Discourse for a "digital garden"

Here’s something a little different, a testament to the flexibility of Discourse as a platform, and its ease of customization: I built a “digital garden” using Discourse. I’m in the process of writing a topic within it that explains just what the heck that even is :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: but it’s complete enough to give you the idea:

Essentially a digital garden is an approach to publishing one’s notes, ideas, thoughts, and other writing in a work-in-progress context, with content that is ever-evolving, “growing”, and improving. Unlike a blog, the topics are not necessarily intended to be complete, or any kind of cohesive or comprehensive statement on a particular topic. The emphasis instead is on evolution and “cultivation” of the content over time, as new information becomes available, ideally in part from interactions with one’s readership. Although conceptually it tends to focus mainly on the writing of a single person, it also benefits from participation.

Here’s my write-up on what makes Discourse such a good platform for the purpose:

Those of you familiar with Discourse customization will not be surprised by anything I’ve done, and I think there is still plenty more I could do to improve the presentation and navigation of content. What is great is that the majority of this came together over a weekend, and there is a high degree of ease to adding new, well-formatted, and aesthetically pleasing content. Prior to this I used Wordpress as a blogging platform, and while it has some niceties to be sure (and I used plugins extensively to improve its functionality and performance), ultimately Discourse out-of-the-box, with minor tweaks, totally blows it away as a content publishing platform. It is lower friction, higher performance, and more easy to customize (to a point).

I’m not necessarily in the camp of people who might recommend Discourse as an actual blogging platform, but I think for digital gardening it works extremely well. I’m impressed!

* Tag cloud support

I concur (assuming we are thinking about the same thing) so I’ve built a Theme Component for this: https://github.com/merefield/discourse-tc-tag-cloud

But before anyone gets too excited (I wish!):

It’s currently only working on my Discourse fork because it requires a new plugin outlet (there is no existing suitable one), so PR Raised: https://github.com/discourse/discourse/pull/12302


Yes, I do this on my own Discourse! You can see the uncategorized topics* are examples of worklogs and in-progress things that might eventually become blog entries.


I also publicized this on Twitter because it’s a lovely and practical idea:

* there’s only one formal category “blog” which is hosting discussion for each blog entry, then “site feedback” which is a default seeded category on every Discourse install … everything else is uncategorized.


I see your PR appears to have been accepted! I don’t know how long it typically takes for such changes to make it to a release, but it’s promising that we can expect to see it at some point in the not-too-distant future. At that point I assume your tag cloud plugin would be usable on mainline Discourse?

Very cool! They’re almost like notes to yourself, but public. There is something so interesting about this idea to me…

Next on my very informal to-do list is to write-up the specific Discourse customizations, theme components, etc. I used. The ability to filter “only overridden” settings is really handy for this!

But I also find myself wondering if there is an easy way for a non-programmer to “package” a set of Discourse customizations such that others could easily start with that “template” out of the box…

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It’s working for branch tests-passed now, and I’ve updated the Theme Component using experience from building its sister plugin Word cloud plugin for discourse? - #4 by merefield

TC at: https://github.com/merefield/discourse-tc-tag-cloud

Let me know if you have any issues and I’ll take a look. (NB Due to the lack of responsive design thus far (D3 calcs are expensive but we’ll see if we can make it responsive), this is for desktop only for now!)

Thanks to Team for accepting the new plugin connector :).