[Foundation-l] Commons and The Year of the Picture

Gerard Meijssen gerard.meijssen at gmail.com
Mon Jan 19 10:04:48 UTC 2009

How wonderful, the WIkimedia Foundation adopts the Swedish idea to dedicate
2009 as the year of the picture. There is a lot that we can achieve when we
put our mind to it. So let me tell you about some of our needs and of our
low hanging fruits.

Some people say that we only need one picture of a dog. One opposing view is
that we have over 250 Wikipedias who all write about the dog, dog breeds
etc. It would be boring if they all have to use the same illustration. When
we started with Commons, the same picture was loaded on many projects and
concentrating them in one location and annotating them once was one of the
primary reasons for Commons. By having a rich collection of quality pictures
we give children something to choose from when they illustrate their

==Historical subjects and archives==
For many historical subjects it is difficult to find appropriate
illustrations. In 2008 the successful building of relations let to the
opening up of the Bundesarchiv.. We got 100.000 images in a usable format.
This is becoming a win-win situation because many of the annotations have
been checked and feedback is provided to the Bundesarchiv. In the meantime,
slowly but surely these images are working their way into our articles. This
success story provides an argument that may convince other archives to open
up their collection.

==Historical subjects and bias==
We owe a debt of gratitude to archives like the Library of Congress. They
prove great custodians of our cultural heritage. They are a primary source
for illustrations for our historical subjects. The LoC even provides high
resolution scans for download. This embarrassment of riches has one
downside, their material is American and when we overly rely on American
resources ourcollection of  illustrations becomes inherently biased. The
conclusion is obvious, we need more archives to cooperate with. The library
of Alexandria is an obvious one, but we need to illustrate the historical
persons, places and events from countries like Sudan, Bangladesh, South
Africa as much and as well as the persons, places and events of the USA.

==Historical pictures and quality==
Our aim is to provide high quality illustrations with our articles. When
there is nothing available, almost any picture improves the quality of a
picture. When better illustrations are found, the old pictures should be
replaced. This does not mean that the original historical picture lost its
value, it may mean that we only need a higher quality version of the same
image. By keeping these pictures and by looking for a better scan or a
restored version of the image we build on our portfolio of illustrative

==Restorations of illustrative material==
A small group of our people spend much of their time restoring illustrative
material, both images and sound. The quality of their work is recognised in
the high number of featured pictures and sounds. There is a Wikibook on
"Image restoration". There is an open invitation to support anyone
interested in this most important work. When 2009 is to be the year of the
picture, I can only hope for a workshop on this subject in Argentina. I can
also hope that the unfulfilled needs of this community get positive

==Commons and language==
Commons is only usable for people who speak English. A seven or eight year
old is not likely to find a picture of a hynder. When our material is to be
educational, we must be able to reach those people who are being educated.
It has been proved that we can provide Commons with categories in multiple
languages, with a category tree in multiple languages and with a search
engine that allows a seven year to find this hynder. Half of the WMF traffic
is in English. It is only half our public that we would do it for.

==Commons, tools and language II==
Many software tools have sprung up around Commons. Commonist is one of the
more prominent tools. After some discussion Commonist was included in
Betawiki and it became practical to provide localisations to Commonist. In a
couple of day more then twenty localisations were completed. We need more
pictures from countries like the Philipines, Turkey, Slovenia and Macedonia
and enabling people to contribute in their own language is a powerful tool.
Commonist demonstrates that this can be do this if we put our mind and
effort to this.

==Commons and usability==
The other day I tried and failed to upload a crop from an historical
picture. I asked someone well versed in the intricacies of the upload
process to upload it for me. For me the upload process is broken. I am
motivated about Commons but I fail at getting a picture in. Given that the
Stanton project is about Wikipedia, we need a similar project for Commons.

Commons is a great and important project. When we give more attention to it
will prove to grow from an ugly duckling into a swan. Currently there are
3,8 million media files, what number are we aiming for at the end of the
year ?


2009/1/19 Michael Snow <wikipedia at verizon.net>

> This isn't directly related to the board meeting, but I want to pause
> for a moment to share some ideas. Not all of them are mine, quite a bit
> of this is directly from the chapters.
> The Swedish chapter had the idea to declare 2009 The Year of the
> Picture, to put a concerted effort into adding images to the Wikimedia
> Commons, along with using more illustrations in Wikipedia and elsewhere.
> I think this is absolutely a great idea. Making better use of visual
> material in our projects also fits in with the ongoing effort to improve
> quality.
> I applaud the efforts of all the chapters in this area, and I encourage
> anyone who can to join in. You may recall that the German chapter
> recently secured the release of a large number of images from their
> federal archive, and several other chapters are also working on free
> image collection projects. Hopefully our April meetings of chapter
> representatives, in conjunction with the board, will be an opportunity
> to develop more ideas and strategies. And of course, you don't even need
> to have a recognized chapter to get a group together and organize photo
> expeditions, as for example some of the people in the now-approved New
> York chapter have done.
> Commons is obviously an important part of any such efforts, as our
> repository for freely licensed media. Now because Commons is a project
> in itself, there has always been some tension around how separate and
> independent it should be from the other projects. Should it be
> considered to have its own community? (Yes, says Brianna, otherwise it
> would be no different from Photobucket.) How much should it take
> direction from the other projects in order to serve their needs? For
> that matter, should the other projects occasionally take direction from
> Commons as its participants do things like screen for copyright issues?
> Just how broad of a scope does Commons have?
> Our mission, fundamentally, is educational. That may sometimes be a
> limitation, where media that doesn't have serious educational potential
> should be avoided as a distraction, or things that detract from
> education can be edited out. However, the needs of education may be
> broad indeed, so I'd say that the scope of Commons could be broader -
> actually, maybe I should say deeper instead. Along those lines, I'll
> share some comments I made in an internal discussion on the subject.
> Speaking primarily from my experience working with images, I find it
> really restrictive to think of Commons as limited to those images
> actually needed for Wikipedia. I think perhaps we should approach it
> from the perspective of what a project like Wikibooks could use -
> Wikibooks not as it is, but as it could be.
> The actual art of matching illustrations to text requires having not
> just one passably suitable picture, but choosing the best for your
> particular purpose out of a range of similar options. It also is not a
> matter of taking the one platonically perfect picture and dropping it in
> every conceivable place, though given what's currently available that's
> often what we end up doing. To find a good illustration when you want
> one ultimately demands a vast library of images, many of which might
> never be used otherwise because nobody has called for the particular
> combination of features they provide.
> I deal with this regularly in a professional capacity, this is what
> stock photography firms are built on, and I can assure you that there is
> no adequate freely licensed stock photography resource in the world.
> Commons is the best there is, and it is barely usable, and then only
> sporadically. Maybe some people imagine we have too many pictures of
> people's cats and dogs, since those are popular subjects, but I'll say
> we don't have nearly enough even of that - and in particular we don't
> have enough variety. Suppose I wanted a picture of a dog and a cat
> together, a fairly mundane subject, for which I did at least find a
> category with 27 files at
> http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Cats_and_dogs. I suppose
> that's a start, but at a glance there's no way that provides enough
> options for what I might want, especially if I was particular about how
> they're posed or what breed they are.
> There are no doubt bigger gaps in our library, and arguably more
> important ones. But mostly we need to get more pictures and figure out
> ways to use them.
> --Michael Snow
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> foundation-l at lists.wikimedia.org
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l

More information about the foundation-l mailing list