Not even a techie can get a booking using the MIQ system

Chris Keall reports:

Wellingtonian Jonathan Brewer – who has been stuck in Singapore since March 2020 – wants to be home by Christmas.

The odds look long – and are longer because Brewer has too much integrity for his own good.

After battling bots (automated software) for a place, Brewer has now laid a complaint with the Government’s top watchdog saying the MIQ booking site is simply not usable for those who play within the rules.

The booking system is a disgrace. No one but a Government could come up with such an awful system.

It would not be hard to have a fairer system where for example people go on a waiting list. But you have a system that not only makes it near impossible to book a place without cheating, it also ends up with thousands of rooms sitting empty.

Sean Gourley, a Canterbury University Physics and Complex Systems PhD who went on to become a NASA research scientist before founding an AI startup, divides his time between the US and NZ, and told Brewer’s experience was typical. Gourley’s logs showed bookings “happening in under 750 milliseconds which is faster than a human can navigate this UX [user-interface].

“The only way to book a spot to come back to New Zealand is if you pay $1000 to a third party to employ bots for you,” Gourley said.

Again there are so many better ways you could run this. You could allow private MIQ operators. You could block assign rooms to airlines, and allows them to allocate a room as they sell a ticket.

And Gourley has publically suggested a simple change, which he says would make the site workable.

“The simplest change [MBIE] can make to the booking code is to keep the date open for 10 minutes and let anyone choose the date. Then randomly select from all those who have clicked on this date within the 10-minute window,” he posted.

“It removes the speed advantage bots have. And Importantly, makes it accessible to people who can’t afford to pay $950 to the black market. It’s a simple code change that you can push out today if you want, MBIE.”

Also a workable change.

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