Thoughts on Technology & People

  • The Flare Process: Incident Response in Medium-Sized Organizations

    When I was VP Engineering at Clever, I defined an incident response approach that I called The Flare Process. A few years later, with the added benefit of hindsight, here’s my description of the process. It goes without saying that you should shamelessly steal / copy / modify this process for your own use, including […]

  • Firefox should become the best freaking Fediverse app

    The always awesome and insightful Luis wrote a post 9 years ago about how the web browser should become an RSS reader. Super important set of ideas and right on. Meanwhile, Mozilla has announced their intent to join the Fediverse by standing up a Mastodon instance in early 2023. I think Mozilla should make Firefox […]

  • Don’t let federation make the experience suck

    I’m pessimistic about federated architectures for new end-user products, like Mastodon. But, I could be wrong. In fact, I’d love to be wrong on this one. So since Blaine fairly called me out for implying that the fediverse can’t be better than Twitter, I’m gonna try to help, at least at first by pushing on […]

  • Voting Security by Example: Voatz

    Voting Security by Example: Voatz

    West Virginia is running an experiment: they’re using Voatz, a mobile-phone based voting system, to help overseas soldiers vote. It’s commendable to try new voting ideas in limited pilot settings, and it’s really commendable to help our military vote. However, there’s one really concerning thing about this proposal: there’s no real technical explanation about how […]

  • We Don’t Deserve Dogs

    We Don’t Deserve Dogs

    A few days ago, I woke up abruptly, catching my breath. I’d had a bad dream that my older son was gone. Like a lot of dreams, there was no reason or deep explanation, he was just gone. As I rubbed my eyes and reality set in, I took a deep breath. This was a […]

  • Looking forward to disagreeing

    Looking forward to disagreeing

    In a recent conversation with one of my awesome managers, I found a way to briefly describe people with whom I particularly enjoy discussing complex topics: I look forward to disagreeing with them. Think about it: you’ve got opinions on how to achieve something, maybe it’s technical maybe it’s not, and you want to build […]

  • Meltdown & Spectre for non-techies

    Meltdown & Spectre for non-techies

    As you’ve probably heard by now, a very serious CPU bug was disclosed a few days ago. Lots of folks have tried to explain it in non-technical terms. I’ve not been satisfied with any of these, and as someone who believes it is a solemn responsibility of experts to make important topics accessible to all, […]

  • Crypto as in Crypto

    Crypto as in Crypto

    Is crypto short for cryptography or cryptocurrencies? Grab your pitchforks! I’ve ranted against crypto-means-bitcoin since I first heard it. But the last few days have me wondering if we, the greying and already-grey cryptographers, should just accept it. At the very least, when prominent VC Fred Wilson keeps calling it crypto, we have to realize we […]

  • Blockchain and Voting

    Blockchain and Voting

    Blockchain and Bitcoin may prove to be amazing innovations that change our daily lives, but I doubt they will materially impact how we vote. Here’s why. What Blockchain Is and Isn’t The common way to describe Blockchain is something like: it’s a database, only instead of being run by one central computer you have to […]

  • Voting Security Cheatsheet [2016 Edition]

    It’s voting season! Which means everyone is asking questions like: wait, why can’t I vote online? how hard can voting really be? shouldn’t this all be open-source? isn’t it just as easy to hack paper voting as electronic voting? is Russia hacking our voting machines? why do we even need voting machines when other countries […]

  • What John McCain could say

    [This is … hopeful fiction] My fellow Americans, When I ran for President in 2008, in the last stretch of the campaign, a woman at one of my rallies stood up and expressed fears about Obama because “he’s an Arab.” I could have stoked those fears, and many Republicans wanted me to. Instead, I chose […]

  • On Apple and the FBI

    If you pay attention to tech/policy stories, then surely you know about the Apple/FBI situation. Though this story has been broadly covered, I don’t think we’re having the right debate. And the right debate is, of course, very subtle. So here goes my attempt to nail that subtlety. What’s Going On? The FBI wants access […]

  • Letter to My Two Sons – November 13th, 2015

    [this is a little bit raw… on purpose.] My sons, You are just 6 and 3, and so you don’t know what happened tonight. A group of suicide bombers killed 150 people in Paris, your father’s hometown. The feeling in my gut today is much like the one I felt on that Tuesday in September 2001, […]

  • the responsibility we have as software engineers

    I had the chance to chat this week with the very awesome Kate Heddleston who mentioned that she’s been thinking a lot about the ethics of being a software engineer, something she just spoke about at PyCon Sweden. It brought me back to a post I wrote a few years ago, where I said: There’s this […]

