Distroid Issue 13: Digital Gardens
The (re-)emergence of digital gardens
Welcome to Distroid, a monthly newsletter featuring the latest on the impact of emerging technologies and digital transformation on society, with an emphasis on counter-movements.
Distroid is put together by Charles (Ledgerback Digital Commons Research Cooperative).
It includes links to the latest research, useful articles, videos, podcasts, tweets, tools, project updates and events. Expect a new edition at the end of every month and be sure to share and subscribe!
Digital gardens (similar to open-notebook science) are personal knowledgebases/wikis of evolving ideas (i.e., incomplete/imperfect) where content is organized based on context, rather than chronology. The notion of digital gardens as a means to personally grow and share knowledge started to reappear in 2020 as an alternative to streams/timelines common on social media and blogging websites and reclaiming personal domains (or spaces on the web).
A great discussion on the topic comes from Maggie Appleton in A Brief History & Ethos of the Digital Garden. In the article, Maggie Appleton discusses the brief history of digital gardens and its ever-changing meaning from the 1990s to the present, the growth of no-code (i.e., low code) tools for creating digital gardens, and defining 6 design principles for digital gardens:
Topography over Timelines,
Imperfection & Learning in Public,
Playful, Personal, and Experimental,
Intercropping & Content Diversity, and
I have included some snippets here for your convenience.
Additionally, you may find my thoughts on the article here.
A Brief History & Ethos of the Digital Garden
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.
Tracing back how Neologisms are born helps us understand why anyone needed this word in the first place. Language is always a response to the evolving world around us – we expand it when our current vocabulary fails to capture what we're observing, or have a particular desire for how we'd like the future to unfold. Naming is a political act as much as a poetic one.
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.
The garden is our counterbalance. Gardens present information in a richly linked landscape that grows slowly over time. Everything is arranged and connected in ways that allow you to explore. Think about the way Wikipedia works when you're hopping from Bolshevism to Celestial Mechanics to Dunbar's Number. It's hyperlinking at it's best. 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.
Joel also added Amy Hoy's How the Blog Broke the Web post to the pile of influential ideas that led to our current gardening infatuation. While not specifically about gardening, Amy's piece gives us a lot of good historical context. In it, she explores the history of blogs over the last three decades, and pinpoints exactly when we all became fixated on publishing our thoughts in reverse chronological order (spoiler: around 2001 with the launch of Moveable Type).
Amy argues that Moveable Type didn't just launch us into the "Chronological Sort Era". It also killed the wild, diverse, hodge-podge personalisation of websites that characterised the early web. Instead of hand-coding your own layout and deciding exactly how to arrange the digital furniture, we began to enter the age of standardised layouts. Plug n' play templates that you drop content into became the norm. It became harder and more technically involved to edit the HTML & CSS yourself.
Gardens are organised around contextual relationships and associative links; the concepts and themes within each note determine how it's connected to others.
Gardens are never finished, they're constantly growing, evolving, and changing. Just like a real soil, carrot, and cabbage garden.
Gardens are imperfect by design. They don't hide their rough edges or claim to be a permanent source of truth.
Gardens are non-homogenous by nature. You can plant the same seeds as your neighbour, but you'll always end up with a different arrangement of plants.
Podcasts, videos, diagrams, illustrations, interactive web animations, academic papers, tweets, rough sketches, and code snippets should all live and grow in the garden.
Gardening is about claiming a small patch of the web for yourself, one you fully own and control.
Articles on Digital Gardens
Maggie Appleton (@Mappletons), A Brief History & Ethos of the Digital Garden
Chris Aldrich, Differentiating online variations of the Commonplace Book: Digital Gardens, Wikis, Zettlekasten, Waste Books, Florilegia, and Second Brains
Joel Hooks, My blog is a digital garden, not a blog
Tom Critchlow, Of Digital Streams, Campfires and Gardens
List of Digital Gardens
David Chapman, In the Cells of the Eggplant
In the Cells of the Eggplant is an introduction to meta-rationality: ways of using rational systems more effectively by examining their relationships with their surrounds.
