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  1. #1
    Brian Livingston
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    One of the reasons we upgraded the Lounge from IP.Board version 2.x to version 3.0 is that the new platform would give us the ability to show "forum and thread freshness" in relative times rather than simply absolute times. For example, Google News displays the time that each article was posted as "26 minutes ago" or "4 hours ago" and so forth.

    The use of relative times on the Lounge Lobby page and the forum view page, however, has not been as successful. People have said that the relative times IP.Board displays are harder to understand than calculating mentally how many hours or days ago a forum or thread was updated. For example:

    1 minute ago
    2 hours ago
    3 days ago
    4 weeks ago
    16 Oct 2009 12:34

    The four time periods — minutes, hours, days, and weeks — are not easily "scannable." We wanted it to be easy to see which threads and forums had been updated the most recently, so people could check those out first (or last). But mixing the time periods made it harder to scan.

    Our problem, as developers, is that IP.Board 3 only provides absolute time and three kinds of relative time formats:

    [attachment=86542atecolumn-Relative.png]

    The Lounge Lobby has been using minutes, hours, days, weeks (up to 4 weeks), and absolute time — the bottom option in the image above. I think we'd all prefer to use only one or two time periods plus absolute time: 1–59 minutes ago, 1–96 hours ago, 16 Oct 2009. But IPB 3 does not give us that option.

    We don't want to completely give up on relative time, but it must serve us well. Therefore, we're going to try a new way to make relative time obey our wishes. By selecting "today" and "yesterday" as the only two kinds of relative time, followed by the absolute time of the latest post, we should gain visual scannability and improve our ability to see at a glance which forums and threads are the freshest. In IPB 3, "today" means within the last 24 hours, and "yesterday" means within 24 to 48 hours.

    The image below shows how this will look (the times are made up):

    [attachment=86541atecolumn-Example.png]

    We'd like to get your feedback on how the new system works, after you try it for a day or two. We have also switched the time display in IPB 3 to use 24-hour time, rather than 12-hour time with "am" and "pm." The use of 24-hour time makes the columns line up more consistently, and anyone can still figure out whether a post was in the morning or the afternoon in their time zone.

    Please reply in this thread with your comments after you've used the new times for a day or so. The change will go live within a few hours after this post goes live. Thanks!
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  2. #2
    Plutonium Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Livingston View Post
    One of the reasons we upgraded the Lounge from IP.Board version 2.x to version 3.0 is that the new platform would give us the ability to show "forum and thread freshness" in relative times rather than simply absolute times.
    That seems unlikely because IP.Board 2 also had this ability. In fact, the out-of-the-box setting there was to use relative time. During the testing phase of the IP.Board 2 Lounge, it was decided to use absolute time and a 24 hour clock throughout.

  3. #3
    Plutonium Lounger Leif's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Livingston View Post
    In IPB 3, "today" means within the last 24 hours, and "yesterday" means within 24 to 48 hours.
    ...
    Please reply in this thread with your comments after you've used the new times for a day or so.
    I'm afraid it would take more than a day or so to convince me that, for example, 07:00 yesterday morning is actually still today! I have a feeling that is going to be more confusing than ever.

    I consider some aspects of relative time to be akin to using an analogue clock but with the position of the hands written out in longhand. If 'today' means within the last 24 hours, and you want to stress this, instead of confusing our natural circadian rhythms, could you detect the phrase 'Today at ' and replace it with formatting? Recent posts could be bold, or red, or anything that requires the mental processing of only numbers.

    Just my two minutes worth

  4. #4
    Platinum Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leif View Post
    I'm afraid it would take more than a day or so to convince me that, for example, 07:00 yesterday morning is actually still today!
    .....Amen!!

    OTOH what seems to be visible at *this* moment is that "Today" began at 00:00 and "Yesterday" began the same time 24 hours earlier.

    Not quite what we were promised, but a great advancement on what seemed to be what we were going to be offered.....
    Grüße

  5. #5
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    A little (hopefully constructive) feedback.

    Firstly, my personal preference would always be absolute time, in absolutely all circumstances. This is what I am used to, and I like it that way.

    However:

    It's very early days but this looks a little better, time will tell wether I can adjust to it.

    Two questions:

    Could the year be reduced from 2009 to 09?
    How would this look 'right aligned'? To me, the times should be aligned regardless of the date, else it just looks slightly odd.

    This is an improvement (at early glance)

    [attachment=86555:LoungeTime.GIF]
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  6. #6
    Brian Livingston
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    If relative time is really bad, we could also consider an icon to the right of the time that indicates "newest post is less than 24 hours ago" and "newest post is between 24 and 48 hours ago." I believe IPB 2 had a "flame" icon like this. That problem with a flame is that ordinary users don't realize that it means "the freshest threads," and the image of a thread being on fire is unappealing in addition to being confusing. We could find some other symbol for "most recently updated," such as a small clock face.

    It would be best not to reduce the year to two digits, which will be especially apparent as soon as we hit 2010 (which is just around the corner). It's hard enought to render dates in a way that people in every country immediately understand them. Seeing 10 Jan 10 won't be understandable at all without the user looking around for other date examples. Personally, my preference would be to render all dates and times in MySQL format (2010-01-11 13:45), because the order is the same in every country and I can instantly calculate the difference in months and days. I can never remember which comes first, Oct or Sep. Most users aren't familiar with the MySQL format, however, and they can't add and subtract numbers in their heads easily, as you geniuses do.

    We'll do more research here on what IPB 3 allows us to "detect." The board can show "2 hours ago" and so forth in text, but I don't know whether relative times such as this can control the display or non-display of particular icons.

