We need to talk about @UKGovCamp ticketing…

UKGovCamp is an unconference for people interested in how the public sector does digital stuff. I’ve helped organise it for the last few years.

It is a popular event. Very popular. So popular that tickets go unavailable in seconds and are sold out in minutes.

Unavailable means all the tickets are in the process of being applied for. Sold out means all the applications are complete.

To try and make it fairer for everyone we release tickets in batches. We publicise these batches in advance.

But many people still don’t get tickets because they’re:

  • physically or mentally challenged
  • not at computer when tickets go live
  • not sure when the tickets are available
  • not aware of UKGovCamp until its too late

The only advantage to the whole situation above is the buzz of actually getting a ticket. I’ve seem many jubilant tweets in the moments after tickets are released.

But I really worry about anyone without the dexterity to bag a ticket. It feels like we’re potentially excluding a bunch of people.

Theres also a large number of people who are used to this. They know the rigmarole and technique to acquire a ticket. Some people call them the “govcamp clique”.

So I propose we make a change for future events – a ticket lottery. This would mean:

  • anyone who wants to come could apply for a ticket
  • we could open ticket applications much sooner
  • it would hopefully be less stressful
  • attendees would be picked at random

That last point is worth clarifying. By random I mean we would:

  • close the ticket applications
  • download details of everyone who applied
  • randomly sort them in a spreadsheet application
  • Give the lucky 200 people at the top a ticket

To be totally transparent, the randomisation process could be live streamed.

Hope that makes sense. Please let me know if not.

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6 thoughts on “We need to talk about @UKGovCamp ticketing…

  1. This feels like a really good idea for exactly the reasons you state and I think you should try it. I say this partly because I have another commitment this year and so can’t come anyway 🙂 . But seriously, it feels like a really good thing, and will hopefully reduce the embuggerance of “no shows” too.

    If I dare suggest a possible refinement – maybe a step too far – if there are certain categories which are under-represented they might be lottery pooled separately? I was at the National Childrens and Adult Services Conferences this year and they had bent over backwards to get service users as speakers and as delegates and it really did change the feel of the thing in a very good way. I’m not taking that to mean “prioritise service users” for UKGC16 though you could if you wanted. Maybe it would be about prioritising/getting a better mix of service managers rather than the digerati. Or elected people. Or people from under-represented sectors (eg education). Or people from the North! Randomness should sort a lot of that out but I think it would be a shame if we finally got a dozen service managers, who are battling with multiple real world implementation issues, to apply, and only half of them got in.

    For transparency you might want to say what your policy for attendance from sponsors will be.

  2. This is the problem we arrived at with comnscamp. We didn’t want all the same unconference faces. We wanted a mix. So, we released a few to get the ball rolling then switched on the wait list to pick arbitrarily.

    So, we had about 30 per cent people who’ve been before and knew could contribute and 70 per cent new people who we thought could be inspired.

    This works for us.

    It may not work for you.

  3. ironically we’d need to win the address wars to have a postcode lottery

    subtle but important point, aside from the obvious benefits of shared expertise, a lot of reformers/hacktivists need something like UKGovCamp to sense check what/how they are pushing changes and just “recharge” the energy to carry on pushing

    perhaps a points based system

    ideally first refusal of 5% of tickets to people behind a list of the most interesting projects nominated by (at least) previous attendees but no repeat attendance without input to the list!

    is wembley available?

  4. ironically we’d need to win the address wars to have a postcode lottery

    subtle but important point, aside from the obvious benefits of shared expertise, a lot of reformers/hacktivists need something like UKGovCamp to sense check what/how they are pushing changes and just “recharge” the energy to carry on pushing

    perhaps a points based system

    ideally first refusal of 5% of tickets to people behind a list of the most interesting projects nominated by (at least) previous attendees but no repeat attendance without input to the list!

    is wembley available?

  5. How far do unconferences scale? Cause it looks like a straight excess of demand > supply, rather than something to which a ticket lottery is the first solution.
    Would it work with (say) 800-1000 people? Session pitches, manageable discussions, etc. Sorta doesn’t ‘feel’ like it, but maybe that’s just because unconferences typically have small ‘grass-roots’ origins. Perhaps experiment with a bigger year (e.g. 500 instead of 200), see how it works? Obviously has resourcing implications for venue/food/etc (and payment for entrance).

    • perhaps experiment with a bigger venue but 2-5 core themes with 50-250 core people registered in each core theme to pitch sessions but then able to look at the 2-5 session grids and go to other sessions subject to spare seats

      optional donation and/or some chargeable tickets (available until sold out compared to non-chargeable/optional donation ticket batches)

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