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News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Wiki Loves Monuments

For Rexford Nkansah, Wikipedia represents the future of education for his country

Despite its growing economy, Ghana is not the first place one would associate with technology, but for 20-year-old native Rexford Nkansah, it’s second nature.

Wikipedians attending WikiAfrica’s Open Africa 2014 course in Cape Town in February of 2014. From left: Abel Asrat, Rexford Nkansah, Michael Phoya, Cyriac Gbogou, and Erina Mukuta.

“In Ghana you don’t have hobbies like skiing or going to restaurants,” he says. “So these are the little things I do to keep myself busy.” The youngest of five, Rexford is now spearheading a campaign to form a Wikimedia Chapter in Ghana. “I’m actually considered to be Ghana’s Wikimedia person,” he explains.

He first stumbled upon Wikipedia in 2006, and like many, at first did not realize what made it so special. It wasn’t until five years later that he began contributing himself. “I thought – how can anyone, anywhere on the planet put in anything just like that? So I decided to read about it, to learn the rules for editing, and that’s how it all started.”

A biography on Ashesi University founder Patrick Awuah was his first foray into writing, an article that took him six hours of non-stop work. “I took my time to write it. I sat down, researched, did everything, put it all together, added photos… I just dedicated that time to do it. I said, this guy – I need to do something to say thank you to him, for how he’s helping Ghana grow.”

Nkansah is a passionate web developer, and is keen on emphasizing the value of open source software. “Not all of us have access to credit cards, buying something online is like going a million miles to fetch something,” he says, “so when you get free software, you get happy about it. Because software that is not free… it’s hard to pay for it even if you have the money.”

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The Winner of Wiki Loves Monuments 2013 Is…

 

1st prize winner: Picture of a locomotive with a push-pull train crossing the monumental Wiesener Viaduct over the Landwasser river in Graubünden, Switzerland.

Guest post by Lodewijk Gelauff. You can read the original post on the Wiki Loves Monuments blog. Lodewijk “Effeietsanders” Gelauff has been an active member of the Wikimedia community since 2005; over the years, he helped out as a steward and an administrator of several wikis as well as a board member of Wikimedia Nederland, member of the Chapters Committee and organiser of various internal Wikimedia activities.

Wiki Loves Monuments is over. And after a photo competition, there should be a winner. Through the month September, photos were uploaded of monuments in more than 50 countries and in October national juries decided which pictures were the best for each of the 51 competitions. They submitted up to 10 pictures to the international finale, which resulted in a pool of 503 magnificent and diverse images of cultural heritage.

The 2013 competition was in many ways a unique experience. Not only was it once again the largest photography competition (more than 365,000 submissions!), but there were also more countries participating in Wiki Loves Monuments than ever before: 52 countries in 51 competitions. Those countries were not only larger in number, but also more spread over the continents and cultures. For the first time we had Arabic countries participating, many Latin-American and Asian countries joined for the first time, and we also accepted images from Antarctica!

A jury of six members was set to the task to judge the finalists, and they did so with great care. You will find their process and deliberations described in the jury report linked at the bottom of this blog post. That jury report also includes the Special Awards we announced earlier and more background information about the monuments.

It is about time to announce the winners of the finale of Wiki Loves Monuments 2013! In this blog post I will only mention the top-10 pictures, but you can find more pictures and more details of the top-41 in the jury report.

The first prize (you can see it at the top of this blog post) is a picture of a locomotive with a push-pull train crossing the monumental Wiesener Viaduct over the Landwasser river in Graubünden, Switzerland. It represents a nice harmony between monument, human and nature, while the red train draws attention to the middle of the picture. The picture was submitted by David Gubler, who is also active on a Swiss website dedicated to photos of trains.

The second prize (below) goes to a wonderful photo of the 19th century Shi family abode in Lukang, Taiwan. The picture gives great attention to detail and captures the imagery, history, tradition and narration all in one photograph. The picture was submitted by Husky221, who submitted several other photos to the competition.

