Handling Go Errors

Marwan Sulaiman

The New York Times

September 2018

github.com/marwan-at-work

@MarwanSulaiman

Background

  • Backend Engineer for the NYT Subscriber Experience
  • ~2 YR as a Front End Engineer at Work & Co
  • Ruby On Rails Bootcamp at App Academy
  • No CS Background 🙃

I'd like to make an assumption

Go was not your first programming language

Why is this important?

Learning concepts

Learning syntax

VS

Goal: make a sandwich

package main

import (
    "markets/wholefoods"
    "markets/traderjoes"
    "markets/shoppers"
)
func BuyAvocados() (Ingredient, error)

func BuyEggs() (Ingredient, error)

func BuyBread() (Ingredient, error)

How do I handle errors in Go?

func getIngredients() ([]Ingredient, error) {
    avocados, err := wholefoods.BuyAvocados()

    boiledEggs, err := traderjoes.BuyEggs()

    bread, err := shoppers.BuyBread()

    return []Ingredient{avocados, boiledEggs, bread}, nil
}
type error interface {
    Error() string
}
func getIngredients() ([]Ingredient, error) {
    avocados, err := wholefoods.BuyAvocados()
    if err != nil {
        return nil, err
    }

    boiledEggs, err := traderjoes.BuyEggs()
    if err != nil {
        return nil, err
    }

    bread, err := shoppers.BuyBread()
    if err != nil {
        return nil, err
    }

    return []Ingredient{avocados, boiledEggs, bread}, nil
}
func main() {
    ingredients, err := getIngredients()
    if err != nil {
        panic(err)
    }

    makeSandwich(ingredients)
}
$ go run main.go

panic: ingredient not available

goroutine 1 [running]:
main.main()
	path/to/file/main.go:10 +0x44
exit status 2

which ingredient?

stack trace doesn't show getIngredients()

How do I decorate errors in Go? 

import "github.com/pkg/errors"
if err != nil {
    return errors.Wrap(err, "my unique error message")
}
import "github.com/pkg/errors"

func getIngredients() ([]Ingredient, error) {
    avocados, err := wholefoods.BuyAvocados()
    if err != nil {
        return nil, errors.Wrap(err, "could not buy avocados")
    }

    boiledEggs, err := traderjoes.BuyEggs()
    if err != nil {
        return nil, errors.Wrap(err, "could not buy eggs")
    }

    bread, err := shoppers.BuyBread()
    if err != nil {
        return nil, errors.Wrap(err, "could not buy bread")
    }

    return []Ingredient{avocados, boiledEggs, bread}, nil
}
$ go run main.go

panic: could not get eggs: ingredient not available

goroutine 1 [running]:
main.main()
	path/to/file/main.go:10 +0x44
exit status 2

👍🏽

👋🏽

What if we want to act on an error? 

import "github.com/pkg/errors"

func getIngredients() ([]Ingredient, error) {
    avocados, err := wholefoods.BuyAvocados()
    if err != nil {
        return nil, errors.Wrap(err, "could not buy avocados")
    }

    boiledEggs, err := traderjoes.BuyEggs()
    if err == tradejoes.ErrNotAvailable {
        boiledEggs, err = wholefoods.BuyEggs()
    }

    if err != nil {
        return nil, errors.Wrap(err, "could not buy eggs")
    }

    bread, err := shoppers.BuyBread()
    if err != nil {
        return nil, errors.Wrap(err, "could not buy bread")
    }

    return []Ingredient{avocados, boiledEggs, bread}, nil
}

Takeaways:

  • We can handle errors gracefully
  • We can trace the error back to the code
  • We can act upon an error

Is this enough? 

no

Further things you can do

  • Categorize errors by severity.
  • Categorize errors by type.
  • Add application specific data.
  • You can query all of the above.

Fast Forward 1 Year

The Architecture

Paper Delivery API

Login/Register API

Subscriptions API

Emails API

Account API

You Are Here!

Account UI

Not that different from making sandwiches

  • One service that talks to a bunch of other services
  • Instead of panicking, we log and monitor
func getUser(userID string) (Subscription, time.Time, error) {
    err := loginService.Validate(userID)
    if err != nil {
        return err
    }

    subscription, err := subscriptionService.Get(userID)
    if err != nil {
        return err
    }

    deliveryTime, err := deliveryService.GetTodaysDeliveryTime(userID)
    if err != nil {
        return err
    }
    
    return subscription, deliveryTime, nil
}
func getUserHandler(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
	// set up handler
	sub, deliveryTime, err := getUser(user)
	if err != nil {
		logger.Error(err)
                fmt.Fprint(w, "something went wrong")
		return
	}
	// return info to client
}

Account Is Not Active

User entered wrong password

User abandoned request

Wrong form values

User is not a subscriber

Free Trial Expired

Refactor Goals:

  • Can filter unexpected errors

  • Group by error types

  • Be able to answer specific questions

Looking for inspirations

Your Domain

Service A

Database

Client

3rd party lib

Service B

package errors
package errors

type Error struct {

}
package errors

type Error struct {
    Op Op // operation
}
package errors

type Error struct {
    Op Op // operation
    Kind Kind // category of errors
}
package errors

type Error struct {
    Op Op // operation
    Kind Kind // category of errors
    Err error // the wrapped error
}
package errors

type Error struct {
    Op Op // operation
    Kind Kind // category of errors
    Err error // the wrapped error
    //... application specific fields
}

How do we construct an Error type? 

if err != nil {
    return &errors.Error{
        Op: "getUser",
        Err: err,
    }
}
package errors

func E(args ...interface{}) error {
	e := &Error{}
	for _, arg := range args {
		switch arg := arg.(type) {
		case Op:
			e.Op = arg
		case error:
			e.Err = arg
		case Kind:
			e.Kind = arg
		default:
			panic("bad call to E")
		}
	}

	return e
}
if err != nil {
    return errors.E(op, err, errors.KindUnexpected)
}
type Op string

What is an Operation?

