Digital Gardens

Digital Gardens live somewhere in the space of personal wikis and experimental knowledge systems, as Mappletons describes it in a twitter thread. This garden runs on gitea and mdbook.

As we may think

As we may think is the title of an article published by The Atlantic in July 1945, written by Vannevar Bush. Bush makes a prediction about how we will use technology in the future as an external thinking device. He elaborates lengthy on the feasability of his suggestion, something that would not be necassary today, as we all know that microelectronic storage of information, search-algorithms, text-to-speech and speech-to-text, cameras and displays are part of the daily life for many. In Bush's oppinion, mature thought can't be replaced. In contrast, he believes that creative thought and repetitive thought can be supported by mechanical aids. (I am sure, the word mechanical was used in lack of foreseeing an electronic revolution, enabled by the invention of transistors.) He calls such a mechanical aid a Memex. A machine that is equipped with research papers, encyclopedias and so forth. Furthermore it can be fed with own input like writing, pictures and voice recodings. The user can build so called trails of information. That is, whenever they see two references on the screen, the user hits a button and joins the two articles. These joins can grow to a trail. Bush even speaks about branching out, whenever a trail needs to follow a sub-topic.

Managing digital stuff

The Science of Managing Our Digital Stuff is a talk given by Ofer Bergman at Microsoft. The way it is presented is not really easy to follow due to sound and image quality. The content is dense and interesting though. Bergman argues that managing data inside file hierarchies is not the best approach. Files get hidden in nested folder structures. Files that could logically be sorted into multiple places can only take one place. There are no conventions for folder structures and people tend to forget even their own structures after a few weeks. Modern operating systems offer better systems than folder structures. The two prominent ones are quick full text search and file tagging. In his research, Bergman found that most people still prefer navigating through a folder structure, even when they were free to choose one of the other systems. Is it just habit? Bergman found that formulating a search query requires a context switch whereas navigation activates a different part in the brain. The context switch makes people forget what they worked on initially. His research is backed by fMRI scans where he could prove the activation of different parts of the brain. Bergman concludes that we need improved navigation instead of improved search and tagging. He developed prototypes to showcase how it could look like. An address book on a phone would show the most dialed contacts on top and keep all other contacts below. A shared drive would highlight the subjectively most important documents on top and render all other files below, slightly greyed out.

Gardens

Patterns

  • Open Transclude Pattern for including iframe previews with plain HTML/CSS/JS
  • TARS Interesting idea on collaborative knowledge and its iterations
  • Andy Matuschak Thoughts about knowledge and thinking (he has a nice garden too, see above)
  • Freeing the web from the browser with open hypermedia
  • Book review: How to Take Smart Notes? gives an overview of the book's concepts and linking it to academic writing, including criticism of academic writing like the increasing pattern of "publish or perish", quoting a study that the academic output doubles every 5 years.
  • Digital Tools I wish existed Jonathan has some thoughts about his workflow of processing information, and what he would need to do so more efficiently.

Private Garden

There are some notes, ideas, thoughts, ... that I want to keep private and others, for example e-books, that I have to keep private for legal reasons.

I think about creating a private garden with the same setup as this public garden, but behind a basic auth and under a different sub-domain. That way, I can cross-reference my notes.

Unfortunately, this would lead to a lot of "not for public"-links. Something, I don't want my visitors encounter too often.