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The Organic Web

If we lived close to nature in an agricultural society, the seasons as metaphor and fact would continually frame our lives. But the master metaphor for our era does not come from agriculture—it comes from manufacturing. We do not believe that we “grow” our lives—we believe that we “make” them. Just listen to how we use the word in everyday speech: we make time, make friends, make meaning, make money, make a living, make love. — Parker Palmer, “Let Your Life Speak” (97)

You know what else we make? Websites.

People talk about growing communities and growing brands, but does anyone talk about growing a website? If they do, I’m going to guess it’s steeped in the startup connotations of the word, i.e. growth (exponential at that) and scale. But nobody talks about scaling their garden. That’s not a garden anymore, that’s an industrial farm. But I digress.

Growing—that’s a word I want to employ when talking about my personal sites online. Like a garden, I’m constantly puttering around in them. Sometimes I plow and sow a whole new feature for a site. Sometimes I just pick weeds. And sometimes I gather fertilizer (a.k.a. horse shit) from others online and try to grow something with it. My websites are my garden: a place to grow and experiment, to cultivate and nurture—the projects themselves, but also myself.

Most of my favorite websites out there are grown—homegrown in fact. They are corners of the web where some unique human has been nurturing, curating, and growing stuff for years. Their blog posts, their links, their thoughts, their aesthetic, their markup, their style, everything about their site—and themselves—shows growth and evolution and change through the years. It’s a beautiful thing, a kind of artifact that could never be replicated or manufactured on a deadline.

This part of the web, this organic part, stands in stark contrast to the industrial web where websites are made and resources extracted.

You can make a website in a day, but it takes years to grow one. So plant one now if you haven’t already. Or go tend to yours. I’ll just be over here weeding and watering.