  • A unique string describing a method or a function
  • Multiple operations can construct a friendly stack trace. 
// app/account/account.go
package account

func getUser(userID string) (*User, err) {
    const op errors.Op = "account.getUser"
    err := loginService.Validate(userID)
    if err != nil {
        return nil, errors.E(op, err)
    }
    ...
}


// app/login/login.go
package login

func Validate(userID string) err {
    const op errors.Op = "login.Validate"
    err := db.LookUpUser(userID)
    if err != nil {
        return nil, errors.E(op, err)
    }
}
// app/errors/errors.go
package errors

// Ops returns the "stack" of operations
// for each generated error.
func Ops(e *Error) []Op {
	res := []Op{e.Op}

	subErr, ok := e.Err.(*Error)
	if !ok {
		return res
	}

	res = append(res, Ops(subErr)...)

	return res
}
["account.GetUser", "login.Validate", "db.LookUp"]

errors.Ops stack trace

goroutine 19 [running]:
net/http.(*conn).serve.func1(0xc0000928c0)
	/usr/local/go/src/net/http/server.go:1746 +0xd0
panic(0x12459c0, 0x12eb450)
	/usr/local/go/src/runtime/panic.go:513 +0x1b9
db.LookUp(...)
	/Users/208581/go/src/app/db/lookup.go:25
login.Validate(...)
	/Users/208581/go/src/app/login/login.go:21
account.getUser(...)
	/Users/208581/go/src/app/account/account.go:17
main.getUserHandler(0x12ef4e0, 0xc000118000, 0xc000112000)
	/Users/208581/go/src/app/account/account.go:17
net/http.HandlerFunc.ServeHTTP(0x12bc838, 0x12ef4e0, 0xc000118000, 0xc000112000)
	/usr/local/go/src/net/http/server.go:1964 +0x44
net/http.(*ServeMux).ServeHTTP(0x149f720, 0x12ef4e0, 0xc000118000, 0xc000112000)
	/usr/local/go/src/net/http/server.go:2361 +0x127
net/http.serverHandler.ServeHTTP(0xc000098d00, 0x12ef4e0, 0xc000118000, 0xc000112000)
	/usr/local/go/src/net/http/server.go:2741 +0xab
net/http.(*conn).serve(0xc0000928c0, 0x12ef6e0, 0xc00009e240)
	/usr/local/go/src/net/http/server.go:1847 +0x646
created by net/http.(*Server).Serve
	/usr/local/go/src/net/http/server.go:2851 +0x2f5

Classic stack trace

Benefits of errors.Op

  • A custom stack of your code only

  • Easier to read
  • Parsable and queryable. 
  • Not only can you know where something went wrong, but the impact it had on your entire application.

Query your stack trace

SELECT * FROM logs WHERE operations.include("login.Validate")

["account.getUser"],

["account.resetPassword"],

["homeDelivery.changeAddress"]

One final thought on Op

func helperFunction(op errors.Op, userID string) error {
    if somethingGoesWrong() {
        return errors.E(op, "something went wrong")
    }
}
  • You can make your stack even simpler by removing helper functions from the stack. 

Kind

const (
    KindNotFound = http.StatusNotFound
    KindUnauthorized = http.StatusUnauthorized
    KindUnexpected = http.StatusUnexpected
)  
  • Groups all errors into smaller categories
  • Can be predefined codes (http/gRPC)
  • Or it can be your own defined codes

Extracting a Kind from an error

func Kind(err error) codes.Code {
	e, ok := err.(*Error)
	if !ok {
		return KindUnexpected
	}

	if e.Kind != 0 {
		return e.Kind
	}

	return Kind(e.Err)
}

If your kind is an http status, then you can propagate an error back to the client

func getUserHandler(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
	// set up handler
	sub, deliveryTime, err := getUser(user)
	if err != nil {
		logger.Error(err)
                http.Error(w, "something went wrong", errors.Kind(err))
		return
	}
	// return info to client
}
type Error struct {
    ...
    Severity logrus.Level
}

The Severity Of Your Errors

func getUser(userID string) (*User, err) {
    const op errors.Op = "account.getUser"
    err := loginService.Validate(userID)
    if err != nil {
        return nil, errors.E(op, err, logrus.InfoLevel)
    }
    ...
}
func getUserHandler(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
	// set up handler
	sub, deliveryTime, err := getUser(user)
	if err != nil {
		logger.SystemErr(err)
                http.Error(w, "something went wrong", errors.Kind(err))
		return
	}
	// return info to client
}

Application Specific Data

type Error struct {
    // ... op, kind, etc
    Artist, Song string
}
type Error struct {
    // ... op, kind, etc
    ZipCode string
}
type Error struct {
    // ... op, kind, etc
    From, To string
}
type Error struct {
    // ... op, kind, etc
    OrderedAt time.Time
    RestaurantID string
}

Takeaways:

  • The error interface is intentionally simple. 

  • Design an errors package that makes sense to your application, and no one else

Conclusion

A big part of all programming, for real, is how you handle errors  - Rob Pike

Thank You

Handling Go Errors

By marwansameer

Handling Go Errors

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