The Tragic Cost of Google Pac-Man – 4.82 million hours

When Google launched its Pac-Man logo on Friday, we immediately heard amused groans in our tweet-streams. “Well, so much for my morning,” said one. “Google’s Pac Man logo just ruined millions of dollars in productivity today, nationwide,” said another.

Here’s what we all saw on Friday:

Here are two of the tweets we saw in response:

Given our repository of hundreds of millions of man hours of second by second attention data, we figured there’s no one better than RescueTime to tell the world about the cost of Google Pac-Man on that fateful Friday. Here’s what we learned.

The first thing to understand is that Google does not result in a lot of active usage, in terms of time. Yes, we all use Google. But a Google search only requires a few seconds, and we’re all pretty well trained to click one of the first few links. Add to that the fact that many people use Google as a navigation tool (“Googling “IBM” instead of typing in “www.ibm.com”). Nonetheless, it might surprise you that our average Google user spends only 4 and a half active minutes on Google search per day, spread over about 22 page views. That’s roughly 11 seconds of attention invested in each Google page view. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but next time you do a search, count to 11- it’s a long time.

This weekend, we took a hard look at Pac-Man D-Day and compared it with previous Fridays (before and After Google’s recent redesign) and found some noticeable differences. We took a random subset of our users (about 11,000 people spending about 3 million seconds on Google that day) The average user spent 36 seconds MORE on Google.com on Friday.. Thankfully, Google tossed out the logo with pretty low “perceived affordance” – they put an “insert coin” button next to the search button, but I imagine most users missed that. In fact, I’d wager that 75% of the people who saw the logo had no idea that you could actually play it. Which the world should be thankful for.

If we take Wolfram Alpha at its word, Google had about 504,703,000 unique visitors on May 23. If we assume that our userbase is representative, that means:

  • Google Pac-Man consumed 4,819,352 hours of time (beyond the 33.6m daily man hours of attention that Google Search gets in a given day)
  • $120,483,800 is the dollar tally, If the average Google user has a COST of $25/hr (note that cost is 1.3 – 2.0 X pay rate).
  • For that same cost, you could hire all 19,835 google employees, from Larry and Sergey down to their janitors, and get 6 weeks of their time. Imagine what you could build with that army of man power.
  • $298,803,988 is the dollar tally if all of the Pac-Man players had an approximate cost of the average Google employee.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our Pac-Man data journey as much as we have. Next up in our on our data-hacking list, we’ll be digging in to find the laziest and most productive countries and cities in the world. Where do you think yours ranks?

About the data:
RescueTime provides a time management tool to allow individuals and businesses to track their time and attention to see where their days go (and to help them get more productive!). We have hundreds of millions of man hours of second-by-second attention data from hundreds of thousands of users around the world, tracking both inside and outside the browser. The data for this report was compiled from 11,000 randomly selected Google users.

About our software:
If you want to see how productive you are vs the rest of our users, you should check out our service. We offer both individual and group plans (pricing starts at FREE).


Nominate RescueTime for Best Startup in Seattle!

Hey folks– we don’t often seek recognition or PR, which is probably not necessarily the smartest business decision. So here we are, hat in hand, asking you to nominate RescueTime for Best Startup for the Seattle 2.0 Awards. The nomination form is here:

http://www.seattle20.com/awards/nominate.aspx

If you happen to be a fan of Tony’s Blog, feel free to nominate that for best Entrepreneur Blog as well. I’m sure he’d appreciate it!


Update/Resolution for Mac Firefox and Chrome Problems (update on Chrome issue!)

[update 2010-03-03: We have pushed a new Beta version for the Mac (2.2.1.662) that should help capture more of the URLs from Google Chrome. If you want to give it a try, re-download and install the Mac beta (links below) and let us know if this reduces the amount of time seen for the generic "Chrome" time on your dashboard]

This has been a bad 2 weeks for Mac RescueTime users as both Firefox (with v3.6 for Mac) and Chrome (v5.x for the Mac) have effectively broken RescueTime’s ability to grab URL information from the browser. The result is lots of “Firefox” and “Chrome” time instead of time for individual web sites. Yuck. We have some fixes for you, detailed below. The team has worked tirelessly on this (12+ hours a day for some of them), so please give them a round of applause… This is one of the challenges of working on someone else’s platform.

