Error Handling In Rust - A Deep Dive

This article is a sample from Zero To Production In Rust, a book on backend development in Rust.
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TL;DR

To send a confirmation email you have to stitch together multiple operations: validation of user input, email dispatch, various database queries.
They all have one thing in common: they may fail.

In Chapter 6 we discussed the building blocks of error handling in Rust - Result and the ? operator.
We left many questions unanswered: how do errors fit within the broader architecture of our application? What does a good error look like? Who are errors for? Should we use a library? Which one?

An in-depth analysis of error handling patterns in Rust will be the sole focus of this chapter.

Chapter 8

  1. What Is The Purpose Of Errors?
  2. Error Reporting For Operators
  3. Errors For Control Flow
  4. Avoid "Ball Of Mud" Error Enums
  5. Who Should Log Errors?
  6. Summary

What Is The Purpose Of Errors?

Let's start with an example:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

pub async fn store_token(
    transaction: &mut Transaction<'_, Postgres>,
    subscriber_id: Uuid,
    subscription_token: &str,
) -> Result<(), sqlx::Error> {
    sqlx::query!(
        r#"
    INSERT INTO subscription_tokens (subscription_token, subscriber_id)
    VALUES ($1, $2)
        "#,
        subscription_token,
        subscriber_id
    )
    .execute(transaction)
    .await
    .map_err(|e| {
        tracing::error!("Failed to execute query: {:?}", e);
        e
    })?;
    Ok(())
}

We are trying to insert a row into the subscription_tokens table in order to store a newly-generated token against a subscriber_id.
execute is a fallible operation: we might have a network issue while talking to the database, the row we are trying to insert might violate some table constraints (e.g. uniqueness of the primary key), etc.

Internal Errors

Enable The Caller To React

The caller of execute most likely wants to be informed if a failure occurs - they need to react accordingly, e.g. retry the query or propagate the failure upstream using ?, as in our example.

Rust leverages the type system to communicate that an operation may not succeed: the return type of execute is Result, an enum.

pub enum Result<Success, Error> {
    Ok(Success),
    Err(Error)
}

The caller is then forced by the compiler to express how they plan to handle both scenarios - success and failure.

If our only goal was to communicate to the caller that an error happened, we could use a simpler definition for Result:

pub enum ResultSignal<Success> {
    Ok(Success),
    Err
}

There would be no need for a generic Error type - we could just check that execute returned the Err variant, e.g.

let outcome = sqlx::query!(/* ... */)
	.execute(transaction)
	.await;
if outcome == ResultSignal::Err { 
	// Do something if it failed
}

This works if there is only one failure mode. Truth is, operations can fail in multiple ways and we might want to react differently depending on what happened.
Let's look at the skeleton of sqlx::Error, the error type for execute:

//! sqlx-core/src/error.rs
 
pub enum Error {
    Configuration(/* */),
    Database(/* */),
    Io(/* */),
    Tls(/* */),
    Protocol(/* */),
    RowNotFound,
    TypeNotFound {/* */},
    ColumnIndexOutOfBounds {/* */},
    ColumnNotFound(/* */),
    ColumnDecode {/* */},
    Decode(/* */),
    PoolTimedOut,
    PoolClosed,
    WorkerCrashed,
    Migrate(/* */),
}

Quite a list, ain't it?
sqlx::Error is implemented as an enum to allow users to match on the returned error and behave differently depending on the underlying failure mode. For example, you might want to retry a PoolTimedOut while you will probably give up on a ColumnNotFound.

Help An Operator To Troubleshoot

What if an operation has a single failure mode - should we just use () as error type?

Err(()) might be enough for the caller to determine what to do - e.g. return a 500 Internal Server Error to the user.

But control flow is not the only purpose of errors in an application.
We expect errors to carry enough context about the failure to produce a report for an operator (e.g. the developer) that contains enough details to go and troubleshoot the issue.

What do we mean by report?
In a backend API like ours it will usually be a log event.
In a CLI it could be an error message shown in the terminal when a --verbose flag is used.

The implementation details may vary, the purpose stays the same: help a human understand what is going wrong.
That's exactly what we are doing in the initial code snippet:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

pub async fn store_token(/* */) -> Result<(), sqlx::Error> {
    sqlx::query!(/* */)
        .execute(transaction)
        .await
        .map_err(|e| {
            tracing::error!("Failed to execute query: {:?}", e);
            e
        })?;
	// [...]
}

If the query fails, we grab the error and emit a log event. We can then go and inspect the error logs when investigating the database issue.

Errors At The Edge

Help A User To Troubleshoot

So far we focused on the internals of our API - functions calling other functions and operators trying to make sense of the mess after it happened.
What about users?

Just like operators, users expect the API to signal when a failure mode is encountered.

What does a user of our API see when store_token fails?
We can find out by looking at the request handler:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

pub async fn subscribe(/* */) -> Result<HttpResponse, HttpResponse> {
	// [...]
    store_token(&mut transaction, subscriber_id, &subscription_token)
        .await
        .map_err(|_| HttpResponse::InternalServerError().finish())?;
    // [...]
}

They receive an HTTP response with no body and a 500 Internal Server Error status code.

The status code fulfills the same purpose of the error type in store_token: it is a machine-parsable piece of information that the caller (e.g. the browser) can use to determine what to do next (e.g. retry the request assuming it's a transient failure).

What about the human behind the browser? What are we telling them?
Not much, the response body is empty.
That is actually a good implementation: the user should not have to care about the internals of the API they are calling - they have no mental model of it and no way to determine why it is failing. That's the realm of the operator.
We are omitting those details by design.

In other circumstances, instead, we need to convey additional information to the human user. Let's look at our input validation for the same endpoint:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs

#[derive(serde::Deserialize)]
pub struct FormData {
    email: String,
    name: String,
}

impl TryInto<NewSubscriber> for FormData {
    type Error = String;

    fn try_into(self) -> Result<NewSubscriber, Self::Error> {
        let name = SubscriberName::parse(self.name)?;
        let email = SubscriberEmail::parse(self.email)?;
        Ok(NewSubscriber { email, name })
    }
}

We received an email address and a name as data attached to the form submitted by the user. Both fields are going through an additional round of validation - SubscriberName::parse and SubscriberEmail::parse. Those two methods are fallible - they return a String as error type to explain what has gone wrong:

//! src/domain/subscriber_email.rs
// [...]

impl SubscriberEmail {
    pub fn parse(s: String) -> Result<SubscriberEmail, String> {
        if validate_email(&s) {
            Ok(Self(s))
        } else {
            Err(format!("{} is not a valid subscriber email.", s))
        }
    }
}

It is, I must admit, not the most useful error message: we are telling the user that the email address they entered is wrong, but we are not helping them to determine why.
In the end, it doesn't matter: we are not sending any of that information to the user as part of the response of the API - they are getting a 400 Bad Request with no body.

