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I just noticed that the times on comments did not square off with the other info on the site. I took a screen capture (for a different reason), but the times in the comments showed that "tchrist" made a comment "4 mins ago", while his profile stated that he was "last seen 6 mins ago". Is this a bug or is there a general guideline stating that these times should not be relied on to construct any kind of precise timeline?enter image description here

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    I've always found "Last seen" to be approximate at best. Coupled with that, I suspect that commenting is not recorded as "last seen" because comments are ephemeral and not treated as substantive. Let's test that... – Andrew Leach Oct 21 '17 at 0:23
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    Yup. My "last seen" hasn't changed (still shows 6 minutes ago, four or five minutes before the previous comment). I might write an answer on that basis, if someone else doesn't get in first. – Andrew Leach Oct 21 '17 at 0:26
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    This takes working behind the scenes to a new level. :P – Lawrence Oct 21 '17 at 13:14
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According to Shog9, "last seen" is only updated every 15 minutes and thus is not as accurate as other timestamps (e.g. post and comment timestamps):

The "last seen" date is only updated every n minutes, where n was 15 the last time I bothered to check.

So when this time is recorded, it won't be updated again for at least another 15 minutes, no matter how many times the user accesses the site during this period.

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The last seen is inaccurate intentionally, as mentioned in Laurel's answer.

The timestamps on comments, questions, answers are precise. For recently posted ones, the time will be shown as x mins/secs/hours ago, as seen in your screenshot, and when you hold your mouse pointer over it, you'll see the UTC timestamp: 2017-10-20 21:44:42Z.

  • I have seen 1 or 2 cases on different SE sites where the system says a user was last seen yesterday but their last post was few years ago! Is that weird or what? – English Student Oct 21 '17 at 10:45
  • @EnglishStudent I don't see how that's weird. One can be online without posting anything. – NVZ Oct 21 '17 at 10:50
  • For years? And these were active users with many posts 3 years ago but certainly rare and not typical on SE. – English Student Oct 21 '17 at 10:51
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    @EnglishStudent If you're signed in and browsing the site, you're online, and your last seen will reflect that. Your last question or answer may have been posted a century ago and it wouldn't matter. – NVZ Oct 21 '17 at 10:52
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    I always wondered what 'last seen' really means. Thanks for the clarification @NVZ. – English Student Oct 21 '17 at 10:53

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