RAIN schedule for Spring Quarter 2013-14
The RAIN seminar is held on Wednesdays from 12:00-1:00pm in Y2E2 101. And yes, lunch is provided!
Google Calendar for RAIN
Previous year's talks
Archived talks can be accessed here.
Talk AbstractsStrategic Learning and the Topology of Social Networks
Omer Tamuz, Microsoft Research/Caltech
We consider a group of people who each have to make a repeated choice between two lifestyle options, and who observe the choices of their friends in a social network. We assume that one of the two options is universally preferable, that each person's choice affects only his or her own health, and that any benefits are only observed in the distant future.
We model this by a Bayesian game of pure informational externalities, in which agents start with conditionally independent private signals. We show that the question of whether or not the agents learn the preferable choice depends on the topology of the social network. In particular, we identify a geometric "egalitarianism" condition on the social network graph that guarantees learning in infinite networks, or learning with high probability in large finite networks, in any equilibrium of the game.
Joint work with Elchanan Mossel and Allan Sly
Bio: Omer Tamuz is a Schramm Postdoctoral Fellow at Microsoft Research New England / MIT, and an Assistant Professor (on leave) at the faculty of the Humanities and Social Sciences division at Caltech. He received his PhD in mathematics from the Weizmann Institute, where he studied learning in Bayesian games, as well as other topics in machine learning, probability theory and ergodic theory.
Information Provision in Dynamic Innovation Tournaments
Kostas Bimpikis, Stanford
Innovation tournaments have emerged as a viable alternative to the standard research and development process. They are particularly suited for settings that feature a high degree of uncertainty about the feasibility of the innovation goal. Information about the progress of participants in these settings has an interesting dual role. On one hand, participants who have
experienced no progress start becoming pessimistic about the underlying environment and whether the innovation goal is even feasible, so learning about their competitors' gradual progress provides a positive signal about the attainability of the goal and provides an incentive for participants to continue putting effort. On the other hand, information about the status of competition may adversely affect effort provision from the laggards, who start getting discouraged about their chances of winning the tournament. Because the tournament's success crucially depends on the effort decision of the participants, the tournament's information provision mechanism is a central feature of its design. This paper explores these issues and suggests a number of design guidelines -- with a focus on the role of intermediate awards as information provision devices -- that help implement the objective of maximizing the probability and minimizing the time of completing the end goal.
Bio: Kostas Bimpikis is an Assistant Professor of Operations, Information and Technology at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. Prior to joining Stanford, he spent a year as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Microsoft Research New England Lab. He received a PhD in Operations Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010, an MS in Computer Science from the University of California, San Diego and a BS degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece.
Sales Mechanisms in Online Markets: What Happened to Internet Auctions?
Jonathan Levin, Stanford
Consumer auctions were very popular in the early days of internet commerce, but today online sellers mostly use posted prices. Compositional shifts in the items being sold and the sellers offering these items cannot account for this evolution. Instead, the returns to sellers using auctions have diminished. We consider two hypotheses: a shift in buyer preferences away from auctions, and an increase in competition or search efficiency that favors favors posted prices. We use a model and data from eBay to tease these apart, finding that the former is more important, especially for more idiosyncratic products. We also discuss why auctions and posted prices can coexist in online markets.
Bio: Jonathan Levin is Professor of Economics at Stanford University. His research interests include industrial organization and microeconomic theory.
Quality Externalities and the Limits of Reputation in Two-Sided Markets
Steve Tadelis, Berkeley
Buyers in two-sided marketplace platforms may draw conclusions about the quality of the platform from any single transaction. This induces an externality across sellers that reputation mechanisms will not alleviate. Furthermore, buyers who abandon the platform without leaving feedback will cause seller reputations to be biased. Using data from eBay, we document this externality and argue that platforms can mitigate it by actively screening sellers and promoting the prominence of better quality sellers. Exploiting the bias in feedback, we create a measure of seller quality and demonstrate the beneﬁts of our approach through a controlled experiment that prioritizes better quality sellers to a random subset of buyers. We thus highlight the importance of externalities in two-sided markets and chart an agenda that aims to create more realistic models of two-sided markets.
Bio: Steve Tadelis is a professor of economics at Berkeley's Haas School of Business. From 2011 to 2013 he spent a two year leave at ebay Labs, where he put together and led a group of Economists who focus on the economics of e-commerce, with particular attention to creating better matches of buyers and sellers, reducing market frictions by increasing trust and safety in eBay's marketplace, understanding the underlying value of different advertising and marketing strategies, and exploring the market benefits of different pricing structures. Aside from the economics of e-commerce, Steve’s main fields of interest are the economics of incentives, industrial organization and microeconomics. His research has focused on a firm's reputation as a valuable, tradable asset; the effects of contract design and organizational form on firm behavior with applications to outsourcing and privatization; public and private sector procurement and award mechanisms; and the determinants of trust.
To be announced
Sinan Aral, MIT
To be announced.
Bio: Sinan Aral