Dogfood & Google

A follow-up to the Apple thing, about a zillion stories out of Washington and of course, 7 other things worth your time.

“Well, so glad I sent out 6 job applications yesterday. Should I email them all with a pic of me and an @actblue receipt just to be safe?”

Kevin Seefried, a Washington comedian who happens to have the same name as a Delaware man who was arrested yesterday after allegedly being part of the riot at the Capitol.


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I wrote not long ago about how Apple supposedly stopped using typewriters after 1980. It’s an example of what they call “eating your own dog food.”

Afterward, an employee at Google, who asked to remain nameless, contacted me to say I should really think about another article: 

"If one company is amazing at this concept, it's Google. We have a concept called 'dogfood' and 'fishfood' where we heavily use consumer-facing and internal-facing products ourselves on a day-to-day basis well before a beta release."

I was struck that a reader would take the time to reach out and evangelize for his company like that. Sure enough, a quick Google search revealed the Google Testing Blog, written by yet another Google employee, reflecting on the product development and release process at Google:

We have a large ecosystem of development/office tools and use them for nearly everything we do. Because we use them on a daily basis, we can dogfood releases company-wide before launching to the public.

These dogfood versions often have features unavailable to the public but may be less stable. ... Dogfooding is an important part of our test process. Test teams do their best to find problems before dogfooding, but we all know that testing is never perfect.

...

Not surprisingly, test-focused engineers often have a lot to say during the dogfood phase. I don't think there is a single public-facing product that I have not reported bugs on.

Among the products cited by the Google engineer, Anthony Vallone, as having been part of the dogfooding program, were Google Drive, Gmail, Hangouts, Calendar, Maps, Groups, Sites, App Engine, Chrome—almost all of which I do or have used—along with (let's have a moment of silence, please) -- Google+. 

As that last reference shows, the post was from a few years ago.

So, I reached out to Google corporate, which confirmed dogfooding is still a big part of the process. Given that Google has now had more than two decades to learn how to release new products, it makes sense. 

A spokesperson for Google also provided a more recent example, describing how Googlers used Dark Mode for Gmail before releasing it in beta to the world last year:

Dark Mode “went through some critical dogfood feedback. For instance, originally the emails themselves still had white backgrounds even when the Dark theme was turned on, which wasn't an ideal user experience for reading, composing or replying to emails.”

It reminds me of a joke—a sort of, funny-cuz-it's-true thing. I'll have to update it a bit to make it work: 

If you spend a lot of time on Instagram, you're a millennial.

Spend time on Facebook? You're old.

Spend time TikTok? You're likely Gen Z. 

And if you spend a lot of time on Google+, you probably work for Google.

Of course, the Google+ reference dates the joke a bit, since the company’s ill-fated effort to create a homegrown social media platform fell flat and was completely shut down in 2019. 

Perhaps not coincidentally, a 2011 analysis—so that would have been less than six months after Google+ launched—found that my little joke overstated the case, because among Google's founders, then-CEO, senior management, and the entire corporate board, almost nobody had even tried the network.

“One of the most important rules in software is to eat your own dog food,” as Ben Parr wrote at Mashable at the time. “Perhaps somebody should tell that to Google's senior management, because the people in it are not eating their own dog food when it comes to Google+.”

Pretty prescient, don’t you think? Anyway, I appreciated the follow-up, and the reinforced lesson.

If you don’t even really believe what you say you believe, then why should I believe you?

Here, have some kibble.


7 other things worth your time

Between the transition, the Inauguration, the impeachment, the insurrection — my God, I can’t believe that last phrase wasn’t farce — I almost want to just screenshot the homepage of the Washington Post here and leave it at that. But let’s go through the details:

  • President-elect Biden rolled out a $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package that would bring the total direct payments to most Americans to $2,000, increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, make the child tax credit fully refundable for the year (and increase to $3,000 per child), extend the moratorium on evictons and foreclosures and extend unemployment benefits through September, and spend billions on Covid-19 testing, K-12 schools, higher education, and state and local government aid. The plan looks as if it might have at least some bipartisan support in Congress. (CNBC)

  • There are still apparently extreme security concerns for the inauguration. Biden canceled plans to ride there next week on Amtrak as a result. (It would have been symbolic for him since he commuted back and forth to Delaware every day on the train while he was a senator.) Images of troops billeted in the Capitol building make it look almost like the Civil War now, and the District of Columbia announced that it will close the National Mall, where thousands normally watch the ceremony. (CBS News, NBC News)

  • More arrests from the insurrection: A retired firefighter who allegedly threw a fire extinguisher that hit a police officer in the head was taken into custody, as was another man who was allegedly seen on video beating a police officer with an American flag, and a man (referenced in our opening quote) who is alleged to be the person who marched through the Capitol with the Confederate flag. Separately, a judge ordered the arrest of a far right media personality who goes by the name “Baked Alaska,” on the grounds that he violated his bond for assault charges in Arizona by traveling to Washington. (USA Today, AZCentral)

  • Outside of the Beltway, Republicans are siding with President Trump “big time” over impeachment, according to a poll that also shows 92 percent of his supporters still think he should be the 2024 GOP nominee. On the other hand, The Washington Times, which is the right-wing Washington newspaper, did a deep dive on whether President Trump is “a flight risk,” and likely to flee the United States to avoid criminal charges once Biden is inaugurated. (Axios, Washington Times)

  • Delta Air Lines held its most recent earnings call, and I’m mentioning it here mostly for the optimism its executives professed, saying they think things will recover enough for the airline to return to profitability this year. (Skift)

  • Seems kinda related but isn’t: Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin says it will fly its first space tourist flights soon, perhaps as soon as April. (CNBC)

  • A 37-year-old man in Tokyo runs a “rent-a-person who does nothing” business. For the equivalent of $96, he says he will “eat and drink, and give simple feedback, but do nothing more,” for his clients. Now the kicker: he says he’s had more than 3,000 requests during the three years he’s been advertising his services. Customer: "I'm glad I was able to take a walk with someone while keeping a comfortable distance, where we didn't have to talk but could if we wanted to." (The Mainichi)


Thanks for reading. Photo of cute dogs courtesy of Pixabay. I wrote about the dog food thing for Inc.com. If you liked this post, and you’re not yet a subscriber, let’s make it official: Please sign up for the daily Understandably.com email newsletter, with thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of 5-star ratings from happy readers.  

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