Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Posts by Zoe Bernard

Finding inspiration from editing Wikipedia: a profile of Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight

By day, Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight is a business administrator for a healthcare company based in Las Vegas, Nevada. By night, she studies diverse countries and cultures and posts her discoveries online for the benefit of anyone in the world. You see, Rosie is a prolific Wikipedia editor.

“At heart, I am a cultural anthropologist,” said Rosie, a prolific Wikipedia editor and content contributor who edits as User:Rosiestep. “Once I started college, I wanted to be a cultural anthropologist. I wanted to follow in the steps of Margaret Mead.”

As Rosie entered college, her desire to study cultural anthropology was checked by her father, who wanted her to be “a pharmacist or an accountant, something that a woman who would eventually get married and have children could do part time,” she said. “He was being practical.” Rosie went on to study business, eventually obtaining a Masters degree. Despite her college education, she still couldn’t suppress her desire to pursue her passion as a cultural anthropologist.

Then, several years ago, Rosie’s son Sean edited a Wikipedia article about a town in the Ukraine he was stationed in while working with the Peace Corps. “I’d never thought of actually making a contribution myself. I just figured other people were doing it,” Rosie said, “but when he said that, I thought it was fabulous.”

Later in the same year, Rosie searched Wikipedia for a group of books published by the Book League of America. While the publisher no longer exists, Rosie possessed an impressive collection of the Book League’s texts. She was surprised to find that there was no entry about the company on Wikipedia. It was then that she decided to contribute. “I thought, you know what, Sean edited Wikipedia, I bet I could do that too. Let me see how to do it. And so I tried to figure it out.”

Rosie had no way of knowing that this single contribution would eventually lead her to become the woman ranked with the highest number of Did You Know articles on English Wikipedia and the number four ranked Wikipedian in total (she has 697 DYKs and more than 67,000 edits).

“I edited and edited and edited, thinking you could just kind of keep doing this, just keep looking stuff up and keep writing,” she said.  “At some point, I started thinking wow, I’m building up a body of work here.”

This compulsion to edit is passed down from her grandmother, Paulina Lebl-Albala, the first president of the Yugoslav Association of University-Educated Women. Her grandmother was known for her work editing textbooks for the local university and for the translations she made of the German author Herman Hesse.“I feel this genetic pull to her,” Rosie said. “She edited textbooks, I edit Wikipedia. I feel this sense of connection with her. I think Grandma would be proud of me.”

Rosie finds inspiration in the example of her grandmother who became prolific in an area normally dominated by men. In turn, Rosie hopes that her example will inspire more women to edit Wikipedia. She admitted her shock at the ever-dwindling number of Wikipedia’s female editors. “I’ve read the statistics of how few women edit,” she said. “It needs more women.”

She hopes that other women will develop a similar love and passion for contributing to Wikipedia, that contributing to knowledge overwhelms the discomfort they may feel from the occasionally confrontational remarks made on their talk pages by male editors.

To Rosie, contributing to Wikipedia is important because it means that you are helping others receive what she describes as the “freedom of all knowledge on the planet.”

“I’m hooked.” She said,  “I’m addicted, I love to do this, I’m driven to do this.”

Wikipedia, she said, finally gave her the possibility of fulfilling her childhood aspirations. “Wikipedia has given me an opportunity to be that cultural anthropologist,” she said. “I study very interesting places and interesting people, and write all these articles.”

She continued, “I can’t not do this. I think there is a sense that I want my kids to be proud of me, to know that I am doing something that I think is really important.”

Profile by Zoe Bernard, Communications Intern
Interview by Matthew Roth, Global Communications Manager

Wikimedia Commons Profile: Muhammad Mahdi Karim

Pancratium Zeylanicum flower, indigenous to India and islands in the Indian Ocean.

Pancratium Zeylanicum flower, indigenous to India and islands in the Indian Ocean.

Muhammad Mahdi Karim is an avid contributor to Wikimedia Commons and his beautiful photographs have been Featured Pictures and Pictures of the Day, regarded as some of the finest images on the database. Karim describes his motivation for contributing to Wikipedia as the opportunity to share a memory with others.

