Arnold Kling  

Planning vs. Experimentation

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Hal Varian writes,

it is simple to run a controlled experiment with a Web page. Amazon can show a different page layout to every hundredth visitor and determine in a few days whether the new design increases sales.

Similarly, a search engine can run a controlled experiment to try out a new tweak to its search algorithm and discover in a few hours whether users find it an improvement on the old algorithm. On the Web, continuous improvement really is continuous.

...Old media just do not understand online kaizen. Their perceptions are tied to the print world, where design changes are costly. The Wall Street Journal spent years planning its recent redesign of the print edition and millions of dollars rolling it out. Yet it will be months before it becomes clear how successful these changes were.

The experimental mindset is more like direct mail than traditional mass media. Direct mail marketers experiment with different types of envelopes, different pitches, different offers, and so on.

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CATEGORIES: Business Economics

COMMENTS (4 to date)
flix writes:

This is exactly the reason why federalism works better than centralisation, why spontaneous order is far superior to central planning.

I'm surprised its in the NYT, unless, of course, they don't see the implications.

Damon writes:

You can access that wall street journal article for free with a thing called a netpass from:

This was literally in the last blog I read!

Zhu Benben writes:

It is not good. You can argue Soviet Union or China are experiments only on an unapropriate scale. Or at least you may argue that Scandinavian socialism are experiments. So we can learn if the ideal of welfare state is just that.

This point of view is bad. If all we can hope is experiment, that is really bad. Really sad. Hopeless. On the other hand, I think I understand what you are implying. But this argument I think, humbly, is empty.

David Z writes:


Every experiment gives us valuable insight about a world where conditions, tastes, preferences and needs are in a constant state of flux. In such a world, it is unlikely that we can ever approach a stationary state, Utopian or otherwise.

The point is, the less costly it is to obtain the results of an experiment (and act on them), the better off we'll all be in the long run. The sooner we obtain the results, the sooner, and more precisely we can react to those results.

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