Reverse Weight Priority Voting and The Black Box

As I’m sure is standard in family trips, in Maine we need a means of finding something to do that everyone will enjoy. I don’t know how your families do this, but in my family there are two particular ways – reverse weight priority voting (RWPV) and black box.

Reverse weight priority voting is a traditional open-source method based on mathematically approximating the overall relative group disposition towards each of a set of given activities. The way that RWPV works is each participant nominates a given number of activities, often two. These activities are listed on the left side of a chart, and each participant’s name (or initial) is listed as the heading of a column. Each person gives each option one rating, where lower ratings indicate more desire to perform the activity, hence “reverse weight priority.” Ratings range from 1 to n where n is the number of options. Per person, each rating is unique – that is, I may not assign two activities the same rating. When assigning ratings, the previous person’s ratings are hidden so that ratings reflect as much as possible only the rater’s opinions.IMG_20140720_194909391Once all ratings are in, they are summed, and the lowest total wins! If there is time for multiple activities, participants may proceed from lowest to highest. In the above example Alice and I decided that I would write my blog and she would exercise. We both gave the act of killing a poor score, but Alice indicated she’d rather engage in murder than watch yet another episode of “Flight of the Conchords,” which I thought was harsh. Just kidding, “The Act of Killing” is another movie we’re watching.

Now for contrast, the “black box” method involves giving all activities to one person, such as my mother, who then, according to a proprietary algorithm not available to the public, generates a calendar which she places on the refrigerator. The term “black box” originates from computer science indicating any system whose internal workings cannot be investigated. An alternative method known as the “birthday box” method involves the individual who’s birthday it is deciding all activities for everyone.



4 thoughts on “Reverse Weight Priority Voting and The Black Box”

    1. I vote for RWPV.
      It was invented in 1972 or so by me and Jim Cox, but we didn’t call it that. Many a fine game was chosen using the system. As I remember, I frequently chose 3M baseball, but it rarely won.

      This is not to say the system wasn’t invented independently by someone else at some other time; in fact, it must have been, because I’ve read about it since, and we never published.


  1. In the first sentence of the black box method paragraph, I think you can delete “such as”. My suspicion is that the proprietary algorithm will only run on your mother’s hardware.

  2. Jennifer Leeman says:
    The black box method is more efficient that RWPV and also takes into account the needs of those who are not voting. Planning activities for an entire week is challenging. Do we RWPV every day? every time someone wants to do something? And while we were in Maine, we were not only trying to meet the needs of those staying in our lovely cottage, we are also trying to meet the needs of others, particularly grandparents, who would only be involved in some activities and were not directly involved in the decision making processes. In situations like these, a benevolent black box may be the best option.

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