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March 13 2008

Should We Go To Just One Time Zone?

World ClockTime is an odd thing. It’s a man-made concept that keeps everything from happening at once, and is made only so that we had a more convenient way of saying where the Sun was. Would you rather say, “the Sun is at a 45 degeree angle from the horizon”, or “it’s 3 PM”? Kind of an obvious choice.

When you start messing with times zones, it gets tricky. You have to do math, which isn’t all that difficult, but you have to make sure you know which time zone the location your thinking about resides in. I do a lot of business with Tokyo, and I am always aware of what time it is there, and can do the math simply in my head. For some people this isn’t always easy, but there are numerous tools that exist now for you to not even have to think about it.

Then I stumbled across this blog post that was shared in Google Reader by Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins, one of my co-workers at Mashable. Mike Elgan suggest in his article that it is time for business to finally follow pilots in adopting Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) as the universal time zone of the planet. This would mean that if it would be 3 PM everywhere in the world at the same time, regardless if you had sunlight or not.

I think Mr. Elgan’s heart is in the right place, it would save some headaches, and it would be wonderful for business scheduling, but I think that’s where it stops. How would you have an inkling of when people are asleep? I know, for instance, that as I am typing this, it is 11:12 AM CST, which means it is 1:12 AM in Tokyo; this instantly tells me that I should assume everyone I do business with is asleep. Now, say we go to GMT, it is 5:12 PM GMT, which means it is 5:12 PM for me in Missouri, and 5:12 PM for the folks in Tokyo… how can I be assuredof them being in their office? What time do they come in to work now, 12:00 AM? Will they know I’m at work? Will they think I’m asleep? Will I have to keep a little chart that tells me Hiroshi is at work from 12:00 AM to 8:00 AM?

World WatchMr. Elgan’s plan would be a wonderful thing for in person meetings, easing scheduling to no end, but I feel it would make life a lot more difficult for those of us who tend to work on our computers full-time. I used to have a screen saver on my computer that showed me a world clock along with a graph of where the Sun is at all times.  I could always reinstall it so I could have a quick look to double check myself, but would everyone now have to do this?

What I could firmly get behind is an end to Daylight Saving Time (DST).  Why we keep this absurd concept is beyond me.  It was started in 1907 to help farmers and to conserve the use of that new fangled technology, “light bulbs”.  Well, now we’re past those concerns for the most part, let’s dump this stupid system of “springing forward” and “falling back”, and just keep one time all year long.  This I would totally get behind and would bring us into line with the majority of the world.

As for Mr. Elgan, I suspect he speaks out of frustration with something in his personal life.  There is nothing confusing about time zones, and just because it works for pilots doesn’t mean it would work for everyday life.  Nice try, but I don’t see this ever going any further than one man’s wishes.



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