The OkCupid developer who built a hack to get Taylor Swift tickets
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On Tuesday morning, Ruben Martinez Jr. stared. on his computer screen and calculated his chances. He was on a group chat trying to plan the best way to score Taylor Swift tickets and it was looking dark. Everyone seemed to have over 2,000 people ahead of them in line. Martinez, a software engineer at OkCupid, checked the browser’s developer tools to see if he could figure out his actual place in the queue. He thought he could find a percentage for how far back he was. What he didn’t do it expecting to see was the exact number he had drawn when he got in line, 23,913, and the number of people ahead of him who hadn’t bowed out or gotten tickets: 13,759. Soon, Ticketmaster sent a message to those who waited for it to pause the queue.
“So I texted the group chat,” Martinez told me Wednesday night via email, “”How long will it take me to make a Chrome extension to show your actual place in line? More or less than the time it will take Ticketmaster to fix their mistakes?”
Creating the Chrome extension turned out to take less time. “All in all it took about 40 minutes, which unfortunately was a small percentage of the time we waited in line,” he says. Martinez tweeted out his project, open sourced the extension on GitHub and submitted it to the Chrome Web Market for approval, hoping it would be there for the general sale that at the time was scheduled for Friday. (It received approval on Thursday, the same day as Ticketmaster announced it was to cancel Friday’s sale.) Once he was done, the Ticketmaster line finally began to move. He and his friends scored seats to the Eras Tour.
Other fans weren’t so lucky. “Eight billion people in the world, and every one of them is before me,” tweeted a fan. Anyone else pointed out that Poland was hit by a Russian-made missile was lower than Ticketmaster. The site reportedly crashed for some users. Soon the whole fracas became known as The death games of Swift followers.
As things began to slow down on Tuesday, Ticketmaster post a statement said it had changed some of its pre-sales and thanked users for their patience while “we continue to deal with this tremendous demand.” Meanwhile, Guardian reported that seats for Swift’s 52-date US tour were already on StubHub for upwards of $22,000 each. As a developer, Martinez understands that handling traffic from millions of users is difficult. As a fan, he is frustrated that the concert ticket site “charges exorbitant fees and clearly doesn’t invest enough in their infrastructure.”
Martinez also notes that the Swift concert ticket debacle shows what happens when one company dominates the industry, which caught the eye of another observer: New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Late Tuesday in New York congressman tweeted, “Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly. The merger with Live Nation should never have been approved and they need to be ruled.”
During a news conference Wednesday, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said his office was investigating whether Ticketmaster violated any consumer protection laws. On Thursday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota waded into the chatter by sending a letter to parent company Live Nation Entertainment expressing “serious concerns about the state of competition in the ticketing industry and its harmful impact on consumers.”
Indeed, if any fandom can lead to an overhaul of a ticket-selling monolith, it’s the Swifties. And if that doesn’t work out, Beyoncé is rumored to be planning a tour.