Firefox 3.6 Mac Users (note: 3.5.x or earlier users don’t need to worry until they upgrade)

To get URL resolution with RescueTime, you will need to do the following:

We’re not thrilled that an add-on is required, but it’s currently the only workable solution that we have available for Mac FF3.6 users. Big props to the Linux crowd, who had built this add-on for the open source RescueTime for Linux project. Woot! Note: without the add on, RescueTime will not get data for individual web sites.

Chrome 5.x Mac Users (note: Chrome is pretty aggressive about upgrades, so you’ll be experiencing this problem if you are a Mac Chrome user pretty quickly)

To get URL resolution with RescueTime, you will need to do the following:

We’ll be pushing out an upgrade to our Mac Chrome users next week (likely) but you can get a jump start by using the instructions above.

Please let us know if follow the above instructions and have any problems.


Note to Mac Users: Firefox 3.6 BREAKS RescueTime (but you can help!)

Attention Mac RescueTime/Firefox users!

At RescueTime, we’re Mac folk too (well, most of us are). That’s why it was a huge disappointment to us that Mozilla decided to be the only browser in the OSX market to ship without the ability to pull the URL from the current tab (a feature that RescueTime relies on to break your time down by individual site). A lot of applications depend on this functionality– it’s no surprise that this bug is getting plenty of attention in Firefox’s public bug tracker. Want to help? Vote up the issue and help spread the word.

What this means in the short term

If you upgrade (or have upgraded) to Firefox 3.6 (on the Mac only), your browser time will be reported as “Firefox” time rather than broken down by site.

Short term (or long term) alternatives

To not lose this feature you can stick with FF 3.5 or you can change browsers to Chrome or Safari. The RescueTeam has all shifted to Chrome by necessity and we’re really loving it– it’s fast and reliable. Note: if you do switch to Chrome, use the release version and not the dev version.

What we’re doing moving forward

We have a (sub-optimal) workaround that we’re testing— we may release that if testing goes well. We’re investigating other options and are hopeful that Mozilla steps up here.


Your Focus is Under Attack by Facebook’s Latest Re-design

[This Guest post was written by Scott Scheper, an entrepreneur, writer and investor based out of Southern California. Scott writes about truths and lessons that show how to get focused in our age of distraction. Through his online book, http://howtogetfocused.com, Scott releases chapters individually and leverages the comments from his readers in order to edit and enhance his book.]

Facebook's Latest Re-design is Distraction

Ever wondered why Facebook keeps releasing redesigns? I mean, the old design was fine, right?

Facebook provides an atmosphere to keep up with your friends in a neat, simple environment. This was Facebook’s edge. It was Facebook’s value proposition. In part, this is why Facebook surpassed its over-crowded competitor, Myspace.

Yet one thing remains certain: Facebook is a business. And in order for their business to thrive, they must make money.

In this piece, we’ll explore the “why” behind Facebook’s redesign. The goal is not to call out Facebook for being a distraction. After all, it’s probably the most useful online utilities, as it centers on cultivating relationships with friends. The goal is to promote awareness. It’s to make users more aware of Facebook’s goals. It’s to outline how Facebook makes money. And through this, you’ll see how Facebook’s monetization strategy sits is in direct conflict in making you a more productive person.

Facebook’s latest re-design centers on improving two things: (i) Increasing search-based ad impressions, and (ii) increasing overall ad impressions. We’ll explore why below.

I. Why is Facebook focusing on driving up search?

Facebook is driving up its search efforts for three reasons, (i) to combat Twitter, and (ii) to gain more insight into their users in order to advertise them (they’ll log which search terms you look for), (iii) display text ads on the results page.

