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Eat Your Own Dogfood

The phrase “Eat Your Own Dogfood” is often used to describe the need to “use what you build”. In other words, use your product for real work. If you prefer an alternative to your own product, why won’t your customers do likewise? If you don’t trust your own product with your data, why should your customers?

I’d heard that the “dogfood” term originated at Microsoft but was curious about its origin. From a Google search I found a plausible etymology. A book called Inside Out : Microsoft–In Our Own Words indicates that former Microsoft Senior VP Paul Maritz coined the term in an email from 1988 with the subject “Thou shalt use the LAN Man server”. An interesting definition of the term can be found in MicroSpeak – An Unofficial Guide to Microsoft Corporate Lingo:

Dogfood — Microsoft concept for internal testing of software that’s not fit for public consumption, but good enough for internal purposes. Very unrefined and buggy, but containing basic nutrients. Coined by former senior VP Paul Maritz, but made famous by now senior VP Brian Valentine in 1988.

So calling it “dogfood” is an indication of quality (not fit for humans). It means more than just “use what you build”. The term is intended to mean “use what you build as early as you can” (before customers do). As Ned used to say when we worked together on Domino “we suffer through the bugs so our customers don’t have to”. The development of Notes and Domino has always followed that approach.

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