Eating your own dog food and drinking your own Champagne

September 21st, 2012
by Christopher Kusek (PKGuild)

I’m sure some of you have heard this term before “Eating your own dog food” it’s even referenced in this Wikipedia entry, but I think it’s high time someone appropriately draws the distinction of the DIFFERENCE of eating your own dog food and drinking your own champagne, terms often used interchangeably.   Little shared fact. They are ABSOLUTELY NOT THE SAME DAMN THING. Yes I am extremely passionate about this, because it’s misused.

Eating your own dog food

This term has actually seen some of the most widely adopted usage within Microsoft as a corporation, in fact they had a whole section of the business solely for the DogFood servers.   But what does this mean exactly?   Contrary to popular belief, Dogfooding is not “running on your own products”.   It actually consists of taking the Alphas, the Betas, what eventually will become the products that your CUSTOMERS will eventually consume, and getting a large user-base onto these applications in a Production capacity.    Imagine the difference it makes when you have hundreds of thousands of users running on an internal beta of an application.  When things break, well, they get FIXED and FOUND faster. Not only that, but it forces you to write better code, be a better developer, do better QA. Why? Because when things break, it breaks HARD CORE for EVERYBODY.    So what came out of these interests was not only better written, QA’d and run applications, but also harder and more rigorous testing from your own experiences.   Sure you start off small with a pilot group, but then you continue to expand and extend that out to an even larger base.   At the end of the day and a product cycle you have your business running in production on what started in Alpha and grew to release; long before you introduce your first beta customer.   THAT is eating your own dog food.

Drinking your own champagne

Now there are these “cute” folks out there who are all “We drink our own Champagne” because they don’t like the message, the vision associated with dogfooding or dog food in general (Perhaps they hate Dogs, and likely hate cats? Who knows)   But here is the thing about Champagne and drinking your own champagne.    The production process to go about creating dog food takes approximately 5 minutes.  Sure it can take more or less than that, but you can produce consumable, or horrible dog food almost instantly.   Champagne on the other hand involves Harvesting, Pressing, Fermenting, Blending, Fermenting AGAIN, Lees Aging, Riddling, Disgorgement, Dosage, and Re-corking.

While this is not to be a fully in depth technical advisory on the process of actually MAKING champagne the interesting point of the metaphor is, the Aging process alone requires a MINIMUM of 15 months, not to mention all of the other efforts associated with things.   So when you consider what it takes to drink your own champagne you’re looking at a minimum investment all-in of ~5 years minimum.   I’ll tell you, if I had a solution, a technology, a product, and by the time I got around to actually consuming it, it was 5 years in the making; Yea. That is not a differentiator.

Oh but wait, your trite marketing or wacky sales guy is saying “No! Drinking your own champagne means we run our own products” Uh, I better damn well HOPE you have faith in your own BAKED and READY products you’re trying to SELL or POSITION to me, that you fricking run it internally.   So no, I give you no grace period, I give you no safety net.   Those who drink their own champagne better damn WELL run their own products, and that does not infer they are betas or early release or anything; because it’s eating your own dog food which really shows me you’re committed to your product.

Mixing Champagne with your Dog Food

So when you go out there on the road to message and position your latest and great product, or to talk about futures.  I encourage you to understand your metaphors, your analogies and take heart that I expect you to drink your own Champagne and take great pride when you choose to eat your own dog food.   Just because you eat your own dog food, does not mean it is GOOD, but at least it shows me you’re committed to the success of my business and yours.

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Posted in Baltimization, Microsoft, Technology | Comments (1)

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