Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Trouble with Dog Food

Eating your own dog food is a popular practice in the software industry. It's a good idea, but like all good ideas it can be taken to harmful extremes. With that in mind, a few thoughts about the dark side of dog food:
  • The more a developer uses the product the more comfortable they'll make that product for themselves. This is great if the developer is representative of the target user, but a problem if they're not. The thing is, they're more often not.
  • Extreme dogfooding, where you use your own products to the exclusion of all others, gives you a warped perspective on the market. You should be familiar with all of the products in your space, and you should use the ones you like the best. . . After all, that's what your customers will do. Anything else is just lying to yourself. There's a fine line between eating your own dog food and drinking your own Kool-Aid.
  • In a large company with multiple teams, remember it's only eating your own dog food when it's the product you're working on. When you're not in control of the product in question, then all you're doing is beta testing.
So go ahead and eat your own dog food, but make sure it's part of a balanced meal, and remember that it's no substitute for actually paying attention to your real users.


True, true. It's all about balance.
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