Really good points. It’s funny, I have a draft of a similar point about personal behavior change that I tried to make as provocative-sounding as possible:
http://doc.dreev.es/carbonfoot (Trying To Limit Your Personal Carbon Footprint Hurts The Environment)
But note the PS where I suggest a counterargument: making personal sacrifices for climate change may shape your identity, drive you to greater activism, and make your activism and climate evangelism more persuasive (to those who don’t appreciate the economics and game theory of it).
Nice! I’ve heard a similar idea called a “talent stack” or “skill stack” but explaining it in terms of staking out a chunk of the Pareto frontier is much better.
Coincidentally, I just wrote a post explaining the idea of Pareto dominance—http://blog.beeminder.com/pareto—in case that’s useful to anyone.
Thank you! See above (“Better to not have people feel like their desperation is being capitalized on.”) for my response to your first question. And we actually believe that our system is, in practice if not in theory, strategy-proof. It’s explicitly ok to game the system to our hearts’ delight. It seems to be quite robust to that. Our utilities tend to either be uncannily well-matched, in which case it’s kind of a coin flip who wins, or they’re wildly different, but we never seem to have enough certainty about how different they’ll be for it to be fruitful to distort our bids much.
The strategy of “just say a number such that you’re torn about whether you’d rather win or lose” seems to be close enough to optimal.
How about adding a tiny bit of ambiguity (or evasion of the direct question) and making up for it with more effusiveness, eg, “it’s not only my job but it feels really good to know that I’m helping you so I really want you to bug me about even trivial-seeming things!” All true and all she’s omitting is her immediate annoyance but that is truly secondary, as she points out below about first-order vs second-order desires.
Yes, we’re super keen to make sure the efficient thing happens regardless of the initial distribution of resources/responsibilities/property-rights/etc. And we use yootling as a bargaining mechanism to make that happen. In general we’re always willing to shove work to each other or redistribute resources as efficiency dictates, using payments to make that always be fair.
In practice the sealed-bid version seems to be ungameable, at least for us! None of the problems you mentioned have arisen. My parents have tried this and had more problems but as far as I could tell it always involved contention about what to consider to be joint 50⁄50 decisions. Bethany and I seem to have no problem with that, using the heuristic of “when in doubt, just call it a 50⁄50 decision and yootle for it”.
Fixed and fixed. Thank you!
I’m impressed! That’s kind of the conclusion we gradually came to as well, after a lot of trial and error. Better to not have people feel like their desperation is being capitalized on.
Another way to put it: when you’re really desperate to win a particular auction it’s really nice to be able to just say so honestly, with a crazy high bid. Trying to allocate the surplus equitably means that I have to carefully strategize on understating my desperation. (And worst of all, a mistake means a highly inefficient outcome!)
PS: To be clear about first-price vs second-price, it’s technically neither since there’s no distinct seller.
Here’s the n-player, arbitrary shares version:
Each participant starts with some share of the decision.
Everyone submits a sealed bid, the second-highest of which is taken to be the Fair Market Price (FMP).
The high bidder wins, and buys out everyone else’s shares, ie, pays them the appropriate fraction of the FMP.
“Even yootling”, or just “yootling”, refers to the special case of two players and 50⁄50 shares.
In that case, instead of bidding a fair market price (FMP), you say how much you’re willing to pay if you win.
True FMP is twice that, since you only have to pay half of FMP with even yootling.
So instead of deciding what you’d pay, doubling it to get FMP, then halving FMP to get the actual payment, we short circuit that and you just say the payment as your bid.
For yootling with uneven shares it’s easier to bid FMP and then pay the appropriate fraction of that.
Bethany and I philosophically bite the bullet on this, which is basically to just agree with your second point: the wealthy person gets their way all the time and the poor person gets what’s to them a lot of money and everyone is happy.
If that’s unpalatable or feels unfair then I think the principled solution is for the wealthy person to simply redress the unfairness with a lump sum payment to redistribute the wealth.
I don’t think it’s reasonable—ignoring all the psychology and social intricacies, as I’m wont to do  -- to object both to auctions with disparate wealth and to lump sum redistribution to achieve fairness.
Now that I’m introspecting, I suppose it’s the case that Bethany and I tend to seize excuses to redistribute wealth, but they have to be plausible ones.
