dash dash force Misadventures in software engineering

Shoshin 1: body.json() is async

Shoshin (初心). Originates from Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind.” It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would.

This is going to become a reoccurring series. Those times when my previous expectations and experiences in some language or technology lead me to make bad assumptions in something new, and if I had lead with thinking like a beginner and read the documentation without expectation, things would have been much quicker and much less frustrating. So here’s installment 1, revolving around JavaScript’s body.json() method.

During my continued work on Project Orbital I finally got to the stage where I was ready to have the React app start making calls to the Django REST API for passing around data. One REST API endpoint called /sem_to_sd/ converts standard error of the mean to standard deviation and was fully operational. I had been testing it using Django’s built in testing library, and also some manual calls using the application Postman. So I knew it at least should work.

I setup a submission method within my React component as so

  async handleSubmit(event) {
    try {
      const res = await fetch('', {
        method: 'POST',
        headers: {
          Accept: 'application/json',
          'Content-Type': 'application/json',
        body: JSON.stringify({
          sem: this.state[`${this.semValue}`],
          n_value: this.state[`${this.nValue}`],
      const body = res.json();
    } catch (error) {
      // eslint-disable-next-line no-console

In short, this code makes a POST call to the endpoint, sending the body data sem and n_value and expects a response containing the standard deviation.

Upon running this code however, by sending data via the UI and relevant component, body logged out as the following

Promise { <state> "fulfilled", <value>: {} }

And thats it. No data. No nothing. Hrm. Well I knew that the POST call itself

      const res = await fetch('', {})

creates a promise, and the await waits for that promise to resolved and returns the data. So why was I just getting a promise on the line

      const body = res.json();

instead of JSON? Can you spot where I went wrong? Well I couldn’t, it took me half an hour of chasing the REST call red herring before I, you guessed it, read the docs. Well no thats not really true, I found a Stack Overflow post that pointed out that body.json() itself returns a promise and then I read the docs. And felt silly. Here they are. Right there in the first sentence. So of course I was logging out a promise, just not the promise I originally thought.

Upon changing the code to the following

        const body = await res.json();

body now contained the JSON data I wanted. The change was also made simple by the fact that all this sits within already async function handleSubmit(), otherwise I would also need to add async into the mix for the function declaration.

My bad assumption here was brought on by years of working with Python. In Python land, the methods json.loads() and json.dumps() (along with many other useful methods in the library) handle encoding JSON, and it always behaves like a quick conversion.

Want to turn that string into JSON?

import json

json_data = json.loads('{ "name":"Gordon", "age":27, "occupation":"physicist"}')


Python docs here. So naturally I went into this conversion to JSON with the same workflow and thought it would just work.

Making matters more confusing is the fact that JavaScript has a few different ways to handle promises. You can see this in the MDN docs I linked where they are handling this conversion via then() like so

response.json().then(data => {})

instead of using await. This also lead to some extra reading on what exactly await does which was a great refresher on the fundamentals. Docs here on await.

All in all a good learning experience in async, await, json, and taking things slow.

May your mind be open to all possibilities and free of unfulfilled JavaScript promises.