I was a big fan of 43 Folders, Merlin’s first really popular project, back in the day. Merlin had already reached “nerd legend” status when I first had contact with him. It was in the form of a message he sent me (on GitHub, if memory serves) regarding the Blogsmith Bundle. It said, simply, “Jesus Christ.” It was very flattering.
Merlin and I continued to cross paths on the internet, and he started mentioning the crazy stuff I was working on in public forums. Then one year I was at Macworld with TUAW and Merlin was giving a talk for the Omni Group right across from our booth. At the time I didn’t know what he looked like (turns out he’s quite handsome), and it had to be pointed out to me by a friend. Doc Rock, I think. I waited until the presentation was done and snuck over before the Q&A session. He was shuffling some index cards. I tapped him on the shoulder and said “I don’t mean to be a dick, but I wanted to introduce myself. Brett Terpstra.” He dropped his index cards and hugged me.
Photo credit to Doc Rock. I think that’s Marina Epelman in the background, too, whom I didn’t know at the time but she’s also become a friend in recent years.
“A dick? Are you kidding?” He went on to introduce me as “the smartest man on the internet” to the crowd of nerds gathered for the presentation. We met up a few times at that Macworld, but didn’t manage to go out for the drinks we kept talking about that year. We did argue briefly about pit bulls, but he went immediately to “I can tell you’re really passionate about this…”
I feel successful in what I do these days, and I believe I owe a lot of that success to the popularity he lent me back then.
You know when someone you look up to becomes a friend? When a leader becomes a peer? I’ve had that happen a few times in my life, and this was a special one for me. Getting to know Merlin has been an honor, and he’s as charismatic, smart and funny in person as I had imagined.
Merlin’s been on Systematic a few times now, and we have managed to sync up schedules and hang out in person a couple of times when I’m in the bay area. I absolutely love talking to him. As I expected it would be, Systematic 125 was a blast, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.