1179: ISO 8601

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ISO 8601
ISO 8601 was published on 06/05/88 and most recently amended on 12/01/04.
Title text: ISO 8601 was published on 06/05/88 and most recently amended on 12/01/04.


Public service announcement: Two commonly used date formats are dd.mm.yyyy and mm/dd/yyyy (the symbols separating the values, as well as the year being 2 or 4 digits notwithstanding). These differences are often causes for debate. However, the comic explains that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has standardized dates in the yyyy-mm-dd format, in its ISO 8601 standard.

The comic then lists many formats as "discouraged". This list starts with commonly used formats, which include the two above as well as other commonly used ones, such as dd/mm/yy. However the list then starts listing formats ranging from uncommon to absurd, such as writing the date partly in Roman numerals and painting the date in m/d/yy format with white paint onto a hissing black cat.

The ISO standard was published (to use yet another date format) on 5 June 1988 and amended on 1 December 2004, two dates given in the title text in mm/dd/yy format. Since the day values are less than 13, the format used demonstrates its ambiguity; it could be interpreted as other dates given in dd/mm/yy format (the last in several other formats as well). Anyway, the dates are not written in ISO 8601 format, contradicting the advice in this comic, adding a level of metahumor.

The other mentioned formats are:

Date Explanation
02/27/2013 MM/DD/YYYY, used mostly in the US.
02/27/13 MM/DD/YY
27/02/2013 DD/MM/YYYY, used e.g. in South America, Canada (officially uses ISO 8601) and Europe.
27/02/13 DD/MM/YY
20130227 YYYYMMDD, also allowed in ISO 8601
2013.02.27 YYYY.MM.DD
27.02.13 DD.MM.YY, used e.g. in Germany
27-02-13 DD-MM-YY, used in Denmark, Netherlands, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, etc.
27.2.13 D.M.YY
2013. II. 27. YYYY. MM. DD., with month as Roman numerals, used in Hungary.
272-13 DM-YY
2013.158904109 Year and decimal fraction of year – 58/365, February 27 being the 58th day of the year. This representation marks the end of that day. Also allowed in ISO 8601.
MMXIII-II-XXVII Year-month-day in Roman numerals
MMXIII [and] LVII [over] CCCLXV Year and 57/365. This representation marks the start of the day, which is 57 days after the year started.
1330300800 UNIX Timestamp, but for 2012-02-27.
((3+3)×(111+1)-1)×3/3-1/33 Year/month/day with the parts written as arithmetic expressions, using just the digits 1 and 3. (The slashes are not to be interpreted as fraction lines.)
27 [on] 02 [on] 2013 An obfuscated date format not used ordinarily. This can be considered a compromise between the different formats: since we cannot agree on which position in the date the day, month and year parts shall be, we just write them all in the same place; we don't even need separators, which we cannot agree on either. On the other hand, reading it gets somewhat tricky...
10/11011/1101 Month/day/year in binary.
02/27/20/13 A slash is absurdly placed in the middle of "2013".
0 [2,5] 1 [3] 2 [1,6,7] 3 [4] 7 [8] The large digits are to be placed at the positions listed above and below: 0 is used at positions 2 and 5, 1 is used on position 3, etc.; the result being 20130227
A cat, with the numerals 2-27-13 painted on it, going HISSSS In Western cultures, black cats and the number 13 are associated with bad luck. The cat might also just be angry that someone painted an (unstandardized) date on it.


Public Service Announcement:
Our different ways of writing dates as numbers can lead to online confusion. That's why in 1988 ISO set a global standard numeric date format. This is the correct way to write numeric dates:
The following formats are therefore discouraged:
  • 02/27/2013
  • 02/27/13
  • 27/02/2013
  • 27/02/13
  • 20130227
  • 2013.02.27
  • 27.02.13
  • 27-02-13
  • 27.2.13
  • 2013. II. 27.
  • 272-13
  • 2013.158904109
  • MMXIII [and] LVII [over] CCCLXV
  • 1330300800
  • ((3+3)×(111+1)-1)×3/3-1/33
  • 27 [written on top of] 02 [written on top of] 2013
  • 10/11011/1101
  • 02/27/20/13
  • 0 [2,5] 1 [3] 2 [1,6,7] 3 [4] 7 [8]
  • A cat, with the numerals 2-27-13 painted on it, going HISSSS

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Apparently there are some mistakes in the Roman numerals in the comic, the year MMXII is 2012. Also LVII/CCLXV = 57/265, whereas February 27th is the 58th day of the year (which has 365 days). --ulm (talk) 07:55, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

