Bob Chapek Didn’t Believe in Disney Magic

I was surprised and delighted to learn that my friend Len had been invited to write an essay about Bob Chapek's ouster in the New York Times. The article serves as a great primer on some of the issues those of us who live near Disney World have been griping about for years. The whole thing is well worth reading.

His conclusion really stood out to me:

Mr. Iger is reportedly already scrutinizing the reservation system and is alarmed by the price increases his predecessor instituted. To further mend the relationship with our community, Mr. Iger should explain how Disney is going to use the revenue from upcharge programs to improve the guest experience.

If he wants to learn more, I sincerely suggest Mr. Iger try to plan, book and take a Disney World vacation on a middle-class budget, relying only on Disney’s website and app. When he’s overwhelmed by the cost and complexity, I know many fans who’d be happy to talk him through it. No charge.

In software we talk about the value in "dogfooding" an app, because it forces us to embody the persona of the user. If I, as a developer, experience any confusion, encounter any bugs, or feel any friction using the app, I can go to work and fix it. Immediately. No need to channel the feedback roundaboutly through focus group testing, customer support, or product management.

If you're the CEO of a theme park company, it may not seem like a huge sacrifice to dogfood your product by going to a theme park to experience it as the average guest would. But as soon as the company starts down the path of selling priority access for people who can pay more (fast lanes, VIP tours, backstage entrances), you'd surely have access to those luxuries yourself—you're the CEO, after all. It would take remarkable self-restraint not to indulge in those conveniences and instead wait in full-length lines—you know, like an average guest would.

I've seen this phenomenon impact countless software teams as well. If an app features multiple differentiated pricing tiers, the experience at the lower levels of access tend to accumulate more bugs, simply because nobody inside the company is compelled to dogfood them. When was the last time an Amazon engineer tried buying something without a Prime membership? Or a Netflix employee with a Basic subscription? Or an Apple engineer whose iCloud quota is capped at the 5GB free tier? It's no surprise that these experiences are terrible for customers, if they even work at all.