Querying collection properties in Seq 1.5

Seq implements a filtering syntax that’s loosely based on C#. The following expression matches the events you’d expect it to, if you’re used to working with C# or a similar language:

Tag == "seq"

Which is to say: “Match events where the Tag property has the value "seq". Sub-properties of objects can be accessed using the familiar dotted syntax (Property.Subproperty.Subproperty) and so-on.

Seq 1.5, currently a preview, steps into some new territory.

What about a collection of tags?

It’s not uncommon for Serilog events to carry properties that are collections. For example we might log events on a Q&A site like:

Log.Information("User {Username} posted a question tagged {Tags}", username, tags);

Resulting in events like:

Event with Collection Property

Instead of being marked with a single tag, each event carries a collection of zero-or-more.

Matt Hamilton asks:

This is where Seq 1.4 draws a blank. Translating this to the Q&A example, about the best we can manage is a text search for "seq" and requiring the existence of the Tags property using Has(Tags).

This is a bit of a shame – the promise of Seq and structured logging in general is to make querying log events precise – so why aren’t collections covered?

The C# way

Seq isn’t only about precise queries; the whole foundation of the app is the idea that it should also be easy and natural to query log data.

I’d thought about collection queries quite a lot when putting the original filtering syntax together. C#-style the query would look something like:

Any(Tags, tag => tag == "seq")

Seq doesn’t use extension method-style calls, but this is pretty close to the Enumerable.Any() call you’d write using Linq.

I don’t like it!

In a full-featured programming language this syntax makes sense, but it’s too noisy, complex, and easy to mistype to make a good filtering syntax for Seq. And so, that’s where things have sat for the last twelve months.

Pattern matching

With a bit more thought, Matt and I both ended up thinking the problem might be better suited to a pattern-matching syntax like:

Tags[?] == "seq"

So, this is what Seq 1.5 provides. The question mark wildcard ? matches any element in the collection, while an asterisk * wildcard only matches if all elements satisfy the condition.

Questions tagged seq

Wildcards work in any comparison where one side is a property path (including indexers and dotted sub-properties). Multiple wildcards along the path are supported.

You can write the following expression to find questions where all answers are "Yes!":

Answers[*].Content == "Yes!"

(Under the hood, Seq rewrites these expressions into the equivalent lambda-style syntax – much the same way as the C# compiler transforms Linq query comprehensions. Working through implementing this reminded me just how fantastic the C# compiler really is!)

Try it out!

You can download a preview build of Seq 1.5 here. It’s not ready for production use yet, but should be just fine for dev/non-mission-critical servers. We’d love to hear what you think!

Can we change the face of JavaScript logging, too?

If you use Serilog in .NET and write code for the web, chances are you’ve wondered whether similar hybrid “structured/text” loggers exist for the browser and Node.js

serilog-js

If you haven’t tried Serilog, here’s a one-minute primer (using JavaScript syntax) so you can follow the rest of this post. Using Serilog is similar to every logging framework, ever:

var name = "Nick";
var wait = 45;
log("Hi {name}, your flight leaves in {wait} minutes", name, wait);

Look carefully at the string formatting though – particularly the way we give names to each of the parameters. The “message” part isn’t destructively rendered into text, but preserved as an object with property values. It can be formatted to the console etc. as usual:

[inf] Hi Nick, your flight leaves in 45 minutes

But more interestingly, it can be serialized in a format like JSON for processing and querying:

{
  "message": "Hi Nick, your flight leaves in 45 minutes",
  "messageTemplate": "Hi {name}, your flight leaves in {wait} minutes",
  "properties":  {
    "name": "Nick",
    "wait": 45
  }
}

Preserving the structure of log data, and making it trivially easy to enrich that data with more contextual information, makes it possible to do some really clever things with the resulting logs.

Try finding all messages where the user’s name starts with “N”, or where the wait time is greater than one hour in a traditional log file if you’re skeptical here. In some trivial cases a regular expression might handle this cleanly, but it quickly becomes complex and cumbersome when more data is involved. Using Serilog it can be as simple as startswith(name, "N") or wait > 60.

Preserving the message template itself ("Hi, {name}...") also has some interesting and very useful results: the message template becomes a kind of “message type” that can be used to find – or exclude – messages of a specific type. Again very hard, often impossible with traditional loggers.

