Digital gardens 🪴

My understanding of digital gardening, heavily inspired by Maggie Appleton A Brief History & Ethos of the Digital Garden

I feel very fortunate to stumble upon the concepts of digital gardens. What excites me about this space is personal knowledge base, ontology, connection, and this idea of a digital space that’s cozy and I can feel at ease.

I spent so long trying to get a blog up but felt anxious succumbing to my perfectionism on not having the content be exactly how I imagined it would. To be fair, I was still processing and developing my ideas. This was a theme in my digital presence. I also overthought my posts on Instagram (along with having ethical concerns) - leaving me as an extreme lurker. My online identity was, in developer terms, staging. Never production.

I think that’s why I’m feeling so excited about digital gardens… Implicitly, they are meant to be works in progress. They are meant to be less production ready and more like publishing imperfect, developing ideas… “Imperfect by design”.

“The right balance of chaos and structure.” - Maggie Appleton in Garden History

Right now I’m imagining Mind Blend to be the place where I bring my ideas and practice getting over perfectionism to share them publicly.

(A side effect I’ve accidentally discovered - a new way of organizing my online space to use Mind Blend’s home page as a digital cafe space (YouTube atmosphere videos & Spotify playlists!)

Further understand:

  • Streams vs. Gardens
  • Curated vs. curiosity
  • Obsidian rabbit hole (starting with Notion and really loving Obsidian’s philosophy)
  • Campfires as conversational vs. personal gardens

Check out:

Can the internet feel better?

Some good insights:

  • “Here’s one way. The internet is a Dark Forest. Coined by Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler, the image conjured is a foreboding vision of tall trees with dense canopies shading our trail. Unable to see bad actors that could steal our data or cancel us at any turn we’re overexposed and undernourished, leading even the bravest to seek safety. In turn, we’ve burrowed underground into newsletters and podcasts, or deeper still into what writer Venkatesh Rao calls the Cozy Web; gatekeeper-maintained communities in group chats, Slacks and Discord channels. These spaces, with their slower timescale, intimacy, and more forgiving culture Strickler says, “allow us to be ourselves because we know who else is there.””
  • Adjacent to these, though, as designer and anthropologist Maggie Appleton illustrated, is a haven with yet another ecological namesake: digital gardens. These are the antithesis to endless streams (another analogy) like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook that are focused on immediacy and impermanence. “The garden,” Appleton says in a blog post, “helps us move away from time-bound streams and into contextual knowledge spaces.” In practice, digital gardens can look like personal wikis, note-taking apps, and innovative websites that are designed for slowness and contemplation. Rare digital spaces to pause, connect ideas, and, if we want, share unfinished thinking in broad daylight. For those of us seeking a respite from the endless rivers of content and haunting forest of opinions Appleton says, “The garden is our counterbalance.”
  • “We were just like, the people who get on here who take to it are the ones who are going to be into it. And then it’s going to slowly keep expanding like that. And we’re just lucky to have this seed of a really nice and super interesting and really well-meaning community.”
  • Digital gardens let you cultivate your own little bit of the internet
  • “I’m going for a feeling of wonderment, a connection across time,” she says.
  • These creative reimaginings of blogs have quietly taken nerdier corners of the internet by storm. A growing movement of people are tooling with back-end code to create sites that are more collage-like and artsy, in the vein of Myspace and Tumblr—less predictable and formatted than Facebook and Twitter. Digital gardens explore a wide variety of topics and are frequently adjusted and changed to show growth and learning, particularly among people with niche interests. Through them, people are creating an internet that is less about connections and feedback, and more about quiet spaces they can call their own.
  • Mark Bernstein (hypertext garden)
    • The garden is farmland that delights the senses, designed for delight rather than commodity.” (His digital garden includes a recent review of a Bay Area carbonara dish and reflections on his favorite essays.)
  • What they have in common is that they can be edited at any time to reflect evolution and change. The idea is similar to editing a Wikipedia entry, though digital gardens are not meant to be the ultimate word on a topic. As a slower, clunkier way to explore the internet, they revel in not being the definitive source, just a source, says Mike Caulfield, a digital literacy expert at Washington State University.
    • In fact, the whole point of digital gardens is that they can grow and change, and that various pages on the same topic can coexist. “It’s less about iterative learning and more about public learning,” says Maggie Appleton, a designer. Appleton’s digital garden, for example, includes thoughts on plant-based meat, book reviews, and digressions on Javascript and magical capitalism. It is “an open collection of notes, resources, sketches, and explorations I’m currently cultivating,” its introduction declares. “Some notes are Seedlings, some are budding, and some are fully grown Evergreen[s].”
    • digital garden was a backlash to the internet we’ve become grudgingly accustomed to, where things go viral, change is looked down upon, and sites are one-dimensional. Facebook and Twitter profiles have neat slots for photos and posts, but enthusiasts of digital gardens reject those fixed design elements. The sense of time and space to explore is key.
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