Think about the people behind Facebook right now. They’re young, they’re smart and they’ve got confidence. Many employees within Facebook think they’re the biggest thing since sliced bread.

Search is a massive business model within the internet. Google is down the street raking in ~$20 billion every year through search. You probably recognize the thought process of Facebook. It likens itself to a caveman’s thought process.

Facebook’s caveman discovery process:

  • Google good.
  • Facebook good.
  • Google a search company.
  • Google like information.
  • Facebook have information Google can’t have.
  • Google make lot of money through search ads.
  • Facebook try to be like Google to make big-money-pow.
  • Facebook make search more important in redesign.
  • Facebook make more money from search.
  • Facebook happier

Facebook’s shift towards search prominence doesn’t add more distraction to its environment. I actually support Facebook’s decision to make search a more prominent part of their strategy and revenue model. Yet the fact remains that Facebook’s core revenue model sits on advertising, and advertising’s goals are directly aligned with promoting distraction.

II. Facebook’s Core Business Model: Distraction

Using RescueTime, I observed my time spent on Facebook. By no means am I a Facebook addict. In fact, I rarely ever use it.

“I use Facebook for development and work purposes. I maybe use it 5-10 minutes/day.”

That’s what I told myself. But apparently, I lied. RescueTime found that I use Facebook an average of 35 minutes/day.

How much would you guess the average user spends on Facebook? I mean people are seriously addicted, right? Maybe two hours, maybe three hours?

Nope, the average user spends only 45 minutes per day surfing Facebook; however, crunched into this 45 minute window is an average of ~70 pageviews.

More pageviews equals more exposure to ads (impressions).

Think about that for a second. That’s an average of almost two clicks per minute. There’s likely a wealth of people that drastically exceed that figure. Facebook is crunching out a massive amount of ad impressions in a very short amount of time.

This may prove why Facebook is so addicting. You’re actively engaged immediately after logging in. Before you know it, you’ve just wizzed on 45 minutes, which seemed like 5 minutes. Time flies when you’re actively engaged. And Facebook has done this better than anyone out there.

Facebook’s core U.S. business model centers on advertising. Yes, they have virtual goods in place (in order to monetize the areas where there are practically zero advertisers–like Indonesia, the Philipines, Japan, etc.) Being that their business model is contingent upon advertising, their goal is to drive up impressions, which in turn will drive up clicks (money).

Facebook also has more pageviews than Yahoo’s network of sites, and they’re fast-approaching Google. This means that Facebook has the potential to show more ads than Yahoo’s content network. Yet, Facebook’s ads, unlike Yahoo’s, are significantly more relevant (and also more pricey).

Here’s an example of a Facebook ad:

New Facebook Ad Format

Yahoo ads are your typical display ads (banners with pictures–Gif or Swf file). See below:

Banner Ads

But the images above only show the look and feel of the ads. The key parts sit within the system and algorithms powering the ads. This is where Facebook shines. Facebook has the data advertisers have dreamed of since the dawn of time: knowing people’s true desires.

Facebook knows more about you than you know about yourself

Sure, Facebook knows your personal information. They know where you live. They know where your friends live. They know where your family lives. They know your interests, your goals, your passions, your role-models. However, the true gems sit in the data. It’s more than likely that Facebook logs additional data about you. Facebook knows how much time you spend on Facebook per day. They know what time of day you log in.

Facebook also knows which profiles you click on most. Through this data, they can capture your hidden desires.

Let’s take a use-case example:

Ashley is an average looking 16 year-old high school girl. She hangs out with the nerdy crowd. Her interests include reading. Her favorite music is the Jonas Brothers. She’s having trouble getting over that nerd hump–and the fact that she still likes the Jonas Brothers.

Ashley has 246 friends. Not much for a teen her age. Her average time spent on Facebook outweighs others’ at 2 hours/day.

Ashley clicks on Stacy’s profile an average of ten times a day. Ashley knows Stacy through friends.

