Brian Christian's long Wired feature on A/B testing does a good job of explaining the quiet revolution in product design we've experienced this century, the modes of thought that habitual A/B testing encourages, and the drawbacks to those modes. A lot of the products and services we use today are designed to a turn that makes the previous technologies look like stone axes. That's largely thanks to the ability to run multivariate tests on vast sets of diverse design-choices and quickly converge on optimal solutions that are continuously and automatically refined.
For that same reason, A/B increasingly makes meetings irrelevant. Where editors at a news site, for example, might have sat around a table for 15 minutes trying to decide on the best phrasing for an important headline, they can simply run all the proposed headlines and let the testing decide. Consensus, even democracy, has been replaced by pluralism—resolved by data...
Google insiders, and A/B enthusiasts more generally, have a derisive term to describe a decisionmaking system that fails to put data at its heart: HiPPO—”highest-paid person’s opinion.” As Google analytics expert Avinash Kaushik declares, “Most websites suck because HiPPOs create them...”
One consequence of this data-driven revolution is that the whole attitude toward writing software, or even imagining it, becomes subtly constrained. A number of developers told me that A/B has probably reduced the number of big, dramatic changes to their products. They now think of wholesale revisions as simply too risky—instead, they want to break every idea up into smaller pieces, with each piece tested and then gradually, tentatively phased into the traffic.
The A/B Test: Inside the Technology That’s Changing the Rules of Business
Gabriella Corley is a 9 year old with Type I diabetes who’s allergic to the insulin covered by her low-income parents’ healthcare; to live, she must take Sanofi’s proprietary Apidra brand insulin, which has increased in price by 1,123% since 1996, and which is only covered to 25% by her insurer’s Pharmacy Benefit Manager, CVS.
Since the earliest days of ecommerce, analysts have predicted that retailers would use their estimations of their customers’ willingness to pay to invisibly, instantaneously reprice their goods, offering different prices to each customer.
The Intercept publishes a previously-unseen set of Snowden docs detailing more than $500,000,000 worth of secret payments by the Japanese government to the NSA, in exchange for access to the NSA’s specialized surveillance capabilities, in likely contravention of Japanese privacy law (the secrecy of the program means that the legality was never debated, so no […]
Bamboo has lots of uses beyond just being panda food. Things like bikes, roads, scaffolding, and musical instruments are made from the fast-growing grass. But unless you are participating in a tropical-themed LARP, you probably wouldn’t want a shirt made from bamboo stalks. So why do bamboo bed sheets make any sense? Because yarn extracted from […]
If you want to work in tech, but don’t have any desire to code web apps to help businesses sell things to other business, you might want to consider a career in cybersecurity. Judging from the apparent complete infiltration of Russian hackers in American cyberspace, it seems fair to speculate that there’s a major shortage of […]
All moms are different. But all moms like getting flowers on Mother’s Day, and that’s a fact (not, however a fact we can document in any fashion.) Instead of getting chewed out for forgetting to call her on the second Sunday of May, you can take care of it ahead of time with Teleflora’s flower […]