During the 2005-2006 academic year, I took professional leave from RIT in order to spend a year as a visiting researcher at Microsoft Research in Redmond, WA. MSR does not accept applications for visiting research positions; positions are extended on an invitation-only basis, and typically only for 3-4 months at a time; as a result, my invitation to spend a full year as a visiting researcher was a significant honor.
My invitation to work at MSR came from the head of the Social Computing Group, Lili Cheng, who was asked by Bill Gates shortly before my arrival to head up the User Experience team for the soon-to-be-released Windows Vista. As a result, the group was dissolved, and I was given the option of working with Lili in Windows user research, or staying at MSR and moving into the Community Technology group headed by Dr. Marc Smith; I chose to stay at MSR. My work with this group in MSR led to the original design and development of the PULP project, a project that MSR funded my lab to continue work on after I returned to RIT.
While at MSR, I was also offered the opportunity to spend a portion of my time working directly with Microsoft’s search team. The product group gave me office space as well as direct access to all levels of management and development within the search organization. My experiences as an “embedded researcher” in search led me to write a white paper entitled “Through the Looking Glass: Observations on Microsoft Product Development” that I provided to key executives at Microsoft before my departure. The paper was well received and widely disseminated within the organization. Because the paper discusses internal policies and procedures, I was not able to publish the paper outside of Microsoft. I have included a copy with my printed documentation, with the understanding that these materials will be treated as confidential.
Since leaving MSR, I have been invited back twice as a visiting researcher, during the summers of 2007 and 2008. In 2007 I worked on campus in Redmond again, in Lili Cheng’s new Creative Systems Group. In 2008 I worked for the same group, but did so remotely from Rochester.