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Analysis: People Who Use Firefox Or Chrome Make Better Employees 127

HughPickens.com writes: In the world of Big Data, everything means something. Now Joe Pinsker reports that Cornerstone OnDemand, a company that sells software that helps employers recruit and retain workers, has found after analyzing data on about 50,000 people who took its 45-minute online job assessment, that people who took the test on a non-default browser, such as Firefox or Chrome, ended up staying at their jobs about 15 percent longer than those who stuck with Safari or Internet Explorer. They also tended to perform better on the job as well. Chief Analytics Officer Michael Housman offered an explanation for the results in an interview with Freakonomics Radio: "I think that the fact that you took the time to install Firefox on your computer shows us something about you. It shows that you're someone who is an informed consumer," says Housman. "You've made an active choice to do something that wasn't default." But why would a company care about something as seemingly trivial as the browser a candidate chooses to use? "Call centers are estimated to suffer from a turnover rate of about 45 percent annually (PDF), and it can cost thousands of dollars to hire new employees," says Pinsker. "Because of that, companies are eager to find any proxy for talent and dedication that they can."
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Analysis: People Who Use Firefox Or Chrome Make Better Employees

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    If safari works and is right for the job, why change?
    I think I've had to open chrome only a handful of times and that was a Java issue.

    • If safari works and is right for the job, why change? I think I've had to open chrome only a handful of times and that was a Java issue.

      Kudos. Safari is becoming the new IE in terms of compatibility, web standards, and for workarounds required due flaws / bugs / oddities / whathaveyou. So by using Safari, like the IE users before you, you are helping employ an untold number of web developers. Using inferior products is actually good for the global economy.

  • Well... up to a point. I can follow the logical connection that would suggest that people who act as informed consumers are likely to make better employees.

    However, I've recently switched back to Internet Explorer after more than a decade with Firefox and a short experiment with Chrome. I did so because I find that comparing across the latest versions of all three, IE was my favourite in terms of performance and user-experience. So I made a reasonably informed decision to use it.

    Making practical use of data

    • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @08:46AM (#49274469) Homepage
      You see a lot of this kind of stuff with people using the Surface Pro. Chrome has some behaviours (bugs) that cause it to drastically increase the power usage causing the battery to drain quite quickly. A lot of people have switched back to IE, and found that the browser is quite good. The Metro/Modern version is basically the only browser that is optimized for touch screen, making it great for the Surface. Also, the desktop version is actually quite good and most people have no complaints. The biggest downfall is that IE doesn't have great adblocking, but it seems that adblock combined with Chrome is sure fire way to have a short battery life.
    • Yeah pretty much. I was using FF since forever. Now I'm like, "FF why are you such crap?"

      So I recently switched over to IE, which offers more stability, a better UI, and equivalent or better performance.

      • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

        A better UI??? IE has the worst UI of any browser out there, completely non-customizable, URLbar stupidly crammed in next to the tabs, and its dev tools are appalling.

    • by jpapon ( 1877296 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @09:27AM (#49274737) Journal
      You're missing the point of the analysis (as is this Housman fellow). Which browser is the better choice is irrelevant. The analysis shows that better employees are currently more likely to use Chrome or Firefox. Whether or not Firefox/Chrome are better doesn't matter, all that matters is that, on average, better people use them (according to their measures).
    • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @09:28AM (#49274749) Journal

      It doesn't matter: they're looking at the marginals. Switching to a non-default almost certainly means you have some level of competence. People using the default will contain a mixture of informed and uninformed people, and about 1/3 of the density of informed people as random selection (assuming informed people are split 3 ways between firefox/chrome/default).

      If you have *no* other information, you will get better employees on average if you choose the non-default browser users.

      If you've got some way of assessing competence, then you're no longer looking at the marginal distribution and so browser choice provides no further information over employee competence.

      Or, looking at it another way, browser use is competence+noise. You can infer competence up to the noise by looking at the browser. However if you know their competence, then all browser use tells you is useless information about the noise.

    • Making practical use of data like this would be more justifiable if there was a clear case that the "default" option was inferior (which in fairness, IE has sometimes been previously).

      No, it's justifiable by the fact that people who used a non-default browser stayed 15% longer. It doesn't matter if there are false positives (people who used Firefox installed by someone else) or false negatives (people who, like you, made an effort to choose and chose IE). On average, choosing someone who used Firefox or Chrome gets you an employee who stays15% longer (and "performed better" although I don't know the metric or methodology they used to determine that), and if that's what you want, you shou

    • FF and Chrome have had performance and memory issues as of late but for me IE has too many other issues. Tabs locking up on a webpage that lockup all tabs in IE or even Windows. Tabs crashing periodically (this I think is more due to the lousy business apps). Freezing when creating new tabs and all initial attempts at typing an address going into previous tabs (often loading the new page in the old tab). I like Chrome and FF handling of tabs much better.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So... you are still using the same old default operating system?

    • by Steve B ( 42864 )

      It boils down to two simple facts:

      1. The default option is a mix of informed choice and lazy inertia.
      2. The non-default options are pure informed choice.

