Streams And Gardens

Newsfeeds have won the web in many ways. We see them everywhere on the web:

  • Search results
  • Email and message inbox
  • Social media newsfeeds
  • Podcast apps
  • Blogs

Newsfeeds have a few common properties:

  • Includes a title, image, link, and/or description
  • Has an order determined by an algorithm that often includes some measure of chronology, quality, and engagement
  • Allow you to quickly sample the items in the feed by scrolling

Newsfeeds are powerful because:

  • They're addictive
  • It's easy to see what's new from a person you've subscribed

The downside of newsfeeds are:

  • The algorithms are typically designed to maximize ad revenue profit, not learning
  • They present information in a fragmented way
  • They don't evolve
  • They surface the most recent info, which leaves out the rest of history
  • They're fleeting
  • Owned by a large, centralized entity with the ability to censor you

Digital gardens, in many ways, are the opposite of newsfeeds:

  • Timeless
  • Accretive
  • Richly interconnected
  • Owned by you

Digital gardens and newsfeeds are complementary:

  • They go better together. Their weaknesses cancel each other out while their strengths multiply each other.

  • You can repurpose content. You can use the same content on the newsfeed and in your digital garden.

  • They can help you think from more angles. Writing for Twitter forces shortness. Writing for a newsfeed forces you to think about the packaging of your idea so it stands out. Writing for a digital garden helps you think through the idea more deeply.