The GChatter’s Dilemma

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Bwog resident nerd Zach van Schouwen fakes his way through the game theory of Google Chat.

When GChat rolled out its “Go Invisible” feature last week (which has been in other instant messenger clients for awhile), the whole landscape of online chat shifted a little. While invisibility on AIM is one thing, most GMail users have a window open at all times. “Go invisible” takes away the responsibility of being constantly connected.

The problem is that the ability to go invisible is predicated on the assumption that no one else behaves the same way. If everyone else naively leaves their status lit up in green, you can pick-and-choose the conversations you want to have, an optimal outcome for you, and a betrayal for everyone else. However, if they’re rational, they’ll realize the advantages of invisibility takes part.

Of course, people don’t behave naively in practice. In fact, almost everyone else is probably as awkward and antisocial as you are. As a result, invisibility “strictly dominates” participation, particularly since being the only non-invisible one means you’re being watched constantly. In the short run, the equilibrium is for every user with any misanthropic tendencies to withdraw to invisibility mode. Fortunately, chat is an iterative problem, so eventually the social dead zone will correct itself, finding a new equilibrium where more people opt into the system after it bottoms out.

Yesterday I logged in to find only two people online on my list, which traditionally had about twenty signed in at that time of the afternoon. Am I just unpopular? Maybe. But I’m pretty sure game theory is taking over.

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  1. dumb dumb dumb  

    bwog sucks. this is post is retarded. you post one thing a day now, bwog, and this is it?

  2. ------  

    wouldnt a user with real misanthropic tendencies just not use gchat?

    also why the fuck is this within the scope of the bwog? is this at all related to columbia? is this something any of us give a shit about?

  3. umm

    Way to steal this from Gawker, but after so long that its not even interesting anymore.

  4. COUP  


  5. what the fuck.  

    are you people retarded. have you thought about the fact that some people
    1. are smart enough to read email elsewhere, not in their browser window 24/7.
    2. leave themselves on, rather "picking" conversations by not responding to the ones they get
    3. recognize "signing on" as being up /ready for conversation, not lapping like dogs for online coolness points.
    4. don't see how the fuck is this different from aim?

    If I read "predicated on the assumption that" again on Bwog, I will come over and physically attack you people, if only for the reason that I hate logorrhea and douchebags who think they know enough about the internet to apply fucking game theory.

  6. and btw  

    being constantly connected is an addiction, not a responsibility.

  7. hmm  

    Well this isn't really new, because you could always set your status to red (busy), and only reply to people you wanted to talk to, letting everyone else believe you were indeed busy.

  8. another thing  

    In the end people might just end up "invisible" and messaging one another to see if they're around or not.

    Anyway, i've taken to using gmail without the chat function when i need to work. less tempting.

    And I think this does have to do with Columbia students because we are people who use gmail at high levels. And there have been 5 bwog posts today. You trolls just don't know how to count. Bwog is fun.

  9. ....  

    i really wonder when cuit will finally give up on cubmail/imp and just do the right thing. (convert columbia mail over to gmail/google apps)

    • because  

      gmail is no f'in hipster godsend.

    • OH WAIT  

      you still use cubmail in web-browser mode! wow!

      god, i hate tech tards that pretend they know things.

      • ...  

        #1) speaking of "tech-tards who think they know things." what makes you think i use columbia's imp installation at all?

        #2) email services are not "hipster" nor are they "not hipster." they're email services. and they either cost a fuckton of money to maintain and suck, or they're outsourced for pennies on the dollar. in the case of the google stuff, it actually works well. imp is a piece of shit, and has been for years.

        configuring filters in cyrus is a major pita and the gmail spam stopping infrastructure is going to run circles over whatever some dude in cuit threw together when his boss wasn't looking.

        lemme guess, that dude was you.

  10. stupid  

    The sort of person who goes invisible on gmail chat is the sort of person nobody wants to talk to anyway.

  11. stupid 2  

    People who go red on gmail chat are also tools. Just sign out if you don't want to talk, don't act like you're so busy that you can't be bothered.

  12. Journalism  

    on this campus is suffering. The Spec is now only 2-3 pages long each day; it's only the sports pages that are reasonably long enough anymore.

    It's the same on Bwog, and student groups don't seem to be doing all that much anymore either. Is everybody just spent after Fall '07?

  13. Journalism 2  

    Maybe there's just nothing going on worth mentioning. Last semester we had Ahmadinejad and hunger strikes to keep the media busy.

  14. ...

    You should all stop being so negative about this post... this is actually semi-decent...

    I think if you are an econ major this is funnier just because of the game theory allusions (for you non-econ people, the picture of russel crowe from a Perfect Mind or whatever it's called should have been a hint)

  15. Actually

    Actually, these are exactly the sorts of situations that are interesting for game theory. The thing is, of the agents actions (invisible, not invisible), invisible does not strictly dominate across potential states (no one wants to chat, enemy wants to chat, friend wants to chat...), for if a friend wants to chat you would prefer to be visible over invisible. So you have to calculate two things (1) the utilities gained from the various states obtaining and (2) the probability of the various states obtaining.

    What'll probably happen is that the visible action will become a signaling mechanism - showing to people that you want to chat, not just that you are available to do so

  16. Derps  

    I love that we all have enemies we observe/are observed by on messaging services. When will we all grow up, say fuck you to the people we dislike, sever ties, and move on?

  17. spanish inquisition

    "I'm pretty sure game theory is taking over."

    ahahahahahahah who writes this stuff?

  18. speccy  

    spec's averaging about 12 pages...

  19. you dont have  

    to be a fucking economist to know what game theory is you asshole. and hey, why dont i just make allusions to any and everything i feel like and that will make me a great writer, right? WRONG.

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