Meta-rationality operates in the territory beyond the boundaries of fixed understanding. It recognizes, works with, and transcends the limits of rationality. It evaluates, selects, combines, modifies, discovers, and creates rational methods.
Ampled, Streaming Economy Defaults & Alternatives
With support from Grant for the Web, this research project aims to survey the realities of today's music streaming landscape, consider the alternatives, and propose a future that is consistent with the values of Ampled's equitable, community-owned platform. Because of the structure of the grant, we'll pay particular attention to the potential of streaming payments and browser standards when proposing our solutions, but by no means to the exclusion of other perspectives. Research materials, analysis, and recommendations will be made available through a new research portal under the Ampled umbrella, inviting community critique and collaboration. Finally, we hope that the findings will be broadly useful for a broad range of like-minded co-operative platforms.
The research plan presented below is ambitious and aspirational: many of the topics we plan to touch upon could singlehandedly become the subject of a dissertation, a book, or indeed a whole life's work. We intend to focus on the most immediately salient, touch upon the rest, and signpost the unknowns to best set up a framework for ongoing exploration.
Song Zhi-hong, Lee Jin-meng & Lee Dong-mei, Knowledge Mapping of Platform Competition: Literature Review and Research Agenda
This study offers a systematic review of academic research on platform competition. By using CiteSpace5.7R1,a visualization tool, we analyzed 575 articles on platform competition from Web of Science database. By examining thepublications, important authors, and hot spots in the field of platform competition, we found that early literature mainlyfocused on the concepts and structure of platform competition from a micro level, and the methods including empiricalanalyses with game theory, mathematical models and so on. Recent literature mainly focuses on digital platform,platform ecosystem, innovation ecosystem, value creation, the role of complementor and so on.
Leonid Tiokhin et al., Honest signaling in academic publishing
Academic journals provide a key quality-control mechanism in science. Yet, information asymmetries and conflicts of interests incentivize scientists to deceive journals about the quality of their research. How can honesty be ensured, despite incentives for deception? Here, we address this question by applying the theory of honest signaling to the publication process. Our models demonstrate that several mechanisms can ensure honest journal submission, including differential benefits, differential costs, and costs to resubmitting rejected papers. Without submission costs, scientists benefit from submitting all papers to high-ranking journals, unless papers can only be submitted a limited number of times. Counterintuitively, our analysis implies that inefficiencies in academic publishing (e.g., arbitrary formatting requirements, long review times) can serve a function by disincentivizing scientists from submitting low-quality work to high-ranking journals. Our models provide simple, powerful tools for understanding how to promote honest paper submission in academic publishing.
NYU Governance Lab, The Power of Virtual Communities
Aleks Berditchevskaia et al., Collective Intelligence for Sustainable Development: 13 stories from the UNDP Accelerator Labs
Evgeniya Lupova-Henry & Ámbar Tenorio-Fornés, Re-thinking Academic Publishing: The Promise of Platform Cooperativism
Dan Rudmann, Kayshini Holbourne & Elli Gerakopoulou, Hire Everyone: Scholarly Publishing and Cooperative Sustainability
Benoît de Courson et al., Cultural diversity and wisdom of crowds are mutually beneficial and evolutionarily stable
The ability to learn from others (social learning) is often deemed a cause of human species success. But if social learning is indeed more efficient (whether less costly or more accurate) than individual learning, it raises the question of why would anyone engage in individual information seeking, which is a necessary condition for social learning’s efficacy. We propose an evolutionary model solving this paradox, provided agents (i) aim not only at information quality but also vie for audience and prestige, and (ii) do not only value accuracy but also reward originality—allowing them to alleviate herding effects. We find that under some conditions (large enough success rate of informed agents and intermediate taste for popularity), both social learning’s higher accuracy and the taste for original opinions are evolutionarily-stable, within a mutually beneficial division of labour-like equilibrium. When such conditions are not met, the system most often converges towards mutually detrimental equilibria.
