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The Time Zone Rebels of the World (hopesandfears.com)
63 points by nols on July 27, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments

"Urumqi simply adjusted their operation schedules to reflect natural waking hours, therefore, a store may be open from noon to 10 PM."

This is exactly why I would propose a single timezone for the entire world. Time notation is just numbers, after all. Why we still attach importance to having 12pm appear at the middle of the day boggles my mind. Why can't we just have different parts of the world start at different sections of a day?

For global communication, it helps to form a mental model of the other side. When you pick up the phone to call someone else, knowing it's 1am there would typically indicate you should likely think twice before calling.

It's a crutch to enable a more convenient mental model for most people to relate to what time of day it is 'over there'. Otherwise, sure, there's no real point.

right, but I never know what time it is there. I only know what time it is here. And maybe I have a relative sense that there is 6 hours east of here. Often I don't even know where it is I'm talking to. I called the help desk, I have no idea what continent picked up the phone.

"office hours are 22-6 UTC" would be much simpler than "office hours are 9-5 EST. hmm ...is that european standard time, or east coast of the usa?"

death to timezones and daylight savings!

All you have to do is Google "time in Chicago" or "time in Perth" to find the current time there.

That's a good argument in favor of keeping time zones, but it's not why we have them.

The reason we have time zones is because people started keeping time long before fast travel and communication made it necessary to consider what time it was on the other side of the mountain, let alone the world. The reason we keep them is because the status quo is hard to change.

Without time zones I'll still know that it's somewhere between 12 and 2am. Good enough for that purpose.

Missing a phone call, WoW raid or whatever else I plan on the net by an hour is less forgiving.

To simplify the first chunk of that webpage, all you need to know is Uncle Steve's sunrise offset from you, same as now. If his sunrise is 6 hours after yours, don't call him until you've been awake for 6+ hours.

Also, the lifestyle/local weirdness complaints towards the end are still relevant today. If Uncle Steve works the night shift I shouldn't call him at his solar noon whether there are timezones or not.

I concur with tvon that days of the week get very tricky without timezones, but I think the other complaints in that article are overblown.

Is there any argument for the abolishment of time zones that doesn't boil down to them simply being annoying for programmers and server admins to set up initially?

Right now if I travel anywhere in the world I'll have a basic idea of when the sun rises and sets, when stores are open, hottest time of the day, when people are usually working, sleeping, etc.

Going with your argument, I would not only have to keep track of the sun set and rise shift but as well as the working hours in that particular part of the world. If I ever go there I have to learn the times of everything since they are completely different from where I live.

Efficiency improvements (both in software and other areas) is the usual rationale. For example, this article[1] lays out some hypothetical economic benefits.

> I would not only have to keep track of the sun set and rise shift but as well as the working hours in that particular part of the world

The same issues exist currently when traveling. Instead of looking up the timezone offset, you would look up the sunrise offset. Any additional information (e.g. work schedule differences) are still a factor today; when visiting Spain you have to learn that dinners are late and siestas exist.

But this is not "my argument". While I think it would be an interesting experiment, I expect the transition costs of moving to a single global time to far outweigh any marginal efficiency gains for many, many years. What we have now is generally good enough (though if I had the power I would get rid of the sub-hour offsets and daylight savings time).

[1]: http://thejakartaglobe.beritasatu.com/archive/changing-times...

> Is there any argument for the abolishment of time zones that doesn't boil down to them simply being annoying for programmers and server admins to set up initially?

It's not just initially. Politicians around the world tend to temper with them continuously. (Same with public holidays.)

I think that is over-complication of informercial proportions.

edit: Though the days of the week point I don't have an answer for. Religious holidays are easy, they would follow the old calendar, but I'm not sure how the days would work otherwise.

Thanks for the good read, although most of the objections seem to be based on an unwillingness to change.

Who remembers the Swatch Internet Time? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swatch_Internet_Time

Having the hour be the same everywhere is something that I can get behind, until I start to worry about when the "day" changes. Let's say you're in some unfortunate place where 12am happens at local noon. When someone says "let's get lunch on Tuesday" what do they mean?

Indiana is a very strange case. I had a business meeting there once where we met at the guys house. Coming down from Michigan I looked up the city hall just to make certain the time zone.

Well it turns out this particular guys subdivision was on a different time zone. He explained that the subdivision, being technically outside the city, voted to adopt the another time zone because the majority worked in a county with a differing time zone.

I grew up in a northern, rural part of the US along the MST/CST divide. Our county was MST, so everyone's homes, schools, events, etc. were all MST.

A significant portion of the area was employed by one of a few large mining/synfuel operations, which were headquartered an hour east in the capital, so they ran according to CST. Most employees wake up in one time zone, drive 5 minutes to work, spend the day in a different time zone, then switch back in the evening.

All the "stuff" you wanted or needed to do was also likely going to be in the capital city an hour east, so the constant math was bound to cause issues and consusion.

In 2010 the county voted to switch to CST [0]. I think it was a good change, and it really made life easier for people who live there. I was certainly in favor of it. But at least that was at a _county_ level. A change at the subdivision level seems like it would cause more problems than it fixes.

[0] http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/it-s-official-mercer-l...

Out of curiosity, is there some reason you are not directly mentioning the state of the two towns?

Ha, no. I think I was just trying to make it non-specific because it could happen along any tz border. I added the article in case someone wanted specific locations.

