© Dan Bartlett 2023
You are not reading a blog.
But the blog has taken over the Internet. In 2000, there were a few thousand blogs. In 2021, there were around 600 million.
Before the blog, homepages were manually stitched together by people who knew how to code. As a result, they were relatively unique. Authors came up with their own quirky ways of curating what they thought most interesting.
Today, most people use some form of blogging software. The promise of automated online webpages requiring no coding was too good to miss. This software became a potent democratising force, enabling anyone to write and share their thoughts instantaneously.
A new wave of software quickly landed on the reverse chronological display as a default view. In short, every blog homepage became a list of all posts from newest to oldest. Using this software to organise it in any other way became increasingly difficult.
It sounds like a trivial and mostly helpful change, right?
But as as Amy Hoy details in her excellent article—How Blogs Broke the Web—it had a profound effect, and something was lost in the move to convenience. The weird, wild web collapsed into a more standarised format.
In this schema, recency is valued above all else. When newer is better, the stream begins to take precedence over the writings themselves. The stream mustn’t stop. Quality writing from the past becomes harder for readers without authors repackaging it in fresh forms.
One result of this pressure is the ascendence of rote “content creation” over written words. To ensure content creation is carried out effectively, “content strategies” must also be employed to please the SEO gods and ensure that your stream remains visible.
Personally, I’ve felt exhausted with blogging for a while.
The standard is high and for reason we have all consented to writing in unnatural forms that only please search engines. The going wisdom is that this should continue indefinitely, to retain your social standing on the Internet.
No matter what software I used—and even as someone who can code—it also felt difficult to make the website my own: to have a real homepage that welcomed visitors and pushed them in the right direction depending on what they were looking for.
A few weeks ago, whilst pondering on how I would share these writings, I came across the Digital Garden movement. Maggie Appleton, in her brilliant survey of the scene, notes that:
A garden is 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.
As a result, websites that identify as digital gardens often have a more wiki-like feel to them; exploring and threading together thoughts together as they arise, without having to knit them into a final form right away. To me, this approach feels more appropriate for an ongoing exploration of deeper topics like contemplation and personal philosophy.
I also appreciate the garden metaphor. A garden is a more personal, organic affair with fully grown plants sitting alongside seedlings. It also takes some of the pressure off, and gets me excited about writing again. Similar to Agile methodologies in software, it encourages shipping earlier which in turn fosters momentum and flow.
So what can you expect from this website?
The content will be pretty varied, from longer pieces to shorter notes. Some pieces will be quite polished, others will be more embryonic. You’ll be able to get to all of them from the homepage, which will be constantly shifting as new notes arrive.