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Wiki Loves Monuments Israel – A chance to showcase the country’s historical significance

All good things must come to an end, in this case it’s this year’s Wiki Loves Monuments contest.

Last year Israel decided to join the international competition. The effort was organized by Wikimedia Israel volunteer Deror Avi, whose astute leadership and exceptional understanding of crowd sourcing transformed the world’s largest photography contest into a far-reaching grassroots outreach initiative.

Old city of Jaffa at night Author: PiniB

This year we decided to expand on the success of last year. Our chapter conducted tours to distant heritage sites spanning the country in an effort to encourage more people to participate in the competition. Roughly 400 people participated in the 40 tours that took participants across the israeli country side.

To differentiate the heritage tours from the standard fare offered to tourists, emphasis was placed on training the tour guides. Tour guides were briefed prior to the the heritage tours and provided with an extensive understanding of the competition’s goals. Time was allocated for photography and importance was placed according to a site’s historical value.

To provide our amateur photographers with additional skills, Wikimedia Israel arranged photography workshops conducted by Galitz Photography. The school embraced the movement’s free and open culture and provided their professional services free of charge.

In somewhat surprising fashion, the Israeli media embraced Wiki loves monuments, providing broad and in-depth coverage on the competition. Dozens of articles were printed and broadcasted on a variety of media outlets. Radio channels, TV shows, websites, and local newspapers across the country. The media seemed to show particular interest in the way the competition gave the public the immediate ability to contribute to the universal database of Wikipedia in relation to Israel’s national heritage.

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German war cemetery photo wins special award in Wiki Loves Monuments 2013

Cemetery of German soldiers in Tişiţa

Though the global results for the world’s largest photo contest, Wiki Loves Monuments, have not yet been announced for 2013, many of the participating countries have been naming their domestic winners. What’s more, Europeana, an official sponsor of Wiki Loves Monuments since 2011, has announced a special award for best photo related to World War I.

Europeana has hosted a special photo category each year: in 2011, Europeana sponsored an Art Nouveau category; in 2012 the category was GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) buildings; this year, the category was World War I.

2,605 photos were submitted to the special monuments category. Of those, Europeana shortlisted 25 and posted via Facebook to the larger community. Every ‘like’ counted as one vote in determining the winner, which depicts the Cemetery of German soldiers in Tişiţa, a township in Moldavia, Romania.

Visit the Wiki Loves Monuments website to learn more about the competition. To see the winning photographs at the country level, visit the country page on Wiki Loves Monuments here. The overall winners in the international contest will be announced in December.

Carlos Monterrey: Communications Associate, Wikimedia Foundation

As Arab countries participate in Wiki Loves Monuments for the first time, stakes are especially high in Syria

This post is available in 3 languages: العربية  • Français English

In English

Khan As’ad Pasha in the Old City of Damascus

Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs are among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The monuments in these cities are among the oldest on the planet. There are buildings, churches, theaters, and gates that date back to the second century.

Unfortunately, not far from these ancient sites, a brutal civil war rages on. “Most of the monuments have already been damaged to some extent,” Abbad Diraneyya says. “Almost all of them lie a few kilometers away from direct clash lines.”

Diraneyya organized Wiki Loves Monuments 2013 in Syria and Jordan, part of a worldwide contest to photograph historic monuments and upload them onto Wikimedia Commons. “I have been an editor on Arabic Wikipedia for many years, and I have written many articles about my country,” says the Jordanian, “Yet I have always had problems finding photos for them. We have very few photos on Commons to document the history and heritage of the region”.

Diraneyva helped support organizers in four countries, including his native country of Jordan, in an attempt to capture and upload as many photos as possible. Syria, Jordan, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt make up the group of Arabic-speaking nations that are participating in Wiki Loves Monuments for the first time; all of which have been directly or indirectly influenced by the events of the Arab Spring.

“Like much of the region, Jordan has a lot of monuments dating back thousands of years , since the Islamic, Roman and Greek times or even many centuries earlier,” says Diraneyya, “This contest brings us a new opportunity to expose and preserve the heritage of the country.”

