Digital gardens

Created at
10 August 2023
Last modified
31 August 2023

See also: My digital garden principles.

A collection of thoughts, articles, links, and content, built and arranged in a non-linear manner. Maggie Appleton defines the following “patterns” of gardening:

  • Topography over Timelines: it’s about links and topics, not about what was published when.
  • Continuous Growth: things don’t tend to end up completely finished - they go through drafts.
  • Imperfection & Learning in Public: this isn’t just a place for finished work - it’s also a place to think out loud, to work in public, to show off things before they’re complete.
  • Playful, Personal, and Experimental: Gardens should be non-homogeneous, experimenting with technologies and subverting norms.
  • Intercropping & Content Diversity: Not just a bunch of linear text! Gardens can include code snippets, videos, audio, social media snippets, etc…
  • Independent Ownership: This is about claiming a small patch of the web for yourself and building from there. Not about renting!

Notifications and reader engagement

We keep readers engaged with blogs and other time-bound media by packaging up and publishing content in discrete chunks, and notifying the user when said chunk is published (whether by RSS, email, notification, etc). A digital garden is non-time-bound, and this makes it difficult to keep people engaged (ie when should I come back to browse the digital garden of a cool website again?).

It feels like this is an area where blogs and gardens can work in concert. The blog is still a time-bound medium with regular notifications to users, but it can then link in to new content (or content which has reached a particular milestone) in the garden.

Alternatively, we could use tags to “push” updates to a given RSS feed - although this may require a bit more work as we track when nodes in the garden receive tags.

Page maturity

Jacky Zhao uses status types like seed/sapling/evergreen/fruit to indicate the maturity/status/etc of a given page. This could potentially be useful for tracking basic stubs, then categorising them as they develop into more fully-fledged reference items.

What other metaphors are useful here?

External links

A brief history & ethos of the digital garden - Maggie Appleton

This is a core article that goes through the history and some of the background of digital gardens.

How to set up your own digital garden - Ness Labs

My blog is a digital garden - Joel Hooks

Personal description of the thought-patterns that led Joel to set up his digital garden.

Digital Garden ToS

Building a Digital Garden - Tom Critchlow

J Zhao

A great example of a combination blog/digital garden. I’m likely to steal a bunch from here.