"Very lucky" Picture of the Year: The Wikimedia Commons 2012 Picture of the Year contest has ended, with the winner being Pair of Merops apiaster feeding, taken by Pierre Dalous. The picture shows a pair of European Bee-eaters in a mating ritual—the male bird (right) has tossed the wasp into the air, and he will eventually offer it to the female (left).
In the second round, users were only allowed to vote for one picture. The second round's candidates were selected by votes: the top 36 pictures from the first round, along with eight additional images that were in categories not represented by the top 36. With 347 votes, Pair of Merops apiaster feeding not only beat the next-closest competitor by 43 votes, it managed to overcome a 254-vote difference from the first round, where it came in a stunning 24th. The first round winners (Ponte Vasco da Gama 25 and Darvasa gas crater panorama crop) finished in ninth and eighth place, respectively.
Pair of Merops apiaster feeding was taken by Pierre Dalous. Dalous started contributing images to the Commons only last year, and even before this, he had never participated in a photo contest. While he has only 113 edits and uploaded 24 images, 11 are now featured thanks to User:Lemon.
Taking the picture required finding a perch frequented by the European bee-eater, but the location and time windows were limited: the bird will normally frequent rivers so that it has a steady source of food (e.g. dragonflies) and a place to construct a nest, which it likes to do in eroded banks and slopes near rivers. In addition, the birds are migratory and only present in France from roughly April to September; this time was further limited by the 22 hours a day with inadequate light, leaving only two where Dalous could take the shot.
Dalous captured the birds with a tripod-mounted Canon EOS 7D camera with an f/4 Canon EF 300mm lens. He told us that the birds do not take long to enjoy their prey, so his major challenge was to catch both birds in the act while keeping them in focus. Dalous called the eventual result, which won him the POTY, "very lucky".
A senior Commons editor told the Signpost:
In my view some of the technical aspects of the image were achieved with great skill. While the right side of the branch is a bit out of focus and the under chin of left bird is shadowed, the action frame and the composition of the birds are excellent. I particularly like the forked shape on the branch that mirrors the beak. And there's inadvertently an almost human look in the bird about to catch the insect: look at its eye.
Krause's third place picture was inspired by one of his earlier images, Glühwedel brennt durch. This image highlights the gas coming out of a cracked light bulb. From this grew the idea of making a light bulb 'explode' with the help of an airsoft gun.
Capturing this image was no small feat, though. Krause remarked that getting the photo right required fine-tuning his flashes to 1/4000 seconds to "freeze" the scene. In addition, a trigger was required, so that when the gun was fired, the camera would capture the moment soon after impact. Krause constructed a full photo set in about an hour, taking care to account for flying glass fragments from the exploding bulbs. Finding the perfect combination then took nine lightbulbs, frequent corrections to the gun and trigger, and experimenting with the voltage supplied to the bulbs. In all, Krause said that it took him about three hours to take the photo.
The POTY contest organizers were very proud of this year's competition. The Signpost emailed User:Mono, User:Miya, and User:Beria, all members of the POTY organizing committee, for their opinions on the competition. Mono and Beria told us that the participation in the contest was far higher than previous years: this year, roughly 3200 and 4000 people voted in rounds one and two (respectively), as opposed to 2011's 1393 and 1178, and 2010's 1722 and 2400. The members also highlighted the growing difficulty of winning the contest. Miya pointed to this post, while Mono said that "It's always been a dilemma when some people are disappointed that certain unique and valuable images were left out. It's a delicate balance between preserving the popular vote and ensuring that everything gets a fair shake in the competition."
According to Beria, the competition was also much easier to run this year, as much of the coding was done last year, and the contest was translated into 29 languages. Mono emphasized the early timing of this year's contest when compared to previous years. Last year's competition (see Signpostcoverage) ended in June; this year's ended in February. The difference was in when the preparations for holding the contest began. For this, Mono told us that the organizing team started in November 2012, whereas in past years they have started in March or April of the following year.
