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Pleks: main features

Pleks is a text portfolio and publishing tool for writers or author collectives. With Pleks you can publish long and complex texts online – clear, easy to read, annotated as desired and crosslinked with each other. 

Pleks Titelbild

Pleks is brought online in three steps: This site (mkrohs.pub) is now online as a showcase for the functionalities of Pleks. The next step will be a collective author portfolio with intellectual journalism under the title Integrale – running on Pleks, the third step will be the distribution of Pleks for individual installation on your own server.

Please subscribe to the Pleks newsletter if you are interested in a Pleks instance like the one in this showcase. 

(This somehow denglish-ly text is a slightly edited machine translation by DeepL of this german file on Pleks. FÜR DIE DEUTSCHE VERSION BITTE HIER WEITERLESEN!)


„Pleks“ from „comple(ks)“
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Online content has to be short and comparatively simple. At least that’s the widespread credo of web publishing. 

However, reality is not simple, but complex – in the sense of difficult. In order to understand and describe it, one has to delve deep into topics. Pleks is therefore designed to make longer online pieces legible. A content typical of Pleks is longer than an ordinary article, but shorter than a book: an online „medium format“. In the analogue world, the comparable format would be a brochure.

But reality is also complex in a second sense: that of being entangled and intertwined (Latin: plectere: to braid). Almost everything has to do with almost everything else. In order to make connections between topics visible, Pleks therefore provides means that link text and context in a variety of ways: in addition to conventional hyperlinks, blurbs (interactive pop-ups), article previews and associations, found so far only in Pleks.

Through blurbs, Pleks texts adapt to the reader: not everyone needs detailed context information,   but those who want it are free to use it. Previews and associations enable the texts on a Pleks installation to communicate with each other in different ways, across topic and genre boundaries.

Text portfolio and online publishing tool
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Pleks is intended as a portfolio for authors, which at the same time functions as an online publishing tool – similar to a blog, but with different functions and a different feeling. The type of text is irrelevant: journalistic, scientific and literary texts can be brought online with Pleks.

Technically, Pleks is a WordPress theme, trimmed to Pleks-specific functionality by newly developed plug-ins from Palasthotel and plug-ins from third parties. If you have already worked with WordPress, you will find your way immediately, even newcomers will get along with Pleks in no time at all.

Pleks can be set up as a personal portfolio: An author can present his texts on Pleks, arranged according to different topics and genres, make them readable like in a magazine and share them in social networks. But Pleks can also serve as a thematic portfolio in which various authors join together, for example in a research project (scientific footnotes are available by default).

Pleks for your own server
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Pleks starts now – in July 2019 – first with a showcase: mkrohs.pub – running on Pleks – the personal portfolio of Martin Krohs, who developed Pleks together with the designers and coders of Palasthotel and is also the founder of the online periodical dekoder.org (Grimme Online Award 2016).

mkrohs.pub shows the features of Pleks within a specific collection of texts. In addition, the file you are currently reading provides an overview of the thoughts behind Pleks and the possibilities Pleks offers.

However, this text is not yet a fully-fledged manual on Pleks – which has to do with the fact that we first want to understand what kind of resonance Pleks has at all, in order to set up a distribution channel if there is request for it. If you sign up for the newsletter, we will not only keep you up to date about the further rollout of Pleks – you can also let us know in an anonymous survey (late summer / autumn) whether a Pleks installation would be interesting for you:

The price per license will be in the two-digit Euro range and depends also on the number of people who are interested.

Organised and easy to navigate
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Pleks works similar to a small web magazine: The published texts are arranged according to thematic categories, and each text can be assigned to a genre as an additional feature. A dynamic table of contents running along the edge of the screen makes orientation and navigation in the text an easy task.

Categories and genres
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Categories (in this example: Russia, Biology, Language, Politics, General) have corresponding buttons at the top of the page to filter the texts. Genres (such as essay, book section, report, analysis) are shown on the preview image. Both categories and genres can be defined by the author.

Authors from the fields of art and literature can also swap categories and genres: The buttons can then be assigned to categories such as short story, poetry, novel, essay, and the thematic category is shown as a secondary feature.

A click on the corresponding button filters the materials according to the respective category or genre.

Dynamic TOC
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Reading long texts on the screen is usually uncomfortable. One reason for this is that you don’t have paper in your hands that gives you a feeling for how much you’ve already read and how much is still ahead of you. You lose orientation of where you are in the text.

