Wiki updates and improvements in progress, some done

Hi everyone!

Overall, the wiki articles have not been updated in many years. The writings serve as a description and philosophical laying out of the vision. The overall vision is still solid, but we’ve learned a lot and discussed a lot in the time since the last updates.

I have aspirations for our main, most accessible introductory material to better express core points. I’ve accepted now that the wiki articles are not directly the quick-intro but are the more thorough explanations. I still want the articles to be as concise and effective as possible with high signal-to-noise ratio.

I just published a rewrite of this page on the wiki: Snowdrift Wiki - The Snowdrift Dilemma

In conjunction, some tweaks were also done to Snowdrift Wiki - Fundraising and Social Psychology

What are the changes to the “Snowdrift Dilemma” article?

For perspective, the first versions originally talked about game theory generically and contrasted Snowdrift game vs Tragedy of the Commons vs Prisoner’s Dilemma. At the time, I was writing for an audience that I took to be somewhere between ignorant and quite into game theory but just not specifically the Snowdrift game. Unfortunately, that led to some confusion. We had suggestions for alternate mechanisms that were based on accepting completely that the Snowdrift game was the full issue, and people thought through their preferred solutions. Some people objected to simplification, imagining that we were ourselves being overly prescriptive, seeing the world through this simple game analysis.

So, the page was later revised to get away from being too academic, too rigid. It aimed to push the Snowdrift scenario closer to the projects we plan to support. It described the idea of a neighborhood, everyone wants to get through… Overall, it avoided specific numbers and strategies in an effort to avoid the confusion from reading it too strictly. But the more vague rewrite lost the simple game dynamics for people who want to just make sense of the core theory.

So, the new update I just finished is more thorough. It lays out the simple one-off, 2-player snowdrift game. It discusses the dynamics. It then goes on to discuss the various influences on changing dynamics. Comparison to Prisoner’s Dilemma remains but in a footnote. This update deals with the specifics of the game while including thorough discussion of nuances so that readers won’t rush to apply the game too strictly to scenarios that vary from the basic version.

What’s next?

Although there’s room for editing and improving the page still (especially adding potential layouts/charts/illustrations), it’s a good reference now. We can discuss more introductory summaries of the Snowdrift scenario in other appropriate places and link them to the wiki page for the deeper reading.

I plan to revisit other pages with similar consideration. Specifically, the economics discussion of what are public goods. That will get fleshed out with the updated ideas discussed at length in the forum topic Framing idea for introducing newcomers to concept of public goods - #22 by wolftune

Once we have a good thorough reference for the definition of public goods including the complex nuances (things can be more or less public, it’s not an absolute all-or-nothing definition), we can update the basic introductory articles to capture these core points (that we’re aiming at the basic question: “how can we cooperate to economically support work that fits with abundance and sharing rather than rivalry and exclusion?”)

The crowdmatching mechanism page and connected articles also need revision. Eventually, all of the wiki needs updating. My priority isn’t to be completist but to prioritize capturing the key language and insights that we’ve come to over the years. That will then be a grounding from which we can develop the rest of our work.

Please read the new article. I think we all get this stuff pretty well, but I want to make sure that the core team and community are all on the same page in our understanding of these key concepts which inform the project. We should all be able to discuss the snowdrift dilemma with accuracy and clarity, and wherever appropriate, link people to the wiki article. And we should all feel comfortable with the contents of the page and knowing what it says when we refer people to it.


I’ve just finished a pass and have some editorial feedback. Take and apply any as you see fit:

  1. Can the introductory paragraphs be placed ahead of the ToC?
  2. I would recommend expanding or adding a sentence to the first paragraph about what game theory is and link to a more full-resource, I realize this is partially covered in the second, but it feels like a fragment.
  3. Perhaps having the 2x2 of scoring options would help those who are more visually inclined.
  4. In the second case, the latter party could choose to leave the path un-shoveled.
  5. Cite something about optimal strategies starting with cooperation?
  6. Bold the word “taxation”
  7. Expand the contractions in the paragraph about pioneering
  8. “set ups” doesn’t read well for me in terms of a paragraph header
  9. This seems to be missing a final closing section

Overall, I think the piece is really solid! Your framing of, “In this article,” leads me to think that we could be capitalizing on large wiki updates like this in the form of posting the full content on the blog with a link to the wiki page, allowing the material to evolve, whilst capturing a snapshot.

Unfortunately, no. There are several things about the font, layout, presentation of the wiki that I’d like to see improved.

