Sunday, March 8, 2009

Bidding for Courses

It's a very dreary weekend here in Chicago, lots and lots of rain and fog and gloom.

Looking out from my building's gym, which is on the top floor, gives you a view of absolutely nothing. It's more than a little creepy considering most of the time you can see out onto Lake Michigan and see into Soldier Field down south.

It reminded me of a certain fog-laden sports disaster from the 1980's

And since the sun has not been shining and it's been too wet to play, I've spent the majority of the weekend sitting around alternating my attention between cases for upcoming classes and lots of other little distractions that are much more interesting.

I also have been giving some thought to the bidding process for getting my last quarter's worth of classes.

In short, we've got a bidding system that allows MBA students to allocate points across multiple classes (and sections of classes) in a multi-round auction format to try and get what we want.

The system recently underwent a transformation so that we now bid on individual classes (rather than a slate of multiple classes). Changes were also made to prevent anyone from speculating on the value of classes, purchasing seats in the first auction round only to sell them in future rounds for inflated prices (and they say we're all about free markets here!)

Anyway, I've been debating whether a certain strategy would be ethical, and even though I've concluded it wouldn't be, it still might be a good idea.

To explain, in the first round of our auction process, one that's already been completed, I mis-allocated my points. While I got two of the three classes I really wanted, I missed the third that I was interested in by a relatively small amount. Turns out I allocated way too many points for those first two classes, and just barely not enough for the third. The points I overbid for those two classes, were refunded to my bidding account, so I can use them in future rounds.

Well now we're in the second round of our bidding process, and I'm still interested in that third class, which filled up with 65 students.

However, our new system also immediately reflects anyone who drops the class (for reasons including they double booked themselves, they didn't read the syllabus, or complete and total accident).

Now I've been checking the system to see if anyone dropped this third class, and for the first few days there was no movement. Not one person dropped it.

Then, finally, one person bailed. So it's currently got only 64 of the 65 slots filled.

That leaves an opening for me, but also for all the other people that didn't bid enough in the first round or just figured out it's a good class.

So now the question is, whether I can bid enough in this round to get that one slot.

Obviously, the price will go way up. However, the fact that there's only one slot open is what's really interesting to me.

Because clearly, when there's only one slot, the person with the most bid points can get it.

So my thinking was that, shouldn't I go on facebook, where I'm friends with roughly half the class, and post a status update...

"I'm desperate to take class X with Prof XXXX and am going to bid (insert my actual bid + 20,000) points for it!"

If I could convince other people that I have more points than they do, and that I'm willing to spend all of them on this one class, then logically, if they believe me, they shouldn't bid at all and should just go after other classes where their points will work.

This definitely wouldn't work if we were playing a game with multiple rounds, but this hopefully will be my last bidding process, and it's definitely my last quarter of school...

Obviously that's not ethical...but then, I really want the class...

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