Meet Omar from Social Search at Microsoft Silicon Valley

My name is Omar Alonso and I am a senior technical lead on Bing’s social search team in Mountain View, CA. My interests are information retrieval, information access, human computation, crowdsourcing, and information visualization. I hold a PhD in computer science from the University of California at Davis. My team works on one of the coolest areas of the Internet today: how to leverage social data to help users find the most relevant information.

Social keeps evolving on a daily basis so an important part of our job is to mine the utility of social data and how it can benefit millions of users when they are searching on Bing.  Between the requirements of “web search” and the amount of social data available to us, we have some pretty hard-core indexing and serving requirements, and a bulk of our research goes into determining the best ranking models to apply to the social data.  Of course, not all of the features are behind-the-scenes – we have some prominent user-facing features as well.

What do I do exactly? I work on the relevance side of things trying to understand what users are looking for and how can we present the most relevant information we have available to users. More specifically, I analyze our query stream – millions of queries! — to learn how users search and simulate improvements. I manage the experiments to collect labels that can be used later to train models for machine learning.

Microsoft is a great place to work. There are plenty of problems and challenges, great resources, lots of opportunities to collaborate, and a top research lab called MSR which is like a faculty but much bigger. Microsoft is also very open about participating in conferences and publishing papers even for product groups. In my case, I am involved in the information retrieval community (SIGIR) so these events are a great place to showcase what we do and interact with students and academics.

One last item: we are hiring! The Bing Social Search team is the only place on the planet where you can work with Web, Facebook, Quora, Four Square, and Twitter data. Enough said.