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This question suggests that the servers used in the SO rack are not properly time sync'd:

Was a question asked in the future?

  • How are the servers clocks set? (ie, NTP, or otherwise?)
  • Are they synchronized to the same source, each other, or what configuration do you use?
  • Do you have a single source you use, and what stratum level is it?
  • Who assigns a timestamp to a given post - the Database, or HTTP server?

I'm not so concerned about keeping time exact with the rest of the world, this is primarily due to the possibility of gaming the system.

I can imagine a scenario where the web-facing servers are tested to find out which one is 'slowest' - several seconds behind the other servers - and then using that very slight advantage to exploit the FGITW issue.

This would only work if

  • The servers are not adequately time synchronized (ie, to within a second)
  • The HTTP servers assign the official post time to the post

Granted, it's a small advantage, and possibly not worth worrying about, but you may find that over time other interesting problems crop up if the systems are not properly time synchronized. A good configuration using NTP should yield a server to server difference of less than 10mS - certainly enough to eliminate concerns over gaming, and to avoid other problems.

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So .. when do the friday posts start? – Tyler Carter Jan 22 '10 at 15:38
Please, please, please don't tell me you're using the built-in windows time service...… – Adam Davis Jan 22 '10 at 15:39
@Chacha102 - Next Friday's posts start yesterday...… – Adam Davis Jan 22 '10 at 15:40
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The database servers didn't have access to the internet any more, so their NTP calls to were failing. We set up an internal NTP source for them.

edit: this time, the Windows Time service was mysteriously stopped on 5 of 6 web tier servers, even though it's set to "Autostart". I restarted it. Event log shows nothing relevant. Who knew NTP was so freakin' complicated?

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But you're still using the windows time service? Does the database or the webserver "record" the time when the post is submitted? – Adam Davis Jan 22 '10 at 19:59

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