Fog Creek

Dogfooding Until It Hurts

Dogfooding. Also called “eating your own dog food.” It’s pretty simple, right? If you work at Uber, maybe take an Uber car ride from time to time. If you work at Khan Academy, you’re probably pretty good at math by now.

In this video from 2009, Joel talks about dogfooding as being more than just using your own product. It’s about using your own product for everything you can imagine, even if that usage is a little uncomfortable.

We dogfood Trello, FogBugz, and Kiln in a ton of different ways.

We’re a software company, so we generate a lot of code. Kiln helps with that. But we even use it to hold things that aren’t “code” per se, such as backups of non-sensitive databases. We don’t have any real crazy use cases, like using code reviews to plan parties or the electric DAG to create subway maps, but that’s just because Kiln has only been around a few years.

FogBugz, on the other hand, we use for tons of off-label stuff. We use FogBugz’s crash reporting ability to read RSS and Twitter feeds and create cases when new items appear. We use its customer email capabilities to receive faxes. And we have a panoply of API scripts automating a bunch of different business processes.

Trello is a natural for dogfooding, of course, because it’s so flexible. We keep kitchen snack requests and lunch menus on boards. We keep track of who’s going to what conferences, and use it to plan their travel. Trello really shines in setting the agenda for and running our bi-weekly company all-hands meeting. Because Trello is so flexible, it invites a lot of different use cases. We’re still figuring out which ones really work, and it’s great to see a fast-growing user base figuring that out alongside us.

So, that’s all well and good, but if you really want to see “dogfooding until it hurts” in action, check out Beeminder, a tool for setting “goals with a sting.” You set up your goals, and if you stray from them, the service fines you an escalating amount of real money until you’re back on track. Beeminder is dogfooding heavily and publicly to keep their development goals on track. These folks are  literally giving away cold hard cash to users as a pre-commitment to do things like delivering user-visible enhancements or blog posts on a regular basis. Amazing. Even better, they have a Trello integration that’ll keep you moving those cards to the Done column regularly (or else).