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Your Friday Reads

Jack Kapica searches the Web and offers a selection of the week's interesting stories: a Kindle confession, unthinkable futures and how to save a couple million

Globe and Mail Update

icon Two months ago, marketing guru Seth Grodin got a Kindle,'s wireless reading device (e-book to you and me). He's wild about it, and offers six reasons why it's unlike almost any other gadget launched by a significant tech company. The first is the most interesting:

"It's for women and women are buying it. The bestseller list of Kindle titles is much less tech-heavy than Amazon's list was in the early days of the web. An Oprah book is #1. And the colours and feel of the machine don't feel like the current über-geek tech dream device. This is a fascinating strategy. It means that typical technology marketing and adoption strategies aren't in play, since most tech devices go after nerdy men."

icon He doesn't tell us what they were smoking at the time, but Kevin Kelly, a co-founder of Wired magazine, indulged in a small game with Brian Eno, the British electronic musician and record producer, "to loosen up our expectations of what might happen in the near future." He said that "we were both struck at how improbable current events would be to anyone in the past, and how incapable we are at expecting the improbable in the future."

Kelly has posted their list of "unthinkable futures" originally published 15 years ago in the Summer, 1993 , issue of Whole Earth Review. "Our intent was less to correctly predict the future (thus the silliness) and more to predict how unpredictable the actual future would be."

Some of their predictions:

  • It costs half a day's pay to drive your car into the downtown area of a big city, and a day's wages to park.
  • No more employees. Everybody is hired as a consultant, each negotiates a deal with various goodies (benefits, insurance, perks). Even factory workers are treated as "consultants."
  • Everybody becomes so completely cynical about the election process that voter turnout drops to 2 per cent (families and relatives of prospective politicians) until finally the "democratic process" is abandoned in favour of a lottery system. Everything immediately improves.
  • News is understood to be a creation of our attention and interests (rather than "the truth") and news shows are redesigned as "think tanks," where four interesting minds from different disciplines are asked the question, "So what do YOU think happened today?"
  • Famous and talented men routinely auction their sperm for huge sums.

iconJesus Diaz, writing in Gizmodo, has fabulous news: How to save $2.2-million. And you don't have to do a thing to save it. In fact, doing nothing is the key part of the advice.

"Space will now be the ultimate frontier for grooms and brides in 2011, when Rocketplane Kistler Japan and wedding planner First Advantage start to sell their one-hour ceremony to marry in zero gravity, at 62.1 miles above the planet's surface.

"The companies plan to use the Rocketplane XP suborbital spaceplane for this, at the cost of $2.2-million per wedding. It's not that expensive, considering that this will buy you a live broadcast of the marriage, a reception for your guests on the ground, original space wedding dress (whatever that means), transportation to the launch site, accommodations, four days of rehearsal and the obligatory photo and video album to show to your friends that your marriage started high before free-falling in flames onto the ground.

"Alternatively, you can save yourself $2.2-million, plus the money of the divorce or the vacation in Bermuda."

iconIt's odd how tech writers get accused of corruption just because they say something nice about a product or service. This includes Robert Scoble — yes, the great blogger Robert Scoble, who is now Managing Director of Fast Company. A friend of his called Scott Bourne accused him of "pimping" for FriendFeed after he wrote an article called Why I like FriendFeed.

I'm sure I wouldn't be so phlegmatic as to refer to someone as "a friend" who went to FriendFeed, an aggregator of social-networking sites, to pose this question: "This is a legitimate question, not an accusation. ... Is Scoble paid to pimp FriendFeed or does he have an interest in it?"

Wow. What a choice. The "legitimate" question suggests that there are only two ways Scoble could possibly say anything nice about FriendFeed: Either he is being paid to shill for the company, or he has a financial interest in it.

"The answer is," Scoble wrote in his blog, "I am not paid by anyone other than Fast Company. Seagate and SAP and some other sponsors to come soon pay Fast Company. If I ever change that, I'll let you know. I am NOT paid by Qik, FriendFeed, Kyte, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, or any of the other companies I like and talk about a lot. I also do not own stock in any company I cover and if that ever changes I'll disclose that as well."

icon In a posting called Canadian government "busy" when John McCain visits Ottawa on Friday, a blogger called "Shrugging Atlas" reacted to a story in The National Post headlined Tories dodge McCain's Ottawa visit: Prime Minister will be out of town during candidate's historic visit.

Atlas then wrote a letter to the U.S. Senator, the presumptive Republican nominee for president:

"Dear John McCain,

"Don't take it personally. I just discovered the Canadian government is too busy to meet with me when I visit Ottawa next week as well. Turns out they don't take much time out of their day to meet with anyone who has no chance of winning the election in November."

iconVanessa Richmond, writing in The Huffington Post, asks the question on everyone's lips: Are Nerdy Girls Sexy Now?

After reading this week's Newsweek article Revenge of the Nerdette, she reports that while "endless amounts of drool" are spilled over sexy male nerds, "many men and women are cheering about the 'revenge of the nerdette' — the rise of the sexy nerd girl."

Welcome, she says, to "nerd girl 2.0 ... The new, tech-savvy, sci-fi loving nerd looks more like a cheerleader than a mouse: this week's Newsweek introduces us to the new nerd girls, 'they're smart, they're techie and they're hot.'"

She concludes: "Let's hope there's something to the new sex appeal of nerdy women, who love nothing more than a hard equation, have a penchant for gadgets, and spend their free time looking for bugs in new software applications — and happen to like girly things as well. ... Then again, if we're all just being reminded, once again, that smart women get more male attention and career success if they wear high heels and makeup, then, please, call me when you've changed the channel from Mary Tyler Moore."

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