question of style

Paul Rubin http
Fri Jul 3 03:30:07 CEST 2009

Simon Forman <sajmikins at> writes:
> This code is part of a delete() method for a binary tree
> implementation. "None" is used to simulate a NULL pointer. In the case
> where both children are non-None the code goes on to handle that.
> None is a "unitary" or "singleton" value, so "is" is the right
> comparison operator to use with it, at least in this "imitation
> pointer" usage.

Yes, but the concept of null pointers is considered kludgy these days.
One alternative is to represent an empty node as an empty list [], and
a node with value x as the 1-element list [x].  That incurs some
storage overhead, but all the case by case checking in your comparison
function goes away:

   return (self.higher + self.lower)[:1]

> I've never used dis.dis() to check the bytecodes, but I wouldn't be
> surprised to find that the compiler generated the same bytecode
> whether you explicitly state the return or comment it out.)

I really wouldn't worry about this.  Python is so slow no matter what
you do, that 1 more no-op bytecode won't matter.

> Last but not least, the logic may seem backwards but it's actually
> correct. If you check for non-None (NULL) -ness and return the thing
> you checked, rather than checking for None-ness and returning the
> other, the case where both are non-None is not handled correctly.

The code you posted didn't return anything if both values were non-None.

As for checking for None-ness vs. non-None-ness, sure, the two are
logically equivalent, but I think checking for non-None expresses the
algorithm more clearly.

> FWIW, here's the BinaryTree class, ...
>     A Binary Tree implementation. Provides:
>         get(key) - Return item for key or None.

I'm sorry but I find that class rather ugly.  The code would be a lot
smaller and have fewer corner cases with a different data

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