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I'd like the "today", "yesterday", etc. links in recent activity to display in the user's current time zone, as well as any non-relative timestamps (for example, the absolute timestamp seen when hovering over a relative timestamp). It is annoying that the evening is a different day than the afternoon (for me on east coast US). I imagine for someone even further from London it's much more annoying.

You'd just need to add a time zone preference for users, and default it to UTC.

As for server-side things like daily rep cap, I don't think many users would care if those were still based on UTC.

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This looks like a Grease Monkey problems to me –  Casebash Jul 5 '10 at 9:51
    
@Casebash: I tried greasemonkey, actually, but it isn't possible because of this: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/25681/… –  Kip Jul 6 '10 at 14:24
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3 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

I think this is a great idea. The system can use all of the backend rules for point thresholds, etc. with the stored UTC time while the presentation of dates/times can be output in the user's local timezone.

This would actually make yesterday mean yesterday and today mean today in terms of that user's location.

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I believe the reason for this choice is that there are many features of the system that have to revolve around a consistent timezone. When facing that choice, unless you're serving people solely in one geographical location, I think UTC is the obvious choice. And since these features are tied to UTC, it would lead to an inconsistent user experience to show the user stats based on a different timezone.

It may be just daily rep cap and woot/enthusiast badges that are based on UTC for the days. However, I believe that even just with the daily rep cap, allowing the user to see something, that is reporting to be one day (today or yesterday) and having that based on a different timezone leads to an undesired and unnecessary point of confusion.

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can you provide any other examples of "features of the system that have to revolve around a consistent timezone"? the only example i can think of is calculating the daily rep cap. anything that falls into this category could still be done with UTC. –  Kip Jul 1 '09 at 12:53
    
Even if they're going to always display everything in UTC, at least they could append "UTC" to the times so that we're aware of that. But aside from the rep cap thing... and there's no reason there couldn't be a widget atop the page saying "You're at the rep cap - 3 hours left until it resets" or something). –  dirtside Oct 19 '09 at 20:43
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The site doesn't need to know what timezone the user is in. All you have to do is have a little JavaScript that will replace the UTC time with the user's local time on their computer.

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it would need to know the user's time zone to retrieve the correct list of updates from "today"/"yesterday"/etc. –  Kip Jul 7 '09 at 1:39
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not necessarily. that could all be done in JS. and even if the dates are displayed using the user's local time, I think that the system should consider a "day" (in terms of rep caps, etc) to be from 24 hours starting at 0:00 UTC. –  Kyle Cronin Jul 7 '09 at 1:44
    
if "today" doesn't mean "items from today", then what's the point? all you're suggesting is that the user see absolute timestamps in the local timezone, which was really kind of a side-thought on this suggestion –  Kip Jul 7 '09 at 1:58
    
what I mean is that when the user clicks "today" this includes the timestamps that correspond to the boundaries for that day for that user's local time in the url. this way the server only deals in timestamps, but it gets converted seamlessly from the user's perspective –  Kyle Cronin Jul 7 '09 at 2:02
    
oh, you're saying that a full timestamp should be passed in, not just a date (as is currently done) –  Kip Jul 14 '09 at 19:14
    
@Kip: yes exactly –  Kyle Cronin Jul 14 '09 at 19:31
    
@KyleCronin: I know this conversation was 9 months ago, but I just came back across it and thought I would update you. I actually tried a GreaseMonkey script to do this, but any end-date which is passed in is automatically given the time 23:59:59. I opened a feature-request for it that hasn't gone anywhere. I've just added a bounty to the feature-request to hopefully get more notice on it. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/25681/… –  Kip Apr 26 '10 at 2:42
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