News and notes
"Mystical" Picture of the Year; run-up to Wikimania DC; RfA reform 2012
Winner of the 2011 Picture of the Year: a view of Lake Bondhus in Norway, and in the background the Bondhus Glacier
Commons announces 2011 Picture of the Year
The Commons Picture of Year Committee has just announced the winner of The Sixth Annual Wikimedia Commons POTY Contest: Lake Bondhus Norway 2862, shot by German Wikipedian Heinrich Pniok using a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 24 mm focal length, then digitally retouched. Known as User:Alchemist-hp on WMF projects, Heinrich is a familiar participant at the featured-picture processes on Commons and the English and German Wikipedias, and has gifted to us an array of fine pictures of the chemical elements, inorganic compounds, minerals, insects and animals, and plants, landscapes, and places.
Second choice: Tracy Caldwell Dyson on the International Space Station
Heinrich told the Signpost
he made the picture from three single images with different exposures to produce a more realistic dynamic
. "The eyes can see better than the best camera," he says, "but not if I can use good software to achieve a similar dynamic view. I tested a lot of different software to be able to produce pictures like Lake Bondhus
. Photomatix Pro
is my favoured tool for making HDR
, or put simply, images in which you blend different exposures." Ironically, Heinrich's capturing of how the unusual scene appeared to his eyes – by the use of varying focus throughout the image and by digital retouching – led to a few opposes among many positive reviewers at the Commons featured-picture nomination page
. Reviewer George Chernilevsky
commented that the effect is "mystical", to which Heinrich replied that the place itself was mystical (not just his image of it).
Heinrich told us that on 23 July last year he and his wife went on "a two and a half hour walking tour along a road about 50 km southeast of Bergen, Norway's second-largest city. We had mixed weather that day, both sunny and rainy. When we arrived at this place we were very happy and surprised to find such a beautiful scene: dreamlike and mystical, with a fantastic light." (Zoomable Google Map.)
With 143 votes, Lake Bondhus was the stand-out over editors' second and third choices, with 118 and 57 votes respectively. Why was it so popular? One Commons editor gave this explanation: "Take a look at the composition: the glacier angle reversing into the angle of the boat; the seemingly random scattering of the rocks in the water, counterposed with the rocky foreground; the rather elegant line of posts; the binary reflection of clouds, rocks, and mountains, and the variety of textures. The most striking aspect is the serenity of the boat and the water versus the ragged clouds that seem to impinge on the scene." Lake Bondhus is a featured picture on the German Wikipedia, and appeared on the main page of Commons on 15 May.
The people's second choice was a self-portrait by NASA flight engineer Tracy Caldwell Dyson in the Cupola module of the International Space Station during Expedition 24, taken 11 September 2010 using a NIKON D2X with 16 mm focal length, from a distance of just over a metre. The image won high praise from reviewers at the English Wikipedia's featured-picture nomination page, despite a few queries about EV (encyclopedic value). The photographer has completed three spacewalks, is a private pilot and a former track-and-field athlete, and surprisingly, is lead vocalist for the all-astronaut band Max Q.
The third choice was an image by francophone Belgian Wikimedian Luc Viatour, whose photography comprises a stunning variety of subjects, from the astronomical to landscapes, wildlife, and buildings – amply demonstrated in Luc's gallery of his Commons featured pictures. Cueva de los Verdes (Spanish for the Verdes' cave, named after the former owners, the Verdes family) is a lava tube and tourist attraction in the Canary Islands, off the west coast of Africa. The cave was created around 3,000 years ago by lava flows from the nearby volcano Monte Corona, flowing across the Malpaís de la Corona toward the sea. When the lava drained away, the solidified upper part remained to form the roof of the caves, which extend for 7.5 kilometres. In earlier centuries, islanders hid in this cave to protect themselves from pirates and slave raiders. Luc's images have been finalists in the competition for five years in a row. He told the Signpost he took the photo during his vacation on the island in 2011. "I used a Nikon D3s, 14–24 mm 2,8, tripod. The water you see was fresh, and with the artificial lighting gave a beautiful reflection of the cave ceiling."
Wikimania, the annual international Wikimedia community conference, will be held in Washington DC on 12–14 July. This will be the first time since Boston in 2006 that the conference has been held in the US.
The pre-program will start with Wikimania Takes Manhattan, 6–9 July, and will come to a local peak in the next wave of New York's Wiknic event, the Wiki World's Fair on 7 July on Governors Island in New York Harbor.
On 10–11 July, MediaWiki hackers, Toolserver users, gadget developers and others will meet for the annual Wikimania Hackathon and will revisit issues they looked at during their Berlin meeting earlier this month. Alongside the technology event, the Ada Initiative will host a camp to promote women’s participation in open technology, and the Wikimedia chapters will meet to finally work out the basics of their new umbrella organization, the Wikimedia Chapters Association. On the eve of the main event, Google will host a reception of its own.
During the four-day conference the schedule will cover a wide range of issues, sorted in thematic categories; these will include chapters, education, GLAM, and technology and infrastructure. In addition to the main schedule, the National Archives and other local institutions will offer tours, and Wikimedians will meet with library representatives to work on collaborative outreach projects (Wiki loves libraries).
On 15 July, an unconference will take place and the WMF US education program working group will look at how to reform collaborative projects with US universities. Online registration is open until 23:59 EDT, 4 July; on-site registration will be available.
RfA reform 2012
On 20 June, a move aiming at reform of the Requests for Adminship process (RfA) got under way, thereby reviving last year's reform efforts, which delivered among other things advice for candidates but did not make it to a Request for Comment (RfC).
Three main general problem areas to be tackled on wiki have been identified so far: Unearthing qualified candidates, Snow and NOTNOW candidates, and problems in finding consensus in an RfC.
Ten proposals have recently been published to overhaul the RfA process, most of them focusing on procedural rather than technical remedies. Under consideration are expert committees, empowered to select administrators in place of the current polling method, and remodelling the RfA process by adding additional stages or dividing the process into two stages.
On 24 June, Jc37 proposed a technical solution by the creation of a new user group. He pointed out that this new set of user rights to promote content-related admin activities would reduce backlogs in areas such as AfD and Cfd. Tools related to the management of user behaviour, like blocking and protecting, would not be part of this package.
Excising these tools, so the argument goes, could turn down the volume in RfAs so that candidates are assessed on the merits of their "understanding of how to determine consensus in discussions, various content-related policies and guidelines, and also on the trust requisite with only the particular tools they would be receiving". The proposal prompted wide-ranging discussions, and commands some support.
Users interested in contributing to the ongoing debates are listed here.
- Offline outreach in French-speaking Africa: Wikimedia France has announced a new project, called Afripedia, to push up offline outreach in the French language in Africa. The chapter will cooperate with the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie, Kiwix, and the Institut français to implement offline versions of Wikipedia at 20 points in 15 West African countries by the northern autumn 2012.
- Wiktionary app for Android: The WMF has published a mobile app on for Wiktionary on Android. As the foundation reports in its blog, Wiktionary is available in more than 150 language versions.
- Article feedback tool: The fifth version of the article feedback tool will be expanded from 0.6% to 10.0% of articles by 3 July. Central notice information for the release will soon be available.
- Social media outreach in India: In the WMF's blog, the foundation's Indian pilot program has reported on its work in Facebook and other social media to reach out to new editors for the Indian language projects.