Just guessing, but could this have something to do with the divergence of various Roman calendars, e.g. Julian vs. Gregorian? 13:55, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
Another error: Obviously 1330300800 is intended to be Unix time, but it corresponds to 2012-02-27 00:00:00 UTC. --ulm (talk) 08:10, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
The day part "57" is not wrong: Since Feb 27 is the 58th day of the year, at the beginning of that day, 57 days have gone by since the year started. (At the end of the day, 58 days have gone by) Since we associate days with their beginning (like we do with e.g. hours and minutes), 57 is the correct number (or else Dec 31 would be 2013+365/365 = 2014, and therefore in the wrong year) -- Xorg (talk) 13:53, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
The day part is ambiguous. It could be as Xorg suggests, the fraction of the year past at the start of the day. On the other hand it could be interpreted as "day 57 or 365," as with pieces in a shipment or page numbers. In the latter case it should be 58/265. But then, that (ambiguity) is the point, isn't it? Jqavins (talk) 17:40, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
Meanwhile the comic was replaced, with CCLXV corrected to CCCLXV. --ulm (talk) Prima vigilia, XVI Kal. Mar. MMDCCLXVI
I was just about to publish my theory of how "2012" in the Roman numerals in just the same vein might be intended to indeed represent the year we denote "2013", but by counting only the finished years. This would also connect with the confusion over year zero, another thing that ISO 8601 tried to straighten out. (They placed it before year 1.) Everything fit so well. Then there was an edit conflict, following Randalls correction to "2013". I guess you can't always be right. –St.nerol (talk) 23:03, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

Can anyone explain 01237 (last interpretation before the cat)? Thanks 08:04, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

The small numbers above and below the larger ones show which digit is used where. For example, the 2nd and 5th digit is a 0, the 3rd digit is a 1 etc. 08:15, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
01237 are the digits used in the date, and the numbers above and below them reflect the order in which they are written; 0 is the second and fifth digit, 1 is the third digit, 2 is the first, sixth and seventh digit, 3 is the fourth digit, and 7 is the eighth digit: 20130227 Bdemirci (talk) 08:15, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

Someone can explain me what means: ((3+3)×(111+1)-1)×3/3-1/33? -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Read the comic explanation. Davidy²²[talk] 10:58, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

Many of these format mirror how the dates are spoken in languages. For example, Americans will say "February 27, 2013" and write "2/27/2013", whereas the French will say "27 février 2013" and write "27-02-2013". As a scientist, I was encouraged to write "27 II 2013" (which is apparently standard in Hungary, according to the explanation above) in my lab notebook to avoid ambiguity. --Prooffreader (talk) 13:16, 28 February 2013 (UTC)

A strange thing is that he forgot the form mostly used in Europe: 27.01.2013. --DaB. (talk) 12:44, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

That form is mostly used in Germany. Belgium and France use 27/01/2013 more, Netherlands use 27-01-2013. No idea what the UK prefers although I could imagine 01.27.2013. 12:58, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
The UK prefers 27/02/2013 --H (talk) 13:20, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
That form (27.02.2013) is also common in all of Scandinavia. --Buggz (talk) 14:15, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
It's also widely used in Poland, alongside with 27 II 2013, mentioned above, and also in the comic (though we use space as separator in this format, rather than dot) 23:05, 10 January 2017 (UTC)

The image text has a subtle twist as "12/01/04" offers no contextual clues to it meaning at all, can be read three different ways : "December 1st 2004", "January 12, 2004" or "January 4th, 2012" (as opposed to, for example, "01/15/98" which could only be interrupted as "January 15th, 1998") JamesCurran (talk) 14:29, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

Technically speaking, it could also be interpreted as April 1st 2012 or April 12th 2001, though that would be the least likely interpretation. I personally like spelling out 3 letters of the month and using an apostrophe before the year, such as 27 Feb '13. --Joehammer79 (talk) 15:07, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
And of course December, 4th 2001 Sebastian -- 19:54, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

Is there any way to convert the time-stamp placed on these comments to the YYYY-MM-DD format? --16:17, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

If you're logged in, you can set your date and time preferences. I doubt it will affect the timestamps on this page, though, since those appear to be saved as plain text. --Aaron of Mpls (talk) 23:01, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

I feel like the cat thing is a reference to something, but I'm not sure what... is it something? A quick google image search pulls up nothing. --Jeff (talk) 17:26, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

Seems to me that Randall missed an opportunity: Why a cat? Why not a bobcat? It still could be some other reference that I'm missing too.
Black cats are considered unlucky. I don't see any reference beyond that. Mattflaschen (talk) 17:59, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
It's taking the last two digits from 2013 and emphasizing triskaidekaphobia. Doing a web image search on "Cat 13" will pull up similar artwork of hissing black cats combined with the number 13, including both flyers for Friday 13th drink specials at bars, and combat airplane noseart. Apparently combining the unlucky "13" with an unlucky black cat emphasized that they were bad luck for the enemy. Columbus Admission (talk) 19:20, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
"You're a Kitty!" http://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php?title=231
The cat's "Hissss" could be a reference to timestamp formats in PHP web programming, where the desired date format is generally followed by "H:i:s", the standard 24-hour time format. That would explain the specifically lowercase "i" in the cat's hiss. 13:28, 22 March 2013 (UTC)

Cool, this is my birthday. Mattflaschen (talk) 17:59, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

"However the list then starts listing formats ranging from uncommon to absurd, such as writing the date partly in Roman numerals [...] " - My math teacher uses a very similar format (in reverse order, d/m/yy, with m being in Roman numerals, because this is Germany (see above)), so I wouldn't call it absurd. She is the only person I know who uses it though. 19:36, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