//! src/routes/subscription.rs
// [...]

pub async fn subscribe(/* */) -> Result<HttpResponse, HttpResponse> {
    let new_subscriber = form
        .0
        .try_into()
        .map_err(|_| HttpResponse::BadRequest().finish())?;
	// [...]

This is a poor error: the user is left in the dark and cannot adapt their behaviour as required.

Summary

Let's summarise what we uncovered so far.
Errors serve two1 main purposes:

We can also distinguish errors based on their location:

Control flow is scripted: all information required to take a decision on what to do next must be accessible to a machine.
We use types (e.g. enum variants), methods and fields for internal errors.
We rely on status codes for errors at the edge.

Error reports, instead, are primarily consumed by humans.
The content has to be tuned depending on the audience.
An operator has access to the internals of the system - they should be provided with as much context as possible on the failure mode.
A user sits outside the boundary of the application2: they should only be given the amount of information required to adjust their behaviour if necessary (e.g. fix malformed inputs).

We can visualise this mental model using a 2x2 table with Location as columns and Purpose as rows:

InternalAt the edge
Control FlowTypes, methods, fieldsStatus codes
ReportingLogs/tracesResponse body

We will spend the rest of the chapter improving our error handling strategy for each of the cells in the table.

Error Reporting For Operators

Let's start with error reporting for operators.
Are we doing a good job with logging right now when it comes to errors?

Let's write a quick test to find out:

//! tests/api/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

#[actix_rt::test]
async fn subscribe_fails_if_there_is_a_fatal_database_error() {
    // Arrange
    let app = spawn_app().await;
    let body = "name=le%20guin&email=ursula_le_guin%40gmail.com";
    // Sabotage the database
    sqlx::query!("ALTER TABLE subscription_tokens DROP COLUMN subscription_token;",)
        .execute(&app.db_pool)
        .await
        .unwrap();

    // Act
    let response =  app.post_subscriptions(body.into()).await;

    // Assert
    assert_eq!(response.status().as_u16(), 500);
}

The test passes straight away - let's look at the log emitted by the application3.

Make sure you are running on tracing-actix-web 0.4.0-beta.4, tracing-bunyan-formatter 0.2.4 and actix-web 4.0.0-beta.5!

# sqlx logs are a bit spammy, cutting them out to reduce noise
export RUST_LOG="sqlx=error,info"
export TEST_LOG=enabled
cargo t subscribe_fails_if_there_is_a_fatal_database_error | bunyan

The output, once you focus on what matters, is the following:

 INFO: [HTTP REQUEST - START] 
 INFO: [ADDING A NEW SUBSCRIBER - START]
 INFO: [SAVING NEW SUBSCRIBER DETAILS IN THE DATABASE - START]
 INFO: [SAVING NEW SUBSCRIBER DETAILS IN THE DATABASE - END]
 INFO: [STORE SUBSCRIPTION TOKEN IN THE DATABASE - START]
ERROR: [STORE SUBSCRIPTION TOKEN IN THE DATABASE - EVENT] Failed to execute query: 
		Database(PgDatabaseError { 
		  severity: Error, 
		  code: "42703", 
		  message: 
		  	"column 'subscription_token' of relation
		  	 'subscription_tokens' does not exist", 
		  ...
		})
	target=zero2prod::routes::subscriptions
 INFO: [STORE SUBSCRIPTION TOKEN IN THE DATABASE - END]
 INFO: [ADDING A NEW SUBSCRIBER - END]
ERROR: [HTTP REQUEST - EVENT] Internal Server Error: "" 
	log.target=actix_http::response
ERROR: [HTTP REQUEST - EVENT] Error encountered while 
		processing the incoming HTTP request: "" 
	exception.details="",
	exception.message="",
	target=tracing_actix_web::middleware
 INFO: [HTTP REQUEST - END] 
    exception.details="",
    exception.message="",
    target=tracing_actix_web::root_span_builder, 
    http.status_code=500

How do you read something like this?
Ideally, you start from the outcome: the log record emitted at the end of request processing. In our case, that is:

 INFO: [HTTP REQUEST - END] 
    exception.details="",
    exception.message="",
    target=tracing_actix_web::root_span_builder, 
    http.status_code=500

What does that tell us?
The request returned a 500 status code - it failed.
We don't learn a lot more than that: both exception.details and exception.message are empty.

The situation does not get much better if we look at the next two error logs, one emitted by actix_web itself (via actix_http) and the other coming from tracing_actix_web:

ERROR: [HTTP REQUEST - EVENT] Internal Server Error: "" 
	log.target=actix_http::response
ERROR: [HTTP REQUEST - EVENT] Error encountered while 
		processing the incoming HTTP request: "" 
	exception.details="",
	exception.message="",
	target=tracing_actix_web::middleware

No actionable information whatsoever. Logging "Oops! Something went wrong!" would have been just as useful.

We need to keep looking, all the way to the last remaining error log:

ERROR: [STORE SUBSCRIPTION TOKEN IN THE DATABASE - EVENT] Failed to execute query: 
		Database(PgDatabaseError { 
		  severity: Error, 
		  code: "42703", 
		  message: 
		  	"column 'subscription_token' of relation
		  	 'subscription_tokens' does not exist", 
		  ...
		})
	target=zero2prod::routes::subscriptions

Something went wrong when we tried talking to the database - we were expecting to see a subscription_token column in the subscription_tokens table but, for some reason, it was not there.
This is actually useful!

Is it the cause of the 500 though?
Difficult to say just by looking at the logs - a developer will have to clone the codebase, check where that log line is coming from and make sure that it's indeed the cause of the issue.
It can be done, but it takes time: it would be much easier if the [HTTP REQUEST - END] log record reported something useful about the underlying root cause in exception.details and exception.message.

Keeping Track Of The Error Root Cause

To understand why the log records coming out tracing_actix_web are so poor we need to inspect (again) our request handler and store_token:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

pub async fn subscribe(/* */) -> Result<HttpResponse, HttpResponse> {
	// [...]
    store_token(/* */)
        .await
        .map_err(|_| HttpResponse::InternalServerError().finish())?;
	// [...]
}

pub async fn store_token(/* */) -> Result<(), sqlx::Error> {
    sqlx::query!(/* */)
        .execute(transaction)
        .await
        .map_err(|e| {
            tracing::error!("Failed to execute query: {:?}", e);
            e
        })?;
	// [...]
}

The useful error log we found is indeed the one emitted by that tracing::error call - the error message includes the sqlx::Error returned by execute.
We propagate the error upwards using the ? operator, but the chain breaks in subscribe - we discard the error we received from store_token (.map_err(|_| /* */)) and build a bare 500 response that we return as Err variant from subscribe to the framework.

