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Tendering a digital garden

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When developing a digital garden, there is the idea of tendering it. From a technical perspective it is relatively easy: just write down notes with links to other notes. With enough time, the notes will start to form a graph of interconnected thoughts, insights, and ideas.

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Graph of Notes of this website

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.

Tendering a garden is the most important task

Tendering means re-reading. Adding tags, adding new links. Digital gardens offer a serendipitous way of encountering notes by searching terms, but we should never forget that there is much more to gain if the path is guided by the system itself. We can edit the notes, split them. Create new children notes. Leave links to empty notes for the moment we decide to create them.

Tags can be great, but also dangerous. Tagging a note means that we know how we want to find it back. For example, I tag some of my notes with a "reading" tag. I use it only for the books I read. So if I want to search back what I've read I'm a click away. Does this give me any insights? No, but is a way of accountability with myself.

Having this level of meta-awareness is very tough, and very often we will be mistaken. I find that adding tags often conflicts with notes themselves. I have a note "Digital Garden", should I add the tag as well? Or what if the opposite happens, that a tag becomes a note. With bidirectional linking, tags become much less relevant. On the other hand, I tend to use tags for transient things, like grouping notes while following a specific path. Probably those tags will not be relevant in some years, and if I find myself going through the same notes again, I'll re-tag them accordingly.

Links are the fundamental organizational scaffold that keeps a garden together. We should be able to navigate ideas by following links. However, there is a very high chance that we forget what we wrote about years (or even weeks) ago. Therefore, every time we write a note, we should actively see what other notes are in the same space. To what other note can we link it and explore the links thereafter. Are there more notes that can be related to each other?

I know this is time consuming and sometimes we simply don't have the energy to do it. What I do when I have no time is create the note, so I don't forget what I'm thinking about, and mark it with a tag or by putting it in a special folder. These notes are also called transient notes.


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