Optimizing for the short-term vs. the long-term
Published December 23, 2019
19 min
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    When data scientists run experiments, like A/B tests, it’s really easy to plan on a period of a few days to a few weeks for collecting data. The thing is, the change that’s being evaluated might have effects that last a lot longer than a few days or a few weeks—having a big sale might increase sales this week, but doing that repeatedly will teach customers to wait until there’s a sale and never buy anything at full price, which could ultimately drive down revenue in the long term. Increasing the volume of ads on a website might lead people to click on more ads in the short term, but in the long term they’ll be more likely to visually block the ads out and learn to ignore them. But these long-term effects aren’t apparent from the short-term experiment, so this week we’re talking about a paper from Google research that confronts the short-term vs. long-term tradeoff, and how to measure long-term effects from short-term experiments. Relevant links: https://research.google/pubs/pub43887/
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