Dr Karl, Twitter and the Camino de Santiago

(and why he is @doctorkarl and not @drkarl…)

Back in 2009 my colleague and friend Dr Karl Kruszelniki told me about how for his next holiday, he and his family were planning to spend 5 weeks walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

I’d never heard of such a trek, but Karl explained that the Camino is a journey that began as a Christian pilgrimage a thousand years ago, and today, with or without the religious aspect, it has become one of the great walks of the world.

(As is typical in any conversation with Dr Karl, he also provided the added explanation that the human body is designed to walk, so it’s actually easier to walk than it is to simply stand).

My first reaction was to do with the apparent contradiction. Why would a man of science such as Dr Karl be interested in following the path of a mediaeval pilgrimage? 

The contradiction was interesting and prompted me to suggest to Karl that maybe he could make an online blog/diary of his journey as it unfolded.  Surely lots of people would be interested…

But that idea meant two big problems to overcome. 

Number one was weight.  If you are walking 25 km a day, it’s not a good idea to carry more than about 10 kg in your pack, but that 10kg has to include your clothes and wet weather gear, sleeping bag, food, water and the backpack itself.  Adding another couple of kilos for a laptop and power supply seemed a bit much, especially because there’d be no point in carrying it unless you could solve the number two problem – how to connect to the internet in the evenings…  

You have to remember that this was back in the olden days, when phones were phones, and computers were computers – both very useful devices, but with little in common.  Wi-Fi was barely a “thing” and broadband internet access from anywhere outside of your workplace (if you were lucky) was pretty hard to imagine at all. 

But by early 2009, the 2nd generation iPhone 3G with its camera and internet smarts had begun to change everything. It seemed to be the ideal tool for a roving reporter.

With this one device, Karl could take photos, write captions and email everything back, and we could publish it all online. Amazing! But what else could this phone do? That’s when our thinking turned to Twitter.

Twitter offered a way to send short 140 character messages together with photos. It had launched a few years before to modest success. It was an interesting idea but didn’t begin to build a great deal of traction until the advent of smartphones began to change everything  

(Just four years later in 2013, Twitter floated on the sharemarket, claiming over 200 million active monthly users).

But, even back in the “olden days” of 2009 there was already a “land grab” for twitter account names.  Doctor Karl became @doctorkarl, with the “dr” part fully spelt out as “doctor”, because, a year earlier, someone had claimed the shorter version. 

At the time of writing, (August 2022), the @doctorkarl twitter account has around 345,000 followers, and the official https://twitter.com/doctorkarl page, carries the little blue “tick”, which is official Twitter recognition that it genuinely belongs to the true Dr Karl Kruszelniki.

Postscript

I didn’t know it at the time, but while I may have introduced Dr Karl to Twitter, he introduced me to the idea of the Camino de Santiago, which led to me walking the pilgrimage myself in 2012.

But that’s a story for another time….

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