Looney Labs Rabbits Mailing list Archive

Re: [Rabbits] Rabbit Only Items in Dangling Carrot (was Re: Gray 'mids?)

  • FromMarc Hartstein <marc.hartstein@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • DateSun, 28 Jan 2007 00:36:09 -0500
Seth, I think you completely missed the point I was making.  Which may
well be because my example was poor.  Let me try to rephrase:

I beleive the current system has a design flaw which, in attempting to
encourage certain behavior, actually encourages other behavior.  I would
like to explore ways the system can be improved to encourage the desired
behavior while removing the incentive toward the undesired behavior.

Specifically, I think the current system encourages point hoarding
rather than point spending.  It's my belief (and yours as well, if I
read you correctly) that the intent is to reward Rabbits for doing Cool
Stuff, and to encourage them to do more Cool Stuff.  I think that the
particular aspect of the system I'm pointing at (the way the requirement
that at least one point be spent on Rabbit-Exclusive items works in
practice) does nothing to support this intent, and has side-effects
which are negative.  I think there may be a better system out there
which both does a better job of achieving the primary intent, and
doesn't have negative side-effects.

[There's a lot of text here.  Some points get reiterated in different
ways.  It could probably be a bit more stylistically coherent.  I think
it still conveys what I want to, hopefully without too much tiredness or
frustration leaking through.]

On Fri, Jan 26, 2007 at 07:20:04PM -0500, Seth Ruskin wrote:
> I've been faced with this, and I recognize that points are things I need to 
> earn. If I haven't earned them (or spent them on other things) then I don't 
> get the cool new stuff or the big shinies until I earn more. The points 
> represent how much the company is willing to reward me for what I've done. 
> If I don't have enough for the reward I want, then I need to do more. And 
> use some willpower to delay my satisfaction.

It's not about not having earned enough points.  It's about an odd
boundary condition where I can spend the same number of points and
dollars, but if I decide to trade one point for one dollar across time
in the wrong direction, I can't get the same items that I could if I
moved it the other way.  I think there's something weird about that.

> So you register and send in a bio and you don't have to do anything else... 
> ever. Big reward for small effort. Defeats the purpose of the system in any 
> form. Don't like it. I prefer the reward to match the effort you put in 
> (and spending cash to cover the remaining cost is an effort, as you're 
> delaying your gratification on getting something else to get the DC item). 
> Makes the reward mean something.

Eh, you can already do this for the first *10* Rabbit-Exclusive items,
if you're willing to spend cash to cover most of the cost.  Is there
something valuable about the cutoff at 10?

This way you still need to expend effort by your reasoning: you need to
come up with either the cash or the Rabbit Points to cover what you
want.  You can just choose to spend the Rabbit Points on the first cool
thing and the cash on later ones, rather than having to decide to
apportion the Rabbit Points out across the things so you don't run out
and find yourself not permitted to spend the cash.

The current way doesn't require more effort or more delayed
gratification.  It simply requires you to be better at playing economic
planning games.  If you're not, or don't realize the implications, then
you end up at a disadvantageous position over poeple who do, and I don't
see any *benefit* to that.

Why is a system which encourages people to spend the minimum number of
Rabbit Points per item so they have enough on hand to be able to get
other Rewards later if they only have the time to do Cool Stuff during
certain parts of the year preferable to one which encourages them to
spend between Points and cash as they feel appropriate and lets them get
Rewards if they've done enough Cool Stuff ever?  Rather than if they've
banked enough Points recently?

> >2. To purchase an item with a price in points, your Total Points Earned
> >must be greater than the number of items with a price in points you have
> >ever purchased.
> And that kills the IOU system, which I rely heavily on. When I demo at 
> conventions, I spend as many points as I can on "demo items" (pamphlets, 
> demo stickers, 25 packs of promo cards, micro catalogs, flowers etc).  For 
> some of these items, I'll get reimbursed for the points I spent on them. So 
> my total number of items I've received will end up being greater than the 
> points I've ever earned, as the reimbursed points are not additional 
> points, they just become unspent.

How does this kill the IOU system?  We could just discuss whether the
reimbursed points should count toward "stuff points" (or Karma, as Josh
calls it) or not, and implement the system appropriately.  Easy to
solve.  And now if you're sitting around waiting for an IOU to clear
you'll be permitted to spend cash on Rabbit-Exclusive items while your
point-balance is zero because the IOU points just haven't made it back
into your account yet.  What am I missing?

