Creative Problem Solver. Programmer. Bodysurfing. Sometime Comics.
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Digital Gardens

I attended the Homebrew Website Club Europe this morning (evening in the UK and Europe). These Zoom calls are always an excellent opportunity to hear folks ideas, thoughts, and ambitions.

Jo is often on the HWC meetings and her site uses the .garden top level domain extension. Her website is a kind of digital garden: her art and ideas and things she watched and pages she liked.

In the meeting today the name Maggie Appleton came up (I think maybe by James?). I had no idea that the term “digital garden” has a rich history. (It feels great to learn new history about the internet. I feel happy that people are thinking deeply about how we use these digital spaces). Maggie Appleton wrote an extensive backgrounder: “A Brief History & Ethos of the Digital Garden” 3 years ago. Charmingly the way the piece is attributed is “Planted 3 years ago.” Appleton’s description of a “digital garden” is as…

a collection of evolving ideas that aren’t strictly organised by their publication date. They’re inherently exploratory – notes are linked through contextual associations. They aren’t refined or complete – notes are published as half-finished thoughts that will grow and evolve over time. They’re less rigid, less performative, and less perfect than the personal websites we’re used to seeing.

She is not the originator of the term. For that, she credits Mark Bernstein.

Mark Bernstein’s 1998 essay Hypertext Gardens appears to be the first recorded mention of the term. Mark was part of the early hypertext crowd – the developers figuring out how to arrange and present this new medium.

That presentation: Hypertext Gardens: Delightful Vistas is great, this sentence–(from 1998!)–stood out to me:

Today’s Web designers are taught to avoid irregularity, but in a hypertext, as in a garden, it is the artful combination of regularity and irregularity that awakens interest and maintains attention.

I love that.

The short presentation is filled with metaphors for experience that resonate for me. I love delight and serendipity.

The whole presentation is a kind of meditation. About a notion of a gentle stroll through a garden. When you take your time you might notice things you never noticed before. I have a comic “Was that there before?” on that theme. I’m a big fan of garden as metaphor. I’ve been thinking in terms of human relationships along those lines for several years. I wrote about that recently in Al & My Friendship-as-Garden Theory.

I am glad to learn more history on the term digital garden.

In looking more at gardens I discovered that in August last year there was an IndieWeb Carnival last year on the topic. So… What’s an IndieWeb Carnival?

Each month, the carnival has a different host. At the beginning of the month, the host comes up with the topic, and posts it both on their website and here. Then, other people post their submissions and alert the host about them. At the end of the month, the host collects all the received submissions and posts an overview of it.

Source: IndieWeb Carnival, on the IndieWeb Wiki.

Mark Sutherland hosted the IndieWeb Carnival for August 2023 with the theme of Gardening.

I found 5 participating posts from that IndieWeb Carnival by searching. There may be more out there but if so they may not have been “spidered” by search engines either inadvertently or intentionally. (Jo’s post on Search Engine Hostility is worth your time.)

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