Skip to main content

Eating my dog food

I was carrying home a bag of dog food recently for my dogs when the neighbour made jokes about eating dog food and the coming recession. I think recessions are like winter - you know it'll come eventually, but it's hard to imagine in the depths of summer.

But my point is really about dog food, and eating it. The woman who sells me Nutromax claims the salespeople eat it to prove it's good. As a computer-geeky guy, I'm familiar with the expression "eating your own dog food" to mean, using your own software. I just looked it up on wikipedia and discover that the original idea did indeed come from an advertisement about dog food, and that it's now used mainly about software. Here's what wikipedia says about the idea:

Using one's own products has four primary benefits:

1. The product's developers are familiar with using the products they develop.
2. The company's members have direct knowledge and experience with its products.
3. Users see that the company has confidence in its own products.
4. Technically savvy users in the company, with perhaps a very wide set of business requirements and deployments, are able to discover and report bugs in the products before they are released to the general public.

A disadvantage is that if taken to an extreme, a company's desire to eat its own dog food can turn into Not Invented Here syndrome, in which the company refuses to use any product which was not developed in-house.

So, that's my introduction to say that I've finally created myself a Drupal site for my business. It had previously been hosted at googlepages, because it was free and easy and I thought Web 2.0 was cool (just kidding about that last one). Also because I didn't have a server or domain name, because I thought I'd just be a consultant.

After three years, I'm still working as an independent consultant. What I've changed is:

  1. I've got my hands full with Drupal and CiviCRM for Canadian non-profits. I may do some projects outside that scope, but I've now got a more specific niche.
  2. I'm not just a "consultant", but a full service shop - i.e. websites from beginning to end, even mail. I use the "keep it as simple as possible, but no simpler" rule, and working on other people's servers turned out to be more complicated than running my own server (no, not in my basement, I use a commercial Canadian service for the hardware and network).
  3. I'm committed to remaining "agressively small" [credits to Mark Surman and Phillip Smith]. There's an assumption in the technical world that you have to "grow" your business to be competitive (yes, not just the technical world). I think that ideology is wrong in a general way from economic and environmental points of view, but specifically wrong for most Drupal websites. Big shops with layers of management do not make better websites, and certainly not cheaper - the big shops are not driven by real 'economies of scale' but by delusions of money and/or fame by the owners. You know who you are ...

That's my story so far, now go visit my new site.

Popular posts from this blog

Me and varnish win against a DDOS attack.

This past month one of my servers experienced her first DDOS - a distributed denial of service attack. A denial of service attack (or DOS) just means an attempt to shut down an internet-based service by overwhelming it with requests. A simple DOS attack is usually relatively easy to deal with using the standard linux firewall called iptables.  The way iptables works is by filtering the traffic based on the incoming request source (i.e., the IP of the attacking machine). The attacking machine's IP can be added into your custom ip tables 'blacklist' to block all traffic from it, and it's quite scalable so the only thing that can be overwhelmed is your actual internet connection, which is hard to do.

The reason a distributed DOS is harder is because the attack is distributed from multiple machines. I first noticed an increase in my traffic about a day after it had started - it wasn't slowing down my machine, but it did show up as a spike in traffic. I quickly saw that…

Confused by online payment processing? You're not alone.

In the old days during "polite" conversation, it was considered rude to talk about sex, politics, religion and money. You might think we're done with taboos, we're not (and I'll leave Steven Pinker to make the general argument about that, as he does so well in The Better Angels of Our Nature).

The taboo I'm wrestling with is about money - not how much you make, but about online payment processing, how it works, and what it costs. In this case, I think the taboo exists mainly because of the stakes at hand (i.e. lots of money) and the fact that most of those who are involved don't get much out of explaining how it really works - i.e. the more nuanced communications are overwhelmed by sales-driven messaging, and the nuanced stuff is either proprietary secrets or likely to get slapped down by the sales department.

In other words, if you want to really understand about online payment processing because you want to decide between one system and another, you'…

drupal, engagement, mailing lists, email

I lived, worked and studied in Costa Rica from 1984 to 1989. Ostensibly, I was there to study Mathematics at the University, and indeed I graduated with an MSc. in Mathematics supervised by Ricardo Estrada (check that page, he even advertises me as one of his past students). And yes, I do have a nine page thesis that I wrote and defended in Spanish somewhere in my files, on a proof and extension of one of Ramanujan's theories. But mathematics is a pretty lonely endeavour, and what drew me back to Central America (after the first visit, which was more of an accident), was the life and politics. The time I lived there was extremely interesting (for me as an outsider, though also painful and tragic for it's inhabitants) because of the various wars that were largely fuelled by US regional hegemonic interests (of the usual corporate suspects and individuals) and neglect (of the politicians and public) - the Contra war in Nicaragua, the full-scale guerrilla wars in El Salvador and …