That Err(HttpResponse::InternalServerError().finish()) is the only thing that actix_web and tracing_actix_web::TracingLogger get to access when they are about to emit their respective log records. The error does not contain any context about the underlying root cause, therefore the log records are equally useless.

How do we fix it?

We need to start leveraging the error handling machinery exposed by actix_web - in particular, actix_web::Error. According to the documentation:

actix_web::Error is used to carry errors from std::error through actix_web in a convenient way.

It sounds exactly like what we are looking for. How do we build an instance of actix_web::Error?
The documentation states that

actix_web::Error can be created by converting errors with into().

A bit indirect, but we can figure it out4.
The only From/Into implementation that we can use, browsing the ones listed in the documentation, seems to be this one:

/// Build an `actix_web::Error` from any error that implements `ResponseError`
impl<T: ResponseError + 'static> From<T> for Error {
    fn from(err: T) -> Error {
        Error {
            cause: Box::new(err),
        }
    }
}

ResponseError is a trait exposed by actix_web:

/// Errors that can be converted to `Response`.
pub trait ResponseError: fmt::Debug + fmt::Display {
    /// Response's status code.
    ///
    /// The default implementation returns an internal server error.
    fn status_code(&self) -> StatusCode;

    /// Create a response from the error.
    ///
    /// The default implementation returns an internal server error.
    fn error_response(&self) -> Response;
}

We just need to implement it for our errors!
actix_web provides a default implementation for both methods that returns a 500 Internal Server Error - exactly what we need. Therefore it's enough to write:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
use actix_web::ResponseError;
// [...]

impl ResponseError for sqlx::Error {}

The compiler is not happy:

error[E0117]: only traits defined in the current crate 
			  can be implemented for arbitrary types
   --> src/routes/subscriptions.rs:162:1
    |
162 | impl ResponseError for sqlx::Error {}
    | ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^-----------
    | |                      |
    | |                      `sqlx::Error` is not defined in the current crate
    | impl doesn't use only types from inside the current crate
    |
    = note: define and implement a trait or new type instead

We just bumped into Rust's orphan rule: it is forbidden to implement a foreign trait for a foreign type, where foreign stands for "from another crate".
This restriction is meant to preserve coherence: imagine if you added a dependency that defined its own implementation of ResponseError for sqlx::Error - which one should the compiler use when the trait methods are invoked?

Orphan rule aside, it would still be a mistake for us to implement ResponseError for sqlx::Error.
We want to return a 500 Internal Server Error when we run into a sqlx::Error while trying to persist a subscriber token.
In another circumstance we might wish to handle a sqlx::Error differently.

We should follow the compiler's suggestion: define a new type to wrap sqlx::Error.

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

//                                    Using the new error type!
pub async fn store_token(/* */) -> Result<(), StoreTokenError> {
    sqlx::query!(/* */)
    .execute(transaction)
    .await
    .map_err(|e| {
		// [...]
		// Wrapping the underlying error
        StoreTokenError(e)
    })?;
    // [...]
}

// A new error type, wrapping a sqlx::Error
pub struct StoreTokenError(sqlx::Error);

impl ResponseError for StoreTokenError {}

It doesn't work, but for a different reason:

error[E0277]: `StoreTokenError` doesn't implement `std::fmt::Display`
   --> src/routes/subscriptions.rs:164:6
    |
164 | impl ResponseError for StoreTokenError {}
    |      ^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 
    `StoreTokenError` cannot be formatted with the default formatter
    |
    |
59  | pub trait ResponseError: fmt::Debug + fmt::Display {
    |                                       ------------ 
    |			required by this bound in `ResponseError`
    |
    = help: the trait `std::fmt::Display` is not implemented for `StoreTokenError`

error[E0277]: `StoreTokenError` doesn't implement `std::fmt::Debug`
   --> src/routes/subscriptions.rs:164:6
    |
164 | impl ResponseError for StoreTokenError {}
    |      ^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 
    `StoreTokenError` cannot be formatted using `{:?}`
    |
    |
59  | pub trait ResponseError: fmt::Debug + fmt::Display {
    |                          ---------- 
    			required by this bound in `ResponseError`
    |
    = help: the trait `std::fmt::Debug` is not implemented for `StoreTokenError`
    = note: add `#[derive(Debug)]` or manually implement `std::fmt::Debug`

We are missing two trait implementations on StoreTokenError: Debug and Display.
Both traits are concerned with formatting, but they serve a different purpose.
Debug should return a programmer-facing representation, as faithful as possible to the underlying type structure, to help with debugging (as the name implies). Almost all public types should implement Debug.
Display, instead, should return a user-facing representation of the underlying type. Most types do not implement Display and it cannot be automatically implemented with a #[derive(Display)] attribute.

When working with errors, we can reason about the two traits as follows: Debug returns as much informations possible while Display gives us a brief description of the failure we encountered, with the essential amount of context.

Let's give it a go for StoreTokenError:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

// We derive `Debug`, easy and painless.
#[derive(Debug)]
pub struct StoreTokenError(sqlx::Error);

impl std::fmt::Display for StoreTokenError {
    fn fmt(&self, f: &mut std::fmt::Formatter<'_>) -> std::fmt::Result {
        write!(
			f,
			"A database error was encountered while \
            trying to store a subscription token."
		)
    }
}

It compiles!
We can now leverage it in our request handler:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

pub async fn subscribe(/* */) -> Result<HttpResponse, actix_web::Error> {
    // [...]
    // The `?` operator transparently invokes the `Into` trait
    // on our behalf - we don't need an explicit `map_err` anymore.
    store_token(/* */).await?;
    // [...]
}

Let's look at our logs again:

# sqlx logs are a bit spammy, cutting them out to reduce noise
export RUST_LOG="sqlx=error,info"
export TEST_LOG=enabled
cargo t subscribe_fails_if_there_is_a_fatal_database_error | bunyan
...
 INFO: [HTTP REQUEST - END] 
    exception.details= StoreTokenError(
        Database(
            PgDatabaseError { 
                severity: Error, 
                code: "42703", 
                message: 
                    "column 'subscription_token' of relation 
                     'subscription_tokens' does not exist",
                ...
            }
        )
    )
    exception.message=
        "A database failure was encountered while 
         trying to store a subscription token.",
    target=tracing_actix_web::root_span_builder, 
    http.status_code=500

Much better!
The log record emitted at the end of request processing now contains both an in-depth and brief description of the error that caused the application to return a 500 Internal Server Error to the user.
It is enough to look at this log record to get a pretty accurate picture of everything that matters for this request.

