Updated Australian time zone names/strings

Greg Black gjb at gbch.net
Fri Apr 6 03:08:42 UTC 2001

Paul Eggert wrote:

| * How important are unique time zone abbreviations?
|   Here I tend to agree with the point (most recently made by Chris
|   Newman) that unique abbreviations should not be essential for proper
|   operation of software.

I think this flies in the face of common sense and the old
principle about being flexible in handling input while trying to
make output as good as possible.

The broken software consists of real mail clients out there that
people are still using.  Some of that software outputs email
with dates in this form:

    Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2000 09:34:42 EST

I have 217 recent messages in my mail folders with those dates.
Many of them are from US sites and so are really -0500, but many
of them are from Australian sites and mean either +1000 or +1100
with no way for software that wants to sort them to know about
the Australian dates.

I can't force people who write to me (who are often people I
don't know) to replace their mail software just because I don't
like the dates it generates.  However, if the TZ data gave the
Australian users unambiguous abbreviations for those zones, it
would make life easier at little or no cost to anyone.

|   In the old days, some software mistakenly relied on unique
|   abbreviations, but this is becoming less true with time, and I don't
|   think it's that important to cater to such software these days.

I don't agree, unless the cost is significant.  As far as I can
see, the cost here is nil.

|   On the other hand, there is another motivation for unambiguous
|   abbreviations: it cuts down on human confusion.  This is
|   particularly true for Australia, where "EST" can mean one thing for
|   time T and a different thing for time T plus 1 second.

This is an important point.

| * How do Australians feel about the abbreviations in the tz database?
|   If you just count Australians on this list, I count 2 in favor and 3
|   against.  One of the "against" votes (David Keegel) counseled delay,
|   saying that both AEST/AEDT and EST/EST are widely used and
|   understood in Australia.

Since it seems to be agreed that AEST/AEDT are widely used and
understood (and since it's clear that they can help to reduce
confusion), surely this is an argument for the change.

Since David Keegel is on the committee of one of the state
chapters of AUUG (the Australian UNIX and Open Systems User
Group), perhaps he could arrange for AUUG to conduct a survey of
Australian system administrators so that we can get wider input
into this question?  I would suggest that the survey quote the
main arguments that have been made for and against change and
then invite people to state a preference.

| >   So, what happens now?
| The final decision is Arthur David Olson's, since he's maintaining
| the database.  My own mild preference for now (given what's been said
| so far) would be to leave it alone.

I know the decision is in Arthur David Olson's hands, but I
would imagine that he will be responsive to the wishes of the
affected parties.  I'm keen to see more input into this.

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