Removing Exif Data To Resolve IOS Issues

Related to my last post, I had a bug to fix. The images looked rotate 90 degrees locally, so I used Imagemagick’s convert command to rotate them 90 degrees. They looked right locally, and on the sight when viewed in chrome.

However, iOS was showing the images over-rotated by 90 degrees. It turns out after some digging that the pictures were taking on an iOS device and had saved Orientation data in the EXIF data of the image (metadata). The iOS browser was still honoring that metadata.

Because metadata also has date, time, and location info, a lot of people prefer not to publish EXIF data anyway. Photoshop offers options to remove this data when exporting. I believe GIMP may as well.

But I just wanted to make it part of my process. So I updated the Rakefile from the last post with the following command option from Imagemagick’s convert:

convert input.jpg -strip output.jpg

All is well now. Use your favorite EXIF viewer to confirm success.

Resizing Images in Bulk

I help maintain a site for a craft business. One of the challenges is multiple sizes of images for new stock each year. I used to go through and resize each image manually with a program like Gimp.

I finally got smart and installed ImageMagick.

With a Rakefile, I can pass each image into the convert command with the proper sizing, and get the output into a new folder, ready for upload. The code is shown here:

One catch to keep in mind if you work on a Mac. There can be orientation metadata from some images that OS X will honor, but a browser will not. If your images show up on the web in the wrong orientation, look into ImageMagick convert command’s -rotate option.

Data-Driven vs the Dashboard 

It is common for technical product companies to call themselves “data-driven” these days. The idea is that metrics are used to drive decisions. Sounds easy enough, and compatible with a technology landscape that is enamored with data science, etc. 

But something didn’t always feel right to me. Strange, right? If you follow this blog or know me, you probably know that I have been steering my career in a data-centric direction. I coordinate the Cleveland R User Group, and have spent most of my personal technical time with a variety of tools to do analysis and modeling. 

Maybe it’s a deeper understanding of statistics and related skills that lies at the center of my problem. Many people view these fields as black and white. “Show me the numbers”, people say. As if they are stone tablets chisled with the truth. Creating summaries, graphs, models, etc. requires understanding the domain, and subtle interactions. The tools are getting better, but we still need people to drive the tools and frame the questions right. To correct mistakes of causality. 

In explaining this, the example that hits home for me is a dashboard for a product. Have you ever tried building a B2B software product without one? Good luck when sitting in front of an executive board and you can’t show them a dashboard they can monitor. Never mind that for all of your existing customers that dashboard is the least used page in your analytics. It’s key to the sale. But if you ignore that, and just look at user data to drive all of your decisions you’ll miss that. 

So maybe there’s nothing wrong with being data-driven, it’s just that you have to be willing to mix in some decisions based on strategy and experience. And you have to ask your customers the right questions in the first place.

To be a great firm, a company should find a sophisticated middle ground. You can’t rely on a visionary employee to drive all decisions. Many founders think they are Steve Jobs and can divine all customer needs. Steve Jobs is an outlier among outliers. The answer, however, is not to turn in your brain because you started gathering data. The metrics are a tool, and you can still choose how to use your tools. A feature (or page) may still be legally required. Or it may be used rarely, but of tremendous value when it is. Data provides clarity for the many mundance decisions. It should still be up to a person to set the strategy. Otherwise, you’ll be selling a product without a dashboard. Heaven forbid…

My Next Home: Why DialogTech?

In my last post, I wrote about why I was making a change. I started in January at Ifbyphone’s Cleveland office. This week, we rebranded to DialogTech. In my opinion, a much better name.

We have software-as-a-service products (SAAS, Cloud-based, however you want to say that) around managing analytics, specifically geared towards marketing efforts. Anyone with much SEO/SEM experience knows that tracking lead sources, ad effectiveness, and other ROI indicators is key to marketing. For a lot of businesses, however, there is a real problem in that large amounts of their customers research online, but want to talk to someone before buying. Today, that is often via a telephone call, but consider the future impact of WebRTC (think Amazon Mayday on the web), Skype, Hangouts, etc. Those channels can be a blind spot for folks trying to analyze marketing effectiveness.

Our software helps businesses continue to gather intelligence across those channels. We also have software that improves the customer experience by intelligently routing customers directly to the right call agents, etc.

So why do I want to work here? A couple of reasons. First, I was looking mostly at product companies that work in either marketing or healthcare, because I believe those areas are the furthest along in terms of understanding how data science and modern tools can assist. And they have a lot of data to deal with.

Within the companies that fit that bill, I was looking for a growing opportunity where I had opportunity to make an impact. DialogTech is in a rapid expansion mode, but big enough to be stable. The company is already providing a lot of insight to our customers, but I believe there is a lot more we can do with our data. We also do a fair amount of integration and custom work, and that is a nice fit with my consulting background.

More than anything, my final qualifications were cultural. Does the team care about success, and do the leaders and owners represent a leadership I can work for. In both cases, I have been extremely happy with what I found here. The enthusiasm of a startup, mixed with the warm personalities of the midwest (Chicago and Cleveland). There is a genuine enthusiasm, without a lot of bravado and hyperbole. We are helping other businesses connect with their customers and potential customers better. Period.

