Idea alert

by Aaron Wherry

Conservative MP Daryl Kramp wants to make sure we all know which date we’re referring to.

Written in myriad sequences between slashes or dashes, dates cause what one mathematician calls “maximum confusion.” They cause us to miss meetings and unwittingly eat sour yogurt. They are so prone to mix-ups, in fact, that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) made a declaration on the subject in 1988. And here in Canada, a Conservative MP has introduced a private member’s bill that would help settle the date debate, but only, for now, in terms of evidence disputes in court.

“In a perfect world, there’d be one way for all of Canada in the Constitution,” Daryl Kramp, an Ontario MP, half-joked. “This is just a small effort to try to rectify what I consider to be a wrong. It’s a start.” ‘ISO 8601: Data Elements and Interchange Formats’ espouses year/month/day, abiding by the so-called big endian format, which orders the date from the largest element to the smallest (YYYY/MM/DD). Mr. Kramp chose this format for his bill. The ISO directive, embraced by the UN in its international trade protocols and by the European Union (although not by the individual countries), runs 33 pages.




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Idea alert

  1. It took me 2 years of complaining to get my bank to do this!

  2. This is the example I think of when I wonder how we’d do against an alien invasion.

    And I think this MP picked the right choice, even, so here’s me completely supporting a Conservative idea.  I hope I’ll be able to sleep tonight.

    • “This is the example I think of when I wonder how we’d do against an alien invasion.”

      Que?   Does everyone writing date same way make us more or less likely to repulse alien invasion? 

      • Really?  You don’t think our inability to get together on something this simple, bodes ill for more complex situations, such as defending the entire planet in a way that maximizes our resources?

        • Human beings don’t agree what year or month it is, so I think it’s pointless and quixotic to think we are going to get humanity to write date exactly same.

          • I didn’t say I didn’t understand the problem, Tony.  I said (well, inferred, actually) the problem illustrates why we can’t solve bigger problems.

        • How do you think we’d fair against a flying monkey though?

  3. Finally, an idea alert for a good idea. Unfortunately, like the metric system, it might not catch on everywhere.

  4. our french/english metric/imperial world needs so many more of bills!

  5. Months only go up to 12. Shouldn’t we be using YYYY/DD/MM? Putting the month first is a USian invention.

    • Putting the month first (as in MM/DD/YYYY) makes sense to me because that’s how we say dates.  I don’t know many North Americans who would typically say “31st of October, 2011.

      I’ve got no problem with YYYY/MM/DD – in fact that’s the date convention I use for electronic documents at work.

      • I say it “31st of October” plenty (I say October 31st too) and I was born and raised in North America. 

        I don’t buy the “it’s how we say dates” argument as I’m absolutely certain that I say dates different ways in different contexts.  Sometimes I’ll say “Remembrance Day is on November 11th”, sometimes I’ll say “The 11th of November is Remembrance Day”.  I’m absolutely positive that I’m wildly inconsistent in this regard, which is kinda the problem when you think about it.

        Plus, “Remember, remember the 5th of November” and “Beware the Ides of March” become awfully confusing if we establish that month must come before day. LOL

        I think we should order by size, so either YYYY/MM/DD or DD/MM/YYYY.  MM/DD/YYY makes no sense to me, personally, as it goes from the middle unit, to the smallest unit, to the biggest unit.  THAT is confusing, imho.  As long as we use four digit years, and establish that one always goes from smallest to biggest, or biggest to smallest it’s pretty easy to remember.

        • Totally agree.  I like YYYY/MM/DD because when you save a file with the date, it is always in order.  Plus some organization somewhere in the world said this is what we should use for international consistency.  But I personally don’t have a problem with DD/MM/YYYY, either.  Just so as we don’t use the stupid MM/DD/YYYY which is assinine.

        • XLIV/March/Ides

      • I don’t know many North Americans who would typically say “31st of October, 2011″.

        I can’t believe that this example only occurred to me this morning, but what about the 4th of July???

  6. I ‘fully’ support the YYYY/MM/DD format.

    It is consistent with the HH:MM:SS.SSSS format that most of us use for time.

    It is also consistent with many other measurements that are made daily…….how many times have you heard someone say that they are 10″ 5′ tall?  Or my girlfiriend just had our baby…..it weighed 9 ounces, 8 pounds?  Exactly!!

    In any event, unless entering dates onto forms where the desired format is specifically indicated, I always use the Oct. 31, 2011 format.  And I will continue to use that format even if this law passes, since I’m certain that – unfortunately – it will take years and years and months and months and days and days before the ‘correct’ format becomes widely accepted.

    Btw, I believe that Ken Epp (a former Refrom/Alliance and possible CPC MP) had previously introduced a similar private member’s bill, although he might have done it in the days when he was an Opposition MP, apparently without success.

    • It’s been the international standard since 1988…this just brings Canada into conformity with it.

      Long overdue, obviously.

  7. Call me crazy, but I bet this gets more debate than the Omnibus Crime Bill.

    • Two hours at second reading and 2 hours at third reading (if it passes second), so no. 

      But it may spend more time at Committee…

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