Try: Except: Pass

2014-01-10 python / javascript
A short rant about a common beginner's mistake in dynamic languages

Catching Exceptions

A few times now I’ve seen this specific code crop up in dynamic language code written by programmers who perhaps have more of a background in less dynamic languages. There’s a function which you want to call, do_something_amazing(), but sometimes that function throws an exception and in that case you’re happy for the code to continue as if the function were never run. So you write something like this:


This works fine, so you commit the patch and move on.

Unintended Consequences

Later, you or someone else is making a change to do_something_amazing(), and you make a small error. Perhaps in one particular corner case you overstep an array boundary. Or divide by zero. Or misspell an identifier.

All of these things are runtime exceptions in Python … IndexError, ZeroDivisionError and NameError respectively. So they’ll cause do_something_amazing() to fail silently before it even gets started, or even worse, fail silently after it has already succeeded!

And if they’re in a branch, the problem won’t turn up until that code branch is actually taken! Not such a problem if you’ve got 100% test coverage, but I’ve seen code with this problem in the field much more often that I’ve seen code with 100% test coverage …

In short:


I’ve picked on Python here, but there’s an equivalent mistake in Javascript too:

try { 
} catch (e) {
    // do nothing

… this is just as pernicious, and probably more commonly spotted.