Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cranky System and Economics

With volunteers and college students about to start their placements this semester, the online system is about to get tested.

My main goal is to make this as easy as possible for our partner schools to use. So I'm now creating an "Easy View" section of the website that allows teachers and administrators to bypass all the editing options and just see who is coming to their school on any particular day.

But Google is getting cranky and doesn't want to show me my calendars right now. Not like I took weeks to make them or anything....

On a side note, I'm doing some research of my own that will hopefully end with something I can publish. (I'm sure it's not easy for a recent college graduate without any advanced degrees or past publications outside of editorial columns to get published, but I'm feeling lucky.)
The research is centering around the idea of parceling out responsibility and enabling more folks to get involved in our larger social challenges, like education. Now, I'm specifically looking into the economics of scheduling, and I am struggling to find any way for people to coordinate schedules efficiently without the use of a third party arbitrator.

Say we assume that we make decisions based on what's best for ourselves, and let's say there are two people trying to coordinate schedules.
If we set up the scheduling system with Person 1 revealing all of their free time and Person 2 then selecting a slot of that free time, Person 2 would pick that slot which works best for Person 2. So Person 2 would maximize his utility given the situation, but this doesn't mean that the utility of the system (Person 1 + Person 2) is maximized.

Think about it like this: When Person 2 picks the "Best" time slot for himself, that same slot might just happen to be the "Worst" time slot for Person 1. Even though Person 2 might be a little worse off personally picking his second or third most favored time slot, the gains in convenience/happiness for Person 1 in moving from the "Worst" to something better might be enough to offset Person 2's losses.

In other words, "Best" + "Worst" might be less than "Good" + "OK".

In subsequent posts, I'll actually draw out diagrams to explain this all a bit better (if you're familiar with Game Theory, you may have already done this in your head).
Long story short, I'm trying to find a way to set up this whole process that will get people to coordinate and make choices that benefits the whole rather than just one individual.

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