Question: Given a series of times how can we visualize the time between dates?


I have data of the following structure:

{{"2018-07-31 21:32:52", "2018-07-31 22:12:27", 
  Quantity[0.0274884, "Days"]}, {"2018-08-02 19:11:59", 
  "2018-08-02 19:12:40", 
  Quantity[0.000474537, "Days"]}, {"2018-08-02 19:12:40", 
  "2018-08-07 20:35:19", 
  Quantity[5.0574, "Days"]}, {"2018-08-07 20:36:05", 
  "2018-08-07 20:36:05", Quantity[0, "Days"]}, {"2018-08-07 20:36:46",
   "2018-08-07 20:36:46", 
  Quantity[0, "Days"]}, {"2018-08-08 18:46:26", "2018-08-08 18:46:54",
   Quantity[0.000324074, "Days"]}, {"2018-08-08 18:46:54", 
  "2018-08-08 18:47:34", 
  Quantity[0.000462963, "Days"]}, {"2018-08-08 18:47:34", 
  "2018-08-08 18:54:15", 
  Quantity[0.0046412, "Days"]}, {"2018-08-08 18:54:49", 
  "2018-08-08 18:54:49", Quantity[0, "Days"]}, {"2018-08-08 18:55:55",
   "2018-08-08 18:55:55", Quantity[0, "Days"]}}

A list containing a list of two dates as the first element and their difference, as the second element. This data is derived from user interactions to a series of questions and we want to know how long it took to respond in minutes.

What I've Tried

So, I have tried to create a Grid to display the data where every two rows, we display the difference. However, this doesn't have an immediate visual effect that a graph might.

I have also considered using TimelinePlot which has an "Interval" capability. I did the following:

TimelinePlot[DateObject[#]& /@ listOfDates]

which produces something somewhat meaningful (see graphic) but some dates are vertically stacked where, I think, everything horizontal would be better.

Sample timeline plot

  • $\begingroup$ Aren't you just looking for a histogram of user response times ? Or even a simple scatter plot ? I'm not sure this is a programming question, it seems more like a data visualisation design question. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ I don't really understand your explanation of the data structure. What I see here is just a list of dates. I don't see a list of lists and I don't see any differences. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 10:10
  • $\begingroup$ @SjoerdSmit, I've updated the question to include a new data structure which includes dates and their time differences. $\endgroup$
    – Jeel Shah
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 11:10
  • $\begingroup$ @HighPerformanceMark A histogram / scatter plot won't do because I would like something like a timeline except the points shouldn't be stacked. $\endgroup$
    – Jeel Shah
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 11:11
  • $\begingroup$ The list in your answer is not valid Mathematica code someone can copy and paste in a notebook. Can you include the definition of listOfDates (or at least: a definition of the first 5 elements or so) that people can use directly? You can just evaluate listOfDates[[;; 5]] and paste the results in here. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 11:21

1 Answer 1


I have decided to use a TimelinePlot. I have a list of dates like:

listOfDates = {"2018-07-31 21:32:52", "2018-07-31 22:12:27", ...}

In order to visualize the times for the data, I converted each time to a TimeObject

TimeObject[#] & /@ listOfDates

And then plot each of them using a TimelinePlot. The important part was PlotLayout -> "Stacked". This generates a plot where each event has it's own row. So we visualize difference by the distance between dots.

The final function is:

TimelinePlot[TimeObject[#] & /@ listOfDates, PlotLayout -> "Stacked"]

And we ultimately end up with something like:

Timeline Plot


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