In its most fundamental definition, a digital garden is a collection of notes taken on an electronic medium. In the past few years there has been a movement towards different degrees of openness online. In her book, Working in Public , Nadia Eghbal explores how people decide to build software tools in the open. In the same line, Andy Matuschak decided to make public his thinking process by publishing his notes, even if not in a final form.
There are two aspects of digital gardening: the creation of knowledge and the dissemination of that knowledge. N.B.: I am talking about knowledge and not content . A digital garden can be private, which means that it only becomes a way of structuring notes in the long run. On the other hand, a garden can be made public, or partially public, and then it becomes a way of learning in public , but it can also become a new way of blogging .
I became intrigued by the two intersecting worlds of generating content and better thinking . Taking notes is a discipline, that can be harvested if there is a reward associated with he practice (see: are rewards useful to build a habit ). In the case of making the notes public, the reward comes in the form of a body of work that people can find useful, or in the worst case helps me build my online persona (see: Grow your online persona with smart performative blogging ).
Digital gardens have different moments, aspects, use cases, and approaches:
- Structure of a digital garden
- Tendering a digital garden
- Digital Gardens for Knowledge Generation
- Digital Gardens for Content Creation
Gardening in Public
Two of the examples I mentioned above are of people who decided to learn in public . Both the notes of Andy Matuschak, or Gwern 's website evolve over time. Some of their thoughts are more stable than others, but you can see the entire process happening.
I agree that this approach is not for everyone, the consequences are still poorly understood, since there is not enough data. This level of openness could not have been achieved until relatively recently. An intermediate option is to follow what I define as a new way of blogging , that does not require to make public the intermediate steps of our thinking, but can help increase the quality of our content and lower the barrier to writing . (See: What happens when notes become long )
The biggest challenge is to find a system that satisfies everybody. I, for instance, like taking notes offline, in plain markdown. However, I was able to develop the programs needed to compile the notes as a public website (see: how i built this website ). I think there is still room for improving the available tools (see: digital learning tools based on the luhman method and leveraging the digital medium for better note taking ).
Gardening is not just collecting
Something very important to point out is that to properly grow a garden, we must not become collectors. Gardening requires actively creating knowledge on every note.
These are not Evergreen notes . Most “storage-oriented” notes will never be useful again ( Most people take only transient notes ). More importantly, this framing misses that it’s possible for note-writing to be the “real” work ( Evergreen note-writing as fundamental unit of knowledge work ).
If we put our own voice on each note (as opposed to quoting by copy/pasting), then the most part of the work is done. We can go from content consumers to content producers simply by putting thought and our context into what we write (see: hermeneutic circle , lower the barrier to writing ).
Gardens for Inspiration
I have modeled this website on the following gardens, although not all have the same approach, nor are actively maintained:
These are the other notes that link to this one.