getting started

No, not the old New England shared space in the center of the village (AKA village green), but a sister project of Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons. This is a place people upload photos with free licences to then be shared across the globe. The main point was to allow for a single repository for all images across all Wikipedias (English, French, German, etc.) that would allow for easy access between this different projects. That way the Germans could more easily find and use images of the US, and vice versa for US based editors and German images. Add the Germans certainly do use our images, such as one from an old house I took. Even the Japanese use it too, as the Hillsboro article has nine images of mine.

Oregon State Capitol Building

My picture of the OSC in Salem that I've seen in many places

But Commons has grown beyond this as site where many people and organizations go to find free content.  Encyclopædia Britannica in their article on Hillsboro uses one of my images, as do some foreigners with WES, and used a fish image of mine among many other images they have used from Commons. Searching Google has turned up many for me, and many for others on Wikipedia/Commons. Other images include Erratic Rock State Park, Council Crest Park, the Martha Springer Botanical Gardens where someone used this image for talking about gardening, and these folks at the Mall Hall of Fame blog used three of mine and countless others from Wikipedia/Commons. And these are just the ones that have actually given credit, whereas many others fail to credit Wikimedia or the individual photographers. In fact this image of mine I have seen in a variety of places on the web, often without credit, but here the Associated Contentfolks properly attributed the image to me (those folks are also heavy users of Commons images). However, I think I am most proud of getting on OregonLive in the proper manner. Last fall I warned them about using my image of Lattice Semiconductor without proper attribution, and they took it down (would have been easier for them to just add the caption in the story). So its nice to see they learned their lesson.

Now, more importantly, what does this have to do with you? If you looked at some of the images, hopefully you liked some of them, but most are certainly not Pulitzer Prize winners. Some of my images could use some editing, and others filters, and other better lighting. But, hey, I don’t get paid for this. Anyway, Wikipedia gets free images which helps illustrate articles, and I get a sense of satisfaction/ego boost seeing my work around the world. And you can too! So, if you do not already have a Commons account, I encourage you to sign up for one and start uploading your images. If you need ideas for what to take a picture of, here is a list of images already needed. And who knows, maybe in a month or so your picture of a Bigfoot trap might make the front page in Mongolia.





Two cool things:

Wikimedia Commons recently added the ability to add tags to images, and…

I recently discovered that the U.S. National Atlas and the U.S. Census Bureau have online mapping tools that let you build custom maps; and because they’re made by the U.S. government, you can then upload the results to Wikipedia, etc. Pretty cool!

Here’s an example. Click on it to see it on its Wikimedia Commons page, where you can view the tags. Go ahead and do it — there are some fun surprises!

Map of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation

Map of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation

I’ll be on the radio tomorrow morning with Oregon Encyclopedia editor Bill Lang, discussing our respective online encyclopedia projects and how we engage with the people of Oregon.

Hope you can listen, and call in with questions! Check out producer David Miller’s excellent post introducing the show. And for those out of state, you can listen online (or check the post after the show for an audio archive).

Tomorrow morning:

Friday May 8, 9-10 AM PDT
Oregon Public Broadcasting
91.5 FM in Portland

It’s always interesting to talk to people who don’t really know anything about Wikipedia and mention that I am a frequent contributor to Wikipedia. People tend to give me a look that they usually reserve for Masons or members of the Trilateral Commission, and then they ask/comment: “Isn’t that always inaccurate?” That one I can pretty much shoot down thanks to other posters on this blog, but the next one is a bit tougher: “Why do you edit Wikipedia?”

I usually stammer off something about how I like delving into history and information, but I decided to really think about it: how did I start editing Wikipedia? To find out, I had to dig deep into my edit history. This is a bit like digging into my junior high journal (no, I didn’t really have one, and besides, I burned it), but here goes.

I actually remember my first edit pretty well. (You never forget your first time…) One of my neighbors at the time was future NBA player Kevin Love. In the summer of 2006, he was still in high school and had just announced he would be playing college basketball at UCLA. One afternoon, I checked out his Wikipedia article and immediately spotted an irritating (to me) grammatical error.

I probably checked the page several times waiting for someone to fix it before it dawned on me that I was supposed to fix it myself. So, at 3:38 on August 7, 2006, I signed up for a Wikipedia account; and then after what I remember as being 10 minutes of excruciating worry that I was surely doing it all wrong, made my first edit.

I expected someone to object, but no one seemed to mind. And it only took me another six weeks to be brave enough make another edit, this time to aging NFL star Morten Andersen. (I had seen his first NFL game back in 1982 and now he was the oldest player in the NFL, so I felt some kinship to him.)  Since he was on the verge of breaking the NFL scoring record, it led me to edit a variety of other related articles. I think I was hooked at this point.

From sports, it was an easy leap into another passion of mine, politics. With an election coming up, in the fall of 2006, I started looking into Oregon-related politics articles. I was surprised to note that so many Oregon politicians didn’t have Wikipedia entries, so in October, in my next big step of development, I created my first article from scratch, for former Congressman Jim Bunn. He never even sent me a card. Oh well.

