Photo: adie reed
Last Friday, Google changed its homepage logo to a playable Pac-Man game in honour of the 30th anniversary of the game. Awesome! And then startup RescueTime (whose product we love) wrote a blog post explaining that, according to their analytics, people had spent 4.82 million hours playing the game, and that this was a huge cost in productivity.With respect to RescueTime, that’s absolutely not true!
It’s great PR for them because their post went viral on Twitter and even in the media, but it’s just not true. In statistics, there’s a thing called selection bias: by taking the wrong sample, you come up with results that aren’t related to reality. This is a different kind of selection bias: the assumption that if people hadn’t played the Pac-Man doodle they would’ve been productive instead.
RescueTime sees the additional time they spent on Google, but they don’t know the time they spent playing Bejeweled the day before. Selection bias. Even if Google’s Pac-Man doodle had cost any productivity (and we’re sure that’s not true), RescueTime’s figures don’t prove it at all.
The fact of the matter is that if people want to not be productive they won’t be productive. If you take away their ability to access Facebook, they’ll go to the water cooler or take an extra smoke break or play Solitaire. Google’s Pac-Man game didn’t change that.