There are two aspects of digital gardening: the creation of knowledge and the dissemination of that knowledge. 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 at least partially public), and then can be regarded as a way of learning in public , but it can also be a new way of blogging .
The idea of tendering a garden is relatively simple from a technical perspective: just write down notes with links to other notes whenever an idea crosses your mind. An idea may be triggered by a podcast , an article , or any other interaction you have in your day.
With enough time, the notes will start to form a graph of interconnected thoughts. This, in itself, sounded to me like a great idea. Each note is a seed, that has to potential to develop branches. At the same time, each branch is a seed itself, and therefore the garden becomes a graph. But, gardening sounds better than graphing .
There are many theories around on how to structure the links between the notes, if they should have keywords or not, if you are supposed to find them by searching or by serendipity. To be honest, I am still finding my way. My only objective right now is to lower the barrier to writing , so that the things I encounter, learn, and build, can be quickly documented.
Gardening in Public
There is another aspect to the gardening itself, which is the idea of learning in public . I think this idea must be carefully evaluated, since learning in public means there is a high chance of being wrong in public . Learning must include mistakes or it would be only regurgitating content that others generated.
Today, it is extremely easy to build a website and moreover it is incredibly easy to make your notes public. It may be useful to check how i built this website to have an idea of the effort required to set it up (relatively low), and how easy it is to maintain it in the long run. However, what I am doing in this space is a mixed between a garden and a blog, which I think is very close to a new way of blogging , which I have been looking for so long.
Interconnecting Public Spaces
Gardening normally requires links to external sources, such as podcasts, books, other garden, other blogs. Some tools I am exploring and trying to implement in this very space are: Webmentions , and Quotebacks . I think there are still many options that were not completely explored yet on how to interconnect the web beyond what hyperlinks do.
Gardening is not just collecting
Something very important to point out is that to properly grow a garden, you must not only collect notes. Gardening requires actively creating knowledge on every note taking action.
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 ).
This means that copy/pasting is highly discouraged, while re-writing on your own terms is highly encouraged. I like this approach, because it develops my sense of ownership on the content I'm releasing.
Gardens for Inspiration
I have modeled this website on the following gardens, although not all have the same approach, nor are actually maintained:
- Notes by Andy Matuschak
- Mental Nodes by Anne-Laure le Cunff (Looks abandoned)
- Tom Critchlow
- Joel Hooks
See also: What happens when notes become long ?