British Columbia

Tim Hortons Roll Up the Rim to Win focus of developer's data analysis

A software developer has created a website to gather data on Roll Up the Rim to Win prize distribution.

Will buying a large coffee at Tim Hortons increase your chances of winning a prize?

New data suggests buying a large coffee does not increase chances of winning a prize (CBC)

It's a question plaguing many minds in Canada: will buying a large coffee at Tim Hortons increase your chances of winning a prize?

This was the kind of question software developer Kent English and a few colleagues were debating at work one day.

"We just got discussing the conspiracy theories around the contest,"said English. "It occurred to me the only way to find out was to collect some data."

To do so, English spearheaded the website Roll Up the Stats, which analyzes user-submitted data about prize distribution based on coffee sizes, regions, and more.

English is trying to collect as much data as possible. So far he's had about 4,000 submissions.

Tim Hortons does publish some prize data on its website, but English wanted more specific information that the company doesn't provide.

"This is a really geeky, data science way to get a little bit more information than he had about the contest," said CBC technology columnist Dan Misener.

So far, the data English has gathered dispels the myth that bigger cups lead to bigger prizes. It also shows that coffee is a much more common prize than doughnuts.

Misener says the project also illustrates complications with crowd sourced data that could apply to more meaningful projects like Ushahidi, which maps political unrest across the world.

"Whether it's a coffee tracker or reporting on election fraud, for any platform like this to be useful you first off need enough people to know that it exists and you need enough people contributing that the data is meaningful," he said.

One such limitation is that there's no way to verify the data people have submitted.

"I've had a few people who say they've won seven cars and a doughnut," said English.

Other limitations include a bias towards reporting wins and a limited sample size — the 4,000 submissions the project has received are only a handful of the 306 million Roll Up the Rim cups Tim Hortons says it has.

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Hacking Roll Up the Rim to Win

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