Dogfooding software products

Here is the old story of Principia Mathematica written by Newton, when he was responding to a question by Halley about planetary orbits,  he only responded that he had calculated it mathematically and are always elliptical and had also lost the proof. But he promised to Halley he will reproduce the proof and goes into one of his famous 2 years retirement to write the entire Principia . It does not end there, like right now, Royal Society as publishers of books were in tough times, refused to publish Principia on financial grounds, and even when Halley was personally sponsoring the printing, the society itself was actually paying part for Halley’s employment with one of its previous unsuccessful commercial books called “History of Fishes“.

It was custom (as Bill Bryson puts it) that Newton never really got paid anything nor did he sponsor any money to get his book published, if someone else was interested, onus is theirs, in this case unfortunately Halley. And the society gave a raw deal by giving away copies of unsold books.

Payment in bad products

History of Fishes

Now the diametrically opposite context.

In a team built software product

1. there is no one single owner for idea / product

2. there is no individual revenue possibility or expense for the team

3. get paid anyways for whatever be the product or its quality or the purpose

That in my opinion is a bad recipe for quality. So here is the idea, “dogfood” the product i.e. every product team will need to find a market on its own for the developed product internal/external. And part of the revenue is directly shared. There are of course different model possibilities and I will go with the easiest and justifiable.

Elements of this model as I see it in my own warped way

1. Paying in product licenses

If the product that is being built is so good, can you please agree to take part of your regular salary as product license, and depending on everyone’s contribution, we will split the numbers only up to a certain limit, and then it will simply become a long tail % fixed, say after expiry of warranty on first release.

2. Order of license sale and revenues.

With a deep hierarchy in development, I believe the developers and architects’ license go first for sale, then the scrum masters or delivery managers, and then the higher levels of management later. Revenue sharing is truly from what was built for either direct effort or supervisory.

3. Expenses for such sale

This is a tricky area as most marketing functions are centralized and of course larger branding expenses at company level. So un-bundled marketing services should be costed accordingly, such as running an ad words campaign on Google, buying sponsored posts on linked in, or event/networking costs.

If it does not sell, then only the license part of your salary will get affected, and life goes on as developers find meaningful opportunities with real revenue possibilities to work on.

In a way a market gets created internally for projects/products to work on, and there is definitely a chance to design your career from inside by being open to trying and learning. I guess the same thing can also be done for a service, but a little more complicated.


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