Stupid Simple Debugging

There are all kinds of fancy debugging tools out there, but personally, I get the most mileage out of good old puts statements.

When I started with Ruby, several years ago, I used puts like this to debug:

puts account.inspect

The problem with this is two fold. First, if you have a few puts statements, you don’t know which one is actually which object. This always led me to doing something like this:

puts "account: #{account.inspect}"

Second, depending on whether you are just in Ruby or running an app through a web server, puts is sometimes swallowed. This led me to often times do something like this when using Rails:

Rails.logger.debug "account: #{account.inspect}"

Now, not only do I have to think about which method to use to debug something, I also have to think about where the output will be sent so I can watch


Enter Log Buddy

Then, one fateful afternoon, I stumbled across log buddy (gem install log_buddy). In every project, whether it be a library, Rails app, or Sinatra app, one of the first gems I throw in my Gemfile is log_buddy.

Once you have the gem installed, you can tell log buddy where your log file is and whether or not to actually log like so:

  :logger   => Gauges.logger,
  :disabled => Gauges.production?,

Simply provide log buddy with a logger and tell it if you want it to be silenced in a given situation or environment and you get some nice bang for your buck.

One Method, One Character

First, log buddy adds a nice and short method named d. d is 4X shorter than puts, so right off the bat you get some productivity gains. The d method takes any argument and calls inspect on it. Short and sweet.

d account # will puts account.inspect
d 'Some message' # will puts "Some message"

The cool part is that on top of printing the inspected object to stdout, it also logs it to the logger provided in in LogBuddy.init. No more thinking about which method to use or where output will be. One method, output is sent to multiple places.

This is nice, but it won’t win you any new friends. Where log buddy gets really cool, is when you pass it a block.

d { account } # puts and logs account = <Account ...>

Again, one method, output to stdout and your log file, but when you use a block, it does magic to print out the variable name and that inspected value. You can also pass in several objects, separating them with semi-colons.

d { account; account.creator; current_user }

This gives you each variable on its own line with the name and inspected value. Nothing fancy, but log buddy has saved me a lot of time over the past year. I figured it was time I send it some love.

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