Logging and Error reporting¶
Having a good system for logging error reporting is essential to making a large project like Zulip successful. Without reliable error reporting, one has to rely solely on bug reports from users in order to produce a working product.
We expect to in the future integrate a service like Sentry to make it easier for very large installations like zulipchat.com to manage their exceptions and ensure they are all tracked down, but our default email-based system is great for small installations.
Backend error reporting¶
The Django framework provides much of the infrastructure needed by our error reporting system:
- The ability to send emails to the server’s administrators with any
500 errors, using the
mail_adminsfunction. We enhance these data with extra details (like what user was involved in the error) in
zerver/logging_handlers.py, and then send them to the administrator in
zerver/lib/error_notify.py(which also supports sending Zulips to a stream about production errors).
- The ability to rate-limit certain errors to avoid sending hundreds
of emails in an outage (see
- A nice framework for filtering passwords and other important user
data from the exception details, which we use in
- Middleware for handling
JsonableError, our system for allowing code anywhere in Django to report an API-facing
json_errorfrom anywhere in a view code path.
Since 500 errors in any Zulip server are usually a problem the server administrator should investigate and/or report upstream, we have this email reporting system configured to report errors by default.
Django’s logging system uses the standard
Python logging infrastructure. We have configured
them so that
logging.error get emailed to
the server maintainer, while
logging.warning will just appear in
/var/log/zulip/errors.log. Lower log levels just appear in the main
server log (as well as in the log for corresponding process, be it
django.log for the main Django processes or the appropriate
events_* log file for a queue worker).
Backend logging format¶
The main Zulip server log contains a line for each backend request.
It also contains warnings, errors, and the full tracebacks for any
Python exceptions. In production, it goes to
/var/log/zulip/server.log; in development, it goes to the terminal
where you run
In development, it’s good to keep an eye on the
as you work on backend changes, since it’s a great way to notice bugs
you just introduced.
In production, one usually wants to look at
errors.log for errors
since the main server log can be very verbose, but the main server log
can be extremely valuable for investigating performance problems.
2016-05-20 14:50:22.056 INFO [zr] 127.0.0.1 GET 302 528ms (db: 1ms/1q) (+start: 123ms) / (unauth via ?) [20/May/2016 14:50:22]"GET / HTTP/1.0" 302 0 2016-05-20 14:50:22.272 INFO [zr] 127.0.0.1 GET 200 124ms (db: 3ms/2q) /login/ (unauth via ?) 2016-05-20 14:50:26.333 INFO [zr] 127.0.0.1 POST 302 37ms (db: 6ms/7q) /accounts/login/local/ (unauth via ?) [20/May/2016 14:50:26]"POST /accounts/login/local/ HTTP/1.0" 302 0 2016-05-20 14:50:26.538 INFO [zr] 127.0.0.1 GET 200 12ms (db: 1ms/2q) (+start: 53ms) /api/v1/events [1463769771:0/0] (email@example.com via internal) 2016-05-20 14:50:26.657 INFO [zr] 127.0.0.1 GET 200 10ms (+start: 8ms) /api/v1/events [1463769771:0/0] (firstname.lastname@example.org via internal) 2016-05-20 14:50:26.959 INFO [zr] 127.0.0.1 GET 200 588ms (db: 26ms/21q) / [1463769771:0] (email@example.com via website)
The format of this output is:
- Log level
- Logger name, abbreviated as “zr” for these Zulip request logs
- IP address
- HTTP method
- HTTP status code
- Time to process
- (Optional perf data details, e.g. database time/queries, memcached time/queries, Django process startup time, markdown processing time, etc.)
- Endpoint/URL from zproject/urls.py
- “email via client” showing user account involved (if logged in) and the type of client they used (“web”, “Android”, etc.).
The performance data details are particularly useful for investigating performance problems, since one can see at a glance whether a slow request was caused by delays in the database, in the markdown processor, in memcached, or in other Python code.
One useful thing to note, however, is that the database time is only the time spent connecting to and receiving a response from the database. Especially when response are large, there can often be a great deal of Python processing overhead to marshall the data from the database into Django objects that is not accounted for in these numbers.
Blueslip frontend error reporting¶
We have a custom library, called
blueslip (named after the form used
at MIT to report problems with the facilities), that takes care of
server administrators (though the setting controlling this,
BROWSER_ERROR_REPORTING, is disabled by default, since most problems
are unlikely to be addressable by a system administrator, and it’s
to the variety of browser versions and sets of extensions that someone
might use). In development, this means displaying a highly visible
overlay over the message view area, to make exceptions in testing a
new feature hard to miss.
- Blueslip is implemented in
- In order to capture essentially any error occurring in the browser,
blueslip does the following:
- Wraps every function passed into
$.ready(), i.e., every on-webapp-startup method used by Zulip.
- Wraps every jQuery AJAX request handler used by Zulip.
- Wraps every function passed into
$.on(), i.e. all event handlers declared in Zulip.
- Declares a default browser exception handler.
- Wraps every function passed into
- Blueslip keeps a log of all the notices it has received during a
browser session, and includes them in reports to the server, so that
one can see cases where exceptions chained together. You can print
this log from the browser console using
Blueslip supports several error levels:
blueslip.fatal: For fatal errors that cannot be easily recovered from. We try to avoid using it, since it kills the current JS thread, rather than returning execution to the caller. Unhandled exceptions in our JS code are treated like
blueslip.error: For logging of events that are definitely caused by a bug and thus sufficiently important to be reported, but where we can handle the error without creating major user-facing problems (e.g. an exception when handling a presence update).
blueslip.warn: For logging of events that are a problem but not important enough to send an email about in production. They are, however, highlighted in the JS console in development.
blueslip.info): Logged to the JS console in development and also in the blueslip log in production. Useful for data that might help discern what state the browser was in during an error (e.g. whether the user was in a narrow).
blueslip.debug: Similar to
blueslip.log, but are not printed to the JS console in development.
Frontend performance reporting¶
In order to make it easier to debug potential performance problems in the critically latency-sensitive message sending code pathway, we log and report to the server the following whenever a message is sent:
- The time the user triggered the message (aka the start time).
- The time the
send_messageresponse returned from the server.
- The time the message was received by the browser from the
get_eventsprotocol (these last two race with each other).
- Whether the message was locally echoed.
- If so, whether there was a disparity between the echoed content and the server-rendered content, which can be used for statistics on how effective our local echo system is.
The code is all in
We have similar reporting for the time it takes to narrow / switch to a new view:
- The time the action was initiated
- The time when the updated message feed was visible to the user
- The time when the browser was idle again after switching views (intended to catch issues where we generate a lot of deferred work).