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’m a bit of a geek and a motorcycle junkie. Combining them was natural, though it’s taken some time.

I uploaded my first photo on July 6, 2003, when I realized there was no article on redcedar bolts, which are blocks of cedar used to make shingles. Yes, I was out riding- in fact, I was dirt biking in far western Washington on July 4th.

Some of the following pictures came while we were motorcycling through Latin America. Here’s a replenishment ship from the Royal Netherlands Navy, just after leaving the harbor in Cartagena, Colombia, which we saw because we were getting our motorcycle around the Darien Gap using the services of a drunken pilot with a scary-small sailboat.

Now that we’re back in the States, I’ve really been enjoying contributing with the WikiProject Oregon. I’ve recently been tackling editing every high school in the state and getting them up to a minimum standard (infobox, refs, location, coords, photo). The photo is difficult, as many of them are a long distance away.

I started playing with Category:Wikipedia requested photographs in Oregon, then User:Para pointed out the recursive category export tool, which outputs kml. Nice!

I then used gpsbabel to convert the kml to gdb, Garmin’s format. Score! I can now get the requested photos in my GPS. A recent trip to Tri-Cities Washington is a good example of how I will integrate photos into an existing motorcycle trip: plan the basic route, then add in locations with requested photos.

I added 99 miles and 4.2 hours to my trip over, and 34 miles and 2.3 hours to my trip back by taking the photos. In total, I collected 29 photos for Wikipedia. Here are some of my favorites:

I use a Garmin 60-series GPS for routing and storing tracks, and a SPOT Messenger so people can keep track of me in case something bad happens. My “big” camera is a Canon T1i (EOS 500d), and the motorcycle is a Suzuki V-Strom 650:

I hope this encourages you to get out and help take photos for WikiProject Oregon, or for any other part of Wikipedia! It can be done on foot, on bicycle, or via motorcycle/car/airplane/rocket.

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.

Lyza Danger Gardner contributed this image, from a Fred Meyer supermarket, to Wikipedia.

 Last night, I had two separate conversations (by coincidence) with mostly-amateur photographers Lyza and Cam, who want to contribute images to Wikipedia.

Both were driven by a desire to contribute to a common repository of knowledge and beauty, and both were frustrated by Wikipedia’s requirement that their contributions be made available for commercial use.

This is not a new debate, but it’s one worth delving into a bit.

The key befuddlement, of course, is this: why would Wikipedia (and related Wikimedia Foundation projects), which is a non-profit venture both in spirit and its technical classification, require that photographers release their property for unlimited commercial use?

The answer appears to date back to the Wikimedia Foundation’s decision to use the GFDL as its basic license. I haven’t been able to uncover the deliberation that led to that decision, but the reason is generally this: we’re seeking to create an encyclopedia that can be freely republished, in many formats and with many variations, so that it can be available to an enormous number of people in an enormous number of ways.

For instance, I just installed a neat program called Quickpedia on my new cell phone. This program fills a need that Wikipedia itself hasn’t, and possibly never will: it makes it really easy to browse Wikipedia articles on my mobile phone. But the program contains advertising, making it a commercial enterprise.

If Wikipedia allowed photographers to upload content that doesn’t permit commercial use, that would mean programs like this couldn’t exist; or at least, it would massively increase the complexity of making such a program, and force the developers to create an incomplete version of Wikipedia, absent of any photos that don’t permit commercial use.

I brought this up to Lyza; she explained that as far as she’s concerned, programs like Quickpedia are Wikipedia; she’d be happy to use a license, if it were available, that permitted uses like that, but that disallow people making commercial products (advertising, calendars, etc.) that are completely unrelated to Wikipedia.

So, my question is this: is there a way for the copyleft geeks and attorneys of our community to craft a license that hews closely to Lyza’s stated desires?

(Previously, this was a comment to the “3 million free images…” post, but is promoted to a topic by request.)

Currently, there are 186 Oregon-related image requests.  If that seems too daunting, consider looking at the regionally requested photos, which appear (on the same page) under WikiProject Oregon image requests.  There are 21 subcategories:  one for every region of the state.  If you know you’ll be traveling to an area, be sure to print out that region before going—and take along with your camera.

Uploading a photo to Wikipedia has become much easier over the years.  If you took the photo and it belongs to you, there is an option on the upload page which greatly simplifies things:  (You might have to create an account or log in first.)  Just click on It is entirely my own work.

