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The Couple That Pays Each Other to Put Kids to Bed (nbcnews.com)
78 points by dreeves 1313 days ago | hide | past | web | 92 comments | favorite

Call me crazy, but in my house we just get shit done because it needs to be done and we, as adults, chose to have children. We don't have time to barter or turn the discussion of who does what into an episode of Antiques Roadshow.

For all the smiley faces and show of "oh, isn't this just great", I can't help but think there are some serious issues lurking below the surface.

But hey, what do I know? I've only been married for 17 years and have two kids.

I don't begrudge this couple their 'solution' to whatever 'problem' with chore distributions exist in their life.

What I find amusing is this sort of money-as-substitute-for-all-valuations thing going on. No matter how "cute" or "novel" this idea is, underlying it all is the implicit assertion that every single thing a person does has a monetary value. I understand the appeal, and the rather strong strain of libertarianism/Jon Galt-ism that runs rampant in computer science makes this couple an unsurprising place to find such a viewpoint in practice (even if they personally don't adhere to such a view).

It also absolutely does not work well with children. Children, as even these two no doubt can attest, don't value things in terms of money or opportunity cost or any other such abstraction until and unless they have been taught to do so. They have basic needs that must be met, and generally in a way that isn't compatible with the incentivised behavior models that this couple present.

On a personal note, I find it a bit too "nerd cutesy." It's like they're trying too hard to be hardcore nerds about their everyday life. My first thought wasn't, "wow, that's a novel way to bring levity into the daily chore drudge." It was more like, "this reminds me of people parodied in Portlandia scenes where the main characters are having a back-and-forth about who knows who or what trendy indie publications/books they've each read." More power to them if it works, but it's not for me.

I think it's more 'money as a readily available proxy for fungible utility'. It's not so much a substitute as a handy scale to quantify things with.

That whole "money-as-substitue-for-all-valuations" thing is an underlying assumption of nearly all of modern microeconomics.

In technical terms, it's a quasilinear utility function[0], where preferences are linear in money.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quasilinear_utility

Communication is hard.

Any system that works well for everyone in the relationship is a good one.

Married 26 years with four kids :)

Well, first and foremost: congrats on 26 years. And my hat's off to you for four. Until you have your second, you don't realize that the workload is not a linear progression!

But in reference to the article in question: would this system work for you? If not, isn't there a chance it really won't work for these people, for the same reason?

I'm pretty confident it wouldn't work for my wife and I. If you're completely spent at the end of the day, do you really want to lose a bidding war with your spouse to do some extra work? Doesn't one party risk building resentment merely because they're the poorer in the relationship?

And what does this look like to the kids after a while?

I agree completely with your point that communication is hard. I just think that this "solution" is merely beautiful fondant covering a possibly shaky foundation; money should never be a long-term or routine motivator in a loving relationship.

It is clearly not a perfect system, and it does raise all the questions you have mentioned, so I am not going to defend it particularly vigorously, but here is a random array of thoughts...

AFAICT what this system appears to allow for is an open and honest process of outright negotiation around how the household works. I cannot see a downside for that, and have seen (and practiced on many occasions) much more negative approaches - arguing, resentment, grudging, self-martrydom and so on.

If you and your partner are both completely spent at the end of the day then you can negotiate the remaining work, neglect it, or have one person accept it. All of those are reasonable options at different times, what is important is not the individual decision, but the overall pattern and the process of communication and negotiation you use to get there.

To the kids it probably looks like mum and dad are negotiating over who gets to put them to bed. Ive (sadly) had my kids listen through arguments around that at times, and many other things, and overall they appear to have survived and even done pretty well, although they are still young so who knows.

I think it is fantastically easy for someone outside a relationship to look at it and go "that relationship is broken, there is no way it can work", and be completely wrong (or right).

Relationships tend to be pretty unique things. Maybe theirs is in good shape, and maybe it is not, but in general I dont see a problem with any process that helps them negotiate openly and honestly about what they want.

It is also fantastically easy to speculate on how badly kids will be damaged by behavior you personally dont agree with.

