Warwick, England.  Famously known as the home of Warwick Castle, an amazing castle built by William the Conqueror in 1068.  The town is situated on the River Avon and is one of those places that just exudes peace and beauty.

So why on earth am I talking about this town in England on MStranslate?  Interestingly, it is actually crucial to the story of how we came to exist.  Back in 2011, Eric was living in this beautiful town.  While he was there, I would often be in the lab doing research at very odd hours of the early morning.  Although tiring, it did make it incredibly easy to chat to each other over Skype.  At this time, I was finishing up my lab work and Eric was planning on moving back home after 4 years away.

The question of ‘What comes next?’ was very much on both of our minds.  Despite having annoyed each other constantly as kids, for some reason we started talking about the possibilities that may exist to allow us to work together…but how or why would you want to combine science and social media?

Back then, Facebook was to connect with friends, see photos of each other and occasionally share the odd cat video.  Retail companies had started to see the value in being able to connect digitally with customers in a more engaging space.  But science….the possibility hadn’t even really crossed anyone’s mind.  To put it in perspective, IFL Science – one of the earliest, largest and most successful online science-related channels – was not founded until March 2012.

But just because it hadn’t been done before, didn’t mean that it could never be done.  From my perspective, I saw a clear need for it to exist.  The gap between research and the people directly impacted by these studies was too large and was not beneficial to anyone.  From Eric’s perspective, he saw that these digital platforms could be used far more broadly – using their strengths to connect strangers through common themes, provide valuable information and generate discussion.

Warwick Castle

Taking in the view from the top of Guy’s Tower

Now, 4.5 years later, the rest as they say is history (a hugely appropriate word as I sit here looking out over the this almost 1000 year old castle)!  We have been told on many occasions that it is impressive that we still exist, that the timeframe for ventures like ours is often 6 months or less before they give up and fold.  Yet, I like to think that we are doing much more than just continuing to exist.

Across those 4.5 years we have managed to collaborate with many amazing researchers in Australia and internationally.  We have also received buy-in from multiple sclerosis organisations around the world and these links continue to grow and strengthen.  Most importantly, we now have a community that is full of incredible individuals from all over the globe.  As I wander around these towns, I wonder if any of the people I see are members of our ‘family’ – to me that’s a cool thought and one that I carry with me.

So this visit to a very special place has afforded me a chance for reflection about how far we have come in a relatively short period of time (especially when compared to those stone battlements I can see in the distance).  It is time for a brief pat-on-the-back and then a chance to look ahead.  It was once said about Warwick Castle:

Warwick Castle, built of the very centuries, cannot be expected to alter with time’s ‘brief hours and weeks’ – at least, with so few of them as fall to one poor mortal’s lot. From visit to visit, I find it as unchanged as the multiplication table” ~ Katharine Lee Bates, American songwriter

The unchanging nature of Warwick Castle is what makes it memorable, as if parts of it are frozen in time.  Whilst I like to think that we have done a very good job of what we have achieved so far, we aren’t about to stop trying to improve.  With your help, we will keep building on our strong foundations and hopefully create something that can be as significant and extraordinary as this stunning location.

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