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Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day: Roman Aqueduct of Segovia, Spain

Davd Coral Gadea's photo of the Roman Aqueduct in Segovia, Span, Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day for 22 January 2012.

David Corral Gadea’s photo of the Roman Aqueduct in Segovia, Spain, Wikimedia Commons POTD for 22 January 2012.

As an active contributor to Wikimedia Commons, Spaniard David Corral Gadea understands the advantages of taking part in a community of fellow photo enthusiasts. For him, the project serves as a tool for sharing the wonders of his own culture and history with the rest of the world.

Although he is not a photographer by trade, Gadea has been able to utilize his skills in his work as a graphic designer and a web designer. He explained that his parents introduced him to the world of photography, as they took an interest in the process of capturing and collecting images as amateurs. However, he attributes his growing interest in photography to the encouragement of his partner, who gave him the confidence to share his photos with the world. “It was my partner who has been encouraging me to introduce my photos to competitions and enhance that facet of my creativity,” said Gadea. “I think she made a good point because it hasn’t been going badly.”

Since publicly displaying his images on Commons, Gadea has had personal success within the larger community. Not only has his image of the Roman Aqueduct in Segovia, Spain, been chosen as the Commons Photo of the Day, but it has also been awarded second prize in the worldwide Wiki Loves Monuments photo competition. To capture the image, Gadea took advantage of a family vacation. “I have been fortunate to be in interesting places, while always having my camera with me,” he said.

“The day I took this photograph there was a spectacular blue sky. It was a beautiful day of summer with good weather and we had a fantastic night wandering around the old town, taking pictures and enjoying the friendliness of the people of Segovia,” he said.

Gadea also explained how he has always been drawn to images with an epic quality about them, which has greatly influenced his own work. In his Aqueduct photo, Gadea utilized a low angle to create a larger-than-life quality, while still focusing on the beauty of the natural world around him. “I have always been struck by the pictures that are out of the norm, spectacular photographs that take you to cry, WOW!” he explained.

Gadea expressed his surprise upon learning of his placing in the Wiki Loves Monuments competition. He added that he hopes similar competitions will inspire more amateur photographers to contribute to Commons and Wikipedia.

“It was a pleasant surprise to discover that my picture had been awarded,” he said. “I am very proud that my contribution has helped bring attention once again to an emblematic monument as the Aqueduct of Segovia. I warmly thank the effort and work of each and every one of the people who have made and will enable these projects and many others that will do so in the future.”

Jawad Qadir, Communications Intern

Wiki Loves Monuments exhibition in Polish central rail station

This post is available in 2 languages: English 7% • Polski 100%

English

The winning pictures from the Wiki Loves Monuments 2012 photo contest have been presented in an open exhibition at the largest railway station in Poland: Warsaw Central. They will be up from January 8-27, 2013.

Wiki Loves Monuments photos at Warsaw Central station./ Zdjęcia z Wiki Loves Monuments na Dworcu Centralnym.

The exhibition was organized by Wikimedia Polska, the Wikimedia chapter in Poland, in cooperation with the OPEN Gallery, an initiative of Polish State Railways that presents open cultural events at selected train stations in Poland.

The WLM images are displayed on B1 size posters placed on six rectangular holders, standing in the main hall of the station, next to the stairs leading to the platforms. The exhibition consists of 10 posters with winning pictures of Polish monuments, 13 posters with pictures of monuments from all over the world, and two information boards, one describing the Wiki Loves Monuments competition and the second advertising participation in Wikimedia projects. Posters with photos are accompanied by QR-codes directing to the relevant Wikipedia articles.

OPEN Gallery has provided the display location and media outreach. Wikimedia Polska prepared and printed the posters. The main coordinator and initiator of the exhibition is Adam Kliczek (User: CLI).

Photos can be viewed in Warsaw until 27 January, then they will be transferred to the railway station in Gdynia or Wroclaw.

Tomek “Polimerek” Ganicz, Wikimedia Poland

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The magic behind Wiki Loves Monuments Panamá: free software

(This guest post comes from David Narváez, one of the organizers of Wiki Loves Monuments in Panamá. You can see the winning photos from the country here.)