If you scrape the surface of why they are together and what their motivations are, I doubt it is the money. The money merely provides a proxy for them to build discussions around.

....or maybe their relationship really is based on money, who knows....

Great responses to some of the objections! I can add that we do indeed let the kids perceive it as bidding for putting them to bed ("Mommy wins!" etc). On the other hand, we're usually quite honest with them about our preferences, like "when you're uncooperative at bedtime like this it makes us not enjoy putting you kids to bed".

You're quite right that it's better for the kids to see us bidding to not have to put them to bed than to hear us arguing about it.

(You're also quite right that the primary value of involving money is simply to quantify preferences to determine what's socially efficient. Following through with the payments is needed to keep us honest in expressing our preferences, and also adds fairness by compensating the loser for not getting their way. But that part's more icing.)

What happens when they find out (while still young) that you lied and it is really bidding to see who DOESN'T have to put them to bed?

> But in reference to the article in question: would this system work for you? If not, isn't there a chance it really won't work for these people, for the same reason?

Sheesh. We all have a few things in common, but beyond that different people really can be different. Especially when it comes to how to manage family relationships. In my experience, anyway. Be careful of generalizing from yourself to folks you've never met.

> would this system work for you? If not, isn't there a chance it really won't work for these people, for the same reason?

I don't know...people are really different from one another, especially when it comes to core beliefs and communications style.

i feel for you. all those people who aren't exactly like me drive me crazy too.

they also get the same shit done, and they've hooked in a reward mechanism that makes it seem less like an unending grind. win/win.

there has somehow spread the attitude that "being an adult" means that you have to do life's unpleasant-but-necessary chores, and make no attempt to alleviate their unpleasantness. i've also seen complaints about companies that offer things like on-site laundry services, that they are somehow infantalising their employees, or shielding them from having to grow up and live in the real, adult world where people do their own shit. no. if something is unpleasant and there is a legitimate way that you can do all three of not do it, still have it get done, and hurt no one in the process, that is clearly a better way!

Until you get to this point:

"Daddy, why don't you want to put me to bed?" and "Daddy, why do you pay Mommy more to put me to bed than Timmy?"

Edit: to address your subsequent update... "there has somehow spread the attitude that "being an adult" means that you have to do life's unpleasant-but-necessary chores, and make no attempt to alleviate their unpleasantness."

There is NOTHING that can alleviate the unpleasantness of changing a blow-out diaper or dealing with a feverish, vomiting child at 3am.

The problem of dad not wanting to put the kids to bed (in the case of your example) is still there, whether or not the parents are open and honest about it.

So what you're really asking is "How do you balance honesty and protecting childrens' feelings?" Which is not a flaw of a bidding system, at least not more so than any other system where you actually talk about what you want.

>There is NOTHING that can alleviate the unpleasantness of changing a blow-out diaper or dealing with a feverish, vomiting child at 3am.

How a robotic AI with long extending arms in every room?

An act of God?

Or maybe a maid...

Mayhap paying your wife $20 to do it?

These are all reasonable suggestions.

the underlying problem there, then, is that putting the kids to bed is a chore rather than a chance to spend time with them. the basic principle is still sound.

I've seen them essentially submit negative bids for things when the task is something desirable. If one wants to put the kids to bed, and the other doesn't, then basically no money is exchanged because both parties agree on who should do it.

It's just a much faster way to get to that conclusion than feeling each other out with words. :)

seeing as my girlfriend and I have tried the same trick, the "serious issues" lurking beneath the surface is likely pure, unadulterated laziness.

Well, every relationship is about give and take.

This is just the first one I've heard of where there's a frigging ledger.

You have no idea how hard you just nailed it. :) Exhibit B: Beeminder itself, which is an almost hilariously elaborate way for us to force our lazy asses to actually get shit done.

A pretty serious issue when you're talking about raising kids.

Eh, there's a big difference between lazy and irresponsible. We have a cat and a dog and they are well taken care of because we take our responsibility for their well being seriously, just as we would with a child (likely more so).

