Dreaming of a hammam to rule them all

There are a few things that generally, can induce a sublime, otherworldly euphoria: psychedelics, a particularly good night sky, connecting over a particularly good chat and a particularly good spa experience. It varies with people.

(Sometimes, there are one-off experiences like the time I cried over a perfect seed of durian and when it rained at the encore of a Sigur Ros concert and stopped EXACTLY at the final note.)

I took this photo of a German man standing beside me at the above mentioned Sigur Ros concert. I feel this sufficiently encapsulates “sublime, otherworldly euphoria”

3 years ago, I went for a hammam (Turkish bath) in Istanbul that so inspired me that I went to study for a diploma in holistic massage. (Whose only use so far is for me to say I have a diploma in holistic massage) 

Yesterday, I paid 70 euros for a hammam at Kelebek Hotel in Goreme that blew that one out of the water.

For me, creating the hammam/spa to rule them all (HTRTA) is the ultimate application of UX. The goal is to engineer a feeling at the end that feels like orgasm: you momentarily forget every single thing in your immediate reality, you get a sense of existential wonder, literally see stars and feel part of something bigger than yourself. 

Its makeup is much like the chicken rice to rule them all (CRTRTA). Any Singaporean can tell you that the CRTRTA is a unicorn; there are many moving parts to control and no one gets them all right: the rice, the chilli, the meat, the ginger.

Here are some things I’ve experienced individually at various spas that can make up the HTRTA (they are all versions flawed by my fallible memory):

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Rich people bel…

Rich people believe you have to be something to get rich while average people believe you have to DO something to get rich.

“That’s why people like Donald Trump go from millionaire to $9 billion in debt and come back richer than ever,” Siebold writes.

“While the masses are fixated on the doing and the immediate results of their actions, the great ones are learning and growing from every experience, whether it’s a success or a failure, knowing their true reward is becoming a human success machine that eventually produces outstanding results.”

Because, be a human success machine, not a one-hit wonder.

From 19 ways rich people think differently than the average person

Using “assume close” in guerrilla research

There is a sales technique called “assume close” that’s very effective in daily communication and as I’ve discovered, guerrilla research.

E.g. when requesting a meeting, rather than asking “Could we meet?”, ask “Could we meet Tuesday at 4pm, or Thursday at 11am?” It distracts people from the question “do I want to meet this person?” by making them think “is Tue or Thu a better time for me?” and also gets you to your objective without sounding pushy, since you’re offering them a choice.

When using “assume close” in a guerrilla setting,

1. You help people help you by surfacing what you need from them quickly

“Hi, I noticed you called an MPV cab to get your stuff home, why did you choose this?” rather than “Hi, I’m doing a survey about … Can I ask you …”

People would have registered “survey” in their brain and waved a “Sorry, I’m in a hurry” before you can say “just 5 minutes”. Ask the question, it should be easy for them to fire an answer (if it’s not, it shouldn’t be a guerrilla interview) and once they’ve committed, you can tell them why you’re asking, because that’s polite.

2. You get them to answer your question rather than think about whether to answer your question

3. “Assume close” sends a signal that you are credible and you have a reason to be there, asking them a question

This is so important for guerrilla because most of the time, what you’ll be asking is nothing top secret and classified. But just because you send the wrong signals by explaining yourself early, people get suspicious and withhold simple information that would have helped you tremendously.

So next time you’re out asking strangers questions, try putting on a smile and ask them the question directly instead of prematurely introducing yourself and your agenda. Let me know in the comments how this has worked for you and what other ways of prefacing has helped you get good answers on the street!

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Design is about taking a stand


The difference between opt-in and opt-out organ donation


Any UXer worth his salt knows about the use of defaults in design and the famous example of opt-out rather than opt-in organ donation.

I’m personally excited by dark patterns and behavioural economics as made popular by Dan Ariely. People dispute the ethics of such “persuasive” design. I would like to be cautious around that, just because there are some really evil people in the world and even with good intentions, people fall prey to slippery slopes etc.

But I also think that design is about taking a stand (I say design, but really life is about taking stands). Nothing is completely objective so be decisive, take a stand on what you believe is right and good, and go with that. If things are already skewed, then skew it the way you believe is good for your user and persuade them to go that way. 

And for all the irrationality of humans, I think we have a responsibility to reflect on our choices and try to understand the underlying influences as we grow. The problem is not with manipulation/selling/persuasion. We are all born evangelists, fighting to propagate the causes we believe in. The problem lies with functioning people who do not reflect and take stands of their own. They get sidetracked and end up in places they never wanted to be, and then get angry with the world and its treachery.

So yes, I believe in taking sides, doing what it takes to champion your own causes (with conscience!) and more importantly, thinking for yourself.

My view is probably heavily influenced by this (really short!) paper I read in Uni, Whose side are we on? by Howard Becker. He tells us that the question of taking sides is non-existent; the real question is, which side do we take? And he argues that the right answer is to take the side of the disadvantaged. Regardless of whether you agree, I think the general premise of the paper is illuminating to the imagined “neutrality” of living and it’s a good read.