The Joy of Dogfooding Software!

My first job after graduation was as a software design engineer at Microsoft.  As employees, we were heavily encouraged and asked to dogfood various  Microsoft software products and the products that we ourselves were working on. The term “Dogfood – Eating your own dog food” in the software industry means: “Use the software you are creating in your daily work-life even before they are ready for release”. This process helps in catching any serious issues or bugs that a regular customer of a software product might see while using it. I always hated the “Dogfooding” concept because “Who wants to use something in half-baked form and not yet fully ready for use?”.

The same feeling persisted often throughout my career while working at various companies until recently. As the founder of SignEasy App, there is no choice but to use the product that we are building on a daily basis. The difference is that I now look forward to dogfooding our own product. When we discover issues and bugs after dogfooding and fix them, I feel so exhilarated. The love for “Dogfooding” software has grown on me now. Now I can relate much better with all the founders at startups I have worked for, who were so passionate and insistent on us to dogfood the company products. Better late than never, I guess.

This last week, I decided to rent some co-working office space in San Francisco after months of working from my apartment. During this time, one such moment came where I went through the “Dogfooding” process. I had received a 5 page document with agreement details by email, which I needed to fill with my name, title, company name and address. We had recently implemented a BRAND NEW feature in “SignEasy” iPhone App by which you can now also FILL a document, not just SIGN.  This seemed like a perfect opportunity to dogfood “SignEasy” to fill up this document.

Since we had already  done internal testing of the new feature, I was expecting the generated document to come out with the fields filled with what I just typed in. But the document did not come out with all fields as expected. It was missing values in some fields. What did we just see? I had just “Dogfooded” SignEasy and a serious bug was found. We started looking into issue and found a bug in our XML parsing code. After few hours of working on the bug and few attempts later, I was finally able to fill the document using “SignEasy” App successfully. The first picture below shows how the document looked originally. The second picture shows how the document looked with fields filled after using (dogfooding) SignEasy App to fill it.

SignEasy App - Filling up a document

Nowhere else is dogfooding more important than in the startup space. This is because the people who work in startups are usually the real and passionate users of the product they are building. That is one of the reasons why they work in the startup in the first place. In any case, at the end of dogfooding, the product always comes out much better, much refined and much more satisfactory to real needs of its users.

Finally, we have submitted our latest version 1.4 of SignEasy to AppStore and are crossing our fingers to get it approved asap. Stay tuned for the update so that you can enjoy now both FILLING and SIGNING documents on-the-go.

– Sunil Patro

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