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Digital gardens let you cultivate your own little bit of the internet (technologyreview.com)
87 points by polm23 on Nov 5, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 38 comments



For a bit I was running these "Personal Website Tours"[0] and had a couple of folks mentioned in this article do one! They're basically just an interview around their websites, how they maintain them, how they originated. It's fascinating seeing the different workflows people come up with, and how they intersect with their personal goals.

Having your own website is an incredibly powerful tool because of the diversity of ways you can use it. It's only getting easier to do so, especially with the massive amount of static site generators available today. I do think it can get even more accessible though. I ran a lil course [1] earlier this month that aimed to provide a supportive environment for people getting started with it.

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEXbN99LY3OCarUeXcxWe...

[1]: https://hyperlink.academy/courses/internet-homesteading/22


Check this podcast out[1]. Guest speaks about their personal website (and HTML energy).

EDIT: hey, your tours are absolutely awesome!

[1] https://html.energy/


Thanks! I'm a big fan of html.energy.

Also, I'm planning on picking up the tours again soon, so if you, or anyone else, has some suggestions for folks it'd be cool to see, let me know!


I have some varied interests - conlangs, local history, retrocomputing, music theory, etc. And a while ago, I noticed I would watch a lot of videos or browse a lot of articles about these topics, but I wasn't absorbing much. Nor was I doing anything with this knowledge. So I changed my focus - I would organize the information I was getting, write my own personal conclusions, and start digging through primary sources (and in the case of applied knowledge, actually try things out).

And it worked! I feel my knowledge of things has deepened, and my interests have been rekindled. It's a lot of fun and very relaxing to do.

Essential to all this is a personal wiki that I keep. I'm using Zim (https://zim-wiki.org) which most of you are probably familiar with. I don't often publish anything there - it's just local files, for now.

Never heard of "Digital Gardens" but based on the reddit group they mentioned in the article, it looks like there is an emerging community of people doing this.


What does music theory mean to you? Is there a mathematical introductory take on the topic? Can it be studied without an interest in music, but rather for appreciation of patterns?

I've seen the term many times before in context I found appealing, but the wiki page talks mainly about the connection to actual music.


When I talk to other musicians, most use the term "music theory" to refer to the technical side of musical composition - understanding scales, rhythmic divisions, approaches to harmony, etc. A lot of this isn't really theoretical per se, at least not in the scientific sense, and I know a nitpicky guitar teacher with a masters degree who insists it's wrong to call this 'music theory' (and I suppose he also corrects people whenever they say the new millennium started in 2000).

And then there's the real 'theoretical' music theory, which does what you might expect: theorizes how music works. What is music? What makes music good? What makes a particular song 'tick'? This can get pretty abstract, and might involve some nifty math. Still not strictly scientific, though there may be some science involved.

If you have a theory as to what makes good music, you're naturally going to write music that tests your theory, hence the association between music theory and compositional practice. They are technically distinct, but most musicians use the term loosely. So that's probably where you're confused.

I would not recommend learning about music theory unless you're interested in actual music. Most of your time learning music theory will be spent analyzing actual music, so if you don't like it you're gonna have a bad time. And personally, the benefit of music theory for me is applying its lessons to music that I write. So if you don't even like music, I'm not sure what the appeal would be.


Pretty cool to see renewed interest in personal wikis, personal websites, and digital gardens after all these years. I remember writing my first bare HTML website in the early 2000s using Microsoft Frontpage. How times have changed!

As people grow curious to create their own digital garden a claim their own space on the Internet, I found that the main blocker was getting started. They have ideas, notes, and thoughts, and they're ready to share them on the Internet, but they don't know where to get started. To reduce the barrier to entry, I created a simple digital garden template [0] along with a step-by-step tutorial to set it up [1]. More than 70 people have forked the repo to try it out.

Once the first step of setting the technical part up is complete, it's easy to start sharing ideas with the rest of the world. :)

[0] https://github.com/maximevaillancourt/digital-garden-jekyll-...

[1] https://maximevaillancourt.com/blog/setting-up-your-own-digi...


