At Segment, we’re constantly looking for new ways to help our customers. Our core mission is to simplify how you collect, unify, and act on customer data – by adding brand-new integrations like Google BigQuery, for instance, or providing expert insights on building your marketing stack for 2017. But we also do plenty of helping in our day to day, when our thousands of customers reach out to us looking for help and advice.

We know that there’s nothing more frustrating than questions gone unanswered, so we hosted our first Brainiac Bar with the sole focus of creating a space for customers to come ask our brilliant Success team their toughest questions. We added a full bar, onsite massages, and a DIY burrito station to help make the process as fun as possible (and also because burritos, am I right?).

Our Brainiacs whiteboarded, troubleshooted, and otherwise applied their collective genius to the tasks at hand. We also took the opportunity to chat with our customers for their take on some common questions about Segment. Here are the top themes addressed at our event – some by our Success team, others straight from our customers themselves:

On how product managers and engineers solve different problems with Segment

One of the top questions we get at Segment is about how our platform helps solve different problems for different teams. While chatting with Blake Barrett, CTO of fundraising video startup Pitch.ly and software engineer at a popular music streaming service – both clients of Segment – he hit the nail on the head:

“We have our own analytics-type pipeline where we report events, log them locally, and save them to a data warehouse [where] we run queries on the data. Because we have actual data scientists work on that, the turnaround between asking a question and getting data out of it is a long tale. So the PM who suggested Segment wants to be able to see stuff right away and discover as much information as possible.”

As a CTO and engineer, however, his priorities are different: the value lies in being able to skip the building of integrations for the different tools that PMs and other departments are looking for.

“I don’t really know or care what the PM is doing – he’s going to make dashboards and [explore tools] that are really not my concern. What I really care about is an easy way to feed data in [so the PM can do what he needs to]. That was why Segment seemed appealing.”

On moving data from tools like Apache Spark into Segment

Others wondered how to move data from other tools (in this case, Apache Spark) into our platform. If you have historical data you want to import into your Segment warehouse, you can always use one of our server-side libraries:

  1. Export your data from whatever repository it’s stored in

  2. Format it so that it’s ingestible by one of our server-side libraries (Analytics-node.js, Ruby, Python, etc. – see a full list of Segment’s sources here)

  3. Pass the data to Segment in the form of track, identify, page, screen, or group calls

As long as you’ve connected a data warehouse to your Segment account, your historical data will start to populate in the form of nicely schematized Segment events.

On how startups use Segment to maximize resources

One of the best parts of the Segment community is discovering the shared values between our clients and our own company. MonkeyLearn, a Machine Learning API for developers building text analysis applications, is both a vendor and client of ours: they help us optimize our email content to provide better experiences, and we help keep their engineering team lean and nimble as they scale.

MonkeyLearn Co-Founder and COO Federico Pascual put it this way:

“As a small startup, anything that can make our team more efficient is a good thing. The less time our engineers use to implement [different] integrations, the better, so they can focus on the important things like building new features within our product. Segment empowers us to do more with the same amount of resources.”

On preventing inconsistencies with .track() call properties

Over 62% of customers told us they had questions about tracking plans prior to this event, and it’s easy to see why. Tracking plans differ based on each company’s business priorities and the kinds of questions they’re hoping to answer through their data; this leads to a lot of different questions. (Which is also why we give out a thorough, battle-tested tracking plan you can use as your baseline. Just sayin’.)

Though the properties for each business use case may vary, some things are universal. One such tip: to stay consistent across tools, send flat properties instead of nested ones.

Nested properties:

analytics.track(“Video Played”, {
     name: “All About Tracking Plans”,
     series: “Analytics University”,
     user: {
         userLogin: “Jessica”,
         email: “jessica@segment.com”,
      }
});

Flat properties:

analytics.track(“Video Played”, {
     name: “All About Tracking Plans”,
     series: “Analytics University”,
     userLogin: “Jessica”,
     email: “jessica@segment.com”,
});

Some tools will flatten for you, but others will keep the data hierarchy. Sending everything flat from the start will keep things consistent and save you a potential headache later.

All in all, it was a night of great conversation and problem-solving, two of our favorite things at Segment. Have any more tricky questions? Tweet us @segment– and stay tuned for news of the next Brainiac Bar to come chat with us in person. There will probably be burritos.