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Hey, Extroverts!
What do you do when you have an event that can hold a limited number of people, and you know more people than that who would be interested in the event, all of whom you would be equally happy to see?

Examples: You have extra tickets to a show. You are hosting dinner and want exactly as many people as you have chairs. You are driving somewhere and don't want to bother coordinating extra vehicles, so you only want as many people as fit in the car. You are going to play a game for which you need a specific number of people.

The two solutions that present themselves are:

1. Ask one person at a time; get responses immediately. When you have filled up your slots, stop asking people.
2. Send out an informative e-mail or LJ post or something, including the people-limit and a note that the first X people who reply get dibs.

Neither of these seems wholly satisfying to me. With 1, if you wind up needing to wait for responses, getting people lined up can take a long time. It seems to work better for things like theater tickets going unused at the last minute -- if someone isn't contactable right then, you just skip them and go on to the next person, and you've only got one or two slots to fill so it'll probably go pretty quick. But for larger things it seems problematic. The trouble with 2 is that it's rude to tell people about fun things they're not invited to, and somebody is going to wind up being last to find out and therefore left out. Also, I always seem to wind up with not quite the number I was expecting, because someone cancels at the last minute or someone turns up with a friend or whatever. (Neither of these has been a problem in practice, because I don't generally need an exact number for things big enough that I've used method 2, so X - 1 or X + 2 is fine. But they could theoretically be issues.)

I use both of them sometimes, but is there a technique I'm missing that results in rounding up specific numbers of people quickly and efficiently[1]?

(I should perhaps note that, while this is not a theoretical question, it is not a currently relevant question. I am not planning any limited-slot events at this time, so you are not being left out and should not worry about it.)

[1] That is, without asking a lot of people who aren't interested, wind up being over the people-limit, or otherwise don't come.

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For events like a concert, for which I have a limited number of tickets, I might feel bad about friends who would want to go but that I didn't invite, but I see concerts/plays/movies/events with tickets as something that everyone has access to. My not-inviting you doesn't mean you can't attend, just that you can't attend with ME.

I agree.

I do sometimes announce that an event people might find particularly interesting is happening, without any sort of invitation attached, whether or not I'm planning to go, just so that people know about it if they want to go.

(Deleted comment)
So this is like method 1 but with some time delay allowed for responses? Would you give people a specific deadline to respond by, and if so how would you pick it for events at various future times?

I actually combine the two... I ask limited clumps of people at a time, give them a few days to respond, then ask other clumps. These aren't A-list, B-list, etc but rather social constellations or people who I know hang out together otherwise.

Are those replacement clumps, or smaller clumps to fill in the holes, as in snippy's third solution?

Neither? They can be similar to the first clump or bigger. The first clump is usually about 30-40% of the intended size...

Ah, so that's for bigger events than I usually host.

...why extroverts? Introverts have gatherings too! Just, well, not as often. ;)
I had a horribly guilty-feeling moment about the 25th when I read this, actually. Though Carey and Ian were so much fun that I'm wondering how we could cram in two more for the next dinner party (assuming Brooks and Suzi attend as well).

Bah. That is why I checked with you first, is to determine whether there was a people-limit. There was no uninviting, so there was no rudeness.

I figure the extroverts run into this more often, on grounds of (a) tending to want people along on car trips and concerts and things more often, therefore running into limits on people-number more often and (b) knowing more people, therefore knowing more people who would be interested in any particular event.

I'm an introvert, and I don't organize this type of event at the moment. That said --

The traditional Miss-Manners-approved way of doing it is (1), but that only works if other people behave in the traditional Miss-Manners-approved way of actually following through on invites they receive and committing to them, which a lot of folks I know don't.

I don't think that (2) is necessarily rude, although it is unfortunate if people get left out. It seems similar to the behavior where a person offers to give an item to the first person who responds.

Hm, yeah. I think where 2 is really problematic is when it's not clear that there's a limited number and what the conditions are. A plain "Hey, who wants to do this?" followed by, "Oh, darn, you can't, we're already full," is rude in a way that "Hey, if anybody wants to do this, get back to me quick, I've got two extra tickets," isn't. Whether there's uninviting, I guess is the difference.

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