If an ISO 8601 date is “big-endian”, i.e. the most significant bit is first and the least significant is last, then what do we call data structures where the most significant part is first/at the top, and the least significant is last/at the bottom?

  • ISO 8601 date example: 2019-02-01T2157

  • data structure example: atom -> neutron -> quark

  • data structure example: body -> hand -> finger

I would like to be able to refer to this terminology when talking about any natural hierarchy such that any one branch makes ‘common sense’ from left to right (or top to bottom).


closed as off-topic by timleathart, Toros91, Siong Thye Goh, Mark.F, Matthew Feb 5 at 20:46

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That's an interesting question. I would argue that the answer to your question lies in implicit assumptions that you (are willing to) make and expecting others to make.

In the ISO 8601 example, the significance is well defined, as 1 year = 365 days, we could say that a year is more significant than a day. In the last data structure example, what do you mean with significant? There is no clear definition there. Without framing what context you are referring to (such as level of abstraction or chronological order), interpretations are bound to differ to the people you are communicating with (and that defies the purpose of using the communication strategy, doesn't it?).

Instead of compressing the idea to a single concept, you could consider to be as explicit and unambiguous in the relation between the data structures as possible.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for taking the time to answer. I suppose you're right in that it's all in the assumptions, although i could have perhaps chosen some clearer examples for my "endian-ness" tests. Is it implicit that an arm is a component of a body, or that a neutron is a less significant entity than an atom? I suppose it depends on whichever philosophy we base the assumption, whether consciously or subconsciously. $\endgroup$ – boatingcow Feb 4 at 12:58

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