Sympathy for the Devil: Reified Collection of Runtime Errors
Software development involves iterations of writing, running, testing, and debugging code. When fixing a defect, developers construct a mental model of the system that explains the defect and eventually identifies its cause. However, filtering complete, coherent, and reliable information from a running system is not an easy task: Using a simple approach, like generic logging, is often ineffective because it deconstructs and flattens the state into textual data, thus requiring ad-hoc understanding and processing. On the other hand, collecting structured information in form of objects to observe and understand a precise property of the system requires specialized ad-hoc code, decoupled from the system’s domain, and usually not reusable.
We present ShoreLine, a domain-specific data collection framework that enables the developers to extract selected information about a running system. The developer is able to take a snapshot of all the information deemed relevant about a piece of code by writing few lines of code, thus enabling structured and effective logging and reporting of errors. We detail our framework in the context of a bug reporting platform, and illustrate how such an approach can be used to create in-depth and reliable domain-specific bug reports.