Ryen W. White's research while affiliated with Microsoft and other places

Publications (288)

Preprint
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Digital Assistants (DAs) can support workers in the workplace and beyond. However, target user needs are not fully understood, and the functions that workers would ideally want a DA to support require further study. A richer understanding of worker needs could help inform the design of future DAs. We investigate user needs of future workplace DAs u...
Article
Full-text available
Digital Assistants (DAs) can support workers in the workplace and beyond. However, target user needs are not fully understood, and the functions that workers would ideally want a DA to support require further study. A richer understanding of worker needs could help inform the design of future DAs. We investigate user needs of future workplace DAs u...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Where do queries-the words searchers type into a search box-come from? The Information Retrieval community understands the performance of queries and search engines extensively, and has recently begun to examine the impact of query variation, showing that different queries for the same information need produce different results. In an information e...
Preprint
While digital assistants are increasingly used to help with various productivity tasks, less attention has been paid to employing them in the domain of business documents. To build an agent that can handle users' information needs in this domain, we must first understand the types of assistance that users desire when working on their documents. In...
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The SARS-CoV-2 virus has altered people’s lives around the world. Here we document population-wide shifts in dietary interests in 18 countries in 2020, as revealed through time series of Google search volumes. We find that during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic there was an overall surge in food interest, larger and longer-lasting than the...
Preprint
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Tasks are a fundamental unit of work in the daily lives of people, who are increasingly using digital means to keep track of, organize, triage and act on them. These digital tools -- such as task management applications -- provide a unique opportunity to study and understand tasks and their connection to the real world, and through intelligent assi...
Preprint
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The SARS-CoV-2 virus has altered people's lives around the world, not only through the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) it causes, but also through unprecedented non-pharmaceutical interventions such as full-scale national lockdowns. Here we document population-wide shifts in dietary interests in 12 countries in 2020, as revealed through timeseries o...
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The COVID-19 pandemic has stimulated a staggering increase in online information access, as digital engagement became necessary to meet the demand for health, economic, and educational resources. We pursue insights about inequity in leveraging online information, spanning challenges with access and abilities to effectively seek and use digital info...
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App usage prediction is important for smartphone system optimization to enhance user experience. Existing modeling approaches utilize historical app usage logs along with a wide range of semantic information to predict the app usage; however, they are only effective in certain scenarios and cannot be generalized across different situations. This pa...
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Nutrition is a key determinant of long-term health, and social influence has long been theorized to be a key determinant of nutrition. It has been difficult to quantify the postulated role of social influence on nutrition using traditional methods such as surveys, due to the typically small scale and short duration of studies. To overcome these lim...
Article
Information systems, such as task management applications and digital assistants, can help people keep track of tasks of different types and different time durations, ranging from a few minutes to days or weeks. Helping people better manage their tasks and their time are core capabilities of assistive technologies, situated within a broader context...
Article
Writing is a complex non-linear process that begins with a mental model of intent, and progresses through an outline of ideas, to words on paper (and their subsequent refinement). Despite past research in understanding writing, Web-scale consumer and enterprise collaborative digital writing environments are yet to greatly benefit from intelligent s...
Chapter
While many scholars argue and almost all agree that there is a task behind information seeking activities, it is not always clear what that task is. Asking the searcher for that task is not always possible or advisable. In this chapter, we discuss how researchers have found ways to explicate that task knowledge from other signals. We will start wit...
Chapter
Evaluation is a critical topic in search and recommendation [146]. System designers need to understand, based on offline studies and experiments with human subjects, what works well and what needs improvement. When it comes to task-based search and recommendation, we must consider how well systems support aspects of the task completion process and...
Chapter
In the last chapter of this book, we will take an opportunity to not only summarize what we covered, but also reflect on previous chapters and consider where we go from here. It is that latter part that excites us most because the primary purpose of this book is not to simply synthesize existing research, but use that prior research to form a found...
Chapter
Before we take a deep dive into how task information is extracted and used in IR, it is important to review some background. This chapter covers how the notion of how task fits into a broader view of IR (search and recommender systems, specifically), along with how it has been positioned and studied over the years in the literature. The chapter als...
Chapter
As we saw in the previous chapter, many scholars have argued for decades that knowing about and using task information in an information interaction is essential for trulysupportingthe user and personalizing content and recommendations. Understanding and utilizing task knowledge goes beyond better personalization; it becomes an essential tool to he...
Chapter
We now come to a place where we have obtained task knowledge using some mechanism—either explicitly expressed by the user or explicated from other implicit signals—and we want to use it in enhancing search and recommendation applications. However, we want to do more than simply improve their performance; this chapter will show how we could even add...
Preprint
Writing is a complex non-linear process that begins with a mental model of intent, and progresses through an outline of ideas, to words on paper (and their subsequent refinement). Despite past research in understanding writing, Web-scale consumer and enterprise collaborative digital writing environments are yet to greatly benefit from intelligent s...
Preprint
Most work to date on mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic is focused urgently on biomedicine and epidemiology. However, pandemic-related policy decisions cannot be made on health information alone but need to take into account the broader impacts on people and their needs. Quantifying human needs across the population is challenging as it requires high...
