in with the new

The new birdbyrocket is here! It may not look much different, but everything has changed. The site is off Squarespace, saving me $15/month and freeing me from CMSs. My partner is the reason this was possible—he made the website. All I did was add the green blocks that appear when you hover over links, and turn the text serif. Thank you, Andy. It was always a goal of mine to make birdbyrocket as independent as possible, so I’m thrilled. 

I’ve also never written a blog before (I don’t count reblogging Doctor Who gifs on Tumblr as a blog). I tried to start one several times through my teens, but they never lasted, for the simple reason that I didn’t have anything to blog about. I wasn’t comfortable with public diary-writing, and all of my writing outside a diary was fiction. I didn’t start writing nonacademic essay-ish things until I graduated from college.

It took me a long time to make my nonfiction writing public. Part of that was a writing insecurity: I was dissatisfied with the quality. But the bigger issue was knowledge. When I left school, I still felt undereducated. I wanted to understand much more about the world. I wanted to figure out how to figure out what I think.

My last nonfiction pursuit was a project I cross-posted on Substack and my website for a couple of years, intended as practice for writing essays. It was fun, and I learned a lot, but I started to crave something less formal. Substack’s continued commitment to the social media grammar (algorithmic feeds, DMs, following, likes) was also grossing me out. It seemed like a sign of further enshittification to come. Time for something new.

I’d like to see this space as a notebook rather than a repository of “work.” Cory Doctorow’s writing on blogging was inspiring; here’s a sample:

Keeping a "writer's notebook" in public imposes an unbeatable rigor, since you can't slack off and leave notes so brief and cryptic that they neither lodge in your subconscious nor form a record clear enough to refer to in future. By contrast, keeping public notes produces both a subconscious, supersaturated solution of fragmentary ideas that rattle around, periodically cohering into nucleii that crystallize into full-blown ideas for stories, novels, essays, speeches and nonfiction books. What's more, those ripened ideas are supported by a searchable database of everything I've thought about the subject, often annotated by readers and other writers who've commented on the posts. 

I’m also drawn to the concept of “digital gardens”:

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.

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 [sic] 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.

While this space is obviously in the style of a traditional blog, and not a digital garden, I'd like to keep thinking about ways to bring together bits of information over time. I want to see if organizing my thoughts in public leads to better learning. (And I really want to do a story in the form of a wiki someday.)

The larger goal is to use the internet in more interesting ways. A personal website is more fun than social media—it’s not even close. 

Tags: digital garden, notebook, internet, learning

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