[tz] timezone Verschlimmbesserung

Tony Finch dot at dotat.at
Wed Sep 29 11:20:36 UTC 2021

Paul Eggert's rationale is informative

But I think there are a few more things to say.

The aim of merging timezones was to avoid political issues and to reduce
the maintenance burden. It seems to me that it has failed to achieve those

There have been several very long discussions on the topic, and the
recent arguments are making exactly the same points as were made in 2013.
So I think the changes have increased the amount of political discussion
and controversy on the tz list, not reduced it.


Paul says in his rationale that it was a lot of extra work, and in other
messages he said that he has found it hard to keep up with the
discussions. So merging timezones has increased the maintenance burden,
not reduced it.

I have identified two policy changes that caused this argument.

In 2013, Paul Eggert started a new policy of merging timezones that are
the same since 1970. As far as I can tell, no-one wanted this other than

This merging policy was applied first to places with small populations,
and (because of alphabetical order) to Africa, which is not
well-represented by the people on the TZ list. Some of the merges also
ignored the guideline that each country should have at least one timezone
to call its own.

The other policy change was to drop the guideline that each country should
have at least one timezone. This change occurred in 2019, buried at the
end of a very long discussion about Vietnam, and presented as a fait


This was after a great deal of discussion about the need to retain country
information in the tz database, back in 2013 when these changes started.

As I understand it, the equity / fairness issue is that the timezone
merges were implemented in an unfair manner, affecting Africa (since 2014,
against the guidelines as written at the time) but not Europe. So although
Paul says the merges worked without significant incident, they did in fact
cause a political complaint - exactly what the merges were supposed to

The current argument was triggered by the question of whether this
fairness issue should be addressed by undoing the data loss in the
compiled tz files that caused the complaint, or by imposing the data loss
more strictly.

I think the way to fix this is to revert both policy changes, and revert
all the timezone merges.

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