Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dogfood David

I just tagged myself Dogfood David in a retrospective the other day.  Our Product Owner was running a few team building games.  We were playing an Agile word association name game, the ball was tossed to me, the pressure was on, I had to find an Agile word/concept that started with D.  Dogfood David just blurted out of me.

Why did this happen?

As it turns out I do believe in eating my own dogfood.  I have literally made and eaten dogfood.

Kato & Tyler


My wife and I had two dogs when we were married.  After our honeymoon we moved to Salt Lake City and bought new unknown brand of dog food.  Our golden retriever, Tyler, had epilepsy and  he started having daily convulsions.  My wife spotted the pattern. She had been reading about controlling epilepsy in humans via diet.  She put two very temporal separate things together and decide that we had to change Tyler's diet.  More research turned up a book that recommended a vegetarian diet for dogs with epilepsy.

We started making dog food.  Tyler became a vegetarian.  If you have dogs you know that they will share a dish, so this meant that Kato, (a full blooded lab - its a joke), became a vegetarian also.  We made beans & rice for these guys for years.  Tyler's seizures lessened from daily, to weekly, to monthly, to yearly.  Near the end of his life we couldn't remember the last time he had a seizure.

Once the seizures were under control (a relative term) we of course experimented with variations of the diet.  In years of experiments and reflections of what he had eaten just prior to a seizure we had plenty of empirical evidence supporting one theory of epilepsy, toxicity. 

Do you eat your own dogfood?

This phrase "eating your own dogfood" stems from a Loren Green TV commercial for Alpo ( IEEE article).  It is the concept that one uses what one produces, that your products are something that you yourself would consume.  Having eaten beens and rice and then given that to my dogs, I have done this.  It is slightly different than left-overs, when the intent of cooking beans and rice was to make dogfood.  Two active dogs can eat a lot of beans & rice, so we did get tired of beans, variety is important in life.

What does this have to do with a team building game?

I believe in the power of the Scrum Retrospective process.  I had just spent 2 weeks coaching this team in their first baby steps into the Agile world.  We did training, and workshops in Release Planning, in Sprint Planning and Scrum framework, in story creation splitting and sizing, in prioritization and had created a release plan for a minimal viable first release.  The retrospective that the Product Owner was facilitating was designed to deliver 3 things:  team building, feedback for the 2 week workshop, and an example of a retrospective.

By encouraging the PO to run the retrospective I wanted to foster that leadership role that he was taking, to build even more trust and understanding.  I saw a desire that he wanted to help the team gel.  Some portions of the team was from Bosnia and would return there in the afternoon.  I wanted our last face-to-face interactions to be positive and fun.  I also wanted feedback on the 2 week workshop, they will not have to do this again, but I will.  What will I strive to improve for next time?  They are the subject matter experts now - I needed their feedback.  Asking for feedback - shortening my feedback loop - reducing my cycle time - it is all about eating my own dogfood.

Related Post:  Dog Grooming Exercise a simulation in Agile Story Sizing using Affinity Estimation technique.

citations:
Warren Harrison, "Eating Your Own Dog Food," IEEE Software, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 5-7, May/June 2006, doi:10.1109/MS.2006.72
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