Jacob Austin et al., Program Synthesis with Large Language Models
This paper explores the limits of the current generation of large language models for program synthesis in general purpose programming languages. We evaluate a collection of such models (with between 244M and 137B parameters) on two new benchmarks, MBPP and MathQA-Python, in both the few-shot and fine-tuning regimes. Our benchmarks are designed to measure the ability of these models to synthesize short Python programs from natural language descriptions. The Mostly Basic Programming Problems (MBPP) dataset contains 974 programming tasks, designed to be solvable by entry-level programmers. The MathQA-Python dataset, a Python version of the MathQA benchmark, contains 23914 problems that evaluate the ability of the models to synthesize code from more complex text. On both datasets, we find that synthesis performance scales log-linearly with model size. Our largest models, even without finetuning on a code dataset, can synthesize solutions to 59.6 percent of the problems from MBPP using few-shot learning with a well-designed prompt. Fine-tuning on a held-out portion of the dataset improves performance by about 10 percentage points across most model sizes. On the MathQA-Python dataset, the largest fine-tuned model achieves 83.8 percent accuracy. Going further, we study the model's ability to engage in dialog about code, incorporating human feedback to improve its solutions. We find that natural language feedback from a human halves the error rate compared to the model's initial prediction. Additionally, we conduct an error analysis to shed light on where these models fall short and what types of programs are most difficult to generate. Finally, we explore the semantic grounding of these models by fine-tuning them to predict the results of program execution. We find that even our best models are generally unable to predict the output of a program given a specific input.
Kei Kreutler (@keikreutler), Inventories, Not Identities
Cory Doctorow, Cory Doctorow: Neofeudalism and the Digital Manor
Andrew Warner, AI21 Labs Launches Language Model, One of the Largest to Date
Alex Russell, The Core Web Platform Loop
Roland Li, Prop. 22, the gig worker exemption for Uber and Lyft, is ruled unconstitutional
Gordon Brander, If headers did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them
Robert Raymond, Acquisition-conversion: the promising new strategy for scaling worker ownership
Cate Lawrence, Wait… how is blockchain tech meant to help create self-driving cars?
Will Ruddick, From Student Loans to Student Currencies
Darcy WE Allen & Chris Berg, A better design for defi grant programs
GVN908 & ARB, Moving Castles: Modular and Portable Multiplayer Miniverses
Beth McCarthy & Daniel Shavit, Platoon Co-ops
Rhea Myers, The ABC of Accelerationist Blockchain Critique
Mason Nystrom, The NFT Asset Stack
Matt Webb, Collecting my thoughts about notation and user interfaces
Kenneth E. Iverson, Notation as a Tool of Thought
Boris Mann on Fission and the Webnative SDK
Rafael is joined by Boris Mann to discuss Fission.codes and the Webnative SDK. They talk about the goals behind the webnative platform, and about some of the hard problems that people encounter trying to handle authorization and encryption in decentralized systems, and the ways those are being addressed by fission.
Bloomberg's Studio 1.0: Ethereum Co-founder Vitalik Buterin
Aug.18 -- Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum, speaks to Bloomberg's Emily Chang about creating the second most valuable cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin, the future of a decentralized Internet and the possible threat to legacy companies like Facebook and Twitter.
Link My Ride demo for the September 2020 Chainlink hackathon - The worlds first public integration of an on-chain Smart Contract to an electric vehicle, without requiring the use of special hardware or additional software connected to the vehicle.
BlockHash Podcast EP. 165 - Spencer Graham | Project Lead for DAOhaus
The DAOhaus project is a prime example of a project based DAO. Every community initiative can now become a funded reality.
EP.02 Charles Broskoski on the importance of nodal points
Ida speaks with Charles Broskoski, co-founder and CEO of Are.na about nodal points, their personal experiences in discovering ideas, the importance of contextualising information, and the tech industry’s role in re-designing how people can build healthier information networks for themselves.
