If you want to log something then what do you do? If you are writing Rails code the answer is obvious - Rails#logger, but if it is something which could be potentially not a part of Rails application? Is that good to use logger exposed by Rails for such component? Of cause not. But then what logger should you use? You have number of options depending on your needs – standard library Logger, log4r or something else. The obvious option is to initialize your component with some sort of logger, but if you really like logging (I do) and log a lot then it could be somewhat annoying do it over and over. Surely the code is easy to understand when you able to see all inputs and outputs in one place, but sometimes you just want to have something like #logger() method available from everywhere.

Somebody could wonder – what’s the problem? Just put #logger() in global namespace. Ok, you did it, you use it every day, and now you have a bunch of information in your logs – from everywhere. Of cause you could regulate the amount and importance of information you want to see in your logs by setting logging level to DEBUG, INFO, WARN, ERROR, FATAL but you’ll likely see a lot of non relevant information. May be you want to have separate logging destinations depending on some criteria – ORM operations and database queries in one place, requesting remote services in other place, etc. The one way to do this is to use log4r – you may setup logger hierarchy with it and specify output destinations for each logger within that hierarchy. Your code is going to be somewhat like:


Which means you have to organize your loggers into some hierarchy and name the place in such hierarchy when you want to log something. But that’s not nice – and there are at least two reasons why:

  • Code depends on log4r interface: Logger#[], once you chose it you have to stick with it, and it is not as short as logger.info
  • You already have some components taxonomy: you have created class hierarchy, you have been organizing directories in your project, you probably named classes in certain way, etc. Why you need to keep one more taxonomy for logging rather than reusing one already exists?!

These two concerns triggered me to create tagged_logger: logging is same as in Rails:


but now it happens with tag underneath, and you may take an advantage of such tag, I’ll show you how below. At the moment tag is exactly class name from where #logger() gets called, but it also could be something else in future, like caller source file name, depending on how TaggedLogger has been configured. Note that you do not have to specify tag explicitly, logger “figures it out” with some metaprogramming magic. Here is how you can get tags printed in standard output:

    TaggedLogger.rules do
      info /.*/ do |level, tag, message|
        puts "'#{level}' '#{tag}' '#{message}'"
    logger.info "global context" # -> 'info' 'Object' 'global context'
    class A; logger.info "in A context"; end # -> 'info' 'A' 'in A context'

Of cause instead of puts you may use any logger you like, you may also be more specific about what you want to log. For example to limit logging only to classes which names ends on Provider:

    providers_log = Logger.new(STDOUT)
    TaggedLogger.rules do
      debug /Provider$/, :to => providers_log

    class Base; logger.debug('base'); end

    class NasdaqQuotesProvider
       def get;   logger.debug("quotes");  end

    NasdaqQuotesProvider.new.get # will print 'quotes' and will not print 'base'

I use tagged_logger gem to use logging as output in command line utility, guess how code for –debug option looks like? Yep, here it is:

    debug_output = false
    standard_logger = Logger.new(STDOUT)
    OptionParser.new do |opts|
      opts.on("--debug", "Debug output") { debug_output = true }
    TaggedLogger.rules do
      debug_output ?
        debug(/.*/, :to => standard_logger) :
        info(/.*/, :to => standard_logger)

    def foo
      logger.info("starting foo operation...")
      logger.debug("details about foo operations...")


No need to initialize my classes with particular logger, no fear I’m going to see something extra in output, in that case I always could limit what goes to debug logging using tags.