Verbose, but very informative, enlightening and pleasantly formatted errors for Go
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Verbose, but informative, time-saving and pleasantly formatted errors for Go


Stop me if you've seen this before:

go get

Basic Usage

package main

import (

func main() {

func innerFunc() {

func innerInnerFunc() {
	_, err := strconv.Atoi("not a number!")

	derr := deeperror.New(1506851885, "Oops, we can't understand that number.  Please try again.", err)

Sample Output

2013/09/19 18:16:57 

-- DeepError 1506851885 500 main.go main.innerInnerFunc line: 20 
-- EndUserMsg:  Oops, we can't understand that number.  Please try again. 
-- DebugMsg:   
-- StackTrace: -- goroutine 1 [running]:
--, 0x2534d0, 0x39, 0x2104418a0, 0x210441870, ...)
-- 	/Users/kai/Dropbox/gitStore/ +0x1cc
-- main.innerInnerFunc()
-- 	/Users/kai/Dropbox/gitStore/ +0x6a
-- main.innerFunc()
-- 	/Users/kai/Dropbox/gitStore/ +0x18
-- main.main()
-- 	/Users/kai/Dropbox/gitStore/ +0x18
-- ParentError: -- strconv.ParseInt: parsing "not a number!": invalid syntax

But Why?

Because debugging can be time-consuming.

I wanted to make debugging faster and easier. These are the tricks I use:

  1. Error Numbers
  2. End User Error Messages
  3. Debug Messages
  4. Stack Traces
  5. Error Chaining

Since you asked, 1. is my favorite, I use it in every language and platform I work with and 5. is especially powerful and relevent in Go. What? You didn't ask? Oh. Nevermind. I may have misheard.

Error Numbers

The err number (1506851885) makes it easy to do a find. Line numbers are insufficent when people are making changes to code and you don't know which exact version of the app is generating which stack trace. I use this shell command to generate them:

od -vAn -N4 -tu4 < /dev/urandom | tr -d " \n"

I use Keyboard Maestro to run the command and paste in where my cursor is. You could probably use any sufficently smart macro tool or your editor's snippet functionality.

End User Error Messages

It's always nice to have the option to show something to the user when things go wrong. Sometimes it is their fault. If only users wouldn't cause bugs, I wouldn't need this item. The issue is that debug messages and end user messages should be different. You log the debug messages and you only show the user the EndUserMsg. Maybe include the err number so that support calls can be streamlined.

Debug Messages

Because debugging is hard, it's nice to get some extra hints now and then. I stuff this string with ancilliary data which might help me figure out what is going wrong. These don't get presented to the user, but they do get logged.

Stack Traces

By themselves, stack traces are sometimes useful, sometimes a verbose mess of garbage. Combined with the next point, they become even more powerful than you could ever imagine.

Error Chaining

Go usually doesn't do exceptions. The normal pattern is to "pass the error up" the call stack. By chaining the errors, we can pinpoint the error source faster and usualy get a successful repro sooner.

In our trivial example above, it's fairly easy to pinpoint where the Atoi bug occured. In the case of the Atoi happens, due to a poorly formatted JSON document, processed by a http handler. In the case of simply logging errors, strconv.ParseInt: parsing "not a number!": invalid syntax is less useful than "walking up the error chain". In terms of handling the error, having a detailed error chain allows you the option of returning more specific error messages or having documentation for specific error numbers.

A note on performance

Getting a stack trace is relatively slow. If you are generating a deeperror on some hot path, it might not be the right tool. I tend to use deeperror very, very liberally, but only when errors actually happen, not as a general ok case. That being said, a wise man once said:

You know how many times I have been glad that I didn't log an error? Yeah, exactly. Log everything, separate wheat/chaff at analysis time. -

Future Proof Promise

deeperror will evolve, but it will NEVER break backwards compatibility. You may occasionally need to upgrade via go get -u but you should never need to pin to a specific version.

I'd rather build a brand new error package than break existing deeperror code.