The Error Trait

So far we moved forward by following the compiler suggestions, trying to satisfy the constraints imposed on us by actix-web when it comes to error handling.
Let's step back to look at the bigger picture: what should an error look like in Rust (not considering the specifics of actix-web)?

Rust's standard library has a dedicated trait, Error.

pub trait Error: Debug + Display {
    /// The lower-level source of this error, if any.
    fn source(&self) -> Option<&(dyn Error + 'static)> {
        None
    }
}

It requires an implementation of Debug and Display, just like ResponseError.
It also gives us the option to implement a source method that returns the underlying cause of the error, if any.

What is the point of implementing the Error trait at all for our error type?
It is not required by Result - any type can be used as error variant there.

pub enum Result<T, E> {
    /// Contains the success value
    Ok(T),

    /// Contains the error value
    Err(E),
}

The Error trait is, first and foremost, a way to semantically mark our type as being an error. It helps a reader of our codebase to immediately spot its purpose.
It is also a way for the Rust community to standardise on the minimum requirements for a good error:

This list is still evolving - e.g. there is an unstable backtrace method.
Error handling is an active area of research in the Rust community - if you are interested in staying on top of what is coming next I strongly suggest you to keep an eye on the Rust Error Handling Working Group.

By providing a good implementation of all the optional methods we can fully leverage the error handling ecosystem - functions that have been designed to work with errors, generically. We will be writing one in a couple of sections!

Trait Objects

Before we work on implementing source, let's take a closer look at its return - Option<&(dyn Error + 'static)>.
dyn Error is a trait object5 - a type that we know nothing about apart from the fact that it implements the Error trait.
Trait objects, just like generic type parameters, are a way to achieve polymorphism in Rust: invoke different implementations of the same interface. Generic types are resolved at compile-time (static dispatch), trait objects incur a runtime cost (dynamic dispatch).

Why does the standard library return a trait object?
It gives developers a way to access the underlying root cause of current error while keeping it opaque.
It does not leak any information about the type of the underlying root cause - you only get access to the methods exposed by the Error trait6: different representations (Debug, Display), the chance to go one level deeper in the error chain using source.

Error::source

Let's implement Error for StoreTokenError:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [..]

impl std::error::Error for StoreTokenError {
    fn source(&self) -> Option<&(dyn std::error::Error + 'static)> {
		// The compiler transparently casts `&sqlx::Error` into a `&dyn Error`
        Some(&self.0)
    }
}

source is useful when writing code that needs to handle a variety of errors: it provides a structured way to navigate the error chain without having to know anything about the specific error type you are working with.

If we look at our log record, the causal relationship between StoreTokenError and sqlx::Error is somewhat implicit - we infer one is the cause of the other because it is a part of it.

...
 INFO: [HTTP REQUEST - END] 
    exception.details= StoreTokenError(
        Database(
            PgDatabaseError { 
                severity: Error, 
                code: "42703", 
                message: 
                    "column 'subscription_token' of relation 
                     'subscription_tokens' does not exist",
                ...
            }
        )
    )
    exception.message=
        "A database failure was encountered while 
         trying to store a subscription token.",
    target=tracing_actix_web::root_span_builder, 
    http.status_code=500

Let's go for something more explicit:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs

// Notice that we have removed `#[derive(Debug)]`
pub struct StoreTokenError(sqlx::Error);

impl std::fmt::Debug for StoreTokenError {
    fn fmt(&self, f: &mut std::fmt::Formatter<'_>) -> std::fmt::Result {
        write!(f, "{}\nCaused by:\n\t{}", self, self.0)
    }
}

The log record leaves nothing to the imagination now:

...
 INFO: [HTTP REQUEST - END] 
    exception.details=
    	"A database failure was encountered 
    	while trying to store a subscription token.
    
		Caused by:
			error returned from database: column 'subscription_token'
			of relation 'subscription_tokens' does not exist"
    exception.message=
        "A database failure was encountered while 
         trying to store a subscription token.",
    target=tracing_actix_web::root_span_builder, 
    http.status_code=500

exception.details is easier to read and still conveys all the relevant information we had there before.

Using source we can write a function that provides a similar representation for any type that implements Error:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

fn error_chain_fmt(
    e: &impl std::error::Error,
    f: &mut std::fmt::Formatter<'_>,
) -> std::fmt::Result {
    writeln!(f, "{}\n", e)?;
    let mut current = e.source();
    while let Some(cause) = current {
        writeln!(f, "Caused by:\n\t{}", cause)?;
        current = cause.source();
    }
    Ok(())
}

It iterates over the whole chain of errors7 that led to the failure we are trying to print.
We can then change our implementation of Debug for StoreTokenError to use it:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

impl std::fmt::Debug for StoreTokenError {
    fn fmt(&self, f: &mut std::fmt::Formatter<'_>) -> std::fmt::Result {
        error_chain_fmt(self, f)
    }
}

The result is identical - and we can reuse it when working with other errors if we want a similar Debug representation.

Errors For Control Flow

Layering

We achieved the outcome we wanted (useful logs), but I am not too fond of the solution: we implemented a trait from our web framework (ResponseError) for an error type returned by an operation that is blissfully unaware of REST or the HTTP protocol, store_token. We could be calling store_token from a different entrypoint (e.g. a CLI) - nothing should have to change in its implementation.
Even assuming we are only ever going to be invoking store_token in the context of a REST API, we might add other endpoints that rely on that routine - they might not want to return a 500 when it fails.

Choosing the appropriate HTTP status code when an error occurs is a concern of the request handler, it should not leak elsewhere.
Let's delete

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

// Nuke it!
impl ResponseError for StoreTokenError {}

To enforce a proper separation of concerns we need to introduce another error type, SubscribeError. We will use it as failure variant for subscribe and it will own the HTTP-related logic (ResponseError's implementation).

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

pub async fn subscribe(/* */) -> Result<HttpResponse, SubscribeError> {
	// [...]	
}

#[derive(Debug)]
struct SubscribeError {}

impl std::fmt::Display for SubscribeError {
    fn fmt(&self, f: &mut std::fmt::Formatter<'_>) -> std::fmt::Result {
        write!(
            f,
            "Failed to create a new subscriber."
        )
    }
}

impl std::error::Error for SubscriberError {}

impl ResponseError for SubscribeError {}

If you run cargo check you will see an avalanche of '?' couldn't convert the error to 'SubscribeError' - we need to implement conversions from the error types returned by our functions and SubscribeError.

Modelling Errors as Enums

An enum is the most common approach to work around this issue: a variant for each error type we need to deal with.

