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Idiomatic Go Channel Timeout

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I've been doing a lot of Go programming lately, and it's good stuff.

Go is a fairly new programming language coming out of Google from the minds of some really smart people, like Rob Pike and Russ Cox (among others). It's a C family language, so it has curly braces, has simple yet advanced concurrency features, and garbage collection. It's both high and low level, and was originally billed as a systems programming language. Now though, it seems it fits as a both a general purpose and scripting language.1

For concurrency, Go has channels and goroutines. You can fire off any function as a goroutine and it executes concurrently with the rest of your code.2 You communicate with that goroutine with channels. As it says on the Go website:

Don't communicate by sharing memory; share memory by communicating.

So maybe, as an example, you want to download some pages over HTTP and send them to a processing function. But you don't have all day, so you want to timeout the processing function if it doesn't receive any data in, say 10 seconds.

Boom. Straight from the slides of Rob Pike:

The pattern in the Process() function is from page 32 of 47 of Rob Pike's slides, and is a pretty slick way to timeout receiving from a channel. Using the After() function in the time package in the standard library allows you to handle the timeout by exploiting the fact that a select statement will procede with the first available option, and block when there is no default action. Awesome!

I'm going to get back to programming.


  1. The compiler is SO fast.
  2. Check out the documentation and implementation for a more detailed explanation.


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