Developer Diaries – Eating Dog Food

Posted by Ronald Huereca / August 24, 2020 /

We had a fun moment on Slack today at work. Someone brought up the idea of eating dog food which triggered so many emotions and feelings with me. Granted, there is a more optimistic analogy of drinking your own Champagne. But let’s call it what it is: you’re being reduced to a dog owner eating the dog food you have purchased for your favorite pup.

And I embrace this concept. I am literally a dog owner. I also have eight cats. And yes, I am a dog and cat food cannibal. I’m not some type of cat food eating monster like in the movie District 9, but more of a, “If I were in a life-and-death emergency, would I eat my cat’s food to survive?” type.

While I don’t imply that eating a cat’s food is enjoyable. As long as they like it, I’m happy. I’ll do the “survival” taste test, hope for the best, and let my cats enjoy some wet food.

The dog, on the other hand, is just an endless stomach. For the sake of this entry, let’s call her “Nova.”

Nova lives, breaths, and dies food. If we gave her one of those self-feeding containers, it would be gone in minutes. So we have to ration out the food. We now give her some food in the morning and some food in the evening.

For some reason unbeknownst to me, she likes the dog food we give her. She looks forward to it. If we were to give her a steak moments before, the dog would say “thanks” and pretend it never happened just so she could get more of the deliciousness.

She has this annoying bark. It warns us if a leaf were to from a tree two blocks away, and then goes ape shit when we order in for delivery or the UPS or FedEx people arrive. She warns me in a good way that, “Hey, something is outside and I want to let you know.” So I beat delivery drivers to the door, meet the FedEx or UPS people as they drop off the packages, and can know when to troll some Jehovah witnesses or pretend to care as yet another “Pest Control” company who knows people in the neighborhood will “help you out” for a reduced rate? Sorry, side rant.

Anyways, the dog is a good early detection system of sorts. Some are false alarms and someone’s just mowing the grass. Some are when we have repair people over. Some when we actually rely on her for. I’m still waiting on the actual criminal to show up. Nova is very scary to anyone who hasn’t encountered this gentle giant. But if we let someone in when Nova is in her crate, some are like, “No, get that dog away from me. I’m scared of dogs.” Others are like, “Does she bite?” I’d say no: “She just wants to smell you and make sure you’re not going to kill us.” So we let her out of the crate, she goes sniff crazy, and quickly becomes friends. Then she’s just basking in the attention.

Sorry. I’ve talked a lot about “my” dog. I know your dog is likely way different than mine. But I guess the common thing we all have in common is what type of dog food to feed it. Which is: the food the dog likes most.

My Uncle Micah is so obsessed with his dog that he grills steaks for it. He’s proud of it. He posts it to Facebook. It’s weird. I’m close with my dog, but not nearly as close as Micah and his dog. It’s like they are the same person. As far as my uncle is concerned, if the dog is happy, he’s happy.

So take my Uncle Micah’s case as an extreme example. He would serve his dog endless gourmet if he could afford it (crowdfunding link coming soon). Or me, I will eat the damn dog food, but not understand why she likes it. Or perhaps a different type of owner: the one who knows the dog food tastes like crap, knows the dog hates it, and doesn’t care. As long as the dog gets fed and survives, what difference is there by how good the food tastes?

So since I’m such a geeky nerd and like software, I like the dog food analogy. For me, it means I’m willing to eat what my dog eats. It also means I mind where I get the food from. How much to feed it so it doesn’t gorge itself. What type of food she normally gets and the treats I have to give her so I can teach her a few tricks.  And when to behave even when all her instincts are to protect us.

The people like me in the software world, the dog and the dog food represent something tangible. The dog is the user. Or the support person. Or the developer. Or the project manager. Or, even, sometimes, you. The dog food is what we all feed those people. Since we’re the dog owner, we can feed our dog whatever we want. But if we love that dog, depending on our level of love, we will keep that dog fed and happy.

The dog food is the end product. We “think” it’s good dog food. Now let’s find a dog and see if he likes it. The dog will quickly let you know about it. He might  just sniff it, say “no thanks” and walk away as if nothing happened. That food is now what I consider “safe.” It doesn’t matter how long I leave it there; the dog will simply not eat it. But you never know, a second dog or *gasp* even a cat might like it and the food suddenly goes missing and you’re left scratching your head as to where the damn food went and if you should buy more.

Since the end product and dog food are about the same thing, let’s assume our dog “loves” the food. It can’t get enough. So to prevent the dog from getting fat and dying a fast death, it’s best to ration out the food so as to not give the dog too much at once.

Software is the same way. Sometimes you create something you think is good. It’s your dog food. But only you like it, not the dog. Then there’s the situation when you’ve made good dog food, but you’ve given the dog the best from the start. It’s now impossible to further please the dog. And then there’s the situation where you didn’t make any dog food. It could be something simple like a hot dog you drop on the floor. Something unintentionally good that when given the opportunity, the dog loves it and will even steal it from your hands if you’re not paying attention.

Software is hard, y’all. We want to please the dog with our dog food. We also want to eat it every now and then and make sure it’s something our dog actually wants. It’s frustrating when the dog rejects it. But in that case, maybe you need to try a different market. If the dog does like it too much, we’ve waited too long to ship. You could’ve shipped way earlier, and still had a happy dog. And now you have treats to give it. If the dog kinda likes the dog food and it’s all you can afford, maybe be happy that your dog doesn’t run on just food.

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