Dogfood, Nom Nom Nom

Dog food, the common noun, is reasonably self explanatory (pro tip: it’s food for dogs). Dogfood the verb or dogfooding the verbal noun, though, might require a little bit of explanation.

At the root of it is this: if you make dog food, you should feed it to your own dogs. There are essentially two reasons for this:

  1. If you don’t personally test it, how will know if it’s any good?
  2. If your dogs don’t eat it, why the hell should anyone else’s?

The same principle applies to software. Even more so in fact, as it’s something you’re more able to test directly. As a simple example: in Google, we use Google docs for most documentation purposes (design docs, presentations, etc.). I’m willing to bet that folks at Apple use iWork for much the same purpose. I’m absolutely certain that Microsoft employes use Office, excepting those times when it’s necessary to write a document in the blood of a green eyed virgin upon the pressed skin of an albino goat.

This process is called dogfooding. You use the software internally before it’s released to users, ensuring that it gets a lot more test usage. As an added bonus, developers who actually use the software they create are more likely to create software that’s actually worth using. That’s not always the case, of course, since most developers don’t really fall into the “average users” category. Case in point: upgrading my computer to Lion broke my installation of Steam. I fixed it with a quick command line incantation, then performed a couple more in order to make The Stanley Parable functional under OSX. Most computer users would not be comfortable doing something like this, nor should they have to.

As well as using your company’s products at work, it’s generally a good idea to use them at home. It’s always good to have a feel for what your company actually does and get more experience with it. I’ve used Google search more or less exclusively for at least ten years. That’s not really a hard choice. It gives the best results. Likewise, I started using Google Chrome is my main web browser pretty much as soon as it was available for the platforms I used (in my last job that was actually Windows, OSX and Linux). I use iPhone in preference to Android, however, though I do have an upgrade due me towards the end of the year and it’s not completely inconceivable that I might switch. For the time being at least, I’m definitely sticking with WordPress, so I won’t get to play with Blogger, Google Analytics or AdSense, either.

As well as dogfooding Google products at work, we also dogfood technologies and platforms. This sounds fairly obvious, but it’s not always the case with companies who create platform technology. Microsoft, for instance, used to be famous for not using the technologies they provided to developers internally, though they are getting better now. Some of Google’s technologies are open source, and thus available for everyone to use. Guice and Protocol Buffers are pretty good examples of this. Guice is amazing, by the way. This being the case, there’s nothing to stop me using them on personal projects, should that be appropriate. Personal projects such as Clockwork Aphid, for example.

I’ll talk about which particular Google technologies I think might be useful in later blog posts, but since I brought it up, I suppose I should probably say something about Clockwork Aphid. I’ve blown the dust off the code, tweaked a couple of things and got a feature I’d left half finished back on track. I tried switching my current implementation from jMonkeyEngine version 2 to version 3, only to find that while it does appear a lot faster and improved in several other ways, the documentation is pretty crappy, and it’s less… functional.

I’ll talk about that more later, but for now just know that things are once again happening.

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Objects of Desire

I haven’t blogged in some, so it seemed only natural that I should do the churlish thing and write about items I would like, but do not have, post Christmas.

First of all is a pod based coffee maker. When walking through House of Fraiser pre Christmas my beautiful and wonderful girlfriend had cause to exclaim “These are so cool*!” What she was talking about was a Nespresso machine (or more precisely a table full of them). Basically you pop a little pod of coffee in the top, push a button and really quite good espresso (or something a lot like it) comes out of the spout. Boom. Simple and fast, without any fuss or the need to do much in the way of cleaning. This appeals to me. A lot.

There is of course a problem. The clue is in the name, and being the intelligent general reader you may have already spotted it. The whole shebang is made (or at least owned) by Nestle, who are are (by my own personal set of benchmarks) evil. Like, actually killing babies evil. They make all the coffee which can be used with the machines, meaning there is a limited selection, and have patented the design thoroughly enough that this will be the case for ever-more. So, refillable pods are not an option and the pre-filled ones are aluminium and only recycle-able in Switzerland. Unacceptable. Bugger.

So I did a bit of reading about the other pod based systems out there, and discounted almost all of them for one reason or another. It generally comes down to either evil companies or an unacceptable degree of waste. The one I didn’t discount is the Senseo, which doesn’t produce such good coffee (it has a 2 bar pump versus the nespresso’s 19 bar), but you can buy refillable pods for it. Also, it’s cheaper. A lot cheaper since Sainsbury has it on sale at half price. Problem solved. I’ll probably pick one up tomorrow.

What I won’t b picking up tomorrow is one of Sony’s eBook readers. While I think they’re completely awesome (eInk rules, I though it was actual paper when I first saw it and didn’t even believe it was a screen until I saw it change) £350 is just too high an asking price. That’s a lot of books. Check them out if you get the chance, though. One day, when its price goes down and mine goes up, I’ll get myself one.

Lastly come the controversial one. Women carry bags. This is accepted. The size varies, though. I’ve seen at least one girl with a bag which, though clearly a handbag in terms of design, was about a metre long. Men on the other hand, are expected not to. If they do it is derisively referred to as a “Man Bag.” Frankly, though, it’s bloody useful. I tend to carry a messenger bag around a lot of the time as a result. It holds my tiny laptop, a notebook, some pens (duh), a reusable shopping bag and generally a book and some uni related things. The one I originally bought doesn’t really measure up, though, in either form or function. What I’m looking for is something stylish on the outside, but nerd-tastically well organised on the inside. Stylish that is, again, by my own personal set of benchmarks. I kinda like this one: http://www.caselogic.com/15_4_canvas_messenger_bag/product_detail/index.cfm?modelid=113539 . Now, if I could only find somewhere that actually sells it…

 

* Even though she, in fact, does not drink coffee. No one, it seems, is perfect.