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Feature Flags: An Essential Guide – Feature flagging should simple and drive efficiency

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Value of Feature Flags

Continuous Experimentation

Feature flags allow you to scientifically validate your product ideas. By correlating user behavior with feature exposure, you are able to gain insight into the true impact of a feature. 

Operational Control

Adding custom kill switches deep within a system allows operators to degrade a system gracefully when confronted with issues like overwhelming load or 3rd-party outages. 

Safer Releases

You can reduce the risks associated with rolling out a new feature. If anything goes wrong during the feature rollout process, feature flags provide a fast and effective mitigation strategy. 

Capabilities of a Feature Flag System

Dynamic, Context-Specific Flagging Decisions

A good feature flagging system provides mechanisms for taking additional context into account when making a flagging decision. When this rich contextual information is available, a feature flagging system can then provide more powerful ways to configure a flagging decision.

Streaming Updates

A good feature flagging system supports streaming updates. The ability for any configuration changes to rapidly propagate to the running processes where flagging decisions are being made, without the need to reload or restart anything.

Rich Flag State

You can use a feature flagging system as a more general mechanism to specify dynamic configuration based on context. This is a powerful mechanism that essentially allows people to make live changes to the configuration of production systems.

Configuration Management

As a feature flagging system sees more and more types of usage from a wider variety of constituents, managing the configuration of flags becomes crucial.

Analytics Integration

The entire purpose of these flags is to measure the impact of a feature – but this ability to correlate flag state with metrics is also very useful for other use cases, such as controlled rollout, and testing in production.