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 18:07:06 -0500
On Sun, Jan 28, 2007 at 05:09:05PM -0500, Seth Ruskin wrote:
> >From: Marc Hartstein <marc.hartstein@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Wow. That's a great use of semantics, but to me you actually didn't say 
> anything to explain why your system is an improvement. You really didn't 
> even explain the difference between banking and hoarding, as this is a 
> token economy, and you're purchasing your reward with these tokens either 
> way. It's just in yours, I need two types of tokens.

Thanks.  I'm sorry if the message got lost in the semantics, though.
I'll try again.

Neither economy is a pure token economy.  They involve both tokens and
dollars with rules about how the two interact.

The current economy can be refactored as:

Every item in the Stores has a cost.  Most items have a cost in dollars.
Some items have a cost of 1 Point + (point price - 1) dollars.  Points
can be spent in place of dollars anywhere the carrot symbol appears, and
for shipping.

Because points are dual-purpose (they apply both to point cost and
dollar cost), every time you choose to spend points as dollars you
reduce the opportunity to spend points as points.  Since spending points
as points is the only way to get certain items, there is an incentive
not to spend points as dollars when making purchases.

My economy can be refactored as:

Every item in the Stores has a cost.  Most items have a cost in dollars.
Some items have a cost of X Karma + Y dollars.  Points can be spent in
place of dollars anywhere the carrot symbol appears, and for shipping.

Notice that points are now single-purpose.  They substitute for dollars.
The incentive is to spend them on rewars.  Karma is single-purpose.  It
lets you get stuff you can't get any other way.  However, that's all
Karma does.  You spend Karma on getting stuff.  Whether you choose to
spend it on getting stuff now or later or what stuff, you're not trading
spending Karma off against spending something else in its place.

Keep in mind that, as I've said before, I prefer to think of the point
as the basic unit of the economy.  However, I think my refactoring makes
it clearer what I'm looking at, and the two are functionally equivalent
except in terms of perception on the part of the participants.

There are a few competing goals of the Points system, and I think
they're overloading a single class of points in a way which creates
strange interactions.  Points are a few different kinds of reward:

- a discount on purchases of "cool stuff" (not games)
- a discount on shipping costs
- the right to buy certain items

But when you use them as one of the first two, it reduces your ability
to use them as the third.  In a weird way in that *when* you spend the
points affects *how* you can spend them.

Again, it's the fact that I can spend X points + Y dollars in one way to
get two items, but there's another way in which I cannot spend X points
+ Y dollars (with the same values for X and Y) to get the same two items
which bothers me.  The same cost (X points + Y dollars) should be able
to get me the same reward (two items plus separate shipping costs for
each) regardless of whether I spend M points and N dollars followed by
X-M points and Y-N dollars, or if I spend M+1 points and N-1 dollars
followed by X-(M+1) points and Y-(N-1) dollars.  Notice how both ways
I'm spending X points + Y dollars total across two purchases, and that
the total cost of both purchases is the same both times.  Why do I get
different results?

Karma seems like an elegant solution.  Now I'm spending X points + Y
dollars + Z Karma.  Yes, there's an extra complication.  But I can spend
M points + N dollars + K1 Karma followed by X-M points + Y-N dollars +
K2 Karma, or spend M+1 points + N-1 dollars + K1 Karma followed by
X-(M+1) points + Y-(N-1) dollars + K2 Karma and get the same results.
Do you see how this is an improvement?

(Yes, I recognize, there may be other ways in which it's *not* an
improvement.  But I'm trying to answer the question I've been asked,
which is what I'm trying to accomplish here/why I think this is an

So I would prefer two kinds of points (even though that's more
complicated), because that allows me to have:

Points, which give a discount on the cost of items with the carrot symbol
and on shipping.

Karma, which gives the right to buy certain items.

Now the Points as dollar substitutes are distinct from the points as
right to buy certain items.  However, I'd prefer to turn this thought
around and think of dollars as point substitutes.  This last change is
purely psychological, to encourage thinking of reward items as rewards
rather than as purchases.

> Moreover, as far as I can tell, I have less incentive not to bank/hoard 
> under your system because I can't offset the token cost. Under the current 
> system, I can choose not to forego today's reward and still have enough 
> tokens for a future reward, as long as I have some money available offset 
> the cost to LL to give me that reward. Under yours, I must hoard my tokens 
> if I want the future reward.

Yes, what I'm really doing is turning Points into pseudo-dollars and
creating a smaller pure token economy on the side.  I have tokens which
are spent only on getting rewards which can only be gotten by spending
tokens on them.  It has all the advantages and disadvantages of a token
economy.  However, the "reward" is the "right to buy an item".  I can
then purchase it using some combination of pseudo-dollars and real
dollars, as I see fit.

I think it's better than the current economy because the current economy
uses points as both pseudo-dollars *and* tokens, with the token cost for
all items being 1 token.

I also like it because in most of the normal use cases it will work the
same as the current setup.  It eliminates and edge-condition and creates
more room to shift numbers to create incentives.  (Setting all Karma
costs to 1 creates a situation identical to the current setup except
that you are assumed to have always made the correct decision about how
to allocate points vs. dollars.)

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