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

#[derive(Debug)]
pub enum SubscribeError {
    ValidationError(String),
    DatabaseError(sqlx::Error),
    StoreTokenError(StoreTokenError),
    SendEmailError(reqwest::Error),
}

We can then leverage the ? operator in our handler by providing a From implementation for each of wrapped error types:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

impl From<reqwest::Error> for SubscribeError {
    fn from(e: reqwest::Error) -> Self {
        Self::SendEmailError(e)
    }
}

impl From<sqlx::Error> for SubscribeError {
    fn from(e: sqlx::Error) -> Self {
        Self::DatabaseError(e)
    }
}

impl From<StoreTokenError> for SubscribeError {
    fn from(e: StoreTokenError) -> Self {
        Self::StoreTokenError(e)
    }
}

impl From<String> for SubscribeError {
    fn from(e: String) -> Self {
        Self::ValidationError(e)
    }
}

We can now remove all those .map_err invocations from our request handler:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

pub async fn subscribe(/* */) -> Result<HttpResponse, SubscribeError> {
    let new_subscriber = form.0.try_into()?;
    let mut transaction = pool.begin().await?;
    let subscriber_id = insert_subscriber(/* */).await?;
    let subscription_token = generate_subscription_token();
    store_token(/* */).await?;
    transaction.commit().await?;
    send_confirmation_email(/* */).await?;
    Ok(HttpResponse::Ok().finish())
}

The code compiles, but one of our tests is failing:

thread 'subscriptions::subscribe_returns_a_400_when_fields_are_present_but_invalid' 
panicked at 'assertion failed: `(left == right)`
  left: `400`,
 right: `500`: The API did not return a 400 Bad Request when the payload was empty name.'

We are still using the default implementation of ResponseError - it always returns 500.
This is where enums shine: we can use a match statement for control flow - we behave differently depending on the failure scenario we are dealing with.

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

impl ResponseError for SubscribeError {
    fn status_code(&self) -> StatusCode {
        match self {
            SubscribeError::ValidationError(_) => StatusCode::BAD_REQUEST,
            SubscribeError::DatabaseError(_)
            | SubscribeError::StoreTokenError(_)
            | SubscribeError::SendEmailError(_) => StatusCode::INTERNAL_SERVER_ERROR,
        }
    }
}

The test suite should pass again.

The Error Type Is Not Enough

What about our logs?
Let's look again:

export RUST_LOG="sqlx=error,info"
export TEST_LOG=enabled
cargo t subscribe_fails_if_there_is_a_fatal_database_error | bunyan
...
 INFO: [HTTP REQUEST - END] 
    exception.details="StoreTokenError(
			A database failure was encountered while trying to 
			store a subscription token.
			
		Caused by:
			error returned from database: column 'subscription_token' 
			of relation 'subscription_tokens' does not exist)"
    exception.message="Failed to create a new subscriber.",
    target=tracing_actix_web::root_span_builder, 
    http.status_code=500

We are still getting a great representation for the underlying StoreTokenError in exception.details, but it shows that we are now using the derived Debug implementation for SubscribeError. No loss of information though.
The same cannot be said for exception.message - no matter the failure mode, we always get a Failed to create a new subscriber. Not very useful.

Let's refine our Debug and Display implementations:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

// Remember to delete `#[derive(Debug)]`!
impl std::fmt::Debug for SubscribeError {
    fn fmt(&self, f: &mut std::fmt::Formatter<'_>) -> std::fmt::Result {
        error_chain_fmt(self, f)
    }
}

impl std::error::Error for SubscribeError {
    fn source(&self) -> Option<&(dyn std::error::Error + 'static)> {
        match self {
            // &str does not implement `Error` - we consider it the root cause
            SubscribeError::ValidationError(_) => None,
            SubscribeError::DatabaseError(e) => Some(e),
            SubscribeError::StoreTokenError(e) => Some(e),
            SubscribeError::SendEmailError(e) => Some(e),
        }
    }
}

impl std::fmt::Display for SubscribeError {
    fn fmt(&self, f: &mut std::fmt::Formatter<'_>) -> std::fmt::Result {
        match self {
            SubscribeError::ValidationError(e) => write!(f, "{}", e),
			// What should we do here?
            SubscribeError::DatabaseError(_) => write!(f, "???"),
            SubscribeError::StoreTokenError(_) => write!(
                f,
                "Failed to store the confirmation token for a new subscriber."
            ),
            SubscribeError::SendEmailError(_) => {
				write!(f, "Failed to send a confirmation email.")
            },
        }
    }
}

Debug is easily sorted: we implemented the Error trait for SubscribeError, including source, and we can use again the helper function we wrote earlier for StoreTokenError.

We have a problem when it comes to Display - the same DatabaseError variant is used for errors encountered when:

When implementing Display for SubscribeError we have no way to distinguish which of those three cases we are dealing with - the underlying error type is not enough.
Let's disambiguate by using a different enum variant for each operation:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

pub enum SubscribeError {
	// [...]
    // No more `DatabaseError`
    PoolError(sqlx::Error),
    InsertSubscriberError(sqlx::Error),
    TransactionCommitError(sqlx::Error),
}

impl std::fmt::Display for SubscribeError {
    fn fmt(&self, f: &mut std::fmt::Formatter<'_>) -> std::fmt::Result {
        match self {
            // [...]
            SubscribeError::PoolError(_) => {
                write!(f, "Failed to acquire a Postgres connection from the pool")
            }
            SubscribeError::InsertSubscriberError(_) => {
                write!(f, "Failed to insert new subscriber in the database.")
            }
            SubscribeError::TransactionCommitError(_) => {
                write!(
                    f,
                    "Failed to commit SQL transaction to store a new subscriber."
                )
            }
        }
    }
}

impl ResponseError for SubscribeError {
    fn status_code(&self) -> StatusCode {
        match self {
            SubscribeError::ValidationError(_) => StatusCode::BAD_REQUEST,
            SubscribeError::PoolError(_)
            | SubscribeError::TransactionCommitError(_)
            | SubscribeError::InsertSubscriberError(_)
            | SubscribeError::StoreTokenError(_)
            | SubscribeError::SendEmailError(_) => StatusCode::INTERNAL_SERVER_ERROR,
        }
    }
}

DatabaseError is used in one more place:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [..]

impl From<sqlx::Error> for SubscribeError {
    fn from(e: sqlx::Error) -> Self {
        Self::DatabaseError(e)
    }
}

The type alone is not enough to distinguish which of the new variants should be used; we cannot implement From for sqlx::Error.
We have to use map_err to perform the right conversion in each case.