What’s going on in JavaScript?

In JavaScript as elsewhere, there are already some sophisticated logging frameworks, with varied levels of structured data support. A fairly new project called node-bunyan interests me the most, with its clever DTRACE integration and support for serializing objects instead of messages, but even here the new hybrid-style API and DSL provided by Serilog is missing. With node-bunyan it’s possible to log an object and/or a message, but messages are still formatted out in a lossy manner like the earlier loggers on .NET did.

Whether it grows into a standalone project in its own right, or encourages more established frameworks to take a look at this new style of logging, bringing Serilog’s API to JavaScript seems like a fun and worthwhile thing to try.

serilog.js

Tinkering away over a month of so I’ve sketched out what I think serilog.js should look like.

serilog.js-example

Yes, serilog.js terminal output is type-aware, just like syntax highlighting in an IDE! It’s useful when dealing with structured events to see the difference between a number 5 (magenta for numbers) and a string "5" (cyan for strings). In itself this feature is a nice trimming, but it’s not just a party-trick; below the surface, the event is carrying all of this information.

Getting started – installing from NPM

All the code is currently published to NPM. At the command line:

npm install serilog

Then in your node application:

var serilog = require('serilog');
var terminal = require('serilog/src/serilog-terminal-sink');
var file = require('serilog/src/serilog-file-sink');

Serilog “sinks” are destinations for log events. This example uses the terminal sink, which writes to the system terminal/console. At the moment, the sinks are all zipped up directly in the serilog package, but they need to be split out.

Tour of the API

At present, with very little of the back end ‘sinks’ built, serilog.js is all about the API.

Configuring the pipeline

One of the first things to notice is that the logger is a pipeline. Thinking of log events as structured data leads naturally to an API more like what you’d find in event processing frameworks than the typical logging library.

var log = serilog.configuration()
  .writeTo(terminal())
  .minimumLevel('WARNING')
  .writeTo(file({path: 'log.txt'}))
  .createLogger();

Each element is applied in turn:

  • serilog.configuration() kicks things off by creating a new configuration object
  • .writeTo(terminal()) emits all events to the terminal sink
  • .minimumLevel('WARNING') filters out any that are below the WARNING level (we’ll cover levels below)
  • .writeTo(file({path: 'log.txt'}) emits the events that reach it to a log file, and
  • .createLogger() takes all of these pipeline stages and bundles them up into an efficient logger object

The result is log, which we’ll use below. (As in Serilog for .NET, there’s no “global” logger – multiple loggers can be created and are completely independent, unless you link them together with something like .writeTo(log2)).

You might be wondering – why not Node.js streams or RxJS etc.? Simple really – generic APIs are great for glueing together solutions, but for something that’s used extensively in a codebase, maintaining complete control over dependencies, performance and semantics is a good idea long-term, and that’s the path taken here.

Logging levels

serilog.js has four simple logging levels, listed here in order of importance:

log.trace('This is a lot of detail');
log.information('Something of note happened');
log.warning('Look out, wheels are coming off!');
log.error('Something's broken');

If log.information() looks like a bit of a mouthful, don’t worry: the log object itself is a function that can be called as a synonym for information:

log('This is an information-level event');

The default level for a new logger is INFORMATION; using .minimumLevel('TRACE') at the start of the pipeline will bump this up.

Message templates

The syntax of message templates is carried over directly from Serilog. Event properties are named by including them in braces, and the values are provided as positional arguments:

log('{a} + {b} = {c}', 1, 2, 3);
// -> {properties: {a: 1, b: 2, c: 3}}

I’ve left the message/template/timestamp out of the example output (// -> ...) to keep the focus on the structured part of the event, but these other parts of the event exist too.

If you pass an object to the log, e.g.:

var mail = {to: 'nblumhardt', subject: 'Is the post finished?'};
log('Sending {mail}', mail);
// -> {properties: {mail: '[Object] object'}}

You might be surprised that it’s stored using toString(). We haven’t missed a great opportunity to serialize here – the problem is that it is very easy to serialize too much data by mistake this way.