> >So what I'm looking to find out is what the specific goals are for which
> >the current system has been engineered.  Is what I'm perceiving as a
> >flaw actually an intended feature?  (It does result in more money,
> >rather than points, being spent on point items.)  Is there an intended
> >feature in the current system which one or both of my suggestions would
> >remove?
> It's intended, and you're also apparently missing the point of a reward. I 
> deal with doling out rewards daily in my job and I've found two truths:

I'm going to admit, I'm having a really difficult time responding to
this email calmly, especially when it has comments like this in it.
With all the comments I think I've made about being careful to preserve
the intended consequences of the system, I'd like to think I've made it
relatively clear that I do, in fact, understand the point of a reward.

Maybe I need to take a week off and then spend a week carefully drafting
a proposal which is very explicit about goals, the places I see the
current system failing to lead to those goals or having unintended
negative consequences, and suggestions for alternate systems with detail
about how I believe they might better lead to the intended results.

But do you really believe that it's an intentional feature of the
current system that each Dangling Carrot purchase I make should involve
me thinking about how much of the purchase price of the item I should
pay for in Points and how much in Dollars such that I leave enough
Points in the bank to be able to buy any future Rabbit-Exclusive items
which might appear before the next time I get a chance to earn more
Points?  What good comes out of this exercise?  It doesn't make me value
the items I get more . . . that comes from getting them by spending
Rabbit Points I earned doing Cool Stuff so there's a connection between
the reward and the Cool Stuff I did.  But this system encourages me to
hoard Rabbit Points and spend dollars, reducing the connection we want
to encourage.

> 1) Rewards become meaningless if you don't have to do anything to earn them 
> (which your number 1 example would cause).

Under this system you either have to earn Points or spend money.  You've
already said this is something.

You're right, though.  Option #1 has the disadvantage that you don't
have to continue to do Rabbity activities in order to continue to be
able to get Rabbit-Exclusive items.  The current system has a similar
drawback that you can get 10 Rabbit-Exclusive items just for submitting
a bio and picture if you're willing to pay for them almost entirely in

To the extent to which this comment is relevant, it's almost equally
relevant to the current system.  I like the idea of what I called Option
#2 because it could lead to a system which better encourages continuing
to do Rabbity things to continue to earn the chance to get
Rabbit-Exclusive items.

> No offense intended, but the solution is to find the time to do demos or 
> projects to earn points or accept that you can't get the reward that you 
> want until you do more. It's a reward program, after all.

Thanks for taking the time to write out all that advice you offered on
ways of earning Rabbit Points.  I'm certain it was well-intended, and I
hope somebody will find it useful.

Unfortunately, I'm not that person.  It really feels as though you think
I'm complaining that I can't get the rewards I want.  Worse, it feels
like you think I'm complaining that I can't get the rewards I want
without first putting in effort to earn them.  You're flat wrong here.

I have plenty of Rabbit Points for what I want.  If there's no Statute
of Limitations on putting in Point requests, I could get more just by
getting around to asking for them.  I'm not here to whine about how
little money I have or how few Rabbit Points I have or how I can't get
all the cool stuff I want.  I actually can.  I'm here to whine about how
frustrating it is to deal with the system as is, because while I have
plenty of Points and money, I don't have so many Points that I can just
grab everything which catches my fancy without thinking about whether it
will leave me enough points to get the next thing.  I don't mind having
to decide which items are/are not worth the resources they'll cost.  I
do mind having to play around with deciding the Point/dollar tradeoff
for this purchase to make sure I don't back myself into a hole where I
can't make the next one, even if the total number of dollars and total
number of points would have been the same across the two purchases if
I'd chosen a different tradeoff for the first purchase.

The reason I didn't claim the reward I was thinking I might want was
largely because I decided it wasn't worth the frustration involved in
deciding how to make the point vs. dollar allocation while leaving room
to be able to possible claim other rewards in the future.  This was my
choice, and I'm not complaining about it; I'm merely presenting it as an
example of why I think the current system is flawed.

Really, my goal here is no more or less than to point out a design which
I don't think is doing what it's intended to do and attempt to try to
help suggest ways it could be made to do its job better.

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