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learning in public and curating a digital garden

digital garden Image from Unsplash by @markusspiske

There are two concepts that I’ve been aware of for a while and I’ve really wanted to devote myself to them. I’ve hesitated for so long though because they involve putting yourself out there for the world to see, and that is often difficult for me. However, there are aspects of these two concepts that are very freeing and allow me to put myself out there without fear of failure or rejection. These two concepts are:

Learning in public

Creating a digital garden

I was inspired in both of these topics by two specific people, @swyx and @jhooks. To be inspired like me, you can check out @swyx’s post on Learning In Public and @jhooks’ post called 🌱 My blog is a digital garden, not a blog.

Learning in public

Growth is one of my top 3 core values for my life. There are natural ups and downs to life, times of pushing and times of resting, but I strive to make sure that the general trend of my life is a upward pattern of growth. This is important for my family as well and I hope that my children are inspired and able to model this value as they grow older.

So, if growth is as important to me as I say it is, then I should consistently be learning, consuming new ideas and adapting old ones. The problem, as @swyx puts it, is that “most people ‘learn in private’, and lurk. They consume content without creating any themselves”.

I feel exposed…

I don’t want to just be a consumer. I am constantly trying to fend off consumerism and not be someone that just takes from the world their whole life. I want to be better. I want to create things and share things with people. Things that help people and make the world a better place.

I’ve realized that one small way I can do this is to learn in public. Meaning, as I learn and grow in life then I should share the things that I learn with the world so that other people may learn as well.

This echos advice from a mentor of mine too when I was seeking some guidance on my career path he encouraged me to solve problems and then document and share how I solved those problems. I listened in that moment and have since written tens of thousands of words of documentation and “learnings” at work, but I never shared that with the general public. They are just things specific to work.

I want to reach my next level of learning now by creating and sharing things publicly.

Enter, my digital garden.

Curating a digital garden

I absolutely love this idea and I share so many sentiments with @jhooks around what a personal website is/should be. He describes it best when he writes,

“The phrase “digital garden” is a metaphor for thinking about writing and creating that focuses less on the resulting “showpiece” and more on the process, care, and craft it takes to get there.”

I want to create a community garden that is a place for anyone and everyone to come and hang out and learn. They are able to see my entire collection of words but as my garden grows I’ll be able to form curated topics around the things I’m most excited about.

My first step towards doing this is just simply writing more. I have to constantly be learning, creating, and sharing. Then as my garden grows I can nurture ideas and curate their presence in the garden as a whole. For tips and motivation on writing more I’ll look to @jhooks again and share this punchy piece on how to Stop Giving af and Start Writing More.

Next steps

My first steps on this new journey of exploring my digital garden and learning public are clear to me.

Till the garden

I revamped my website and optimized my flow around how I publish. My site previously was basically just an about me landing page with a few links to other things I do. I still have that info in the side bar, but now I used Gatsby with a simple template to generate a blog for myself. I didn’t want to get caught in the weeds of building a site so I picked a nice starter template and left it largely unchanged except for some colors and the meta/config data.

Plant and water the seeds

Now I’m in the process of planting and water seeds. If you’re familiar with a garden, which I think most people are, then you know planting and watering seeds is the most difficult time. You’re sowing, but not yet reaping. You’re laboring, but you don’t quite have anything to show for it.

But that’s ok, because you know some day your work will pay off and you’ll have a thriving garden that will need another method of care, pruning.

If I stop speaking metaphorically then basically this means I’m now trying to consistently publish my thoughts, ideas, and learning experiences. I started a work journal where each week I share my outcomes, things I learned, and interesting things as they relate to my work as a software engineer.

I started writing posts here at collinmesser.com/ and some of them I’ll cross post to dev.to Please check out my profile and things I’ve written there. Additionally, I want to be more engaged on Twitter and sharing my thoughts there. You can follow me if you’re interested.

Pruning and trimming

As my garden grows and I’ve amassed a large collection of ideas, it’s important for me to begin pruning and trimming.

I should let go of ideas and topics that no longer suit me, benefit me and the world, or have just lived out their life. And I should trim and cultivate new ideas that need further exploration and understanding. This builds the curated aspect of a curated digital garden.

The fun thing about building a garden is that while it’s a whole lot of work up front and even during it’s life span, after a few year I’m going to have quite an awesome garden.