If you know that what you’re passing into a log method is a nice little chunk of data to work with later, prefix the property name with @ to say “I know what I’m doing – serialize this!”:

var mail = {to: 'nblumhardt', subject: 'Is the post finished?'};
log('Sending {@mail}', mail);
// -> {properties: {mail: {to: 'nblumhardt', subject: 'Is the post finished?'}}}

serilog.js can handle structured storage of objects and arrays nicely, and these can support some really cool processing scenarios – just don’t forget the @ (if you watch the events roll by on the terminal, you’ll notice the difference too – objects are colored green, while strings render in cyan).

Context and enrichment

The strength of structured logs is in correlation; this is one of the great challenges when instrumenting distributed apps, and probably the #1 reason that interest in structured logs has picked up again in recent times.

When searching a large number of events produced across many machines, it’s vital to have properties to filter on so that a single location or thread of interaction can be followed.

In a simple case, you might want to instrument all events with the name of the machine producing them. This can be done when configuring the logger:

var log = serilog.configuration()
  .enrich({machine: env.HOSTNAME})
  ...

Events created by the logger will all carry the specified properties:

log('Hello, {name}', 'Nick');
// -> {properties: {name: 'Nick', machine: 'NBLUMHARDT-RMBP'}}

More often though, it’s desirable to tag events produced within a part of the application, or in a transaction. For this the using() method is provided on the logger itself:

var smtpLog = log.using({subsystem: 'SMTP'});
smtpLog('About to send mail to {name}', 'Nick');
// -> { properties: {subsystem: 'SMTP', name: 'Nick'}}
Filtering

A final part of the API to check out is filtering. While most filtering will happen server-side wherever you collect your logs, it can be useful to apply some filters in the logging pipeline if you have a component producing a lot of noise, or if you need to avoid passing events with sensitive data to logs.

This fits in as you’d expect:

var log = serilog.configuration()
  .filter(function(evt){
    return evt.messageTemplate.raw !== 'Making {noise}' &&
      evt.properties.subsystem !== 'SMTP';
  })
  .writeTo(terminal())
Building serilog.js

If you want to tinker with the project, you can grab the source from GitHub. The build process uses gulp to drive some mocha tests. Just type:

npm install
gulp

…and you’re away!

The browser

serilog.js also runs in the browser (though version support will be patchy and is completely untested!). There are some notes on the GitHub site linked above on how to do this, and a test.html page in the repository that sets some of it up.

The catch

Serilog in .NET is out there in production use today. It’s being extended and refined by a core group of contributors and takes what time I have available to coordinate.

I’ll be using serilog.js in a few small JavaScript projects and extending it for my own needs, and I’ll be building a sink that writes to Seq at some point. But, I don’t have the capacity to really drive this project beyond the prototype that it is right now.

If you’re interested in JavaScript, event processing, application monitoring and/or API design, serilog.js needs you. Kick the tyres, check out the code, send a pull request! It’s a project “up for grabs” in the largest sense. Can you help change the face of JavaScript logging?

Seq 1.4 preview is out!

The features planned for Seq 1.4 are starting to come together. There’s a new preview available to download on the Seq website (direct download).

While 1.4 is still a little way off “done”, many of the improvements we’ve made are usable today; here’s a run through what you can expect from the new version.

What’s Seq? Seq is the fastest way for .NET teams to improve visibility using structured application logs. If you’re using Serilog, you’ll find Seq is the perfect partner – trivially easy to set up, and built for structured log events so querying them is simple from “day 1” of a project. You already use CI and automated deployment: Seq is the next piece of the puzzle, closing the loop to show your team what’s happening in development, testing and production.

Charts

New in 1.4:

Counters-Downloads

Charts show the count of matching events in a time period. You can view the last day (by hour), last week (by day), last month (by day) or last year (by week). It’s a simple feature that I’m sure we’ll expand on, but already a great way to keep a “finger on the pulse”.

To add a chart, filter the “events” view to show just what you want to chart, then drop down the “refresh” button and select “Add to dash”. By default, queries are shown on the dash as counters; to toggle between the counter and chart display, there’s a little icon in the top left that appears on hover.

HowToChart

(If you’re already using counters with Seq 1.3, you’ll need to recreate them before historical data will be indexed by the 1.4 preview.)