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [..]

pub async fn subscribe(/* */) -> Result<HttpResponse, SubscribeError> {
	// [...]
    let mut transaction = pool.begin().await.map_err(SubscribeError::PoolError)?;
    let subscriber_id = insert_subscriber(&mut transaction, &new_subscriber)
        .await
        .map_err(SubscribeError::InsertSubscriberError)?;
    // [...]
    transaction
        .commit()
        .await
        .map_err(SubscribeError::TransactionCommitError)?;
    // [...]
}

The code compiles and exception.message is useful again:

...
 INFO: [HTTP REQUEST - END] 
    exception.details="Failed to store the confirmation token 
    	for a new subscriber.

		Caused by:
			A database failure was encountered while trying to store 
			a subscription token.
		Caused by:
			error returned from database: column 'subscription_token'
			of relation 'subscription_tokens' does not exist"
    exception.message="Failed to store the confirmation token for a new subscriber.",
    target=tracing_actix_web::root_span_builder, 
    http.status_code=500

Removing The Boilerplate With thiserror

It took us roughly 90 lines of code to implement SubscriberError and all the machinery that surrounds it in order to achieve the desired behaviour and get useful diagnostics in our logs.
That is a lot of code, with a ton of boilerplate (e.g. source's or From implementations).
Can we do better?

Well, I am not sure we can write less code, but we can find a different way out: we can generate all that boilerplate using a macro!

As it happens, there is already a great crate in the ecosystem for this purpose: thiserror. Let's add it to our dependencies:

#! Cargo.toml

[dependencies]
# [...]
thiserror = "1"

It provides a derive macro to generate most of the code we just wrote by hand.
Let's see it in action:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

#[derive(thiserror::Error)]
pub enum SubscribeError {
    #[error("{0}")]
    ValidationError(String),
    #[error("Failed to acquire a Postgres connection from the pool")]
    PoolError(#[source] sqlx::Error),
    #[error("Failed to insert new subscriber in the database.")]
    InsertSubscriberError(#[source] sqlx::Error),
    #[error("Failed to store the confirmation token for a new subscriber.")]
    StoreTokenError(#[from] StoreTokenError),
    #[error("Failed to commit SQL transaction to store a new subscriber.")]
    TransactionCommitError(#[source] sqlx::Error),
    #[error("Failed to send a confirmation email.")]
    SendEmailError(#[from] reqwest::Error),
}

// We are still using a bespoke implementation of `Debug`
// to get a nice report using the error source chain
impl std::fmt::Debug for SubscribeError {
    fn fmt(&self, f: &mut std::fmt::Formatter<'_>) -> std::fmt::Result {
        error_chain_fmt(self, f)
    }
}

We cut it down to 21 lines - not bad!
Let's break down what is happening now.

thiserror::Error is a procedural macro used via a #[derive(/* */)] attribute.
We have seen and used these before - e.g. #[derive(Debug)] or #[derive(serde::Serialize)].
The macro receives, at compile-time, the definition of SubscribeError as input and returns another stream of tokens as output - it generates new Rust code, which is then compiled into the final binary.

Within the context of #[derive(thiserror::Error)] we get access to other attributes to achieve the behaviour we are looking for:

I want to call your attention on a small detail: we are not using either #[from] or #[source] for the ValidationError variant. That is because String does not implement the Error trait, therefore it cannot be returned in Error::source - the same limitation we encountered before when implementing Error::source manually, which led us to return None in the ValidationError case.

Avoid "Ball Of Mud" Error Enums

In SubscribeError we are using enum variants for two purposes:

SubscribeError, as currently defined, exposes a lot of the implementation details of subscribe: we have a variant for every fallible function call we make in the request handler!
It is not a strategy that scales very well.

We need to think in terms of abstraction layers: what does a caller of subscribe need to know?

They should be able to determine what response to return to a user (via ResponseError). That's it.
The caller of subscribe does not understand the intricacies of the subscription flow: they don't know enough about the domain to behave differently for a SendEmailError compared to a TransactionCommitError (by design!). subscribe should return an error type that speaks at the right level of abstraction.

The ideal error type would look like this:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs 

#[derive(thiserror::Error)]
pub enum SubscribeError {
    #[error("{0}")]
    ValidationError(String),
    #[error(/* */)]
    UnexpectedError(/* */),
}

ValidationError maps to a 400 Bad Request, UnexpectedError maps to an opaque 500 Internal Server Error.

What should we store in the UnexpectedError variant?
We need to map multiple error types into it - sqlx::Error, StoreTokenError, reqwest::Error.
We do not want to expose the implementation details of the fallible routines that get mapped to UnexpectedError by subscribe - it must be opaque.

We bumped into a type that fulfills those requirements when looking at the Error trait from Rust's standard library: Box<dyn std::error::Error>8

Let's give it a go:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs 

#[derive(thiserror::Error)]
pub enum SubscribeError {
    #[error("{0}")]
    ValidationError(String),
	// Transparent delegates both `Display`'s and `source`'s implementation
	// to the type wrapped by `UnexpectedError`.
    #[error(transparent)]
    UnexpectedError(#[from] Box<dyn std::error::Error>),
}

We can still generate an accurate response for the caller:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs 
// [...]

impl ResponseError for SubscribeError {
    fn status_code(&self) -> StatusCode {
        match self {
            SubscribeError::ValidationError(_) => StatusCode::BAD_REQUEST,
            SubscribeError::UnexpectedError(_) => StatusCode::INTERNAL_SERVER_ERROR,
        }
    }
}

We just need to adapt subscribe to properly convert our errors before using the ? operator:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs 
// [...]

pub async fn subscribe(/* */) -> Result<HttpResponse, SubscribeError> {
	// [...]
    let mut transaction = pool
        .begin()
        .await
        .map_err(|e| SubscribeError::UnexpectedError(Box::new(e)))?;
    let subscriber_id = insert_subscriber(/* */)
        .await
        .map_err(|e| SubscribeError::UnexpectedError(Box::new(e)))?;
    // [...]
    store_token(/* */)
        .await
        .map_err(|e| SubscribeError::UnexpectedError(Box::new(e)))?;
    transaction
        .commit()
        .await
        .map_err(|e| SubscribeError::UnexpectedError(Box::new(e)))?;
    send_confirmation_email(/* */)
        .await
        .map_err(|e| SubscribeError::UnexpectedError(Box::new(e)))?;
    // [...]
}

There is some code repetition, but let it be for now.
The code compiles and our tests pass as expected.

Let's change the test we have used so far to check the quality of our log messages: let's trigger a failure in insert_subscriber instead of store_token.

//! tests/api/subscriptions.rs
// [...] 

