In May 2011, we announced a new way to share pictures, sounds, and video: the Upload Wizard. A year later, Upload Wizard has been used to upload more than 1 million freely licensed media files and has contributed to an acceleration of growth of the Wikimedia Commons community.
Countering the decline in retention of new contributors to Wikipedia, the number of contributors to Wikimedia Commons (individuals who make at least one upload) grew by about 25% from March 2011 to March 2012, compared with ~12% in the prior year. We attribute this growth primarily to two factors: the introduction of the Upload Wizard, and the successful “Wiki Loves Monuments” competition in September 2011, highlighted on the graph below.
Enabling free sharing
What’s remarkable about Wikimedia Commons is that every photograph, video, sound file, or other media file can be used by anyone for any purpose. This is because uploaders are required to release their work under a free culture license, giving those permissions to everyone.
But this means that the challenge of building Upload Wizard was more than just a technical challenge. We needed to create an intuitive process that enables free sharing and educates users about what kinds of works are acceptable to upload.
The first time you load Upload Wizard, it displays a licensing tutorial explaining the basics. If the user is uploading his or her work, they are then required to agree to a release under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License as the default (the same license used for Wikipedia text). When uploading third-party works, they need to provide evidence that the work was published under terms allowing free sharing.
Upload Wizard makes this entire process painless, and provides links to further information where appropriate. Besides this unique requirement, we’ve tried to make Upload Wizard a really fast, responsive and intuitive uploading tool:
- Select more than one file at a time. If your browser supports it (e.g. recent versions of Firefox and Chrome), you can select multiple files (up to 50) in the file dialog.
- Show previews as soon as files are selected. You don’t have to wait for your file to be uploaded — we show you previews of JPG, GIF and PNG files immediately, generated by your browser.
- Instantly apply descriptions across a batch. When you upload 20 photographs of, say, a single building, you don’t want to type or copy the name 20 times. Instead, for any batch, you can copy all or some descriptions to the whole batch with a single click.
- Files will be uploaded concurrently. To maximize performance, uploads start immediately after you’ve selected files, and up to 3 files will be uploaded simultaneously.
- Extract the data that’s already in your files. When you’re uploading photographs, we extract embedded geo-location information (coordinates where an image was taken) as well as the creation date, so you don’t have to provide the information a second time.
Because Wikimedia is a global movement, ensuring that all tools are available in as many languages as possible is of very high importance. Volunteer translators have localized the user interface into 40 languages with greater than 90% translation completeness, and the licensing tutorial has been translated into 35 languages.
Supporting global events
The Wikimedia community has a track record of successfully organizing large-scale contests to contribute photographs relating to specific topics. An example of this is the tremendously successful Wiki Loves Monuments competition in 2011, which took place in 18 European countries, saw participation by thousands of new users, and led to about 170,000 photographs of notable buildings and other objects.
To ensure that participants in these competitions receive clear instructions and a workflow tailored to the event, Upload Wizard has functionality to define “upload campaigns” which can be set up by trusted Wikimedia Commons users. This feature was successfully used by the “Wiki Loves Monuments” contest. It was also used for the “Tamil Wiki Media” contest which we recently blogged about.
We’re currently testing an important improvement to Upload Wizard that will make it much more suitable for very large files like videos. The feature, called chunked uploads, splits a file into smaller chunks while it is being uploaded. This enables reliable transfer through the browser. With chunked uploading enabled, anyone will be able to upload files up to 500MB in size. This is supported by our work on a new file storage backend to dramatically increase our storage capacity and reliability.
We’re also putting significant effort towards engaging more people to contribute quality media content from smartphones. We are doing so in preparation for the Wiki Loves Monuments 2012 contest (which is going global this year), and have started work on a dedicated Wiki Loves Monuments mobile application. Given the huge amount of movement energy behind Wiki Loves Monuments, we see good conditions for success to test mobile photo uploading at significant scale.
Last but not least, Google Summer of Code student Ankur Anand is working on improved Flickr integration and geo-location support in Upload Wizard. His goal is to simplify import of photographs from Flickr, and to implement a map interface for geo-tagging uploaded media.
Unlike most photo uploaders you’re likely to use, and like all software developed by the Wikimedia Foundation, Upload Wizard is open source software, meaning you can use it for any purpose and make improvements to it:
- If you speak a language other than English, please help improve translation of the user interface in your language. Upload Wizard is translated through the independent translatewiki.net project.
- If you have trouble using Upload Wizard, or if you want to share other feedback about the tool, please post it to the Upload Wizard feedback page.
Above all, if you have photos or other media files that would be useful for Wikipedia and Wikimedia’s other projects, why not upload them to Wikimedia Commons under a free license? There are many places to share vacation photos, or pictures from everyday life, but for documenting and explaining the world, there’s Wikimedia Commons.
Erik Moeller, VP of Engineering and Product Development