Something's been bugging me about SO for a while now, that is the inaccuracy of "length of time" strings. The best example I can give at the moment is CMS's user profile. If you look at the length of time he's been registered, it says 1 year. He joined the site September 2008, which is only 3 months off two years.
It's the same with answers - you can give an answer 50 seconds before anyone else, but at certain times page views will show both as "5 minutes ago" or whatever. That's not quite as bad, but with answers being sorted "randomly by votes" by default you could lose out on votes or being marked as the correct answer to the slower answer even if they're both the same.
There's probably a better method amongst these, IMO:
- "Vulgar fraction" unicode characters
- Member for 1½ years
- answered 5¼ minutes ago
- asked 3⅓ hours ago
- Different units
- Member for 21 months (at least it's better than "1 year")
- Answered 306 seconds ago (ugly, I know)
- Asked 64 minutes ago (also ugly)
- Combining units
- Member for 1 year 9 months (fits easily on the profile screen)
- Answered 5 minutes 6 seconds ago (probably too long)
- Asked 3 hours 20 minutes ago (also long)
- Rounding up
I personally prefer option 1, unicode fraction characters. "Member for 21 months" is pretty good too because it's easy to quickly work out. "Asked 452 seconds" ago is horrible though.
EDIT: I'm completely aware of the timestamp hover because I am forced into using it so much. It's a great feature, but it's not really in your face so not everyone knows about it. I still think there's a better "glancing" solution than having to hover over the time string.