Our software engineer James is the fourth in a series of “who we are” interviews with the people who work at Abine. A company is only as good as the people behind it, and we don’t mean to brag, but we have some pretty great people here. We also tend to enjoy puppies and pancakes, perhaps more than the average group of people does.
Thanks for getting to know us at Abine!
Sarah: You were one of the first people at Abine. When did you start?
James: Just over three years ago, in July of 2009.
Sarah: How would you describe what you do at Abine?
Sarah: Where did you learn to do that? Both write code and cook delicious things.
James: Both skills were learned mostly on my own through trial and error. Let’s just say I wasn’t born a master chef–there were many meals I had to force down before I got it right. As for the software, I suppose the computer science education helped me there.
Sarah: What’s your actual degree, and where’d you get it from?
James: I got both my master’s and bachelor’s degree in computer science from Boston University.
Sarah: Name your top 3 movies in no particular order.
James: The Lion King, The Prestige, and Twilight: New Moon.
Sarah: If you were on a desert island, what one thing would you bring with you?
James: The biggest tub of peanut butter ice cream I was allowed to bring.
Sarah: For whatever reason, everyone outside of Abine calls you Jim, yet everyone at Abine calls you James. A, why is that; and B, what should I call you for this interview?
James: Good question. I normally would introduce myself to friends as Jim, but teachers/bosses would always call me James. As for Abine, Rob and Andy (Abine’s co-founders) called me James and I never corrected them, so it’s stuck ever since. I’m starting to like it though, so let’s go with James for now.
Sarah: You built a sophisticated system at Abine to monitor the state of online tracking, which we call the crawler. You do a lot of work with the crawler, so can you explain a little about what it does and how it works?
James: The crawler gets fed a list of sites to visit and distributes this list across a few hundred computers. Each of the computers visits all of the sites it was given and records all the important information about the site. Once all of the sites are visited, all the data gets combined so we can do our analysis.
We record information about all the different requests made when visiting each of the sites. Using that data and our database of trackers that DoNotTrackPlus uses, we can identify what trackers are present on each site. There is a lot of other data we collect about each site, but this is one area we focus on.
Sarah: Favorite and least favorite programming language.
Sarah: What thing on the Internet has made you laugh the hardest in recent memory?
James: I enjoyed Louis C.K’s “Live at the Beacon Theater” digital download. I think that counts as being on the internet.