Diggerland 11p Tickets

With the promise of saving £15 on a Diggerland ticket, thousands of people hit the Diggerland website yesterday morning and unsurprisingly, the website is unresponsive and returning 500 status codes.

But why is this unsurprising? How come every time a product is featured on Dragons Den, you go to the website and it’s down? Dragons Den has been on the TV for over 10 years and you’d think that at some point, one of the producers has to say ‘When this goes out you’re going to get a lot of publicity – probably the most publicity you’ll ever have for your product, so speak to someone about making sure your site is up’.

I’m not sure if the Diggerland thing would be classed as a failure;

If you look at it from a link perspective, we see links from newspapers, blogs and deals websites all with a low LinkRisk score. These links will be around for years and will certainly be a boost to the Diggerland site as a whole (as we all know, ‘digger based theme park’ is one of the most hotly contested search phrases).

On the other hand, as far as reputation management goes…

These are just a few of the hundreds of tweets I’ve seen this morning of people trying to book tickets including angry parents who had promised their kids a trip to Diggerland based on this promotion. Now as a parent, I’d have held off telling my kids that they are going to Diggerland until I’d got the tickets confirmed: The promotion was clearly for 1872 tickets total, thats 468 per park – even if 1000 people tried to book, that’s  still less than a 50% chance of getting a ticket!

So what can you do in this situation? 

Diggerland have had the right idea in a lot of ways: They’ve given the job to someone else – Yapsody, who at the time of writing, have decided to implement some maintenance mode and you’d hope, bring on some more capacity.

Yapsody is down for scheduled maintenance. 2016-03-15 10-59-33

Yapsody seem to be mostly to blame in this case, a ticket provider has to be able to deal with spiked usage of thousands of people trying to buy tickets at the second they are released, as well as the longtail traffic of people just checking. Diggerland tweeted that 10,000 people were trying to buy tickets at the same time. Is 10,000 people really that many?

The Diggerland site was also down which didn’t help – you see, unless you followed Diggerland on Twitter you wouldn’t know you were trying to load the wrong website. For this promotion I would have either put up a static HTML page for the promotion, linking to the tickets and giving some light information about the park. The Diggerland site is mostly static content so could be heavily cached for this situations (but this probably wouldn’t be worth the effort, given the day to day traffic of the website).

The Diggerland social media team have had a lot of abuse this morning (including comparisons to ISIS!) and I don’t expect them to respond to every tweet but since the promotion has started, they have only tweeted the links to the ticket provider (who is showing the status page above) and this “update”:

Causing more panic with people refreshing and trying on different browsers and computers as “someone is getting tickets”.

Will this be a good thing in the end for Diggerland? Probably. MyVoucherCodes got a massive amount of press a few years ago for the iPhone promotion and a similar thing happened. Everyone has forgotten about that now and moved on, but importantly for MyVoucherCodes, the links are still active!

If your planning a campaign like this: 

  • Cache as much as possible – Databases and backend API’s can be slow and difficult to scale. If you don’t have a large technical team behind you, just create a raw HTML page.
  • Test – Load testing transactional websites can be difficult and costly, but if you’ve got a third party provider for those, make sure they’ve tested this eventuality thoroughly. If you just have a marketing site I’d recommend using something like Apache Bench.
  • Have a backup plan – Your website will go down, your numbers will be off and people will be upset. Have a social media response ready and have alternative ways of distributing the information for a promotion.



About Dom Hodgson

Dom Hodgson is CTO of Kerboo, He heads up the technology team and platform design, he is well known for the Think Visibility conference and other startup ventures, he speaks around the world on Search, Startups and Sweetshops and has won over 20 hack days

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