Quick(er) switching between views

A much-requested improvement: when no view is selected, the first 10 views will be shown in a list (saving a few clicks when switching between views).

ViewSwitching

Extended text operators

A bunch of work has gone into better string comparison functions in this version. Seq queries now support:

  • Contains(text, pattern)
  • StartsWith(text, pattern) and EndsWith(text, pattern)
  • IndexOf(text, pattern), and
  • Length(text)

In each of these, “pattern” can be case-insensitive, case-sensitive, or a regular expression. There’s some more information and examples in the documentation.

Date functions and @Timestamp

Events in Seq now carry a queryable @Timestamp property, and we’ve added a DateTime() function that can be used with it. Check out the documentation for some examples here.

Keep the feedback coming!

Download the preview, try it out, and let us know what you think! You know where to find me :) – and there’s also a Seq discussion group we’d love you to join, and a Seq Twitter account if you’d like to keep in the loop.

Serilog gets a mention at NDC Oslo 2014

It was really cool to see this session from NDC about Elasticsearch/Logstash/Kibana featuring Serilog from just after 16:00.

Monitoring your app with Logstash and Elasticsearch from NDC Conferences on Vimeo.

It’s fun watching Serilog presented by people who obviously “get it”. And, compared with the alternatives shown earlier in the session, it’s great to see just how easy Serilog is for generating quality structured logs.

(If you’re not using Serilog and interested in the demo code, it’s on GitHub, but please check out this tiny PR if it hasn’t made it through yet.)

One year of Serilog

I just pushed the first build of Serilog 1.3 to NuGet. This one includes a more flexible JsonFormatter and support for width specifiers in format strings. Not huge changes, but both called for obsoleting some existing methods, and with 1.2 at the venerable age of “.53″ it was time to rev and get back to the nice simple version “1.3.1”.

It occurred to me that we’ve now hit the one year mark in the Serilog project. Version 0.1 was announced on March 29th, 2013 actually!

If there was any doubt back then of the viability of “yet another logger” in the .NET ecosystem, it’s been well and truly dispelled in my mind. Sixteen of us have now contributed to the project, and what’s most exciting to me is that the developers extending, using and discussing Serilog are some of the best and brightest I know. It’s the kind of momentum that makes me confident we’ll see more use and growth in the next year.

For those who follow it, the mention of structured logging as a technology to “trial” in the January 2014 ThoughtWorks Technology Radar is also a good indicator that Serilog is aligned with the facilities .NET developers will come to expect and use widely.

Our 1.0 came only six months ago, so these are still early days, but there are now 38 packages tagged “serilog” on NuGet, and despite the more-than-occasional glitches in the counter ;) the core Serilog package has over 7,400 downloads.

Visits to http://serilog.net are also looking healthy:

Serilog-One-Year

April’s been a visibly good month, with a lot of interest stirred up by a discussion on .NET Rocks! where I did my best to “get the word out” about how Serilog has totally transformed my thinking about logging.

If you’re using Serilog it would be great to hear more about how it has worked for you, and where you think the project should be aiming next – get in touch here or on our discussion list!

XML configuration for Serilog

Some issues hang on! Serilog’s #3 — XML configuration support — was still grimacing at us from the backlog alongside issues with three digits, until it was unceremoniously closed a few minutes ago.

If you’ve spent any time with Serilog you’ll have noticed the absence of built-in XML configuration support. Something about the project just wanted – and wants – to be a code-centric thing. I guess it is part of lifting the status of logging a bit – ORMs for example moved on from XML configuration to code-first/fluent configuration many moons ago. Instrumenting your app with an event stream is an important thing that deserves a modern configuration API.

XML’s not at all bad though. File paths change, servers have different addresses in different environments, logging levels go up and down. XML’s a great fit for this and we’ve known that all along with Serilog; we’ve just chosen to keep it in its place and write code like:

var logFile = ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["LogFilePath"];

var logger = new LoggerConfiguration()
  .WriteTo.File(logFile)
  .CreateLogger();

Over time this gets boring and repetitive I admit. Thats why we’ve now got the Serilog.Extras.AppSettings package.

XML configuration with a twist

As I said – we like XML configuration in its place, but that’s a pretty small place. When I open up App.config or Web.config in a modern .NET project the amount of gunk in there can be pretty confronting.