Isn't this simply talking about personal websites? They haven't gone away, a lot moved to wordpress which gives them a cookie cutter feel, but a lot of other ones are still independent and feel like they're on their own.


From the description, this is more about personal wikis or notebooks. Individual pages may get edited again and again, and nothing is necessarily in a "polished for publication" state.

In exploring new notebook apps -- like Notion, which allows you to publish pages and subpages -- I've found numerous examples of people having basically their own notebooks open on the web, such as https://notes.andymatuschak.org/


As someone with a site like that, I've found it to be very freeing to just publish some thoughts and tweak them over time. When I tried to blog, I felt too much pressure to make something super high-quality and definitive, that will stand the tests of time and never be edited... So I ended up publishing nothing besides the "I'm starting to blog again!" posts or something small and safe.

+ By tweaking over time, the work can unwittingly become bigger, better, or more polished than it'd have been if I'd tried to make something so intense from the start.


I think it's a move away not from WordPress specifically, but the kind of structure a "blog" providers. Personal sites for so long have been: home, about, portfolio, blog. Digital gardens seem to be more along the lines of: I'm gonna dump whatever I want here in whatever style and structure I like because it's my site and you can't tell me no.


They haven't gone away, a lot moved to wordpress which gives them a cookie cutter feel

If you come to my WordPress site to ogle my amazing, individual, and unique web design skills, then you definitely came for the wrong reasons.


> They haven't gone away, a lot moved to wordpress

Very dumbed down: the garden is the wiki, the blog is the stream. They both have different roles and many gardeners let them complement each other.

Listen to this if you are interested in understanding more: https://archive.org/details/gardens-and-streams-wikis-blogs-...

Here's very well tended garden: https://philosopher.life/


o7, `/salute`

I am surprised to see this. My name is h0p3. It's a pleasure to meet you.


Life is full of surprises! My name is not unicornporn. The pleasure is very much on my side! Perhaps I should write you a fan mail...


Hai there, ¬unicornporn (forgive the dad joke, por favor). Indeed, life is, nomad. ^‿^

Perhaps it is one of your names? Well, whoever you are, it's my honor. And, for the record, maybe you already have spoken with me, for all I know.

I am, sadly, absurdly slow in my letter-writing (it's downright shameful), and I don't want to disappoint any further than I probably already have. I will continue to work on that front. But, I am also happy to piece together a faster channel. I think we have an enormous amount in common.

As to this account, I have run into it a few times (this is my second time through your account), but I've been too shy to say anything. You are quite a beacon on this forum.

It is very rare for me to speak with my voice to anyone who isn't basically family or in my physical proximity (and even then, I'm often quiet). However, for an irrational reason I can't quite put my finger on, I have a good feeling about you. If you are ever up for it, I would gladly speak in voicechat with you.


I wish I could make one of those blushing emojis. We live in unicode times after all?

Voice sounds great, but English is not my native tongue and you'll probably be disappointed if you expect me to be well articulated in audio. I write English every day, but I speak English about twice a year. Hence, my English mind moves slower than my fingers dance across my mechanical keyboard.

End of disclaimer. I will contact you by other means and many years from now, when someone asks how we me met, we'll just give them this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25006561


Yes. It's a rebranding. But I've used the term before myself when trying to highlight the two classes of web that exist today. http://superkuh.com/blog/2020-02-22-1.html


Wordpress is agribusiness that's why Wordpress sites tend toward uniformity.


They have been largely supplanted by Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. A resurgence in the concept of personal websites/digital gardens and protocols like Gemini is encouraging.


Of course, but doesn't "digital gardens" sound much nicer and friendlier? That's the point.


I think a lot of us programmers did this years ago when it was still deeply uncool.

We need to bring back geocities subdomains for this purpose.


Next best thing: https://neocities.org/


I genuinely think there's a big desire out there for an easy way to carve out a small, personalized niche of the internet, a la GeoCities/MySpace.


