This is the second in a series of articles about our work environment. See the first.
There are few things as frustrating as getting hampered in your work by a bug in a product you depend on. What if it’s a product developed by your company? Do you report/fix the issue or just work around it and hope it’ll go away soon? In this article, I’ll cover how and why Google dogfoods its own products.
Google makes heavy use of its own products. We have a large ecosystem of development/office tools and use them for nearly everything we do. Because we use them on a daily basis, we can dogfood releases company-wide before launching to the public. These dogfood versions often have features unavailable to the public but may be less stable. Instability is exactly what you want in your tools, right? Or, would you rather that frustration be passed on to your company’s customers? Of course not!
Dogfooding is an important part of our test process. Test teams do their best to find problems before dogfooding, but we all know that testing is never perfect. We often get dogfood bug reports for edge and corner cases not initially covered by testing. We also get many comments about overall product quality and usability. This internal feedback has, on many occasions, changed product design.
Not surprisingly, test-focused engineers often have a lot to say during the dogfood phase. I don’t think there is a single public-facing product that I have not reported bugs on. I really appreciate the fact that I can provide feedback on so many products before release.
Interested in helping to test Google products? Many of our products have feedback links built-in. Some also have Beta releases available. For example, you can start using Chrome Beta and help us file bugs.
From system design documents, to test plans, to discussions about beer brewing techniques, our products are used internally. A company’s choice of office tools can have a big impact on productivity, and it is fortunate for Google that we have such a comprehensive suite. The tools have a consistently simple UI (no manual required), perform very well, encourage collaboration, and auto-save in the cloud. Now that I am used to these tools, I would certainly have a hard time going back to the tools of previous companies I have worked. I’m sure I would forget to click the save buttons for years to come.
Examples of frequently used tools by engineers:
- Google Drive Apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc.) are used for design documents, test plans, project data, data analysis, presentations, and more.
- Gmail and Hangouts are used for email and chat.
- Google Calendar is used to schedule all meetings, reserve conference rooms, and setup video conferencing using Hangouts.
- Google Maps is used to map office floors.
- Google Groups are used for email lists.
- Google Sites are used to host team pages, engineering docs, and more.
- Google App Engine hosts many corporate, development, and test apps.
- Chrome is our primary browser on all platforms.
- Google+ is used for organizing internal communities on topics such as food or C++, and for socializing.
We are interested to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you dogfood your company’s products? Do your office tools help or hinder your productivity? What office software and tools do you find invaluable for your job? Could you use Google Docs/Sheets for large test plans?