Stacy is a popular girl and hangs with the popular crowd. Stacy has 1,200 friends and her wall is always flooded with funny recollections of the previous day and photos–photo’s in which Ashley constantly browses. In Stacy’s profile, it shows that Stacy loves the band Greenday, and Stacy likes “rocking out.”

Guess what types of ads Ashley (the geeky girl that loves Jonas Brothers) will see?

Greenday ads (the band that Stacy, the popular girl, absolutely loves)

Facebook has the potential to carry this out. This is the truest form of relevant advertising. Facebook essentially knows what Ashley wants to be through the data Ashley logs in clicking and browsing Stacy’s photos.

Thus, the more you do on Facebook, and the more distracted you are, gives Facebook more data on what type of person you are; thus, allowing them to deliver more relevant ads.

So the question social networks, like Facebook, ask themselves everyday is, “How can we get, (i) more people using Facebook, (ii) more often, and (iii) get them to see our ads more frequently?”

There are hundreds of ways they attempt to do this (adding features like video, games, fan pages, etc.). However, the main way is through four core distractions:

The Four Innate Distractions From Facebook:

Facebook Red Notifcation Button

People know me. I'm a pretty big deal.

  1. Notifications: Those little red bubbles that display a certain number of messages drive clicks. People love clicking those little red notification icons. This is, in part, driven by the fact that your Facebook inbox displays the same style. And people love feeling important. “Ohhh ahh, someone took time out of their day to message me directly through Facebook? I must be important.” Getting a direct message is more intimate than a wall post. There’s a reason why the Facebook Inbox notification has the same look and feel as other notifications. Facebook wants you to click on anything with a red notification box. And looking at the new Facebook design, you’ll see much more of this.
  2. Email alerts: This is Facebook’s way of saying, “Get the hell back over here.”
  3. Chat: This is Facebook’s way of saying, “You’re not leaving.” When a friend ping’s you, “Hey! How’s it going? Been a long time. How’s the family?” You can’t just ditch them and leave Facebook. At this point, Facebook’s got you by the balls.
  4. Pictures: This may possibly be the biggest source of distraction for Facebook users. As soon as pictures pop-up in the Facebook news feed, say goodbye to 10 minutes of your life. People love pictures. It’s easy, pictures speak a thousand words, and conveniently for Facebook, there’s ads snugged next to pictures.

In order to negate these distractions in the face of Facebook’s re-design, I recommend the following steps:

  1. Use RescueTime to set up alerts. These alerts will help you identify and keep track of the time spent of Facebook.
  2. Get used to the red notification buttons, and feel comfortable in keeping them unread.
  3. Before you login to Facebook I highly recommend writing down your objective in logging in; if you try making a mental note of your objective when logging in, you’ll forget when you’re hit with thousands of social stimuli (friend requests, pokes, wall posts, etc.) For example, write down on a sticky note, “Logging in to wish my cousin a happy birthday.”
  4. Turn off all email alerts–anything “Facebook” should not appear in your email inbox
  5. Go into invisible mode on Facebook Chat
  6. Categorize your news feeds into groups–those that are your close friends, work friends, family, and “rando’s” (by Rando’s, I mean random people that you felt awkward in declining their friend request). This will help you not get distracted with photos posted by randos, as they won’t appear in your family group.
  7. Last, LifeHacker put together a great resource of Facebook Apps that help you get more productive
  8. Also, don’t forget about Facebook lite: http://lite.facebook.com

In the end, Facebook’s latest re-design centers on increasing notifications and boosting their search usage. Facebook is definitely moving in the right direction in terms of captivating users; however, it’s critical to understand how and why time flies when surfing Facebook. Hopefully the overview and tips above help you focus and become more productive online. Until, the next re-design, good luck.

Copyright 2010 creative commons How to Get Focused


We love surveys, yes we do. We love surveys, how ’bout you?

We love the fact that our users are vocal.  We get dozens of opinionated emails every day requesting features.  In the past, we’ve distributed a mess of surveys to get a understanding of which features were important to you.  But this survey is different…  It’s a more general “State of the RescueTime” sort of survey to try to help us understand more about you and your relationship with our product, how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go.

