go: tell me about slow channels

Go channels are a powerful construct for passing information between different go routines, each with distinct responsibilities. Writing to an unbuffered channel is a blocking operation which does not complete until a reader is available at the other end.

The blocked write is not guaranteed to complete – if the channel responsible for the read is somehow blocked itself, you may have deadlock.

Here is a simple wrapper around a channel write that helps detect long-blocked operations.

import (

func Emit(out chan<- interface{}, data interface{}) (ok bool) {
	var stallStart time.Time
	// If we stalled, print the duration of the stall as we exit.
	defer func() {
		if !stallStart.IsZero() {
			diff := time.Now().Sub(stallStart)
			log.Printf("Stall sending data %+v recovered after %0.2f seconds",
				data, diff.Seconds())
	ok = true
	sendStart := time.Now()
	for {
		select {
		case out <- data:
		case <-time.After(1 * time.Second):
			if stallStart.IsZero() {
				log.Printf("Stall sending data %+v", data)
				stallStart = sendStart
				ok = false

Some things you might want to change for own application:

  • Writes taking longer than one second are identified as a stall. This is a constant in the code and not configurable.
  • The time.After triggers each second of the stall but only does something the first time through. Maybe you’ll want to log every so often that the send is still stalled.
  • You might want to do something other than log a message when a stall is detected. Some ideas:
    • Print a stack trace.
    • Update a counter (maybe external to this function) so a health check fails.

Here is a simple main that shows this wrapper being used:

func main() {
	out := make(chan interface{})
	go func() {
		<-time.After(2 * time.Second)
	Emit(out, "slow-data")

When run, it outputs:

$ go run stall.go
2015/11/15 19:38:40 Stall sending data slow-data
2015/11/15 19:38:41 Stall sending data slow-data recovered after 2.00 seconds
More: channel / deadlock / go / golang