Defining dogfooding

What does the term dogfooding mean in software development?
November 10, 2020Programming
2 min read

"They should have spent more time dogfooding that app! It's so bad!" - Techies

The term "dogfooding" is slang in the world of Information Technology (I.T.) for a company using its own products to find and resolve bugs.

History of dogfooding

The term originated from a popular 1976 TV spot for Alpo dog food, starring Lorne Greene. Lorne fed Alpo dog food to his own dog in the commercial. Since then, "dogfooding" or “eating your own dog food” was adopted as the term that refers to trying a product internally before it goes to market. It is a widely accepted practice of most organizations.

First use of dogfooding

The first use of "dogfooding" was in 1988, when Microsoft executive Paul Maritz was desperately searching for users to test a new product. Paul e-mailed a colleague saying, “We are going to have to eat our own dogfood and test the product ourselves.” They then created an internal server called “dogfood” and sent the product out to staff.

A recent example

A more recent example of "dogfooding" comes from the on-demand ride app, Lyft. They take their dogfooding efforts seriously. All corporate employees, including executives, are required to spend at least 4 hours as a Lyft driver every quarter. This puts them in the driver's seat and allows them to test out the Lyft app as if they were an actual user of it.

Benefits of dogfooding

Teams that don't engage in "dogfooding" may end up building a product that they only think a user wants. The product can become a solution that was looking for a problem to solve rather than a solution to an actual user need. If a solution solves a real user need, employees should naturally want to use it.

Dogfooding shows that a team or company is confident about its products. Dogfooding is a good opportunity to view your own product from the perspective of an end user, allowing you to validate that the user experience is exactly what you want it to be.

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