The Time I Met Jonathan Snook

Today I’d like to take a break from tutorials and snippets and tell you a story about the time I met Jonathan Snook.

To preface, they say you should never meet your heroes, but I call BS on that. Especially in the web community, the people you look up to are the people you’ve probably already learned something from, so why not meet your web heroes.

About a month ago I ventured to Rustbelt Refresh in Cleveland, Ohio. It was a great event and had some great speakers. Take a look at this list:

Hard to pass up when it’s only two hours away, I ventured north and was excited for a day of learning. It was an intimate setting with close to 150 fellow developers (from my rough count at least) and everyone seemed to have a great time.

At the after party, which was held at a sweet bowling alley, I had the opportunity to meet Jonathan Snook. He’d just given his talk about SMACSS (Scalable and Modular Architecture for CSS), a book I was reading and found very helpful, so I walked up, confident I had something clever to say. I’d never met a web development idol of mine before, but I wasn’t about to act starstruck.

“SMACSS is pretty great,” I said, “and the way you explained it today made your book a lot easier to understand.” He smiled and I realized I had just told him his book basically needed an audiobook accompaniment. Thinking I was blowing it, I panicked and stumbled through some other bits about how I would be implementing SMACSS in my next project. At this point I was hoping someone more interesting would walk up and interrupt me, but that didn’t happen.

It would have been easy enough to just say “again, great talk, thanks so much for all you do for the web community” but instead I panicked and tried to be clever, rambling off something I found amusing and he most definitely would as well. “You changed your Twitter avatar about a week ago and it took me a few days to realize it was you tweeting.”

So I went the stalker path; perfect. At this point I slinked away, mumbling something about needing more barbecue shrimp on a stick or whatever.

For someone who is big in the web community, I’m sure he didn’t mind and forgot about it as soon as I walked away but it taught me something.

The moral of the story: act like you’ve been there before. It’s okay to be excited that you’re meeting someone who’s blog you’ve followed and has helped you grow as a developer in some way, but keep calm and try to act normal. If I hadn’t been trying so hard to be clever I probably could have had a great conversation about CSS. Instead I talked about a Twitter avatar…real smooth.

Who have you met in the web community that you look up to and how did it go? I’d love to hear anyone else’s embarrassing stories.

Side Note: I highly recommend checking out SMACSS and finding a conference where @snookca is talking. He’s got some great knowledge and he’s more than willing to talk about it (as long as you don’t stick your foot in your mouth).

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John Hartley is a Director of Product Engineering at Beam Dental in Columbus, OH. With 5+ years of leadership experience he has worked in startups, agencies, and began his career as a freelance Front End Developer. Always looking to iterate, this blog is a place for him to share his knowledge as well as hone his craft, challenge assumptions, and build a strong base of leadership and management knowledge. Connect with him on LinkedIn

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