Finally, via experience I have learned to take a hard look at the owners and Senior managers of a company, and see what I can perceive of their character. It may sounds naive, but I really believe it. Environments where people are solely focused on their individual success, hold open disdain for the company or their peers, these things are toxic and the company cannot overcome them. Particularly if they are present near the top.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to make many mistakes in my career in terms of direct employment. Consulting exposes you to a lot of businesses and leaders. I consulted for some great places, and some toxic places. I don’t see a need to dwell on the cost of the negative places, most people understand that. I’d rather emphasize the simplicity and support that great leaders provide that is easy to underestimate. Value it, and seek it out when you look for a job. And if you are willing to show some loyalty and sacrifice in return, you’ll form meaningful relationships with the type of people you want to work for. That will pay off more in the long-run. It’s like the compound interest of a career.

Needless to say, I liked what I saw when I took a look at our leadership here. I’m anxious to see what we can build in the coming years.

On Leaving A Job After 8 Years

In tech years, eight years is enough for a gold watch. I went to work for a newly formed company called Method Driven Software in early 2007 as it’s first employee (there were two partner/employees that remain with the firm today in various forms). Through the years, we acquired several firms and rebranded twice, eventually becoming Level Seven. I had the privilege of helping shape the company along the way, and working with many talented individuals. While I helped shape the experience, it certainly shaped me.

Over the course of 2014, it became fairly clear to me that it was time for a new direction in my career. Not because of Level Seven. With the labor shortage in technology and expanding economy, I think Level Seven is poised for success. I also happen to have supported some of the new leadership joining the company, and would recommend it as a place for anyone interested in technical service work.

I’ll expand on what is next for me in a later post, but I have been moving in the direction of data science tools and building of larger technical teams for a while. I also found myself looking to try my hand in the product space, where I could focus on growing and building a suite of software for a while. In short, my interests and talents were aligning less with what Level Seven was doing in the near term. We did have one project that required some of those technical skills, but in the grand scheme: I was growing in value to companies outside of the consulting world, and Level Seven was less dependent on me than it had been in the past. I can be sentimental about things at time, but work is rarely one of them.

I’d like to summarize some of the most important things working at Leven Seven taught me.

Customer Service

There are a lot of development jobs you can start your career in where you won’t meet customers very often directly. This is why UX is so hard, many companies’ processes just aren’t wired for it. Service companies understand the impact of client relationships. As do sales people. And at a services company, everyone should be selling.

Leadership Over Authority

If you choose to work as a consultant, you will regularly be put in the position of having to convince the people who are paying your bills that they are wrong and there is a better way. You have to be certain, and judicious about this, and have a good reason to do so. But most importantly, when you do this, you will have to drive consensus without authority. After all, you don’t work at the client, you’re just paid to be there. This is invaluable. Because at the end of the day, it’s the only way to lead anyway. If you are a team lead or manager at a product company, you may have the “authority” to order people to follow your direction without explanation. But keep in mind those people can find a new job in about ten minutes. And they will provide feedback to your boss and other stakeholders. Real leaders lead, they don’t dictate. Let the right ideas rise to the top. This doesn’t fix the fact that you will run into people that won’t admit they are wrong when the ship is going under, but that’s life.

Principles And Domains Over Languages

For the company, I worked in C#, VB.Net, ASP, Ruby, PHP, JavaScript, Java, Objective-C, C, and other languages I’m probably forgetting. That variety was nice, but it was the many domains and concepts I was exposed to that I found so valuable. Marketing, Finance, Property Management, Transportation & Logistics, Telecommunications, Health & Fitness to name a few.


It’s an cliche, but you should be doing this in any job. From the perspective of the job you’re in, it’s valuable to your company if you can generate business leads, find recruits, or recommend great vendor partners. But what about yourself? It’s how you grow by interacting with other perspectives, form an employment safety net, etc. Through user groups, client relationships, etc, I was able to drive value to Level Seven. And in turn, I knew that even though a company of that size carries some employment risk, I had enough contacts to be reemployed with a very short turnaround if need be.

Evaluate Jobs Based On Leadership And Strategy

Many job seekers look at finances. Others (especially in technology) look at platforms and toolsets. Working in consulting is a form of post-graduate education on business. You get exposed to a lot of business models and projects, and get a taste for what works and what doesn’t. The experience of working with the so many companies in NorthEast Ohio showed me that great leadership and owners prevail. Look for honest, driven people who are focused on sustainable success. And I would avoid getting trapped in stereotypes of platforms. Language X may be “dying”, but I would take a great team working with yesterday’s technology over a dysfunctional one with with ruby node elixir or whatever is hot.

In The End…

I had the privilege of working with some great mentors, and mentoring some great people at Level Seven. I entered the company as a newly-wed and leave a father of two still happily married. I was treated fairly (and then some) my entire tenure. I had many experiences and training opportunities that I wouldn’t have had elsewhere. And I left on my own terms with a sense of accomplishment. It was difficult to leave a workplace with so many friends, but I feel a sense of peace with my entire cycle there. It was an experience I can’t place a value on, and I hope you find value in me sharing some of it.