Product specifications are statements, often quantitative, about a product. They can describe the amount of product provided (e. g. net weight of package contents), the concentration of a given ingredient or constituent (fat grams per serving), a measure of performance (output in lumens of a compact fluorescent light). Some specifications are qualitative rather than quantitative, but nevertheless lend themselves to rank ordering of preferences. An example would be presence of a feature being preferable over its absence (e. g. certified organic), or vice versa (loyalty card required to obtain at advertised price).


In the context of pubwan activity, a participant can state a preference for more or less of (or to maximize or minimize) a particular quantity or measurement. Likewise the boolean values true and false can be ranked (either way) by preference, as can categories (vegan > ovo-lacto > meats). For finer resolution, max or min thresholds could be specified (min=1 unit, max=5 units).


In the maxhi schema, specification preferences are assigned high or low priority. For finer resolution, priority could be high, medium or low. It could also be specified on a scale of 0.0000 to 1.0000. Having only two degrees of priority, like having only two degrees of preference, is of course arbitrary, and undertaken for the sake of speed and simplicity. A low resolution priority specification was chosen for the initial description of maxhi schema because the early stages of pubwan implementation will entail some volunteer data entry, so we want participants to be able to assign normative preferences and priorities to specifications of large numbers of products and product bundles, and to do so "on the fly," so to speak. Combining a preference with a priority we get four maxhi designations: maxhi, maxlo, minhi, minlo. A fifth designation, nullo indicates neutrality or apathy regarding a particular specification.

Norms and normsets

One rationale behind maxhi schema is as a tool for people to tabulate or communicate their normative preferences. These can be seen as 'moral' preferences, as contrasted with obviously self-interested preferences such as maximizing the amount obtained or minimizing the amount spent. In the still-evolving terminology of pubwan, a norm is the assignment by one participant of one maxhi-designation to one specification. A normspec would be all of the participant's norms for one product category. All of a participant's normspecs combined would be his or her normset.

Normsets and utility

General utility 2.0 is a framework for identifying and classifying the 'dimensions' of well-being or flourishing. To the extent that maximizing utility involves tradeoffs, maxhi schema can help to identify which tradeoffs are more or less palatable.

Group norms

Stack the normsets of two or more individuals and we have group norms. One application of this is to identify pairs of participants whose self-interest-based maxhi designations contrast one another, which is to say, occupy different regions of 'utility space.' These may represent opportunities for gains from trade. Another is identifying clusters of normative maxhi designations. This may identify groups of people who have a similar agenda concerning the future, i.e. factions, and may also be the basis for a social networking function of pubwan.

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