Of course, an online format can never replace the feeling of a book or a magazine. But it can try to compensate for the „lack of orientation“. And it has other advantages over paper, such as interactivity and the ability to search and copy texts.

As an orientation tool for reading longer texts online, Pleks offers a dynamic table of contents that runs along the right edge of the screen (on mobile devices in a box at the top of the screen – this function is not yet fully implemented). A dynamic marker indicates where you are in the text, and each entry is clickable, making it easy to jump back and forth through the text.

Table of Contents

Detailed view of the table of contents:

TOC Detail

The dynamic table of contents creates an alternative to the „paper feeling“ and manual browsing, which makes online reading of long texts much more comfortable than before.

Contextualisation and reciprocal references
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A text never stands alone. It refers to external facts, events, thoughts, which often do not even have to be completely explained: Allusions suffice. But texts also communicate with each other. Pleks offers dynamic tools, which make context and references comprehensible for the reader and open up different reading scenarios.

Blurbs
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Blurbs in Pleks are interactive pop-ups that can be inserted anywhere in the text. Blurbs can be short and concise – but they can also contain several paragraphs of text and even images.

Blurbs make it possible to prepare the same text for different groups of readers. Those who are familiar with the contents and terms appearing in the body text can read linearly without opening a single blurb. Readers looking for additional information or who are simply curious, can mouse over the coloured text and read the blurb without interrupting the reading flow.

The word Blurb is an adoption of the expression for the small praising phrases known from the covers of mainly American books. The sound of the words reminds one of various forms of „bubbling“, which in turn goes hand in hand with the „pop-up“ of such a window. At dekoder.org we introduced this word for fun, since then it has remained in use.

Screen view with a blurb open:

An example of a heavily „blurbed“ text can be found here.

Previews
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A preview appears at links that refer from Pleks texts to other Pleks texts, for example to this text on evolutionary biology (and also in the previous paragraph there was already a link with preview).

The preview works similar to a blurb, with the difference that you can move on to the next Pleks text from the popup box that appears. 

Previews give an impression of what to expect from a click on the link in advance, thus mitigating the typical conflict of hypertext reading: to click or not to click?

Associations
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Associations are an exclusive feature of Pleks, which is not to be found anywhere else on the Internet.

Yes – reality may indeed be complex, entangled and intertwined. But thematic entanglements cannot always be depicted textually by means of individual keywords, as one can look them up in wikipedia. The references are often vague and indirect. One reads or writes about a topic that reminds or resembles another and mentally associates two contents with each other.

Associative cognition

It can be assumed that a considerable part of our thought processes (and also of our emotional processes) is based on such a rather vague association principle. Associations often take place on a semi-conscious level, so to speak „in the back of our minds“ – but the influence of this associative cognition on our judgements, our opinions, our worldviews is certainly there.

Although the Internet itself has an associative structure (who doesn’t move on from one topic to the next when doing a research – and sometimes ends up with particularly happy finds?), there is still no possibility today of representing such „vague connections“ on the text itself.

For this purpose Pleks offers a special form of „associative link“. Unlike a classic hyperlink, this link does not start from a word or a group of words. The Pleks association links a whole paragraph, or even: the meaning of this paragraph. The association link can also be used if the content that is associated is not explicitly mentioned in the text. The link thus begins, so to speak, behind the text and not within it.

Texts communicate across genre boundaries

An example. You are writing a text about a current, controversially discussed topic, let’s say: gender-neutral language.

In the course of this text you raise the question whether female persons can also be included in grammatically male expressions, male persons in grammatically female expressions, and above all whether these persons, even if they are meant to be included by the speaker, do in fact feel included (and an external auditorium can understand this).

In other words, you address the question of gender visibility in language (which can also extend beyond the binary gender scheme female/male). This in itself is a tricky question with lots of consequences: depending on how one answers it, one arrives at completely different, even opposite conclusions regarding the use of word pairs such as Bäcker / Bäckerin; Student / Studentin; Waise (f) / Waise (m) or neutralized forms such as Studierende.

You’re working on your text with zeal, and something comes to mind. A few years ago, on a weekend in the country, you wrote a little story for your children, which also dealt with these same questions! But not in a scientific way and with hard controversiality, but it was a light, friendly, perhaps also a little touching little story, in the way of a fable.

