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My suggestion is twofold:

  1. Let users choose their timezone (you may suggest one based on ip or whatever, but let them choose anyway).
  2. After they've made their choice, apply all daily rules (vote limit, reputation cap, badges, etc.) to their own natural days.

Edit: A similar question, but not quite the same, is Make recent activity “today” etc. buttons based on user’s time zone.

The frequency of changes to the timezone would be severely limited, to avoid abuse. For example, you can set it twice (just in case you make a mistake), but then you may not change it in six months.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Showing the time in the user's time zone could be useful (though more painful than one might expect), but applying rules sounds like a bad idea to me.

Aside from anything, if the time zone could be changed you'd have to think really carefully to avoid abuse for things like the rep cap. Also, what would happen about the rep cap for days when DST changes? Should there be a 25 hour long rep cap day once a year, and a 23 hour long day at the other side? What would happen if I changed time zone - recalculate all rep against the different time zone? (EDIT: I see you've now put a limit on of once per six months... so now if I make a mistake I've got to live with it for six months? If I visit another office I've got to use my normal time zone while I'm away?)

I can imagine this generating lots of bug reports, some of which would be spurious due to the user not understanding their time zone, some of which would be due to infrastructure problems (e.g. Windows time zone support not being quite right for a particular zone) and some of which would be due to programming bugs (things like assuming that midnight happens exactly once per day).

In general I'd suggest that the team avoids messing with time zones unless they absolutely have to. Heck, we've already got one time zone bug (the "recent activity" envelope defaults to "today from server midnight rather than UTC midnight) and that's without supporting user time zones!

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I see the case regarding possible abuse, but I can't think of other reasons why it would be a bad idea. –  Daniel Daranas Aug 10 '09 at 9:52
4  
How about value provided vs difficulty of implementation and support issues generated? –  Jon Skeet Aug 10 '09 at 9:53
    
Oh, but it's free for me ;) - just kidding. Accepting the answer for the nice clarification of a number of potential issues that should be addressed. –  Daniel Daranas Aug 10 '09 at 9:58
    
+1 not a lot of people are static nowadays - I used to cross time zones weekly –  user132619 Aug 10 '09 at 17:52

Possible abuse for this idea is easy to avoid. If you are set to GMT+2 so your "day" resets at 10pm local time and you change your timezone to GMT+10 (which is 4pm in GMT+2 and 2pm in GMT so you'd "gain" 8 hours (meaning your "day" would be 16 hours) then you simply do this:

If your last vote reset was less than 24 hours ago and it's midnight in your current time zone now you simply don't reset so in the above case it would be 24+16 = 40 hours between resets before reverting to the new 24 hour cycle.

It would be really easily to implement too because the only information you need is:

  • Current timezone;
  • Previous reset.

Current timezone would dictate when the check was done. Previous reset would be used to make sure it'd been 24+ hours since the last reset.

Easy.

Of course you might argue you effectively get penalized for changing timezones but let's be honest, how often would that really happen? You could even warn people it'll happen when they want to change timezones. Problem solved. People will only change timezones when they really want to.

Not that I'm necessarily arguing for this proposal but let's just do away with any notions of abuse.

That being said, in the very least I would like times on questions and answers to be displayed in local time zone. That's really easy to implement too. Doing rep caps, votes and so on by local day would be a nice to have. I just don't see the point of doing pointless timezone conversion to figure out when something actually happened. Give me times that make sense to me.

Sure the current times are great if you live in the UK but, you know, not everyone does.

Interestingly, Jon Skeet does. Conspiracy? :)

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I do not like the idea. Can the user only choose once? If he can several times, it is easy to abuse the system (jumping time zones). Adding more rules to prevent this, is violating the KISS principle.
I'm missing the benefit for the user, too.

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I though about abuse, too, but you shouldn't be able to change it more than a very limited number of times. As for advantages, the clearest one to me is that I don't have to make any mental operations to know when I'll be able to vote again. –  Daniel Daranas Aug 10 '09 at 9:51
    
+1 you can attempt to abuse the system - but with everyone either voting to "close" a question or asking for it to be community-wiki'ed I don't think anyone can come close ... –  user132619 Aug 10 '09 at 17:53
    
@Daniel: wouldn't be a clock (e.g. next to the envelope icon) showing UTC time more efficient (which also means: easier to implement)? –  Ladybug Killer Aug 11 '09 at 6:10

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