You're not wrong: https://neocities.org



No affiliation (beyond being a happy user myself), but I really feel like https://neocities.org is a wonderful little project that makes it easy to create one's own digital garden like this article is talking about.

Much love to them and similar projects. The old web isn't gone, you just have to know where to look, which is very "old web" anyway, right? :)


Throwing my hat in the ring: https://philosopher.life/


Looks great. Unfortunately it overrides the back button, which could be an issue.


Well, thank you. And, I appreciate your honesty.

I would not be surprised if you already know what I think on the matter. You seem to have a strong grasp of how to do it well.

I am able to navigate back on my browser, but it requires an extra step. I am not terribly competent, and I've lots of things to work on. I think the backbutton overriding is a small price to pay. I realize it may bounce some people, and that's okay too. I think my empathic interlocutors end up requiring foolish degrees of curiosity and even tolerance for far larger hiccups and problems than that too.

Tangent: stepping through the history of the story river can be useful for this kind of object, and I like that it can be easily and fully downloaded for private offline reading/searching/modification too. It's not meant just for the web (and its conventions); I aim to distribute however I must.


I don't mean to criticise your work or be the typical nitpicking HN commenter that you see downvoted all the way to the bottom of the comments page. After all, it's your own digital world and you should feel you have total freedom to build it in whatever way suits you. Don't feel you have to conform to the conventions on your own private space.

As for bouncing people: if the content comes from the right type of a person, I'm willing to jump through some hoops to explore what they have to say. Not everyone does, but to me, the content is its own reward for persistence. Unique, personal spaces that someone chose to share fascinate me, so I like to have a look around when I discover one, just to see what they are like.

Having this fully downloadable for offline use and interaction is also brilliant. I want to be able to work with everything I have even when offline for extended periods of time, so this is also an aspect I value for whatever solution I use.


10-4, `/salute`.

I must have misunderstood you in our discourse. My verbal reasoning is deviantly poor pretty often (I'm a special kind of retard), and I am forced to nitpick and repeat tasks more often than most people to understand things. That's part of my human condition. That said, I'm feeling convinced I will admire your criticism if and when you choose to give it. I appreciate that you, with skin in the game, speak so kindly and carefully with me. As a matter of The Golden Rule, I will think carefully about your honorable and non-ephemeral words (and, from me, you will receive nothing but upvotes here, as well as the preservation of our relationship with me). Private or [[public|PSM]], I hold conversations to be a sacrament.

So, hello there, stranger. I'm h0p3. I'm glad to meet you. Up front, seriously (no srsly), I may be a delusional autistic schizo drongo madman on and off the forum, and please feel free to speak with me in a manner that is justifiably comfortable for you. I will attempt to carefully address concerns of my ignorance or malice. I apologize that I require so much patience to deal with.<<footnote "i" "For [[humor]] and [[WWDD]]'s sake: I will [[aim]] to avoid needlessly chucking featherless bipeds or masturbating too often in public.">>

I would not claim it is my own digital world in every degree and kind (though I have some rights to it and obligations regarding it), nor would I agree that I should feel I have total freedom (in all contexts) to build it in whatever way suits me. I am sensitive to the particulars of this problem you're pointing at. I suggest you know that too, and I consider your words a demonstration of empathy. I can appreciate the appeal of that line of reasoning. It must factor into whatever is justified. That is a set of many hard problems, no doubt. It's also not a private space in many respects and to a significant degree. I suggest you know that too. I admire that you are concerned with what matters most about the truth of the matter. I'm looking for that too. I think I have a lot to learn from you about this space. Thus, it's my exceptional honor to engage in philosophy with you. It is fortuitous that we have the opportunity to [[share]] ourselves here and now so vividly and filled with purpose. I [[hope]] our recriprocal story-telling is reconstructive, worthy of the cost of collectively interpreting.