“If I see something that others may never get to see or be in a place that some may never visit, it would be wasteful of me not to preserve these memories and share them with those who wish to experience them but are unable to do so,” he said. “Photographs help preserve these and Wikipedia provides a platform to share them.”

Karim was born in Moshi, Tanzania, a small town near the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. Now, he studies computer science full time in Bangalore, India.

Karim discovered Wikipedia years ago when he mistakenly erased the contents of an entry. However, this simple accident led him back to the online encyclopedia. “I was inspired by seeing pictures of nature on Wikipedia, ” he said. Soon, Karim began uploading his own photos to forums.

Not all feedback was positive, however. “I was not very well-versed with photographic techniques, but after criticism from users, I have improved my skills to both my and Wikipedia’s benefit.”

This ability to change and grow through the use of Wikipedia is, as Karim put it, redefining what it means to be an encyclopedia. “It‘s a community of dedicated users who help one another to improve the content and in the process improve themselves. Today, I have in turn taken a few good pictures and helped to preserve a small part of our world. If others can take inspiration from my work to preserve, protect or improve out world, I will take great pleasure in that.”

Karim said that he’ll continue to contribute to Wikipedia, because, “apart from Google, it’s the only other site I can’t live without anymore. I can do without Youtube and Facebook, but take away Wikipedia and you’ve left me stranded.”

(View more of Karim’s images at his user page here.)

Interview and Profile by Zoe Bernard, Communications Intern

Trithemis Annulata

The Impact of Wikipedia: Benoit Rochon

Benoit Rochon wants more Quebecers to edit French Wikipedia

When Benoit Rochon organized his first event for Wikipedia, he didn’t anticipate the arrival of one unwelcome guest. Rochon had organized a Wikimedia Commons photo event on August 28th of 2011 in order to illustrate Wikipedia articles about Montreal. However, it was on this same day that Hurricane Irene hit Montreal.

“Irene,” Rochon laughed, “I’ll remember that name all my life.” Despite the onset of the hurricane, 110 tenacious participants of the anticipated 300 arrived. “People were running in the rain, in the hurricane by car, some by walk, and just to pick up pictures.” Rochon said. “People are courageous, honestly, they were crazy. [M]ost of them never edited [Wikipedia before] and they just show up and a hurricane was there.”

The event resulted in 5700 uploads to the French Wikipedia. And, while Hurricane Irene may have threatened to destroy his event, it did not quash his enthusiasm. In many ways, the event was a success for Rochon, who hopes to expose Wikipedia to more Quebecers.

Rochon explained that he wants “to make French-Canadians shine on the French Wikipedia, because French Wikipedia is for France, or Switzerland, Belgium, and French-Canadians are a little bit forgotten in there. I want French-Canadians [to be] more known.”

“[French Canadians] speak traditional French,” he said. “And we represent 23 percent of the population in Canada.” But, despite representing nearly a quarter of Canada’s population, Rochon said, “[we] are forgotten, a little bit.”

And yet for Rochon, the beauty of Wikipedia is its unique ability to transcend the barriers presented by language.“I feel like I’m doing something great on Wikipedia,” he said. “It’s free to read, it’s free to write, and it’s the world’s knowledge in one website in 250 languages. I mean, tell me another website who is like Wikipedia and this is what people should care about?”

Profile by Zoe Bernard, Communications Intern
Interview by Victor Grigas, Visual Storyteller

Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day: Andromeda Galaxy

Adam Evans’ photo of the Andromeda Galaxy, Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day for 15 December 2012

For photography enthusiast Adam Evans, the true allure in capturing an image lies in shooting upwards. Evans, who works at Google Maps, said that his interest and education in aerial and satellite mapping is related to what he calls his “astronomy hobby.”

“Mapping cameras point downward from aircraft or satellites, and astrophotography cameras point upwards from earth to space,” he said. “A lot of the techniques and challenges are similar, such as dealing with the atmosphere’s effects.”

