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A toggle is a type of fastener (think pin passed through eye of a rope to hold it in place). It enforces a mutually exclusive state, like “on” or “off.” It’s a very useful tool for software development because it supports agile models of testing and release that would be impossible with more traditional code branches.

Unlike traditional if/then logic, toggles can be driven by many different conditions that could trigger the feature to be switched on or off. They can be triggered by fitness test results, a setting in your feature management software, a change to a config file, or even by someone clicking a button! It’s important to have a good process for naming these toggles so that someone looking at your codebase can tell what it means. This helps your team track the lifecycle of a toggle and know when it should be removed from production code.

Savvy teams understand that the inventory of unused toggles in their codebase has a carrying cost, and they make sure to have a process for pruning these old toggles as soon as they’re no longer necessary. This can be as simple as adding a task to the team’s backlog, or it can include automated checks in your feature management platform to warn when a toggle is nearing expiration. The resulting code cleanup and de-cluttering has a significant positive impact on the overall stability of your codebase! It also makes your program more tolerant to failure by reducing the number of ways you can break your application.