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Book review: Darwinia
Reviewed: Friday, August 11, 2006

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Jon Udell talks about logging
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

I find most of what Jon Udell says interesting. Today, he's talking about logging. I agree with him that logging is an under-utilized resource in part because it's not often available at the level of an OS service. Here are three of his ideas for things that would be useful to log:

  • Warnings. If the same warning appears repeatedly (or perhaps a set of related warnings spanning several apps), it's a sign that there's a problem with the software, or with the user's understanding of the software, or both. If we don't log these warnings, though, we can't detect patterns and respond to them.
  • Settings changes. As a user, how many times have you tried to remember what settings were in place when something that's broken used to work? As a developer, how many times have you tried to get users to remember what they changed? Aren't such changes important events in the life of an application, worthy of logging?
  • Launch and exit events. These are the most basic and obvious things to record, but we don't find them in the log. If we going to move toward "software as a service," shouldn't we keep track of what's used and how often?

Like most working programmers, I spend a lot of time reading trace and debug output from my code (and yes, I still debug with format statements! That I can do so easily and quickly one of Lisp's big wins!). Usually, however, I have the feeling that the output could be so much better and analyzed so much faster if I only had the right tools. Now if just knew what those tools were...


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