Commons *has* a community, though a small and vulnerable one, and
regretfully declining community over the last years. Currently some twenty
people contribute 100 edits or more a month, and some four hundred people
contribute 5 edits or more a month, which is comparable to a "small"
language Wikipedia. I thank Pieter Kuiper fully for admitting Commons isn't
without it's own problems. I thank Ting Cheng, a community elected board
member of the Wikimedia Foundation, for his lengthy elaboration recognizing
an issue. I thank Dror for standing up. This Spring the WMF has initiated a
year long strategy formation process asking input from all sides and parties
involved around a series of questions concerning participation, reach and
quality. (Strict) compliance with license(s) is considered a [[[quality]]
issue by more than one regular contributor to Commons. Several image
gathering projects do have several goals, most notably informing the public
about free repositories of (for example) images which I will dub [[reach]]
and hooking newcomers to become contributors of content, which I will dub
[[participation]]. Initially dubbed [[governance of Commmons]] I would like
to invite all participants in this discussion, and all participants in the
[[massive upload conflict]]s to participate this year, just started, and
ending summer 2010, in the overall Wikimedia Foundation strategy formation
process. Help us all finding answers to all of "What should we do" and "How
should we do" questions. In my belief all active participants to Commons
should be give the time to reflect on the current issue, and give their
opinion, if they want to, which can take a longer time than the wikibreak of
Dror. Maybe it might be possible to generate a rough guideline in a year
time about [[I started a project to have the public take images and upload
them ultimately to Commons. How and when should I inform the community at
commons about my project and under which conditions won't the community at
Commons block all uploads from my project]]. After all, the Commons is a
very special project. It has many more sysops than active contributors. And,
as far as I know, a sysop is just a technical function, with the ability
(some buttons) and not the authority to push them without 'community
consent'. Governance at he commons and discussing about sysops might blur
this a little bit. That might presuppose sysops having an organizational
role or function they wouldn't have. And one last thing: Commons, like all
projects, are independent of the WMF, the Board of the WMF can't impose
anything on the project. So Ting showed a lot of courage by stepping into
this discussion, and I thank him for that, again.
> Message: 5
> Date: Fri, 25 Sep 2009 19:46:18 -0500
> From: Daniel Schwen <lists(a)schwen.de>
> Subject: Re: [Commons-l] WebGL enabled in Firefox nightlies
> To: Wikimedia Commons Discussion List <commons-l(a)lists.wikimedia.org>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
> > Back from the old days of VRML - I remember there used to be a plugin
> Uhm, VRML is dead. And it's successor is not WebGL, but X3D. There are
> plenty of plugins for all operating systems. FreeWRL  and
> InstantPlayer 
> being two of the more active projects
>  http://freewrl.sourceforge.net/
>  http://www.instantreality.org/downloads/
Yes i know - the point being (and bear in mind i don't know very much
about 3d stuff, so take anything i say with salt) that if we wanted to
display some content natively to firefox using web gl, and than have a
java applet as a back up if no native support. (like we do for ogg).
the java vrml players were java applets that displayed 3d things,
hence i assume they could be used as a backup (I have no idea if thats
true or not). The point of it being java is that people wouldn't have
to download plugin
> And Safari, and Chrome. Webkit and Gecko strikes me as a reasonable
> spread at first.
> Presumably a Java applet will be needed for those who aren't running
> something that can handle WebGL.
> - d.
Back from the old days of VRML - I remember there used to be a plugin
called shout3D and another one called BLAXXUN3D which could render a
limited subset of vrml with java. However its very doubtful they'd be
> Message: 6
> Date: Tue, 22 Sep 2009 16:29:08 +0100
> From: David Gerard <dgerard(a)gmail.com>
> Subject: [Commons-l] WebGL enabled in Firefox nightlies
> To: Wikimedia Commons Discussion List <commons-l(a)lists.wikimedia.org>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
> does occur to me: is there anything in this we could use? Content it
> was previously unfeasible to serve?
> - d.
We could display 3d world files (VRML and what not. which honestly
this whole webGL thing imho seems to vrml/x3d what canvas is to svg -
two sides of the same coin. but than again i'm not all that familiar
with it). I'm not sure how useful that'd be. Could display 3d shapes
perhaps where the user could control the viewpoint. Maybe to make
3d-tour esque things where you could look arround a place. Overall the
uses of such a thing seem rather minimal.
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Since its foundation, the French chapter has attempted to reach out to
French cultural institutions, such as museums, and incite them to either
put their images under free licenses, either allow photographers that
contribute freely licensed pictures to take photographs in good conditions.
At first, to be frank, we got the cold shoulder. At the time, Wikipedia
was demonized by the French media, calling it a cesspool of amateurism,
plagiarism, a danger to the youth's intellect, and so on. In addition,
certain members of the cultural establishment were at the time attacking
Google and other big American sites, pushing their own solutions.