The image and explanation needs to be updated for the corrections. I could do the explanation part, but I have no idea how to do the image part. And one without the other would be confusing for the readers, so I'll leave that to wiki-magic. 21:09, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

I updated the image as well as the explanation (and transcript). There is still the error on the Unix timestamp though (will this comic be fixed a third time?...). - Cos (talk) 21:57, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

Sweden uses the ISO 8601 format. (If only food producers could understand this as well..) 21:42, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

- What can we learn from this? - I've learned that no matter the system we use today to communicate with others, it's probably seems silly for someone else. It's great to document what we do and propose it as an option to others, but it will be next to impossible to force them to adopt. When someone will develop a time reference that makes sense to everyone, it will be adopted all over the world without much effort. - e-inspired 19:07, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

Perhaps the cat (because of the vagueness of the system) was referring to not the 27th of February 2013. but instead referring to the 13th of February in 1327 which would make it Friday the 13th. -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Just so you know, Explainxkcd wiki uses the ISO certified date standard for its "All Comics" page. Davidy²²[talk] 01:57, 28 February 2013 (UTC)

Personally I've always preferred to use Year-Month-Day my personal stuff. I like it because the format is written the way we write any other number: Most significant to left, least significant to right. I didn't know this was a standardized method and I've always wondered why it wasn't used. Nice to know it is! 04:09, 28 February 2013 (UTC)ExternalMonologue

Personally, I like yyyy-mm-dd because it sorts correctly. I really hate running into a list of dates sorted by month name, or worse, day of the week. I suspect this was part of why ISO chose this format. I've never been able to remember the american vs european ordering... My only other options is: February 27, 2013. Divad27182 (talk) 12:11, 28 February 2013 (UTC)

I'm not sure what standard the Canadian Military officially uses, but as soldiers we were all taught to use a "7 Feb 2013" format when writing dates. Seems the most clear and concise to me. -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Most of the dates I've seen used by the Canadian Military have been of that format but have only used 2-digit years - e.g. 27 Feb 13 (they didn't learn from Y2K!) -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

- What can we learn from this? - I've learned that keeping our time relative to earth rotation is outdated, we keep having to add seconds here and there just to keep time. And as an engineer don't get me started on complexity of mktime function. I personally think of time as oscillation of a flawed crystal in my circuits that I constantly need to keep accounting for through endless calibrations, and keep wishing that better time references would be cheaper (to me good is never good enough) - E-inspired (talk) 15:05, 28 February 2013 (UTC)

Ha ha E-inspired you should read the "falsehoods programmers believe about times" http://infiniteundo.com/post/25326999628/falsehoods-programmers-believe-about-time http://infiniteundo.com/post/25509354022/more-falsehoods-programmers-believe-about-time-wisdom 20:14, 28 February 2013 (UTC)

Dude, you've just made my DAY! I forgot the last time I've laughed as hard. Why didn't I know about this site before? - E-inspired (talk) 20:43, 28 February 2013 (UTC)

Why is the date of this comic written as "February 27, 2013" and not "2013-02-27"? 08:46, 14 March 2013 (UTC)

The hover hint says "ISO 8601 was published on 06/05/88 and most recently amended on 12/01/04." which must be a joke - because it is impossible to know whether these days are 6 May 1988 and 12 January 2004 or 5 June 1988 and 1 December 2004. Why make a comic about ISO 8601 then use ambiguous dates in the hint? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I had always assumed that the title text was poking fun at ISO for not complying with their own standard. Looking at the ISO website today, I'm disappointed to find that this is, in fact, not the case. Perhaps three years ago it was. Zeusfaber (talk) 17:07, 9 July 2016 (UTC)

Amateurs, you don't put periods in format with roman month number. So it's 27 II 2012 12:48, 20 April 2015 (UTC)

The chief advantage of the American system is that placing the year last makes it easy to simply drop the year in casual conversation, given how slowly years change. While it might technically follow just as logically to have the day precede the month, in practice the sequence means less for the first two numbers. The 31 days or fewer between month changes are relatively frequent, while the 365.25 days between year changes can easily go "out of sight, out of mind" except when approaching a transition. In either case, placing the nigh-irrelevant year number first in the text string causes the reader to pay attention to that number first, and have to "skip ahead" to discover the month and day, when in truth the day is the most salient datapoint. 20:58, 29 October 2015 (UTC)

Hmm... The comic's point is about writing dates as numbers... 09:47, 13 November 2015 (UTC)
Don't write "America" when you mean "USA". In most of America (and most of the rest of the world) the traditional order is D/M/Y, which makes it even simpler to drop more significant parts in casual conversation. E.g. "it's the 27th of February 2013" becomes "it's the 27th of February" when the year is known and just "it's the 27th" when also the month is known. In my country we traditionally had D/M/Y but we are approaching ISO inch by inch. Personally I've used ISO and four digit year since around 1997. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Date_format_by_country /David A 22:01, 23 September 2016 (UTC)

Source for the claim about the Swedish date format. I have never seen it, we have been using the ISO-format since before it was defined (I started school 1980 and learned to write dates in the first year or two), not even in old books, movies or similar.