Archives » September 21st, 2006

September 21, 2006

RSS and Time Zones

If you’re in charge of generating RSS feeds, make sure you get the time zone information right. I just sent this note to Weblogs Inc.:

I’m having a technical issue with your RSS feeds. Maybe someone else has already brought this up to you.

In your RSS feeds, you’re including the time each item was published, and you’re using the Eastern time zone. So each post has something like this:

<dc:date>2006-09-21T18:08:00+00:00</dc:date>

That was published at 6:08pm Eastern time. But after the time you have this: +00:00. That makes the computer reading the feed (mine) think it was published at 6:08pm Greenwich time. My feed reader displays the published time as 11:08am Pacific time, instead of 3:08pm Pacific time, like it should. So the item gets buried 4 hours down in my news river.

Is it possible at all to change your RSS feeds so they read something like this:

<dc:date>2006-09-21T18:08:00-04:00</dc:date>

That includes the proper time zone information for Eastern Daylight Time (-04:00) so my feed reader doesn’t get screwed up.

This is happening on the TV Squad feed, but a quick look around shows the same problem on some other Weblogs Inc. sites.

Time zones can be tricky, and feed readers are usually smart enough to translate from one zone to another. But publishers need to make sure the time zone information is right in the first place, or else it all gets screwed up.

If you’re using a folder-based RSS reader, you probably don’t even notice things like this. But I’m using Omea Reader in “newspaper” mode, where all the feeds are combined into one big river of news, sorted by date. Brand new items from feeds with this problem don’t show up at the top, they show up four hours in the past, which is a pain in the ass for me because then I have to scroll backwards to try to find them

So if you’re publishing RSS, make sure you get the time zones right!