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I'd like to propose the "YAML-NOrway Law."

"Anyone who uses YAML long enough will eventually get burned when attempting to abbreviate Norway."

Example:

  NI: Nicaragua
  NL: Netherlands
  NO: Norway # boom!

`NO` is parsed as a boolean type, which with the YAML 1.1 spec, there are 22 options to write "true" or "false."[1] For that example, you have wrap "NO" in quotes to get the expected result.

This, along with many of the design decisions in YAML strike me as a simple vs. easy[2] tradeoff, where the authors opted for "easy," at the expense of simplicity. I (and I assume others) mostly use YAML for configuration. I need my config files to be dead simple, explicit, and predictable. Easy can take a back seat.

[1]: http://yaml.org/type/bool.html [2]: https://www.infoq.com/presentations/Simple-Made-Easy




The implicit typing rules (ie, unquoted values) should have been application dependent. We debated this when we got started and I thought there was no "right" answer. Alas, Ingy was correct and I was wrong.


I appreciate your humility and professionalism in a discussion thread that holds a lot of criticism; suffice it to say, I should have practiced a bit more humility and a bit less "Monday morning quarterbacking" in my original post. And I should have read your comment on YAML's history. To right the record: you got _so_ much right with YAML, and it's unfair for me to cherry-pick this example 20 years later. Sincere apologies...

As the saying goes, "there are only two kinds of languages: the ones people complain about and the ones nobody uses." YAML, like any language, isn't perfect, but it's withheld the test of time and is used by software around the world—many have found it incredibly useful. Sincere thanks for your contribution and work.


As someone who doesn't really use YAML much, your comment provides a good introduction to the kinds of things one needs to know before choosing formats in the future.


This is a very good example of the problems of YAML and it's one of those things that has really preplexed me about the design of YAML. (I suppose it's a sign of the times when YAML was designed.)

It's[1] just so blatantly unnecessary to support any file encoding other than UTF-8, supporting "extensible data types" which sometimes end up being attack vectors into a language runtime's serialization mechanism, autodetecting the types of values... the list goes on and on. Aside from the ergonomic issues of reading/writing YAML files, it's also absurdly complex to support all of YAML's features... which are used in <1% of YAML files.

A well-designed replacement for certain uses might be Dhall, but I'm not holding my breath for that to gain any widespread acceptance.

[1] Present tense. Things looked massively different at the time, so it's pretty unfair to second-guess the designers of YAML.


This was fixed in YAML 1.2 though? So, e.g., in Python you'd just use ruamel.yaml instead of pyyaml.

That doesn't help you, of course, when using a multitude of existing systems whose yaml parsers are based on 1.1...


I've been bit by the string made out of digits and starts with 0 thing a couple times. In this case it gets interpreted as a number and drops leading zeroes. I quickly learned to quote all my strings.

I'd still love for a better means to resolve ambiguities like this, but I've found always quoting to be a fairly reliable approach.




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