To avoid confusion, add the year to the date display for suspension messages when showing the month, day, and time. See the example below where it could be inferred that there was a problem with the system and a suspension that should have been lifted last month really ends next year. Part of the confusion may lie in the fact that other dates in the system are in the past, so we are trained (by the app) to interpret dates without a year as being in the past. Differentiating future dates by including the year when showing a date (vs. "in X days/hours", which is obvious) makes this much clearer.

Suspension message

  • 2
    What did it say before February 4th?
    – Kobi
    Mar 16, 2010 at 14:30
  • @Kobi - I suspect there wasn't an active suspension before then, but I don't keep track of things like that. I only saw this because I was looking for an example of something else (name changes, FWIW) for use in an answer.
    – tvanfosson
    Mar 16, 2010 at 14:37
  • 1
    Too localized? There's only 1 case after all
    – juan
    Mar 16, 2010 at 14:42
  • @Downvoter -- if it weren't a trivial change, I would agree, but it should simply be a matter of changing a format string. Low benefit -- except when someone gets hot about something due to the confusion -- but also very low cost.
    – tvanfosson
    Mar 16, 2010 at 14:44
  • 3
    @Downvoter: There's almost always "only 1 case" when a bug is first identified. If you can demonstrate that there will only ever be one case, then yeah, too localized. But that's still unclear at this point. Mar 16, 2010 at 14:46
  • @Kobi before Feb 4 it had the year too Mar 17, 2010 at 0:04

4 Answers 4


OK, for future and past dates, if the target date is in a different year than the current year, we now always display the year.

  • I think dates should always display the year. Be it on SOFU, a gig poster, in file info, anywhere. Not including the year for 'this year' dates just causes me to have to 'look at it sideways' (as Robert says). It's a date, I really shouldn't have to think about it at all (or pop up the tooltip). It feels a little like you are trying to too clever with it. Please just give us the whole date, all the time.
    – Dhaust
    Apr 14, 2010 at 5:28
  • @DavidHAust: why stop with just the year? We really need an AD or BC on there just to clarify.
    – Kip
    Apr 14, 2010 at 13:07
  • @Jeff: re AD/BC. Because the chances of a SOFU post being done ‘BC’ is pretty unlikely. Whereas the chances of a post being done in a year other than the current one is, uh, much more likely. But maybe we do need to add ‘BS’ – ‘Before Skeet’ ; )
    – Dhaust
    Apr 14, 2010 at 22:02
  • @david I changed it so this is true for future and past dates -- if they cross a year boundary, we display the year. Apr 14, 2010 at 22:04
  • My point is that I don't want to have to do the 'if/else' in my brain when looking at dates. As pointed out by others, Don't Make Me Think. But this is a personal opinion thing and not a big deal one way or the other so I'll just have to harden up and get used to it ; )
    – Dhaust
    Apr 15, 2010 at 2:04

I saw that, too. Followed by the typical... A few seconds of looking it sideways; "it must be a bug"; think about it for a moment; a-ha moment and I figured it out.

It's not a system-breaking problem; easy enough to figure out. But a minor formatting tweak to eliminate those few seconds where something unexpected happens. It's a usability improvement straight out "Don't Make Me Think."


The same could be said of Questions, Answers and comments. The current state is consistent with how dates are being displayed in the rest of the system.

  • 6
    The display is the same, but the context is different. This is a future date.
    – tvanfosson
    Mar 16, 2010 at 15:15

It should conform to the date information/user interface used elsewhere in the system: Hovering over it with the mouse should reveal the full Z date time.

  • 4
    Most of the dates shown in SO are in the past. That, in itself, might argue for a difference in how future dates are displayed. Using the same format might be part of the problem -- you get used to seeing them and interpreting them as in the past. FWIW, I do think that the mouse over should work the same.
    – tvanfosson
    Mar 16, 2010 at 15:01
  • 1
    @tv: That is a really good point (we're used to seeing dates in the past). You should edit that into your question.
    – Jon Seigel
    Mar 16, 2010 at 15:05
  • @Jon - I've udpated it.
    – tvanfosson
    Mar 16, 2010 at 15:17

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