Time to do some follow-up thinking out loud about my earlier post on blogs and digital gardens because, as happens when blogosphere-like (gardenosphere-like?) things happen, there’s been some additional chatter around and about.
Yeah, don’t get it. I write a post, publish it, then rarely edit it again. Reading about what a digital garden is makes me feel like those who have embraced the [concept] have simply moved the onus of content curation from the computer/database, to their brain.
This likely depends upon how someone is managing their digital garden. With enough tags, backlinks (or wikilinks), and search, I imagine digital gardeners have figured out how to navigate what they do. It’s just that I haven’t figured out how to navigate what they do, but that’s a me problem not a them problem.
There is a much higher rate of discovering new things and interesting ideas in digital garden feeds than blog feeds. People generally write blogs for others first, whereas they write digital gardens for themselves first, and that is where the magic is.
I feel like this is another bit where blogging is being viewed through the lens of what content marketing did to the form than something about the form itself. I don’t follow content marketers, I follow bloggers, and as the current state of my RSS reader can attest, I’m not lacking for “new things and interesting ideas”.
Chuck’s post mostly is a call for digital gardens to have RSS feeds, and this raises a technical question to which I don’t know the answer. My memory might be faulty, but my recollection is that generally speaking an RSS feed doesn’t pick up edits to old posts and pages.
I’ve mostly understood digital gardens to be a matter of pages that are updated as new thoughts spring to mind, which means RSS readers would need somehow to be pulling a feed based on update date, not publish date. How are digital gardeners dealing with this?
(For the record, here is how I try to deal with blogger names: the first time I link them, I try to give their full name. Thereafter, I’ll generally refer to them by their first name. This is basically inconsistent with how I refer to writers of news reports, where I’ll use their full name and thereafter use their last. Handles or pseudonyms I just use as-is.)
Which is interesting, as I don’t think Joel is directing the “everything you post has to be polished to perfection” comment at sites/blogs like mine, Kev’s, Whiona’s, or Bix’s, but rather at the hyper-monetized blogs that took hold of the concept of a blog. I think that both Joel and Kev agree that our personal blogs don’t have to be highly polished and should be rough around the edges.
Obviously, I can’t speak for Joel’s intent, only respond to his words. I do agree, and I think most people in this conversation do agree, that what Joel and others were calling out was content marketing via blog, but a lot of these references I’ve been running into seem to just call this “blogging”, and Joel certainly was being deliberate in pronouncing their site not a blog because of it.
Really, I just think this a bit shortchanges blogging as a form, even if a case could be made that it’s collateral damage, when it’s unnecessary for one form of website to throw another form of website under the bus. Except for content marketers. Throw all of them under any and every bus. Then find more buses.
“They aren’t strictly organized by their publication date.” But I hazard that in most cases and on most websites they are. My take on a digital garden versus a standard personal blog is that you might use your homepage to curate a selection of posts that you’re proud of.
This is where I hoist myself on that petard again about words needing to mean things, though.
I don’t think a digital garden means “a blog with a curated homepage”. That’s just a blog. My understanding of digital gardens has been that they tend toward pages, not posts (for all intents and purposes), and the individual pages are worked on continually as the gardener thinks more about whatever is the topic of the page.
Blogs, on the other hand, tend toward posts, not pages, and while any given post might receive an update it’s generally something that happens in the near-term after publication, otherwise the blogger simply writes a new post referencing the older one.
These are fundamentally different and very distinct modes of organizing one’s public thoughts, and I’m fascinated by the digital garden in part because it’s so foreign to the way my brain operates when it comes to information.
It’s weird that people have the idea that thinking out loud is a new idea for blogging.
I’m not so sure that anyone (at least anyone I’ve been reading) has been claiming this is a new idea. I do think that to some extent as this latest new generation of bloggers is getting started they are simply stating that this is what they’re doing. (Or established bloggers reiterating that this is what they are doing.) New people discovering blogging as “thinking out loud” isn’t the same as people saying it’s a new idea. If anything, it’s people embracing or discovering an established, central tenet of the form.
So the idea of a public “garden” is just a response to journalists getting the story totally wrong about blogging in the early days.
It’s certainly true that reporters have trouble getting the story right about blogging, but most of what I’ve been seeing when it comes to digital gardens (per further above) has been either a reaction to “blogs as content marketing”—which is the fault of content marketers and also of bloggers who fled the form for social media—or writers with a fundamentally different way of thinking out loud.
In the end, both blogs and digital gardens offer valuable spaces for self-expression on the web. Instead of getting lost in the details, let’s celebrate the diversity of online spaces and continue creating and sharing our thoughts and spaces on the web.
This, indeed in the end, is the rub, although I do wish I understood better how even to follow a digital garden in a way that respects the form but doesn’t hurt my own brain.
- One thing I do want to push back on, and I suspect Maggie Appleton as many people’s origin point for this, is the idea of blogging being performative while digital gardening is not. To be fair, she herself uses the phrase “less performative”, but I’ve seen some folks ditch that modifier.
If you’re doing your thinking in public, you’re performing it. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it on a blog or a digital garden. Arguably, staking out a position of “what they do is performative, what I do is not” itself is a performative act.
Again, I get that much of this was in response to content marketing’s takeover of the public perception of what blogging was and is, but writ large the distinctions between blogging and digital gardening in terms of their respective performativity I think are negligible.
It’d be just as easy to call digital gardening more performative because you’re putting on public display seemingly every random or passing thought you’re having on the subject at hand, but I think that would just as unfair.
If you don’t want the performance part to apply to you, keep your thoughts in a private Notion or Are.na. If you’re thinking aloud in public, that’s performative by its very nature, and ideas of being less or more so I don’t find especially compelling.