Hey friend, It’s been a while!
I tripped over a tweet the other day and fell down a rabbit hole full of people riffing on digital gardens. The idea was intriguing, so I kept going. I’m glad I did. Here’s what I learned…
What is a digital garden?
A digital garden is a space on the web for you to collect thoughts, ideas, and content that shape your knowledge and beliefs. Consider it your own personal wiki, the contents of which are unique to you as an individual.
The garden is ever-growing. Organized loosely by topic. Easy to navigate, with no right or wrong direction.
It’s a place where you can evolve your thoughts over time, generate new ideas, and grow your knowledge base until you’re ready to cook up some stock. Most of all, it exists to help you connect the dots.
A digital garden is not a stream of chronologically ordered blog posts, news snippets or conversations. Its content is not published for “performance” or marketing.
Trails of information
To quote an article related to the subject, a digital garden focuses on “simple knowledge that builds complexity through linking”.
That same article introduced me to an essay written for The Atlantic by Vannevar Bush in 1945, titled As We May Think. It’s a long read, but worth it. Bush’s foresight on technology was incredible!
Section 6 and beyond is the crucial part of the essay. In it Bush discusses how the human mind relates pieces of information.
It operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain.
He goes on to explain how man cannot hope to replicate such a system in the real world, yet we can learn from the brain by creating storage solutions that promote information trails (think modern day rabbit holes).
Where should it exist?
The truest form of a digital garden exists in your corner of the internet. Your own website.
Favor text files and folders over proprietary software like Evernote, Apple Notes, Bear, etc. Quoting Derek Sivers:
Don’t use the cloud, unless you’re also going to download it weekly and back it up in plain text outside that cloud. (Companies shut down. Clouds disappear. Think long-term.)
Your garden should not rely on any one platform. It should be portable. In my opinion, markdown files win here.
Tending to your own digital garden
I plan on making the jump from Hugo to Gatsby any day now. The switch is not just about the platform, but the content as well.
I’ve fallen into the trap of writing blog posts for “performance”. It’s not something I’m fond of. I want my writing to be more informal, focused on growing thoughts into larger ideas around the topics that interest me.
The new site will contain a digital garden:
What do you think? Are you interested in creating your own?