Thursday, July 4, 2013

Time Zone and Working Hours

In this blog post we are going to talk about time, but not in some existential meaning but in the very real  meaning related to our day-to-day job in the Global World, the world that has multiple Clocks.

If you are not sure what I mean, I want to discuss Time Zone settings, which any serious computer system must support, except for cases when your only customer is a guy next door.

Time Zone

So, the World is Big. And it's complex — but only as much as necessary as you might know, but no less for sure. And when your customer from Sydney (say, Alice) chats with you while your are on the East Coast (Bob), the reality is, her time is 5pm but your time is going to be 10pm. Yet another party involved in conversation — P3chat server — is in a different Time Zone than both of you, and thus it sees and records your conversation timestamps differently. Things become complicated a bit...

Next, let's consider Alice wants to find the conversation and figure out what's the best time to contact Bob via chat. She can do that just fine: all her conversations are stored by P3chat available in her browser and we also make sure that they are is stored in local time. So, she quickly finds 5pm time was quite all right.

But what if now you, Bob, check the old messages in P3chat History? Well, prior to these new changes we're about to announce, Bob would find out that conversation took time at 06:00 UTC (or GMT) time. This is not very helpful (to Bob) but quite common way to store time in Web — relative to the Greenwich Mean Time. If you happen to be British, this will please you a lot, but for the rest of us it requires to do some math or googling.

That's why we implemented Time Zone selection. This is a per-account setting and it allows you to see the messages in History in your local time — very conveniently, isn't it? You just need to configure it once in P3chat Dashboard > My Profile tab:

Fig.1 - Configure Time Zone in My Profile

Working Hours

Having Time Zone set for an account, we can go ahead and use it as an anchor for other time-related computations and settings. That's exactly what we did and we are now also announcing Working Hours settings for operators:

Fig.2 - Configure Working Hours for Operators

You can drag-n-drop-n-click this little control to set desired working hours, individually for every operator. Notice the Change Time Zone button? It will bring you to My Profile — this is a hint for you that working hours is bound to your Time Zone.

Why do we need this setting? As we learned from customers, some of them, especcialy small-to-medium teams, prefer to use their personal Instant Messenger accounts to support their site visitors. (Finally, that's were P3chat shines bright — supporting multiple IMs, plus our very best Rich Web Client.) So, they used their personal Skype or Google Talk account and faced the problem: they want to go online after working hours — that is, to chat with their friends and grandmas — but not necessarily want to receive P3chat messages from their web site visitors.

That's exactly what this settings does — you are still online in your IM, but visitors see your status as Offline on the web site (unless, of course, you have other ops online with different Working hours).

What's left for you is to choose your tempo. You can choose among famous examples like "90 Hrs/Wk and Loving It!" or something less pretentious you're now in control!

That's about it for now. Thanks for your attention and let us know what you think about these features.

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