      The "informed choice" component of the former blunts the contrast, but doesn't eliminate it.

    • by Fjandr ( 66656 )

      If they were able to distinguish those who made a conscious decision to use IE from those who did not, I'm sure there would probably be a similar correlation to the former as there is amongst those who consciously choose an alternative. Unfortunately, it's much harder to separate that class of IE user from the more numerous default users, and so they are not included in the analysis.

  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @08:31AM (#49274357)

    The reason call center turn over is so huge is because the job sucks. Low pay, tough hours, no control over what you do, little chance for success, and career means becoming a manager who has no training and needs to explain to his/her bosses why the peons are leaving in droves.

    The summary shows the problem with big data: it's not the data that counts, it's what you do with it. And no algorithm in the world can make you make good decisions.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Thanshin ( 1188877 )

      The summary shows the problem with big data: it's not the data that counts, it's what you do with it. And no algorithm in the world can make you make good decisions.

      So the problem with pens is that no writing tool in the world can make you a good writer?

      • The summary shows the problem with big data: it's not the data that counts, it's what you do with it. And no algorithm in the world can make you make good decisions.

        So the problem with pens is that no writing tool in the world can make you a good writer?

        You had me for a second, but this is not a valid analogy. The valid analogy would require someone to say that their analysis has found the pen that will make you a good writer.

        • by mjwx ( 966435 )

          The summary shows the problem with big data: it's not the data that counts, it's what you do with it. And no algorithm in the world can make you make good decisions.

          So the problem with pens is that no writing tool in the world can make you a good writer?

          You had me for a second, but this is not a valid analogy. The valid analogy would require someone to say that their analysis has found the pen that will make you a good writer.

          Not quite, The analysis demonstrated that if you've gone a little bit out of your way to get a certain type of pen, you're more likely to be a good writer.

      • Writers don't look for magic pens to make them good writers. Managers seem to look for magic tools (like big data) to make them good managers.

      • by jpapon ( 1877296 )
        In some sense, yes, that is exactly the problem with Big Data. Many people expect it to be some panacea, when it is merely a tool. A tool that is difficult to use effectively.
    • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

      "Low pay, tough hours,"

      Apparently they spent half your pay trying to hire people. They should try not being obnoxious managers and paying a bit more or improving perks. I worked in a call centre, bad management was the reason I left. Never again.

  • How about people that took the test with a linux machine? That's a stat available from the browser info as well, no? Didn't check on that now, did they?
    • The study measured browsers used, regardless of machine.

      Aside from that, it seems likely studies such as this will be (and probably already are) used to make decisions the facts are unqualified to support.

      "Yes it true. According to our studies, people hired on Thursday will take more crap than your average employee."

      • "Yes it true. According to our studies, people hired on Thursday will take more crap than your average employee."

        Except there is no reasonably way to imagine that's the case. Whereas if in some weird-ass world you have no information on which to base hiring decisions except for browser choice, you'll be better on average with non-default browser users.

        browser use = competence + noise

        Incompetent always use the default, competent people don't always. Therefore if you have only browser use, you can infer compe

    • That would confuse the issue, since they were talking about "people who use non-default browsers". I'm using Firefox on Ubuntu, and it was installed by default.
  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @08:33AM (#49274367)

    I actually use all four of those browsers. I use Chrome for Google Docs, Firefox for high performance JavaScript applications and Safari for most everything else. Occasionally, I'm forced to boot Windows in a VM and use IE because of some idiots who tailored their legacy web app specifically for IE.

    I've tried using just one, but each browser has or has had too many deal-breaker bugs. Actually, I used to use Firefox for everything, but there were too many problems with it, so I switched to Safari. It's improved a lot since then, but it doesn't integrate that well with Mac OS X or Google Docs, so I can't use it for everything. One reason I tend to avoid Chrome is that the developers are assholes. When I report bugs, they just argue with me and tell me I'm wrong. I actually formally studied HCI and cognitive engineering, so unlike those assholes, I know what I'm talking about.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you've studied cognitive engineering, you should know by now that labeling a person an "asshole" is the best way to get them to seriously want to do your bidding.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @08:37AM (#49274395) Homepage
    Let me try my hand at this. I dont have a recruitment firm to clickbait but its worth a shot.
    Analysis: people who eat marmite make better television repairmen
    Analysis: people who ride motorcycles make better carpet salesmen
    Analysis: people who chew on styrofoam and roll around in pickles make louder burps.
  • by Drethon ( 1445051 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @08:37AM (#49274401)
    What about those of us who don't have any choice in the matter and are forced to use IE? I suspect higher turnover due to annoyance with IT.
    • At my last job IE was declared the "most secure" because my boss read an article sponsored by Microsoft that compared browser security. Yeah...seriously.

