Short shot #31: dogfood

Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky writes to report hearing “an employee of a large local company” say “I’ve been dogfooding for a while already”, meaning that he’d been betatesting a new product of his company’s. It turns out that the verbing dogfood has been around for a while in the tech world, though eat one’s own dogfood seems to be the original. There’s even a Wikipedia page.

It seems that the earliest uses of these expressions referred to a company’s using the product it makes and they were then extended to in-house testing, especially of software.

Dogfood has transitive uses as well as intransitive ones:

In an email, Google management blames the economic crisis and suggests that this is a great opportunity to “dogfood” the phones (link)

This same site has the noun dogfood in this specialized sense — with Google handing out “dogfood” (those phones) as its Christmas bonus last year.

2 Responses to “Short shot #31: dogfood”

  1. John Cowan Says:

    I am on a personal crusade (futile, as such things are, but satisfying) to wipe out the phrase and the term, because I find it disgusting. An actual dogfood manufacturer that compelled (or even asked) its employees to test the product quite so personally would be out of business in a week. What’s more, calling the early-release versions “dogfood” implies that they are unfit for human use, and suitable only for the employees, who are thereby implicitly marked as subhuman.

    I turned down the phone, for what it’s worth: the phone may be free, but using it is not, and I don’t fit the (presumed) profile of users anyhow. As a modern Fats might sing, I won’t text ya ’cause my thumbs too big.

  2. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To John Cowan, on the ugliness of the expressions. You seem not to be the only person who feels this way. But I suspect that for many people who use them, they’ve simply become idioms (fashionable in certain circles), whose origins are only dimly appreciated.

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