Permatime update (and more than you want to know about the weird world of timezones)

11 December 2008 (Thursday)

Plenty of updates to recently, partly inspired by the spike in new visitors, referred by the comments and updated posting to do with the recent 37signals-live online realtime video event: first-time visitor friendliness, links, samples and bug-fixes.

(Have no idea what I’m talking about? is a micro webapp aimed at making it easier to share a point in time with people across different timezones. A sample (all the bells and whitstles) permatime link might be: More samples on the homepage.)

The first change was to give people who click on a permatime link for the first time an “guess” of the time according the users’ current GMT offset (difference from GMT / UTC).  The reason that is a “guess” is that timezones aren’t as simple as a GMT offset. Just because you are in, say 4 hours earlier than UTC/GMT in April (like, say New York or Santiago), doesn’t predict that  you are 4 hours earlier in February (No, in fact New York will be 5 hours earlier then, and Santiago 3 hours earlier).

So we do need to encourage first time visitors to enter a timezone to be sure, but we want to give them some idea of what the permatime they have clicked on actually represents for them, without a further click. What we have now is a balance between these two design principles. Let us know what you think.

A few small additional bits of crafting: every permatime gives you relative times (3 days away, 2 hours ago, etc). Plus, for the geek in all of us: there’s now a “Unix timestamp” timezone. Yay!

Also, (it was last week actually, but as it was ‘just’ a bug fix, I never mentioned it) ironed out complications with  “Today”  on the create permatime form: it was originally being calculated as of “Today” in GMT, rather than the basis of your home (first in the list) timezone. Of course I rarely saw that… and in fact never guessed that I needed to test for it. Problems like this would be much more obvious if one of the development team was based in, say Kiritimati (GMT +14). Wonder if anyone would like to fund me to trial that for a month or two (particularly when it’s so cold here in GMT-land).

%d bloggers like this: