Units and viewer-based conversions

Philippe-Andre Prindeville (philipp@res.enst.fr)
Wed, 4 Oct 95 21:47:14 +0100


I was thinking of various on-line news services (now that
MCI has bought a large share of News Corp., Murdoch's enterprise).
It seemed to me that a lot of news will be on the internet very
soon, and that users will have access to a whole slew of information.
The problem is, a lot of this information will initially be
provided by American news wire services, and in archaic units...
such as weather in degrees Fahrenheit, distances in miles ("the
12 mile exclusion zone around Sarajevo"), weights given in pounds
and ounces... furlongs per fortnight, etc.

Why not tag all of this as <units meas=lb>132</units> so
that this appears as something "civilized" (well, given that the
whole world has switched to metric except the US) like 60kg on
a viewer that understands conversions? A few simple rules might
be needed that aid in "normalizing" units (so that they appear
in the 1-10000 range, for instance) so that metric tonnes aren't
converted into some riduclously small units, like ounces, when
imperial tonnes (short tonnes) are available... Some of the
more archaic units like "grains" used in medicine and when
specifying bullet weights will be harder to do, but nothing beyond
the collective genius of the HTML working group... ;-)

Users might be able to specify how much approximation
is appropriate, ie. for reading purposes, 100km/h is 60 or 62
mph..., etc.

Times could also be given in GMT or Zulu (Universal) Time.
A lot of papers do this, such as in the Herald Tribune "the cease-
fire went into effect at midnight, Greenwich time, on Wednesday."

A good browser would know that midnight Greenwich time is
9pm (or 21h00) Eastern Standard Time, might even apply the various
daylight savings times, etc. (Note that Europe has switched back
to Standard time a couple of weeks ago but the US is still on
Daylight time...) For financial news, this would be very important,
since at any given time, some markets are closing will others are
still open.

Crikes. This message ended up being much longer than I