#[actix_rt::test]
async fn subscribe_fails_if_there_is_a_fatal_database_error() {
	// [...]
    // Break `subscriptions` instead of `subscription_tokens` 
    sqlx::query!("ALTER TABLE subscriptions DROP COLUMN email;",)
        .execute(&app.db_pool)
        .await
        .unwrap();
	
	// [..]
}

The test passes, but we can see that our logs have regressed:

 INFO: [HTTP REQUEST - END] 
	exception.details: 
		"error returned from database: column 'email' of 
		 relation 'subscriptions' does not exist"
    exception.message: 
    	"error returned from database: column 'email' of 
    	 relation 'subscriptions' does not exist"

We do not see a cause chain anymore.
We lost the operator-friendly error message that was previously attached to the InsertSubscriberError via thiserror:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

#[derive(thiserror::Error)]
pub enum SubscribeError {
    #[error("Failed to insert new subscriber in the database.")]
    InsertSubscriberError(#[source] sqlx::Error),
	// [...]
}

That is to be expected: we are forwarding the raw error now to Display (via #[error(transparent)]), we are not attaching any additional context to it in subscribe.
We can fix it - let's add a new String field to UnexpectedError to attach contextual information to the opaque error we are storing:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

#[derive(thiserror::Error)]
pub enum SubscribeError {
    #[error("{0}")]
    ValidationError(String),
    #[error("{1}")]
    UnexpectedError(#[source] Box<dyn std::error::Error>, String),
}

impl ResponseError for SubscribeError {
    fn status_code(&self) -> StatusCode {
        match self {
			// [...]
			// The variant now has two fields, we need an extra `_`
            SubscribeError::UnexpectedError(_, _) => StatusCode::INTERNAL_SERVER_ERROR,
        }
    }
}

We need to adjust our mapping code in subscribe accordingly - we will reuse the error descriptions we had before refactoring SubscribeError:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

pub async fn subscribe(/* */) -> Result<HttpResponse, SubscribeError> {
	// [..]
    let mut transaction = pool.begin().await.map_err(|e| {
        SubscribeError::UnexpectedError(
            Box::new(e),
            "Failed to acquire a Postgres connection from the pool".into(),
        )
    })?;
    let subscriber_id = insert_subscriber(/* */)
        .await
        .map_err(|e| {
            SubscribeError::UnexpectedError(
                Box::new(e),
                "Failed to insert new subscriber in the database.".into(),
            )
        })?;
    // [..]
    store_token(/* */)
        .await
        .map_err(|e| {
            SubscribeError::UnexpectedError(
                Box::new(e),
                "Failed to store the confirmation token for a new subscriber.".into(),
            )
        })?;
    transaction.commit().await.map_err(|e| {
        SubscribeError::UnexpectedError(
            Box::new(e),
            "Failed to commit SQL transaction to store a new subscriber.".into(),
        )
    })?;
    send_confirmation_email(/* */)
        .await
        .map_err(|e| {
            SubscribeError::UnexpectedError(
				Box::new(e), 
				"Failed to send a confirmation email.".into()
			)
        })?;
    // [..]
}

It is somewhat ugly, but it works:

 INFO: [HTTP REQUEST - END] 
	exception.details=
		"Failed to insert new subscriber in the database.
		
		Caused by:
			error returned from database: column 'email' of 
		 	relation 'subscriptions' does not exist"
    exception.message="Failed to insert new subscriber in the database."

Using anyhow As Opaque Error Type

We could spend more time polishing the machinery we just built, but it turns out it is not necessary: we can lean on the ecosystem, again.
The author of thiserror9 has another crate for us - anyhow.

#! Cargo.toml

[dependencies]
# [...]
anyhow = "1"

The type we are looking for is anyhow::Error. Quoting the documentation:

anyhow::Error is a wrapper around a dynamic error type. anyhow::Error works a lot like Box<dyn std::error::Error>, but with these differences:

  • anyhow::Error requires that the error is Send, Sync, and 'static.
  • anyhow::Error guarantees that a backtrace is available, even if the underlying error type does not provide one.
  • anyhow::Error is represented as a narrow pointer — exactly one word in size instead of two.

The additional constraints (Send, Sync and 'static) are not an issue for us.
We appreciate the more compact representation and the option to access a backtrace, if we were to be interested in it.

Let's replace Box<dyn std::error::Error> with anyhow::Error in SubscribeError:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

#[derive(thiserror::Error)]
pub enum SubscribeError {
    #[error("{0}")]
    ValidationError(String),
    #[error(transparent)]
    UnexpectedError(#[from] anyhow::Error),
}

impl ResponseError for SubscribeError {
    fn status_code(&self) -> StatusCode {
        match self {
			// [...]
			// Back to a single field
            SubscribeError::UnexpectedError(_) => StatusCode::INTERNAL_SERVER_ERROR,
        }
    }
}

We got rid of the second String field as well in SubscribeError::UnexpectedError - it is no longer necessary.
anyhow::Error provides the capability to enrich an error with additional context out of the box.

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
use anyhow::Context;
// [...]

pub async fn subscribe(/* */) -> Result<HttpResponse, SubscribeError> {
	// [...]
    let mut transaction = pool
        .begin()
        .await
        .context("Failed to acquire a Postgres connection from the pool")?;
    let subscriber_id = insert_subscriber(/* */)
        .await
        .context("Failed to insert new subscriber in the database.")?;
	// [..]
    store_token(/* */)
        .await
        .context("Failed to store the confirmation token for a new subscriber.")?;
    transaction
        .commit()
        .await
        .context("Failed to commit SQL transaction to store a new subscriber.")?;
    send_confirmation_email(/* */)
		.await
		.context("Failed to send a confirmation email.")?;
	// [...]
}

The context method is performing double duties here:

context is provided by the Context trait - anyhow implements it for Result10, giving us access to a fluent API to easily work with fallible functions of all kinds.

anyhow Or thiserror?

We have covered a lot of ground - time to address a common Rust myth:

anyhow is for applications, thiserror is for libraries.

It is not the right framing to discuss error handling.
You need to reason about intent.

Do you expect the caller to behave differently based on the failure mode they encountered?
Use an error enumeration, empower them to match on the different variants. Bring in thiserror to write less boilerplate.

Do you expect the caller to just give up when a failure occurs? Is their main concern reporting the error to an operator or a user?
Use an opaque error, do not give the caller programmatic access to the error inner details. Use anyhow or eyre if you find their API convenient.

