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Education/News/April 2019/Wikimedia Commons: a highly hostile place for multimedia students contributions

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Wikimedia Commons: a highly hostile place for multimedia students contributions


Author: Galder Gonzalez


Summary: A few months ago, after having spent a year working with HUHEZI professors and lectures, we received a tempting proposal to work with the Communication students of this faculty. The idea was for the students to create texts, images, photographs and videos for specific articles on Basque Wikipedia. After six weeks of intense work and supervision so that everything would be freely licensed, the students uploaded their work, some of the highest quality. The result: most were deleted from Commons for being "too good for a newcomer". These attitudes mean that the work of a year of volunteers can be put in jeopardy, as our community is perceived as hostile.


A few months ago, after having spent a year working with HUHEZI professors and lectures, we received a tempting proposal to work with the Communication students of this faculty. The idea was for the students to create texts, images, photographs and videos for specific articles on Basque Wikipedia. After six weeks of intense work and supervision so that everything would be freely licensed, the students uploaded their work, some of the highest quality. The result: most were deleted from Commons for being "too good for a newcomer". These attitudes mean that the work of a year of volunteers can be put in jeopardy, as our community is perceived as hostile.

This is a chronicle about how we got this high-quality material on Wikipedia, and what happened next.

Step 1: one year of preparationEdit

Aretxabaleta campus, Mondragon University

Getting a whole classroom work to improve Wikipedia articles with text, images, illustrations and videos is not a one-shot work. It takes time, effort and lots of preparations. We started one year ago, talking to professors at HUHEZI, the faculty at Mondragon Unibertsitatea devoted to education and communication. We talked to the dean, to different departments, to on-line educators and, finally, we reached a team of professors and lecturers who saw this as a good idea to develop on their classroom.

HUHEZI is a highly innovative faculty. They work without subjects, and they have subject-experts for some weeks working on projects with students. They try to make everything interdisciplinar, so a project about improving Wikipedia seemed good for them. They decided to work on all possible aspects of an article:

  1. They had to write at least 5.000 characters
  2. They needed to go to the library and present references about the topic
  3. They had to make at least 3 original photographies and at least one illustration about the topic
  4. They had to mix the illustration with infographics, so they could present the topic as a poster
  5. They had to make an original interview to a topic-expert and upload a video to Commons, with free license music on it.

Step 2: choosing the articlesEdit

Students working on their assignment

As many of you will know, Basque Wikimedians are running a project to improve basic content on Basque language. So we had to choose around 50 possible articles to work on, as they would choose 14 of them to start improving. We had two meetings with professors to determine what would be factible to do, what would be a high value for us and how we could help them focus the content creation. Choosing and promoting some content was made on classroom, as we presented all the possible topics and tried to explain what would be a good point on this articles.

Students chose articles from the Bible to pregnancy, and from Hip hop to racism in the Basque Country. They had 6 weeks ahead to made this complex project.

Step 3: explaining how Wikimedia worksEdit

Students preparing their references.

We expended four full mornings with them (16 hours) to explain how Wikipedia works, what a reference is, how they should upload images and what a free license was. Students came with lots of questions, for example how to be neutral with subjects as The Bible or Abortion rights. Professors spent lots of hours with them, individually and as a group to explain what a good source was, and some of them also took the car to go to libraries far away from the university to document some topic.

Explaining what a free source is was the most difficult part of the assignment. Students have difficulties to understand what free (gratis) and free (speech) mean, so they had to change lots of things on their infographics and, specially, on their videos.

Step 4: preparing for uploadEdit

Content creation on the multimedia room.

Just after students finished their work, and before uploading it, a Wikimedian and two lecturers gave them advices on what to change to make everything better. Some advices were technical (this typography is not suitable for this topic), some of them were about content (you are not summarizing correctly the ideas) and other were about copyright issues. Students had to change background music with suitable songs, document how this songs were free (and we were sure that everything was free before uploading it) and also document if the background images used on the work were free or not.

It was a two days process to upload everything, feel property Commons attributions, categories and inserting it on articles. And the result was great. Compare, for example, the article about pregnancy before and now.

But, can you still see some missing files? Yes... this is the problem.

Step 5: Commons, that placeEdit

There was an infographic here.

What happened next? A couple of Commons administrators decided that this works were too good to be really free, so they decided to delete them, more than 50 items. And that's it. A one year work was thrown to the rubbish because, maybe, who know, whatever. Now, we have started the process to undelete them, but the harm is done. Students are not finding their work there, professors are asking about where it is, and we have to explain that this is a hard world, where everything must be discussed. A one year work is at risk because some administrators think that something is too good to be free. You can follow the undeletion process here.

But now imagine that some lecturer decides to start a similar project but doesn't know there is an undeletion place on Commons. That doesn't know how to appeal this random decission. We are losing potential, we are not helping our community to grow and, being hostile, we are saying professors that Wikimedia is not the place for their content.

Let's think on this.

Commons, assigments, communication, teacher's formation

Social Media channels or hashtags: @euwikipedia at Twitter

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