It is out of question to mention this story directly in the essay you are working on: the readers would  not understand the reason for such a digression und could even quetion the seriousness of your entire essay, especially since the fary tale would not fulfil any argumentative function at all. Even a classic hyperlink, e.g. based on the word pair  Bäcker / Bäckerin, would entail completely false expectations, namely that of a direct reference with further facts and details.

But wouldn’t other readers also enjoy the story? And would such a cute fable not be able to counter the disgruntled indignation with which the gender language topic is charged from both sides? Couldn’t it provide some relaxing spirit, loose up the discussion? Sure, the differences of opinion may not be resolved. But the ruthless tone in which they are negotiated could be broken up for a moment.

Now, what you can do at this point is to refer to the fary tale with a Pleks-association behind the text: The corresponding paragraphs are then highlighted with a different hue, and you add an explanatory note via a mask in the editor, which appears at the end of the marked area. A preview at mouse-over gives additional information about the content.

The readers can now, if they whish to do so, follow your suggestion of association – or not follow it – or follow it later: The association makes it clear that this is an indirect, large-scale relationship between two themes, a distant connection to a distant sphere, which nevertheless has a specific resonance with the actual subject. Like in our case, when we happily linger from a linguistic dispute to a sunny day ina summer house.

Euler und Eulin: A Rural Gender Language Impromptu

Other options

This example may have little to do with your everyday life as a writer and may seem a little constructed anyway all. But the more you become attentive for this type of linking, the more opportunities you’ll discover to use it. On this showcase site, for example, a passage from a political essay on refugees and migration is associated with an abstract-poetic one on postreligious theology; a text on symbiosis as a developmental factor in biological evolution is associated with the same (and with this one on the herbicide glyphosate); the section of a book on the discourse on Russia in Germany is associated with a mini-analysis of the term liberalism and so on – really, many things have a lot to do with many other things.

Moreover, such a linking of thoughts „behind the text“ is only one of the possible application scenarios for Pleks associations. One can easily think about others: Associations can be used to refer from a text on factual details to an overarching subject, from one reportage feature (or a passage of text in it) to another (which perhaps plays partly in the same place), or from a scene of a novel to a poem.

Whenever the task is to link the content of an entire text section (as opposed to individual words) with another text, the Pleks association represents a new functionality that is intuitively comprehensible to the reader. And these cases do exist again and again. Texts do not live for themselves alone: they communicate with each other.

Footnotes and references
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[Not only footnotes, as used in this text, but also scientific references in all common formats are available in Pleks by default. This part of the text will be added soon.]

Outlook
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Pleks is brought online in three steps – the publication of this showcase, where important features of Pleks can be explored in a real application scenario, is step one. Little by little, we’re now completing individual functions, such as the dynamic table of contents in the mobile version, and working through details if things should still get stuck here and there.

As step two of the Pleks rollout, a collective author portfolio for intellectual journalism (texts between science and journalism) is planned, which will appear under the title Integrals. The editorial preparations are already underway.

The most important step, however, is step number three: We want offer Pleks as a universal publishing tool for long and complex texts, to  be installable for all interested authors or author collectives on their own server and to be configured according to their own ideas.

It is a long way until then, on which a lot of technical and last but not least legal hurdles have to be overcome: A Pleks distribution has to meet different requirements than a site or a web journal that we maintain „manually“ ourselves.

Stay tuned
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You can help us make this journey by subscribing to the Pleks newsletter. We will not only keep you up to date on the further course of the rollout. As a newsletter subscriber you will also have the opportunity to let us know anonymously and without obligation whether you are interested in getting your own instance of Pleks. The more interested people come together, the higher we will prioritize step three in order to be able to offer an installable Pleks distribution as soon as possible.

Here is the link to the „technical“ Pleks newsletter:

And if you want to be informed when new texts appear on mkrohs.pub (topics: Politics, Philosophy, Russia, Biology – a thematic overview can be found here), subscribe to my publication newsletter:

In both cases you have to confirm your registration via a link sent by email. If you do not receive an e-mail(s) with the request for confirmation, please contact us at mail (at) pleks.io.

We promise: no advertising, no intrusive mailings. You will only hear from us if there is really something new.

We believe that Pleks fills a gap in the publishing world: making medium-length, brochure-like, interconnected texts easy to read online. We need more comple(ks)ity on the net.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Krohs, Concept-Developer @Pleks.io