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Added Timestamp to Posts

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Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2024 at 07:08 PM | Categories: Eleventy

In my previous post, I described how I updated my Eleventy New Post utility to add a timestamp property to new post's front matter. With that in place, I updated the site's Home Page, Articles Page and at the top of every Post. I encountered a little issue with that implementation related to time zones, so I decided to dig deeper into the implementation on this site and how I solved the time zone issue.

How I Implemented Timestamp in this Site

The first thing I did was add a filter called readableTimestamp to the site's eleventy.config.js. Well, that's not actually true, it wasn't the first thing I did, but it's the first thing I want you to know about the implementation. Here's the code:

eleventyConfig.addFilter("readableTimestamp", function (dateVal, locale = "en-us") {
  var theDate = new Date(dateVal);
  const options = {
    weekday: 'long',
    year: 'numeric',
    month: 'long',
    day: 'numeric',
    hour12: true,
    hour: '2-digit',
    minute: '2-digit'
  return theDate.toLocaleString(locale, options);

With this code, if you pass in a timestamp from the previous post's markdown file: 2024-04-06T12:10:59.445Z, the filter returns Saturday, April 6, 2024 at 08:10 AM. When testing this code on the site, everything worked great, but when I deployed it to my hosting provider the timestamp was incorrect. More on this later.

Next, I updated the different layouts to display the timestamp property when there was one, but the date property when there wasn't. There are 500 or so posts in this site, but only the most recent ones will have a timestamp.

Originally, the site used something like this to display the post date:

Posted {{ post.date | readableDate }}

It uses the readableDate filter from the eleventy-plugin-date plugin to format the date for output.

Note: You may have noticed the name of the filter I listed above - I specifically picked the filter name to align it with the one from the Eleventy date plugin.

To implement the timestamp, I changed the code to look like this:

Posted {%- if post.data.timestamp %}
{{ post.data.timestamp | readableTimestamp }}
{%- else %}
{{ post.date | readableDate }}
{%- endif %}

That's basically all there is to it.

The Problem

Like said earlier, when I tested the site locally, all the dates appeared correctly. That's because I executed the Eleventy New Post (11ty-np) utility in GMT-4 (US Eastern Time) and served the site locally in the same time zone. As soon as I published the site to Netlify, the timestamp displayed 4 hours delayed. For example, 2024-04-06T12:10:59.445Z is 8:10 AM GMT-4 but also, at the same time, 12:10 PM GMT. Netlify's servers dutifully render the site using GMT and therefore all of my timestamps (there was only one at the time, but you get what I mean, right?) were off by 4 hours.

What to do?

The Solution

I started poking around at the code, looking for a way to convert the timestamp to my local timezone for all cases, but didn't come up with anything. Then I realized I'd bumped up against this earlier (although I couldn't remember what it was). A quick search and I found the solution.

Netlify allows you to set environment variables to control the runtime environment. My site runs on a Linux server (I assume) and you can set a timezone environment variable (TZ) and force the server to think in a specific timezone.

I could set the environment variable in the Netlify portal, but they also allow you to include variable definitions in a text file checked into the repository. I created the netlify.toml file shown below, checked it into the site's repository, pushed the code to the server, and the problem went away.

  TZ = "America/New_York"

The site serves in America/New_York time zone (which updates automatically for Daylight Savings Time (I assume)) and I'm all set.

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