We all knew right at the beginning that organizing an event like Wiki Loves Monuments was going to be a great challenge. We had a very limited team of volunteers, a special challenge of providing two categories inside the contest, we had to struggle with the Panamanian culture — which is always a time-consuming task — and we had deadlines. Without an army of people to do the job for us, we had to rely almost entirely on technology and automation. As I was named the lead of the technical team composed of… me, I had to take the easiest decision of the entire organization: base our entire IT infrastructure on free software.

El Cementerio de Corozal, 2nd Place, WLM Panamá

I started off by building our site using WordPress, the blog and content management system every volunteer in the team learned to tweak and love. We could have gone with other free software content management systems we are more used to, like Drupal, but we figured out that using the same technology most other countries were using for their WLM sites would help us leverage theme expertise from larger organizations.

WordPress provided a large set of plugins that helped us build a very dynamic website with just a few clicks, and most important of all, we were able to provide it in Spanish almost without any effort thanks to the great work of the internalization team for WordPress.

With the site online, we started thinking about putting the large plugin database to good use. One thing that came up was the idea to show the list of monuments that we built for WLM Panama in an interactive map using Open Street Map. While the toolbox for Wiki Loves Monuments already included such a map, by the time we started looking for a way to display our monument list, the WLM map did not work with our list. Because we needed to put the map online sooner rather than later, we decided not to wait for the toolbox map. We found the Fotomobil.at OSM Plugin, which lets you provide a text file that specifies all marks in the map, but we still needed an automated way to build the list of markers from the Mediawiki table on Spanish Wikipedia. After a lot of search (and I mean a lot of search), we found the Pijnu/Mediawiki-Parser tandem to parse the Mediawiki text and look for title, image, location and description of the monuments.

Once the site was complete, the next challenge was to develop a jury tool that would let juries browse the photos in the two categories we had, with monuments grouped by geographical location, EXIF metadata information for each photo and a simple account system. I ended up writing a web application, heavily based on the Dojo Javascript Toolkit. The database with the information for this tool was also provided by parsing the information from our list of monuments, but with the additional requirement of actually fetching the photos in various sizes. For this task, I went back to a project I was already familiar with: the MediaWiki API Client for Python.

One last task we needed to undertake was to move all of the photos uploaded to the contest through Flickr to Commons. Our obvious way to do this was to use the Flickrripper bot from the Python Wikipedia Robot Framework. Despite the issues we found with Flickr’s API, we managed to do a lot of our task using a patched version of Flickrripper. And speaking of API failures, I must add that during the whole process we never had a single glitch, or an unmet requirement from Wikimedia’s API, so I must stand up and congratulate the team of system administrators behind the Wikimedia projects.

In the aftermath of the event, after enjoying a very interesting prize ceremony, reading articles about WLM in our local newspapers, taking a break from the hard work around WLM and planning for next year, I’m starting to take on the large path of patches, integration code and development to collaborate with the many Open Source projects that made this a successful event for us. We are also contributing with donations to some of the projects that were key to our success, and expect to keep this tradition in years to come.

David E. Narváez, Wiki Loves Monuments, Panamá

The Impact of Wikipedia: Erlan Vega

(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.)

Erlan Vega explains how Wikipedia and Wikcionario influenced his life.

When Erlan Vega stumbled upon Wikipedia in 2005 while doing research for his father, he couldn’t have imagined how it would change his life. Vega was studying to become an English teacher in La Paz, Bolivia. While on Wikcionario, the Spanish Wiktionary, he met a fellow Wikipedian and they not only worked together to fight a vandal, but helped each other learn their respective languages.

“We made a sort of a non-written deal that, I teach you Spanish, you teach me English. And we corrected each other and we learned the language by editing on Wiktionary in English and Spanish,” he explained. ”My English got so much better.”

