selfdogfood is a stronger form of dogfooding, that is, using your own creations on your own personal site that you depend on, as an aspect of your primary online identity, day to day.
Build what you need. Use what you build.John Seely Brown quoted at eLearning 2015
Metaphorically speaking, a person's ideas must be the building he lives in - otherwise there is something terribly wrong. Søren Kierkegaard, introduction to Provocations
What do you really need? Selfdogfooding helps you better understand what you really need rather than just what you think you need.
- By building what you need, it constrains what you think you need with the practical limits of time, ability, and cost, thus forcing you to come up with a more efficient design than you likely thought you needed originally.
Fix more important problems first. Selfdogfooding helps you empathize as a user and fix the important problems first.
- By using what you build, you see and feel the impact of problems in what you have built, and in particular feel the difference between minor problems and major problems, thus helping you prioritize fixing the more important problems.
Fix the more important problems faster. Selfdogfooding helps motivate you to fix the important problems faster.
- By using what you build as your personal identity on the public web, when there are visible problems, you will feel self-conscious about it, and strongly motivated to fix them quickly.
If you don't build it, you're just talking theory.
- If you design/architect etc. without building, you'll likely come up with ever higher level abstractions, AKA the architecture astronomy anti-pattern. That being said, it's helpful to publicly brainstorm what you're thinking of building because others can review, provide feedback, help you simplify, etc.
If not you, then who? [should bother using your stuff]
- If you're not willing to use your creation on your own primary personal website, why should anyone else use it on their primary personal website?
Creations tend to break (stay broken), when their creators don't use them.
- In general it is a good idea to use code that the author is using themselves. Those are less likely to be broken.
Selfdogfooding has several required components, one of which is dogfooding, but the other is the essential self part of selfdogfooding:
- active creation - whether code, UX, interactive/visual/graphic design, being an active creator
- use of what you create (e.g. by your company, on your company's site, your club's site, etc.)
- self - what you must do above and beyond dogfooding, to be selfdogfooding
- personal - use of that creation - you yourself personally using your creation for your own personal uses - it's not (just) a job use (i.e. that you can shut off when you go home), it's a personal use.
- identity - use of that creation in what you identify as your self. The act of creation alters an aspect of the public "self" of the creator. On the web, this means use of that creation actively on your personal website that you primarily use to identify yourself to others. I.e. not on a test site, nor a hobby site, nor an occasional use site, but your primary personal site and thus as part of your primary identity on the web.
In rough order of when IndieWeb community members started selfdogfooding at least some part of what they build, using their own primary web identity presence with their own domain.
Tantek Çelik selfdogfoods his personal publishing software Falcon, including its open source functions in CASSIS live on his own site tantek.com since 2010-01-01.
- He often deploys and tests CASSIS updates on his own site as a final live test before committing them to the cassis github repo, figuring if its going to break in production, he'd rather it break first on his site, than someone else's site who is depending on CASSIS.
Kartik Prabhu selfdogfoods his website code Bundle on his site kartikprabhu.com since sometime in 2013
- "Is its creator living and breathing it in his day-to-day online life? If so, awesome, if not, yawn." - Tantek 2013-01-03 11:05 (PST) (originally posted as a comment on a Google+ post).
- "any web server software that isn't actively selfdogfooded by its creators on their own personal domains is fragile and should not be trusted. and if web software creators themselves don't have a personal domain they use on the web then the web software is categorically untrustworthy." (speaking to the unfortunate demise of Open Photo, e.g. on Barnaby's site, and the screenshots on there that he'd linked to from patterns/note-list#Documented_Examples & patterns/note#Documented_Examples) Tantek Çelik 2014-05-12 in IRC
- If I make software for [someone else], am I ever going to rely on it? Unlikely
If I make software which solves my own problems in a useful way, might others find it useful? Much more likely. - Barnaby Walters (2013-08-21 in iRC)
- I have a higher tolerance for my own stupidly designed interfaces than [another person] would, but at some point I'm going to get frustrated by inefficiencies in my interface and make it better for me, which then makes it better for everyone. - Aaron Parecki (2013-08-21 in IRC)
Posts about selfdogfooding (most recent first)
It has come up in discussion several times that a more appealing term should be used. No consensus has been reached yet.
Please add IRC links and summarize discussion...
- gRegor Morrill likes the simple phrase "use your own product" or UYOP if an acronym is preferred. It's simple and to the point.
- Drinking your own champagne, or self-champagneing
- or just champagneing; doesn't need distinguish it from a preexisting term
- Self-kool-aiding — also has the connotation of buying into your own spiel
In the Star Wars mythology about lightsabers, you (a Jedi) have *only* one, that you are expected to have *built* it *yourself*, and that you *depend* on as an extension of your *self*.
- dogfood: In Ep1, Anakin is merely dogfooding C3P0, which he built to also help his mom. Even though he cares about it, C3P0 is not part of Anakin. No aspect of identity/self.
- selfdogfood: In RoJ, Luke is selfdogfooding his own lightsaber that he made. It's his only lightsaber, he made it, he depends on it as an extension of himself.
Use and development
Are there two dimensions to selfdogfooding: use and development?
A: There are many required aspects of selfdogfooding, use and development only two of them.
Content updates but no commits
Would a site that is regularly updated with posts but not have commits for a while qualify as selfdogfooding?
A: At some point if there are no creative (code, UX, design) commits by the self-identified primary user of said site, then they've shifted from dogfooding (which requires a creation/use feedback loop) to simply being a user. No, eventually, after "a while", that should not be considered selfdogfooding.
What about sites that are running non-open-source software (no way to directly verify commits)?
A: Even web sites running software that is either little or not at all open sourced can still be analyzed for what features they use in terms of :
- outward visual appearance and user interface
- external notifications (e.g. PuSH and webmention behaviors)
Thus even if specific code commits are not transparently visible, there are plenty of other direct and indirect sources of evidence for creative (code, UX, design) changes, and thus the create/use pairing can still be verified to some extent.
testing your code in production
Whilst testing your code in production is a good part of selfdogfooding, security precautions should still be taken. Showing errors, warnings and notices usually reserved for dev environments is a huge security risk due to the fact that things like paths, usernames, secret keys, etc. might be inadvertently shown to anyone who cares to look. It’s also not a great idea to have confusing error messages intermingled with content.
Rather, you should log all such messages somewhere where only you can see them, or only show them in-page if you’re logged in as an admin.
In PHP, there are several ways to go about this.