You’re right that it’s similar to a Vickrey auction in that the 2nd highest bid (in the 2-player case) is used as the price, but it’s different in that there’s no 3rd-party seller. The good is jointly owned and the payment will go from one player to the other. In particular, yootling is not strictly incentive compatible like Vickrey is (though in practice it seems to be close enough).
Thanks for the pointer to Landsburg! Looks like he worked out a way (by enlisting another economist couple) to have meaningful auctions despite having joint money with his spouse. I predict that system didn’t hold together though. I should email him!
Specifically, here’s the little add-on for Loqi that conducts auctions: https://github.com/aaronpk/zenircbot-bid
Agreed, we just haven’t gotten to that yet. The auctioneer chatroom bot is pretty new.
Upvoted for the delightfully flattering implication for my and Bethany’s relationship. :)
But, yes, a prerequisite is that everyone think like an economist, where everything you care about can be assigned a dollar value.
See also the core assumptions at the top of Bethany’s article [http://messymatters.com/autonomy].
We have a protocol for deciding when to yootle: if the possibility of yootling is so much as mentioned then we must yootle. The only fair way to object to yootling is to dispute that it’s a 50⁄50 decision. If it is a fundamentally joint decision then how would you object? “I want to get my way but not pay anything”? Not so nice. You could say “I don’t want to yootle, I’ll just do it your way”. But that’s equivalent to bidding 0, so might as well go through with the yootling. And after 9 years we do have quite efficient ways to conduct these auctions, with fingers or our phones or out loud.
Great question, and upon reflection (I actually looked this up in my PhD dissertation just now!) I agree. I actually can’t remember the last time Bethany and I used a joint purchase auction. For some reason it never comes up—we just each buy things and don’t worry about joint ownership. If we did disagree about whether to buy a household item we’d probably just straight up yootle for whether to buy it (with the cost split 50⁄50 if we did).
Holy cow, thank you so much for this. Speaking of WTF reactions, I hope that won’t be how this is perceived. Yours is a perfect example of both the insidiousness and the genius of Beeminder’s exponential pledge schedule.
The fact that there’s no doubt in your mind that you got more value out of Beeminder than the $130some dollars you paid is I hope evidence that it’s more genius than insidiousness. :)
Yours is a textbook case of using Beeminder exactly as intended, to ride the pledge schedule up to the point where the amount of money at risk scares you into never actually paying it. For some people paying even the first $5 is sufficiently aversive. Others go all the way to $810, which has been, almost universally, sufficient to keep people toeing the line. (Ie, only one person has ever actually defaulted with $810 at stake.)
Some people (Katja Grace is an example) prefer to cap the amount at risk and are happy to pay a small fee occasionally. That has the danger of being more expensive in the long term as each particular derailment isn’t a big deal and you can keep delusionally being like “ok, but this time for real!”. Mostly, though, I think it depends on the severity of the akrasia for the specific thing you’re beeminding.
I very much agree with the parenthetical about pushups. I beemind 30 pushups per day—http://beeminder.com/d/push—with the idea that I’ll gradually ramp that up as my max reps increases. Except I’m failing to ever do that and have been at 30/day forever. If I cared more I’d ramp it up though. Right now I’m just happy to be forced to maintain some semblance of baseline upper-body strength.
The general point: beemind inputs, not outputs. Ie, things you have total control over.
PS: The Beeminder android app has a pushup counter built in, where you put your phone on the floor and touch your nose to it on each pushup and it tallies them for you.
Pomodoros is a great metric. Katja Grace makes the case for that here: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2012/08/on-the-goodness-of-beeminder.html (she just calls them blocks of time).
I think raw number of hours is a fine metric too though. Discretizing into pomodoros has both advantages and disadvantages.
If you can quantify actual output, that might be ideal. Like how we track User-Visible Improvements to Beeminder. You might expect that to be too fuzzy a metric but we found a criterion that’s been rock solid for years now: If we’re willing to publicly tweet it then it counts. Pride prevents us from ever getting too weaselly about it.
Very fair point! Just like with Beeminder, if you’re lucky enough to simply not suffer from akrasia then all the craziness with commitment devices is entirely superfluous. I liken it to literal myopia. If you don’t have the problem then more power to you. If you do then apply the requisite technology to fix it (glasses, commitment devices, decision auctions).
But actually I think decision auctions are different. There’s no such thing as not having the problem they solve. Preferences will conflict sometimes. Just that normal people have perfectly adequate approximations (turn taking, feeling each other out, informal mental point systems, barter) to what we’ve formalized and nerded up with our decision auctions.