Wednesday, January 23, 2002

The Myth of "Seven, Plus or Minus 2. Psychologist George Miller published the original study in 1956... [xBlog: Visual thinking linking | XPLANE]

Miller's study was strictly about the limits of short term memory, which is on the order of 7 bits. It's why you forget a phone number if you get interrupted before dialing it. Th piece here talks about the mistake in taking this particular bit of psychological research and extrapolating from it to a design heuristic around menu choices in web design. If you can read the menu choices, then short term memory isn't really an issue. But it sounds so much more impressive in a design meeting to quote from some research you've never bothered to read.

It's a seminal piece of psychological research. The article links to it, or you can find it here.  Take the time to read it and then come to your own conclusions about when to apply it.

4:48:59 PM •  • comment  

Amazon may spark new shipping war: "Amazon said it would not raise prices to pay for the program, even though Bezos said "it will be expensive" in the short term. The long-term goal is to increase the average order size, and Bezos said that the company's research leads it to believe that demand is elastic enough to support the program. "

Certainly looks like Amazon's long term goal here is to compete on scale, driving volume through a high-fixed cost system. It does raise an interesting question of what their average order size is now if they're offering free shipping on orders over $100. Something to go dig out of their financials.

10:14:44 AM •  • comment  

Amazon Ships to Sorting Machine Beat: "One big goal had been to reduce errors in keeping track of the several million items continually being placed onto and pulled off of hundreds of thousands of bins on metal shelves. In theory, Amazon's computers know exactly where each item is at any moment. But in 2000, the computers were wrong more than 10 percent of the time, causing delays as workers searched for missing items and restocked spares. "

Amazon just reported a profitable fourth quarter for the first time. One element in that is the degree of design built into their overall business model. Amazon has argued all along that immediate profitability wasn't its first goal. This begins to reveal some of the work behind the scenes supporting their argument.

Shipping quantity one to individual addresses is a huge logistics nightmare. Wal-Mart can't do it. Fingerhut is one of the few other organizations that can. It takes a tight integration of technology, information systems, and people to work. One of the essential elements is the accuracy of the information in the system. Typically the information systems need to reach 99% or better accuracy before you can rely on them to drive operating level processes like Amazon's distribution center.

10:09:47 AM •  • comment