Alex Payne writes online here.

See also the archive, publications, events.

About the author and this site.

The Author

My full name is Alexander Francis Payne. I go by Alex. I’ve used the handle al3x for many years around the Internet, hence the domain name. I grew up just outside Washington, DC and have lived in San Francisco, Portland (the one in Oregon), New York City, and Los Angeles. These days I travel a lot, and Portland is where I am when not on the road.

I’m a programmer, writer, and angel investor. For the past two-ish years I’ve worked with early-stage companies, most recently The Department of Better Technology. I’m involved in activist and charitable endeavors, and I teach and mentor through organizations like Hacker School. I’m motivated by matters of social justice.

Prior Work

In May, 2010 I joined Simple, a customer-friendly online banking service offering smart financial planning tools in a well-crafted interface. I served as CTO at Simple until July of 2012. I’m still a happy customer.

Before joining Simple, I worked as an engineer at Twitter, a real-time information network. I joined Twitter as one of its first employees at the beginning of 2007. It was an education in scaling, optimization, and systems architecture, not to mention all the joys and stresses that come with working at a growing startup. I worked primarily on building Twitter’s developer platform, and later on the service’s backend infrastructure.

Prior to Twitter I did information security work for a military and intelligence contractor, built web applications for political campaigns and non-profits, and did a smattering of other freelance programming and graphic design. I’ve been working in technology since before I was old enough to legally hold a work permit; I was twelve when I did my first software development internship.

I’ve done a fair bit of speaking on technical topics I’m interested in. Additionally, as a work-related hobby I study the design and implementation of programming languages. This hobby turned into a side-project in the form of Programming Scala, co-authored with Dean Wampler and published by O’Reilly Media in September 2009. Currently, I coordinate the annual Emerging Languages event, a showcase of new programming languages and implementation techniques.

I spend some of my free time advising and investing in technology-driven startup companies. See the “Disclosure” section below for more about that.


Technology and business aside, my primary interests are the arts, economics, politics, design, architecture, and cultural criticism. In my free time I frequent museums and theater, and I try to keep up on world news, books, and films. For a time, I maintained an online scrapbook that collected the influences of Minimalist art on technology and culture, bridging a number of my interests.

I try hard to be healthy despite the sedentary nature of computer work. I practice yoga and run. I’m a vegan for both ethical and dietary reasons. I’ve given up alcohol. I rely on an evidence-based meditation technique. I’ve adopted these routines simply because I feel better when I stick to them.

In terms of social ideology, I identify as a secular humanist. On matters of faith, I’m an agnostic. Politically, I’m a registered independent voter – that is, not affiliated with any party or platform – but my views generally fall under the umbrella of democratic socialism.


I write critically about various businesses, organizations, and technologies, so it seems only fair to disclose any potential conflicts of interest I may have:

Some of my investing and advising relationships are no longer active:

I maintain a profile on AngelList where you can find out more about my investing and advising activities.

The Site

I write here. I write on no particular schedule and about no definite range of topics. My posts range in length from a single sentence to several printed pages. More often than not, I write about technology, culture, music, travel, and ideas, punctuated with accounts of major goings-on in my life.

This site has gone through many iterations over the years. Before its incarnation as a weblog, was a portfolio for my early attempts at web and graphic design, maintained by hand and updated via FTP. I eventually migrated the site to an early version of Blogger and began updating more frequently.

In 2002 I redesigned the site as a blog, powered by an early version of Blosxom running on my university’s servers. Subsequently, I’ve tried just about every major blogging software package out there and written my own in various languages and frameworks. There’s no practical reason for switching blogging software so often, save that it makes for enjoyable tinkering.

I currently host this site on a Linode VPS. I manage the content and layout with the Jekyll static site generation system. This lets me completely customize the site, edit posts in my text editor of choice, and store everything in Git, a version control system I trust.


You can find me on a variety of social web sites; my username is usually al3x.


Feel free to email me. If you need to contact me privately, please use my PGP key. My key’s fingerprint is:

4BBB 8323 A8EE 6B08 8434 AFE7 554B C317 53AC C28D