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Spot your errors so users don't have to!

Friday, September 9, 2022
Sebastiaan Viaene
Engineering manager

Customer success is a critical dimension in our daily operations. We aim to reduce any sort of user friction across our product portfolio. Historically, we handled customer complaints reactively, focusing on being easily reachable through various channels (mail, chatbox, phone) and ensuring quick response times.

As user volumes for some products started accelerating, we noticed that many user complaints had a technical nature. Edge cases no one could ever think of began producing error scenarios, resulting in time-consuming fishing expeditions through raw logs. Instead of spending more time handling an increasing number of incoming requests, we started looking for ways to prevent them altogether and spot broken code, crashes, and failed API calls before user complaints poured in.

Sentry as an error tracking platform

With QIT online as the first test case, Sentry was introduced as an error and performance tracking tool. It covered multiple of our needs:

  • Automatic reporting of errors and exceptions
  • Automatic identification of performance issues
  • Pre-built Software Development Kits (SDK’s) for integration
  • Supporting multiple languages used in our portfolio (Node, Typescript, Symphony Python) and availability of source maps
QIT App - Sentry
Image 1: QIT App - Sentry

Integration in our daily operational model

Once we settled on Sentry, we standardized our approach and applied the same principles to all products. Both for the staging and production environments, each product in our portfolio now has the following setup in Sentry:

APP: front-end
Typical error examples:

  • TypeError: null is not an object (evaluating '<something>')
  • TypeError: Cannot read properties of undefined (reading '<property>')
  • Error: Rendered more hooks than during the previous render.

API: back-end
Typical error examples:

  • QueryFailedError: column "<column>" is of type uuid but expression is of type text
  • QueryFailedError: invalid input syntax for type uuid: "undefined"
  • Error: ENOENT: no such file or directory, unlink '<file_path>'
  • Error logging of technical back-end issues
  • Performance tracking: specific endpoint speed and loading time

It’s one thing to set up an error tracking system, it’s another one to act upon it. To make error tracking part of our daily operational model, we introduced:

  1. Slack integration: by using the Sentry-Slack integration, all errors are automatically posted in the communication channel of the relevant product. This allows us to immediately prioritize and select an assignee. To avoid clutter in the Slack channels, Sentry offers a wide range of configuration options to determine which type of errors are worth notifying the team.It includes a clever mechanism so the alerts won't spam the slack channels. An example would be that a new error only sends an alert once or once in a configurable time frame.
  2. Response time thresholds: we have set a response time threshold for each transaction. By measuring the actual response time the user faced as well as the number of times the threshold was exceeded, Sentry provides an automatic “user misery” score. It allows us to act first on those requests with a higher score.
  3. Release logging: we log release dates in Sentry and map them to our code repository commits in Github as well as to people who worked on this particular release. This way we can track whether errors were triggered before or after a specific release, making it easier to pinpoint the exact issue.
  4. Stress testing: in combination with tools like k6 (Node) and Locust.io (Python), we regularly stress-test our products and simulate extreme usages.

Sentry-Slack integration

Error monitoring as a quality principle in our operating model

As a product studio, we deal with multiple products, users, and related transactions on a daily basis. It's a complex environment that requires a lot of attention to ensure everything runs smoothly. One of the most critical aspects of our operating model is error monitoring.

Over the past few months, we've made it an integral part of our process. By actively monitoring errors, we can prevent user complaints and boost performance. It also enables us to proactively reduce user friction, making our products more user-friendly and efficient.

Want to discuss how your product can benefit from proactive error logging? Contact Sebastiaan via sebastiaan.viaene@panenco.com for more information.

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Egwin Avau
Founding CEO
Koen Verschooten
Operations manager

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