At work a few months ago, I mentioned the concept of digital gardens on a call. Not everyone knew what digital gardens were, and the term means different things to different people using it, so I put together a P2 about what I think a “digital garden” is.
What is a digital garden?
- A collection of thoughts, ideas, highlights, annotations, quotes, summaries, and notes that are richer than a tweet, but lack the timestamped nature of a blog post or published essay.
- Digital gardens are tended to and evolve over time. Sometimes they grow, sometimes they get trimmed back. Though they change, they have the four-dimensional permanence of a river or Theseus’s Ship.
- A digital garden embodies the nature of working in public and learning out loud: Sharing your current understanding and allowing others to learn from it.
- Like entangled roots and interwoven vines, the individual plants of digital gardens form a latticework of bi-directionally linked content that supports and encourages bridging and pollination to further understanding.
to link, annotate, change, summarize, copy, and share — these are the verbs of gardeningMike Caulfield in The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral
Where is this term from?
Essays to check out
- Of Digital Streams, Campfires and Gardens by Tom Critchlow
- My blog is a digital garden, not a blog by Joel Hooks
- The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral by Mike Caulfield (a WP.com site!)
- How the Blog Broke the Web by Amy Hoy
- You and your mind garden by Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Commonly used tools
- Hypothesis for annotating
- Gatsby Brain Theme
- Simply Jekyll theme
- Quotebacks for quoting
- Further reading: A collection of tools, digital gardeners, and notes on Github.
Some thoughts, digital garden-style
- Web technology enables some cool things:
- Version control allows users ability to see how digital artifacts change over time.
- Bi-directional linking brings the Wikipedia-style wormhole exploration to other websites, increasing the scope of knowledge exploration.
- Live preview of links (transclusion) on hover or focus
- Linked footnotes and sidenotes with references
- Highlighting and sharing/reblogging/regardening of other content and notification with trackbacks, webmentions, and pingbacks.
- Hierarchical post types for hierarchical content, tagging for non-hierarchical content
- Links to relevant related content by search indexing
- Real-time glossaries for slang and jargon
- P2tenberg (the block-based comment editor built into P2) is awesome for front-end editing and is likely crucial to any digital garden built on WordPress.
- Public wikis are digital gardens of sorts, but build to be highly collaborative, whereas digital gardening is more of a personal endeavor, or at least relatively small groups.
- Imagine if we applied Edward Tufte’s principles in a web-first way, rather than just porting his style guide to CSS.