

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11 Responses to “Had a ticket but didn’t come to BarCamp London 5? For shame…”

  1. I agree fully. We had a few talks afterwards on the tube about solutions. Shaming has the problem of potentially breaking people’s privacy, not to mention that not everyone “decided” not to show up, some had some serious things that prevented them from coming.

    Charging would probably be a better solution, though the questions is how well this would work. At the Geek Dinners we allow people to pay in advance voluntarily (£8) and even then some people don’t show up, nor ever claim their money back. It also creates a problem with all the additional administration surrounding giving people their money back. Maybe better to give that money, by default, to charity instead.

  2. I think the easiest solution in the end is just naming and shaming.

    Peer pressure is pretty much a requirement for a blacklisting scheme (unless you want to check IDs at the door, which seems like it would cause a bit of a spaz-out from the usual barcamp crowd!), and while I doubt anyone would complain about a symbolic fee, I’m not sure how effective that would be to reduce jackasses who don’t show. I don’t know about the others, but if I noticed a no-shower that I knew, I’d definitely have some words.

    My thanks to eBay for a great event and the foresight/serendipity to plan for 150 people instead of the usual 100, so fortunately the large amount of no-shows was hardly noticed. Lucky break.

  3. I wonder whether the solution is to charge for the ticket, but give people their money back on the day. The cash from those who don’t turn up could be spent on beer for those who do.

    I’d favour publishing the names of people who don’t show up and don’t return their tickets, too.

  4. @Cristiano – Absolutely, sometimes some people will have unavoidable last minute things that stop them from coming to events. I don’t think anyone would begrudge someone being a no-show because their mother had just died, for example. On the money question, you’re totally right – having to handle money would increase the complexity of holding the event a fair chunk.

    @Reinier – I personally wouldn’t have any problem having my ID checked at the door, but you’re right – I’m sure some people wouldn’t be keen on that. Naming and shaming is definitely the easiest of the options available.

    @Kerry – I’m starting to veer away from the idea of charging. The cost could only ever be nominal for fear of forcing away those who just don’t have the disposable income, even if it was refundable. And if the cost was nominal then it wouldn’t surprise me at all if some people just wouldn’t care that they paid for something they didn’t go to.

    So, naming and shaming FTW?

  5. Not a fan of naming and shaming. As Christiano says it’s bit of an invasion of privacy and rather harsh (what if we find out later that they were at a funeral or something – just an example). By that time they have already been shamed, the damage is done and what you going to do? Tell people they were removed because of a personal event they might not want being public?

    An admin fee (£20) would work; people will think more about grabbing up tickets It might also hopefully stop people buying up a shit load of tickets for everyone in their office at once (something that I know leads to a number of tickets being hoarded and maybe not used).

    Could also just rely on some communications between organisers – we know the people who don’t show up and can make this availiable. Then we could do stuff like not let people register in the first/second round of tickets or something like that…

    So yeah – there are a number of options (just not a fan of the naming and shaming one)

  6. I don’t think the point of naming and shaming is that people are actually shamed. The point is to force people to not sign up if they don’t think they’ll go, or if they did, either show up, or notify the organizers that they can’t go.

    The right answer to this dilemma should instantly result in so few no-shows that the actual act (e.g. the naming and shaming) doesn’t have to be done. No need to shame 3 or 4 people.

    You could ‘fix’ naming and shaming privacy issues by being factual in your naming ceremony: Leave it up to the people that are going to be doing the shaming to show some tact.

    If people have been multi-ordering tickets, then an admin fee might help some, but, I doubt there’s a balance where the amount isn’t prohibitively annoying, yet enough to be a serious deterrent. Then again, the point of the exercise is not so much to come up with a foolproof system, but to just make it more obvious that no-show is not something people should ever do. Perhaps charging a symbolic fee along with an explanation of why is enough.

    One thing is for sure: I’d love to see something done at the next BCL, just so we can start trying some of these ideas.

    Here’s another crazy idea: Send an email on sunday evening, a week before the event, with a link in it, to all ticket holders. If a ticket holder hasn’t clicked the link by fridaymorning, they lose their ticket. Because time is short, I’d then send out ticket claim mails to everyone on the backup list. First-come-first-serve.

    Sounds like a lot of work, though :(

  7. @reinier about sending an email. I noticed one thing that really works for the Geek Dinners: send out an email the day or 2 days before the event, JUST reminding people to come/please give up their ticket if they can’t come. This has really improved our reliability even while there are still no-shows.

  8. Hey, if sending a voluntary reminder mail 2 days prior is all that it takes, that’d be peachy. I’m all for it.

  9. I began writing a comment, but got carried away. Therefore:

    http://allinthehead.com/retro/332/the-trouble-with-barcamp

  10. Personally I don’t see naming and shaming working that well. Most people not attending London5 were newcomers, not really inducted in to our rather strange virtual community (yet), and I suspect being names and shamed would not work as a deterrent.

    I have also blogged about this at http://tinyurl.com/4u725l .

    One thing that I have just thought about is why don’t we ask the people who did not turn up why they did not, why they did not hand back the ticket, and how they think we could solve the problem.

  11. We are running a BarCamp here in Washington, DC this weekend. We sent a note out a few days ago asking those that could not make to reply back so we could give their space to someone else that is on the waiting list.

    I think a good idea would be post the date, time, location, etc. weeks in advance and tell everyone that a week or ten day before we will be opening registration until all the spots are filled. This would cut down on people just getting tickets for themselves and others hoping they can make it when the time comes.

    I also like the idea of creating a system to give your ticket up to a friend , co-worker, etc.

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