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Monitoring using Honeybadger and Rails Activesupport instrumentation


This tutorial explains how to report data of rails application usage based critical events. These events are subjective but we will look at a more general type of event namely an endpoint that takes too long to load.

We will report the events using Honeybadger. Honeybadger, as we will see, is easy to setup and has many features that allow.

Setting up Honeybadger

First, we will need a Rails application to plug Honeybadger into. Conveniently, I have created a template that setups a quick rails application with simple authentication and user data seeded to a database. To use it, do the following

There's that. We now have a full Rails app which is simple but complex enough to show where Honeybadger shines.

Sign up for a trial account at Honeybadger. Then choose rails as the framework you will use. Follow the instructions shown for Rails then click "Complete Setup". I will just repeat those instructions just in case needed. Now in your Gemfile add gem 'honeybadger', '~> 4.0' then run bundle install. Next use your apikey to run this command; bundle exec honeybadger install [apikey]. This command will generate a honeybadger.yml file under the config directory then sends a test notification to your Honeybadger errors dashboard which will look something like below.

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Congrats. You've setup Honeybadger and plugged it into your Rails app.

Reporting using Honeybadger.notify

Reporting using Honeybadger is just a call away. But first we shall add this to our configuration file, config/honeybadger.yml;

env: 'production'
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By default, Honeybadger suppresses reports sent on a development environment. By adding the line above we are able to send reports to the Honeybadger account so that they are displayed on the dashboard.

Now we will use Honeybadger.notify to report everytime any endpoint is hit in our app. Add the following to application_controller.rb;

before_action do
    Honeybadger.notify("Reporting live from an arbitrary endpoint!")        
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If we run the server using rails s then go to http://localhost:3000 within the application we will see this in the terminal;

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If we look at the Honeybadger errors dashboard we will see this;
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That's great! We have made our first report using Honeybadger. However, it is not that helpful since it has no insights as to what problem might have occurred. Next let's build on this by providing more insights.

Using Honeybadger.context to give more context to error reports

To give context as to how an error occurred Honeybadger gives you the context method to help with this. For instance, we can use the context method to include data about the user associated with a report.
To do this in our application, within the application_controller.rb replace the previous code with;

before_action :build_context

# place below authenticate_request method
def build_context
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Now whenever a report is sent using Honeybadger it will contain the details of the user that sent it. We will still need to call Honeybadger.notify to do this we can add this line to the app/controllers/users_controller.rb within the index action:

def index
    @users = User.all
    ActiveSupport::Notifications.instrument "index.event"
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Everytime this action is executed an index.event event is published. We will need a subscriber in order to use this to send Honeybadger reports. Create a new file in config/initializers and call it events.rb. Insert this:

ActiveSupport::Notifications.subscribe "index.event" do |*args|
    event =*args)
    Honeybadger.notify("This report is from the index action")
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This subscriber listens to our custom "index.event" event and triggers Honeybadger to send a report. We will need to add this in the app/controller/sessions_controller.rb;

skip_before_action :build_context, only: [:new, :create]
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This should skip building the context when logging in

Now to test how context works, restart the server with rails s and go to http://localhost:3000/signup and create a new user then login at http://localhost:3000/login. Then go to http://localhost:3000/users. A report will be sent from the index action in app/controllers/users_controller.rb. This is how context will look like in the Honeybadger dashboard with the user details in it.
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Using Honeybadger with the ActiveSupport instrumentation API

Let's say we want to send a report every time an endpoint request takes longer than 2 seconds to execute. To do this, we can leverage the ActiveSupport instrumentation API which acts in publisher-subscriber type of way.

Inside events.rb insert this code:

ActiveSupport::Notifications.subscribe 'process_action.action_controller' do |*args|
    event =*args) "Event received: #{event}"
    if event.duration > 2000
        Honeybadger.notify("This action has lasted more than 2s")
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Above we have a subscriber that 'listens' to the process_action.action_controller event in Rails. These events occur when a controller action is executed. When the event occurs, we then check for how long it took using event.duration. If the duration is longer than 2s we send a report using Honeybadger.notify.

Now to test this out let us go to app/controllers/users_controller.rb and add code to cause a 3-second delay within the show action as shown:

def show
    sleep 3
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This action is guaranteed to execute longer than 2 seconds every time and thereby sending a report to Honeybadger. Now restart the server with rails s and go to http://localhost:3000/users. Pick any user and click on their respective Show link. This will execute for 3 seconds or longer and a report will be seen in the Honeybadger errors dashboard as shown below.
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Using Honeybadger with breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs give us the ability to see statements that have been executed leading up to an error. This is powerful when debugging an issue that has been reported by Honeybadger. We will update the Honeybadger yaml config to enable breadcrumbs:

  enabled: true
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And that is all you need to get breadcrumbs running for Honeybadger. To test it out, restart the server then go to http://localhost:3000/users. Pick any user and click on their respective Show link. This will trigger a report to be sent. In the dashboard the breadcrumb will look something like this;

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Honeybadger is an excellent tool to use for monitoring an application. It is relatively easy and quick to setup. Using it with Rails ActiveSupport gives you full control of monitoring any parts of your application. All the resulting code for this article can be found here

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