Readers’ Picks for 2009: Terrafugia’s Maiden Flight, Kindle 2 Taps E Ink, Follica’s War on Baldness, & More

Xconomy Boston — 

For the second year straight, our readers have made stories about the biotech startup Follica’s plans to treat baldness, Terrafugia’s street-legal aircraft, and the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child Foundation among Xconomy Boston’s five most popular posts for the year. What conclusions can we draw from this?

Well, none. But I’ll speculate that some stories, when told well, strike chords deep within our psyches. And perhaps people don’t quickly, if ever, tire of such stories—as long as they still dream of operating flying cars, spurring growth of natural hair on their balding heads, or making laptops affordable for children in poor countries. (If you want to revisit last year’s greatest hits, you can check them out here.)

But that’s enough psychoanalyzing of our readers. At the end of the day, Xconomy is very fortunate to be completing its second full year with terrific support from readers, including those who shared insightful comments that helped to elevate and propel discussions around our stories. Also, it’s worth noting that as of today Wade wrote all but one of our five most popular stories posted in 2009. (Wade humbly tells me that there’s a larger online audience for tech stories than life sciences stories, but I think the popularity of his articles has more to do with his writing than his industry focus.)

Without further ado, the following are our top five stories of 2009 ranked in order of popularity:

1. Road-Ready Airplanes

It’s no surprise that Wade’s live blogging post from the Boston Museum of Science about the maiden flight of Woburn, MA-based Terrafugia’s street-legal airplane was a huge hit with readers; Wade was quick to deliver the goods on what was easily one of the most highly anticipated test flights in recent history. And the Terrafugia Transition appears to live up to the hype in videos of the highly publicized first flight. This is Terrafugia’s second year at No. 1—last year Wade’s profile of the company took the top slot.

2. A Hair-Raising CEO Selection

Does the word alopecia mean anything to you? Well, the clinical term for baldness means a TON to the folks at Boston-based Follica and its many followers, who seem to get really jazzed about the prospects of the startup’s yet-disclosed experimental treatment for hair-loss. Bob’s story in May about Follica hiring William Ju to be its new CEO set off another outpour of reader comments (1,240 and counting as of yesterday afternoon). And Bob’s August 2008 post about Follica’s $11 million Series B financing is still one of our best-read posts each month.

3. Innovative Computing User Interfaces

Wade’s post about his experiences at an annual convention for computing user interface experts offered an exciting peek at new ways people could interact with mobile devices and other computers in the future. A favorite presentation at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (ACM SIGCHI) meeting in Boston was the Microsoft research Patrick Baudisch’s presentation on “back-of-device” interfaces, an answer to the “fat finger problem,” which would enable users of small mobile devices to control screens with a touch-enabled controller literally on the back of devices.

4. Where Markets and Innovation Align

It’s great to read about markets and industry catching up with bleeding-edge technologies. Wade wrote about how this dynamic is at work at … Next Page »

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