However, we take our responsibility for the well being of the pile of dishes in the sink much less seriously.

See also this super nerdy discussion of these nutjobs [1] on LessWrong: http://lesswrong.com/lw/jje/decision_auctions_aka_how_to_fai...

[1] Yes, that's actually me and my spouse (also cofounder of http://beeminder.com and if you think our auction-based lifestyle is crazy, wait till you see Beeminder! :)).

Hey, thanks for Beeminder. It's cost me a bunch of money (~75 bucks), but it's also helped me make some really positive changes. One small note - I'd really like it if I could pledge in CAD, so I don't see the annoying conversion from USD and wonder "what the hell did I spend $5.42 on"...but that's a very tiny nitpick.

So good to hear testimonials like that; thank you! As for supporting non-USD currencies, I see Stripe just made that super easy, so we'll probably do it at some point. Thanks for the feedback; nitpickery very much solicited!

If you don't mind me asking, doesn't this lose some of its effectiveness when one spouse is in a lot of debt (the article mentions $80k)? It seems like it'd be harder to make a useful estimate of utility when you're so deep in debt. What's another $10 when I own 80k? I'll just bet really high to avoid doing the chore.

Happy to answer such questions! (I'll ask Bethany to chime in later as well.) I guess at our age (lots of future earning ahead of us, etc) $80k doesn't seem like a big deal. We could actually wipe that debt out immediately by an adjustment to our cap table. :)

I guess the danger is if you start to worry that the debt will never actually get repaid. But that doesn't seem like a worry right now. We'll come up with payments plans and whatnot if it ever does. We do use a 6% interest rate on that balance, which seems steep at current market rates, but not so much so that Bethany would want to transfer Beeminder equity to me to pay it off.

Was this something picked up independently by NBC, or was this planned as a subtle PR piece for Beeminder? If the latter, are there any tips you can share on how you went about arranging it?

You're making us feel like marketing geniuses. :) The reporter is actually a Beeminder user, which is how he knew about me and Bethany and our craziness, and he was happy to agree to our stipulation that the article link to Beeminder.

So I guess no tips on how to actually orchestrate something like this. Last year we had our biggest press coup just by having our phone number at the bottom of beeminder.com. Southwest Airlines inflight magazine called us after trying and failing to find a number for our competitor, GymPact.

I guess that's the real tip here: be so crazy that journalists seek you out. :)

I like the idea of introducing everyday decisions to a market economy and the idea of beeminder.

Re:beeminder, I know that you address this on your FAQ, but my conscience would have little problem lying to your website to keep from paying you $10. Whereas I would be much less likely to be dishonest if 50%-80% of my penalty was going to a charity - even if the penalty levels were increased such that your cut was the same either way.

Great feedback, thank you! We definitely hear that often and will probably eventually cave and add a charity option. In the meantime, here are our thoughts on combating cheating: http://blog.beeminder.com/cheating

I, personally, have a hard time imagining a successful marriage without a shared pool of income. Paying one another to do chores or evaluating each other's fiscal contribution to nearly every decision seems insane.

Who pays for college? Who pays for food? Maternity leave? Career switching. This list goes on.

Good luck.

It does seem insane. It also seems like it's working quite well!

Having separate finances is not exactly a new idea, plenty of people do that. My partner and I have completely separate finances, but equally share expenses like food, housing, repairs, etc. Works fine for us!

I guess you have about the same income then? Or do you "tax" each other an equal percentage?

Why does it matter? They'd have to mutually agree on the shared expenses, and agree on the splitting.

If they get a house they both want, and both can afford, they split 50/50.

Hypothetically, I'm guessing that if whoever made more income wanted a nicer place than the other, they could pay an agreed proportion more (eg, 60/40)

Indeed, that's the Joint Purchase Auction we talk about here: http://messymatters.com/autonomy

The money aspect of this seems more of an honesty check than anything else.

It's not like a... wait. I just had an idea. Could a roommate of theirs live off of yootling? Bidding well, a person could more or less do their busy work for them, get "paid" for it, and use those payments to subsidize their costs of living!

