Thursday, November 06, 2008

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.