The misunderstanding arises from the observation that most Rust libraries return an error enum instead of Box<dyn std::error::Error> (e.g. sqlx::Error).
Library authors cannot (or do not want to) make assumptions on the intent of their users. They steer away from being opinionated (to an extent) - enums give users more control, if they need it.
Freedom comes at a price - the interface is more complex, users need to sift through 10+ variants trying to figure out which (if any) deserve special handling.
Reason carefully about your usecase and the assumptions you can afford to make in order to design the most appropriate error type - sometimes Box<dyn std::error::Error> or anyhow::Error are the most appropriate choice, even for libraries.

Who Should Log Errors?

Let's look again at the logs emitted when a request fails.

# sqlx logs are a bit spammy, cutting them out to reduce noise
export RUST_LOG="sqlx=error,info"
export TEST_LOG=enabled
cargo t subscribe_fails_if_there_is_a_fatal_database_error | bunyan

There are three error-level log records:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs 
// [...]

pub async fn insert_subscriber(/* */) -> Result<Uuid, sqlx::Error> {
	// [...]
    sqlx::query!(/* */)
        .execute(transaction)
        .await
        .map_err(|e| {
            tracing::error!("Failed to execute query: {:?}", e);
            e
        })?;
    // [...]
}

We do not need to see the same information three times - we are emitting unnecessary log records which, instead of helping, make it more confusing for operators to understand what is happening (are those logs reporting the same error? Am I dealing with three different errors?).

As a rule of thumb,

errors should be logged when they are handled.

If your function is propagating the error upstream (e.g. using the ? operator), it should not log the error. It can, if it makes sense, add more context to it.
If the error is propagated all the way up to the request handler, delegate logging to a dedicated middleware - tracing_actix_web::TracingLogger in our case.

The log record emitted by actix_web is going to be removed in the next release. Let's ignore it for now.

Let's review the tracing::error statements in our own code:

//! src/routes/subscriptions.rs
// [...]

pub async fn insert_subscriber(/* */) -> Result<Uuid, sqlx::Error> {
	// [...]
    sqlx::query!(/* */)
        .execute(transaction)
        .await
        .map_err(|e| {
			// This needs to go, we are propagating the error via `?`
            tracing::error!("Failed to execute query: {:?}", e);
            e
        })?;
	// [..]
}

pub async fn store_token(/* */) -> Result<(), StoreTokenError> {
    sqlx::query!(/* */)
        .execute(transaction)
        .await
        .map_err(|e| {
            // This needs to go, we are propagating the error via `?`
            tracing::error!("Failed to execute query: {:?}", e);
            StoreTokenError(e)
        })?;
    Ok(())
}

Check the logs again to confirm they look pristine.

Summary

We used this chapter to learn error handling patterns "the hard way" - building an ugly but working prototype first, refining it later using popular crates from the ecosystem.
You should now have:

Internalise the mental model we discussed (Location as columns, Purpose as rows):

InternalAt the edge
Control FlowTypes, methods, fieldsStatus codes
ReportingLogs/tracesResponse body

Practice what you learned: we worked on the subscribe request handler, tackle confirm as an exercise to verify your understanding of the concepts we covered. Improve the response returned to the user when validation of form data fails.
You can look at the code in the GitHub repository as a reference implementation.

Some of the themes we discussed in this chapter (e.g. layering and abstraction boundaries) will make another appearance when talking about the overall layout and structure of our application. Something to look forward to!


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Footnotes

Click to expand!
1

We are borrowing the terminology introduced by Jane Lusby in "Error handling Isn't All About Errors", a talk from RustConf 2020. If you haven't watched it yet, close the book and open YouTube - you will not regret it.

3

In an ideal scenario we would actually be writing a test to verify the properties of the logs emitted by our application. This is somewhat cumbersome to do today - I am looking forward to revising this chapter when better tooling becomes available (or I get nerd-sniped into writing it).

2

It is good to keep in mind that the line between a user and an operator can be blurry - e.g. a user might have access to the source code or they might be running the software on their own hardware. They might have to wear the operator's hat at times. For similar scenarios there should be configuration knobs (e.g. --verbose or an environment variable for a CLI) to clearly inform the software of the human intent so that it can provide diagnostics at the right level of detail and abstraction.

4

I pinky-swear that I am going to submit a PR to actix_web to improve this section of the documentation.

5

Check out the relevant chapter in the Rust book for an in-depth introduction to trait objects.

6

The Error trait provides a downcast_ref which can be used to obtain a concrete type back from dyn Error, assuming you know what type to downcast to. There are legitimate usecases for downcasting, but if you find yourself reaching for it too often it might be a sign that something is not quite right in your design/error handling strategy.

7

There is a chain method on Error that fulfills the same purpose - it has not been stabilised yet.

8

We are wrapping dyn std::error::Error into a Box because the size of trait objects is not known at compile-time: trait objects can be used to store different types which will most likely have a different layout in memory. To use Rust's terminology, they are unsized - they do not implement the Sized marker trait. A Box stores the trait object itself on the heap, while we store the pointer to its heap location in SubscribeError::UnexpectedError - the pointer itself has a known size at compile-time - problem solved, we are Sized again.

9

It turns out that we are speaking of the same person that authored serde, syn, quote and many other foundational crates in the Rust ecosystem - @dtolnay. Consider sponsoring their OSS work.

10

This is a common pattern in the Rust community, known as extension trait, to provide additional methods for types exposed by the standard library (or other common crates in the ecosystem).

Book - Table Of Contents

Click to expand!

The Table of Contents is provisional and might change over time. The draft below is the most accurate picture at this point in time.

  1. Getting Started
    • Installing The Rust Toolchain
    • Project Setup
    • IDEs
    • Continuous Integration
  2. Our Driving Example
    • What Should Our Newsletter Do?
    • Working In Iterations
  3. Sign Up A New Subscriber
  4. Telemetry
    • Unknown Unknowns
    • Observability
    • Logging
    • Instrumenting /POST subscriptions
    • Structured Logging
  5. Go Live
    • We Must Talk About Deployments
    • Choosing Our Tools
    • A Dockerfile For Our Application
    • Deploy To DigitalOcean Apps Platform
  6. Rejecting Invalid Subscribers #1
    • Requirements
    • First Implementation
    • Validation Is A Leaky Cauldron
    • Type-Driven Development
    • Ownership Meets Invariants
    • Panics
    • Error As Values - Result
  7. Reject Invalid Subscribers #2
  8. Publish A Newsletter Issue
    • The Newsletter State Machine
    • /newsletters/draft
    • /newsletters/issue
  9. Securing Our API
    • Security Properties
    • Trasport Layer Security (TLS)
    • Authentication / Authorization
  10. Hardening Our Email Delivery Logic
    • Send Emails Asynchronously
  11. Monitoring
    • Metrics: Prometheus
    • Dashboards: Grafana
    • Alerts: AlertManager
  12. Performance
    • Micro-benchmarking
    • Load Testing