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Tech Q&A

Rebecca Tapley

Describe your latest project.
I'm currently working in Second Life, building the Reader Resource Center for Designing Your Second Life. It made sense to me to establish an in-world presence for the book, because there were many useful tools, gadgets, and other items everybody needs to get the most out of their online life.

  1. Designing Your Second Life
    $35.97 New Trade Paper add to wishlist
    Treating Second Life as an experience, which is just how its subscribers and residents see it, this book focuses on ways to leverage design in enriching that experience, because that's the key element for creating a memorable and successful parallel universe within the confines of the online community.
What inspires you to sit down and write?
There's always something I want to understand better, or help others understand better, and I do that best by writing stuff down.

Describe your favorite childhood teacher and how that teacher influenced you.
I had outstanding teachers in high school (Mrs. Graham, who taught me how to organize and craft a written argument) but the most influential long-term was Major Bly. He taught freshman and sophomore AP Social Studies, a little bit of everything, and in essence he taught me to love being curious.

Have you ever taken the Geek Test? How did you rate?
I never thought of myself as a pureblood geek (I can't program in C++) but I keep writing books about technical topics. So I'll be taking that test this weekend and I'll get back to you.

Chess or video games?
Video games, definitely, or I should say, MMOGs — massive multiplayer online games. I spent a lot of time in two such games by Nexon, South Korea's preemininent developer, namely Nexon: Kingdom of the Winds and then DarkAges. Then my husband (poor guy) told me about Second Life, and he's been a widower ever since.

What do you do for relaxation?
Unplugged things. I read a lot and do yoga, and I'm always trying to coax something to grow in the yard (other than weeds).

Douglas Adams or Scott Adams?
Have towel, will travel!

What was your favorite book as a kid?
I read James Clavell, Geoffrey Archer, and Tom Clancy very faithfully. At the time, I loved the complex storylines that mixed fact, history, and fiction. But now that I think about it, all three of these authors have a knack for explaining technology in an interesting way.

What new technology do you think may actually have the potential for making people's lives better?
Anything that reverses, and doesn't exacerbate, damage to the environment. I'd love to see someone create a CD jewel case that you can toss into a recycling bin along with cans and bottles.

If you could be reincarnated for one day to live the life of any scientist or writer, who would you choose and why?
Mary Wollstonecraft. I'd like to meet her friends, talk to her husband, and read her manuscript for Vindication of the Rights of Woman (keeping in mind, too, that she's Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's mother).

What was your best subject in high school? Your worst?
I did well in anything full of information I could read and memorize, even some sciences like geology and physiology. Anything involving numbers and equations drove me nuts.

What are some of the things you'd like your computer to do that it cannot now do?
I want the adult version of the $100 laptop under construction by MIT Labs ( To wit, I want my laptop to be the size of a textbook, to contain no hazardous materials, and to use a mere teaspoon of power to perform its basic functions.

Describe the best museum of science and/or industry you've ever visited and what made it great.
The Children's Museum here in Boston is truly fun for all ages. I love running up and down the piano staircase.

By the end of your life, where do you think humankind will be in terms of new science and technological advancement?
I have no idea. For me, it depends on how responsible, mature, and tenacious we can be about other non-scientific tasks we have to address right now for our survival. Don't get me wrong — I'm a self-confessed technogeek who longs for a Wii. But I also have seven nieces, nephews, and godsons, and I'd like them to live in a world where industry and technology aren't killing the planet.

Which country do you believe currently leads the world in science and technology? In ten years?
I think the U.S. is holding on by the skin of its teeth, but only because we still excel at research and development. That being said, our government-slash-corporate infrastructure needs to realize that R&D is singularly crucial. We need to give scientists more money, time, space, and freedom to just try things and fail and be inspired by failure. China and India get it. Why don't we?

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