If you experimented, you might have noticed that link isn’t on Wikipedia!  Commons is a repository shared by the various language Wikipedias, Wikisource, Wikibooks, Wiktionary, Wikitravel, etc.  If you’re uploading an ordinary photo, “fair use” doesn’t apply, so it is of greatest use to upload to commons where, for example, the Russian version of Mount St. Helens can directly use your photo.

There are eleven entry boxes but most of these are trivial.  The “local filename” is the name of the file on your computer which you can navigate to by using the “Browse…” button (so no typing is required).  When done, the “destination filename” is automatically given the same name. If your photo is well named, there is no need to change the destination name.  However, if your photo is named PICT000020.JPG, please give it a more descriptive name, like Mount Jefferson in Central Oregon as seen from Olallie Butte in winter.jpg—if that’s what the photo is.

The next two boxes—”Original source” and “Author”—are already filled in with “Own work by uploader” and your login name:  change them if needed.

“Date of work” is when the photo was taken.  If you don’t know, leave it blank, or put an approximate date like “January 2008”.  Modern digital cameras embed the date into the image—assuming the camera was given the date at some point—so you can see it after uploading.  That is, after uploading the photo, the website displays internal details the camera placed into the photo, like the camera manufacturer and model, exposure data, timestamp, flash and focal length, etc.  For an example, see this photo of the Tillamook Creamery interior.  Near the page’s bottom, click on show extended details and you’ll see all the information my mid-to-low cost camera added.  After uploading, you can edit the page and correct the date.

By far, the second-most important data (after the image) is the “Description”.  Give as much detail as you can stand:  this text helps people looking for photos find yours.  Reflecting Wikimedia’s worldwide support, the description can be in like 150 languages—though one is good enough.  Other people may translate it, so don’t assume much of the reader:  give thorough details and full context.  Linking to Wikipedia articles is useful, but the format is a little strange.  To link to the English Wikipedia, use the form [[w:article name]].  The w: prefix is an “interwiki shortcut”.  (I’d describe the hard way too, but I don’t know it and couldn’t find it.)

“Other versions”, “permission”, and “additional info” can be left blank.

You must choose a “licensing” option.  I find the “Multi-license with CC-BY-SA-3.0 and GDFL (recommended)” to be a good choice.  It means the photo is permitted to be used for any purpose, but attribution is required.  There’s a question mark to click on if you want to know more:  It’s possible to find your way to the legal documents associated with the various licenses.

“Categories” are extremely helpful for your photo to be found, but somewhat difficult to understand.  In the old days, I found this to be the most difficult bit of information to enter.  The new-fangled method is very helpful:  Click on the + and type the first few characters of the general topic, whether it be aircraft, coast, skyscrapers, place name, or what have you.  Then look through the automagically appearing list for a reasonably specific item.  If you have a photo of a ship in downtown Portland, at least two categories apply: “Portland, Oregon”, and “Ships by Country”.  Enter the first, click on the check mark, then click on the plus sign.  Try not to leave “categories” blank:  many editors consider it mandatory and might spend time figuring some out and adding them to your photo.

Finally, press “Upload file”.  In a few seconds, the completed page will show how you did.  :-).  Correct any mistakes by clicking on “edit”, just like on Wikipedia.

To make your photo appear in an article, add [[image:whatever it is named | thumb | caption text]] somewhere and press “show preview” to see how it looks.  Adding the first photo to an article is easy (put it at the top), but if there are several photos, tables, infoboxen, etc., it can become challenging to make it look okay.  Experiment with several placements.  If you can’t figure it out, go ahead and leave it, and someone else will fix it.

New Yorker David Shankbone is one of my favorite Wikipedia contributors. He has approached Wikipedia and related projects as a way to get practice and exposure as a writer and photographer, and works tirelessly to encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

David’s ambition has taken him in different directions than me; he does extensive “offline” work, setting up photoshoots and interviews with prominent writers, artists, politicians. He makes it look easy, and his point in this blog post is that it really is easy; all it takes is a little effort to make a clear request, and to come up with some interesting questions.

In my more limited experience, this approach works just as well in Oregon as it does in New York City. Poiticians and artists I’ve talked to have been happy to have someone express interest in rounding out their Wikipedia biographies; sometimes, all it takes is asking the question.

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