If only I had a dollar for every time when my question "in what time zone are your timestamps" is answered with a deadpan "it's just a number"…

Yes, it is just a number. What it means is that the time zone information is not provided with it, and has to be either assumed or provided by other means. This is exactly why I'm asking the question.

What the answer is telling me is that you rely on your programming environment to make that assumption for you, and you don't even know.

@isagalaev Well... We have a machine that intakes, transforms, and pushes out data. Each piece of data gets a long epoch timestamp added as it is pushed out. The clock isn't corrected. The timestamp is only to help identify a locked process that might result in us pushing out copies of old data. Nobody cares about accurate time or what time zone was used. We could have incremented a counter. We could have used randoms. We used time.

It's just a number. Sometimes that's okay.


@ericphelps obviously! As long as all parts of the code know about this assumption, it's fine. What I'm saying is "it's just a number" doesn't communicate any assumption. It's different from "we use it as an opaque monotonically increasing number".

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@isagalaev In all honesty, when I first got hired, I tried to use the time output of that device. C'mon, it was labeled "time" in the XML, so why not? I found it was wildly inaccurate and varied between devices. I had to have it explained to me that the consuming server just used it to look for differences between successive message blocks. So yes, documenting it (and naming it appropriately) is important.

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