Unstable equilibrium | Seth’s Blog

We’re testing a brand new way to host a charity auction, and I’m hoping you can check it out and even bid to support BuildOn.

In this post, I want to take a moment to explain the attraction and risk of unstable equilibrium, and there’s also a fun contest at the end…

If you drop a marble into a metal bowl, it will roll to the bottom and stay there. Every time. This is reliable, predictable and stable. We know what to expect from systems that find one spot of equilibrium.

But sometimes, there isn’t just one state. A situation could go this way or that. A brilliant jazz quartet, a well-matched game of soccer and a canoe in a river are all examples of an unstable equilibrium. There’s tension. We’re fascinated and are drawn to how it unfolds.

Goodbids.org is a project I’ve worked on for a few months with some friends. And we simply can’t predict how it’s going to turn out, so it’s time to test it in the real world.

Our goal is to re-imagine the charity auction. Most of the time, bidders in these auctions are looking for a bargain, which is out of sync with what the charity wants. The end result is often lackluster.

In Goodbids, every bid is also a donation. That means that the winner takes home a great prize, and all the other bidders get the satisfaction of knowing they made a useful and non-refundable donation directly to a charity that’s doing good work.

The unstable part? The nature of the auction means that the items being auctioned off will almost always go for a price much lower than they’re worth. The charity gets more, the winner pays less.

And here’s the contest: Until 4 pm NY time today, August 14, we’re inviting you to guess how much the final bidding will reach on the two items that are up for bid in our test run. The person with the best guess will get a collectible significance bee mug and some other loot.

Thanks for caring and being generous.

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