This isn't SCIENCE this is PRODUCTION
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This isn't SCIENCE this is PRODUCTION


A Clojure library designed to help you experiment in production., but for Clojure (api and readme liberally stolen)


(require '[laboratory.experiment :as science])

(def my-experiment
  {:name "widget-permissions"
   :use (fn [widget user] (check-user? widget user))
   :try (fn [widget user] (allowed-to? :read user widget))
   :publish prn})

(science/run my-experiment widget user)

laboratory runs experiments as functions. Whatever arguments you pass to run are also passed to :try and :use. The function under :use is the "control" (the original code you used to have). The function under :try is the "experiment" (the new code that you want to compare).

Experiments are just maps with some data and functions in them. There are a lot of options though. :use, :try and :name are the only required keys, but experiments won't run if their results aren't published.

Making Science Useful

The above example will run, but it's only printing out results. To make it more useful, the :publish function could be enhanced:

:publish (fn [result] ; whatever you want to do on results happens here


Results passed to :publish are a Record:

{:name "widget-permissions"
 :experiment {the original experiment map/record}
 :args [a vector of the args passed to the use/try functions]
    :metrics {:duration-ns 10} ; number of nanoseconds the control took
    :value true  ; whatever value your :use function returned
    :metrics {:duration-ns 3}  ; number of nanoseconds the candidate took
    :value true  ; whatever value your :try function returned

Ramping up Experiments

Deciding to enable an experiment

To control if your :try function runs, you can pass a :enabled function in an experiment:

:enabled (fn [widget user] (is-staff? user))

Note that this function will be called for every invocation of every experiment. Be very sensitive to it's performance. Feature flags are recommended - consider using something like for this.

User-defined metrics

Experiments can also execute user-defined metrics for the control and the candidate. Metrics are 0-arity functions that return some number. Metrics are called before and after executing the function under inspection, and the difference is logged in the result's :metrics.

An experiment will take a map of additional metrics. Additional metrics will have an impact on experiment execution time - be mindful of performance. Here is an experiment that calculates a very crude memory metric:

(require '[laboratory.experiment :as science])

(def my-experiment
  {:name "widget-permissions"
   :use (fn [widget user] (check-user? widget user))
   :try (fn [widget user] (allowed-to? :read user widget))
   :publish prn
   :metrics {:bytes-used #(- (.totalMemory (Runtime/getRuntime))
                             (.freeMemory (Runtime/getRuntime)))}})

(science/run my-experiment widget user)

Faster, more Validated Science

Defining experiments as maps is easy and very flexible, however, their impact on the JVM will be noticeable. You may optionally use the Experiment record to enhance performance, but you must supply all experiment keys [:enabled :publish :metrics :use :try]:

(science/map->Experiment my-experiment) ; returns a record


Feature flags are great for rolling out production code changes gradually. But they don't go far enough for changes to critical paths - there's nothing in them about comparing results, or comparing performance of each side. That's where laboratory comes in.


laboratory leaves choice of metrics system, how to record mismatches, how to enable experiments for particular cases all up to you.

Punted On

See Non-Goals

Future Work

See Non-Goals

Open Questions

See Non-Goals

Shoutout to Brandon Bloom


Copyright © 2015 Tom Crayford

Distributed under the Eclipse Public License either version 1.0 or (at your option) any later version.