Dogfooding: Term Definition and Use in Business

Patrick Ward Patrick Ward Follow Jul 18, 2021 · 3 mins read
Dogfooding: Term Definition and Use in Business

Business Definition of “Dogfooding”

The term “dogfooding” is used in startup circles to refer to building a product solves a personal problem. The developer is also the ideal user, so they are also the consumer of “their own dogfood.” This term may also be used when developers are testing or using an app they're making for other developers.

What Does “Dogfooding” Mean?

Dogfooding is a compelling approach to developing a business, since it eliminates much of the need for user research. The developer knows exactly how they would want the product to feel, and since the product is for developers just like them, they can follow their gut rather than running extensive research and user testing.

However, it also creates a bias for products where the developer understands the user already, resulting in an enormous amount of products by developers, for developers and fewer products by developers, for other demographics.

There are some arguments against dogfooding in the corporate context as well, particularly when comparing it with testing on outside users or beta groups. Unlike beta testing, dogfooding involves no interaction from the outside world.

If you give a software engineer a copy of their software, they will know how to reach their desired outcome with greater ease. Their bias to their software will cause them to be blind to potential defects and improvements. As a result, many companies still prefer standard beta testing and focus groups as a primary testing channel.

The term “dogfooding” is especially popular in the bootstrapped startup community, where it’s a common validation approach for “indie hackers” and first-time founders.

What is an example of dogfooding a product?

During the late 90s, HP was first utilizing its own IT structure to handle remote desktops. Lab Director, Richard H. Lampman, was cited with calling the practice “dogfooding.” At the time, they were also working on “Project Alpo,” which sought to improve their internal business process. HP agrees that the best way to improve it is by experiencing it yourself.

A modern example of this comes from Oracle. As of 2016, Oracle Linux has 4 million external users, 84 thousand internal users, and 20 thousand developers using their platform. This usage ensures that producers are the front line of finding issues with the product. Oracle also understands that the best way to get the user’s perspective is by experiencing it yourself.

What are some other terms with the same or similar meaning to “dogfooding” or “eat your own dogfood”?

Jo Hoppe, CIO of Pegasystems, called it “drinking your own champagne.” In 2009 Microsoft’s CIO, Tony Scott, referred to it as icecreaming. Finally, the most formal term associated with this is self-hosting, where a developer or designer’s workstation would be updated to include the new or untested software.

Dogfooding vs Fishfooding: how does google use dogfooding to test products?

Fishfooding is Google’s preferred term for Dogfooding. It follows much of the same process: releasing a product to be tested to an internal team of people.

Google+ is an example of what happens without proper attention to “fishfooding.” Google+ was unable to attract a user base. The issue was pressed by the fact that the management team at Google refused to use the product. By making this choice, they may have contributed to the social media platform’s failure.

Origin of the term “Dogfooding”

Dogfooding originates from a 1970s commercial where actor Lorne Greene mentioned feeding Alpo Dog Food to his dogs. Another source comes from the president of Kal Kan Dog Food, who allegedly ate a can of his company’s dog food at shareholders’ meetings. This term returned in 1988 with an e-mail from Microsoft Manager, Paul Mantz.

Synonyms and variations of Dogfooding

  • Eat your own dogfood
  • To eat one’s own dogfood
  • Dogfooder
  • Dogfood
Patrick Ward
Written by Patrick Ward Follow
Hi, I'm Patrick. I made this site to share my expertise on team augmentation, nearshore development, and remote work.