One of my favourite technology columnists is fellow Canadian Clive Thompson, who writes regularly for Wired magazine among others. In his latest column (which doesn’t appear to be online yet, otherwise I’d link to it), he writes about how American politicians should be forced “to eat their own dogfood.”
It’s a phrase often used within software companies in reference to how employees must use their own products, because doing so lets them quickly discover ingrained problems.
The concept ties in with something I’ve been thinking about lately in regards to the telecommunications industry. A few weeks ago, I joked on Twitter about how the only people who were defending Canada’s high prices were individuals – executives, consultants, Bay Street analysts and the odd newspaper columnist – who fall into considerably higher tax brackets than the vast majority of service users. I called this crew the Wireless One Per Cent, although really, it applies to wired services too.
I was mostly kidding, but there is actually an element of class-ism here. When you’re making six figures-plus, as many of these people do, prices on incidentals such as cellphone and broadband service really don’t seem all that high. Dogfooding, or forcing them to pay full freight for those services, really wouldn’t do much to sway their attitudes because many probably don’t ever trifle with their own bills.
There is, however, another group of people who may also believe that prices aren’t high – the rank-and-file telecom company employees. They typically get big discounts, often half-off, of their employer’s services and may therefore be insulated from what the rest of the country already knows. From what I understand, the companies are recruiting and rallying their own employees to lobby their respective politicians to stop Verizon’s entry into Canada.
So, how about this as a challenge to the telecom companies – why don’t they force their own employees to pay the full cost of their own services?
I saw a comment on a friend’s Facebook page the other day to this effect. She said, “If I didn’t have a discount from [redacted], I’d still be on a rotary phone.”
Just as in the software business, dogfooding their own workers would lead to telecom companies quickly discovering just how big their problems are.