Time zone pony request November 20, 2017 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Not having updated my preferences for a while, I was a little taken aback when posting a comment today that I had somehow gone back in time two hours. I then realised it was the whole Australia having moved onto DST while the US has moved off it thing. So a small pony request: instead of having to manually adjust the time offset in terms of +/– hours from the server time, would it be possible to choose a particular time zone, so that it would automatically change along with local changes such as daylight savings?

Extra bonus: avoids the interpretation that whichever time zone in the US the server lives in is the "proper time" and all the rest of us who live in different time zones are inferior variations away from the norm. Linguistically, marked/unmarked.
posted by Athanassiel to Feature Requests at 3:09 PM (30 comments total)

Heya, this is a (more or less literally) perennial pony request, for understandable reasons; unfortunately, the stable stands empty still for equally stubborn logistical reasons, to wit that every time we've looked at scoping out the change it's turned out to be a huge pain in the ass to implement satisfactorily.

I don't know that it's impossible that will ever change, but it's definitely not something we can carve out time for a re-exploration on right now, so manually adjusting offset is how it'll be. Personally I think we should just collectively rise up and pressure every government in the world to abandon Daylight Saving so we don't have to keep fucking around with this nonsense in the 21st century.

Extra bonus: avoids the interpretation that whichever time zone in the US the server lives in is the "proper time"

It's not a propriety thing, it's just a consistency thing. Server time is server time, not because it's the best time in any qualitative sense but because it's the time the server runs on, which is good to keep consistent for a whole bunch of reasons not the least of them being that everybody who doesn't have a specific alternate timezone set up needs to live somewhere. That somewhere is server time.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:19 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]


"That somewhere is server time" should be the chorus of a rock song.
posted by Kattullus at 4:00 PM on November 20 [6 favorites]


BTW, if you want to have a better appreciation of why this ends up being a pretty thorny thing to deal with, you might check out this Computerphile video on Time & Timezones.
posted by Aleyn at 4:18 PM on November 20 [3 favorites]


More understanding of why it's a challenge: Falsehoods programmers believe about time.
posted by Lexica at 4:39 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]


Ok, I am suitably chastened. I'll never ask for a pony again. Sorry.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:03 PM on November 20


You're ok and your pony is ok! It's fine to ask and lots of people have wanted this. It just turns out to be more complicated than it seems.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:04 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]


It would only be half as complicated if you just moved the server to Arizona and/or Hawaii, where they do not observe daylight saving time.

You’re welcome!
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:10 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]


A kind of halfway house would be to show the current time in PST somewhere on the site.
It would give a reference point for those of us in countries other than the US. You 'muricans confuse those of us with only one time zone with yer multiple zonery hijinks.
posted by Markb at 2:48 AM on March 9, 2001

Markb, the current time is shown on each and every page of MetaFilter, in the little greenish-yellow bar.
Look up there....see?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:02 PM on March 14, 2001


I used to find this very useful and miss it.
posted by unliteral at 5:13 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


Mine is set to PST, which I like so I know what time most of the site is at. It explains when things are quieter etc when I'm reading the site in the evening etc.
posted by liquorice at 6:35 PM on November 20


All of the travails of DST in North America are child's play when compared to what Australia goes through, so I sympathize with Athanassiel. A former job had company branches in Queensland and NSW, so the clock on the wall that would give "Australian" time would be halfway wrong for half of the year.
posted by stannate at 7:17 PM on November 20


Heh, I made a post about timezones and how complicated they are.

Looking around, there's a ColdFusion library for timezones that might help.
posted by Pronoiac at 8:15 PM on November 20


Technically, if you set your MeFi to UTC, you'll be training yourself for the future world of IT operations where everything is UTC, which should happen around the 2037 crisis :)
posted by crysflame at 8:57 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]


> So a small pony request: instead of having to manually adjust the time offset in terms of +/– hours from the server time, would it be possible to choose a particular time zone, so that it would automatically change along with local changes such as daylight savings?

This can be done entirely with client-side JavaScript, I think, using e.g. this (SO) to get the current UTC offset and then to pick the nearest match from the SELECT OPTION list and click Submit. I'm not very good at writing JavaScript or I'd write it, but duly noted in case that offers a bit of automation magic around "Click to set time zone based on your current browser".

(And storing the user's offset somewhere in the vicinity of their cookie would let you offer a bit of client-side UX around "hey, your TZ seems to have changed; shall we dance?" to activate the previous.)

I'm trying to think of ways to do this that are server-free or server-ultra-light, since once it's userscriptable, someone can userscript it!
posted by crysflame at 9:02 PM on November 20


LobsterMitten: It just turns out to be more complicated than it seems.

Sometimes you think you're asking for a pony, but it turns out to be a unicorn.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:34 PM on November 20 [6 favorites]


Personally I think we should just collectively rise up and pressure every government in the world to abandon Daylight Saving so we don't have to keep fucking around with this nonsense in the 21st century.

Yeah, nah. DST is brilliant and sensible and helpful.

If you want Swatch time, use Swatch time.
posted by pompomtom at 2:59 AM on November 21


The correct time is the time in London, where we invented time. You're all very welcome.