> Russia actually changed Crimea’s time, effectively moving the territory’s time two hours forward to Moscow Time. The peninsula of Crimea is completely unattached to Russia and the decision has no real geographical basis

I am most definitely not defending Russia's actions, but Crimea is nearly due south from Moscow.

[1]: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Crimea/@50,34,5z

That is true, but also Moscow is not on its "own" geographical time zone. The middle line of UTC+3 is 45°E, east of Nizhniy Novgorod or eastern Caucasus.

Crimea (Sevastopol) is about 33.5°E. Naturally, this time zone change is part of the process employed by Russia to severe Crimea from Ukraine and attach it back to Russia.

St. Petersburg, or Leningrad as it seems to be going, is also on the same UTC+3 zone even though it is even further away to the west, with the "geographical" UTC+2 line (30°E) passing through the city.

When I was in the Navy, my ship visited Petropavlovsk during the summer and they were on UTC+13. That was weird to begin with, what with the theoretical limit on only twelve time zones each direction from Greenwich. But then after the visit, we headed due south and then crossed directly over into the UTC+10 time zone for Guam. So one night we set the clocks back three hours.

Nice if you were asleep, not so nice if you were on watch...


> When I was in the Navy, my ship visited Petropavlovsk during the summer and they were on UTC+13. That was weird to begin with, what with the theoretical limit on only twelve time zones each direction from Greenwich.

New Zealand routinely goes to UTC+13 with the aid of daylight savings.

Our business team are in Germany, so we have three different time offsets between us over a year as daylight savings in both countries come and go.

Cross the border from China to Afghanistan, and you'll have a 3½ hour timezone change.

Cross the border from Finland to Karelian Republic in Russia, and "wind clock forward one hour, wind calendar back 50 years". In good and bad.

A lot of servers are just set to UTC even if they are in a different time zone. It simplifies a lot of headaches and translation bugs.

It would be nice to get rid of time zones and daylight savings time. People are so slow to change. Who cares if the sun doesn't come up until 4 PM where you are at. Stores, schools, etc can just change what hours they are open.

It's really annoying when I order a new VPS and it is set to whatever time zone the company's headquarters are located in. As if I give a damn about what time it is in PDT! I don't know about abolishing time zones in the real world, but at least for servers it makes total sense.

That, and the missing UTF-8 locale, are among the most annoying defaults that I routinely encounter on newly ordered servers.

Yes, I set all of my infrastructure to UTC and then keep the clock on whatever UI I'm using set to display distance from UTC in my current timezone (and current Unix timestamp in UTC). I feel like timezones are an important tool for humans, and it's so easy to customize your development machine's clock to take care of these calculations for you. It's also millions of times easier to think in terms of events that happen across a system with wide distribution if everything is set to UTC, where a lot of companies and people will have to then start counting and scribbling arithmetic to keep track of what happened when, in two or more timezones.

Getting rid of timezones is not as good an idea as you might first imagine. http://qntm.org/abolish

Haha, that article's brilliant!

In an Internet (read: global) article about Time Zones around the world, and local customs related to such things, we get this gem:

> South Australian Premier Jay Weatherhill reintroduced the time zone debate this spring

The linked article is from April 2015. Spring in Australia is September-November.

This concept of using weather seasons as terms of reference for periods of time, is ridiculous, and kind of reinforces the view that Americans can't think outside their own little world.

When I was a teenager and more prone to rebelling against the shackles of conformity, I tried adjusting my desk clock and my watch to run on sidereal time.

It made it a bit more convenient when I wanted to observe a particular cluster or nebula to know when to take my telescope outside.

Everything else...not so much.

Observance is a state matter, and only two of five mainland states have chosen to participate. Therefore, continental Australia became five time zones for six months out of the year, a decision that has created a bull-headed debate among all its states.

This has an error - three of five mainland states and one territory observe daylight saving time (SA, VIC, NSW and ACT).

It is here I can get to quote the famous justification why Queensland does not observe daylight saving like the sensible rest of Australia: Because it would fade the curtains.

(Interestingly, I'm not sure if this is apocryphal or not: I thought it was Flo Bjelke-Peterson who said it, but I can't find a source.)

Oh, it was a real argument that people actually believed...there were some other rippers - the cows milk turning sour due to the "extra" sunlight was one that is particularly memorable.

Where is Saudi Arabia in this story? When I was there in the 90s I saw maps of time zones that listed Saudi Arabia as still using solar time. That was long after the official switch in the 60s. I understood the official "solar time" line as a nod to religion. Nobody was setting watches every sunset but the calls to prayer certainly moved with the sun.

I am interested in the topic but the website has repeated loading failures on my iPhone. Fancy code drives away readers.

It fails on my iPhone when I'm on cellular (T-Mobile LTE) with a 504 error. It works if I switch to wifi.

It loaded for me on iPhone 6, but I couldn't scroll past the first map because it took up the entire screen :(

It doesn't neatly fit into the "rebels" headline, but I think it should've given a sentence or two to the fact that countries like the UK, Canada, and (parts of) the US are now on summer time for most of the year. It's as though their timezones are all wrong.

They missed Newfoundland, which is on Newfoundland Standard Time: UTC+3.5

Are there any other fractional timezones?

India +5:30, Nepal +5:45 to name two.

I was hoping they would talk of all countries using 'local times' instead of UTC.

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