The Ultimate Dogfooding Story

I used to work on medical devices - specifically an EEG monitor. One of the things you can do with EEG monitors is an ‘evoked potential’ study. That’s where you shock the patient and see the result in the EEG.

Basically, you are measuring the length of time that the nerves take to conduct the signal from the point of the shock to the patient’s brain. This shows you how screwed up (or not) the nerves in their limb are (the length of time is related to length of limb and to any nerve damage).

I worked on many parts of the system, but I made sure I was one of the people we did the evoked potential study on (I wanted everyone to do it, but not all of the developers would agree).

I’m not sure I could put my finger in a saw, but I sure appreciate that the developer was able to do so. It makes me feel like the thing will actually work.

I didn’t listen to the sound…does stopping it like that destroy the saw blade?

I actually saw the Time Warp where Stephen Gass put his finger in the blade. There was a little superficial scrape on his finger. Truly unbelievable!

This is also an example of flawed design - when the stop engages, it ruins the blade, and the stop mechanism’s brake pad needs to be replaced. This would be ok if it saved a finger, but this design is prone to false positives, e.g. a bit of sap in the wood or an overly moist board will also cause it to trip. Yet (through good marketing?) this invention receives a lot of attention.

I once saw a test where the designer of a bulletproof vest dogfooded, by letting someone shoot him with a small calibre pistole. Maybe there is the potenial for failure not as big as with a programmed dsp, but when it fails, its far more serious than a lost finger.

That high-speed video is simply amazing, especially in HD. It’s like watching the hand of God touch the blade, causing it to disintegrate on contact.

What a truly awesome technology.

@Joe - Yeah, I’m pretty sure the saw is useless after that thing kicks in. In a video you can see the entire thing just crush like an accordion - but I’d rather buy a new saw than a new finger - LOL!

Of course, the danger from removing your finger with a saw blade is having your finger slip into it at reasonable speed. I think the inventor in the video, being as careful as he was, was not likely to have a worse cut than a quarter inch or so - at least, I would, in his case, stop pushing my finger into the blade if the blade failed to stop.

It’s a great invention. It works, as long as you don’t cut wet wood, or pressure treated wood, or the sensor doesn’t fail. I’ve read that the older versions tended to destroy the entire saw, but supposedly the newer ones only kill the blade? I’ve heard that he’s also added a manual shutoff to it so that if you know you’re cutting wet wood you can still cut it without destroying the saw… assuming you realize it will trip it beforehand.

What isn’t cool is that he is trying to get legislation passed that would mandate his invention on every table saw made. Sometimes I think there needs to be a law against mandating something that someone has a patent on.

Tom, you are incorrect. There is an override system that you can turn on, if you are going to cut something that will potentially trigger the system.

I’ll be starting my 3rd project in 4 years where a company is having the product built for itself first and foremost, and will then release to the public via sales.

Is this really that uncommon? This process has subject matter experts defining the software functionality, rather than coders trying to become SMEs and filling a need.

@Flolo - That’s Richard Davis and I recall his company being accused of selling body armor that degraded significantly in a short period of time.

My carpenter friend showed me this and I was astonished it could work so fast!

The saw blade, once dropped, hits a block of metal that stops it almost instantly, but most definitely puts an end to the blade, and likely the block that stopped it too.

Meanwhile, another good example of eating your own dogfood would be Dr. Barry Marshall, who thought ulcers were from bacteria not stress, also ate his own dogfood. Purposely creating, then curing an ulcer to prove the point.

Microsoft don’t take dogfooding as far as SourceSafe, I hear.

VSS is more akin to dog dirt than dog food though…

You stopped the story too soon. The inventor went to the major saw manufacturers to sell his product. They all refused to buy it. Eventually he built his own saw, dogfooding his invention into it. Don’t know if he’s been able to sell it to other mfgrs yet or not.

i work for a bank where one of the first projects i was given was to develop a salary application to manage the pay for the then 65 staff in head office. would this count as dogfooding? i gave them an app which is used to pay me now.
of course now that I’m trying to develop it further into something bolder and more user friendly (removal of extraneous features) i’m finding that the original dogfood was not really that great to begin with.

Clinton Pierce you’re crazy. That thing does not provide you with a level of comfort because it gets broken instead of your finger. Unless you’re comfortable breaking the saw.

It still deserves much of its respect.

But Jeff’s point is about dogfooding not saws.

Clinton Pierce wrote: It provides a level of comfort that NO TABLE SAW USER SHOULD EVER HAVE

If all cars had a big sharp spike sticking out of the center of the steering wheel – just think how careful everyone would drive.

Turning this around a little, I’ve long maintained that the best software is written by someone who is not only competent at writing software, but who is immersed in and feels the problem. I think it’s what elevates requirements gathering and good HCI practices to the next level. It’s that app, web-page, whatever that you wrote for yourself, that does exactly what you want, first time, every time, with such economy of motion and such instant gratification that it’s a positive joy to use. The complete converse of Lotus Notes, for example.

Too bad his product was rejected by the industry due to liability fears:

Replacing the broken blade is only 16 bucks I think.