The Ultimate Dogfooding Story

In software circles, dogfooding refers to the practice of using your own products. It was apparently popularized by Microsoft:


This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2009/01/the-ultimate-dogfooding-story.html

I think the winner in this category is Dr. Evan Kane, who, convinced that an appendectomy could be performed under local rather than general anesthetic, decided to test his theory on the only volunteer.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9803E6D9123CE533A25755C1A9649C946095D6CF

He guaranteed the bridge’s safety by putting himself, his wife and children under the bridge before the very first train ever to pass it. The train passed and the bridge stood.

How many of us would have the guts to do the same for the piece(s) of software that we write? I wouldn’t.

Yeah, I don’t think that a bridge built of CD-ROMs is likely to protect the developer from a train.

I have done 1 better than that. I ate the same food (dogfood) as my dog for 2 weeks when we were broke.

Beat that Lorne Greene

why hasn’t this been widely adopted?

As I recall, the issue with this is liability (as usual…). The company would get sued into oblivion the first time that it didn’t work and that would be that.

I was talking about the SawStop over last christmas with my family. My uncle, who somewhat followed it’s development told us a very sad story. Apparently, the inventor of sawstop went to every major table saw manufacturer trying to GIVE away the technology. Every single place said NO. The reason? If they decided to use the technology, it could, IN THEORY, be an admission that saws without sawstop are unsafe, thus opening the door to lawsuits. Ryobi, Delta, Black Decker, Emerson, and Craftsman would all rather 3,000 amputations a year. Than maybe, potentially, possibly, having to defend against a lawsuit.

Capitalism Sucks :frowning:

Shane: Every single place said NO. The reason? If they decided to use the technology, it could, IN THEORY, be an admission that saws without sawstop are unsafe, thus opening the door to lawsuits.

By that reasoning, car manufacturers should stop adding safety features? Sounds like an urban legend…

Used a paper cutter once that would only work if both hands were used (one on each handle). This way your hands were never near the blade.

Of course, here in California there would be a lawsuit for making a cutter that could only be used by two-handed people…

Another reason he couldn’t get anybody to buy the sawstop was the 8% royalty he was mandating. While it wouldn’t eliminate profit, it would take a big bite of it! He also had a handful of fairly broad patents that discourage other manufacturers from developing their own.

Shimon: Actually, that did happen in the car industry. Seat belts were common in airplanes in the 30’s, but didn’t make it into cars until the late 50’s for that same reason.

Well, according to this

it was rather apathy, costs and lack of legislation. Not fear of lawsuits for selling things that were apparently unsafe without it.

Well, aeroplanes bounce around in turbulence. A seat belt is a necessity.

The problem with eating your own dogfood is: Dogs don’t necessarily like eating the same things humans like to eat, and even if they do, it’s not necessarily healthy for them. Making dog food tasty enough for a human doesn’t prove anything.

This does extend to the analogy of software development. What the software developer finds useful or lovely is not necessarily what the actual users of the product will find useful and lovely.

In particular, one thing to watch out for is a developer adding a feature which depends on a deep internal knowledge of how the system works before it can make any sense. Your users know nothing about the system! Act accordingly, by making the relevant prerequisite information visible for all operations.

In the saw case, I’d love to see it in at least high-school shop classes. I’ve had some dumb friends that are easily distracted.

Pros should make their own call. Also, there are probably good ways to make this thing cheaper more restartable. I can imagine the safety system being very useful for anyone who doesn’t do wood work terribly often, but has the space/money/use for such a device.

As for dogfood in general, you have to be careful. It’s easy to lose an objective eye for your competition if you let yourself into a bubble around your own products.

This is one of those areas where Open Source tends to do well, because for a lot of Open Source projects, the original driver for the project was to scratch that itch. I eat more of my own dogfood than most of my users do, I would guess.

I wonder what the MTBF of the digital signal processor is. I’d hate to be the guy who discovers it’s failed. Very cool, though.

For all the problems with developing enterprise software (i.e. internal proprietary software for a business), I actually think this is one benefit of it. At our company, we are running important parts of our business each day on our own software. I’m just as likely to use it as an end-user as a developer/tester. While the feedback from the users is very important, there’s nothing like my own feedback to drive improvements in the tools.

I agree with all the people who say there is no need for the sawstop mechanism.

I went through my car and disabled ABS breaks, took out the air bags, removed the seat belts and took away that pesky roll cage. I figure that a car, used correctly, will never nead any safety fatures.

Duhhh… It’s like that Seinfeld lead-in. We have activities that are dangerous that we are likely to get our heads crushed in. But instead of stopping those activities, we wear helmets. But some people are so dumb they won’t stop the dangerous activities AND won’t wear helmets, so we force them to wear helmets.

As for software. I write what I am asked to write at work, and am glad I don’t have to use them (someone else designed them). At home/side business, I write the tools I want to use but that don’t exist. Hopefully others will feel the same way.

I’ve seen the episode of Time Warp where he sticks his finger into the saw. It’s absolutely terrifying but does work perfectly. I don’t know how he had the guts to do it.

I take this one step further: I don’t write any code for anybody else at all! d-:

I make varying levels of use of every single piece of code I’ve ever written, even from the very first piece I ever wrote in any programming language.

I’ve never heard of it described as dogfooding, but hell - long live dogfooding!

I always thought I had the ultimate Dogfooding story. A former boss sat the team down in the conference room on day and gave us the eat your own dog food lecture - all while snacking on actual dog food. He passed the bowl around to share. I didn’t have any. I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid at that place either.

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One of the greatest ‘dogfooding’ stories with software is the story behind SharpDevelop which is written in… SharpDevelop.

The other downside to this device is that it essentially wrecks the saw. Still, I’d rather replace a saw than a hand or finger.