As you know, like everyone else, I'm not everyone's cup of tea, and I'm not in a position to effectively guess if my words, let alone my ℍ𝕪𝕡𝕖𝕣𝔱𝔢𝔵𝔱 pile, are sufficiently fitting for you. I aim for clarity, not obscurantism or gnosticism, though I recognize the [[infinigress]]es we face in giving foundations to our epistemologies. Even with unfortunately flawed analogies and models, I hope to see [[gem]]s, rainbow vomit, spice, [[salience]], wild gardens, and 𝕱𝕴𝕽𝕰 rain down and bloom in the desert; thus, I am interested in the right types of people too, and even those who I initially thought were the wrong type of people sometimes turn out to be right sort (I am [[fff]] and wrong all the time). Even where I am obligated to engage in justified ad hominem, may I [[Find The Others]]. A [[Root User]] of mine said they [[like]]d this one: https://philosopher.life/#2020.09.13%20-%20Prompted%20Intros.... Most didn't care for it, understandably. I don't know well enough what I feel and think of it. You'll have to come to your own conclusions as best you can with what you've got (that is always each of our plights), and I [[hope]] to speak with you [[irwartfrr]], [[WINTCIS]] ([[ITS]]).

It's great that we have so much in common there, btw. I consider your morally legitimate self-ownership rights and obligations clusters to be crucial. I can see you care about that topic in what you take to be the set of relevant problems you are solving. There's plenty to tailor here. My assumption is that the people in your life are lucky to know you. You probably help them with some technical problems that few others can handle as well as you can. I cannot say I know how to self-host in a way that works well enough. I am pretty awful with computers, but I do like 'em a lot, and I am interested in how you think about and use them. I have two offspring who must learn to be autonomous (in every sense of the word) wisely (it feels like I'm never sufficiently prepared for this task, and I doubt I ever will be). If and when you have the time, I'd like to know what you think are some of the most crucial self-hosting tools (including for the sake of secure decentralized networking) that the masses of their generation ought to practice with, how, and why.

Also, I wonder if the analogy, more hedged-conservatively-speaking, is strong but not perfect. It's hella good, I know that. There's a lot to flesh out in the claim that its //meant// to be very personal to you. I agree that my garden, for example, is exceptionally personal (and not just to me). I hope we all get to live in gardens among gardens. I'm not convinced they are necessarily meant to grow slowly, nor do I think each garden is meant to grow over a long long time. I will, however, agree that long-term growth is crucial to wielding it wisely in most cases, and, perhaps vacuously: the best of them grow at the fitting pace for the fitting duration. It is not clear that such gardens will (or even ought) inevitably get organized or reshuffled (or sometimes it turns out just to be details that get fleshed out), but I suggest the odds of these effects are surprisingly high in an actively maintained garden. Imho, there are countless mistakes that I must fix in my own gardening, and it's not easy to pick out what to solve first.

I am interested in what it means to say The Moral Law is something we need. It depends on what kinds of creatures we are and what purposes we're meant to serve, I suppose. At very least, I agree that we stand in relation to such a necessity, but we choose to bind ourselves to or with it as well. That contingency is part of the source of what makes us ends in ourselves (and I'm interested in the end-to-end principle there too). I suggest that the [[gfwiwcgws]], namely the good of the garden in this case, is not as egoistic, positivistic, or libertarianly neutral-appearing as personal preference, though I will agree our sensibilites and qualia are an irreducibly necessary part of computing what is ultimately good about it.


That sorta reflects how I've been feeling about digital infrastructure lately too. Anything I can self-host is a win purely to maintain some sense of control, continuity and sanity.


I've been considering starting my own after discovering this and looking through a few not too long ago. I wouldn't have time to keep up with it as of now, but I think it would be great (and would probably serve the same mental benefits) as some form of journal. But I'm not as brave as you all, so I bet it would be best for me to have a several year delay on a "public" side of my own, personal digital garden.


I have so much content in my garden now that I want to do some deep data science on it soon :D

https://github.com/nikitavoloboev/knowledge


garden is such a bad name


I think it's a perfect analogy for something that's meant to be very personal to you, grow very slowly over a long long time, and that will inevitably get organised or reshuffled as you discover that your needs or personal preferences changed.


... and that, when left unattended, get overrun by weeds (link rot, sec vulnerabilities, etc.)




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