go/types package

This past weekend I spent some time playing with the go/types package. It was pretty cool!

I have this idea for a tool that will take a Go program and automatically add a bunch of fault injection code, so you can ensure that rare faults are handled in a sane way. I read a paper a year or two ago that did a bunch of analysis of bugs in distributed systems and showed that most of the bugs would have been found by just running the code in the error paths. My idea is just to make that trivial, or at least easier than faking weird distributed system codepaths.

While trying to write the above, I stumbled across The Go Type Checker, a ten thousand word document by Alan Donovan about go’s go/types package (and go/ast.) The document is really eye opening and a very welcome narrative introduction to such an intimidating, complex package. If you ever intend to, or even are interested in writing some kind of Go linter, I suggest reading the above document.

After reading something like half of the above doc I was able to write this little tool, which will at least identify all the locations where a variable conforms to the error interface.

package main

import (

type visitor func(n ast.Node) ast.Visitor

func (v visitor) Visit(n ast.Node) ast.Visitor {
	return v(n)

// errType just defines error in terms of go/types
var errType *types.Interface

func init() {
	errType = types.NewInterfaceType([]*types.Func{
		types.NewFunc(0, nil, "Error",
				nil,              // Receiver
				types.NewTuple(), // Params
				types.NewTuple(types.NewParam(0, nil, "", types.Typ[types.String])), // Result
	}, nil)


func main() {
	// parse the directory of go code
	fset := token.NewFileSet()
	src, err := parser.ParseDir(fset, ".", nil, 0)
	if err != nil {

	// type check the code
	conf := types.Config{Importer: importer.Default()}
	fs := []*ast.File{}
	for _, tree := range src {
		for _, f := range tree.Files {
			fs = append(fs, f)
	i := &types.Info{Types: map[ast.Expr]types.TypeAndValue{}}
	if _, err := conf.Check("cmd/hello", fset, fs, i); err != nil {
		log.Fatal(err) // type error

	// walk the ast, priting any expression that implements to error
	var v visitor

	v = func(n ast.Node) ast.Visitor {
		e, ok := n.(ast.Expr)
		if !ok {
			return v

		t := i.Types[e].Type
		if implements(t, errType) {
			fmt.Printf("%s, %T %+v %v\n", fset.Position(n.Pos()), n, n, t)

		return v

	ast.Walk(v, fs[0])

// implements returns false if t doesn't implement i
// The standard types.Implements panics on false, making it inconvenient for
// simple checking.
func implements(t types.Type, i *types.Interface) (ok bool) {
	defer func() {
		if r := recover(); r != nil {
			ok = false
	ok = types.Implements(t, i)


I wish the above were less hard earned, but the surface area of go/types and go/ast made it much harder for me to write. On top of it the ast.Node interface is not the typical interface in any OO language; basically there are only a few types in go/ast that implement the interface, and when you check it you are expected to check from a small, specific set of types implementing it. (This is called a discriminated union, a term I either forgot or never knew.)

Anyway, hopefully next time I play with this code I’ll make more progress and be able to share it then!

If you are interested in learning Go, this is my recommendation:

If you don’t already know Go, you should definitely check out The Go Programming Language. It’s not just a great Go book but a great programming book in general with a generous dollop of concurrency.

Another book to consider learning Go with is Go Programming Blueprints. It has a nearly interactive style where you write code, see it get syntax errors (or whatever,) fix it, and iterate. A useful book that shows that you don’t have to get all of your programs perfectly working on the first compile.

Posted Tue, May 21, 2019

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