I took out the control node, plugged in a 'randomize value by range' into the 'set instance geometry'-node's input frame value port, added the 'current frame' node and those combined with 'add' gives each instance it's own frame offset. ('Loop Value' is just an extra to never run out of animation)
Ofcourse, it's okay now that I've figured this out but still - for clarity's sake (I'm trying to understand ICE) and perhaps for future/more complex setups: why doesn't the way it's explained in the manual work? Am I doing something wrong there?
If you got it to work, still with reasonable performance, you got it to work.
IMHO, for 'understand' ICE, best way is what you already did. Next step is to take look into compounds an try to build your own, something simple for first step. No one tutorial/manual can cover every possible combination of a few hundreds of nodes. These are just examples, introductions...
In first tree, there is nothing for randomizing the time, just size is randomized. Are you sure that 'control instance animation' is able to randomize the time ? If so, that's something new.
BTW, SI guys are frequent posters on this forum too.