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I think the key assumption in this statement is this: "Clearly going from 30 minutes to 30 seconds would be a big improvement." I suspect that sometimes the dynamic is actually the opposite of what the reader implied. With small changes in response time you can probably assume an increase in throughput. If response time improves from 10 seconds to 5 seconds, you can probably assume the users will get more work done.

But with large changes in response time (in either direction), I believe you will see users adopt offsetting behaviors that can outweigh any differences in response time. For example, years ago when computers were changing from batch processing to interactive processing there were some studies that tried to assess the improvements in productivity attributable to interactive systems. Surprisingly, I don't recall reading any study that found clear evidence of an improvement in productivity in the move from batch processing to interactive processing. Instead, the studies found that programmers had adapted to the long wait times in batch processing environments and filled their wait time with other useful activities.

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