World's largest photo competition kicks off; WMF legal fees proposal: Last year's Wiki Loves Monuments event resulted in the submission of an extraordinary 168,208 images from 18 countries, the world's largest photographic competition. The 2012 event — just opened and running for the full month of September — has required input from chapters and volunteers in 35 countries.
2012 Wiki Loves Monuments seen as driving new contributors
Some of Wikimedia's most valuable photographs have been shot and uploaded under free licenses as a direct result of the annual Wiki Loves Monuments (WLM) event each September. Last year, the project was conducted on a European level, resulting in the submission of an extraordinary 168,208 free images from 18 countries, making it the world's largest photographic competition (winners and finalists).
In 2012, the volunteer-run competition aims to produce images of a wide range of cultural heritage sites ("monuments") across the globe. Organising the event—which has just opened and will run for the full month of September—has required input from chapters and volunteers in 35 countries. Throughout the month, Wikimedians and visitors to Wikipedia are invited to submit photographs of monuments to this competition. This year, for the first time, the project will cover cultural sites beyond Europe.
Smallbones, the coordinator of the American WLM event, told the Signpost that "the aim is to work toward complete photographic coverage by Wikimedia of cultural heritage sites around the world, giving an overview of the cultural heritage in a country or region, even though this is a goal we'll never be able to fully achieve.
"The contest is organized by teams in each participating country. In the US we might get 50,000 entries. The huge task we'll facing is to properly short-list these photos down to about 500—just 1%—so that our distinguished jury can reasonably evaluate them. They'll pick the best 10, which will go on to the international final and a global jury. We're particularly proud of the US jury, which includes people like Carol M. Highsmith and Rick Prelinger, as well as several top Wikipedians. Our main goal is to attract and keep new editors and photographers—the individuals who make Wikipedia the best site on the internet. On that count we've already been successful. I'll just point out one guy who's uploaded photos from almost half the sites in one state, all of a consistently high quality."
There are already encouraging numbers of uploads globally, only a few days since the opening of the competition. Spain has nearly 4000, Germany more than 2600, with Poland, France, and India in the 2000s.
While collecting a large number of images is the immediate aim, the underlying goals are broader. The project in part sees itself as a way of engaging the general readership of Wikimedia projects as contributors. Organisers hope that normally passive readers who've never thought of becoming Wikimedians might realise that they can contribute—even if it's something as simple as an image of a nearby building that is culturally notable. WLM is designed to make people familiar with Commons, using a simplified upload interface with fewer options; this minimises the barriers to uploading for new users. The competition is also an opportunity to improve the international collaboration among Wikimedia chapters. The event appears to be one of the best ways of encouraging collaboration among "offline volunteers" all over the world.
How WLM evolved
The idea behind WLM had its origins in the highly successful Wiki Loves Art project in 2009 (Signpostcoverage) in the Netherlands. The following year, the scope was significantly changed from indoor heritage in museums to outdoor heritage such as windmills, houses, bridges and other monuments recognised by the government as significant, and attracted more than 12,500 images. This digital documentation of a significant part of the Dutch cultural monument heritage (Rijksmonument) was made possible through collaboration with several partners in the Dutch cultural heritage world.
Last year, volunteers in other European countries indicated their interest in joining the contest, so the project was expanded to a Europe-wide event (Signpostcoverage). The competition was publicly endorsed by no less than the European Commission, Europa Nostra, and the Council of Europe—all significant players in European cultural preservation—with the first two institutions also contributing one of the international jury members. The 18-country event attracted more than 5,000 contributors.
The statistics show that the 2011 competition achieved a key goal of broadening the movement's base of contributors. Most striking was that some 70% of the 5000 participants made their first edit during the competition month; 90% of survey participants said they were likely to take part in another round, and 87% said they'd recommend the project to their friends.
Volunteers from countries without their own contests, such as Portugal and the UK, can take part if they submit photos of monuments in countries that are participating in this year's competition.
Innovations in 2012
This month marks the first global WLM. Among the participating countries are Argentina, South Africa, India, Canada, and the US, and there will be a number of regional events. The 2011 competition relied on a special upload campaign; this year will also feature new apps with the help of the WMF mobile team (WMF Android) and Mair Dumont (iPhone). These apps have been developed to enable participants to easily find monuments in their vicinity—a technological innovation that is likely to be particularly important in countries like South Africa, where smart phones are the most accessible way of connecting to the internet.
WMF RfC on legal fees help
On 1 September, the Wikimedia Foundation published a proposal to establish a legal fees assistance program for volunteers in Wikimedia community support roles like administrators and arbitrators (list of eligible user groups) in the unlikely scenario where they face role-specific legal actions despite having performed their administrative community role properly. At the WMF’s sole discretion, the program would assist volunteers on a per-request basis in covering the costs of legal defense. The scheme would not involve legal guarantees, create WMF attorney–client relationships, or pay for damages awarded to plaintiffs, or their costs.
Volunteers not performing in such supportive roles, i.e. article authors, photographers, and functionaries while not performing their official roles, can rely on the general defense of contributors policy, which was reformed in July–August 2012 (changes). The community is invited to take part in the Request for comment on the new proposal, set to be open until 10 October.
FDC candidates shortlist: The WMF published its shortlist for membership candidates for the volunteer Funds Dissemination Committee, which is set to look at how to distribute more than US$11M among Wikimedia organisations in 2012–13. The WMF board will appoint seven FDC members and one ombudsperson from the short-list.
English Wikipedia report
Pending Changes: The first request for comment on pending changes since May has been opened at WP:PC2012/RfC 1, after extensive discussions. From the introduction: "This RfC is on one of the less controversial questions – the role (if any) of Pending Changes Level Two – in the hope that the community will be able to come to a quick decision on this one, and in the process, join in developing a more elaborate RfC to follow."
Arbitration Committee: There continue to be no open cases before the committee, and one potential case remains on hold. Five clarifications and requests for amendments are currently open, which arose from decisions reached in the Sathya Sai Baba (2006), The Troubles (2007; three separate requests), and Race and intelligence (2010) cases.
New administrator: Bagumba, an editor active in American sport articles, was granted administrator tools on 27 August. The successful request was the tenth over the last two months, a figure which matches the total number of administrators promoted in the first six months of 2012.