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Python: Transforming Twitter Datetime String to Timestamp (z' is a Bad Directive in Format)

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Python: Transforming Twitter Datetime String to Timestamp (z' is a Bad Directive in Format)

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I’ve been playing around with importing Twitter data into Neo4j and since Neo4j can’t store dates natively just yet I needed to convert a date string to timestamp.

I started with the following which unfortunately throws an exception:

from datetime import datetime
date = "Sat Mar 14 18:43:19 +0000 2015"
>>> datetime.strptime(date, "%a %b %d %H:%M:%S %z %Y")
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
  File "/System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/lib/python2.7/_strptime.py", line 317, in _strptime
    (bad_directive, format))
ValueError: 'z' is a bad directive in format '%a %b %d %H:%M:%S %z %Y'

%z is actually a valid option used to extract the timezone but my googling suggests it not working is one of the idiosyncrasies of strptime.

I eventually came across the python-dateutil library, as recommended by Joe Shaw on StackOverflow.

Using that library the problem is suddenly much simpler:

$ pip install python-dateutil
from dateutil import parser
parsed_date = parser.parse(date)
>>> parsed_date
datetime.datetime(2015, 3, 14, 18, 43, 19, tzinfo=tzutc())

To get to a timestamp we can use calendar as I’ve described before:

import calendar
timestamp = calendar.timegm(parser.parse(date).timetuple())
>>> timestamp

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Published at DZone with permission of Mark Needham, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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