Jacob Rossi, program manager for Internet Explorer, took a break from all things web to chat with us on his perspective on openness at Microsoft.  

If you’re interested in learning more about Jacob’s work, follow him on Twitter. He also participates in a monthly tweet chat on @iedevchat where you can learn more about his work as well as give feedback on IE’s plans for the web. Tune in to this month’s chat on 5/29 from 10 AM – 12 PM PDT at #AskIE.

 Why do you feel being open is so important to your work at Microsoft?

Openness with our work is better for developers. When we share our platform roadmap, we enable developers to anticipate and plan for the technologies coming to the web. Also we find that by sharing our team’s priorities and having open communication through channels like the @iedevchat tweet chats each month, we have a barometer for whether we’re on track with what our customers want and can provide greater insight into how our team is approaching making the web better.

What has been your most memorable “Microsoft is open” experience, whether working on a specific project or attending a particular event?

Building status.modern.IE has been a blast! It started with the simple idea of sharing our platform roadmap as it is evolved through our planning process and has grown into a feedback loop with the web development community. Since debuting status.modern.IE, not only have we received great feedback on the site and our roadmap, but something else fantastic happened—it started sparking conversations about emerging features, such as the Object RTC spec or CSS Scrolling Snap Points. That’s exactly what we’re trying to accomplish by being more open. We want a better, more engaged conversation with the web development community as a whole and being more open with our roadmap has made that happen. 

What’s your favorite technology innovation?

I’m really excited about what’s happening with natural user interfaces. Over the last three years, I’ve spent a lot of time geeking out about how we can really make sliding your fingers across a sheet of glass actually feel like you’re moving the web page. Also, the opportunity to collaborate with Kinect has really opened my eyes as to how computing can be more personal and natural through new form factors and input modalities. There’s a paradigm shift that’s happening, and it’s much bigger than just touch-first computing. I can’t wait to see where Microsoft and the community take it next.

How do you see the spirit of openness changing the way Microsoft does business?

Ultimately, I think being more open across the company helps us build better products for our customers. Building great software for hundreds of millions of people is challenging (but fun!). I have the privilege of working with some of the world’s best subject matter experts, and together we come up with some great ideas. But we know we don’t have a crystal ball for what those hundreds of millions of people want, and so continuous open feedback loops with our customers will help build better technology for everyone. We’re just getting started, so I’m excited to see how this plays out in the longer term.

Where do you feel you get your best work done?

I produce the best output from my office. I’m always on the go around the office working with my colleagues. There’s a certain synergistic effect that happens when working with others that’s really positive for me. I’ve got a great touch laptop that I can take with me, and so it’s not uncommon for me to work from the coffee shop in our building or in another engineer’s office while we tag-team a tough problem.

I receive the best input from developer conferences. I get powerful work insight from working with customers directly, hearing what people are doing with our products, and establishing relationships with the web community. Every time I get out of the 98052 zip code and go work with web developers face-to-face, I learn something new that helps me do my job better.

If you met someone who is skeptical of Microsoft’s commitment to openness, what would you say?

Tell us what you want us to do next to be more open! I think examples like the open sourcing of WinJS and the Rosalyn .NET compiler or the launch of status.modern.IE are examples of the progress we’re making, but receiving feedback and suggestions for what we could be doing better (hit us up on @iedevchat) will ultimately help the changes to come.

Be open with us: what is a fact about you that people might be surprised to learn?

I love playing the piano. I’ve been playing for over 20 years now, and it’s my biggest passion outside of technology. I decided when I went to college that I didn’t want my music hobby to become my work. But now I’m thinking about how I can combine those things together. Maybe I can do something cool with Web Audio?