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Dialog is a simple and opinionated logging library that implements an SLF4J-compatible backend in Clojure. This means it is compatible with a wide variety of logging APIs, including and most Java libraries.

Inspired by the fallout from the log4shell vulnerability, and the question "what if we wrote just enough code to do the kinds of logging we want?". This is an attempt to produce a minimally-configurable logging backend that is nonetheless still extensible in a few ways - in particular, it aims to be easy to integrate with ken as an extension to observability tooling.


Releases are published on Clojars; to use the latest version with Leiningen, add the following to your project dependencies:

Clojars Project

By default, this will pull in the SLF4J API package as well as redirecting java.util.logging and commons-logging classes to SLF4J. If you're using libraries developed against log4j, you may also want to add a dependency on org.slf4j/log4j-over-slf4j as well. For more information, see the SLF4J legacy bridging documentation.

Within your code, you can use the standard approach to logging and things should Just Work. If for some reason you don't want to pull in org.clojure/tools.logging, the dialog.logger namespace contains a set of compatible macros such as logp, debug, infof, etc.

The dialog.logger namespace also contains a number of utility functions which can be used to inspect and dynamically adjust the logging configuration at runtime.


At initialization time (when SLF4J looks on the classpath for the StaticLoggerBinder class), dialog will try to read configuration from a resource named dialog.edn. This is an aero file which should contain a map telling dialog how to behave. The profile used to read the configuration can be set with the dialog.profile system property or DIALOG_PROFILE environment variable at runtime.

Check out the sample config in this repo for a comprehensive example.

Initialization Hook

Aero is quite expressive, but in the event that you need to run some logic to pre-configure the logging system (or perform init-time side-effects), you can specify a fully-qualified symbol under the :init key in the config. This will be resolved to a function and called with the raw config map. The result of the function will be used as a modified version of the config.

Logger Levels

Dialog supports the standard set of log levels, specified with keywords: :trace, :debug, :info, :warn, :error, and :fatal in ascending order of severity. Each logger may have a threshold and will only report events logged at that threshold or higher. These thresholds can be controlled with a few keys in the config map:

  • :level

    This sets the level of the root logger, which is used if no other more-specific threshold is configured. This may be overridden at runtime by setting the dialog.level system property or the DIALOG_LEVEL environment variable.

  • :levels

    This key should contain a map of logger prefixes to a configured level keyword. Loggers will use the most specific prefix which matches when determining their level. These may also be overridden at runtime with dialog.level.{logger.ns} system properties or DIALOG_LEVEL_{LOGGER_NS} environment variables.

  • :blocked

    An optional set of logger prefixes which should never be logged. This can be useful as a security mechanism, to prevent output from loggers like org.apache.http.headers, which can leak Authorization: Bearer ... secrets.


The :middleware entry in the config can contain a vector of "middleware functions", which will be called in order on incoming events to process them before they are output. This allows for local extensions to the logging system, such as collecting additional callsite context, applying custom formatting, filtering out unwanted events, and more.

Each symbol in the vector is resolved to a var when the config is loaded, and will be called with the full config map and the event being processed. The function should return an updated event if logging should proceed, or nil if the event should be dropped. A middleware call which throws an exception will be ignored, and the original event will continue being processed.

Top-level middleware will be applied to all events; middleware may also be applied to individual outputs for more specific processing.

Event Outputs

Finally, dialog needs to know how and where to send the logged events. These are configured under the :outputs key, which should contain a map from an output-id keyword to a configuration for that output.

There are two significant configurations for an output - its :type and its :format. The output format is used to translate events into message strings, and the output type is used to write the formatted message to some destination. As a shorthand, an output with no other configuration can be specified just by its type keyword.

Output Types

There are four supported outputs:

  • :null

    A null output which drops all events logged to it. Most useful for testing.

  • :print

    An output which writes log messages to an output stream. By default, this is the process' standard output, but may be explicitly set by adding a :stream key to the output with a value of :stdout or :stderr.

  • :file

    An output which writes log messages to a local file. The output must contain a :path entry which specifies the location of the log file. Dialog will try to pre-create the parent directories of this file when it is initialized.

  • :syslog

    This output writes log messages to a syslog daemon using UDP. By default messages will be sent to the local host on port 514, but this may be controlled with the :address and :port keys on the output. The syslog output sends the :time, :host, :sys, :proc, and :level event attributes as special fields, in addition to the formatted message.

Message Formats

There are four supported formats:

  • :message

    A trivial formatter which just uses the event's :message value, verbatim.

  • :simple

    The simple formatter is the default, and produces a log message from several attributes of the event, including the time, level, logger name, and message. This is a good format to use for deployed systems which need to log to stdout or a file.

  • :pretty

    This formatter is a lot like :simple, but it adds ANSI color coding to the messages, making them much easier for humans to consume. This is most useful in interactive situations like the REPL. For a slightly nicer experience, you can also add :timestamp :short to the output map to only show the time portion instead of the full date-time string.

  • :json

    This renders the event data directly as JSON, which can be useful for outputs which will be read by structured logging tools. If you need custom formatting for certain types, you can transform them with middleware before they are output.

To support further light customization, both the :simple and :pretty formatters will look for some additional metadata on events:

  • If an event has a :dialog.format/tail string metadata, it will be appended to the message produced by the formatters.
  • If the event has :dialog.format/extra, it will also be printed as a data structure at the end of the message.


Copyright © 2021 Amperity, Inc.

Distributed under the MIT License.

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