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This is a parser and interpreter for smart answers that aims to address a few challenges with our current embedded Ruby implementations, specifically:

  • Verifying correctness: no cycles, dead ends, or unreachable nodes
  • Retaining readability and terseness
  • Facilitate proofing by showing all steps
  • Have some kind of form that we can share over an API

It's named after the prophets of antiquity. Why Sibyl? Well, I could hardly call it Oracle or Delphi, could I?


The syntax is relatively simple, and consists of metadata, steps, and outcomes. The grammar is specified in the file lib/sibyl/parser.rb; some examples follow. Note that white space is not really significant (the indentation and line breaks are just a convention) and that anything between { and } is evaluated as Ruby against a context object.

-- Metadata
metadata need 1660
metadata status published

-- Define a multiple-choice step
step multiple "step a"
  option foo -> "step b"
  option bar -> "step c"

-- Define a direct transition that sets a variable
step number "step c"
  set x { input }
  go -> "step d"

-- Choose a step based on a calculation
step number "step d"
  set y { input }
  go ->
    if { y > x } -> "step e"
    otherwise    -> "step f"

-- or
step multiple "step f"
  option baz ->
    if { something? } -> "step g"
    if { something_else? } -> "step h"
    otherwise -> "step i"
  option quux -> "step j"

-- Reject values that fail a logical test
step number "step k"
  reject { input.odd? }
  go -> "step l"

-- Define final steps
outcome "step l"


require "sibyl/graph"
graph =
graph.validate! # raises an exception if the graph is incorrect
step =["yes", "a", "1"])


Validation checks that:

  • There are steps
  • Each step is valid
  • No step is unreachable
  • Every possible exit leads somewhere
  • The graph is acyclic