Most XML config implementations provide their own <configurationSection>s, and those need to be declared, and then the XML syntax used within them generally gets copied from a long list of arcana like the one in the log4net documentation that I’ve visited for years on end.

Serilog’s “app settings” support is different; we use a technique I first saw suggested for Autofac module configuration several years ago.

This revolves around the <appSettings> collection, an element that’s present in almost every .NET configuration file. Here’s an example to illustrate what we’re doing:

<appSettings>
  <add key="serilog:minimum-level" value="Verbose" />

Instead of our own custom <serilog> element, we cheat a bit and just look for <appSettings> elements that match a certain pattern (their names start with serilog:). Simple idea, but effective: I’m going to write this whole article without checking the documentation or sample code even once! Remembering a setting name or pattern is much easier for me than remembering a whole pile of custom XML syntax.

Going a bit further, here’s the configuation for two sinks, the console and a log file:

  <add key="serilog:write-to:ColoredConsole" />
  <add key="serilog:write-to:File.path" value="C:\Logs\myapp.txt" />

(Notice you don’t actually have to provide a value for an app setting? I didn’t until recently, but works nicely!)

Where do the magic names ColoredConsole and File.path come from? They’re just encodings of the following method calls:

  .WiteTo.ColoredConsole()
  .WriteTo.File(path: @"C:\Logs\myapp.txt")

The name of the path parameter obviously wouldn’t be specified in normal usage, but you can see how the XML and code-based configuration match up 1:1.

The extension methods are looked up dynamically using reflection, so you can configure your own sinks this way. You can include multiple parameters for the same sink using multiple keys – for both features check out the wiki page linked below.

Enabling the package

Two steps: 1. Install the Serilog.Extas.AppSettings package from NuGet; 2. add a call to ReadAppSettings() when you’re configuring your logger:

var logger = new LoggerConfiguration()
  .ReadAppSettings()
  ... // Other configuration here, then
  .CreateLogger()

You can mix and match app settings with code-driven config, but for each sink you need to use one or the other.

There’s much more detailed documentation here, on the wiki.

But isn’t this super-limited?

I’m happy to trade configuation power for something I can actually remember how to use. Someday we might have a more sophisiticated XML configuration option than this, but unless you can write the PR – I’m served pretty well by this one and not in a hurry.

But this is totally not my style!

That’s fine; it’s an ‘extra’, meaning we ship it separately from Serilog’s core and you’re free to install it if you like it and ignore it otherwise.

Still, I’ll be happy to hear if you do find it useful!

What’s to love about Seq 1.2?

The latest version of Seq is now ready to download from the site. It’s the best one yet, with a much smoother navigation experience and a bunch of small refinements that you’ll appreciate if you spend a lot of time with Seq each day.

Navigation

Digging into a lump of log data involves a lot of filtering – changing, adding and removing little search expressions to get a different cut of the events.

In Seq 1.0 we were at a bit of an impasse as to how this tied in with the browser’s history stack, so (I’m a bit ashamed to say!) we left it alone.

With the new version we’ve nailed this, I think.

First, filters typed into the filter box are included in browser history, so searching for “Alice”, then searching for “Bob”, then pressing back will again leave you at “Alice”. Simple win!

Bob

Furthermore, if you change views, this also is included in history. If you’re searching for an error message in Production and then switch to look for the same message in QA, pressing back will land you at Production again.
The final piece of the puzzle is the query, which remains as a saveable scratch area for filters that stay active regardless of browser navigation.

Viewport

In Seq 1.0 the initial result set returned for each query was 30 events regardless of your monitor size, and you had to click to see each additional page of 30 events.

No more in 1.2! The new version makes better use of the available space by filling the browser window with events.
Once you’ve requested more events with the “Older” button, Seq will start “infinitely scrolling” so events appear as you go further down the page.

The new version is ready and waiting at http://getseq.net.

Logging “levels” in a structured world

Every logging framework I’ve ever used has a notion of “levels” like “information”, “warning” and “error” that assign importance to events.

This is necessary because logging produces a lot of data – most of which is less exciting than trimming your dog’s toenails.

