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At a PARC Forum a few years ago, I heard Marissa Mayer mention the work they did at Google to pick just the right shade of blue for link anchors to maximize click-through rates. It was an interesting, if somewhat bizarre, finding that shed more light on Google’s cognitive processes than on human ones. I suppose this stuff only really matters when you’re operating at Google scale, but normally the effect, even if statistically-significant, is practically meaningless. But I digress.

I am writing a paper in which I would like to cite this work. Where do I find it? I tried a few obvious searches in the ACM DL and found nothing. I searched in Google Scholar, and I believe I found a book chapter that cited a Guardian article from 2009, which mentioned this work. But that was last night, and today I cannot re-find that book chapter, either by searching or by examining my browsing history. The Guardian article is still open in a tab, so I am pretty sure I didn’t dream up the episode, but it is somewhat disconcerting that I cannot retrace my steps.

I then resorted to tweeting out the question. So far, it’s been re-tweeted twice, but nobody has responded with any clues to follow up.

I feel like that proverbial programmer:

Once there was a programmer who had a problem that he thought he could solve with recursion. Now he had two problems.

Not only am no closer to discovering a suitably-documented description of Google’s experiments, but also I am at a loss about why I cannot re-find that book chapter.

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