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 Consensus, even democracy, has been replaced by pluralism—resolved by data...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
In Millionaire Migration and the Taxation of the Elite: Evidence from Administrative Data, Stanford sociologist Cristobal Young builds on his substantial research on “millionaire migration,” to show that only a small minority of millionaires move when local taxes go up — far too few to represent a net loss to the tax coffers.
Many years ago, EFF co-founder John Gilmore and I were discussing the prevalence of botnets, which are commonly used to launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that overwhelm websites with floods of traffic; John said that if the botnets were really on the rise at the reported rate, we should expect to see a […]
Anonymous Analytics describes itself as “a faction of Anonymous” that uses its “unique skills to expose fraud and corruption among public companies.”
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