Updated the intro, added Wikipedia link, emphasized no background necessary. Do you have a suggestion for a different general “game theory” citation and/or sentence?

I thought about that. I think best in addition to the list.

Like this?


I can’t get that to render in the wiki for some reason. Could use just a png. I would prefer the zebra-striping to be off, and otherwise different styling…

html for table
      <th colspan="2" rowspan="2"style="text-align: center">Scoring</th>
      <th colspan="2" style="text-align: center; vertical-align: middle;">Player A</th>
      <th rowspan="2" style="text-align: center; vertical-align: middle;">Player B</th>
      <td>0 points</td>
      <td>Player A: 1 point<br/>Player B: 3 points</td>
      <td>Player A: 3 points<br/>Player B: 1 point</td>
      <td><strong>Both: 2 points</strong></td>

Which “second case” do you mean?

Sure maybe. I know there’s some good citations out there. Can you grab one?

I was almost wanting to avoid that because of triggering people, but okay, I think you’re right. Done

I wanted it to basically be “continued” on the psychology article, like move on to the next page in the “about” book. But I’m okay with adding more closure. What would it say?

Yes, I think this is at the level of put-this-out-in-the-world to spark discussion and so on. Whenever people have these discussions, I want them to have our framing for perspective. I was thinking of a blog post… worth doing right away?

I fixed the minor points you mentioned that I didn’t quote.

One other to-do: maybe put the billboard/toll-road image down where I mention that in the text? UPDATE: I did this.

I got it, just had to add a div. I did some ugly in-line styling for centering. Style still needs improvement (as does the CSS for the whole wiki)

Anyway, I otherwise addressed the other points above

1 Appreciation

I finally got time to look at this. Overall, I like the updated version of the page, although I don’t really remember the previous version enough to compare[1]. I do have a few suggestions:

  • I think it would be a good idea to explicitly state the intended audience at the start of the article. Both for the reader and as a guiding principle for future updates.

  • In the earlier sections of the article, I think it would be helpful to more clearly delineate when it’s talking about the game theory vs the real world. In particular, the more players section seems set up to discuss game theory, but then primarily talks about social norms and emotions.

  • Very minor: I am not sure it’s necessary to include the summary of the prisoner’s dilemma inline. It’s already well-explained elsewhere (we even link to the wikipedia page before our summary!). The main/only value I see is explaining the prisoner’s dilemma in the exact same terminology & points that we use for the snowdrift dilemma. At least, I think it would make sense to move the wikipedia link to the end of the footnote, as “more detail”, instead of up front. That would make the summary feel less redundant (and be less likely to send people off on a link trail, only to return and find a summary of what they just learned the long way).

  1. and I don’t think it’s worth my time to go back and check now ↩︎

2 Appreciations

I gave a summary in the first post in this topic. The prior version tried to avoid overly-strict readings by leaving out specific numbers and the whole idea of 2-player games. And it just asserted the basic intuition of “wait to see what other players decide” without actually leading the reader through the logic at all. So, all in all, it was more of a “this is what the name ‘snowdrift’ is about” rather than actually explain the game theory.

Hmm, but who is the intended audience? I think this is okay to show directly to people who have no context and will just figure out that this is part of some public-goods-funding thing called “”. It loosely aims for people who are reading through the /about pages, but not strictly. And even for a professor studying game theory, if they haven’t seen this exact game, they can read the article still even though much of it will be stuff they know already.

Okay actually, I didn’t like the Wikipedia mention at the top, it and even the Nicky Case thing are too tangential even though I wanted to highlight the latter. I moved both to a footnote following a simpler thing saying that game-theory background is not a prereq to read the article. I think that does a better job of hinting at the audience.

What do you think? Do you suggest something more explicit about the intended audience still?

Read it again to notice that everything there can fit 100% within game theory. It’s just not written out with numbers and not taking the time to spell out all the complex dynamics and possibilities. The implication is supposed to be that “what are others deciding” is simply input to game decisions. This can be simple computer programs. Although it describes some of it in human language, all of the dynamics in that section are things homo economicus needs to deal with.

We could make this more explicit, but I just wasn’t sure it was worth further separating all this and going into the details. At this point, it’s just trying to say that games can get really complex and nuanced (but say something more meaningful than just that assertion)

On that same article, I adjusted it to set up game-theory in general more with a screen-shot of Nicky Case’s “Evolution of Trust” and a stronger encouragement to use that as the background. Thanks to @Adroit for the encouragement.