Ky Harlin, BuzzFeed’s director of data science, runs simple tests on news stories, with extraordinary results.

For “The 35 Best Places to Visit Over the Summer,” one reader might see a picture of Paris. Another sees a picture of Tokyo.

Harlin runs complex permutations of these A/B tests and analyzes the results using pioneering algorithms he developed to predict when and why stories go viral. The work that he and his team of data scientists do at BuzzFeed has fueled substantial traffic growth for the five-year-old news site as readers widely share its humorous lists and animated GIFs through social networks.

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