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Wikipedia in black + Adam Cuerden

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By Hahc21 and Pine
Blackness Castle in Scotland. This aerial photo, taken from a camera on a kite, is a new featured picture.
This Signpost Featured content report covers material promoted between 16 June and 22 June, 2013.
This week, the Signpost interviews Adam Cuerden, a Wikimedian who has been gathering featured pictures for years, and who constantly participates in what could be his favourite part of the project. Cuerden dedicates most of his time to scanning and restoring old, valuable illustrative works. He explains to us how the featured picture process works, its relation with other parts of the encyclopedia, and how pictures evolve before reaching featured status.

American presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln seen in a lithograph from 1860. The image was restored by Adam Cuerden.

On participating at FPC

Well ... it's sort of a moral issue. In the UK, with a strong culture of used books and well-stocked libraries, it's easy for me to come across amazing illustrations. But these illustrations can all too easily become inaccessible. It's all very well that I get to see them, but if I do the research, then hide it, or, worse, find some cheap old book in a charity shop that turns out to be an amazing treasure – which, because I got it, no one else will ever see – it just feels morally wrong. But with Wikipedia, sharing them, and making sure they get to the people who can use them becomes so much easier.

The thing to remember about Featured Pictures is that you don't have to nominate your own works, if you see, for example, a really good photograph by someone else, you can – and indeed, are encouraged – to nominate it for featured picture status. And I'm sure we'll come back to advice on how to do that later. I'm pretty sure my first featured picture was something along those lines. But I can remember my first successful restoration that got featured picture status. Bit of a story there, though.

On the relation between pictures and articles

I've kind of evolved in my Wikipedia focus: I used to be a featured article writer. and, alongside various collaborators, did a lot of the work setting up Gilbert and Sullivan-related articles as one of Wikipedia's strengths, with featured articles on W. S. Gilbert, Creatures of Impulse, Thespis (opera), H.M.S. Pinafore, and various others. Now, part of making a good featured article is finding good illustrations. If you have access to enough libraries, though – and I did – you'll find some. I began uploading scans of the illustrations, and, after a while, started to do the occasional minor edit to them. Then, one day, the edits stopped being so minor.

It was this illustration. And, if you check the edit history to that, you'll see increasing attempts to make an image that, while good, had some printing issues that drew all focus away from the main image, into something where the intent was maintained, but the problems making it awkward to use gradually disappear. And the best part is, one can always go back to the original scan, if the divisions between the woodblocks are important to the use someone wants it for.

Now, about that image. I don't find anything to be embarrassed about from it, but it makes a number of decisions I wouldn't make today. The biggest of which had to do with the crappy computer I had at the time. I literally couldn't do anything with the image unless it was near-monochrome. And I used Microsoft Paint to edit it. But, well, I was pretty much the first person on Wikipedia to really get to know engravings (Durova started around that time, but she focused on photographs and the occasional lithograph). Before Wikipedia, this sort of thing was highly specialised knowledge. Of course, there are downsides to this. Modern publishers don't always handle engravings well. I've seen expensive art books of Gustave Doré's work that were just awful. Hell, come to think of it...

An incomplete digitalisation of Dante Alighieri's Inferno, painted by Gustave Doré. Adam Cuerden uploaded the picture, which is cropped at the left, in November 2008. He stopped working on this picture after realizing it was incomplete.

On the pre-nomination phases of a picture

This is from a 2007 edition that I started scanning in before realising it was utter crap and stopping. There's a few issues. First off, note the solid black areas. In the original, there's lots of details in those areas. The worst example was in one from this book I apparently never uploaded to Wikipedia (which is probably a good thing), in which a solid black area replaces a murderer hiding in the shadows. Secondly, look at the signature in the lower left. You may note it's signed "Doré".

The problem is that the original is signed "G. Dore", and the image continues left of the G. See, in the original printing, you had to turn the book on its side to see some of the images, such as this one, and, when you did, the caption was printed under the image after you turned the book on its side. In this reprint, they wanted all the captions to be in the same place, so just cut off the edges of the landscape-format images. They didn't even do it cleverly – they cut out nearly an entire person from the left hand side of this image but didn't crop anything from the right hand side.

We don't actually seem to have a good copy of this. Luckily, I have a horrible, god-awful beat up Victorian copy of the Inferno, but the engravings in it are fine, so I think I might make that my next featured picture attempt. Should've done this years ago, but, as was explained to me, if you made any attempt to be comprehensive, reviewer fatigue would set in, and they'd start opposing your images solely for being more of the same. Thankfully, Featured Pictures has moved on, so doing what I always wanted to do – completeness – is now encouraged.

On Commons FPC vs. English Wikipedia's

Commons FPC has very different rules. The one I dislike most is that Commons only allows two nominations by any individual at once, which really cuts down on the ability of active contributors to highlight the works of others. Commons also ignores encyclopedic value, and, while this has some advantages, it does mean that it ends up focused very heavily on photography – we have a lot of great photographers there, and, while that's almost always a good thing, it's far easier for a photographer to evaluate other photographs, and, well, as the number of supports is also based on the standard photographic nomination, it's harder for non-photographic images to pass on Commons' Featured Pictures.

Combined with the multilingual nature of Commons limiting the amount of comments you get, I tend to prefer English Wikipedia's Featured Pictures, but that's really a personal thing, based on my unusual focuses.

Featured articles

Air Vice Marshal Allan Leslie Walters of the Royal Australian Air Force
King Alexander of Greece, c. 1912–17
Barbadian recording artist Rihanna, singer of Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2009
General Walter Krueger of the United States Army, seen here as a three star officer

Twelve featured articles were promoted this week.

Featured pictures

The painting Ophelia by John Everett Millais.

Six featured pictures were promoted this week.

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  • Nomination links for "Millenium Force", "DeadAlive" and "Pisco Sour" should link to the newest successful archives (here archive2). Old archives are interesting for background checks, but the most relevant information is the recent promotion archive. GermanJoe (talk) 09:06, 28 June 2013 (UTC)[reply]
    Whooops. Fixed! Thank you. — ΛΧΣ21 14:21, 28 June 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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