Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Dog food, fire hoses and asking permission - phrases overheard at education technology events

You expect to hear a certain amount of jargon and soundbites in education and technology in order to attract attention and tap into the popular culture of the day. But sometimes you hear people using phrases and wonder what they are thinking and then later, when you go back and read your notes, it seems at best slightly odd and at worst ridiculous. Two phrases that I have heard over the last few weeks at technology / educational events are 'eating your own dog food' and 'drinking from the fire hose'. I'm not a popular culture person nor a marketing person so perhaps such calls to action are not relevant to me, but what does it mean and why were they said in the context of an academic environment.
I hesitantly googled 'eating your own dog food' and according to wikipedia ">Dogfooding can be a way for a company to demonstrate confidence in its own products. The idea is that if the company expects customers to buy its products, it should also be willing to use those products". It has been a phrase in common usage since 2007 although other alternatives have been suggested such as 'drinking your own champagne'.
Presumably in the context it was used it means that educational systems / initiatives / technologies should produce an environment for learning that the developers and policy makers would be confident and happy to use themselves?
Also in my notes from another day, I have 'Drinking from the firehose?' and 'Being agile in fast waters' so presumably there is a connection. Again I hesitantly googled 'drinking from the fire hose' - and I wished I hadn't as there were quite a few dodgy results aimed at 'male gamers' as you can imagine, but it does mean 'overwhelmed by information'. My question would be 'what is wrong with using 'information overload' in this instance? The use of both these phrases in an educational/academic/technology environment is disappointing as far as I'm concerned - who is it meant to appeal to? Is it meant to be cool or business like? Or funny...and I'm not getting the joke?

On a more serious note, I have recently heard three people suggesting that in order to get things done, it is better to seek forgiveness after the event rather than asking permission beforehand. Two of the people who have extolled this course of action are quite eminent in their field and I admire them for their success. But my first thoughts were 'how high up the ladder do you have to get before you can do that?' and 'It would be great to be able to do that'. My second thoughts were 'what would happen if everyone did that' and 'is asking permission sometimes a matter of seeking consensus?'.
The third time I've noted the phrase was in a blog about productivity when it was stated that the only way to get things done was to do them and then 'seek forgiveness' if it doesn't work. But surely it is a judgement call - if you see an opportunity and think it's going to work then you should take a risk and go for it. But what happens if it doesn't.......

1 comment:

  1. For me, Blackboard brought the 'dog food' phrase with them from the US (I do not think I had heard it earlier) but it seems to have slipped into common usage in the UK. For example, they often said they should not buy community platforms when their own software could do the job.

    The forgiveness vs permissions comment is interesting, thanks for sharing. It is particularly so in a time of economic uncertainty with resources and job security in limited supply then the judgement call is certainly key (I made a comment on this a while back - http://www.pebblepad.co.uk/bpp/viewasset.aspx?oid=2190&type=thought)