In mid-2011, members of Czech WikiProject Protected Areas (a group of Wikipedians interested in environmentalism) were thinking: there are a lot of protected areas scattered all around the Czech Republic, and yet, few of them had been photographically documented for Wikimedia Commons, the image database for the Wikimedia projects. As a result of this, we sought a grant in July 2011 to support the Wikimedian photographers. This grant falls within the Mediagrant initiative, an overall grant scheme developed by Wikimedia Czech Republic (WMCZ) and financed by the Wikimedia Foundation. The goals of the grant were clear: to obtain pictures of protected areas, memorable trees or rare plant and animal species that can be found in these localities.
The Mediagrant itself enables all interested people to ask for funding that will help them acquire new multimedial content such as pictures, but also audiovisual records. This means that every new project has an easy path to the funding it inevitably needs; and this was the case for WikiProject Protected Areas too. Our goals were not modest at all, to tell the truth. We deciced for a long run towards photographing every protected area and memorable tree in the Czech Republic, i.e. an astonishing number of 2500 different spots and a few thousand memorable trees. It would be utterly difficult to do this with a small group of volunteers, but without a certain level of coordination and without any financial support for travel expenses.
You might wonder how this all works in practice. Actually, it is very simple. Any volunteer can find a couple of protected areas that he/she would like to pay a visit to. After arriving at the spot, he/she makes a few pictures of the area, hunting for interesting plants and animals as well. At home, one has to upload the pictures to Wikimedia Commons and them send a short and simple summary of the trip. The grant admin then evaluates the trip, inspects the uploaded results, and, if positive, gives instructions so that the travel expenses are paid to the volunteer’s bank account.
In order to involve as many people as possible, we strived to eliminate bureaucracy. Both personal transport (petrol expenses paid per km) and public transport (train or bus) can be reimbursed. The only remnant of bureaucracy – the duty to send us the corresponding bus or train ticket for the sake of accounting – could not have been eliminated because of Czech law.
Almost two years have gone by and it remains to seen if our goals materialized into tangible results. To do this, we should examine the table below, which includes data from six months of 2011, all of 2012, and the first month of 2013.
||Number of.. trips
||Number of localities per trip
In 2012, a total number of 57 photo trips were taken, capturing 3823 pictures of 224 different areas or memorable trees. This is an average of 17 pictures per object, which is fairly good coverage, even though all of the photos were taken at one time of the year (while nature tends to change a lot during the year). In total, almost 300 hundred objects have been captured through the lenses of our 12 volunteer photographers. You can see all these pictures in a category at Wikimedia Commons.
One of the biggest successes of our grant, one that we are proud of, is that we were able to attract new contributors who had not been part of the Wikimedia community before. Variability of our WikiProject seems to be the cause of our success – we popularize protected areas in Wikipedia, but also (and primarily) in printed media and on social sites. Our Facebook ‘Protected Areas’ page certainly plays a big part; from time to time, we advertise the availability of our grant there. As you could see above, this day-to-day and often demanding work bears fruits, although we would love to see even more newbies join our efforts. A great example is user Artiplexmedia, who was able to visit 71 protected areas and take 1241 pictures in only half a year. This made him the most active member of our team by far.
What could be improved? The most challenging part of our work is really to attract more people from outside the Wikipedia movement. Objectively, it is difficult to explain how easy the process of funding is and how easily they can take their camera and go hunting for protected areas and then upload the photos to Wikimedia Commons. Editing the Wikimedia projects is still a big secret – or challenge – to many, and when you add the cumpulsory bureaucracy (no matter how simple we make it), the final “mix” is very difficult to overcome. We need to find a way to attract people to our mission on a larger scale.
We have already learned some valuable lessons about running this grant project. Mainly, we confirmed the well-known truth that bureaucracy has to be kept on a tight leash: otherwise, your chances of involving newcomers are slim. Secondly, the experienced grant leaders have to be always ready and willing to help beginners (eg. with adding descriptions to their pictures, creating categories, adding templates, etc.). This reduces the shock that the beginners would otherwise feel when starting out on Wikipedia. This way, it definitely puts less stress on them and it is also much more friendly. Actually, every new photographed object gets noticed fairly soon, as the contributors link all their uploaded content in their travel report. Grant admins can then go through the pictures and, if needed, fix the bugs.
Finally, let us have one immodest wish. We hope that our grant will do even better in 2013. Also, we wish to make the Czech ‘environmental tourism’ even more attractive, because this is the only way for us to fulfill our goals, to document all the protected areas and memorable trees. Our work can offer high-quality information to learn about the hot spots of Czech nature and landscape – for all and for free. Moreover, by sharing the free knowledge online, we also do something for a better environment. This is worth standing up and taking out your camera!
Petr Brož (Chmee2), Wikimedia Czech Republic
Translated by Vojtech.Dostal, Wikimedia Czech Republic
- ↑ Only approved tickets are counted into the number of ‘trips’. The expenses do not include trips that have been approved but not paid out. However, that is just a minor number (currently 5) all all of them are to be paid out eventually.
The number of visited localities and number of pictures are affected by several factors: objects outside of the WikiProject Protected Areas are included into the total number in case that the trip is mainly dealing with Protected areas. Also, trip no. 242 summarizes several protected areas under one name. The overall statistics is affected only minimally and can be neglected for the sake of simplicity .