  • ben@clever

    This week, I joined Clever as VP Engineering. Clever makes K-12 education software vastly more efficient and effective by simplifying how students and teachers log in. It’s this simple: imagine if you could give teachers and students 10-15 minutes back in every single class. That’s 30-40% more time for actual teaching and learning. That’s what […]

  • (your) information wants to be free – obamacare edition

    My friends over at EFF just revealed that Healthcare.gov is sending personal data to dozens of tracking sites: It’s especially troubling that the U.S. government is sending personal information to commercial companies on a website that’s touted as the place for people to obtain health care coverage. Even more troubling is the potential for companies […]

  • managing photos and videos

    This holiday, I finally spent time digging into how I manage photos and videos. With 2 young kids and some remote family and friends, this requires a good bit of thinking and planning. I know I’m not the only one, so I figured documenting where I landed might be useful to others. I started with […]

  • Power & Accountability

    So there’s this hot new app called Secret. The app is really clever: it prompts you to share secrets, and it sends those secrets to your social circle. It doesn’t identify you directly to your friends. Instead, it tells readers that this secret was written by one of their friends without identifying which one. The […]

  • where the system eats itself

    Larry Lessig just launched MayOne.us, the SuperPAC to end all SuperPACs. The idea is disarmingly simple: since SuperPACs funded by billionaires are corrupting politics, let’s crowd-source a SuperPAC funded by individuals, which will then work to put in power officials who answer to the people, maybe by undoing the whole SuperPAC insanity. Use a SuperPAC to kill […]

  • Obama lets NTSB exploit widespread tire vulnerabilities

    Stepping into a heated debate within the nation’s transportation safety agencies, President Obama has decided that when the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) discovers major flaws in transportation equipment, it should — in most circumstances — reveal them to assure that they will be fixed, rather than keep mum so that the flaws can be used […]

  • to Brendan and Mozilla

    I was in the middle of writing a blog post about the controversy surrounding Mozilla when my Twitter feed exploded with the news that Brendan Eich stepped down from his new appointment as Mozilla CEO. So this is a different post. Also, this is not a post about Prop8 (which I abhored) or gay marriage (which I consider […]

  • when selfish acts become altruistic

    My first open-source contribution was in 1998, when a ragtag bunch of web hackers and I published the first version of one of the first web application toolkits. In 2000, after I’d left the original project, a few other hackers and I “forked” that codebase to make it work on an open-source database, meaning we […]

  • the French like their strikes like Americans like their guns

    This week, French taxis went on strike because the government passed a law that made Uber and other modern chauffeur equivalents artificially less competitive… but apparently not sufficiently less competitive, and that was a tragedy that only a massive strike could rectify. Then when people jumped into Uber cars because, hey, there were no cabs, […]

  • there are 3 kinds of crypto

    When we use terminology that is too broad, too coarse-grained, we make discussion more difficult. That sounds obvious, but it’s easy to miss in practice. We’ve made this mistake in spades with crypto. Discussing the field as one broad topic is counter-productive and leads to needless bickering. I see 3 major kinds of crypto: b2c […]

  • on cooking turkey and solving problems

    On Thursday, my wife and I hosted our 10th Thanksgiving. We both enjoy cooking and baking, though we remain clearly amateurs and tend to make it up as we go along. There was that one time we realized, the night before Thanksgiving, that a frozen 15-pound turkey requires 3 days to defrost in the fridge. […]

  • Letter to President Obama on Surveillance and Freedom

    Dear President Obama, My name is Ben Adida. I am 36, married, two kids, working in Silicon Valley as a software engineer with a strong background in security. I’ve worked on the security of voting systems and health systems, on web browsers and payment systems. I enthusiastically voted for you three times: in the 2008 […]

  • security is hard, let’s improve the conversation

    A few days ago, a number of folks were up in arms over the fact that you can see saved passwords in your Google Chrome settings. Separately, a few folks got really upset about how Firefox no longer provide a user interface for disabling JavaScript. These flare-ups make me sad, because the conversations are often […]

  • benadida@square

    In about a month, I’ll be starting at Square as a Tech Lead on a new project. I’m incredibly excited for a few key reasons: team: oodles of amazingly sharp people. The interview process was simply amazing, both in how much it forced me to demonstrate as an engineer and in how much I learned […]

  • benadida@vacation

    Today is my last day at Mozilla. It’s been an amazing ride, and I’m incredibly proud of the Identity Team and of the work we produced together, notably Persona. The team and project are now in the incredibly capable hands of my friend Lloyd Hilaiel. I expect to see continued fantastic work from this team, […]

  • no user is an island

    US government agencies appear to be engaged in large-scale Internet surveillance, using secret court orders to force major Internet companies to provide assistance. The extent of this assistance is a topic of debate. What’s clear, though, is that the process itself is opaque: it’s impossible to know how broad or inappropriate the surveillance may be. […]