Except… when things go wrong, and suddenly that mundane note about successfully starting up saves months of debugging pain.

So, the essential idea of levels is to make it possible to turn “up” and “down” the amount of information being written to a log.

Serilog defines the following levels:

        // Anything and everything you might want to know about
        // a running block of code.
        Verbose,

        // Internal system events that aren't necessarily
        // observable from the outside.
        Debug,

        // "Things happen."
        Information,

        // Service is degraded or endangered.
        Warning,

        // Functionality is unavailable, invariants are broken
        // or data is lost.
        Error,

        // If you have a pager, it goes off when one of these
        // occurs.
        Fatal

Many logging frameworks have quite complex support for custom levels, and add on other features like categories and keywords so that control over logging output can be controlled at a finer grain.

In Serilog the levels are fixed – internally they’re represented in an enum, and there are no other built-in notions of categorization. Why is that?

You can create your own

Serilog events can carry any key/value property data that you like. If you want to introduce additional logging categories, you can just add those properties to loggers in your app, and do whatever you like with the data.

Let’s say in our architecture we’re interested in “subsystems” and want to categorize events that way:

var log = Log.ForContext("Subsystem", "Ordering");
log.Information("Checking status of {OrderNumber}…", num);
// More logging via ‘log’

This code sets up a logger that will tag all events with a value of "Ordering" for the Subsystem property.

Depending on your log store, you should be able to write a filter like this one to include (or exclude) events from the ordering subsystem:

Subsystem == "Ordering"

The nice thing about this approach is that you can create as many kinds of catgory as you need – subsystems, regions, organizational departments, whatever you like – and use all of them together.

Structured events make tighter control possible

Look at a verbose log. What do you see? Well, most of the verbosity will come from low-level events, but more than that: most of the verbosity will be due to a handful of events.

Classic text logging doesn’t deal well with this; since events are just blobs of text, there’s a lot of effort involved in turning off just one or two.

Serilog doesn’t have this issue. Each event has a MessageTemplate that uniquely identifies the event. Turning off a single event is just a matter of filtering out those with a specific template. Of course, you need a structured log store to make this work (Seq’s Event Types provide this for example) but it’s natural that if you’re using a structured logger you’ll be using one of the many storage options that maintain this ability.

With the most verbose offenders out of the way, even low-level logs can be quite pleasant to browse.

So what’s the point here?

Categorizing events up-front is less important when writing structured logs, and if you’re going to bother with anything finer that than the simple Information, Warning, Error and so-on provided out of the box by Serilog, you’ll be better served with a categorization system (or systems) of your own, than anything Serilog could define for you.

Seq is ready for prime-time

Last December I took the lid off of Seq, a log server for .NET that is built with first-class support for structured events. Well, in a great example of agile planning, the “Release Seq 1.0” ticket came in a long way ahead of “Announce Seq 1.0” so here, three weeks after our official release, is the post to let you know it has happened.

2014-03-23 11_23_35-Seq - .NET Structured Event Server

What does this mean?

It’s now safe to say that Seq is “going to fly” – we’ve had enough feedback to be confident that Seq is ready for use in anger, and commercially we’ve had enough interest, enquiries and sales to know that it is worth our while to keep driving the product forward.

What’s Seq and where’s it going?

Fundamentally, Seq helps you, your team and your stakeholders gain visibility into your applications – even when they’re distributed across multiple machines or locations.

Releasing our preview started a lot of conversations that ultimately shape how we see Seq going forward. This is the picture today:

  • Seq is driven by structured data – structured logging is an opportunity to get the visbility benefits of techniques like messaging or event sourcing, but without the deep architectural commitment. The time for structured logging is here, with better tools available than ever before, and Seq is going to be the #1 complement to those tools in the .NET world.
  • Seq is for development and operations – while there are great opportunities to use structured log data for analytics and data mining, Seq is primarily about removing friction when developing and operating systems. Integration points like Seq apps, email and tabular export make analytics and BI easy, when you need to surface data to other stakeholders.
  • Seq is on-premises – vendors love to provide cloud services, because recurring revenue and customer data retention make for a nice stable business model. This works well for many things, but when it comes to log data developers and the companies they work for value choice, and the right choice is often to store data on-premises or in fully-owned data centres. We feel so strongly about this that we’ve adopted it as a tag-line: “Visibility, your way.”
  • Seq is quick to set up – the foundations of good instrumentation are laid when the very first line of code in an app is written. At that point in the development cycle, YAGNI reigns supreme, so Seq comes with an MSI installer, a client on NuGet, and fits in to development with no more overhead than writing to traditional log files. 0-to-go in literally 5 minutes, and we’ll stay that way.
  • Seq is .NET – one of the great things about the diversity of software available these days is that there’s usually a solution that works well with your chosen tools. If you use .NET, Seq will be transparent, friendly and unsurprising for you.

