“In any case, we have a headline optimizer that A/B tests different headlines . . .”

The above line is not a joke. It’s from Buzzfeed. Really.

Stephanie Lee interviewed a bunch of people, including me, for this Buzzfeed article, “Two Big Studies Say There Are Way More Coronavirus Infections Than We Think. Scientists Think They’re Wrong.”

I liked the article. My favorite part is a quote (not from me) that I’ll return to tomorrow. But right now I want to talk about titles.

After Lee pointed me to her article, I wrote, “Do you think your headline [Two Big Studies Say There Are Way More Coronavirus Infections Than We Think. Scientists Think They’re Wrong.] is too strong? Maybe ‘Scientists Think They May Be Wrong’ would be more accurate?”

Lee responded:

The other scientists I talked to (plus several others who made their feelings heard online) felt very strongly that there were flaws in the testing, analysis, etc. and, therefore, the estimates are flawed, which is why we initially went with “think they’re wrong.” I understand that you thought that the problems were more about how the researchers presented the uncertainty, not necessarily whether the conclusions were right or wrong, so I included your quote to that effect to distinguish you from the other folks.

In any case, we have a headline optimizer that A/B tests different headlines, and minutes ago it just chose a new headline: “Scientists Are Mad.” Which I think is apt here!

Buzzfeed uses a headline optimizer! That’s so Buzzfeed.

This would be a great Jackbox game: Optimize That Headline.