Credibility: No Walled Garden

When company websites were new, the idea of the “Walled Garden” was very popular–all the links were internal. Why would you send your readers / clients / prospects away?  Keep them on your blog and they will be loyal, was the thinking. Clearly these people never had children they tried to keep in a playpen. It doesn’t work with adults any better than with toddlers.

walledgardenThen the idea faded, and now it’s back in some places. Too bad.

I’ve never been a fan of the Walled Garden theory of the internet. I don’t know all the answers to my readers’ questions.  Linking to other sites helps them find what they want, and that adds credibility to what I have to offer. (Seems that Google’s algorithms aren’t a fan of walled gardens, either.)

Liz Crain's rusted oil containers--in ceramic.

Liz Crain’s rusted oil containers–in ceramic.

The most popular sites I know link to a lot of other sites, either in small quantities in individual blog posts, or through swaps and blog tours. The result is more information, more creativity, and more interesting sharing. I would never have met Michelle Ward (one of the book contributors) or her amazing Street Team challenges (play in the archives while she’s on Sabbatical). For that matter, I would never have met Liz Crain, or T.J. Goerlitz  [both book contributors] whose explanation of Creality made me laugh and cringe in recognition. Open gardens that allow you to explore lead to more creativity. (Or being a contributor to a book).

On Saturdays, I post links to interesting artists, it always causes a boost in the artists’ sites, as readers go to find more. Often the artists send an email thanking me for sending traffic to their site. How boring would it be if I simply linked to old posts of mine? We’d never scratch our heads over Pete’s new blog.

The internet is a big place. Credibility is a good thing. And in my experiencing, linking to answers, ideas, shortcuts, or tips makes my site more interesting, too. It shows trusts in your readers and confidence in the content you have on your site.  Creating meaningful links, tagging your blog (or website) with meaningful descriptions and, of course, great content still is the best way to get loyal readers.

-Quinn McDonald can’t imagine an internet of solely walled gardens. She has claustrophobia.

31 thoughts on “Credibility: No Walled Garden

  1. Pete! Thanks for taking the time to “back-educate” me on gardens and the growth of the net. I never really GOT how it and the gifts it brings into my life came about. In the beginning I barely paid attention: too esoteric and clunky. (In ’96 it took several HOURS on dial-up to print out a 12-page illustrated recipe and assembling instructions for a Buche de Noel…) I needed it to get big enough and usable enough before I got curious again. Now it’s simply a part of who I am and how I think. I have the best of both worlds:my studio privacy AND daily contact with my friends, family and like-minded and mind-stretching others. LIke you. Like Quinn!
    And Quinn, DEEPEST thanks for our association on all levels – one day to be face to face. And thanks for today’s link and photo. Mwah!

  2. Ms. Quinn,

    The employees at Arizona Art Supply (Scottsdale) told me of your blog about a month ago. I have just loved it! Thank you for brightening my day…

    Linda Phillips

    Sent from my iPad

  3. Don’t know nothing ’bout garden walls,
    ‘Cept those in my yard,
    Sounds like I don’t need to though,
    long as Pete is standing guard.

  4. Thanks for this concept. The original walled gardens were to be a safe place for those within. To keep out the wild and uncontrolled. To keep in the rare and delicate. Private and perfect, preserved and peaceful.

    The idea of a walled garden reached by an information super-highway seems a bit inane to me, like a rest stop with no exit except the the fairy maze you can never escape without a chainsaw.

    Hmm – OK I am blaming (or crediting?) Quinn’s poetry course for that imagery.

  5. Avoiding walled gardens is the underlying idea of “net neutrality”; the idea that internet connectivity should be like electricity — data is data and you get to choose any data you want (for the same price). It’s not a given. Comcast is the biggest ISP, owns NBC, and would really prefer to deliver NBC content to your computer with high speed and quality, but if you want a competitor’s content…well, sure, but…you know…it’ll be along soon…just hang on a sec…any minute now…oh, you don’t mind paying an extra $50/month for our next-tier service? Of course, happy to help you out with that.

    Visit to help.

    • Yeah, it’s going to be the same thing I see in art–artists didn’t want to do the business of art, so they turned the business of art over to promoters and then didn’t pay attention. All of a sudden, show fees shot up, and you had to work twice as hard for the “ease” of having promoters to the business. Meanwhile, promoters followed the American business model, and did too many shows with too many artists, and the whole Art Festival thing began to slide downhill. This is going to be one of those “I don’t get the internet, but I’m sure this big company will help me figure it out.”

  6. The walled garden idea crops up in a couple of ways for different reasons, and in fact it predates the internet — or at least the world-wide web. In The Beginning, before the Internet became available, you could use your computer, modem and phone line to connect to “dialup services”. CompuServe was a big one, so was AOL. There were lots of them; for a while in the early 1980s I ran one from my living room. These services were not interconnected; you had to choose the one you wanted to use, you contacted their modems via their phone numbers, and you only interacted with other members. When the Internet arrived, besides being difficult to connect to (unless you knew the right people, like university computer science departments) it was a little bit scary — after all, everything on CompuServe, AOL, Prodigy, and the like was subject to censoring. You were using a corporate service, and there were rules.

    These were also the days of panic about both video games and Dungeons and Dragons doing Bad Things To Our Youth. These were also instances of Technology (well D&D wasn’t, but you don’t want details to get in the way of working up a good panic) and people had started to hear about the mysterious Internet. And there was a certain amount of fear. Also simple uncertainty; to use one of the online services you had to master a nonsensical list of commands and they were different for each service. This Internet thing was going to be yet another set of incomprehensible controls.

    So anyway, the easiest way for people to get connected to the Internet was through their existing services. Each service simply added a new set of incomprehensible commands, and did their best to avoid any liability by pointing out IN BIG LETTERS that Beyond This Command You’re On Your Own. There wasn’t much of general interest on the Internet anyway, back then; its main attractions were being able to email anybody anywhere, and UseNet (kind of a whole Internet made up of blog comments).

    The other genesis of walled gardens was in the world of mobile providers. After 2000 mobile phones began to be haltingly able to display simple web pages. Mobile service providers had an opportunity — and smack most business people in the face with a huge opportunity, daily, for several years, and a minority will begin to get it. Compuserve and its ilk charged by the minute to be connected, and the mobile providers did too — for voice. But if you made a data connection, you could be charged again. More. So up when more walls around more gardens. In their defense, the very early mobile web browsers (some of which were partly my fault) were awful, broke all the time, and couldn’t cope with much variation in pages. So the AT&Ts of the world tried to ensure that by staying on their pages and buying things (ringtones) from them, maybe fewer customers would experience error messages and worse. Thus walled gardens volume 2.

  7. …..and Jain can’t imagine waking up to a world without Quinn every morning,who continues to inspire every day with her thoughts,views and links…..Thankyou…you must work tirelessly to achieve so much. But if you love and are passionate about what you do,then it doesn’t seem like hard work…think you have cracked it!!! Blessings x

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