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Eat your own dog food

At Microsoft we used an expression 'eating your own dog food' the basic idea is that you're supposed to use your own products. By using your own products you can better see the real world scenarios and problems that customers will experience. It's a great way to run a real-world usability test on yourself.  When you eat your own dog food it tastes awful at first (hence the name)  and there are all sorts of problems. In some cases the software is so bad it can impact productivity. However it's these pain points that help focus developers and product groups on fixing real-world problems that address tangible needs. If you're not willing to use your own products and software on a day to day basis what makes you think that someone else will?

I was reminded of this today on a visit to iRobot. I was listening to a general talk about robotics and human-robotic-interaction. (A whole different post).  The talk covered general robotics and company specific products such as the Roomba sweeping robot. As the talk let out around 9:30pm people mingled and talked. Then to my surprise the night cleaning crew came in and started vacuuming the room with traditional vacuums . I half expected dozens of Roombas to launch a coordinated assault on the building cleaning, vacuuming and polishing the floors. I'm sure the cleaning crew does a great job but it seems like a lost opportunity to learn and improve the product.

If your company creates a product, any product, that you can use on a day to day basis you should. Even if the use is slightly abstract and convoluted. Only by using your own products will you be able to find the pain points. Just remember to enjoy the puppy chow.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.