My most recent obsession is with the concept of digital gardens, which I originally found thanks to the Robot Face newsletter. The concept is pretty simple: the Feed or Timeline format that dominates most social media is too transient and focused on the present moment. Thoughts pop up and fade away with little impact or connection. On the other end of this spectrum is the highly-durable and highly-polished content that gets printed in books. (As I type this, I realize that I’m visualizing an awesome illustration from Maggie Appleton’s blog.)
In the middle of this spectrum is the digital garden. A digital garden is a place online that has:
- Organization that is not linear or chronological
- Ideas that live out in the open even when they are still in the process of being developed
- Pages that are linked together through association, just like our thoughts
The metaphor is gorgeous: gardens are places that are tended to and grow out in the open, little by little. Chronology is less important than context. A garden can create ‘finished products’ but not immediately, and not without showing the in-between steps first. You can garden alone, or other people can visit, but the garden is all yours to design, build, plant, and maintain.
The digital garden is a powerful tool for learning in public because you throw half-baked notes onto the web and get on with your learning and growing, rather than polishing something and then presenting it.
Great Digital Gardens I’ve Visited
Are.na is a platform made to build interconnected notes that’s very popular, or at least very talked about
This blog is a digital garden.
I don’t want to worry that things aren’t perfectly polished or ‘ready’ to grace the halls of the World Wide Web. This involves a certain tolerance for some of my notes sucking.
I’m really compelled by this idea, so I’m trying to plant a garden of my own here on this site. I hope you’ll poke around. 🌱
Sources, resources, links
This keynote-speech-turned-writeup is the seeming grandfather of most discourse around Digital Gardens
This 1945 article that dreams of a different type of computer to what we have today is weirdly prescient and also brought up a lot in discussions of digital gardens
The Robot Face post that got me started down this rabbit hole
Sean Wang (swyx) wrote a great Terms of Service for Digital Gardens