Counting weeks (ISO 8601)

Using the ‘week’ as a time unit can be a bit confusing for at least two reasons:

  1. Does the week start on Sunday or Monday?
  2. How do you count a week that stretches two years?

Now probably your and anybody else’s take on those two questions will not just depend on cultural upbringing – but even more on – how it has been done so far. Nobody wants to change old statistics to a new counting or maintain two parallel statistics for one year with both countings. So to make a long story short, I’ll just stick with ISO 8601 standard because it seems reasonable to me. Here is what ISO 8601 has to say about the two questions:

  1. Monday is the first day of a week.
  2. The first answer implies that Thursday is the central day of a week. The year thursday lies in is also the one which the week then belongs to (makes sense).

In my not that long career as a Data Analyst I already encountered quite a number of different week numberings – most of them didn’t make any sense and just led to wrong aggregation of the respective figures for the ambiguous last/first week. So it’s good to just get that straight once and then stick with it.

Usually my data comes from MySQL databases. So these are the two statements I use for the year of the week and the one for the week (if you know an easier statement for the year of the week – please let me know!):

PHP applies ISO 8601 for the date time format codes by default:

W week number
o the week’s year (determined by a day from the week)
N the weekday numbering starting with Monday

Stick with ISO and you won’t have funny numbers in your new year’s reporting – and while you’re at it, also accept the metric system if you didn’t yet ;).

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