Conversations With Hephaistos

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Hephaistos: “Is it weird that I’m fangirling really hard on the person who invented Squatty Potty?”

Thenea: “Yah, Heffe, that’s pretty weird.”

Hephaistos: “But think about it. They were sitting there, thinking about the machinery of the human gut, and the machinery of the toilet, and suddenly — bam — one small little cog, makes the two finally fit together after decades of hemerroids. I love that.”

Thenea: “Well, it certainly has improved my own toilet-related experiences.”

Hephaistos: “The tool isn’t separate from the user. That’s the take-away. Tools only exist FOR the user. And anyone can design a machine, but the measure of an engineer is how well they take the user into account. The best of us know people. Know what’s irking them about what they’ve got now. Have the insight to seize upon just the right improvement. And that’s the failing of a lot of spiritual paths — people not taking pride in their ability to provide a good user experience.

No one can force you to innovate. No one is sitting there with a gun to anyone’s head telling them to build a better mousetrap. But damn. If you build a shitty mousetrap, do you really need external voices telling you that you didn’t do right by your craft?” 

Thenea: “Well, maybe some day, when I learn to read minds…”

Hephaistos: “Talk about practice. Hear disgruntled people, rather than refuting their complaints. If there is one thing you can count on humans for, it’s complaining. But that’s the inventor’s manual. Design tools, not excuses, to answer complaints. Excuses have never in the history of the world improved user experience.” 


  1. Hephaistos needs to go have some conversations with software developers. Those guys rarely take pride in providing good user experience. 😛 (I actually had an entire class while studying Web Development and Design devoted to this problem because it’s so pervasive in the field.)

    1. In general, yeah.

      My (mortal) husband is a software engineer. He always says, “when the building is burning down and there are no fire escapes, what do you do? The real answer is to be there when the building is constructed and to make sure they put them in. But far too often, that’s not the situation we come into.”

      A lot of tech work, in the modern world, is putting out dung-fires. You can say all you want about iteration and agile process, but at the end of the day, the best thing in the world is starting from the beginning, knowing what problems you need to answer.

      Hermes, often heralded (no pun intended) as the “god of geeks” is what the modern techie worships: he is SOOOO clever with the language, and the BEST at putting out dungfires. If the building is burning down, and you have no fire escapes, he’s the deity you want on board.

      Hephaistos, on the other hand, is more likely to install the fire escapes before the building burns down. He’s where you get the inspiration and intuition to put together a good design from the get-go.

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