Alexander Singh

Co-founder of Domino. Subway philosophizer.

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Form through Contrast

In “Getting Real”, Jason Fried encourages the reader to “pick a fight” because sometimes the best way to know what your app should be is to know what it shouldn’t be.

It touches on a broader point: all form is defined through contrast. Try not to look at yourself, or your endeavors as being the sum of a set of constituent parts. Instead, see them as the difference - or the remainder - after you subtract them from the whole.

To understand what something is, ask “what is it in opposition to?”.

This contrast - this opposition - gives your endeavors not just form, but energy, a name, and a purpose.

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Conscious Filters

This is a quiet reminder that the universe is a desolate wasteland when not processed through our conscious filter.

Celebrate our divine gift* - that we can build such grand mythic structures and find such indescribable beauty in absolute nothingness.

*Divine in capability, not in provinence

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Misadventures in Galactic Colonization

There is a vision of us as a multi-planetary species. It’s attractive & enthusiastic. It appeals to our innate desire for exploration, expansion, and progress. Musk says it’s essential to our long-term survival. He’s probably right.

Yet I cannot help but feel as though all we’re doing is spreading our proprietary brand of insanity. No matter how far we run across the interstellar plane, we’ll never escape our nature. If we don’t value self-understanding, how can we seek to settle the stars with a soft hand? As we’ve seen on Earth, a life of plunder demands a life on the run. Perhaps this grand adventure is a subconscious attempt to flee from ourselves.

The Fermi Paradox asks why we’ve seen no evidence of extraterrestrial life in spite of the high probability of its existence.

Perhaps it’s because any sufficiently advanced civilization embarks on a journey inward, not outward.

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On Blindness

What do you think of when you see the word “blind”? I’m guessing you immediately think of a person with a visual impairment.

What do you see in front of you, right now? Around you? In your room? Everything, of course.

We depend on our sight so completely that we unconsciously, perceive our vision to be the entirety of existence. The center of the world. You are acutely aware of what’s in your field of vision, yet how often do you think of what’s outside of it? If you’re like me, then almost never.

In taking an inverted view, we humbly accept that we are blind to everything but the sliver of reality within our field of vision. From this vantage, we can ask ourselves what else we might be blindly oblivious to.

Are you blind to your emotions? How are you feeling right now? What emotions are they? Where did they come from?

Are you blind to others? Do you struggle to empathize with

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Play, Practical Learning & Uncharted Paths

One of the Internet’s greatest gifts is its limitless storehouse of knowledge. We can learn about everything and we can learn to do anything in exchange for a mostly invisible price.

In having the world’s mysteries revealed to us piece by piece, we are unwittingly forced to adopt the ideas, processes, and patterns of our teachers. That’s fine if you’re fixing your sink, but not ideal when exploring esoteric, intellectual, creative or conceptual topics: philosophy, cooking, coding, painting, etc.

Seek to learn from others, but create time and space to play with the knowledge you receive in pursuit of the uncharted paths.

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Experiments in execution

We often confuse ourselves in the space between the idea and its execution.

1. The execution is the sum of your activities to give your idea form. You may need to experiment with many different forms until you find one that sticks.

2. Most of our confusion in execution is borne from a lack of clarity, itself due to a lack of clear insights that we usually uncover through research. In digital product design, that involves the whole “speaking to our end users” thing. In painting, it might involve several studies, or explorations of technique, hue, and color combinations, etc.

3. Another common mistake is to believe your idea can maintain its “purity” after you’ve given it form. This leads to a fallacy wherein you believe the first, ephemeral iteration of your idea is the best one.

4. Whether its form is a digital product, or a wooden chair, a home, or a canvas painting, the act of

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Products: Liquid States

  1. Some digital products are best designed with a liquid form, allowing them to flow around the nuances of each individual user - their knowledge, taste, culture, language, motivations & goals.

  2. Alternatively, maybe only individual features of a digital product are best designed with a liquid form.

  3. How can we design products that can be manipulated like water, by the user? That have the flexibility and materiality of water? From rain, to river, to hurricane to lake to pond to droplet.

  4. I suppose the hypothesis-driven design culture of never ending experimentation that hails from California is the most relevant framework we have right now.

  5. Is this even a good metaphor?

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Products: Observe the “Desire Path”

From Wikipedia:

Desire paths can be a path created as a consequence of erosion caused by human or animal foot-fall or traffic. The path usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and destination.

Further:

A representative example is Twitter, which has “paved” a number of desire paths by integrating them into the service, including @ mentions, hashtags, and group discussions, although not always precisely mimicking the behaviors of users

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Zuihitsu

http://www.are.na is one of my favorite digital products in a very, very long time, and it has quickly become the central repository for creating, collecting and organizing my research.

Today I found a reference to the Japanese literary concept of “Zuihitsu” or “follow the brush”. Per Wikipedia, it is a genre of Japanese literature consisting of loosely connected personal essays and fragmented ideas that typically respond to the author’s surroundings which perfectly sums up my approach to this blog: casual, personal, inquisitive.

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Products: Temporal vs. Stored Value

This is a small piece of a larger puzzle on product design practices. It is mostly unformed, and will be updated accordingly.

Products can be designed to leverage either temporal value, stored value, or a mix of both.

Facebook: A content feed is an example of temporal value. The content in it has value upon being posted, and that value drops over time by virtue of its datedness and its increasing inaccessibility (hidden under the growing pile of newer content).

Google: A search engine is an example of stored value. Every site that’s added to the search index increases the search engine’s total value.

Airbnb: A marketplace is an example that must leverage both. The more listings it has, the greater the value of the marketplace, but only if the supply of those listings accurately matches demand.

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