Our latest Geek of the Week, Jacquelyn Krones, is a true research geek — the type of person who loves digging into data and, better yet, being surprised by what she finds. She studies consumer needs, and figures out what those needs mean for the development of a product. And the product in her case is Bing, the Microsoft search engine, where Krones is a senior product manager.
Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire, including insights into her work, a surprising answer to our traditional Star Trek question, and some interesting thoughts on the future of information retrieval — or, more precisely, information delivery.
Name: Jacquelyn Krones
Job, hobby and/or other geeky pursuit: I am a researcher who focuses on identifying consumer needs for Bing. It’s my job to understand what people need, even when they can’t really tell me directly. We are always looking for better ways to think about the search space so we can continue to innovate. I use a wide variety of methods, both quantitative and qualitative to develop insights.
Coolest thing about what you do: I feel like it’s my birthday when I get data back from a study. Sometimes it’s more exciting when doesn’t turn out the way you expected it to: that’s when you really learn something new and the whole picture you have in your head about how consumers think can shift. There are some really interesting changes happening right now in terms of what we consider to be “knowledge”. Over the past several years it has changed from something an expert conveys to us to something that we create ourselves based on not just an expert’s opinion, but also our own research and even opinions and experiences of strangers on the Internet. People now consider all of that (just) information that they use to create their own knowledge. I think that’s really exciting and I love that my job allows me to discover things like that.
What does it mean to you to be a geek? I think the essence of being a geek is having a rich inner life paired with a tendency to obsessively gather information about the things that interest you and a sometimes-charming-sometimes-annoying drive to share what you know with people around you.
Geekiest thing(s) you’ve ever done, built, or worn: I built and ran a Gopher site. These were the days before Mosaic which helped the Web take off.
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life: I’m not a person who tries to balance by leaving work at a certain time every day. Sometimes an 8 or 10 hour day isn’t long enough because I’m really excited about what I’m doing and making great progress. My idea of balance is periods of intensity followed by periods where I can slow down, not work so much, and see what else is going on. If I fought my natural rhythm I don’t think I’d get as much done.
Mac, Windows or Linux? Windows.
Kirk, Picard, Janeway or Sisko? I’m not a Star Trek geek, so Buffy.
Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Time Machine, but with the ability to match the social environment I’m dropped into.
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … Either nutrition tracker where the input was primarily QR codes or an at-home wedding dress shopping service.
The QR code idea is based on research showing that people a better job of eating nutritiously when they track what they eat, but entering the information is too cumbersome. If you could just snap a QR code from any menu or nutrition label it would be much easier to be successful.
The wedding dress shopping idea comes from my personal experience and reading about the experience of others. Most women do not get to try on the dress in their size and in the color they want before they order it and most shops cannot carry even a small fraction of what is really available. So rather than going through trekking from store to store, it would be better if you could order maybe 5 styles at a time for a charge that would be your size, try them on at home and then order what you love. Of course there is a great opportunity to make it more social by having people post pictures of themselves in the dresses to get input from the community or just to show others what the dress looks like on someone with a similar body size or type. I would have loved a service like that.
I once waited in line for … I was actually really happy to wait in line for the women’s restroom at the 4th International WWW Conference because there weren’t enough of women to make a line at the same conference 2 years earlier.
Your geek role models: Henri Tajfel is my favorite social psychologist (my academic background is in social psychology) because he contributed very important work to our understanding of social identity and prejudice. He was a survivor of German POW camps who came up with the theory that our innate preference to categorize almost everything leads to prejudice which is both accurate and profoundly unbiased for someone with his life experience.
Greatest Game In History: Scrabble stands the test of time for me.
Best Gadget Ever: Computer-controlled video projectors. I am crazy about video installations, especially those created by Bill Viola, Tony Oursler, Gary Hill, and Nam June Paik.
First computer: An IBM AT – 20MB hard drive, really.
Current phone: Win7 Trophy
Favorite app: Tonido – for accessing files and music from home on my phone.
Favorite hangout: Hanging out at Carkeek or Discovery Park on a sunny day is pretty awesome.
Favorite cause: There are many, but I love that Childhaven has solid research demonstrating the pretty dramatic difference they make in at-risk children’s outcomes.
Most important technology of 2011: While it is still in development, the progress that the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine has made in “printing” human tissue on demand is stunning. That’s really what they do – they use a 3D printer to create human organs. See this TED talk on “regenerative medicine.”
Most important technology of 2015: Instead of going to a site or an app to get a piece of information or access a service, it should already be available to me based on my past behavior, explicitly declared preferences and current context. I can always go out and search for more but right now using the Internet is still a bit too much like going to the yellow pages to look up a restaurant you’ve been to 25 times every time you decide to go out to dinner. The Internet should be organized a little bit more like my brain for me and your brain for you.
Words of advice for your fellow geeks: Did you go look up that TED video I talked about above? That sets a pretty high bar for what is possible but those researchers have also been working on it for years. Sometimes I think we allow ourselves to get a little too distracted by the next new thing.
Geek of the Week is a regular feature profiling the characters of the Pacific Northwest technology community. See the Geek of the Week archive for more.
Does someone you know deserve this distinguished honor? Send nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Geek of the Week photography by Annie Laurie Malarkey, email@example.com.]