Snowplow

This page provides an overview of how Snowplow works and how to enable it.

What is Snowplow

Snowplow is an enterprise-grade marketing and Product Intelligence platform that tracks how users engage with our website and application.

Snowplow consists of several loosely-coupled sub-systems:

  • Trackers fire Snowplow events. Snowplow has twelve trackers that cover web, mobile, desktop, server, and IoT.
  • Collectors receive Snowplow events from trackers. We use different event collectors that synchronize events to Amazon S3, Apache Kafka, or Amazon Kinesis.
  • Enrich cleans raw Snowplow events, enriches them, and puts them into storage. There is a Hadoop-based enrichment process, and a Kinesis-based or Kafka-based process.
  • Storage stores Snowplow events. We store the Snowplow events in a flat file structure on S3, and in the Redshift and PostgreSQL databases.
  • Data modeling joins event-level data with other data sets, aggregates them into smaller data sets, and applies business logic. This produces a clean set of tables for data analysis. We use data models for Redshift and Looker.
  • Analytics are performed on Snowplow events or on aggregate tables.

snowplow_flow

Enable Snowplow tracking

Tracking can be enabled at:

  • The instance level, which enables tracking on both the frontend and backend layers.
  • The user level. User tracking can be disabled on a per user basis. GitLab respects the Do Not Track standard, so any user who has enabled the Do Not Track option in their browser is not tracked at a user level.

Snowplow tracking is enabled on GitLab.com, and we use it for most of our tracking strategy.

To enable Snowplow tracking on a self-managed instance:

  1. On the top bar, select Menu > Admin, then select Settings > General. Alternatively, go to admin/application_settings/general in your browser.

  2. Expand Snowplow.

  3. Select Enable Snowplow tracking and enter your Snowplow configuration information. For example:

    Name Value
    Collector hostname your-snowplow-collector.net
    App ID gitlab
    Cookie domain .your-gitlab-instance.com
  4. Select Save changes.

Snowplow request flow

The following example shows a basic request/response flow between the following components:

sequenceDiagram participant Snowplow JS (Frontend) participant Snowplow Ruby (Backend) participant GitLab.com Snowplow Collector participant S3 Bucket participant Snowflake DW participant Sisense Dashboards Snowplow JS (Frontend) ->> GitLab.com Snowplow Collector: FE Tracking event Snowplow Ruby (Backend) ->> GitLab.com Snowplow Collector: BE Tracking event loop Process using Kinesis Stream GitLab.com Snowplow Collector ->> GitLab.com Snowplow Collector: Log raw events GitLab.com Snowplow Collector ->> GitLab.com Snowplow Collector: Enrich events GitLab.com Snowplow Collector ->> GitLab.com Snowplow Collector: Write to disk end GitLab.com Snowplow Collector ->> S3 Bucket: Kinesis Firehose S3 Bucket->>Snowflake DW: Import data Snowflake DW->>Snowflake DW: Transform data using dbt Snowflake DW->>Sisense Dashboards: Data available for querying

Structured event taxonomy

Click events must be consistent. If each feature captures events differently, it can be difficult to perform analysis.

Each click event provides attributes that describe the event.

Attribute Type Required Description
category text true The page or backend section of the application. Unless infeasible, use the Rails page attribute by default in the frontend, and namespace + class name on the backend.
action text true The action the user takes, or aspect that’s being instrumented. The first word must describe the action or aspect. For example, clicks must be click, activations must be activate, creations must be create. Use underscores to describe what was acted on. For example, activating a form field is activate_form_input, an interface action like clicking on a dropdown is click_dropdown, a behavior like creating a project record from the backend is create_project.
label text false The specific element or object to act on. This can be one of the following: the label of the element, for example, a tab labeled ‘Create from template’ for create_from_template; a unique identifier if no text is available, for example, groups_dropdown_close for closing the Groups dropdown in the top bar; or the name or title attribute of a record being created.
property text false Any additional property of the element, or object being acted on.
value decimal false Describes a numeric value or something directly related to the event. This could be the value of an input. For example, 10 when clicking internal visibility.

Examples

Category* Label Action Property** Value
[root:index] main_navigation click_navigation_link [link_label] -
[groups:boards:show] toggle_swimlanes click_toggle_button - [is_active]
[projects:registry:index] registry_delete click_button - -
[projects:registry:index] registry_delete confirm_deletion - -
[projects:blob:show] congratulate_first_pipeline click_button [human_access] -
[projects:clusters:new] chart_options generate_link [chart_link] -
[projects:clusters:new] chart_options click_add_label_button [label_id] -

* If you choose to omit the category you can use the default.
** Use property for variable strings.

Reference SQL

Last 20 reply_comment_button events

SELECT
  session_id,
  event_id,
  event_label,
  event_action,
  event_property,
  event_value,
  event_category,
  contexts
FROM legacy.snowplow_structured_events_all
WHERE
  event_label = 'reply_comment_button'
  AND event_action = 'click_button'
  -- AND event_category = 'projects:issues:show'
  -- AND event_value = 1
ORDER BY collector_tstamp DESC
LIMIT 20

Last 100 page view events

SELECT
  -- page_url,
  -- page_title,
  -- referer_url,
  -- marketing_medium,
  -- marketing_source,
  -- marketing_campaign,
  -- browser_window_width,
  -- device_is_mobile
  *
FROM legacy.snowplow_page_views_30
ORDER BY page_view_start DESC
LIMIT 100

Web-specific parameters

Snowplow JavaScript adds web-specific parameters to all web events by default.