You might have heard the phrase "digital gardening" thrown around more often lately. I was skeptical when I first heard it. It isn't a new thing by any means. But it is a rebrand that has been helpful for me. I have to admit, I've grown to love it.

Defining digital gardens

In this post, we'll dive deeper into what digital gardens are, how to create your own, what my garden looks like, and links to resources for further exploration. But before all that, I find it's helpful to start with a simple definition:

A digital garden is an online space at the intersection of a notebook and a blog, where digital gardeners share seeds of thoughts to be cultivated in public. Contrary to a blog, where articles and essays have a publication date and start decaying as soon as they are published, a digital garden is evergreen: digital gardeners keep on editing and refining their notes.

This definition addresses one of my first objections: "How is this different from blogging?" To be honest, I still don't think it's all that different. As Anne-Laure put, it's how we share seeds of thoughts to be cultivated in public. I prefer to think of digital gardening as a new variation of blogging. Blogging that is:

  • Constantly evolving
  • Less performative
  • Community-focused

For more on the history and benefits of digital gardens, I highly recommend Maggie Appleton's post, A Brief History & Ethos of the Digital Garden, which chronicles the movement from origin to present day.

Planting your garden

Believe it or not, you've probably already started planting the seeds of your digital garden. You don't necessarily need an organized wiki on your self-hosted personal site. Posting on social media is still the most common form of digital gardening.

One of my favorite resources on the subject, this presentation on Strategic Digital Gardening outlines several steps you can take to plan out your garden:

  • Get interested in a few areas
  • Brainstorm seeds to plant
  • Find the best places to explore
  • Start sharing ideas and interacting often
  • Turn your garden into a beacon for others

🤔 Get interested in a few areas

This is the subject matter that your digital garden will encompass. Some people will recommend you go niche, but at the end of the day, if you're interested in multiple things then there's no need to limit yourself. Explicitly write down the topics you want to explore.

Furthermore, if you are reading this article, it's likely that there is something you want to achieve with your digital garden. It might be to get your ideas in front of more people, learn more about a subject, build in public, or meet interesting people. Whatever it is, bonus points if you can turn it into a measurable goal that you want to achieve in the next 6 months or so.

🪴 Brainstorm seeds to plant

Remember, each seed contributes to the larger story of you and your work. I've found that it's easiest to get started by asking, "What are you already doing in pursuit of your goal?"

List things like research, travel, networking, etc. and consider each effort as a storytelling opportunity. Then consider how you could document these efforts in ways that create a visually exciting and story-rich garden.

🌏 Find the best places to explore

There are endless platforms for you to start cultivating your digital garden. Ideally, you want to go where your "people" already are and start there. That being said, comfort with the platform comes first in my opinion. If you're a Twitter person, that's a solid bet. Maybe you're more into Reddit, LinkedIn, or Clubhouse. All of those are fair game too.

One important note: I'd recommend focusing on one platform first. Even if you have already decided you want your garden to primarily take place on your personal website, you still want a distribution mechanism and a community to interact with. Choose your platform wisely.

🗣 Start sharing ideas and interacting often

Here's where the actual output happens: It's time to start sharing ideas, opinions, and experiences frequently. This is how you sow the seeds to your digital garden. Without frequent output, it's difficult to build momentum and relationships within the larger community.

Interacting with others is a key part of this. I've personally seen this on my Twitter, where I post somewhat frequently but aren't as consistent about starting conversations and replying to others. Not only is this type of engagement fun, it's how you learn and further develop your own garden.

🤝 Turn your garden into a beacon for others

This what most people think of when they hear the term "digital garden" on Twitter: The personal site, the public-facing Roam Research instance, the organized and searchable knowledge base.

All of these are potential endgames for your garden, but they aren't required to create a beacon for others to visit. When others begin to come to you to explore an area of interest further, your garden will start to see exponential growth thanks to the beauty of network effects.

Conor's digital garden

I've been blogging and curating resources for several years now, but the reframe to digital gardening was a welcome one for me. As an example, here's what framework we just laid out looks like for me.

🤔 Get interested in a few areas

My interests seem to shift every year or two but right now some big ones are:

  • Startups / Growth
  • Data Science / Analytics
  • Self-Improvement / Quantified Self
  • Writing / Learning / Mental Models
  • Digital Worlds / Tech Trends
  • Sports / Fitness

🪴 Brainstorm seeds to plant

When I distill these these interests down further and think about what storytelling opportunities might look like in practice, I end up with:

  • Growth & Analytics: Share learnings from my role at Hugo and opinions on new developments in the space. Provide concrete examples about what worked for me and what didn't work for me.
  • Self-Improvement: Share experiences from new routines and progress on habits through QS efforts. Create an accountability system throughout my garden.
  • Writing & Learning: Share new ideas from my writing and other things I read that are interesting or helpful in my life. This might be my thoughts, quotes, images, or summaries.
  • Digital Worlds: Share emerging ideas or trends that I'm betting on. Continuously develop new project ideas in public. Could also be images that stimulate my mind.

🌏 Find the best places to explore

I've focused on a few platforms for my digital garden to this point:

  • Twitter: This is my main platform. I'm always trying to continue to get better about frequently publishing and discussing new ideas here.
  • Website: This is where more longer-form and developed ideas live. I want to build out a more well-organized and evergreen wiki for my posts, but for now it does the job.
  • Newsletter: My weekly newsletter, Oversimplified contains curated links and resources each Tuesday morning. This is the last big way that my digital gardening efforts reach others.

Resources and inspiration

Before I leave you, there are tons of great resources out there that you should check out if you're interesting in exploring the concept of digital gardens further. Here's a nice long list with my favorite links starred for reference:



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