In addition, a 2014 calendar comprised of the top 12 images from this year's POTY will be published by the Wikimedia Store. Those interested in being notified when it comes out may sign up here.
Overall, the organizers believed that this was at the least a highly successful contest. Mono said "we're very pleased with this year's contest. ... I'm proud to say that this was the most successful contest we've ever had", while Miya thanked the users who either contributed or voted in the competition.
Arbcom good governance and WMF ties
User:Coren, an arbitrator on the English Wikipedia, has disclosed that he has accepted a position with the Wikimedia Foundation as a Tools Lab Operations Engineer beginning 25 February 2013. His duties will revolve around the upcoming widely debated transition of the traditional Toolserver to the new Wikimedia Labs. Coren acknowledged the potential conflict-of-interest between arbitrating and his new job, but he "anticipate[d] no interaction between that position and my responsibilities to the Arbitration Committee, and [could] think of no plausible scenario where [his] work with the Foundation would ever constitute a conflict of interest."
Reaction to the news was initially tentatively positive, with some opposition developing later. Overall, supporters saw no problem with Coren's dual roles, so long as he took care to recuse himself in any possible conflict of interest. Snowolf recalled past WMF employees who "have served in highly sensitive volunteer positions in the past without major problems that I'm aware of (Bastique and Guillom as Stewards, I believe)". The most prominent dissent came from fellow arbitrator User:Risker, who stated:
There is an ongoing perception that the Committee is heavily influenced by the WMF, and that the WMF and its Board are in turn significantly influenced by the Arbitration Committee. Sometimes, there is at least some truth to that perception. We had one case in the past year where interactions between the Committee and WMF staff played a key role; this came to light only in the voting phase, where it would have been too late for Coren to recuse had he been an arbitrator at the time, and would have adversely affected the outcome of the case no matter what it turned out to be. Just within the past week, the Board of Trustees has cited an Arbcom decision to explain in part their reason for withholding support of a fairly significant movement organization, and there was discussion and concern about that possibility even at the time of the decision. ...
Do I think Coren has a genuine conflict of interest on a daily basis? Not at all. Do I think that his concurrent employment with the WMF and membership on the Arbitration Committee will be distracting and drama-inducing, laced with periodic conflicts of interest? That's extremely likely. The work of the Arbitration Committee is challenging enough without getting sidetracked by a constant need to address perceived conflicts of interest. I don't see WMF employment and Arbitration Committee membership as a good match.
Comments are still being made on Coren's disclosure page, though it was nominally closed on 18 February
Chapters Association: Nominations for the new chair of the proposed chapters association are open. The election will begin on 6 March. Ashley Van Haeften, the outgoing chair, stated that the election was being held early due to pressure from the Wikimedia Foundation trustees regarding his ban from the English Wikipedia, something which caused much controversy in the wake of his election last July. He hopes that this election will be different than his, which was unopposed: "I strongly recommend that this is a contested election ... I was uncomfortable that my appointment [was] without contest. In my view, this was a weak demonstration of our democratic process."
Term limits for trustees?: The Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees has decided to not enact term limits for trustees, but reiterated a commitment to "implement better and more transparent processes to assess appointed Board members (without compromising the privacy of those board members)."
New English Wikipedia administrators: User:Secretpassed RfA with 109 in support to 35 against, and User:West.andrew.gpassed with 106 in support to 10 against. The four successful RfAs in January, combined with the three in February, make seven administrators promoted so far in 2013. This figure is 25% of the administrators promoted last year (28), and if the trend continues, would make a 50% increase in administrators over the full year of 2013.
US government moves on open access: The Access2Research movement appears to have produced tangible results (see Signpost background), with the US government's new directive "Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research" (PDF). This states, in part, that "The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hereby directs each Federal agency with over $100 million in annual conduct of research and development expenditures to develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government."