Ideally, everyone would stop using DST and in fact any timezone and just refer to GMT/UTC instead.
Then just do stuff whenever it makes sense to do stuff.

If you're in new york, go to work at 1400. If you're in Australia got o work at 2000. Makes perfect sense.
Also, in looking that up I discovered that Australis has 13 timezones.
What?!
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:11 AM on November 21 [4 favorites]


A former job had company branches in Queensland and NSW, so the clock on the wall that would give "Australian" time would be halfway wrong for half of the year.

All wrong, all year. There’s no such thing as “Australian time”.
posted by pompomtom at 3:33 AM on November 21 [1 favorite]


> This can be done entirely with client-side JavaScript, I think, using e.g. this (SO) to get the current UTC offset and then to pick the nearest match from the SELECT OPTION list and click Submit.

You'd have to defer to user-setting || system-setting (Date.prototype.getTimezoneOffset()).

This would work but the main disadvantage is having Javascript rewriting content on the page, and added to the long redraw time that large pages are already suffering from, that's not good.

which reminds me of another of our occasional pony requests: Give us the option to turn off font loading, or automatically disable it on large threads, because the reflow the Javascript + custom font causes is the primary reason why large threads + new site design work so poorly.
posted by ardgedee at 4:10 AM on November 21


A slightly adjacent pony:

When selecting a time offset in the preferences page, can we see the translation of that offset in real terms? For example, if it is currently 7am server time and I select +13 hours, I'd like to see "8:00pm" near the drop-down on that page.
posted by mosessis at 4:38 AM on November 21 [2 favorites]


There’s no such thing as “Australian time”.

Here's a Radio National talk-show piece on Eleanor Dark's novel "The Timeless Land". At around 1.36 it is demonstrated that this land has in fact an abundance of times, and talk-show hosts on national radio stations deserve our sympathy.
Now if you're in SA or the NT you need to call right away, I mean really right now, to get in and beat that time difference. So if you've read the book and got things to say give us a buzz. Sadly if you're in Western Australia you won't be able to take part in the discussion, you'll need to email, tweet or write us a letter.
posted by valetta at 4:57 AM on November 21


An efficient userscript approach: on each page load, if time hasn't been checked in the last 24 hours, load the preferences page in the background and check "(your preferences time: 8:21 AM)" against your actual current time taken from javascript. If they don't match, update the server offset and save the new preference.

I've opened an issue over on mefiscripts if anyone wants to take a crack at this.
posted by john hadron collider at 5:50 AM on November 21


Oh, I only meant “activated only by a user click”, so that you can one-way overwrite the server with whatever the client has, and skip all that dynamic page rewrite stuff. Best of luck anyways!
posted by crysflame at 10:40 AM on November 21


Now if you're in SA or the NT you need to call right away, I mean really right now, to get in and beat that time difference. So if you've read the book and got things to say give us a buzz. Sadly if you're in Western Australia you won't be able to take part in the discussion, you'll need to email, tweet or write us a letter.

That just reminds me of the pre-taped call-in show from Mr. Show.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:55 AM on November 21 [3 favorites]


Yep, time zones are extremely difficult even for evil supervillains to get right.
posted by ambrosen at 1:21 PM on November 21 [1 favorite]


pompomtom: They didn't realize this until the first DST hit, as they figured they could have one clock to represent the offices in Brisbane, Newcastle, and the various mines scattered in both QLD and NSW. If they fixed it, it would have happened after I left.
posted by stannate at 1:27 PM on November 21


All of the travails of DST in North America are child's play when compared to what Australia goes through, so I sympathize with Athanassiel.

Most of the US observes DST. Except the state of Arizona, which does not. But which contains (part of) the Navajo reservation, which does. Except for the Hopi reservation _it_ contains, which, like Arizona, does not.

Sooooooooooooo ...
posted by spaceman_spiff at 4:16 PM on November 21 [3 favorites]


Australia has three time zones during regular time, and five time zones during DST. Up until 2007, the Australian states had different dates for when DST would stop and end. A couple of states have experimented with DST over the years, only to forego it in the current day, with the last change happening in 2009. And this doesn't include the external territories of Australia, or the isolated communities that have decided to make up their own time zone, or the concept of "train time."

It is, to borrow a term, one whole joojooflop situation.
posted by stannate at 5:45 PM on November 21 [1 favorite]


Canada has five time zones; one of which only has a 30 minute differentiation. One of the middle provinces doesn't observe DST so it flips back and forth from being in sync with it's left hand neighbour to being in sync with it's right hand neighbour. Well except for the half of Lloydminister (a single city in two different provinces (not twin cities)) in Saskatchewan which sets it's clocks according to the Alberta rules. Those who switch though all switch on the same day.

Plus we have two territories wholly above the Arctic circle which makes the whole daylight saving concept kind of meaningless.
posted by Mitheral at 12:47 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]


All of my clocks are set to Swatch Internet Time, can we just use that on the blue? It would make everything much simpler, and unified.
posted by el io at 1:12 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


They picked a nice uniform time zone for the server. Except in the summer, when it's tango.
posted by ctmf at 9:23 PM on November 26


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