Anyway, what I was going to say was that the money aspect of this seems mostly as a way to keep the bets honest. You don't really want wild bets of, say, $1,000,000 or whatever, because then fair market value for the activity becomes impossible to assess.

Or something like that. The person with the PhD should probably explain it.

Thanks for mentioning "yootling", as otherwise I would never have found (noticed?) his wife's guest article on the same subject [0]. It was a nice complementary article.

In that article, she mentions in passing the general case. From this, it seems like it would totally work with three people.

  There are n participants, each with some share — i.e., 
  some fraction — of a 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, i.e., pays them the appropriate fraction of the FMP.
A caveat is, some things you wouldn't want someone to bid for -- putting the kids to bed -- but other than those kinds of things, I suspect that they would not mind in the slightest if a roommate wanted to subsidize their rent by doing dishes or laundry.

My biggest question is how to handle this when the household has a single source of income.

0: http://messymatters.com/autonomy/

Could a roommate of theirs live off of yootling?

You mean, could a roommate of theirs work as a live-in maid?

I'm their roommate/ employee. I get paid an extremely generous hourly wage. I don't yootle with them too often, but when I do it's usually a chance to make extra money for a particularly unfun task (like waking up early to drive them to the airport). I usually appreciate the opportunity.

It also helps me figure out how much I value things, because my default is to be pretty noncommittal with my preferences, and this forces me to recognize them and make them explicit.

I think if I were to give this a try it would have to be in a situation where we pool incomes and each get an allowance of "mad money". The money to pay each other for chores would come out of the mad money.

My husband and I have separate accounts, but we have access to them, if that make sense. We split shared expenses (example, he pays electricity, I pay cell phone). We split rent. We take turns paying for groceries or other shared items, depending on budget (One pays for groceries for a while after the other just paid for tuition/big purchase/other). We trust eachother that money is managed well and will run numbers by eachother when we feel it is needed. The biggest thing is communication, especially about expectations.

I was thinking the same thing. Surely it is virtual money. If my wife paid me $100 to do something all that really matters is that I wouldn't have to hit the ATM for a bit.

My girlfriend and I have tried multiple variations of "relationship currency" as I like to call it, but since I'm a shrewd bargainer and she has a tendency to be short sighted (i.e. "I'm tired and don't feel like cooking, I'll give you 500 chore-dollars to go pick up dinner") she eventually ends up with a massive debt and is forced to declare "relationship bankruptcy".

That said, I'm fully intent on doing something like this with my children. Instead of an allowance of some kind, I think kids would learn a lot about the real world if you paid them for doing chores and performing well at school, then docked them accordingly for food, board, rent and expenses.

We do something like that for our kids. Each has a set of age appropriate chores they must perform each week to get their "allowance." If they don't do all those chores they get a prorated amount that week. We also deduct from it if they do stuff to get into trouble. Then on payday, each is required to put a certain amount into each of three bins: Spend, Save & Share. The remainder they can divide between those bins how ever they see fit. Spend is for all the random crap they want to buy (stuffed animals, candy, Jamba Juice, etc). Save is for larger, future items and we must approve it. Share is used for charity type stuff (like buying Christmas presents for strangers, etc.) We do make them pay for a portion of their school clothes and stuff like toothpaste to let them see what it is like to not have any spending money after they buy things they need. It has really helped them understand that maybe they don't need another stuff animal if that means they can't buy something else. I think kids lack the perspective of what it takes to earn money. A lot of times (for more expensive requests) we break it down for them by how many weeks of doing ALL their chores would it take to get enough money for it. Suddenly things don't seem as important to them if they realize that it might take 3 or 4 months of not buying anything before they could get it.

How does that work when you want to buy them an expensive item like a bicycle, segway, computer etc. that would take them too long to save up for?

