When does afternoon begin?

When I invited folks to become calendar curators for the elmcity project, the person who stepped forward in Prescott AZ was Susan Gerhart, whom I interviewed here. One of her great insights about web design is that the right thing for a vision-impaired user is almost always also the right thing for everyone. She calls this the curb cuts principle:

Curb cuts for wheelchairs also guide blind persons into street crossings and prevent accidents for baby strollers, bicyclists, skateboarders, and inattentive walkers.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Susan noticed that the HTML rendering of the calendar need some curb cuts. Within each day, the events show up as a long undifferentiated list. She suggested that subdividing the list by time of day — morning, afternoon, evening — will be helpful to folks using screen readers. But in fact, it’s just plain helpful. So I’m testing a version of that idea now.

Ionically I was just thinking about this same principle in another context. The new version of Oakland Crimespotting, which I raved about, segments incidents using this vocabulary:

light, dark, commute, nightlife, day, night, swing shift

In that spirit, I’m trying this:

morning, lunch, afternoon, evening, night

This of course leads to the question: When do these times begin and end?

I was fascinated to see that both Google and Bing return the same Yahoo answers page for the query morning afternoon evening.

For now, though, I’m going with this ruleset:

  Morning:  5:00 AM to 11:30 AM
    Lunch: 11:30 AM to  1:00 PM
Afternoon:  1:30 PM to  5:30 PM
  Evening:  5:30 PM to  9:00 PM
   Night:   9:00 PM to  5:00 AM

But I’ll make these rules — and maybe even the time-of-day names — configurable on a per-location basis.

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13 thoughts on “When does afternoon begin?

  1. I’m a big believer in the wisdom of crowds, but Yahoo Answers is terrifying in its unqualified answers (remember “male answer syndrome” ?). I’ve seen poor guesses accepted as the best answer for medical questions. Yikes! Maybe it has something to do with the company name.

    Since you appear to be breaking time into “normal” periods, I’d suggest “night” should be 9 PM to 1 AM, and 1 AM to 5 AM be “late night” or “early morning.”

  2. OK, now I’m trying this instead:

    05:00-11:30 Morning
    11:30-01:30 Lunch
    01:30-05:30 Afternoon
    05:30-09:00 Evening
    09:00-01:30 Night
    01:30-05:00 Wee Hours

    The thinking behind Lunch is that in the events domain, it’s an important peg on which to hang things.

    A curator will, of course, be able to define Gweep Standard Time. The mechanism to do so will be only mildly gweepy, involving some Delicious tags.

    Note, though, that you wouldn’t want to impose GST on a whole geographic community, which would include many non-gweeps.

    That implies either or both of:

    1. Users can request a GST overlay on a geographic aggregation.

    2. The aggregation is topical, like http://calagator.org/, in which case GST might be an appropriate community norm.

    It’s all doable. But I’m not sure any of this advances the real goal of this project, which is to encourage non-gweeps to understand and apply the principles of:

    – syndication
    – tagging
    – structured data
    – pub/sub
    – aggregation

    From that point of view, the choices that Stamen made with the Oakland time vocabulary are instructive. In my interview with Eric Rodenbeck, he pointed out that the day/night/swingshift terminology was chosen because that’s how the police themselves think about the domain.

    The purpose of the site is to help citizens and police share a common understanding of how crimes are defined in the neighborhood.

    I would likewise want to help event promoters and event goers share a common understanding of how public events are defined in a community.

  3. Related: I’ve always hated when ‘tomorrow’ starts at midnight. When you’re staying up late, past midnight, to work on something, ‘tomorrow’ is not your ‘today’.

    So my rule was ‘tomorrow’ begins at 6am or sunrise.

    ‘Course that was in college, so to be fair, I think 5am or sunrise works, even though it lacks a certain ring to it.

  4. For me, this is how it makes sense

    Morning – From Sunrise to noon
    Afternoon – Noon to approximately 4 PM
    Evening – 4 PM to Sunset
    Night – After sunset

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