After the Bunn article, I started getting more involved with Wikipedia. Why were there so many uncompleted articles about Oregon Congresspeople? (or as we call ’em in the WP:ORE community, ODGs: “Old Dead Guys/Gals”) And this is really where it clicked for me: this was a contribution I could make. On the day before election day 2006, I joined WikiProject Oregon and began systematically running down the missing ODGs. I also took a fancy to creating articles for members of the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame (and sometimes both at the same time).

Along the way, I read stories of incredible perserverance and being in the wrong place at the wrong time, uncovered strange sex scandals, learned about mysterious drownings and defenestrations, and basically was amazed to discover that I had never heard about this stuff before, and moreover, it seemed that no one else had either.

So…why do I edit Wikipedia? To me, it’s not the epic articles about Barack Obama or the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens; those are great, but there is so much easily accessible information elsewhere about those topicsthat Wikipedia will only ever scratch the surface.

Wikipedia is exciting because it can go deeper than that. Former Oregon governor Tom McCall would never rate an article in Encyclopedia Britannica, and is unlikely to even get a mention in any study of environmental cleanup, but his impact is clear. Wikipedia can fill this gap. The strange case of the Oregon Congressional election between Andrew Thayer and George Shiel is unknown to virtually everyone, but is a fascinating story of political intrigue.

As newspapers disappear and more and more of our information becomes online and ephemeral, it will become lost; and moreover, easily changed and “corrected.” Pete Forsyth told me the story of an online article that was challenged and then corrected without comment; how much more of our news will be lost in this way? The correction is part of the story!

With the ability to explore article history, unlike your junior high journal, information cannot be lost. Wikipedia can be a place to store information that should not be lost to the world. I hope more people take up the challenge.

WikiWednesday in September

WikiWednesday last September

I’m proud to be able to announce that we’ve got something slightly different in mind for the May installment of the Portland WikiWednesday.

In little less than a week, we’ll be serving up a short presentation and panel on the research techniques journalists and bloggers (or anyone really) can use to get the most out of Wikipedia.

Often maligned and misunderstood, Wikipedia is nonetheless a body of knowledge that can be a rich resource if used properly. I’ll be giving the introductory presentation myself, with a half hour to answer such questions as…

  • Can journalists avoid compromising standards and still use Wikipedia?
  • How can you find exactly what you’re looking for out of 2.8 million articles?
  • What clues can you look for to assess the veracity of articles and individual facts?

Afterwords, a panel of both Wikipedians and journalists will delve in to their experience with the site, and answer your questions about the nitty-gritty of working with Wikipedia in your research. On this panel will be:

  • Myself (Steven Walling), a Wikipedia adminstrator with years of experience and over 30,000 edits.
  • Pete Forsyth, a Wikipedia administrator with a special expertise concerning Oregon articles in particular, and a key instigator of WikiProject Oregon’s organizing and outreach.
  • Abraham Hyatt, former managing editor at Oregon Business magazine.
  • Dan Cook, former editor of the Portland Business Journal.

This is a little more structured than most WikiWednesdays, but the spirit remains the same. Whether you’re familiar with wikis or just one of the billions of people who use Wikipedia regularly, this should be an interesting and information look at research with the largest encyclopedia in history.

If you go

Where: AboutUs, 107 SE Washington, suite #520 (map)
When: Wednesday May 6th, 5:30pm-7:30pm
Cost: Free (as always!)
More: Calagator and Upcoming

Part II of a three part series. As Pete mentioned in his comments to Part I, WikiProject Oregon also witnessed a good size increase in the number of articles within the project. We went from just over 5000 articles to a bit over 7000. I think that is a 40% increase. Now many of these roughly 2000 new articles were created by those involved in the project, but most were not. Many come from random people signing up and starting an article on their favorite band, a historic building in town, or their local politician. These all add up. Plus, I personally went through incoming links to the Oregon article and found likely 200 articles that have existed for some time, but were missed at some point. Which brings up the what links here feature. If you were not aware of this, along the left side of the screen in the “toolbox” is a tool that allows you to see all the existing Wikipedia articles/pages that link to the article (even works for red links). It is a great way to discover additional information about the topic.

To close, even though Wikipedia’s article growth has slowed significantly, we hope to keep a brisk pace at WikiProject Oregon.

Amber Case gettin' stylish at the Ignite Portland after-party/RecentChangesCamp pre-party


Amber Case gettin' stylish at the Ignite Portland after-party/RecentChangesCamp pre-party


The smartest wiki folk in all the land have descended on Portland! RecentChangesCamp 2009, an annual “open spaces” conference about online collaboration tools and communities, is currently underway at Portland State University. If you’re in the neighborhood, come on by! The conference runs through mid-day Sunday; check the site linked above for all the details. Here are a few photos.


Geoff Burling, Cary Bass, Pete Forsyth, and Phoebe Ayers discuss the future of Wikipedia

Geoff Burling, Cary Bass, Pete Forsyth, and Phoebe Ayers discuss the future of Wikipedia


RecentChangesCamp is underway!

RecentChangesCamp is underway!


The Writing on the Wall

The Writing on the Wall


We have folks from all over: Wikipedia, Connectipedia,sponsors Wikihow and AboutUs, Fandom Wiki, and numerous other wiki communities.

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