# (a==b) ? 'Yes' : 'No'

Steve Howell showell30 at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 2 16:05:49 CEST 2010

```On Apr 2, 2:04 am, Steven D'Aprano <st... at REMOVE-THIS-
cybersource.com.au> wrote:
> On Thu, 01 Apr 2010 21:16:18 -0700, Steve Howell wrote:
> > The ironic thing about the ternary operator is that it is not really
> > ternary; it's binary.  Even just making an expression from a binary
> > operator inevitably leads to syntax hell.
>
> > There is a principle of programming that I would like to coin, which is
> > the "Tyranny of Three."
>
> > It is impossible to code for any expression that has three possible
> > values in any kind of elegant way.  It's just impossible.  Try to code
> > the bowling game without tearing out your teeth--three conditions:
> > strike, spare, or normal.
>
> > The tyranny of three is that 3 is too small for an elegant N-based
> > solution and too large for a simple condition.
>
> I'm afraid I don't understand any of that. Can you explain further?
>
> How is the ternary operator "not really ternary, it's binary"? It
> requires three arguments, not two, which makes it ternary. In Python
> syntax:
>

Of course, I understand that the ternary operator has three arguments,
but it only has two possible outcomes.

You asked me to elaborate on the "Tyranny of Three."  Let's say you
have three possible outcomes.

In some languages you would write something like this:

mark = (rolls == 1) && (pins == 10) ? 'strike' :
(rolls == 2) && (pins == 10) ? 'spare' :
'normal'

Many people consider the above very ugly, so they write it like so:

if pins == 10:
if rolls == 1:
return 'strike'
else:
return 'spare'
else:
return 'normal'

Then the next programmer comes along and "cleans up":

if pins == 10:
return 'strike' if rolls == 1 else 'spare'
else:
return 'normal'

Then there is this alternative:

if rolls == 2:
return 'spare' if pins == 10 else 'normal'
else:
return 'strike'

And then:

if rolls == 2:
if pins == 10
return 'spare'
else
return 'normal
else:
return 'strike'

Or even this:

return 'strike' if rolls == 1 else ('spare' if pins == 10 else
'normal')

The "Tyranny of Three" refers to a problem where there are an infinite
number of valid solutions, but none of them have any essential beauty,
so they lead to endless nitpicking and code churn.

```