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Tech Q&A

Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

Describe your latest project.
Shel Israel: I spent a great deal of time trying to keep up with the changes in the blogosphere. I'm starting to work on my next book and because of the interest in Naked Conversations I'm traveling a great deal and speaking in interesting places. We're also continuing to work on our book blog at http://www.nakedconversations.com.

Robert Scoble: I'm continuing to go around Microsoft with my camcorder doing the Channel 9 video blog, and working with companies like Target, Boeing, and L'Oreal to help them understand the new world of blogging.

What inspires you to sit down and write?
Shel: I've wanted to write books all my life. It's in my soul. I'm happiest when I'm writing. There has never been anything more noble than writing books. I have to write. I can only liken it to why does someone play a saxophone or why does someone paint? Why do people blog in Iran when they know they could be lashed to death? They have to.

Robert: I see something happening in the world and I want to share it. It's why during 9/11 I wrote every few minutes what I saw happening. It's why I write about meeting Steve Wozniak, or Bill Gates, or Larry Page. Sometimes it's just an idea that pops into my head that I want to think about more, so I write it down. Sometimes it's just that I wanted to talk about a business that treated me well.

Describe your favorite childhood teacher and how that teacher influenced you.
Shel: Marjorie Furtado was my high school English teacher and was the first and only teacher in my public school education to give me what I needed most — encouragement. She opened my mind to great writers from Hemingway to Shakespeare. She told me I had a flair for writing. She made me a better writer.

Robert: Mike Mister. He was my junior high science teacher. He opened my mind to the wonders of science and technology but also took a group of us running every day and took us backpacking in Yosemite. He was one of the few teachers who really taught me the love of learning.

What's your favorite blog right now?
Robert: I like Hugh Macleod's Gaping Void. He does drawings on the back of business cards (warning: some of them use adult language) but he has pretty interesting insights into marketing and business. I also like that there's a trucker who writes about his daily life at http://truckerphoto.com/blog.

Shel: Church of the Customer by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba. They have a better understanding of word of mouth than anyone out there right now.

What was your favorite book as a kid?
Robert: I liked the Hardy Boys series.

Shel: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. But my absolute favorite is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

What new technology do you think may actually have the potential for making peoples' lives better?
Shel: Genetic engineering. We have the power to let people live healthier and longer. I'm a diabetic and the best hope I have for not having an unhappy ending is to genetically alter my genes. I do hope, though, that as we move forward in gene sciences that we think of the social implications of the planet if we are all going to live longer and be healthy longer.

Robert: Shel stole my answer.

If you could be reincarnated to live the life for one day of any scientist or writer, who would you choose and why?
Robert: Thomas Edison. He's recent history's greatest inventor and I'd love to live a day in his shoes to understand how he looked at the world.

Shel: Ernest Hemingway on any day he wasn't fighting bulls. Because he lived life to the fullest.

What was your best subject in high school? Your worst?
Shel: I only had one good subject in high school: English. Worst was math. Math made me wait for the invention of the calculator.

Robert: My best, photography. My worst? Math. Photography let me show other people how I saw the world. Math required me to do work that made my head hurt.

What are some of the things you'd like your computer to do that it cannot now do?
Shel: They are too damn finicky after twenty-five years. It should be newsworthy when something goes wrong but instead everyone nods in sympathy when it does.

Robert: I agree with Shel that they should just work and get out of the way. But beyond that, we're being overwhelmed with information so I'd like to computers to understand what I'm interested in, paying attention to, and bring me the important stuff.

Describe the best Museums of Science and Industry you've ever visited and what made them great.
Shel: I have two: Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum and New York's Museum of National History. That one's cool because when you walk in you see a T-Rex skeleton reassembled.

Robert: Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. They have a U-boat and a Boeing 727 hanging in the museum, and it's built around a coal mine. Another favorite: the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley.

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