[Python-Dev] python 3 niggle: None < 1 raises TypeError

M.-A. Lemburg mal at egenix.com
Fri Feb 14 12:34:11 CET 2014

On 14.02.2014 11:20, Antoine Pitrou wrote:
> On Fri, 14 Feb 2014 20:13:43 +1000
> Nick Coghlan <ncoghlan at gmail.com> wrote:
>> On 14 February 2014 20:02, Antoine Pitrou <solipsis at pitrou.net> wrote:
>>> On Fri, 14 Feb 2014 10:46:50 +0100
>>> Lennart Regebro <regebro at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>> Sending this to python-dev as I'm wondering if this was considered when the
>>>>> choice to have objects of different types raise a TypeError when ordered...
>>>>> So, the concrete I case I have is implementing stable ordering for the
>>>>> python Range objects that psycopg2 uses. These have 3 attributes that can
>>>>> either be None or, for sake of argument, a numeric value.
>>> [...]
>>>> It was considered. It's not obvious where you want "None" to appear in
>>>> your ordering, so you will have to implement this by yourself. I can't
>>>> come up with anything obviously shorter.
>>> I have to agree with Lennart. The fact that SQL defines an order for
>>> NULL and other values doesn't mean it's obvious or right in any way (I
>>> never remember which way it goes).
>> SQL doesn't define an order for NULL, it's more like a "quiet NaN" -
>> if either operand is NULL, the result is also NULL. (I ran into this
>> recently, in the context of "NULL == value" and "NULL != value" both
>> being effectively false).
> Hmm, it seems you're right, but I'm quite sure some DBMSes have a
> consistent way of ordering NULLs when using ORDER BY on a nullable
> column.

They do, but it's not consistent:

MS SQL Server: orders NULLs first (in table order; stable sort)
Sybase ASE:    orders NULLs first (in arbitrary order)
Oracle:        orders NULLs last (in arbitrary order)
PostgreSQL:    orders NULLs last (in arbitrary order)
IBM DB2:       orders NULLs last (in table order; stable sort)

Reference: tests done with actual databases.

A note about consistency: None is always ordered first in Python 2,
so there is a precedent. And since Python's list.sort() is stable,
Python 2 is in the same camp as MS SQL Server.

>From Python-2.7.6/Objects/object.c:

    /* None is smaller than anything */
    if (v == Py_None)
        return -1;
    if (w == Py_None)
        return 1;

IMO, it was a mistake to have None return a TypeError in
comparisons, since it makes many typical data operations
fail, e.g.

>>> l = [1,2,None,4,5,None,6]
>>> l.sort()
>>> l
[None, None, 1, 2, 4, 5, 6]

>>> l = [1,2,None,4,5,None,6]
>>> l.sort()
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
TypeError: unorderable types: NoneType() < int()

Marc-Andre Lemburg

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