Evans said his passion for astrophotography began in 2006, when he got into telescopes. “Astrophotography is kind of like time travel,” Evans explained. “It lets us look deep into the past. We’re seeing the potential birthplace of new stars in a distant galaxy[,] but it’s all taking place millions of years ago!”

Evans’ stunning photo of the Andromeda Galaxy is the Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day for 15 December 2012. The image is particularly special to him and required combining multiple long exposures with a sensitive camera in order to capture the distant galaxy’s faint starlight. And yet, the difficulties of photographing the Andromeda Galaxy are just one of the many challenges when it comes to astrophotography.

“Deep sky astrophotography [is] somewhat tricky,” he said. “By opening the shutter for such a long time, we need to compensate for the rotation of the Earth, and for the effects of light pollution in the night sky.  By using special filters, we can see photons that the human eye is not sensitive to, such as the glowing hydrogen gas clouds (nebulae) that are presently giving birth to new stars in that distant galaxy.” In the photo of Andromeda, these gas clouds are shown as a bright pink hue.

Evans describes himself as “a big believer in open sharing of images” on Wikimedia Commons and elsewhere. “One of the lesser-known benefits of…Commons is the creation of a large database of useful reference images,” Evans said. “The amateur astrophotography community has assisted professional and research astronomy by openly sharing their images. [They’re] helping to catalog a huge swath of sky that is difficult to cover regularly with specialized research telescopes.”

Evans hopes that his images will inspire those who see them to attempt to understand the universe. “I hope that others…will be as humbled as I am by the immensity of space,” he said. Evans has a similar aspiration for his newborn daughter, whom he hopes will one day share his love for the stars.

You can see more of Evans’ astrophotography here.

Zoe Bernard, Communications Intern

The Impact of Wikipedia: Gideon Digby

(This video is part of a series for this year’s Wikimedia Foundation fundraiser. You can support Wikipedia and free knowledge by contributing at donate.wikimedia.org. You can also view this video on YouTube.)

What Gideon Digby will do to get a good photo for Wikimedia Commons

Gideon Digby has climbed fences, crossed swollen creeks, hiked through the rain and has driven over a thousand miles – all in the pursuit of photos to upload to Wikimedia Commons.

Gideon is a photographer by profession and he shoots flowers as a hobby in his native region of Western Australia, which is home to more than 30,000 unique species of plants. “It’s going to take years to shoot every one, and that’s part of the challenge, getting in and finding some of those flowers when they’re in season,” he said. “A lot of them are endangered, a lot of them are in restricted areas where you’re not supposed to go and a lot of them you don’t know a physical location, so you’ve got to work that out yourself.”

Many of these elusive blooms have led Gideon on adventures deep into the untamed Australian Outback. “Friends and family think I’m a bit crazy,” he admitted with a chuckle. And yet, it is this particular brand of craziness which has benefited and refined the pages of Wikimedia Commons, where he has contributed over 2,000 photos in the past seven years.

Like many stories in Gideon’s life, his involvement with Wikipedia began with a flower. In this case, the flower in question was the Kangaroo Paw. He stumbled across the Wikipedia entry for the Kangaroo Paw in 2005, back when the article was a single sentence. “It says, ‘This is the floral emblem of Western Australia’ or something and that’s it,” he said. “I knew more about the flower than what was there and I saw the little button at the top that said ‘edit this page,’ so I started editing.”

For Gideon, Wikimedia Commons provided an intriguing way to share his photos with the world.  Many of the other photographic forums he contributed to lacked the context he felt necessary to detail the unique qualities of the plants he captured. On Wikipedia, he could upload photos and provide editorial information to contextualize the plants.

“For photographers,” Gideon said, “[Wikipedia] is a fantastic world. You can pick and choose what you release. You can change subjects. You can go read an article about something and say, ‘Oh, I know where that is. That’s only down the road. I’m going to take a drive and take some photos.’ It challenges you.”

