Converting a string to the most probable type

castironpi at castironpi at
Mon Mar 17 02:22:08 CET 2008

> > > The trick in the case of when you do not want to guess, or the choices
> > > grow too much, is to ask the user to tell you in what format they want
> > > it and format according to their wishes.
> > > Neatly avoids too much guessing and isn't much extra to add.
> > The plot is about understanding input, not formatting output.
> And what he meant is simply to make an agreement with the user on how
> he/she would format his/her input and to disallow input from formats
> that haven't been agreed to avoid guessing. That is the cleanest and
> most polite solution, although I'd suspect it would be considered less
> user friendly by regular user although power user would be most happy
> with that.

This one comes from signal theory, actually.  With no information
about the signal's transmitter, there's no way to guess what language/
customs/manners/convention/protocol he's using.  That is, for every
protocol, there exists a second protocol which mimics it for the first
n bits with a different meaning.

There's the Gettysburg Compression Method which transmits a '1' to
send the Gettysburg Address, and prepends a 0 to every other message.

Of course, there is already an agreed convention.  You can tell if you
speak a stranger's language once you start interacting-- that is,
enter a verbal context with him.  There aren't any two -existing-
languages which overlap for long at all.  'Can you buy me beer?' does
not mean anything in anything but English-- it's gibberish in every

When it comes to computers, the bandwidth and context mass might be so
tiny so far that there's much ambiguity.  "Is 11/30 a fraction, a
month, or a date?"  -"Fraction."  "Please proceed."

Outside of those two factors, there is not much difference between
"natural" and formal systems.

Bandwidth is easy enough to increase-- just add a camera, a mic,
chemovoltaic, tactilevoltaic, or some specialization of one.  Context
is the hard thing to grow.

"Or, is there another protocol I can look up?"
-"Yeah, I know the bartender."
"Your statement changed context-determined probabilities.  Your own
context has been forked."
"Your statements have suggested that you have adopted a new convention
which I recognize.  Is APR 03 a month or a finance model?  (You nor
the convention neither use statements with the form Apr 03 to mean
"You seem to maintain that there are no other users and/or that you
have unlimited property right."
"This action will void the warranty.  Continue?"
"We're just glad you're not organize enough to boycott."
"Your usage of that term is inconsistent.  Please purchase higher
"What are you doing, Dave?"
-"I won't stand for this."
"What are you saying?"

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