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A Wolf's Dilemma

Posted by daniel on July 23, 2003 at 5:39 AM PDT

Cory Doctorow looks at the SCO Linux strategy as a high-stakes version of the Prisoner's Dilemma. You can read more about this classic game at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The key is summarized there as "whatever the other does, each is better off confessing than remaining silent. But the outcome obtained when both confess is worse for each than the outcome they would have obtained had both remained silent."

Be warned before following the link to Cory's blog that it does contain adult language. Ok, with that warning, here's the link to Cory's blog: SCO stages high-stakes Prisoner's Dilemma. Cory summarizes the situation as, "if no one pays, no one gets sued. If everyone pays, no one gets sued. If some people pay, everyone else gets sued." In the follow up to this entry, Ashley Yakeley points out that this is actually Wolf's Dilemma because the reward for everyone cooperating is greater than the reward for jumping ship and the sucker and punishment amounts are identical.
Cory has a remarkable ability to put a situation in a context that clarifies the issues. If his metaphor is off by one, he still has captured the situation in a couple of paragraphs.

There is another significant way in which the SCO case differs from both the Prisoner's dilemma and Wolf's dilemma. In each of the classic games, the players make their decisions at the same time in isolation. In the current case, the players can sit around and watch the game develop. They can often see whether other companies decide to pay a license fee or not. They can watch to see which law suits SCO decides to bring.

How does adding a time axis and partial knowledge of other players alter the game? Does it make it more likely for players to cooperate or to defect? In today's Java Today News Headlines there is a link to the CNet story Coding: Should it stay or should it go discussing the sending of software development work to lower-cost locations to improve profits. Is this is a variation of the same game? If none of your competitors engage in this practice then you don't feel you have to. As some of your competitors begin to send development to other countries, you fear that you won't be able to compete and consider following the same practice.

Today's Weblogs are just for fun. James Gosling posts a fun picture of bean bags being sold on the street in Brazil which he labels Duke's family out for a stroll in Brazil Will Guaraldi is our second guest poet. I was on his site for another reason and spotted this regexp haiku and asked his permission to republish it here.

In the Also Today section, you are invited to contribute to the Javapedia page on FrameworksAndLibraries. Add a link to and a short description of a framework or library you find particularly useful. In J2SE 1.4 it became easier to manage the focus order for components in your Swing application. John Zukowski highlights the FocusTraversalPolicy class in his developerWorks article Focus management system reworked.

Steve Mallett, the Java Today news editor has gathered the following
Java Today News Headlines : href=""> "FindBugs 0.6.1 Release", "jUDDI 0.8.0 Released", "OpenSymphony Announces OSCache 2.0 Beta", "Java 2 for NetBSD/i386 binaries available", and "Coding: Should it stay or should it go?".

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