Profile by Zoe Bernard, Communications Intern
Interview by Jonathan Curiel, Development Communications Manager 

The Impact of Wikipedia: Adrianne Wadewitz

(This video is part of a series for this year’s Wikimedia Foundation fundraiser. You can support Wikipedia and free knowledge by contributing at donate.wikimedia.org. If you have trouble viewing the video below, try watching it here.)

Click to view a video of Adrianne Wadewitz discussing the Impact of Wikipedia.

When Adrianne Wadewitz first began editing Wikipedia as a graduate student at Indiana University, her professors warned her, “don’t tell anybody you’re doing that.”

Now, Wadewitz says, it’s completely different. “I’ve seen the evolution of Wikipedia in my own career.” In fact, her experience editing Wikipedia helped land her a job at Occidental College’s Center for Digital Learning and Research, where she teaches faculty members how to implement technology in their teaching and research methods.

Wadewitz began using Wikipedia in the classroom while teaching freshman English as an Indiana University graduate student. She said she developed a Wikipedia writing assignment in an effort to break down the traditional hierarchical professor/student relationship within college classrooms.

Wadewitz said using Wikipedia in the classroom introduced her students’ work to a larger audience. “The world was going to see what you wrote and it mattered what you wrote and how you wrote it, because millions of people were going to see it,” she said. “It really motivates students to write for the world, not just for their professor.”

Now, she recruits other professors to engage with Wikipedia in their own classrooms. “We want to show students how to use Wikipedia productively. Banning Wikipedia from the classroom is completely ineffective because students are going to use it all the time anyway.”

This is a fact that Wadewitz knows all too well. One semester, one of her students chose to write a report on Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. When Wadewitz reviewed the paper, she found that “whole swaths of the paper were plagiarized from the Wikipedia article I wrote on Mary Shelley. So, I got to write in the margin, ‘I know this is plagiarized from Wikipedia because I wrote it on Wikipedia.’”

Wadewitz believes that exposure to Wikipedia has a positive impact in the way we think about learning. “Whenever I have students put together an article or add material to an article, I have them think about…what it mean[s] to construct an article out of a variety of sources,” she said.

For her, the online encyclopedia is compelling us to reevaluate the way we see knowledge.  “[Wikipedia] doesn’t take its legitimacy from who is writing. It takes its legitimacy from the information that they add, and where they got that information,” she said. “It’s a totally different way of thinking about information.”

Profile by Zoe Bernard, Communications Intern
Interviews by Matthew Roth, Global Communications Manager and Victor Grigas, Visual Storyteller 

Wiki Loves Monuments 2012: the Andorran finalists

 

Església de Sant Miquel d’Engolasters, 1st place, WIki Loves Monuments 2012, Andorra

The Andorran finalists did a phenomenal job of showcasing the country’s magnificent landscapes. Eight of the ten finalists photographed Andorra’s ancient churches, with Angela Wolf taking first place for the photo above of the Església de Sant Miquel d’Engolasters shot against the stunning backdrop of the Pyranees mountains. This impressive stone-brick building, constructed between the 11th and 12th century, was one of the most popular monuments in the competition. Rosa Maria Ferré, who took first place in Andorra’s Wiki Loves Monuments last year, contributed five beautiful photographs, which all landed on the finalists list.

For more information about Wiki Loves Monuments, visit www.wikilovesmonuments.org or view other Andorran finalists here. 

Zoe Bernard, Communications Intern

Església de Sant Martí de la Cortinada, 2nd place, Wiki Loves Monuments 2012, Andorra

Església de Sant Romà de les Bons, 3rd place, Wiki Loves Monuments 2012, Andorra

Wiki Loves Monuments 2012: the Israeli finalists

David’s citadel in the snow of 1992, 1st Place, Wiki Loves Monuments 2012, Israel

