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DATETIME  January 2011

DATETIME January 2011

Subject:

Re: dual representations

From:

"Edward C. Zimmermann" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Discussion of the Developing Date/Time Standards <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 24 Jan 2011 08:52:04 +0100

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On Fri, 21 Jan 2011 22:28:08 -0700, C. M. Sperberg-McQueen wrote
> On Jan 20, 2011, at 4:46 AM, Edward C. Zimmermann wrote:
> >> 
> > 
> > ISO 8601 is, in fact, a standard format for user input.
> 
> That's an interesting point of view.  The last time I read that
> spec, though, I remember it making an explicit statement 
> that as far as the WG knew the format was not a common
> culturally expected format in any language, culture, or locale,

Of course not. If there was a culturally expected non-ambiguous
multinational format we'd not have needed to develop one.

> and regarding this as an advantage in that it did not favor
> or appear to favor any one cultural practice over another.

It does, of course--- but that's, of course, another discussion. 

> 
> So if you mean that ISO 8601 is intended to serve as a way
> to make sense of input from general or untrained users, I
> think the historical facts of the matter are against you.

I am not quite sure what a general or untrained user is. ISO 8601
is not, of course, amongst prenatal knowledge nor is it the standard
cultural format. Neither, of course, are any of the calls for its use.
Its Esperanto for dates.

The most popular cultural date formats used in North America and Europe are
unfortunately ambiguous. In notions such as X-Y-Z or X/Y/Z or even XYZ one
places X for month can be another's day or year, similarly ...

In International projects either one forces eveyone to use a local format
that is not theirs (and accept probable lower data quality) or ...

> 
> If you only mean that it's a text format and thus typable, then of
> course you're quite right, but the observation is perhaps less
> compelling.  A date format using integers counting the number 
> of days since the death of Julius Caesar (or any other epoch)
> is also a text format and readily typable; would anyone say
> it's a format for user input?

I do not know anyone using it. Its clear disadvantage is that its 
comparatively difficult for people of average intellegence to convert
from their own expression of dates into that format in their heads.

> It's quite true that many formats designed and specified for
> interchange may prove to be suitable for input from at least
> some users; I know a few technically oriented people
> who have acquired the habit of using ISO 8601 dates in
> their daily life because they like the format.
> 
> But designing a format to accept and handle unstructured
> input from users who are not trained in the details of the format,

There is no such format. Dates are structured: either explicitly or
implicitly.

As soon as we set out to define a compact replacement for current national
norms one ends up.. 
There might be a technically better "date Esperanto" but as a widely accepted
ISO standard its got all the cards ...


> and designing a format for interchange among software
> systems which may be expected to do some validation of

If exchange among software was the sole aim I think we'd have a different
development-- including like ISBN some form of checksum. Software can
easily caculate and compare checksums. People can't.


> their input are (in my experience at least) two rather different
> activities.  Most obviously, in most data interchange applications,
> it's usually regarded as preferable to eliminate as much
> variation as possible in formats:  if there is no difference in
> meaning between "2011-01-21" and "20110121", people
> interested solely in the exchange of data among databases
> will (again, in my experience) unanimously prefer to choose
> one of these formats and require it, rather than allowing
> either.  That seems good practice to me.
> 
> -- 
> ****************************************************************
> * C. M. Sperberg-McQueen, Black Mesa Technologies LLC
> * http://www.blackmesatech.com 
> * http://cmsmcq.com/mib                 
> * http://balisage.net
> ****************************************************************


--

Edward C. Zimmermann, NONMONOTONIC LAB
http://www.nonmonotonic.net
Umsatz-St-ID: DE130492967

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