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I've always learned to try and be as specific as possible. If you know the exact dates, then use the exact dates, otherwise generalize to the month. It seems on Careers, it doesn't care. It's basically telling me to generalize to the month even though I do know the exact dates. Why not support exact dates? What's so "unparsable" about them? Does the Careers system only look at the month and not the day? If so, would it not be possible to let someone enter their exact dates and just extract the month and year from both dates for whatever purposes it needs them?

September 24, 2012 - November 6, 2012

Note: I tried entering a date that hasn't passed yet, it didn't make any difference.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

We discussed this and decided that the best solution is to use drop downs to select the year and month. Dates that we understood have been migrated to this format. Dates that we did not understand remain, but you cannot edit them (you can, of course, select a date in the new format). While less accurate than your suggestion and less flexible, it is good enough for most and makes things simpler. Also, bad spellers no longer need fret about the two rs in "February".

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It doesn't seem particularly useful to have resolution on that timescale and more complex parsing might cause significant bugs/support issues.

Unless your resume includes something like:

  •       Jun 1970 -- 15 Aug 1970   Member of Politburo
  • 15 Aug 1970 -- 30 Aug 1970   Acting Czar
  • 30 Aug 1970 --      May 1980   Member of Politburo

it seems like work that you did for less than a month isn't worth including.

Outside of precision for short-term engagements, is there any other reason to support higher accuracy? Resumes/CVs tend to span years or even decades. On that timescale, a few days seem positively distracting.

Given that you're okay with careers only displaying the month, even given more accurate data, this sounds like a feature that could introduce significant bugs/support problems (date parsing is hard!), with only limited benefit.

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The idea that it might introduce bugs seems a bit of a stretch... There are plenty of date parsers out there already that can parse full date string with time and everything flawlessly. Why would SE have any trouble with this? – animuson Oct 5 '12 at 23:33
If I type 1/5/00 is that May Day or January 5th? Do you try and guess based on the user's locale/location? Add extra UI asking in the case of ambiguous dates? Date parsing is hard. – blahdiblah Oct 5 '12 at 23:41
Shortening a date to numbers only is extremely different than allowing a user to specify the day with the name of the month. They don't support MM/YYYY, why would they support DD/MM//YYYY or MM/DD/YYYY? – animuson Oct 5 '12 at 23:45
It becomes quite difficult when you need to support multiple languages. (We now have a German and UK site - this is the real reason we switched to the dropdowns.) – mjibson Nov 24 '12 at 6:39

You're right, we should be able to pick up all the dates and just display the format we want. This is a non-trivial change because of how we use the input format, so give us a little time on this one.

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