Wiki Loves Monuments took place in Israel for the first time this year and the biggest challenge for our organizing team was creating the lists of monuments. Prior to the competition no list of national monuments existed, and now, as a result of the competition, a list is available to the public for the first time and is easily accessible to all on Wikipedia!
Our next hurdle was to increase public awareness of National Monuments. Before the start of Wiki Loves Monuments 2012, the Israeli organizing team visited the Israel Photographers’ Conference in Tel Aviv to promote the contest among professional photographers and photography enthusiasts. During the month of the competition, we organized 20 events, including two photography workshops (sponsored by the Galitz school of photography), 18 guided tours (sponsored by the Council for Heritage Sites in Israel), and two tours at the Israel Museum (the museum allowed free entrance to the participants).
Approximately 400 people participated in the events; 500 people visited our booth at  a photography fare; 800 people wrote to us requesting information about the tours; and 600 joined our mailing lists. But perhaps the biggest indicator of our success came with the results of the competition: 451 participants uploaded more than 6000 photographs.
The finalists showcase Israel’s ancient culture, with many of the photos capturing the country’s diverse religious history. There are images of a Templar Prussian Evangelical Church, a Benedictine abbey, and an Ahmadiyya Muslim mosque all featured among the finalist’s contributions. Two of the top ten photos showcase the Tower of David, a minaret from the Mamluk period in the old city of Jerusalem. The ancient citadel is integral to the country’s history and holds important archaeological finds that are 2700 years old. Other photos highlight Israel’s more recent monuments, such as a nighttime image of the Reading Power Station in Tel Aviv set against the city’s bright lights.

For more information about Wiki Loves Monuments visit http://www.wikilovesmonuments.org and be sure to see more pictures from the Israeli finalists.

Deror Avi, Head of Wiki Loves Monuments Israel Team

The Waldheim in Evangelical Church in Alonei Abba, 2nd Place, Wiki Loves Monuments 2012, Israel

Ma’ale Akrabim (Scorpions Pass), 3rd Place, Wiki Loves Monuments 2012, Israel

Wiki Loves Monuments 2012: the Mexican finalists

Guachimontones Jalisco – Esteban Tucci, 1st place. Wiki Loves Monuments 2012 Mexico.

As part of Wiki Loves Monuments 2012 in Mexico, more than 700 participants contributed over 10,000 photos. Volunteers organized several events, including a photo tour through the streets of Mexico City’s historic center. While a tour guide explained the rich background of the city’s monuments, participants snapped photos of the Old College of San Ildefonso, the archaeological site of the Temple of Mexico-Tenochtitlan and the baroque architecture on Donceles Street.

The top photos feature a number of Mexico’s religious buildings and several of the country’s archaeological zones. Participant Jaime Flores came in first with a beautiful image of the Franciscan convent of Tecamachalco, Puebla. Other highlights include beautiful photos of the Misión Santiago de Jalpan, the Altarpiece of the Temple of La Enseñanza and the Hacienda de Chautla in Puebla. Congratulations to the Mexican finalists!

Organizers with Wikimedia Mexico have set up a photo exhibition and tour (with help from a Wikimedia Foundation grant) that begins today, 28 November. For more information about Wiki Loves Monuments visit http://www.wikilovesmonuments.org or see more pictures of the Mexican finalists here.

Zoe Bernard, Communications Intern

Convento de Tecamachalco, 2nd Place, Wiki Loves Monuments 2012 Mexico

El Castillo relejando en el lago — Ex-Hacienda de Chautla, 2nd Place. Wiki Loves Monuments 2012 Mexico.

Wiki Loves Monuments 2012: the Swiss finalists

Water tower in Lucerne, 1st place, Wiki Loves Monuments 2012, Switzerland

Among the Swiss finalists of Wiki Loves Monuments 2012, first place went to Tobias Hoderlein with this image of the water tower in Lucerne. The other finalists photos include a striking image of the Ostermundigen farmhouse in the open-air museum Ballenberg, a black and white photo of the graceful arches supporting the Lucerne town hall, and an image of the Halenbrücke bridge mirroring a perfect arch in the reflective water below.

For more information about Wiki Loves Monuments, visit www.wikilovesmonuments.org or view other Swiss finalists here.

Zoe Bernard, Communications Intern

Monastery Magdenau, 2nd place, Wiki Loves Monuments 2012, Switzerland

Villa Egli, 3rd place, Wiki Loves Monuments 2012, Switzerland