Long have I blogged, and before that kept on-line diaries, and constructed various scattered personal websites now in stages of advanced decomposition and neglect. But I have managed to resist, without even really trying, the entire phenomenon of social networking sites. They don't interest me, never have. I maintain a miniscule MySpace profile for the sole benefit of people too lazy to email me, and spend about three minutes a month on that site checking messages from those same people. Have never even been stirred to check out Facebook. The main reason I never signed up for LiveJournal was, apart from the irritating interface, this bizarre fixation on 'friends' and 'groups', with all the potentially ridiculous fuss that seem to be inevitably involved in managing such faux-real relationships. I'm a bit of a throw-back to the web of the late 90's, I guess- heavy on user-generated content, extremely low on user-connectivity. I'd rather broadcast from my blog, keep in touch from my email, discuss on forums & keep those worlds quite distinct, thankyouverymuch.
This has all changed, and like about 90% of everything in my life that has changed in 2007, it has a lot to do with gardening. Gardening, it turns out, loans itself extremely well to 'social' networking of a sort. Because as any gardener rapidly learns, the best resource to learn from is other gardeners. Lots of them. The more similar their growing interests are to yours, the better. If they grow in similar conditions to you, you've struck gold- a conversation with them about their last season's experience will teach you more than memorising the entire Yates Garden Guide.
Last week I signed up as a beta-tester for MyFolia, a website that I think aims to fill the gap between gardening blogs (linear, broadcast-oriented) and forums (discussion & community based, low on technical detail). It's pretty much MyGardenSpace or something, only rather than just having a profile for me, there's a profile for each of my gardens, and within those, each of my plants. I can post photos & journals of the progress of each plant & each garden, and clicking on any plant will take me to a list of everyone else growing it- including their photos & progress journals. You may need to be a gardener to appreciate how bloody miraculous that is, but oh my god it's so good. Absolute gold for the newbie gardener, and quite possibly for the more advanced ones too.
It is in effect an enormous, linked, multi-layered garden diary of the sort that every gardening guide tells you to keep. Next season when I'm wondering how long it took from planting my determinate tomatoes to seeing the first flowers, it will take me about 0.3 seconds to find out. How long was the productive season for that zucchini bush? Easy. And when I need a little inspiration because it seems to take SO LONG for things to graduate the seedling bench & get into the garden, well, someone else will have a lovely photographic time-line to admire.
Being still in beta-mode, the site has a few rough edges, and obviously this sort of garden-tracking is not for everyone (like every form of social networking site around, it's capable of sucking up an enormous quantity of time). But I fucking love it. I have been thoroughly sucked into social networking (Web 2.0, just three years too late!) and it's all for my garden. Surprise, surprise.
(An excellent use of the web as a garden recorder, for the benefit of all: Hanna's Tomato Tastings. Nothing tricky, no complicated content, just a purely excellent resource- the essence of good user-generated content).