Alexander Singh


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Zuihitsu 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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Products: Expressive vs. Prescriptive Design

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

  1. Design that encourages expression in the end user. To give them the tools to form their own solution. Examples include, Zapier and Minecraft.

  2. Design that discourages individual expression. Prescribing a singular flow to achieve the solution. Examples include Square Cash and Doom.

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On Clarity

I wish I came across more essays that were as simple, succinct and to the point as Bryn Jackson’s on clarity.

Clarity may be like a Rubik’s cube that you’re trying to complete as the colors on each square are slowly shifting. The game never ends.

I have experienced burnout in the same manner that Bryn describes: relentless, aimless action without clarity of purpose, so this topic is of personal interest to me. I worked for over two years without it while building Domino and I craved it every day. A lack of clarity leads to a lack of certainty and then to helplessness and a sense of despair. Unfortunately, I misdiagnosed the source of my struggle and so I could never find the clarity that I craved.

This is an initial attempt - and a work in progress - to distill his ideas, and mine, into a concise approach to finding and leveraging clarity in daily living:

1. Clarity gives context...

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The Inverted Lens

A simple device. Whenever you are:

  1. Solving a problem.
  2. Asking a question.
  3. Answering a question
  4. Brainstorming
  5. Communicating
  6. Doing almost anything.

Take time to invert your point of view to see the object of your attention from an opposing angle.

Some objects have a single opposing angle, like looking at an email from the customer’s point of view instead of your own. Others will have many, like mapping out a product feature or determining where your product strategy is failing.


  1. March 14th 2017 - A further discussion/exploration of inversion thanks to Albert Wenger -

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Either / And / Or

I frequently sketch out mind maps to explore product ideas.

Last week I mapped out three simple options for how a product could interact with three different groups. They were all mutually exclusive options until I realized they didn’t have to be.

Why do we so often look at the world through Either / Or statements?

There are enough constraints for us to guide us in our pursuits: Time. Money. Knowledge. Network. Conviction. Motivation. Confidence. Etc.

Why do we constrain ourselves prematurely? Why not start with Either / And and apply the above constraints incrementally, step-by-step, or in different combinations, permutations and intensities to arrive at a clear decision?

To quote Burroughs -

The whole concept of EITHER/OR. Right or wrong, physical or mental, true or false, the whole concept of OR will be deleted from the language and replaced by juxtaposition, by AND. This is...

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How to cook an egg

  1. With high heat, for a short time, with exacting precision.

  2. With low heat, for a long time, with unwavering patience.

Both approaches are equally delicious.

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The problem of good and bad in a probabilistic universe

There’s a sphere in your home that gives you a bird’s eye view of another universe. Anything is possible in this universe. No matter how small the probability. There is no divine hand, there are only the numbers, and they’re attached to every object and every action: clear and visible.

Some planets naturally have a high probability of sustaining life. On one of these planets, a sentient population perceives the probability of any possible action or interaction so acutely that it becomes instinctual. Like a sixth sense. As they live their lives, they develop arbitrary goals and instinctually navigate their way to them, sensing which actions and experiences will best guide them to their dreams.

There is no “good” or “bad” in their vocabulary, only percentages - either high or low - that indicate the potential outcome of an immediate action. In choosing their actions they aim to get one...

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Lessons learned through the lens: an incomplete index of insights from my decade in photography

I’ve chosen to publish the lessons I learned that have universal applicability. I’ve left the photography tips out ;)

1. We are born blind
I had been shooting for 6 months, 5 days a week, every week, and one day I was at the cinema. I can’t recall the film I watched, but I remember how I felt as a veil was suddenly lifted from my eyes about an hour into it. All of a sudden I could see within each shot on the screen. Choices in composition and framing, lighting, and techniques like the stop frame, slow motion, etc. were laid bare.

After that, I experienced the same insight everywhere. The highlights or shadows on the street, the framing of a poster when viewed as a reflection from the window of a building, being able to anticipate people’s movements and when they were going to line up into an interesting composition or step out of the shadow into the light from the sun.

What else in...

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The Two Prong Path

“A traveler reaches a split in the road and he is presented with a choice. It’s clear which path to follow, and yet he is still compelled to consider both options equally.”

One of the benefits I’ve encountered with meditation has been an increased self-awareness immediately prior to making a choice. They’re mostly choices of self-discipline, which is a shared struggle for most of us.

Awareness is the first step, followed by the decision and the subsequent action.

I’ve found myself falling down in the space between “awareness” and “decision” and have been testing a simple visualization to help. It’s a fork in the road with two distinct paths: one black, one white. It’s often clear which path to follow, and yet we expend great time and energy to make an apparently obvious decision.

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