    In our most important outstanding issue, we're still waiting for the .5 patch, which will make the icons in the Lounge Lobby correctly reflect the "no new posts" status. This patch has supposedly been in beta testing within Invision for several days, but we haven't been able to get Invision to give us the privilege of being an external tester. The patch is expected to cure a multitude of sins, perhaps as many as three or four issues that appear to us to be interrelated and unsolvable without a fix. Stay tuned.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Livingston View Post
    Personally, my preference would be to render all dates and times in MySQL format (2010-01-11 13:45), because the order is the same in every country and I can instantly calculate the difference in months and days. I can never remember which comes first, Oct or Sep. Most users aren't familiar with the MySQL format, however, and they can't add and subtract numbers in their heads easily, as you geniuses do.
    The MySQL format would be my preference also. There should be no confusion about what it means.

    Joe
    Joe

  8. #8
    Plutonium Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by joeperez View Post
    The MySQL format would be my preference also. There should be no confusion about what it means.
    This would be my personal preference too, but I think it might be too challenging for some loungers.

  9. #9
    New Lounger NotQuite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StuartR View Post
    This would be my personal preference too, but I think it might be too challenging for some loungers.
    Personally, I agree with Stuart's preference. I don't, however, think that it would be too challenging for users. It might take a short time to get used to, but that is all.

    Just my opinion
    Regards,

    NotQuite, Not So Damp In Lotus Land

  10. #10
    Super Moderator jscher2000's Avatar
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    This is off-topic, but because I have to keep scrolling this growing thread every few hours... Can someone fix the link on the "new posts" icon for threads with the little yellow note icon? Currently they always go to the first post rather than the newest one.

  11. #11
    Plutonium Lounger
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    Even though I don't know zip about MySQL, I like that representation and have been using it locally for a long, long time simply because it makes "sorting" so much more non-ambiguous.

  12. #12
    Plutonium Lounger
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    To put in my €0.02, I'd prefer yyyy-mm-dd hh:mm format too. It may take some getting used to, but it's a very unambiguous and clear format, and has the additional advantage that the dates and times in a column will always be aligned correctly.


  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Livingston
    Personally, my preference would be to render all dates and times in MySQL format (2010-01-11 13:45), because the order is the same in every country and I can instantly calculate the difference in months and days.
    Easily recognised, yes, that's because MySQL (developed by Swedes) is following the standard; ISO 8601, see this little FAQ at ISO.

    When I mentioned something about how one can see who has done the latest post in a thread, here, I found something else; if I looked "underneath" the post time in a thread (and at the time it was in full relative time and said something like "45 minutes ago") I found that the properties showed the correct full ISO standard format such as: 2009-11-18T06:05:13. With the capital letter T used to separate the date and time components. But no one uses that full format in situations supposed to be read by humans mostly in log files etc. I assume. Remove the “T” and seconds, et voilà: YYYY-MM-DD hh:mm.

    I prefer this format too, but I have no problem with the present format, "18 Nov 2009 06:05", from a readability perspective but there are other problems mentioned below, since it is a semi-version of the long date format here in Sweden: 18 November 2009 (I know some other countries mix the order, instead of from the largest to the smallest element or from the smallest element to the largest, they use medium/smallest/largest (month/day/year) but since the month is written in text it should work for everyone.)

    There are some problems with the present situation, IMHO. First is the mix, mentioned by Leif [snapback]803605[/snapback]. Using "Today 06:05", "Yesterday 06:05" and suddenly it becomes "14 Nov 2009 06:05”; i.e. the rolling 24 hour/48 hour thing, today = last 24 hours. We also see another anomaly as a result of this: In the member profiles, someone visited “Today 06:05” and then “14 Nov 2009” and no time at all, it’s removed from older entries. Guess it’s a result of the changes back and forth between full relative time and the present format, at all the places where time and date is used.

    Finally, around day 6 we had the leading zeros removed from date and time. I agree, “09 November” looks odd. However, we later on went to 24 hours time format, thus the "03:05 pm" vs. "3:05 pm" became moot. But, with the current situation, no matter how easy it is to read "18 Nov 2009 18:05", we have an alignment problem, or two.

    Nathan showed one [snapback]803658[/snapback]; a screen shot from the Lounge lobby, the main index, showing the Updated column not aligned. That is a problem that we will have as long as we use “Today”, “Yesterday” etc. (it could of course be aligned to the right but that would be really ugly). However, even without “Today” and “Yesterday” we have an alignment problem, since the leading zeros were removed from the date, as Hans mentioned.

    [attachment=86570:xTime.PNG]

    Ergo: in an international forum use the international standard format.

    As for "freshness"; the forums are always sorted with the latest at the top, but as we know, it can still be 6 months old. If that is desired and important. it would be better with perhaps three different colours, last 24 hours, last 48 hours (or 48-24) and black for the rest. Or an icon.

    Just some thoughts.
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  14. #14
    Plutonium Lounger Leif's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HansV View Post
    To put in my €0.02, I'd prefer yyyy-mm-dd hh:mm format too. It may take some getting used to.....
    I must be getting old - I could have sworn that is exactly what we had on display pre IP.Board days!

    And exactly what I would vote for too!

  15. #15
    Super Moderator BATcher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HansV View Post
    To put in my €0.02, I'd prefer yyyy-mm-dd hh:mm format too. It may take some getting used to, but it's a very unambiguous and clear format, and has the additional advantage that the dates and times in a column will always be aligned correctly.
    I'd agree too! But in the interim, having "17 Nov 2009 21:35" is a great improvement on previous display formats.

    (Maybe after all this is settled Brian might be thinking of writing a book, "A Brief History of Time Formats"? )
    BATcher

    Time prevents everything happening all at once...

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