Ariel Procaccia

Even the closest families and friends will split hairs when it comes to sharing rent, belongings, chores and well, almost anything. That’s why computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have created Spliddit.org, a website to help fairly divide our possessions, sparing all partners resentment, feuds or worse.

Launching earlier this month, the nonprofit site was developed after two years of work by Ariel Procaccia, an assistant professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation and Amazon.

“There were things that happened in my own family where division could have been fairly controlled,” says Procaccia, whose research focuses on the interface between computer science and economics.

Imagine a painless way for a small company to divide a profit among employees or for siblings to share household chores. Or for roommates to split rent.

Often a source of awkward resentment among roommates, fairly dividing apartment rent may now be easier with Spliddit. Is that room with the large closet worth more than the one with a corner window? The user-friendly site computes and recommends what each roommate should pay based on the value of their own criteria.

With more than 23,700 visitors to the site and about 3,000 issues addressed, Procaccia says he has received myriad emails describing the visitors’ applications, including one from someone in a band who wants to use Spliddit to evenly allocate studio time and costs among its members.

He has also gotten feedback from several teachers who are interested in monitoring students involved in group projects to determine those who are not pulling their weight and those who are contributing more than their fair share.

The site can also help rank cited references in published research work, a common dilemma among those in academia. Spliddit can help order the names, placing higher contributing resources at the top of the list.

“The hope is that we will give (people) a solution and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, that seems about right,’” Procaccia says.

For 70 years, mathematicians, economists and computer scientists have researched fair ways to solve everyday problems with fair division, explains Procaccia.

“All of our work is based on published methods, but the research doesn’t mention how to implement them. They discuss (methods) at the higher level mathematically, but not how you would go about writing the code,” says Jonathan Goldman, a senior computer science major who spent the last year getting the site up and running.

Procaccia says that currently, they are working on adding applications to the site, including cost sharing.

“There are many different concepts,” he says. “We want to give people access to the method and, as a result, make the world a better place… and show them that math and computer science together can be useful and beautiful,” says Procaccia.

Laurie Bailey

Laurie Bailey is a freelance writer who has reported for many local publications. When she isn't writing she serves as a media consultant for nonprofits and other local companies.