eat what you cook

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eat what you cook is a metaphor for making use of what you create on and for the IndieWeb, especially any code you write, and one of several IndieWeb community principles. It was deliberately chosen among a few alternatives by the community to supersede selfdogfooding due to various problematic aspects of dogfood as a metaphor.

Beyond using your creations, there is also an aspect of depending on them personally yourself, beyond just self-testing a work project.

On the IndieWeb, it means using your creations on your personal site as an aspect of your primary online identity, day to day.

Build what you need. Use what you build.John Seely Brown quoted at eLearning 2015[1]
Metaphorically speaking, a person's ideas must be the building he lives in - otherwise there is something terribly wrong. Søren Kierkegaard, introduction to Provocations

Why

Get started faster. What do you really need? When you eat what you cook, you better understand what you really need rather than just what you think you need.

  • By building what you need, it constrains what you think you need with the practical limits of time, ability, and cost, thus forcing you to come up with a more efficient design than you likely thought you needed originally.

Prioritization. Fix more important problems first. When you eat what you cook, you empathize as a user and fix the important problems first.

  • By using what you build, you see and feel the impact of problems in what you have built, and in particular feel the difference between minor problems and major problems, thus helping you prioritize fixing the more important problems.

Faster iteration. Fix the more important problems faster. Eating what you cook helps motivate you to fix the important problems faster.

  • By using what you build as your personal identity on the public web, when there are visible problems, you will feel self-conscious about it, and strongly motivated to fix them quickly.

If you don't build it, you're just talking theory.

  • If you design/architect etc. without building, you'll likely come up with ever higher level abstractions, AKA the architecture astronomy anti-pattern. That being said, it's helpful to publicly brainstorm what you're thinking of building because others can review, provide feedback, help you simplify, etc.

If not you, then who? [should bother using your stuff]

  • If you're not willing to use your creation on your own primary personal website, why should anyone else use it on their primary personal website?

Creations tend to break (stay broken), when their creators don't use them.

  • In general it is a good idea to use code that the author is using themselves. Those are less likely to be broken.

How to

Eating what you cook, has several required components, one of which is actually eating (using the thing), but the other is the essential you cook part of eat what you cook:

  1. active creation - whether code, UX, interactive/visual/graphic design, being an active creator
  2. use of what you create (e.g. by your company, on your company's site, your club's site, etc.)
  3. personal - use of that creation - you yourself personally using your creation for your own personal uses - it's not (just) a job use (i.e. that you can shut off when you go home), it's a personal use.
  4. identity - use of that creation in what you identify as your self. The act of creation alters an aspect of the public "self" of the creator. On the web, this means use of that creation actively on your personal website that you primarily use to identify yourself to others. I.e. not on a test site, nor a hobby site, nor an occasional use site, but your primary personal site and thus as part of your primary identity on the web.

IndieWeb Examples

In rough order of when IndieWeb community members started eating their own cooking of at least some part of what they build, using their own primary web identity presence with their own domain.

Tantek

Tantek Çelik eats his own cooking with his personal publishing software Falcon, including its open source functions in CASSIS live on his own site tantek.com since 2010-01-01.

  • He often deploys and tests CASSIS updates on his own site as a final live test before committing them to the cassis github repo, figuring if its going to break in production, he'd rather it break first on his site, than someone else's site who is depending on CASSIS.

Kartik Prabhu

Kartik Prabhu eats his own cooking with his website code Bundle on his site kartikprabhu.com since sometime in 2013

Dmitri Shuralyov

Dmitri Shuralyov eats his own cooking with his issue tracker on his personal website. He uses it as the canonical issue tracker for the issue tracker itself, as well as to drive his blog (source), and a list of idiomatic Go suggestions (source).

He also eats his own cooking with his notification tracker, using it on his personal site to read all his notifications. Notifications come from GitHub and additional sources.

  • add yourself...

Limitations

  • Beware of this trap: "only the people who wrote it can reliably use it" that OpenID fell into per twitter.com/elforesto/status/976177015958261762


Perspectives

  • "Is its creator living and breathing it in his day-to-day online life? If so, awesome, if not, yawn." - Tantek 2013-01-03 11:05 (PST) (originally posted as a comment on a Google+ post).
  • If I make software for [someone else], am I ever going to rely on it? Unlikely
    If I make software which solves my own problems in a useful way, might others find it useful? Much more likely. - Barnaby Walters (2013-08-21 in iRC)
  • I have a higher tolerance for my own stupidly designed interfaces than [another person] would, but at some point I'm going to get frustrated by inefficiencies in my interface and make it better for me, which then makes it better for everyone. - Aaron Parecki (2013-08-21 in IRC)
  • ...


See Also