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Burning Man ticket snafu

Tickets for Burning Man, the counterculture festival held each summer in Nevada's Black Rock desert, went on sale Wednesday.

But for some reason, In Ticketing, the online ticketing outfit tapped by Burning Man to handle the orders, wasn't up to the task.

The tickets were supposed to go on sale at noon Pacific time Wednesday, and they were going to be sold in tiers: 7,000 for $185, 7,000 for $200 and 6,000 at $225. Since the event has been growing every year, many people expected that if they didn't get their tickets at the very beginning, they would end up having to buy the more expensive ducats.

Burning Man asks participants to buy the most expensive ticket they can afford. But because of the total cost of attending the event--tickets, food, water, costumes, gas and so on--many people can only afford the cheapest level.

So at precisely noon, thousands of people hit the ticket site. The result: a total snafu, with all kinds of notices, from 404 errors, to time out errors and so on.

For the first couple of hours, the official Burning Man Web site had a note on it that said, "The onslaught of participants hitting the site at the same time is bogging down (the) servers. Please have patience, hold off for a minute, and try again."

Later on, as some people began to get through, it changed the message and said instead, "Please be patient, as (the) servers are running slowly under the load, and know that our ticket team will help resolve any problems you may encounter."

Still, on e-mail lists and in conversation, many Burning Man participants were upset that In Tickets had not prepared for being slammed.

"Now why didn't they think about getting the system up, say, yesterday?" wrote an angry Amacker Bullwinkle on one e-mail list with many Burning Man participants, "or the day before. Just to test things? And have it not generate a sale, of course, but you know, a test?"

In Ticketing could not be reached for comment.

But according to another e-mail list posting, the company said it had had a server farm problem and was trying to fix the problem.