  • ...which application is online, you know what to do in order to increase the chance of being hired!
  • I'm sick of not being respected around here for my browser choice!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Safari users spend too much time seeking the approval of others
    Internet explorer users like to stroll in freeway traffic
    Opera users are entertained by shiny objects
    Lynx users are the most productive of the lot

  • your organization already had FireFox & Chrome installed on their computers when you got there? My current employer does. Of course, they didn't have Opera, so I downloaded that, which I guess shows some initiative. But I only use Opera, Firefox & Explorer for testing code, Chrome is my main browser on the PC. On my MacBook Pro, I've downloaded FireFox & Chrome, but use Safari almost exclusively since I prefer the reader function that Safari has. I use Chrome if I want to check my work mail at h
  • Many potential candidates using IE are applying from their current job where they are forced to use IE. If someone is looking for a new job while they are on the clock at their current position, they may be more inclined to be doing so at their next job too. Just a thought.
    • I'd mod you up for interesting, but already posted.
      I do think it's still entirely possible for some other factor like this to be relevant, well worth considering, or at least keeping in mind.
      I feel like there's truth to both.
  • Is the conclusion truly justified by the data? Or is it just a coincidence in the correlation between the two data items, i.e., both items are affected by a third unknown variable?

    .
    You need to be very careful when sifting through data that you are seeing actual causality, and not just a coincidence that has occurred.

  • ....forgive me, but if we're talking about EMPLOYEES installing their own software on company equipment, I think I have a better idea on how to make the workplace more efficient. It has nothing to do with with browser choice, either.

    • ....forgive me, but if we're talking about EMPLOYEES installing their own software on company equipment, I think I have a better idea on how to make the workplace more efficient. It has nothing to do with with browser choice, either.

      Yeah, sack the IT people who are still insisting on insecure-by-default, non-standard, closed source browsers. :-)

  • This is clearly case of data being misused. The graphic only tracks employees for the first 90 days. What happens after that? There wasn't even that much difference at 90 days. The trend for users of the four browsers was pretty much the same.
  • "I think that the fact that you took the time to install Firefox on your computer shows us something about you. It shows that you're someone who is an informed consumer," says Housman.

    Or it says that you are an arrogant shithead who doesn't want to use the tools that the company provides.

    Imagine if you were assigned a screwdriver to assemble an enclosure. You brought in your own screwdriver because "it has better handle". However it would have a Philips head instead of Pozidriv. Yeah, it would do the job, but the project actually uses Pozidriv screws. But hey, I'm so informed about what kind of handle gives a good grip.

    • "Or it says that you are an arrogant shithead who doesn't want to use the tools that the company provides."

      That can go either way. As-provided end user computing stuff stinks. I know, I help provide it and have to design everything to the lowest common denominator. Thankfully the place I'm at no longer has a hard dependency for all users on IE 6, but stuff like that exists. You also need to design the "for the masses" stuff in such a way that they can't mess it up too badly, to reduce help desk calls. I wou

  • by facetube ( 4023065 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @10:03AM (#49275039)
    Sounds like the Safari and IE users are the better-informed ones.
  • Many document submission sites of the US Federal Government not only require you to use Windows but also require you to use Internet Explorer. If that isn't bad enough, some require you to fill out forms using this godawful IBM/Lotus form editor.

  • by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @11:38AM (#49275955)

    If a group, race or gender 'x' can be statistically shown to be more 'y' or less 'z' then it is ok to use generalities about a group to make judgments about individuals?

    This is very same error in judgment routinely used by racists and crackpots to justify all kinds of craziness.

    • Depends on how you're using it. We all make at least tentative assumptions based on sex, skin color, boob display, whatever. Just remember that generalizations don't apply well to individuals.

  • Is it assumed that other proxies such as higher salaries, better benefits, career advancement opportunities, better working environment/conditions, etc. have all been tried to attract/retain talent and failed?
  • Oddly enough people on slashdot harp on about "correlation is not causation" pretty much all the time, except oddly this thread where it's a classic example, much better, in fact than all the times it does come up.

    Use of alternative broswers is correlated with doing good work, because BOTH are correlated with being competent.

    But correlation ISN'T causation and in this case using an alternative browser does NOT cause good work to be done. Neither does doing good work CAUSE you to use an alternative browser.

    Example: competent person decides based on relative merits to use default browser.

  • In other news, job candidates who fill out applications online are more likely to be computer literate than those who fill them out on paper.

  • SeaMonkey, Lynx, etc.? :P

  • Of course we knew already for years that IE users are dumbest [calcudoku.org].

    :-)

    All of this has to be rewritten once Microsoft drops the IE brand [slashdot.org]...

  • How is chrome not a default-browser these days or firefox? both have their own OSses, chrome is the default browser of Android now, and both are so much as the default browser in most Linux distributions...
    Also how can they absolutely make sure it's about the browser, as in some companies the browser is set for you (for instance it is set to chrome instead of IE)..
    And how does one make you a better employee if you use Chrome or Firefox if IE or Safari is just as good... Also why is it that a lot of webdev's

  • I used to work in the telecommunications field before I moved to IT (not a big change, but I digress) I started as a field worker, house to house doing the physical repair work. I was often warned "this caller is a real ass" by our dispatcher which I found it meant they managed to escalate the call to a real supervisor. Almost without exception when I showed up knocking on the door, they were always sweet & polite. The reason: I was a real body was standing there to help them, not read a script. Aft

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