Beyond privacy, puppies, & pancakes: behind the scenes at Abine with James


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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.

James is master of both griddle and code, owning Javascript and chicken like it’s his job. Well, it is his job for the first of the two. He also helped build Abine’s sophisticated crawler system that scans and analyzes the web to find tracking technology. Berkeley Law used the crawler’s data to compile its Web Privacy Census.  In short, James finds the trackers so DoNotTrackPlus can block them.

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?

James:  Most of my time at Abine is spent writing Javascript for our various browser extensions.  I also work on some internal tools that help us improve the quality of our products.  When I’m not writing code, I’m usually cooking something delicious.

Sarah:  Where did you learn to do that?  Both write code and cook delicious things. 

Grillin’ n’ codin’

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?

The battlestation.

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?

Type ALL the things. He’s blurry because he’s going so FAST.

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.

James:  Well, favorite is obviously Javascript.  Of the ones I’ve used, I’d have to say I didn’t really enjoy using SML for my functional programming class.

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.

9 Replies to “Beyond privacy, puppies, & pancakes: behind the scenes at Abine with James”

  1. Patricia A. Peerless says:

    James is quite the guy – smart, good looking, smart, hands-on chef, smart, personable, smart and seems very lovable… What a catch, – is he single? xoxo

  2. Patricia A. Peerless says:

    Hi Sarah – Congrats on your TV snipet on CNN last night! You were great! btw, I am Jim’s Aunt/Godmother and am very proud of him! xo

  3. Nadine Brusca says:

    You are the best! Genius, well educated, funny, super nice, etc. etc. I am so proud of you and I know Grandpa would have been proud too!!!

  4. Peggy says:

    I am not a relative of Jim/James nor have I ever even met the guy. I do, however think he has a cool job and sounds like the they picked the right guy to do it. Keep up the good work. Privacy needs preservation. Also, I throw in a little doll-up of peanut butter when I throw my banana walnut pancakes on the griddle. Trick is not mixing in the batter. Wait and drop them right into the griddle! Run with it James!

  5. TraderWolf says:

    Thank you for what you do! I have to spend less time in my admin position (especially since the advent of teeny-weeny 100-page long policies for these data collecting jerks!!!) I wish there was a way to pull the wool OFF everyone’s eyes and make them realize that every thing you leave open is up for game, WILL be SOLD, Will be taken advantage of, and unless you know how to protect yourself (GOODLUCK!!!!!!)

    Abine is providing a little bit less of a headache through people like you James! I spend so much time not trusting my “Sorry you can’t touch my stuff programs (then having to monitor events and correct them) I cannot be productive.

    Never to steal yours or any thunder I will say this: I have firewalls, shut my ports, have a series encrypted VLAN, but not ant-Mal, Spy or Virus. This is because I was taught, at age 6, how to use a c:>! I Identify and manually remove or quarantine these programs from any location after viewing events in windows.

    Thank you for giving me that one less step! Recently these events have been less and less!

  6. Lynda says:

    A κiss mаkeѕ the heart уoung again and wipes out the years.

  7. Levester Mayberry says:

    Sorry to intrude this is important . To the company ? Yes now help me help you help the guy that lost his or her security certificates
    I have downloads of security cerrificates one of 13 certificates came from this service.

    Can you help me understand what’s happened?

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