And the damn reverse chronology bias — once called into creation, it hungers eternally — sought its next victim. Myspace. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Pinterest, of all things. Today these social publishing tools are beginning to buck reverse chronological sort; they’re introducing algorithm sort, to surface content not by time posted but by popularity, or expected interactions, based on individual and group history. There is even less control than ever before.
There are no more quirky homepages.
There are no more amateur research librarians.
All thanks to a quirky bit of software produced to alleviate the pain of a tiny subset of a very small audience.
That’s not cool at all.
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 fuckin' sucks.
Chronologically sorted pages of posts aren’t how people actually use the internet.
Another layer of discovery is curation.
Curation comes before a chronological list.
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.
At the 2015 Digital Learning Research Network, Mike Caufield delivered a keynote on The Garden and the Stream: a Technopastoral. It later becomes a hefty essay that lays the foundations for our current understanding of the term. If anyone should be considered the original source of *digital gardening*, it’s Caufield. They are the first to lay out this whole idea in poetic, coherent words.
Caufield makes clear digital gardening is not about specific tools – it’s not a Wordpress plugin, Gastby theme, or Jekyll template. It’s a different way of thinking about our online behaviour around information - one that accumulates personal knowledge over time in an explorable space.
Caufield’s main argument was that we have become swept away by streams – the collapse of information into single-track timelines of events. The conversational feed design of email inboxes, group chats, and InstaTwitBook is fleeting – they’re only concerned with self-assertive immediate thoughts that rush by us in a few moments.
This is not inherently bad. Streams have their time and place. Twitter is a force-multiplier for exploratory thoughts and delightful encounters once you fall in with the right crowd and learn to play the game.
But streams only surface the Zetigeisty ideas of the last 24 hours. They are not designed to accumulate knowledge, connect disparate information, or mature over time.
The garden is our counterbalance. Gardens present information in a richly linked landscape that grows slowly over time. (…) You get to actively choose which curiosity trail to follow, rather than defaulting to the algorithmically-filtered ephemeral stream. The garden helps us move away from time-bound streams and into contextual knowledge spaces.
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