Archive for the ‘game-theory’ Category

Collaboration and the fear of failure

March 29, 2006

Last week I ran into Pledge Bank. At first I thought it was just another web2.0-social-networing site. Anyway, I decided to check it out and was positively surprised by the site promise: to help you find people who would join your pledges and help you on achieving a common objective. Isn't it great? You can start doing something only when you're sure it won't be a complete failure.

I started to think about so many pledges I could run. "I will post a new entry to this blog, but only if at least 3 people leave comments", "I will write my undergratuate essay, but only if I'll get an A+". Of course these are only jokes, but it got me thinking…what's the problem on failing? Why are we so afraid of failing?

So many good things can be learned from "failures". A good and recent example from the blog world is Bayosphere's. The site was supposed to be a source of news "by and for the Bay area", but it didn't work exactly like that. I won't go into the details, you can read'em all on the open letter linked above. But, to put it simply, there were very few citizen journalists participating. Can we call it a failure? I'm not sure we can.
According to game theory, when a player collaborates on a game, he/she expects that other players will collaborate too. If there's a way to "punish" the players who don't, the collaboration level gets closer to optimum. What happens, then, when the "game" will only take place if collaboration is assured? Let's watch Pledge Bank and see. While I'm hoping for the success of the many pledges already in there, I still think we might be missing some good learnings from old school trial and error method.

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