digital garden

Digital gardens are a relatively new way of publishing and tending to one’s ideas, knowledge, and thought explorations.

They’re frequently made up of works-in-progress in the form of notes—often unpolished and unfinished—that are deeply interconnected and linked with one another. Most importantly, they are created for you, the creator.

“With blogging, you’re talking to a large audience,” he says. “With digital gardening, you’re talking to yourself. You focus on what you want to cultivate over time.”

This note is part of a small series highlighting my digital ecosystem.

The gardening language is a beautiful analogy for how we plant, tend, and grow our ideas publicly. Some bloom faster than others, some are evergreen, and some of the seeds just don’t take. Such is gardening—and creativity 🌱.

Seeds need to be germinated properly and many don’t root despite best intentions. My idea seeds are planted in one place—Drafts—germinated in another—Roam Research—and once they sprout into seedlings, they are moved to the garden to be tended to and matured. As of this writing, Obsidian is for tending my digital garden.

Many digital gardens adhere to some basic tenets which help cultivate the digital soil in a healthy and effective way.

  • Linking notes to one another, bidirectionally, is essential
  • Most pages are somewhere between low fidelity notes and polished essays
  • The garden is a system of networked thought designed to cross-pollinate and facilitate the capturing, linking, and remixing of ideas
  • Each garden provides a source of inspiration more effective than a spark file due to their heavily interconnected notes and continuous ability to explore and document thought non-linearly
  • They’re all about thinking out loud and in public and working with the garage door open
  • Many strive to be collaborative and inviting of others

When exploring the garden, links are clicked through without any linearity—every path through the garden is unique.Non-linear writing’s ability to jump from sentence to sentence, idea to idea, changes the way the mind thinks through ideas, and digital gardens are a representation of that non-linear thinking, just in a public fashion.

When you learn in public, you build connection between ideas and people. Every time you tend to an idea you create an opportunity to share original work with others. It also helps that public notes build authority and trust.

Tending to digital gardens helps make sure you always have something to write about, consistently build a body of work, and frequently have the opportunity to share your web of thinking with others, as a beacon for likeminded people.

Finding topics to write about is easier when a body of notes already exists upon which ideas can grow, so digital gardens aim to facilitate curiosity, creativity, and creation.

Inspiration and Examples of Digital Gardens

Maggie Appleton — A Brief History & Ethos of the Digital Garden Ness Labs — You and your mind garden
Tom Critchlow — Digital Gardens
Andy Matuschak — About these notes

How to setup your own digital garden

My workflow is MacOS-specific, as Obsidian is for tending my digital garden and it is native to MacOS. If you would like to learn more about my workflow, I made this for you: Obsidian Jekyll workflow.

I made this site to learn through discourse. Your thoughts here👇 or on Twitter are encouraged!

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