After discovering and immediately downloading backups of all of Frank M. Conaway, Jr’s videos for investigative purposes, I started probing YouTube’s API for video metadata via a Python script. My goal was two-fold:
- Get exact timestamps for when the videos were published
- Get the original video files (if possible) to interrogate their metadata for when the videos were recorded (similar to the metadata on most mobile phone pictures that can include everything from device used, to location metadata)
Unfortunately, while I was working on it on the MARC train Wednesday morning, the videos were pulled off of YouTube, making the metadata no longer available.
Luckily, I had pulled metadata for one of the videos in order to figure out the best way to handle parsing the XML data returned by YouTube’s API. I was able to preserve the metadata of one video: video010 know this moses hand. I’ve included an attached copy of that metadata here: video010 know this moses hand Youtube Metadata.
This file includes a published tag which contains a ISO8601 format UTC datetime value. This was the information I was trying to retrieve for Goal 1 above, but was trying to automate it for all 54 videos at once. Goal 2 will unfortunately go unanswered for now as the copies of the videos I retrieved were transcoded to a different format in the process of being extracted from YouTube, destroying any associated metadata.
Here’s what I found:
Since this is in UTC (Zulu) time zone, it must be converted back to Eastern Standard Time in order to be useful. Currently,
EST EDT (edit: thanks to an anonymous comment pointing out my mistake here) timezone stands 4 hours behind UTC. Confirmed using this converter.
Out pops: 2014-08-29T10:13:59-04:00 — which is Friday, August 29th at 10:13AM. During typical business hours.
I’m unsure of Mr. Conaway’s vacation schedule or typical work hours (I imagine city government workers probably have as flexible schedules as do federal). But I think this is enough evidence, in conjunction with the questionable location of filming, to prompt an investigation by the City’s Comptrollers Office. To paraphrase Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s comment on the videos, it would certainly seem to be the first “appropriate action” the Comptroller should take, and Mr. Conaway’s fellow Delegates should probably take notice.
In the course of that hypothetical investigation, and I’m unsure if it is possible, if Mr. Conaway is required to provide either access to the original recordings or access to his YouTube account, I would be happy to volunteer my services to analyze any and all available data.
If any of you are wondering how to verify the metadata I’ve provided, it would require Mr. Conaway to unhide his videos (if he hasn’t wholesale deleted them — then we’re out of luck) in order for metadata to be probed once again on YouTube, though I’m unsure if making them public again will reset the “published” metadata to the date they were again made public.
I hope I’ve documented my process with sufficient detail for it to pass muster by anyone else who wishes to peer review this analysis. If I am mistaken anywhere, please let me know in the comments and I’d be happy to update this article, with attribution to whomever points to any flaws.
The video in question is embedded below: