My digital garden is not a blog
A deep dive into the world of digital gardens to understand the whys and whats behind this novel way of sharing thoughts and ideas on internet.
Welcome to my Digital Garden
Hey there stranger, thank you for taking the time to read my brief note on Digital Garden. As you might have imagined, this site happens to be my digital garden. I urge you to explore my site starting from the home note to experience the concept of Digital Garden yourself before reading about it here through the rest of the sections.
What is a Digital Garden?
A digital garden is a collection of ideas, notes, opinions, or thoughts that do not follow any strict organizational structure or follow the usual conventions that one might see in a personal blog or website.
Digital Garden is a rebellion against perfectionism.
Try not to confuse it with the Digital gardens music festival that I keep hearing a lot about.
Lush Gardens vs Concrete Blogs: How digital gardens are different from a normal blog?
A digital garden doesn’t follow the conventions that are generally followed by a personal blog. When the internet began, blogs were a space for personal expression, where people build out stuff, sharing whatever things that came to their mind. But with the explosive commercialization of the internet, a personal blog became more of a shallow version of how you present yourself to the world, more like an extension of a resume or cv.
As the rise of social media took whatever authenticity people had in cyberspace, blogs also succumbed to it partially if not completely. Personal blogs suddenly became not so personal anymore. The emergence of the digital garden is our fight back against this! A space to write candidly, a space to be transparent, and a space to germinate and grow ideas - that’s the dream that comes with a digital garden.
Blogs have boundaries, while gardens break boundaries to form connections
Blogs are boxes. If you search google right now you will find a million answers regarding how you should structure the content in a blog or which is the best service you should use to get started blogging. But here is the thing, blog posts are finished products. They are meant to be perfect by design. When you hit publish on a blog, that’s it. It is a permanent act of publishing in a way, or this is what the commonly accepted notion is.
Honestly, as humans are we ever truly consistent? Aren’t we people who grow with each and every experience in life? Opinions, beliefs, perspectives, and ideas, all change with time. If that’s so why create boxes of content through blog posts? Why not create a digital garden full of ideas and thoughts that can grow, change and evolve along with you?
I feel blogs are like concrete buildings - they look grand, majestic, and perfect. That’s the thing, they have to look a certain way and that means a lot of work has to go behind just planning a concrete structure. And once you build the structure is set for life, as in the case of a blog. But digital gardens are exactly like a real garden, they can react to the seasons (your current interests and exploration), and some seeds might bloom and flower (as explore deeper and deeper into a particular idea). The point is a digital garden is fluid, I can rearrange the structure of my entire garden. The delineation from time leaves opens a lot of possibilities for how a person can interact with a digital garden.
Organized by time, Organised by context
If you take any blog you can easily spot a “latest” section or “recent posts” section. A blog is built in such a way that the latest is given supreme importance, everything is hidden underneath in an ever-ending list that is organized by the date of creation.
There is nothing wrong with it. But then the newness of information doesn’t really correlate with its inherent value. If that is so, then there wouldn’t be any timeless principles in our world.
Entries in a digital garden is not bound by time. You enter a digital garden from a contextual entry point and it has nothing to do with its time of creation.
Key characteristics of a Digital Garden
There are no wrong ways to build your own digital garden. Although I advise trying to build your own things to experience the thrill of creating something completely new, as much experimentation as time permits.
Digital gardens are made up of interconnected notes. Each note may contain an idea, a concept, or a thought. I do think that it is a less serious version of Luhmann’s Zettelkasten system.
You decide how information is organized within your digital garden. A digital garden can be treated as your own private knowledge management system, build to your demand, but available to the larger public. The freeform structure of the digital garden will help improve the discoverability of ideas.
Every knowledge in the world is useless unless there is a context to which it can be applied and added. Unlike time-bound blog posts, notes in a digital garden are always written with context in perspective.
Your digital garden is the place where you collect your ideas. As you interact and experience the world you are exposed to a wide variety of intellectual stimuli. It is these interactions that aid in your growth as a human being. The diversity of the information you collect rounds you overall intellect. The same can expressed without boundaries through a digital garden. It is the only space in the internet when you explore content diversity of your choosing.
Writing is not a one-time act. Through your digital garden, you can convert your writing into an organic process that is spread over a longer period of time. And you are not forced to write about just one topic at a time. You get to explore multiple threads at the same time, developing, reviewing and refining them with time, while it is shared in a public space.
Digital gardens as a function of discovery
Blogs are boring. Because when you land on a blog it doesn’t force you to explore and discover something new. Yes, there are blogs that can show you related posts to take you from one post to the other. But what if you can get the user to go on a journey, taking his attention from one context to other, as if curiosity is the only thing that is driving them? Digital gardens give you the opportunity to do just that while freeing your ideas from the prison of time-adjusted feeds.
Benefits of a Digital Garden
Start experiencing friction-less writing
Learn to sit on an idea over a long period of time
Your own personal library that grows over time in the directions you chose organically - Ideas tested by time
Ability to learn in public
Helps you think about your own writing and thinking mind frames from a meta-level
Explore some digital gardens in the wild
Examples of some of the finest and most interesting digital gardens in the world. Will be updating very soon.
Building your own digital garden
How do you build a digital garden?
I can probably explain how I created this site and share all the resources that went into it.
Tools of the trade
Digital gardens are fairly easier to build especially with the arrival of the new jam stack frameworks and equally revolutionary note-taking apps that are available in the market.
For note taking: Roam, Obsidian, Logseq, and Notion are excellent. More on this later.
For building the site: Jekyll, Gatsby, Roam Garden
What type of content should your digital garden have?
One question people ask themselves when starting a blog is what do you write about? After an intense session of google research, you end up with some of the following answers:
Write about things that you are immensely passionate about.
Do not write about everything that you fancy.
If you want more people to discover your blog, you should pick a niche and commit to it
Focus on one of two topics are the same time, to build authority
And the list is long and the gist of the matter remains the same. None of these are wrong, to rank better on google and
Organizing your Digital Gardens
This is my favorite aspect when it comes to looking at other people’s digital gardens. How one organizes their digital garden is a direct reflection of how they prioritize and organize information inside their brain.
There are some commonly accepted rules. There are some niche-accepted practices. But my advice is simple “you do you”. Keep meddling with the structure as much as you want. I will try to share some approaches here in the coming days.
The Million Dollar Question: Should you start a digital garden?
Who would benefit from a digital garden? Is it worth your time to start a digital garden? Can a blog and a digital garden coexist with each other? I will be answering these questions here in the coming days or months.
To truly understand what digital gardens are all about you have to read and understand it from a bunch of different sources. Here are some links to get you primed.
PS: This entire note is a work in progress. I have no idea when I might complete this. But if you have some specific questions that you think I might be able to help you with, feel free to reach out to me.
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