We don't buy them stuff like that just because they ask for it. Bikes, Kindle, DS, iPod, etc are birthday and Christmas presents. We don't charge them for presents. For the most part, if there is something we think they need, you provide it. It is a loose system. It has been pretty effective in shutting down the classic "child begging endlessly to get something at the store" problem. There is usually one of two responses: "Save up for it" or "Did you bring your money?"

"Danny paid Bethany about $30,000 in various costs to have their first child while he worked a full-time tech job"

I wonder what her bid was for him to have the baby.

I wonder what her bid was for him to have the baby.

It would have to have been considerably more than $30,000. Surrogacy alone runs upwards of $60K. She was clearly lowballed.

The inefficiency was probably due to a lack of market transparency or external bidding. Clearly next time they should invite third parties in.

Assuming $60k for a surrogate then the "winning bid" for not having the baby herself would be around $30k.

Also, what is the value to her to experience the process of having a baby? Ubber-rich women still have their own babies, so there would appear to be a value in the experience.

This is a good point. There are some things that aren't fungible. Since this was a job that Danny couldn't do, he couldn't bid on it, so that essentially makes it a sole-source, no-bid contract, and those are priceless.

Another question I have: what about requirements? (this has come up in my own relationship) Suppose the two partners have different ideas of what constitutes "cleaning the house". One might think that mopping and wiping dust off furniture is necessary, while the other might think vacuuming does it. In a real situation, the two contractors don't just compete on price but on product. But in this case product never enters, unless there's a careful discussion up front about exactly what the requirements of the job are. This doesn't really sound like it would decrease stress to me.

> Suppose the two partners have different ideas of what constitutes "cleaning the house".

This is essentially how my partner and I have divided up housework -- the person whose requirements for "done" are a superset of the other's does the chore. Fortunately we're fairly balanced in that regard.

Oh, the power of low standards?

No, the other way around. The one who is pickier about dishwashing, washes the dishes.

Doesn't that have the unfortunate side effect of making the person who is already more annoyed at the state of things even more annoyed at always having to fix them?

I wouldn't think so, at least in an ongoing plan. For example, I tend to load the dishwasher because many people I've lived with are not good at loading it for best cleaning. So long as I'm not doing everything else as well, it doesn't bother me.

Yes. But there's an incentive with that system to turn into a total sloth.

There's no bartering in the bedroom, they say.

I wonder how they deal with differences in income levels. The article only touches on that briefly: "He's also earned more in his life, giving him a bigger pot to bet with. "

For example, my long-term girlfriend has an art degree, and I'm a professional developer. It's likely that I will make more than her for the foreseeable future; maybe as much as 1.5x to 2x. Should I do half the housework? It seems like that leads inexorably to the 1950s logic of "I bring home the bacon so you should keep the house."

(That said, it seems to be working for these two, so more power to them. :) )

Here was my answer to a similar question on LessWrong:

Bethany and I philosophically bite the bullet on this, which is basically ... 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 [https://xkcd.com/592/] -- 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.

> 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.

Rather than everyone being happy, this (historically) ends rather more often in bloody revolution.

Personally, I believe that one rarely understands other people, and has no chance of understanding other people's relationships, so I'm disinclined to say that this is a bad idea. It's your relationship and I hope it works out well for you. But if anyone I knew told me that this is how they were operating, I'd have a hard time staying friends. Intimate relationships (romantic and otherwise) are based on releasing control and making compromises, and taking an accounting of everything in this way indicates not that you're being fair, but that you're not actually in a "relationship" per se.

Poor people getting what seems like a lot of money to them -> bloody revolution? When? It seems like bloody revolution normally follows poor people NOT seeing improvement in their standard of living.

Typically, it follows the wealthy class saying "what seems like a lot of money to them" out loud.

I know you are trying to joke, but I was asking a serious question. I do not believe your claim is substantiated in the historical record. Revolutions do not typically occur when the standards of life for the poor are improving by virtue of receiving quickly growing pay.

Fair enough, but I'm not joking either -- it's true that many revolts happen in the context of abject conditions, but it's more common for (particularly successful) revolution to occur in the context of a less-than-impovershed class (e.g. a merchant class) experiencing a collective realization that they're being systemically oppressed by the ruling class appeasing them with what the ruling class sees as a pittance that will pacify them. The French Revolution is the classic example of this phenomenon.

