What is the garage?

The garage1 is a new experiment (starting June 2021) with “working with the garage door up.” It’s inspired by Alex’s evergreen notes, which were in turn inspired by Andy’s evergreen notes.

What do they look like?

Unlike how I’ve built this site so far, these notes will:

  • Change. I will add notes, update them, split them, and delete them with complete abandon. As such, if you link to any page on my site that has /garage/ in the URL, be warned it might go away.

  • Be written for me by default. This means (a) they might be terse, verbose, or confusing, (b) they will almost certainly be in dire need of editing, and (c) I will hedge way less than I ordinarily feel comfortable with. The idea behind this is that writing for others substantially increases the overhead of writing, especially when you’re still figuring out an idea’s shape.2

  • Be incomplete. I’ll post note stubs, partial outlines, broken code, and incomplete ideas.

Why do this?

When Alex told me about these evergreen notes, I was totally uninterested. But I’ve completely changed my mind, for three reasons.

First, I’m interested in exploring a semi-structured approach to thinking.3 Right now, my process is either extremely unconstrained or highly constrained:

constraints speed process
Low Instant Jotting down anything in my personal notes: recipes, websites, screenshots, tiny ideas, resources, reminders, etc.
High Very slow Developing an essay to share publicly. Longform writing and laborious editing.

The compelling aspect of evergreen notes—which seems similar to a Zettelkasten—is that it presents a middle way between these two extremes:4

constraints speed process
Medium Moderate Creating, growing, and inter-linking webpage snippets centered around my work and interests

In other words, it presents a thinking tool by imposing some amount of structure (atomic ideas that are linked together) which can serve as conceptual scaffolding.

The second reason is I think posting in this way can really help my working process for my website. I realized recently that I can think of my website process as the cross product of design, content, workflow, technology, and audience. I also realized that my process currently sucks. I post rarely, it’s a ton of work per post, and I don’t really love it. It doesn’t spark joy.

Just realizing this was a great step. But with a magical synchronicity, I realized this right as I was hearing about evergreen notes. And it dawned on me that they might present liberating variations on all the axes of my current website process that have been paralyzing me since, apparently, at least 2016:

axis post garage
Design Standalone Inter-linked
Containment Self-contained argument Isolated idea
Content Mostly text Text, visual, animated, code, …
Workflow Very slow, revisions and editing Quick and evolving
Audience General or technical public Me
Visibility High: posted to social media Low: Most people won’t care
Access Public Public
Mutability Rarely, also irrelevant after initial share Endlessly
Date-oriented Yes: “publish date” No; optional “start date”
Delete-ability No Yes
Polish High Low
Structure Rhetoric Links

Because it ended up being so important, I want to emphasize this point: I had been conflating three factors in thinking about what content I made:

  1. Audience — who is this written for?
  2. Visibility — who will likely read it?
  3. Access — who could possibly read it?

Since anything I post on my website has public access, I assumed that made every way of posting the same. I now see how many other axes of variation there are.

The final reason is that I think work-in-progress, semi-personal sections of people’s websites, like this, are the best part of the internet. I love reading them. But I didn’t have one myself! Since I wish everyone I knew used something like this, the best thing I can do is start one.

Why “Garage,” not “Evergreen notes?”

I just love the idea of “working with the garage door up” so much. It perfectly captures the vibe I want. Plus, I like that “garage” is one word.

And if you ask me, Alex’s crystal analogy is even better:

Like a crystal, they should grow over time, solidifying your thoughts into a network that you can build from.

… though I guess we need some way for the crystal to change its internal structure over time, as notes evolve. Evergreen crystals?

  1. Is the garage a weird name for this? Probably. Add it to the long list of tiny naming woes

  2. Actually, writing for others is going to be a hard habit to break. Some notes, like this one, are written to be much more public facing. I suspect it will be a learning process to stop doing that. 

  3. On the topic of semi-strctured thinking: here, I’m using my own ideas as scaffolding. Relatedly creative reading is using someone else’s ideas as scaffolding. 

  4. In around 2019 or 2020, I got really close to replacing my low-constraint process with a Zettelkasten, but doing everything as text was too limiting. I like images and paper too much! 

garage entry metadata

started 22 Jun 2021
disclaimer This is an entry in the garage. It may change or disappear at any point.