Stelum – a new platform for brief and simple explanations

A multinational team, lead by Vienna-based Dmitry and Alex Chekh, is currently preparing the launch of a new kind of knowledge resource on the web. Stelum is an online collaborative platform for short explanations to which anyone can contribute. ”Our goal is to give the reader a simple explanation, which will help them grasp any concept quickly and easily. We concentrate on big, complicated topics, making them easy to understand with the help of original, creative explanations written by our users,” they explain.

This interview is a part of the theme of April–May 2017: ”short & punchy”.

Hi Guys! Tell us a little about the Stelum project and how you got the idea.
Stelum is an online platform for simple explanations. We call them Simplexes. A Simplex is a card with a simple and short explanation. Unlike an encyclopedia article, a Simplex doesn’t describe – it explains, from the point of view of the reader. It answers individual questions: Why should I care? Why do I need to know this? Why is it important for me? A Simplex allows anyone to grasp the essentials of any fact or concept both quickly and easily. There are no detailed, long-winded paragraphs. Instead, Simplexes only give you the essentials.

We got the idea from everyday life. Every day we come across words that we don’t properly understand, while watching the news, reading the paper, chatting with friends and coworkers. We’ve all been there – you look up something on the Internet, but the articles you find are so complicated or long you just give up, feeling like you’ll never understand. Wikipedia has emerged as one of the main sources of information in recent years. But as studies show, articles on Wikipedia are often too complicated for the average person to understand. They’re written in academic language that’s filled with jargon. Often, it’s only people who already know what they’re talking about who can make sense of it.

Articles like those about Entropy, the Higgs Boson or the Large Hadron Collider do contain lots of information and can be helpful — if you happen to have a degree in physics. But they are simply beyond the grasp of the vast majority of readers. Today’s generation of Internet-users are demanding instant gratification and the old approaches no longer work. The modern person is in a situation that is fundamentally different from that of the past. We live in an age of information overload. With the arrival of the Internet, we have all turned into active consumers of information, and the problem of understanding has become more pressing than ever. Yet we continue to use 19th century methods to resolve the 21st century problem of information overload.

We think that the encyclopedia genre often does not respond to the demands of modern life. In order to find our feet in a constant stream of information we need a general understanding of things, not just detailed descriptions. We simply don’t have the time or the desire to read long and complicated texts.

What we need is a new way of working with information — clear, short explanations that allow us to grasp a topic quickly and easily. But these kinds of explanation are nowhere to be seen. You won’t find simple, creative explanations that use analogies, stories or metaphors anywhere in traditional encyclopedias.

Why is Stelum interesting for young science and tech people?
Stelum is definitely interesting to science communicators and tech enthusiasts. Anyone can write a Simplex! Think of Stelum as your science communication portfolio. Having an account on Stelum is the best way to share your knowledge, to reach more people and to gain following. Every Simplex has a rating, so you will get a real-time feedback from your readers. If you are a good explainer we’ll help you get noticed! The best Simplexes are promoted on the main page and are shown as suggestions across the site.

Give three tips to someone who wants to explain a complex concept in a concise and enlightening way!

  • Keep it simple. Don’t use words or illustrations which need to be explained themselves. Explain using analogies, stories, metaphors and comparisons. An explanation written in everyday language is easier to understand.
  • Keep it short. Focus on only the most important points and avoid getting bogged down in mind-numbing detail. Short explanations are much simpler and quicker to read.
  • Be visual. As we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words!

More info:

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