Thanks @daniel for the case study!

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Oct 22, 2023Liked by Daniel Kronovet

Really interesting Slack tools - and really wonderful comments in this section here.

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Oct 17, 2023·edited Oct 17, 2023Liked by Daniel Kronovet

Thanks for the write-up! This sounds appealing but I'm having trouble wrapping my head around it. I'm really curious about how this works in practice.

In our house, we use meetings to make decisions that wouldn't fall under things, chores, or hearts; for example:

• Reviewing/interviewing/deciding who moves in

• Establishing norms and policies (e.g. formal, like a guest policy, to informal, like how we label food)

• Resolving conflicting desires for shared resources (e.g. layout and use of common space)

We also have some responsibilities that have people in charge of them, because we need an external point of contact, a person empowered to make decisions efficiently, or a coordinator to organize information or logistics among many residents. Some examples:

• Finances

• Legal

• Maintenance and repairs

• Coordinating move-ins, move-outs, room swaps, giving out keys

• Handling deposits, damage & modification to rooms

• Security, health, safety

How do you handle these things with "no managers, no meetings"?

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Hey Ping, great questions. We have a few different ways of handlings those things.

- For recruitment, everyone who applies gets screened (by Zaratan). Qualified applications get sent to the house for discussion (on Slack), and then candidates meet the house either over pizza or virtually. After that, there's discussion (also on Slack) and if no-one objects, the applicant is invited to move in. One upside of having systems in place means that we we don't have to spend quite so much time behaviorally screening applicants.

- Basic norms and policies, suggestions regarding furniture layout, etc are usually first discussed over Slack and developed further at the monthly house circle ("no meetings" really means "as few meetings as possible"). One of the upsides of the hearts system, in my opinion, is that it keeps people accountable to soft norms and expectations. Apart from the guest policy and quiet hours (which are in the lease), there are almost no written rules.

- The other issues you mention are mostly handled by Zaratan, which is the "operational support" mentioned at the beginning. Zaratan handles finances, maintenance, legal, deposits, and ensures the house is kept safe and habitable. Two housemates ("house wizards") hold on to the spare keys and make themselves available to meet maintenance workers as needed, in exchange for a small rent credit.

We decided early on to position Sage as a house for people who wanted a "lightly managed" experience. I think we've achieved something close to a "Pareto principle" division of responsibility, where the housemates handle the 80% of the issues which take 20% of the time, leaving Zaratan to handle the remaining 20% of issues which would otherwise take up 80% of the housemate's time.

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Oct 17, 2023Liked by Daniel Kronovet

Thanks, this makes a lot more sense now!

Can you say more about how hearts work? What are the things that can cause you to lose a heart, and what are the actual mechanisms that deduct hearts? Can residents deduct hearts for other residents, and does that result in tension?

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Oct 17, 2023·edited Oct 17, 2023Author

Great question!

Currently you can lose hearts in one of two ways: by not doing enough chores (passive loss), and by being explicitly called out by a housemate (active loss). You can gain hearts in one of two ways: automatically over time (1/2 per month) or by receiving "karma", which is an acknowledgment of someone going above-and-beyond. The automatic earning back of hearts was very important to us, as it bakes forgiveness into the system fundamentally. Losing all your hearts is also the main way in which someone can be kicked out of the house.

In many ways hearts is a variation on a "strike system", but in my (biased) opinion more sophisticated.

You can find more detailed information here:



You can also get an overview of the whole system here:


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Oct 17, 2023·edited Oct 17, 2023Liked by Daniel Kronovet

Wowww! When I read this:

> Anyone can issue a challenge, stating a number of hearts they think you should lose (up to three), and their reasoning. The issue then goes to a vote. If you lose, you lose hearts. If your challenger loses, they lose hearts. As a way to prevent abuse, a challenger needs a minimum of 40% of the house to support them to win, otherwise they lose by default. If losing the challenge will leave you with one heart (or none), then they need the support of at least 70% of the house.

I thought, this sounds scary! Not in the sense that it would be a surprise, but that my instincts lead me to imagine the house falling into two factions after such a vote, with lots of tension and discontent that would be hard to recover from.

Has the challenge process ever taken place in practice? I would be extremely curious to know the story of how such a process played out, to the extent that you feel comfortable sharing it.

Is there guidance or a community norm about which kinds of disputes are/aren't appropriate for the challenge process, and what 1, 2, or 3 hearts should mean in terms of severity?

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Oct 18, 2023·edited Oct 18, 2023Author

Great point! I have two things to say:

- Public challenges are the last step in our conflict resolution process. The first step is to try and work it out 1:1, the second step is to find a housemate to help mediate, and only if that fails do you bring it to the whole house.

- Relatedly, it's important to recognize that the alternative to this type of process isn't peace and harmony, but rather passive-aggressiveness, simmering resentment, and people being opaquely forced out of their housing. There's no way to avoid conflict and tension, but there are ways to manage it so it doesn't spiral out of control, and this system helps do that.

I'll give a specific example from this past year. A housemate broke his leg skateboarding, and before he could get a surgical appointment, he spent a few days on the couch on a lot of painkillers. His behavior during that time made a few other housemates very uncomfortable. He moved back with his parents post-surgery to recover and sublet his room. Fast forward to a few months later, and he wants to move back. A housemate approached me privately saying that he "maybe shouldn't be allowed to come back." I replied saying that wasn't my decision to make (legally it isn't, as he is on the lease) but that the hearts system was available if they wanted some accountability. They ultimately decided to reach out 1:1 and work through their issues, to the point where they are ready to welcome him back.

What I take from this story is that conflict is inevitable, and what matters is how you handle it. I think a system like hearts achieves many goals: graduated sanctions, space for reconciliation, and protection of minority rights. Instead of thinking about how a system like hearts could create tensions, I think about what would happen without such a system.

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Oct 18, 2023·edited Oct 18, 2023Liked by Daniel Kronovet

Thanks again for continuing to explore these ideas with me!

It makes total sense that the prior steps need to occur first—the 1:1 conversation, and then the mediated conversation. And I completely agree with you that these issues need to be brought up rather than just allowed to brew unaddressed! But when I think about alternatives, the interesting comparison is not the hearts system versus no communication at all; it's [1:1, then mediation, then challenge] versus [1:1, then mediation, then other forms of communication].

The thing I'm trying to understand is what the challenge process contributes. In the example you gave, the issue was addressed well before the challenge step, even before the mediation step. If both of the first two steps have been attempted and didn't succeed, how would the challenge process help at that stage?

That's why I'm wondering—has a challenge ever occurred in real life?

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