The Test of Time

My 15 year-old paper titled “Hyperproperties” won an inaugural Test of Time Award from the IEEE Computer Security Foundations (CSF) conference. It was co-authored with Fred B. Schneider.

Our paper was chosen out of all research published at CSF in its 26 year history. My college wrote a publicity article about that.

At the awards ceremony two weeks ago I made some banal remarks. Here’s the only one worth preserving:

When I was in grad school, the standard advice to PhD students was to write the first, best, or last paper in an area. This paper was not the last. It was the first to coin the word “hyperproperty.” Was it the best? Fred and I certainly fussed over the writing — as anyone else who has co-authored with Fred will understand — and the awards committee did commend the “exemplary exposition” of the paper.

Now for some risqué remarks that I did not make that day…

As far as I know, no one ever seriously leveraged any of the technical results in the paper. The word “hyperproperty” (along with “hypersafety” and “hyperliveness”) seems to me to be the real contribution. Apparently, we could have written a much shorter paper and been done. Names matter.

When I gave an early work-in-progress talk, a senior audience member complained loudly about the word “hyperproperty,” saying we should ditch it. They were wrong.

A few years after the paper was published, a member of the CSF community informed me that my work on hyperproperties was distracting the rest of the community from work of “real” importance. They were wrong.

Though the paper stood the test of time, I did not. I gave up on research ca. 2017 after a series of unfortunate events. Two of those events involved rejections of papers in circumstances that I found distressing. Karma’s a relaxing thought.