Chainlinked Podcast Episode 03 | Smart Contract Research Forum (SCRF)
Smart Contract Research Forum (SCRF) aims to bridge the gaps between academic and industry researchers, engineers, and protocol developers from a diverse set of disciplines. Co-founder Rich Brown joins Chainlinked to talk about the outsized impact that SCRF will have on long-term progress in blockchain and decentralized systems.
Generally Intelligent #12: Jacob Steinhardt, UC Berkeley, on machine learning safety, alignment and measurement
Jacob Steinhardt (Google Scholar)(Website) is an assistant professor at UC Berkeley. His main research interest is in designing machine learning systems that are reliable and aligned with human values. Some of his specific research directions include robustness, rewards specification and reward hacking, as well as scalable alignment …
Micro.blog: A short-form blogging platform and social network that is independent and ad-free.
Databyss: Write and cite, research and re-search, and never get lost in Databyss. Welcome to your new word processor.
AI21 Studio: Take on any language comprehension or generation task.
No NLP expertise required.
subreply: No ads, no tracking social network. Check unfeeder.com for news. Icons made by @dk.
Cyber: SuperIntelligence for The Great Web
tailscale: A secure network that just works. Zero config VPN. Installs on any device in minutes, manages firewall rules for you, and works from anywhere.
Hyperdraft: Turn your text notes into a website.
FSNotes: modern notes manager for macOS and iOS. App respects open formats like GitHub Flavored Markdown, so you can easily write documents on iPhone and MacBook. It's simple and blazing fast!
Quotebacks: Quote, reply, and converse across the open web.
Innos Note: Innos is designed to foster a culture of innovation, creativity, and connections. It equips curious minds with the right content creation tools to inspire and connect ideas.
Totallib: Current tools make it hard to hear yourself think. Totallib’s note-taking experience powered by AI lets you write to think. Spark new ideas by compounding your knowledge – from the small seed to the big picture.
Logseq: A privacy-first, open-source knowledge base. Logseq is a joyful, open-source outliner that works on top of local plain-text Markdown and Org-mode files. Use it to write, organize and share your thoughts, keep your to-do list, and build your own digital garden.
OtherInternet: Uniswap Research Report: Discord, Governance, Community
HUMAN’21: 4th Workshop on Human Factors in Hypertext
ACADEMY ON SOCIAL AND SOLIDARITY ECONOMY (12TH EDITION)
15–26 NOVEMBER 2021
Hit reply if you have a gig that you’re interested in listing.
Article Summarizer @ Smart Contract Research Forum
Senior Data Analyst @ Common Wealth
Press and Digital Communications Lead @ Common Wealth
Quests @ Rabbithole
Grants @ UNI
Call for Proposals (CfP) @ Grant for the Web
Word of the month
These are freshly coined words or phrases inching their way into common usage, but not fully mainstream yet. Neologisms emerge when we are unable to express or conveniently refer to an emerging collective idea or experience.
How to create a platform cooperative alternative to Peloton?
Thank you for reading this edition of Distroid!
I hope you liked it. Be sure to subscribe to get the next edition in your inbox.
Also, if you have something you think should be included in the next edition, or something you think we should do differently with the format—send us a Tweet or leave a comment!
If you are looking for assistance in brainstorming, desk research, or help finding collaborators for your project, please send us an email at email@example.com or come to our Slack and we will try to assist you the best we can.
Lastly, keep up with what I’m reading by joining the LDCRC’s Hypothesis group.
Ledgerback Research is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit worker cooperative and research ecosystem working on knowledge-bases, digital tools and connective spaces, and building community around reading, discussing and learning more about academic and grey literature on the alternative internet.
Support us by donating, volunteering, using our services, subscribing to our publications, sharing our work, or buying merchandise.
Find out more via the links below.
Website | Open Collective | Twitter | Discord | Slack
Podcast | Donate | Slides | Redbubble | Teespring