Things might be changing though. In 2008, I represented Wikimedia France
before a commission tasked with proposing new policies to the Minister
of Culture regarding the reuse of public cultural works. The Ministry of
Culture is in charge of most national museums and monuments (e.g. the
Louvre, the Versailles Castle...) and its agencies have large
collections of photographs - but these are copyrighted by the agencies
and available under unfree licenses.
Our position was as follows: unfree licenses may in the short term allow
cash-strapped government agencies to earn some money from selling
photographs to publishers, but in the long run they are
counter-productive, because media, publishers and important sites such
as Wikipedia, worldwide, prefer free and easy to obtain photographs to
photographs that they need to purchase from unfamiliar foreign
institutions, and thus French cultural institutions would lose visibility.
We gave the example of aerospace activities on Wikipedia, which are
overwhelmingly illustrated by US government pictures, which somehow
convey the impression that countries outside the US do nothing in this
field. We pointed out that museums such as the Smithsonian Institution
were putting up content on FlickR, and that it was inevitable that
publishers and other people that want an illustration from an artist
would prefer getting one from FlickR rather than ordering one from the
French museums. In contrast, if French museums would release pictures
under a free license, they would get free publicity - imagine what it
would cost them if they wanted to advertise their exhibitions on
Wikipedia (if Wikipedia accepted advertisements), whereas they can get
publicity for free simply by the attribution of the photographs!
Note that it is not out of ill will that museums and other institutions
refuse to release pictures under a free license. There are some legal
difficulties involved - sometimes they do not own the rights to the
pictures (only in 2006 it was established for sure that rights to works
done by civil servants as part of their duties belonged to their
employer; also, they sometimes employ private photographers), and
besides, there are tricky issues with so-called "moral rights" that may
render certain aspects of free content licenses illegal in France. Also,
public institutions are pressured to make some money by themselves.
I had written a memo, which I gave to the commission.
This August, I received the report from the commission, with an
associated letter from the Minister of Culture, Frédéric Mitterrand,
stating that he endorsed the findings in the report. This report
advocates many changes that we approve:
* stop trying to make insignificant sums of money - instead release as free
* cut the red tape - authorizations for reuse of content should be
centralized to competent, professional services, rather than be
decentralized to many institutions most of whom do not have the
technical, legal and financial infrastructure to deal with them
* collaborate with free content sites such as Wikipedia - more on this.
http://david.monniaux.free.fr/pdf/rapport_culture.pdf (scanned version)
http://david.monniaux.free.fr/pdf/rapport_culture_ocr.pdf (OCR version)
The cultural services are reluctant to release pictures under free
licenses. When I met them, they expected that it would be possible to
"negotiate" with Wikipedia and get an exemption from this requirement. I
explained to them that freedom was not negotiable. It was, I think, very
surprising to them that Wikipedia, an amateurish organization, would
dare say that to the Government!
I proposed a way out: release lower resolution pictures under free
license, keep high resolution pictures (those suitable for art books,
posters and so on) proprietary. The suggestion has been retained by the
commission - even though they still seem to toy with this idea of
In the meantime, the National Library of France (www.bnf.fr) announced
it was entering negotiations with Google for digitizing their content.
This would announce a sharp change in policies since when Jean-Noël
Jeanneney was head of the library - Jeanneney had written a book
denouncing Google's hold on the world.
I seized the occasion to make our point of view heard. On Wednesday
September 16, I published in op-ed column in the national daily
Libération, explaining that our cultural policies on were
counterproductive - rather than fight the "American cultural invasion"
as their proponents suggest, they actually reinforce this invasion by
making French content invisible on the Web - because it is kept proprietary.
*** This is, I think, the first time such ideas were exposed in the
mainstream media. ***
Since the report called for renewed contacts between the Ministry and
free content sites, I wrote to them thanking the Minister for sending
the report and telling them that we are at his disposal for further
discussion with his services.
We are trying to keep up the "buzz" on these issues - see the Heritage
The "European Heritage Days" (French: "Journées européennes du
Patrimoine") are held in several European countries, most prominently
France, on certain days in September. On these days, many buildings not
usually open to the public (e.g. the Élysée Palace) are open for
visiting, as are the workshop of certain artisans (e.g. stained glass
window specialists, or sculpture restorators).
I suggested and implemented on the French Wikipedia the following
scheme: a sitenotice mentioning the event and pointing out that the
general public can help Wikipedia get more photos, with a link to a page
explaining how to contribute photos. This page gets 7000-8000 hits daily.
We eschewed telling people about the upload interface - instead we
explained to them in layman's terms what a "free license" is and told
them to send pictures by email to the permissions-commons-fr OTRS address.
This action was mentioned on several online news sites, including
Ecrans.fr (the Internet-related news site associated with the daily
We used this occasion to point out to users some of the difficulties we
have with public museums and monuments in France. On Wednesday, I
published an op-ed in the national daily Libération explaining how our
current policies are ill-suited. There are chances there could be
changes, according to a recent report I received from the Minister of
Culture, which seems to endorse certain suggestions I made to the
Ministry when I was heard in 2008 before a commission there, on behalf
of Wikimedia France.