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Date syntax

Page history last edited by Ben Clemens 14 years, 2 months ago


Ben Clemens


In 140 characters:

Make it easier to parse date information in tweets by enclosing them in a colon & other diacritical: July 16, 2009.



The premise of Date syntax is that users want to be able to tweet dates for the benefit of others. This happens all the time in informal ways, but if appliances are to parse this from the Twitter (or other) real time stream, it is significantly and less error-prone if a more formal syntax is used.


Details and Use Cases:

In tweets, there will frequently be a need to refer to a date other than today. The use of a colon with a date is already a fairly natural part of writing out that information. Examples:

  • Hey everybody my colonoscopy party is set: April 6th!
  • A great day in the history of buying crap: August 5, 2004.
  • Honey, I put money on the date for our divorce to be final: Feb 12.


This syntax would formalize that usage, and require it for parsing a date as microsyntax. Specifically, date information would require three parts:

  1. A colon (:) immediately before date information starts
  2. Date information in GNU standard format
  3. A semicolon, or other ending diacritical of some kind, such as a slash, colon, end of tweet, etc., basically anything other than a space, period, letter, or digit. 




I would like to ask you out on a date: Sept. 6th; check your sched?

A date that will live in infamy: December 9th!

Your mouth says: tonight; your body says: next week;

headed to /NYC: June 4/

I can't believe it, that was: today?

I gotta feeling that this photo was from: Jan. 4th #caturday

Which date is sexier: tomorrow; or: Nov 16?

I'll be having my nervous breakdown: May 3-4; we cool?


Comments (8)

JonTheNiceGuy said

at 1:36 am on Jul 17, 2009

Please bear in mind that most countries use the Day Month format, not Month Day. I think it would be better to recommend ISO format Y-M-D, or to use alternative formats in your examples.

CWagner said

at 1:55 am on Jul 17, 2009

@Jon: "Date information in GNU standard format" allows for D-M as well as M-D.
That said, I'd prefer it if everyone, everywhere would use ISO Y-M-D but that's something else:)

@Date syntax: I don't think this really makes it easier for clients to parse date information.
They have to check the words behind a colon anyway and the whole text are only 140 signs. Should be easy enough to parse the whole text for date information. It might be more interesting to use this or something similar for event information with some kind of trigger so the client knows it should add this to your event list or something.

Ben Clemens said

at 10:35 am on Jul 17, 2009

@CWagner I agree that clients should be parsing the entire text for date information, but, as with location information where the entire text could be parse for location as well, the syntax helps ensure clarity and combines well with other syntax. I don't really see date syntax convention making a big impact or becoming any kind of standard, just being there when for whatever reason (again, like with location) it makes things clearer...

CWagner said

at 11:39 am on Jul 17, 2009

@Ben Clemens: I disagree. Location Syntax makes it clear something is a location for humans. It's not always perfectly clear. For machines, it's even more useful as they know if something is a location even fewer times than humans do.
With dates on the other hand, humans do always know it's a date and machines know it probably 99% of times

Ben Clemens said

at 4:20 pm on Jul 17, 2009

Fair enough, though I come down on the other side obviously. Stowe, what's the process for deciding whether to keep or scrap a proposal?

Chris Messina said

at 1:25 pm on Jul 19, 2009

@Ben Clemens: you can keep proposals here as long as you like, but if you're no longer interested in working on it or maintaining it, you should probably say so at the top with a note like: "Status: not maintained".

Also, as for whether to keep or scrap a proposal — it really comes down to adoption. Anyone can propose an idea (though research into existing habits is strongly encouraged!), but that doesn't mean that anyone will ever adopt or use the syntax.

Ben Clemens said

at 10:04 am on Jul 20, 2009

Got it. Could you or another admin remove this page, then? Thanks...

Stowe Boyd said

at 12:44 pm on Jul 20, 2009

We don't have such a process for removing proposals. I would rather keep things around for historical reasons, anyway. I don't even think Chris' idea of 'not maintained' is necessary, at least not yet.

I think the discussion here only touches on a few aspects of dates, and their possible use, so I suggest that we keep this open and see where we are headed as other date issues come up.

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