Archives for strategy



A New Way to Deal With Telemarketing Calls

A man in the U.K. is charging telemarketers for calling him. From BBC News:

A man targeted by marketing companies is making money from cold calls with his own higher-rate phone number.

In November 2011 Lee Beaumont paid £10 plus VAT to set up his personal 0871 line – so to call him now costs 10p, from which he receives 7p.

The Leeds businessman told BBC Radio 4′s You and Yours programme that the line had so far made £300.

Phone Pay Plus, which regulates premium numbers, said it strongly discouraged people from adopting the idea.

Beaumont says that he’s following the rules of premium numbers by informing all telemarketers exactly how much they’re being charged for calling him, and suggesting they email him if they don’t like the charges.

(HT: James Kraft)



How Do Real Prisoners Play Prisoner’s Dilemma?

Economists Menusch Khadjavi and Andreas Lange recently published a paper on how real prisoners play the Prisoner’s Dilemma game:

We report insights into the behavior of prisoners in dilemma situations that so famously carry their name. We compare female inmates and students in a simultaneous and a sequential Prisoner’s Dilemma. In the simultaneous Prisoner’s Dilemma, the cooperation rate among inmates exceeds the rate of cooperating students. Relative to the simultaneous dilemma, cooperation among first-movers in the sequential Prisoner’s Dilemma increases for students, but not for inmates. Students and inmates behave identically as second movers. Hence, we find a similar and significant fraction of inmates and students to hold social preferences.

(HT: Marginal Revolution)



When Is It Inconsiderate to Press A Crosswalk Button?

I have no problem with pedestrians pressing crosswalk buttons when they wait for the crossing light to change before crossing the intersection.  Crossing lights and crosswalk buttons serve important safety function at busy intersections especially for disabled or elderly pedestrians who need a bit more time crossing the street.

But some pedestrians press the button with a conditional intention to cross the street before the crossing light changes if there is a break in the traffic.  One often sees pedestrians approach an intersection, press the button, and then immediately cross the street, before the crossing light changes. 

The pedestrian probably reasons a) “I have a right to press the button”;  and b) having pushed it, I now see I can walk without inconveniencing anyone because there aren’t any cars coming. Read More »



To Punt or Not to Punt? The Debate Continues

A reader named David Stokes writes to say:

Last night’s Raiders – Chargers game gave one team a unique opportunity to implement the no-punt strategy.
 
With the Raiders’ long-snapper hurt, the Raiders coach had a much less risk-averse reason to try always going for it on fourth down. Especially after the first punt was blown and the punter tackled with the ball, who could blame the coach for going for it on fourth every time?
 
Alas, he proceeded to attempt more punts, and three in a row were blocked or otherwise blown.

FWIW, I think someone should make a documentary about long snappers. I am not kidding.



Is an Auction the Best Way to Solve the Roommate/Rent Dilemma?

We’ve blogged before about the very common roommate/rent dilemma — that is, how to fairly split rent among roommates given that different rooms have different features. A reader named Michael Jancsy writes in with an auction solution and a request for feedback:

I recently designed an auction website [called "The Rent Is Too Damn Fair"] to help friends split apartments … The auction works by allowing each roommate to bid on each room in an apartment, and then identifies the permutation of roommates to rooms with the largest consumer surplus (sum of all bids minus rent paid to landlord) to decide who should live in what room. Each person’s rent is then calculated by dividing the surplus evenly over the occupants, so that the difference between a person’s bid and the rent paid is the same for each person. 

Read More »



(Almost) The Triumph of Game Theory at the Super Bowl

One of the amazing things about the Super Bowl game this past weekend was that both coaches understood that the Patriots would be better off if the Giants scored a touchdown late in the game and reportedly instructed their teams accordingly.  To my mind, this represents a high point in the prevalence of strategic thinking. 

Was the failure of Ahmad Bradshaw to follow through on his coach’s instruction merely a failure of execution?

But I wonder whether the Giants failed to strategically optimize on the very next play selection.  With about a minute left in the game (and with a timeout remaining for the Patriots), the Giants choose to go for a two-point conversion.  My question is not about whether they should have kicked a point after.  No, I wonder whether they might have done better by handing the ball to a swift runner, who might have even more perversely attempted to forgo scoring two points and instead tried to burn as many seconds off the clock as possible by merely running away from the other team (toward, but not into, the other endzone!).   Read More »



What Happens When You Ice Your Own Kicker?

In our Freakonomics Football episode “Why Even Ice a Kicker?”, Stephen Dubner explores the NFL fad of calling a timeout just before the opposing team’s kicker attempts a crucial field goal. The idea is to get into the kicker’s head, and make him think about all that pressure he’s under to make a big kick. The practice has become all but routine in the NFL, even though, according to the data, it doesn’t work, and in some cases even backfires.

But what about when a coach ices his own kicker?

That’s essentially what Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett did on Sunday during a game against the Arizona Cardinals. With the score tied at 13, and just seven seconds left in regulation, Dallas rookie kicker Dan Bailey lined up for a potential game-winning 49-yard field goal. Right before the snap, Garrett called timeout. Bailey kicked it anyway, and nailed it. His second attempt? Not so good— he shanked it, wide left. The game went into overtime, and Dallas ended up losing 19-13 to the Arizona Cardinals. Read More »



Why Isn't Backgammon More Popular?

Levitt and I just recorded a Q&A session for the Freakonomics Radio podcast, using the questions that all of you recently submitted. You’ll hear the results soon, probably in January. Thanks for the good questions.

One question we didn’t get to, from Tg3:

I have heard Dubner casually mention that he is a backgammon player. Are there ever Levitt vs. Dubner battles? More importantly, why is such a great game not more popular in North America? Read More »