I think it's valuable as a method for resolving disputes.

But I think you'll probably have to permanently redistribute wealth within your relationship or else I can imagine it breeding resentment. Cashflow is going to make a bigger difference in all the little disputes that will grow into bigger disputes.

Or you could apply an inflation multiplier on your respective bets adjusted to the ratio of your respective incomes - but then the exercise may become moot as it renders it as less simple dispute settling mechanism.

At the end of the day, you still have to apply some psychology above and beyond your auction market - the article concludes with

>Recently Danny and Bethany haggled to see if he would drive her home after a long day of work or if she would have to ride her bike. She bet $15, and he intentionally "lost," so that he could do her the favor.


Here's the full story on that, as told by me and Bethany to the reporter:


> Here's another example of real-world yootling: I worked late at the office yesterday and once all our beemergencies were dispatched, we had an auction over IM to see if Danny would come pick me up from the office or if I'd ride my bike / the bus home:

> [IM transcript where sealed bids are revealed to be 15 (Bethany) and 14 (me); we have a hipchat bot to facilitate this]

> So Danny came to fetch me, and I paid him 0 * 14


> To clarify "drive you halfway home" was my way of offering to make it a joint decision whether to drive her home. So I'd either drive her home and she'd pay me something or I'd not drive her and pay her something. That probably sounds impossibly weird. The advantage is that I can offer the favor and the auction makes sure it only happens if she values it more than it costs me. Ie, it's the quantified equivalent of "are you sure? don't you need to get to sleep yourself?" etc.

> Yootling to do her the favor is mathematically equivalent to doing her half the favor. Or you can think of it like this: I'm committing to either doing her the favor for less money than she values the favor, or to giving her an amount of money equal to how much she values the favor.

> Again, the real point is just to make sure the favor only happens if it's actually socially efficient -- if it's not more skin off my nose than the favor is actually worth to her.

Was the 1950's logic fundamentally wrong? If one partner is not working, should they not contribute more to the house?

IMO the part where the full-time worker was expected to do less at home than the one with no job was not wrong, the wrong part came in the form of the assumption that the person working would be the man, and that other than in exceptional cases he would be the only one working.

Also, assuming both partners are working roughly equally, I don't think it is fair to split the household contributions based on money earned. eg. If I'm a software developer making $150,000 and I'm married to a teacher who is making $50k and we both work full-time, it makes no sense for me to expect her to contribute 2/3rd more effort at home -- her job is probably more stressful, draining and in most ways "harder" than mine.

At these income levels you should probably just hire a maid.

Haven't you heard, $200k household income is barely scraping by

1950s logic (at least in the US) was not that if one partner is not earning money, they should contribute more to the house. 1950s logic was that the male partner earns the money, and the female partner should be satisfied with housework, regardless of whether or not she prefers it. This logic cyclically resulted from, and resulted in, many parents only putting their male children through college.

Interesting that you're concerned about whether the woman preferred the role she was assigned, but fail to consider the man's preferences.

Maybe not, but in this case both partners are working. In fact, the wife could very well be working more and still earning less.

And is 1950's logic different than logic?

The second definition is being used here:


They should just factor the bids. Both bid 10, but his counts as 10 and hers as 15 or 20 for win/lose purposes.

Bam. Solved. (read: "this post is slightly tongue-in-cheek")

Lest anyone think this is exaggerated or linkbait-y, I've personally seen them do this, a lot. For example, a $100 gas purchase was immediately resolved using a method similar to what's shown in the video - had the number come up, $1000 would have changed hands (it didn't, much to my chagrin).

This serves as good evidence for anyone who wonders if Portland is truly as idiosyncratic, iconoclastic, or just plain insane as it is depicted in the television series Portlandia.

My wife and I do something like this.

We both have a 'piggy bank' we can spend on anything without the others input.

Each week we get an allowance + bonuses for extra chores.

