Technical Implementation of the Ortext Design

The Communicating with Prisoners ortext re-interprets basic WordPress features to support its design. We developed the ortext design with attention to limiting technical knowledge and code development to the minimum necessary to achieve ortext content design objectives.

The main text of the ortext is ordered chunks of text called articles. Articles are content with post_type post in WordPress. Ordinarily, posts in WordPress don’t necessarily have any substantial relation in time. In the ortext, articles ( WordPress posts) are substantially related linearly in time. Articles integrate relatively smoothly into larger sections of text.

Post dates are used for linearly ordering content. WordPress provides extensive native support for post dates. Post dates can be understood as a flexible page-ordering mechanism that works across post types.

Categories are interpreted as defining ortext sections. The term section is used rather than category to emphasize that chunks of main text (articles) within a section are substantially ordered. Notes, statistics, and datasets, which are also grouped using the common section (category) divisions, are only weakly ordered. Those types of content within a section mainly have topical relation to the section. Sections are presented with the native WordPress support for category display.

To get categories ordered in accordance with an outline, category names are prefixed with outline headings. That’s formally bad design. But it’s a very simple solution to outline ordering using only native WordPress functionality.

Tags are used to implement an index. Native WordPress support for a tag template and a tag cloud provide an analog to a book index. Unlike a book index, the ortext tag-based index isn’t comprehensive. However, search functionality provides a dynamic digital alternative to a static index. In the ortext, terms worth indexing include keywords that don’t generate informative search results.

The ortext divides the scholarly concept of footnotes or endnotes into two forms. Linked text typically connects to substantial content: notes (textual content with post_type notes), statistics (quantitative or mathematical descriptive text with post_type statistics), and datasets (a large content collection, typically in the form of spreadsheets of data hosted external to WordPress). A second link form, a caret (^) at the end of a sentence, provides a link to only a bibliographic citation (contained in post_type refs). Carets are thus like footnotes or endnotes that contain only pointers to specific bibliographic references.

This ortext includes many tables. To see the tables included in the ortext, you must install and activate the excellent TablePress plugin. Internal key linking works within TablePress tables. Such links must be added manually.

This ortext includes many datasets. Instances of most of them are hosted in the data folder within the WordPress standard uploads folder. The datasets integrate with WordPress content via otx-datalinks meta-keys and the shortcode [otxdata]. That shortcode produces a linked list of datsets based on the contexts of the otx-datalinks meta-keys. By setting values for otx-datalinks keys, you can easily multi-home and re-home existing and revised versions of the datasets.

The ortext has no separate, static bibliography.  Bibliographic references are accessible through direct links and a special search form. An inside academic joke is that the only part of scholarly books that scholars read is the bibliography. The ortext design discourages that sort of status-obsessing behavior.

The ortext includes a general means to set up specific, context-sensitive links. The primary menu includes a custom item with URL http://context-notes under the navigation label Notes. The primary menu also includes a custom item with URL http://context-data under the navigation label Data. These items create context-sensitive links. They link to the notes and statistics/data sections associated with the content currently being viewed, or to global overview lists. These links are independently context-sensitive. Hence they work appropriately (and differently) when viewing a section of Notes or a section of Data.

The context-sensitive links function with any theme. They depend, however, on a particular content structure. For a different content structure, you can easily create different context-sensitive links by adapting the relevant function in the Ortext Formatting plugin.

WordPress has tended to be used for large collections of content chunks that are primarily discrete and not intellectually challenging. The ortext design uses WordPress to encourage in-depth reading, pondering, and analysis of content chunks carefully designed in relation to each other.

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