How to Get Accurate “Birth Times” of YouTube Videos
Astrologers live in a new media environment which presents unprecedented problems and opportunities in data collection. In my cataloging of presidential run announcements I’ve come across some issues which are bound to come up again if we don’t understand the new technology we are interacting with. The following guide is designed to show you how to easily retrieve the specific time a YouTube video was posted to the web.
1) Retrieve the video ID from the url of the video you’re inquiring about
This is simple. For the purposes of this demonstration, we will be looking up the time Barack Obama’s re-election campaign announcement video was posted on YouTube. On any YouTube video, look at your address bar. Usually, you’ll see something like: “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-VZLvVF1FQ“. The video ID is that weird combination of numbers and letters after the “v=”, which I formatted in bold for clarity. Sometimes the url address for a video won’t always be the same, depending on where you’ve accessed it from. If you accessed the video from the suggestions panel on the right of a video, you’ll see something like “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-VZLvVF1FQ&feature=relmfu“. In this case, the video ID is that weird combination of numbers and letters after “v=” and before “&feature”. If you accessed a video from browsing the YouTube user’s page you will see a url like: “http://www.youtube.com/user/BarackObamadotcom?blend=1&ob=5#p/u/4/f-VZLvVF1FQ“. In this case, the video ID is the weird combination of numbers and letters at the very end of the link after the last backslash. There may be other styles of url but however you’re accessing it, look for the weird clump of numbers and letters. If you’re not sure where the video ID begins or ends, keep clicking around to get a different url, try to access the video in a different way so the video ID becomes clearer in the url.
2) Copy/Paste the video ID into a special link
Open up a new tab in your browser, and copy/paste this link into the address bar:
Now, replace where it says “videoid” with the actual video ID of the video you’re inquiring about. So using the Obama video ID, the final url would look like: “http://gdata.youtube.com/feeds/api/videos/f-VZLvVF1FQ?v=2″. Now go to it.
3) Locate the time the video was uploaded
If you’ve correctly determined the video ID, you will see a page come up full of characters and difficult looking computer code language. This page is showing you all sorts of information about the video. Scanning the page, you should be able to notice some references to the video you’re inquiring about, the text in the description of the video, the title of the video. This is important to do just to make sure that you have the right one, because if the video ID is even a character off it could be the video ID for a completely different video.
To find the time the video was uploaded, all you have to do is press Ctrl+F on your keyboard and a box should pop up in your browser where you can search a whole page for the location of a word. Type in “uploaded”, and immediately you will be taken to a section of code that says:
And there you go! It was uploaded on April 4th, 2011, at 2:33:08 am. If you type in “published”, you will notice two other parameters show up that appear to have a time connected with them.
Notice that the “published” time is the same as the “uploaded” time. They will always be equivalent. The “updated” time will constantly change as the page is updated. The one sticky point of this is that if a person has uploaded the video so that it is private, then you’d have to question whether the astrologically important moment of the video’s “birth” is when it was uploaded as a private video or when it was made public. The time that it was made public would be recorded by the updated time, but there is no way of knowing what specific update it refers to at any given moment.
To find out the time a video might have been made public, you may have to do some cross-referencing. If it is a high profile video such as Obama’s re-election announcement, you have to look at when the first comments appeared on the video, the earliest news report, the earliest tweet or Facebook post, the first emails sent out to supporters to check out the video on their website to at least gather a time frame of when it was made public. If you’re investigating a random viral video that was private before it was made public then you won’t have much luck determining exactly when it was made public, although you will know, down to the second, when it was first uploaded to YouTube.
4) Convert the time for the appropriate timezone
The times recorded in YouTube API data are all in UTC (0)/GMT. Depending on where the video was uploaded, you will have to either add or subtract from the upload time. This requires more detective work, as there is nothing in the API data which tells you from what timezone a video was uploaded. In the case of Obama’s video, I discovered that his campaign headquarters had been set up in Chicago, Illinois, even while he is living and working in Washington DC. Interestingly, he is featured fleetingly in the video itself. He didn’t even do a voiceover, which leads me to believe that the video was more likely to have been produced and published in Chicago, if the President was not needed for the video.
Normally, Chicago is 6 hours behind UTC time, however during this part of the year due to daylight saving time, Chicago is only 5 hours behind UTC time. This means that if Obama’s video was uploaded on April 4th 2011, 2:33:08 am in UTC, then in CDT it was uploaded on April 3rd 2011, 9:33:08 pm, Chicago, Illinois. You can see the differences between the timezones, as well as which timezones are observing daylight saving time and when, here. If you don’t trust yourself doing basic but critically important math, you can find a handy timezone converter here. If you were investigating where any YouTube video might have been uploaded from, your best bet is to click on the user’s profile and see what they put down for their hometown, if anything.
I wish someone had written this article before I had started using API data without knowing the times were in UTC (0). In the coming days I will be updating and amending previous articles on this blog to provide the correct times of YouTube video uploads. On the bright side, many of my observations will remain intact as I based more of my observations on the general transits of the day. Still, I am hoping that my mistake will serve as an example to the rest of the astrological community that we must be ever-vigilant about our sources for birth times, especially as the events we cover move onward into the virtual world of the internet.
Special thanks to Jeffrey Posnick, a developer on YouTube’s API team