Applying economic game theory to a relationship seems like a good way to take all the fun and passion out of it

Not if you're game theorists! :)

But I don't actually understand that objection. Seems analogous to taking Walt Whitman's side in this exchange: http://www.scottaaronson.com/writings/whitman.html

I think the idea is to reduce the amount of time and mental stress around day-to-day tasks to allow for more time for the relationship.

Well... It's more like this: https://xkcd.com/1319/

I might have to concede that the whole thing is untenable unless you actually enjoy geeking out about the game theory and mechanism design and whatnot.

This feels more like a stunt to get people interested in their start-up company. The wife is so far in debt that it looks more like gambling with fake money at a Casino Night since the game theoretic model seems it breaks down when there is cost-free debt.

Unless both participants are geeks who like having fun practicing game theory.

I think it's more that there are eccentrics out there, and they by definition do things differently to the usual methods.

Thanks so much for the awesome discussion here, everyone! Here's another example as told by us to the reporter, that didn't make the cut: ("D" is me and "B" is Bethany, my spouse/cofounder)

Another funny auction today, with discussion in our Beeminder developer chatroom. We also conducted the auction via a chatbot that we wrote [https://github.com/aaronpk/zenircbot-bid]. You'll see what I mean: (there's actually another little auction that happens as well)

    D: /bid with @bee for skate in with keys
    Bot: Ok, collecting bids from: @bee, @dreev
    Bot: Bidding complete! Here are the bids: @bee: 8, @dreev: 45
    D: /roll 10 
    Bot: 1  [we upgraded the bot in the meantime so the dice rolling to determine 
         payment is built in]
    D: !!
    D: now i have to pay bee $80 [$8*10] to not skate her the keys
    D: done
    Aaron: so confused
    D: we can explain if you'd like!
    D: here's a hypothetical normal-person equivalent of what just happened: 
       "i forgot my keys, any chance you were going to skate in soon?" 
       "i wasn't going to but i could, because i love you!" 
       "that's ok, honey, i'm fine at this coffee shop till my next appointment, 
       when i was going to come home anyway" 
       "well, ok, i'll let you fend for yourself. i'll clean the bathroom to make 
       it up to you."
    D: so the bids replace the feeling each other out -- "i *could* skate in", 
       "that's ok", etc. -- and the payment replaces the "i'll make it up to you"
    Uluc: Ok, I committed the change. It might be best if you took a look at the 
          source in case I screwed something obvious up. app/models/goal.rb line 197
    D: /bid with @bee for deploying uluc's code
    Bot: Ok, collecting bids from: @bee, @dreev
    [nerd discussion about beeminder code redacted]
    Bot: Bidding complete! Here are the bids: @bee: 0, @dreev: 10
    [bethany deploys the code]
    Aaron: do those bids mean bee doesn't care, and dreev was more willing to 
           pay $10 than to deploy?
    B: yes
    D: right
    D: did my normal-person equivalent make sense?
    Aaron: sort of yes
    D: we think of it as mathematically equivalent to me *halfway* skating 
       bethany the keys. i could've just done it cuz i'm nice, or she could've 
       just refused the favor cuz she's nice. instead we made it a 50/50 joint 
       decision for which outcome would happen so it's like half a favor. and 
       more importantly, it ensures the favor only happens if it's socially 
       efficient for the favor to happen 
    B: also, the "hey, i forgot my keys. were you planning to skate in today?" 
       "Not really, maybe." "Oh, well I was planning to come home after this 
       appointment anyway..." all did happen behind the scenes. but instead of 
       continuing that back and forth for another few iterations we stopped 
       there and yootled.

How does bidding on who pays the mortgage and other bills work? For example, if one has to pay the mortgage then the other should have to pay them rent via this bidding process. Same for gas, electric, etc.

We do this, but have a shared account, and don't bother to move the money.

We are also both pretty cheap, and don't spend much money other than "I will give you $100 to go start tea for me."

Relationship dynamics transacted in dollars - wow. The next logical step would be to bring this system to the sexual realm.

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