~4 min read|
For as long as I’ve been writing words on the internet, I’ve connected the words that I create in a paginated chronological format. This is the “traditional” blog style website. A linear newest-first sorted chronologically oriented list of posts.
I’m convinced that paginated posted sorted chronologically ****in’ sucks. Joel Hooks, Digital Garden
When I read Joel’s perspective, it felt like someone who understood deeply what I’d sensed for a long time. Linear writing isn’t useful.
I’ve been maintaining this blog for a few years now and for the most part, I’ve been trying to learn daily:
If you had to set one metric to use as a leading indicator for yourself as a knowledge worker, the best I know might be the number of Evergreen notes written per day.
But, before I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t have the tools or the perspective to take full advantage of that desire. I was thinking linearly, trying to draw a straight line where there wasn’t one! Over the past year, I’ve been experimenting with migrating toward a Digital Garden, to writing evergreen notes, and adopting a more emergent order to how and what I write.
I’ve built a pretty consistent habit of writing. I write about all sorts of things and publish them here - lately, it’s been mostly technical in nature, but I’ve also written about economics, education, business, and what a good life looks like.
As I built that habit, however, I noticed a mounting pressure (self-imposed) to write about technical things exclusively. It was like this site was becoming a place only about that and that each post was “content” for others. Joel writes about feeling a similar impulse in On Writing More where he says “This idea [of treating writing as content] is toxic and led me to publish less and less over time.”
Producing content was never the intention of this site. I wanted this to be a place for “Notes on Software and Life”. I want to write because writing is how I have a conversation - with myself and with others. It’s how I form and explore ideas.
Reframing how I think about this site from a “blog” - a chronological log of daily passings - to a garden opens up a number of opportunities for organization - many of which are still in process, but are related to an evolution toward evergreen Notes. With this shift I hope this site feels more like walking in a garden - exploring topics that might be interesting, jumping to related material, and delighting in new found connections.
Why do I find digital gardens valuable? They allow multiple varieties of plants to blossom! In my garden, I have / will cultivate:
Speaking of posts, my notes are the plants of this garden. When thinking about how this garden comes together, the garden is the collection while the notes are atoms. A note will (ideally) communicate a single idea. On its own, it might not be much - though as a collective, hopefully it’s creates a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Gardens can grow in unexpected ways. With that in mind, I don’t expect this list to be exhaustive or future proof. Rather than pigeon hole myself into a hierarchy I’ll prefer associations. Returning to Joel’s observation that chronologically sorted sites make for a terrible way to explore, these associations between notes will hopefully make each journey through the garden unique and insightful.
I’m not abandoning the chronological impulses entirely, however. I still date my notes - this one for example was in percolation for over a year before I published it. Why have dates at all? Dates provide context. For example, a post about fear, uncertainty and doubt in 2020 is different from one written in 2019. I’m thinking about dates like a vintage. Knowing what year the grapes in a wine were harvested is informative - even if the thing that you really care about is how the wine tastes (Quarter inch drill bit vs. a quarter inch hole).
With all of that said, this little corner of the internet is for me - so, while I hope your visit is pleasant, it’s also not for you. It’s for me - a place for me to write, to explore, to converse with myself, to think, to remember.
Hi there and thanks for reading! My name's Stephen. I live in Chicago with my wife, Kate, and dog, Finn. Want more? See about and get in touch!