Serving in the dark should be done non-uniformly

Yossi Azar, Ilan Reuven Cohen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We study the following balls and bins stochastic game between a player and an adversary: there are B bins and a sequence of ball arrival and extraction events. In an arrival event a ball is stored in an empty bin chosen by the adversary and discarded if no bin is empty. In an extraction event, an algorithm selects a bin, clears it, and gains its content. We are interested in analyzing the gain of an algorithm which serves in the dark without any feedback at all, i. e., does not see the sequence, the content of the bins, and even the content of the cleared bins (i. e. an oblivious algorithm). We compare that gain to the gain of an optimal, open eyes, strategy that gets the same online sequence. We name this gain ratio the “loss of serving in the dark”. The randomized algorithm that was previously analyzed is choosing a bin independently and uniformly at random, which resulted in a competitive ratio of about 1. 69. We show that although no information is ever provided to the algorithm, using non-uniform probability distribution reduces the competitive ratio. Specifically, we design a 1. 55-competitive algorithm and establish a lower bound of 1. 5. We also prove a lower bound of 2 against any deterministic algorithm. This matches the performance of the round robin 2-competitive strategy. Finally, we present an application relating to a prompt mechanism for bounded capacity auctions.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAutomata, Languages, and Programming - 42nd International Colloquium, ICALP 2015, Proceedings
EditorsMagnus M. Halldorsson, Naoki Kobayashi, Bettina Speckmann, Kazuo Iwama
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9783662476710
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes
Event42nd International Colloquium on Automata, Languages and Programming, ICALP 2015 - Kyoto, Japan
Duration: 6 Jul 201510 Jul 2015

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference42nd International Colloquium on Automata, Languages and Programming, ICALP 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015.


Supported in part by the Israel Science Foundation and by the Israeli Centers of Research Excellence (I-CORE) program (Center No. 4/11).

FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation
Israeli Centers for Research Excellence4/11


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