Preprint
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Effective optimization is essential for real-world interactive systems to provide a satisfactory user experience in response to changing user behavior. However, it is often challenging to find an objective to optimize for interactive systems (e.g., policy learning in task-oriented dialog systems). Generally, such objectives are manually crafted and...
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Intelligent features in email service applications aim to increase productivity by helping people organize their folders, compose their emails and respond to pending tasks. In this work, we explore a new application, Smart-To-Do, that helps users with task management over emails. We introduce a new task and dataset for automatically generating To-D...
Conference Paper
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Smart contextualized features in email service applications increase the ease with which people organize their folders, write their emails and respond to pending tasks. In this work, we explore an interesting application that allow users to diligently organize their tasks and schedules via Smart To-Do. We introduce a new task and dataset for automa...
Preprint
The role of conversational assistants has become more prevalent in helping people increase their productivity. Document-centered assistance, for example to help an individual quickly review a document, has seen less significant progress, even though it has the potential to tremendously increase a user's productivity. This type of document-centered...
Article
Modern web search engines use many signals to select and rank results in response to queries. However, searchers’ mental models of search are relatively unsophisticated, hindering their ability to use search engines efficiently and effectively. Annotating results with more in-depth explanations could help, but search engine providers need to know w...
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While recent data studies have focused on associations between sleep and exercise patterns as captured by digital fitness devices, it is known that sleep and exercise quality are affected by a much broader set of factors not captured by these devices, such as general lifestyle, eating, and stress. Here, we conduct a large-scale data study of exerci...
Conference Paper
People with visual impairments often rely on screen readers when interacting with computer systems. Increasingly, these individuals also make extensive use of voice-based virtual assistants (VAs). We conducted a survey of 53 people who are legally blind to identify the strengths and weaknesses of both technologies, and the unmet opportunities at th...
Conference Paper
There has been considerable research on how software can enhance programmers' productivity within their workspace. In this paper, we instead explore how software might help programmers make productive use of their time while away from their workspace. We interviewed 10 software engineers and surveyed 78 others and found that while programmers often...
Article
Increased availability of cloud services and ownership of multiple digital devices create unique opportunities for digital assistants to provide guidance across a range of tasks and scenarios.
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Tremors are a common movement disorder with a spectrum of benign and pathological causes, including neurodegenerative disease, alcohol withdrawal, and physical overexertion. Studies of tremors in clinical practice are limited in size and scope and depend on explicit tracking of tremor characteristics by clinicians. Data drawn from small numbers of...
Conference Paper
People can record their pending tasks using to-do lists, digital assistants, and other task management software. In doing so, users of these systems face at least two challenges: (1) they must manually mark their tasks as complete, and (2) when systems proactively remind them about their pending tasks, say, via interruptive notifications, they lack...
Conference Paper
People with visual impairments often rely on screen readers when interacting with computer systems. Increasingly, these individuals also make extensive use of voice-based virtual assistants (VAs). We conducted a survey of 53 people who are legally blind to identify the strengths and weaknesses of both technologies, as well as the unmet opportunitie...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Intelligent assistants can serve many purposes, including entertainment (e.g. playing music), home automation, and task management (e.g. timers, reminders). The role of these assistants is evolving to also support people engaged in work tasks, in workplaces and beyond. To design truly useful intelligent assistants for work, it is important to bette...
Conference Paper
Estimating how long a task will take to complete (i.e., the task duration) is important for many applications, including calendaring and project management. Population-scale calendar data contains distributional information about time allocated by individuals for tasks that may be useful to build computational models for task duration estimation. T...
Conference Paper
The task intelligence workshop at the 2019 ACM Web Search and Data Mining (WSDM) conference comprised a mixture of research paper presentations, reports from data challenge participants, invited keynote(s) on broad topics related to tasks, and a workshop-wide discussion about task intelligence and its implications for system development.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
People often make commitments to perform future actions. Detecting commitments made in email (e.g., "I'll send the report by end of day'') enables digital assistants to help their users recall promises they have made and assist them in meeting those promises in a timely manner. In this paper, we show that commitments can be reliably extracted from...
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Neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), are important public health problems warranting early detection. We trained machine-learned classifiers on the longitudinal search logs of 31,321,773 search engine users to automatically detect neurodegenerative disorders. Several digital phenotypes with hig...
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Seeking to address a wider range of user requests toward task completion.
Article
Skill recommendations must be provided when users need them most, without being obtrusive or distracting.
Conference Paper
The rapidly increasing ubiquity of computing puts a great demand on next-generation human-machine interfaces. Natural language interfaces, exemplified by virtual assistants like Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana, are widely believed to be a promising direction. However, current natural language interfaces provide users with little help in case of in...
