Ask an expert: Why you want your feature flags and product analytics working together - Mixpanel

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Experimentation is a huge part of getting your product right, whether it's trying out a new feature or potential tweaks to existing elements of your app. When it comes to running these kinds of product tests, using feature flags can be a really effective and minimally disruptive way to go. We spoke to David Martin,
Experimentation is a huge part of getting your product right, whether it's trying out a new feature or potential tweaks to existing elements of your app. When it comes to running these kinds of product tests, using feature flags can be a really effective and minimally disruptive way to go.

We spoke to David Martin, Senior Solution Engineer at Split, about how feature flags open up dynamic, low-risk possibilities for product experimentation—and, thanks to Split and Mixpanel's integration, without leaving data holes in your valuable product analytics.

For the uninitiated, can you give us a TLDR on feature flags?

Feature flags have been used by engineers since prehistoric times, even before Martin Fowler popularized them. Early flags turned snippets of code on and off, usually with configuration or properties files and sometimes in the database. Using a feature flag meant you could engage in trunk-based development.

So why are feature flags so helpful for experimentation? And what are the benefits of using a platform like Split to implement them rather than building your own?

When it comes to experimentation through feature flags, the big selling points are being able to easily turn a feature on or off for a specific cohort of users, sometimes as small as 1% to start, in order to minimize the disruption to your overall user base.

Manual approaches to feature flag implementation can require a lot of engineering work, and that's even more true when it comes to building the kind of segmentation and targeting that goes into deploying experiments with them. Modern shops want to do these things to be competitive, but there's a mounting technical debt associated with building it yourself. Testing with feature flags via a platform like Split reduces technical labor and implementation time.

Can you give us a great use case you've seen for feature flag experimentation?

I'm very fond of the story of Imperfect Foods. A product manager over there explained to me that she…
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