So whether you are a current RescueTime user or not, we’d love to have you fill out this survey.  It’s 8 questions and should be super quick.  We’ll select 5 random participants to receive a free month of RescueTime (so be sure to include your email if you’re interested).

Thanks much to all– here’s the link: http://survey.io/survey/8b287


Does working from home make you more productive? Yes (with data)!

[note: some data in this post is missing-- given that we work on and troubleshoot our own software, sometimes we don't get to log ALL of our time in a week, but it's consistent enough that I don't think it skews these results in a big way.  We also had a vacation in each of the months in question for 1 team member]

So about a month ago, the RescueTime product team decided to experiment with working from home to see how it would effect how we spend our time.  The initial plan was to run the experiment for a week, but we realized that we were paying too close attention to the affects of the experiment and would let it “bake” for a few more weeks to get some better data.  The data (4 weeks of it) is in, and there are a few surprises.

The control – Team of 5 Working from Work (in the office!)

Total computer time logged: 582h 20m
Dev, Design, or writing time: 224h 20m
Communication/meetings: 225h 10m

Efficiency Score: 1.33 (RescueTime calculates this score based on the ratio of self-identified productive activities versus distracting ones)
Productive apps/sites: 504h 50m
Distracting apps/sites: 61h 15m
Neutral apps/sites: 16h 15m

The experiment – Team of 5 Working from Home

Total computer time logged: 657h 50m
Dev, Design, or writing time: 287h 20m
Communication/meetings: 223h 20m

Efficiency Score: 1.30 (RescueTime calculates this score based on the ratio of self-identified productive activities versus distracting ones)
Productive apps/sites: 543h 20m
Distracting apps/sites: 72h 28m
Neutral apps/sites: 42h 02m (much of this is Google Chrome for the Mac, which RescueTime currently doesn’t track sites for– likely split between productive and distracting)

So the ratio of activities doesn’t seem to be meaningfully different.  There are less meetings (“drive by” meetings and formal ones are both tracked) but there’s a lot more IM and email.  That’s not what we could’ve expected.

But what seems to be hugely different are the totals.  Take out the commutes and the longer lunches, and the totals are quit different.

Here’s a chart:

It doesn’t look like much, but 5 people logged an extra 75 hours in a month, with the vast majority of those extra hours being productive development or design hours (about 63 extra dev/design hours were logged in the working from home month).

How we FELT

Obviously, working from home isn’t just about the hours logged.  When talking to the team, feelings on the experiment were pretty mixed:

  • Most people felt like we weren’t working as hard from home and it felt like a better work/life balance.  Turns out we were working a fair bit harder, but the time reclaimed made it feel more relaxing.
  • The team felt a bit less energized…  The synergy that you get when people are bouncing around ideas is pretty cool– we had a bit less of that (though we had wednesday lunches that helped a bit here).
  • People worked odd hours.  Working from the office forces you into the 8-6 mode and makes it awkward to tune out in the afternoon if your heart just isn’t in it.  Conversely, when you put in your 9+ hours at work, you’re a lot less inclined to work in the evening (even if you were spinning your wheels all day).  I think it’s better to work when you feel like it than to force an artificial schedule.
  • People were lonely, but dealt with it.  We all joked how excited we were to see our wives when they got home.  I personally made a much greater effort to be social with friends.  This was a lot better than the “I just want to get home and veg out” instinct that I tend to have after a long day at work.

Conclusions

Working from home gives folks a lot more time in front of a computer, if that’s what they are after.  With commutes, associated setup/teardown time, getting coffee from starbucks, lunches, and people dropping into the office, we’re all losing hours.  To be clear, all work and no play is a bad idea…  The really interesting thing about working from home is that we felt like we weren’t working as hard, but were actually logging about 22% more development and design hours.

What we’re going to do Next

A lot of us have expressed that, despite all of this, we kinda miss the office.  We’re talking about next steps.  I’m personally interested to try a hybrid approach.