These are going to be our guiding principles as Seq evolves, but we’re not limited by them. Seq already supports NLog and log4net as clients, despite neither of them having the deep structured logging support provided by Serilog. Similarly, we want to keep setup and maintenance of Seq simple, but an elastic storage/archival subsystem is definitely on the cards for a future release.

Who are “we”?

Continuous IT is a “micro ISV” based in Brisbane, Australia. Our team of two comprises me, covering product/technology, while Suzi (formerly an animation producer, and in all things manager extraordinaire) covers business development and keeps the wheels turning.

We’re in no small part influenced by the “sustainable start-up” model epitomised for me by Octopus Deploy where I spend most days. (Octopus’s founder Paul is a source of inspiration without which Seq may never have seen the light of day – thanks, Paul!) Our focus is on building a great product that we support wholeheartedly, rather than clocking up numbers the way many start-ups seem prone to doing.

Want to know more?

You can’t have a 1.0 without a Twitter stream, and as of last week we have this one. Head on over and follow us to stay in the loop! If you visit the home page you can find a few more contact options, including an email newsletter that we’ll send out as new features land.

We’ve been busy – the “Release Seq 1.1” ticket has been and gone, and a preview of Seq 1.2 is already on the site; there are some strong usability improvements in there – make sure you check it out!

Seq “Log Query of the Day” #2 – Properties

In the last post we looked at how to find log events based on text that they contain.

Searching for some text is often the first step in a log analysis session, but when it comes to navigating logs, structured data is far easier to work with.

In Seq, events have fully-structured, typed properties that can be used in queries. If you search for an event and expand it like the one below, you’ll see them:

Properties

This event was produced with a Serilog statement like:

log.Information("{CustomerName} removing {@CartItem} from cart", name, item);

You might have noticed that Seq highlights elements of the log message like the customer’s name and cart item object in this example. This shows that the highlighted part of the message is actually structured data that can be queried on; hovering over one of these will show the property name that holds the value.

In this case we can see that the customer’s name is stored in a property called CustomerName. Clicking the green tick beside the property name allows you to move on to find all events with that property value:

Equality

This is an easy way to get acquainted with Seq’s query syntax; you now see how a property name can be compared with a value using the == operator.

Text properties like CustomerName support ==, !=, as well as the Contains() function, case-sensitive comparisons and regular expression matching we talked about in the last post.

If your events contain numeric data, you get a few more operators: >, >=, <, <=, +, -, *, / and %, to be exact!

I’ll spare you the exhaustive list of Boolean operators, but they’re pretty much what you expect.

The CartItem property in this event appears as JSON in the log view. The original object passed in to the log method looked like:

class CartItem
{
    public string Description { get; set; }
    public decimal Total { get; set; }
}

(The example, in case you’re wondering, is from an old load-testing harness, so there are no points to be won for realism.)

It is natural to expect to query on these nested properties too, and in fact you can in the obvious way with the dot operator:

CartItem.Description == "Toothpaste"

Numeric property names

There’s one last thing to know when you’re working with properties in Seq. If you’re using the classic .NET format string placeholders 0, 1 and so on, either with Serilog:

Log.Information("New customer {0} logging on", _name);

Or, with NLog (which Seq now supports rather well) you can refer to the property by escaping the numeric index with an @, like:

"logging on" && @0 == "Nick”

(It’s often necessary to scope down a query like this with a fragment of text like "logging on" is used above, since the same numeric property names have wildly different meanings on each different event type.)

Properties are one of the central reasons Seq feels so different from text-based log handling tools; I hope you’ll give them a try and agree!