Vega credits his experience with Wikipedia in helping him pass the needed English certification, “when I finished my studies in English, I was so proficient in the language that I passed my certification test.” Vega got hired on the spot and, he said, “I got married because I got a little bit more stability, and I have a daughter because of that. So, Wikipedia has changed my life. I don’t know how my life would have been had the projects not been started.”

As an English teacher, Vega finds Wikipedia to be an empowering tool. “In my education system, people don’t usually write. They don’t write, they don’t create. They just receive information, and they’re supposed to memorize it and then they have the test,” he said. Wikipedia gives students the ability to create something rather than just regurgitate facts. “Giving a person the opportunity to be creative and to be recognized for something they write” was a turning point in his life, and he hopes that his students have the same opportunity.

Like a lot of people, he uses Wikipedia as a first step in researching a topic. “Wikipedia opens the door for people that want to go further,” he explained. On Wikipedia, “there is a reference, then you go to your library. There’s a lot more there. Books are hidden in your library. What we are doing is to try to get the best of them and show it to you.”

Vega finds his role as an administrator (a bibliotecario on Spanish Wikipedia) to be similar to a janitor.  As problem-solving janitors, “we go, we mediate, we try [to] solve things, we try to understand the two positions and see what we can do about it,” he explained. “I don’t like to think of [myself] as a police officer. I like to think of [myself] like a friend who helps you find your way in Wikipedia, helps you find a way to share this dream we all have.”

“I write on Wikipedia because I believe it’s the first place where you can find knowledge to share with others. I mean, at some point, somebody wrote an article that I was interested in, and I think I owe it the same to the person and to the world to do the same, in a sense.” Wikipedia is about giving back.

As a teacher, father, and husband, Vega is busy, but he enjoys spending his free time on Wikipedia and hopes other people find the time to join the community as well. “Many people say, ‘I don’t have time for Wikipedia.’ Yes you do. You do a lot of things that only are for you, that you are the only recipient of those benefits. Why not give back something to the community,” he said. “We are a great community. If people at any time doubt it, join us, we will be happy to have you.”

Profile by Alice Roberts, Communications Intern
Interview by Victor Grigas, Visual Storyteller

Wiki Loves Monuments international winners announced

Tomb of Safdarjung, New Delhi, India. International grand prize for best photograph, Wiki Loves Monuments 2012.

The international jury for Wiki Loves Monuments 2012 announced the 15 winning photographs from the world’s largest photo contest, which ran from September 1 to September 30. More than 15,000 photographers uploaded more than 350,000 freely licensed photographs of historic buildings, monuments and cultural heritage sites in 35 countries to Wikimedia Commons for use on Wikipedia and other free-knowledge projects.

The grand-prize winning photograph, above, depicts Safdarjung’s Tomb and marble mausoleum in New Delhi, India, and was taken by Pranav Singh. The tomb was built in 1754 and is an example of Mughal architecture. It was a tribute to the prime minister for Muhammad Shah, the Mughal emperor from 1719 to 1748. As noted in the jury report, “With gravity and a perfect sense for the angle of view and light, this picture presents the object – the architecture and light forming a stage for the tomb, focusing on the details of the stone carving.”

Wiki Loves Monuments 2012 more than doubled the photo total from 2011, when 5,000 photographers from 18 European countries uploaded 168,208 photos. In the 2012 contest, volunteer Wikipedians in 35 countries organized the contest at the national level, with the 324 winning photos from national contests considered by an international jury for the top prize. The grand prize is a trip to Hong Kong for a photo tour as part of the Wikimania 2013 conference. The top 13 photos will be displayed in a travelling international exhibition, and will be showcased in a special Wiki Loves Monuments calendar for 2013.

“We have a beautiful selection of images representing the world’s heritage,” said Lodewijk Gelauff, one of the international coordinators of the contest. “I’m so proud of the hundreds of volunteer Wikipedians who helped organize the contest in their countries and around the world. Not only do we have hundreds of thousands of free images that anyone can use, but we also have a great set of heritage lists on Wikipedia, which give an overview of more than 1 million monuments globally.”

He added, “That leaves plenty of unphotographed monuments for next year!”

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