View Poll Results: Relative time preference
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Thread: Relative Time Display
2009-11-02, 02:54 #1
I thought there had been a thread about 'Relative Time' here, so please excuse this if it's a duplication....
I reallyfind the use of relative time very difficult to use. I think the problem lies with the units of time used:
My immediate impression looking at this:
is that the newest post - relatively speaking - should have the lowest number of 'units', but in this instance, that is the oldest. The wide variation of numbers and units all blur into some indecipherable table, each of which has to be decoded by having to read which units it is represented in.
There is some inconsistency too:
When the above snapshot was taken, the post made '11 hours ago' was not at my time of 9:12pm! For consistency, shouldn't the green bar say: "Jezza, 11 hours ago, said:"?
In previous versions of the board, when all posts were timestamped with the date and time, the difference in other posts' quoted time would reflect the time zone the reader was in and so, say, a four hour offset would appear but this was (to me, anyway!) logical and had the benefit of indicating which time zone the reader was in.
Relative time may be preferred by some, but not by me! Is it possible to make this a user choice?
I hate to think how I would cope if my Outlook started telling me I had received one email 57 minutes ago and another 2 weeks ago....
2009-11-02, 03:16 #2
- Join Date
- Aug 2001
- Bay Area, California, USA
- Thanked 4 Times in 4 Posts
2009-11-02, 10:28 #3
- Join Date
- Oct 2002
- Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I agree completely, Leif. You have already shown an excellent example; 1 day, 2 minutes, 3 hours.
Posts are anyhow sorted so that the latest is shown first; we have icons showing read and not read threads.
Relative time may look nice at first glance if you visit only now and then, but if you are a heavy user of a forum or other using relative time it's a real pain.
With nothing being changed or added in a thread you can see the relative time stamp change as you revisit or refresh a forum. 10 minutes is suddenly 32 minutes and you have no chance whatsoever to know if anyone has added anything. It will only result in a lot of redundant “clicking around”.
For me it was in fact easier to calculate the local time of the OP when it was in Actual Time, even if it was shown in my time zone. If the original post here said:
Or similar, I would know it was in my TZ (due to settings) but since I know several of the Loungers' TZs I could easily say OK, 08:54 2 November. But when it says 6 hours ago etc. ... I'll have to do the math in two steps.
My main issues are:
- As you have shown, the number doesn't tell the whole truth; 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week.
- The relative time stamp keeps changing. We all know that the time is there, always changing, but a post is made at one point in time, this we see, such as 09:54. But with relative time it changes 4 hours ago, 5 hours ago. 6 hours ago.
- Even if shown with the latest first, relative time stamps group posts together, so you can end up with a forum with a whole page of different threads all saying: "1 day ago", or "25 Sep 2009" for a forum with old posts. Huh?
2009-11-02, 10:37 #4
- Join Date
- Jan 2001
- Tacoma, Washington, USA
- Thanked 3 Times in 3 Posts
2009-11-03, 16:09 #5Brian LivingstonGuest
It's a known issue that comments in threads should show absolute time, not relative time. Oops, I see that times in this thread are already displayed as absolute dates and times. There you go, fixed. As you've said, in an individual comment — or a thread full of comments — you want to know the exact date and time, not the elapsed time. I also believe that the time is being displayed in the Member's home time zone (if the Member is signed in and a home time zone has been entered).
There is a separate class of issues in which IP.Board 3.0 doesn't seem to be consistently updating the "new comments" state and the time a thread was updated. Fixing this is a high priority; the cause should be isolated today or tomorrow. I suspect that some Invision programmer who developed IPB 3 tried to improve performance by updating the time information in the cache on an infrequent basis or when the CPU has been idle for a while. Without harming the apparent performance of the Lounge to users, we may be able to force such updates every one minute or whatever.
Creating a per-user preference on whether to show the Lounge Lobby and forum views in relative time or absolute time may or may not be a big deal, I don't know. Dan and Tony and I will figure this out and report back to you. One easy fix might be to represent all relative times in the same time span. Everyone can understand "1 hour ago" and "36 hours ago" and "96 hours ago." Beyond 96 hours, it would be logical to switch to 1 to 28 days, and then to absolute dates. However, the relative time functionality is hard-coded into IPB 3. We may only have the discretion to turn it on or turn it off (without a weeks-long project here to calculate each number using our own algo). Or there may be an option to display the freshness of threads as "today" and "yesterday" and absolute dates, which may be all the states we need.
One other separate issue is that some icons may or may not be accurately reflecting the "new comments" and "No new comments" state of a thread. We're updating the most-used icons today or tomorrow. If may be that some Members did not see clickable and non-clickable icons in an unexpected pattern after the Oct. 30 software upgrade because they were using a different machine than before, or for some other reason. When we insert the new state icons and make sure that they accurately reflect the "new/no new" state, this should improve the usability of the Lounge a great deal. We'll report back to you on this, also.
2009-11-04, 01:44 #6
Some views still show relative time. I think one of the main problems is the number of units; minutes, hours, days, etc. The immediacy of seeing a post is three minutes old can have it's benefits, but beyond that, it can still remain confusing (for me at least). Notwithstanding the difficulties you face in re-coding, I feel if a post is older than 24 hours then it's just old, and knowing whether it is 26 hours old or 27 hours old doesn't really matter!
Perhaps they could be colour-coded, with a more vibrant colour for more recent posts?
Or new posts that have 0 replies could be highlighted to draw attention to them?
2009-11-05, 03:51 #7Brian LivingstonGuest
I still need to find out the exact alternatives that IPB 3 actually offers to us. The code that provides exact times and relative times is lengthy and complex. We didn't write it, and we couldn't replace it from scratch solely by ourselves. We tell the IPB database what to display in various views, and the options are not unlimited.
Dan and Tony are focusing laser-like on why the "new content" icons do update accurately in forum views but do not in the Lounge Lobby. Once that crucial feature is fixed — which definitely requires a patch directly from Invision Power Board HQ — it may shed more light on our options for exact and relative times. For example, it would be great for us to provide a per-user configuration switch for this, but we need to know if such a thing is even supported. If anyone from IPB ever gets back to us, the crucial, front-burner "new content" issue will get the air time first, after which the relative time issue will be right behind it.
I love the idea of using color-coding to indicate freshness of the latest update (in addition to some kind of visual indication for color-blind users). I also agree that recency less than 24 hours is more important to show than older updates (1 day, 2 days, and so forth). But I don't know what kind of facility IBP 3 supports in this area. I'll learn more soon, and Dan or I will write it up.
2009-11-06, 05:23 #8
- Join Date
- Mar 2002
- Thanked 30 Times in 30 Posts
Now that the statistics pane has been made visible again, the "Online At Once Record" looks rather strange using relative time:
2009-11-07, 17:06 #9
- Join Date
- Dec 2000
- Renton, Washington, USA
- Thanked 4 Times in 4 Posts
All but a very few are shown in the "Relative Time" for me.
Now running HP Pavilion a6528p, with Win7 64 Bit OS.