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Interactive Information Seeking, Behaviour and Retrieval - edited by Ian Ruthven December 2013
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Cambridge Core - Knowledge Management, Databases and Data Mining - Interactive Information Seeking, Behaviour and Retrieval - edited by Ian Ruthven
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The Web is an important resource for understanding and diagnosing medical conditions. Based on exposure to online content, people may develop undue health concerns, believing that common and benign symptoms are explained by serious illnesses. In this paper, we investigate potential strategies to mine queries and searcher histories for clues that co...
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Impaired psychomotor performance severely increases the risk of fatal and non-fatal car accidents. However, we currently lack methods to continuously and non-intrusively monitor psychomotor performance. We show we can estimate psychomotor function at population scale from 16 billion observations of typing speeds during the input of web search queri...
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Objective: Improving mechanisms to detect adverse drug reactions (ADRs) is key to strengthening post-marketing drug safety surveillance. Signal detection is presently unimodal, relying on a single information source. Multimodal signal detection is based on jointly analyzing multiple information sources. Building on, and expanding the work done in...
Conference Paper
Result ranking in commercial web search engines is based on a wide array of signals, from keywords appearing on web pages to behavioral (clickthrough) data aggregated across many users or from the current user only. The recent emergence of wearable devices has enabled the collection of physiological data such as heart rate, skin temperature, and ga...
Article
Search result examination is an important part of searching. High page load latency for landing pages (clicked search results) can reduce the efficiency of the search process. Proactively prefetching landing pages in advance of clickthrough can save searchers valuable time. However, prefetching consumes resources (primarily bandwidth and battery) t...
Conference Paper
Human cognitive performance is critical to productivity, learning, and accident avoidance. Cognitive performance varies throughout each day and is in part driven by intrinsic, near 24-hour circadian rhythms. Prior research on the impact of sleep and circadian rhythms on cognitive performance has typically been restricted to small-scale laboratory-b...
Conference Paper
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Many people rely on web search engines to check the spelling or grammatical correctness of input phrases. For example, one might search [recurring or reoccurring] to decide between these similar words. While language-related queries are common, they have low click-through rates, lack a strong intent signal, and are generally challenging to study. P...
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Full-text available
Human cognitive performance is critical to productivity, learning, and accident avoidance. Cognitive performance varies throughout each day and is in part driven by intrinsic, near 24-hour circadian rhythms. Prior research on the impact of sleep and circadian rhythms on cognitive performance has typically been restricted to small-scale laboratory-b...
Article
Importance: A statistical model that predicts the appearance of strong evidence of a lung carcinoma diagnosis via analysis of large-scale anonymized logs of web search queries from millions of people across the United States. Objective: To evaluate the feasibility of screening patients at risk of lung carcinoma via analysis of signals from onlin...
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Background: Physical activity helps people maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risk for several chronic diseases. Although this knowledge is widely recognized, adults and children in many countries around the world do not get recommended amounts of physical activity. Although many interventions are found to be ineffective at increasing physi...
Conference Paper
Web search queries can offer a unique population-scale window onto streams of evidence that are useful for detecting the emergence of health conditions. We explore the promise of harnessing behavioral signals in search logs to provide advance warning about the presence of devastating diseases such as pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is often di...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Automated personal assistants such as Siri, Cortana, and Google Now provide services to help users accomplish tasks, including tools to set reminders. We study how people specify and use reminders. Our study analyzes a sample of six months of logs of user-specified reminders from Cortana (Microsoft's intelligent personal assistant), the first large...
Conference Paper
Search result examination is an important part of searching. High page load latency for landing pages (clicked results) can reduce the efficiency of the search process. Proactively prefetching landing pages in advance of clickthrough can save searchers valuable time. However, prefetching consumes resources that are wasted unless the prefetched resu...
Article
Introduction: People's online activities can yield clues about their emerging health conditions. We performed an intensive study to explore the feasibility of using anonymized Web query logs to screen for the emergence of pancreatic adenocarcinoma. The methods used statistical analyses of large-scale anonymized search logs considering the symptom...
Article
We seek to understand the evolving needs of people who are faced with a life-changing medical diagnosis based on analyses of queries extracted from an anonymized search query log. Focusing on breast cancer, we manually tag a set of Web searchers as showing patterns of search behavior consistent with someone grappling with the screening, diagnosis,...
Conference Paper
People commonly need to purchase things in person, from large garden supplies to home decor. Although modern search systems are very effective at finding online products, little research attention has been paid to helping users find places that sell a specific product offline. For instance, users searching for an apron are not typically directed to...
Article
The timely and accurate identification of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) following drug approval is a persistent and serious public health challenge. Aggregated data drawn from anonymized logs of Web searchers has been shown to be a useful source of evidence for detecting ADRs. However, prior studies have been based on the analysis of established AD...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Query-based triggers play a crucial role in modern search systems, e.g., in deciding when to display direct answers on result pages. We address a common scenario in designing such triggers for real-world settings where positives are rare and search providers possess only a small seed set of positive examples to learn query classification models. We...
Conference Paper
Web searchers sometimes struggle to find relevant information. Struggling leads to frustrating and dissatisfying search experiences, even if searchers ultimately meet their search objectives. Better understanding of search tasks where people struggle is important in improving search systems. We address this important issue using a mixed methods stu...