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Dogfooding is the yucky-sounding policy of many tech companies that try to mandate their employees use that company’s products (and only that company’s products) at work.
As Microsoft(s msft) launches Windows Server 2012, preps the release of Windows Phone 8 later this fall, and more people bring their own smartphones and tablets to work, the debate gets more relevant. If you use your own iPhone(s aapl) while working at Microsoft, are you a traitor to the cause? (Microsoft gives employees a phone stipend, but only for Windows Phone devices.)
Over the weekend, Jeff Shuey, a former Microsoft developer platform evangelist raised the “should you eat your own dogfood,” issue again in a blog post.
Shuey cited current Microsoft insiders who said the answer is definitely yes. That if employees are not troubleshooting and using their own products, they’re not working for the greater good and should be fired. Shuey’s own, more equivocal answer, is that if you’re not doing this on your own, you should probably “fire yourself.”
Wow. Talk about strict.
Dogfooding is for the greater good, or is it?
The rationale for dogfooding is understandable. Getting feedback from tens of thousands of Microsoft (or Google (s goog) or Amazon(s amzn) or Apple(s aapl)) employees should lead to better products. But then again, working in a single-vendor bubble is no way to be competitive.
Some commenters — myself included — feel the use of competitive products is one way to see what’s good, bad and indifferent in the rival’s approach and all of that should lead to better products. Maybe if Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer let his kids use iPods, iPhones and/or iPads, it wouldn’t have taken the company so long to get with the program with its own tablet and smartphone improvements.
Still another commenter on Shuey’s Facebook page summed it up — that as more workers use their own smart phones and tablets on the job, not even tech companies can or should dictate what tools its employees use to do their best work. He wrote:
… the really important point is that I would never even want to work for a company that would dictate what device I could and couldn’t use to get my work done. If I were to choose an iPhone over Windows Phone then there must have been a reason and Microsoft, in this case, should be most interested what that reason was and strive to improve. So I say “absolutely not” more from a corporate culture standpoint than anything else.
So maybe the debate over dog food isn’t about whether or not it helps a company build better products, but whether or not forcing them to use a company device even makes sense when it comes to attracting talent in a BYOD era.
Feature photo courtesy of Shutterstock user 6493866629