I am creating nodes programatically based on the feed from an external api. I have managed to create all nodes, assign field values and also set the created date. Now my problem is that I also need to set the changed date of each node to match the value returned from the feed. I have tried to set this value before saving the node without any success:

// $data contains the release information used to create and populate the node
$node = new stdClass();
$node->title = $data->Release->Title;
$node->type = 'release';
$node->status = NODE_PUBLISHED;
$node->uid = 1;
$node->language = LANGUAGE_NONE;

// handle any field data - not really important
handleFields($node, $data);

// submit the node
$node = node_submit($node);

$node->created = strtotime($data->Release->PublishDate);
// here I'm trying to set the changed value for the node
$node->changed = strtotime($data->Release->LastChangeDate);

// finally save the node

Would be nice if anyone have a solution to this problem. Perhaps I can make a raw query against the database in order to update the changed date of the node? The reason I need to set this value is because later on it will be used to compare against the modification date of a release in the feed so I can decide if the node needs to be updated or not. I know I could use a custom field for this purpose, storing the releases modification time and then compare against this value instead of the changed column in the node table.

  • Do you get any error, using that code? Drupal itself uses $node->changed, so the problem is not surely using that instead of something else. – kiamlaluno Mar 9 '17 at 8:26
  • @kiamlaluno - Nope I don't get any error. It just seems like drupal is not taking this custom value into account when saving the node. I know that drupal is using the changed column, but I don't understand why I may set the created but not the changed date? Not really sure what you mean by "so the problem is not surely using that instead of something else"? The reason I need to set the modification date is so that I later on can compare it against the modification date from the feed and decide if I need to update the node or not. I know this can be solved by using a separate field. – Cyclonecode Mar 9 '17 at 9:26
  • As side note, you can avoid calling node_submit(), since it just sets $node->uid and $node->created, which is something your code already does. – kiamlaluno Mar 9 '17 at 9:59
  • I mean that using $node->created is correct; it's not that you need to use, for example, $node->timestamp instead of $node->created. As for not using the value you set for $node->created, that could depend from what other modules do. It could be a module is changing its value. For sure, Drupal core sets $node->created, so setting it is correct. – kiamlaluno Mar 9 '17 at 10:03
  • 1
    @kiamlaluno - The problem is not the created date - I can set this without any problems as long as I do so after calling node_submit(). The problem is the changed date which I'm not able to set at the moment. – Cyclonecode Mar 9 '17 at 10:04

The code you are using doesn't work as expected because you are first setting $node->changed, and then calling node_save(), which then unconditionally sets its value.

The code it uses is the following one.

// Set the timestamp fields.
if (empty($node->created)) {
  $node->created = REQUEST_TIME;
// The changed timestamp is always updated for bookkeeping purposes,
// for example: revisions, searching, etc.
$node->changed = REQUEST_TIME;

$node->timestamp = REQUEST_TIME;
$update_node = TRUE;

// Let modules modify the node before it is saved to the database.
module_invoke_all('node_presave', $node);
module_invoke_all('entity_presave', $node, 'node');

If you want to set $node->changed, you would need to implement hook_node_presave(), which is invoked right after node_save() sets $node->changed.
For example, in the code you are showing, I would add $node->release_change_date = strtotime($data->Release->LastChangeDate);; your implementation of hook_node_presave() would then use $node->release_change_date to set $node->changed ($node->changed = $node->release_change_date).

  • I think this is exactly what I'm looking for =) – Cyclonecode Mar 9 '17 at 10:25
  • I would expect that Drupal first checks $node->changed is set, before setting it itself, as it does with $node->created. I find strange the decision of verifying a value is already set, but not doing the same for the other value. – kiamlaluno Mar 9 '17 at 10:26
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    Yes that was what I was thinking. But for some reason it does not so I will try to implement hook_node_presave() to store the modification date correctly. – Cyclonecode Mar 9 '17 at 10:27
  • This works as expected – Cyclonecode Mar 9 '17 at 16:38
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    "I would expect that Drupal first checks $node->changed is set" - The problem there is that a loaded node arrives with $node->changed already set. If the changed date was only set when there was no changed date set, the changed date would not change after node creation. – KingAndy Mar 20 '18 at 11:42

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