A Bonsai Philosophy

I’ve been working on jekyll-bonsai for some time now and today it has been released to the world! 🎉

I thought I would jot down my thoughts about its structure for those that are interested.

First, it’s still a blog. “Writing is thinking” and “writing helps us think” so it’s still a place for pondering and crafting posts to share ideas with others.

The first divergent feature is tagging. Instead of a tag cloud made up of a bunch of strings, it’s a semantic tree whose structure can help orient visitors, or even the creator, through the concepts they’re mulling over.

“It is important to view knowledge as a sort of semantic tree. Make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e., the trunk and big branches before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”

~ Elon Musk

If “semantic tree” is confusing, start with categories as defined by the dewey decimal system (math, history, science, language, etc.) and fill in narrower subsections like you might see in the table of contents in a text book (math > algebra > variable; science > biology > cell). Continue that process all the way down to individual terms. Useful, live examples of this include Wolfram MathWorld and Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Further, jekyll-bonsai tags point to entries which contain textual descriptions like a wikipedia entry. They also provide the semantic lineage of the concept which is a single branch of the semantic tree and is viewable as the breadcrumb at the top of an entry. Links between concepts (like antonyms, synonyms, or attributes), and tagged documents are viewable in the entry’s footer and attributes sections.

There’s been a lot of talk about “digital gardening” lately and the way I see it, it is the coalescing of blogs and wikis. It’s about figuring out how to structure information in a clear and coherent way, not just to put content out there, but to make sense of it. And the “semantic” in “semantic tree” literally means “relating to meaning in language or logic”. So it’s not just about making sense, but making meaning.

At least, that’s this bonsai’s philosophy.