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Wikipedia:Wikipedia Takes Manhattan/Spring 2008

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Wikipedia Takes Manhattan or WTM-1 was a scavenger hunt and free content photography contest coordinated with Columbia University and New York University students, aimed at illustrating Wikipedia articles covering the wondrous sights on the island of Manhattan.

The event was held on Friday April 4, and ran from 11:30 AM/noon to 11 PM/midnight. Everyone met up and checked in at the two starting points at noon, and after a day of subways, street rambles, photography and free culture goodness, the night concluded with a party back at Columbia.

The day was sponsored by Free Culture @ Columbia, the Columbia University chapter of Students for Free Culture, in cooperation with the NYU chapter Free Culture @ NYU, Wikimedia New York City and Wikipedia volunteers.

This was the first event of its kind anywhere on the Wikipedia Takes The City model. Wikipedia Takes Nashville followed quickly on in May, and the sequel NYC event Wikis Take Manhattan (WTM-2) was held in October 2008.

Pre-event discussion

Events of the day


Registration and starting points


Participation will be open to all, student or not. Participants will register, with their names and e-mails, and chosen starting point, to compete in three-person teams. If you don't already have a team, we can try to put you in a group, or you can compete in twos or individually if you want. Registration will include granting permission for all photographs to be placed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

It is important to register if you plan on coming to the party that night, whether or not you choose to compete (for example, if you want to volunteer). If you don't plan on competing, you can note that in the 'Team name' section.

Register online here: Wikipedia Takes Manhattan registration

However, even if you've pre-registered, you will still have to show up at one of the starting points on the day of the events to check in and receive your information packet, including the finalized goal list and rules.

There will be two starting points: one uptown at Columbia University, and one downtown at Union Square (run by NYU students). Although most people will check in in the morning, the starting points will be manned till 7 PM for latecomers.

  • Columbia starting point: the Sundial in front of Low Memorial Library at 11:30 AM (information packets with goal list will be given out at 12 noon). Will run till 7 PM.
  • Union Square starting point (run by NYU students): Union Square, Union Square Whole Foods, Cafe on the 2nd Floor, North East Corner. Will run till 7 PM.

A few extra notes for contestants:

  • Each team should use only one camera.
  • You should start the day with an empty flash card.
  • Bring a pen or marker to write with.

Scavenger hunt


The student participants will compete to photograph as many sites as possible from a list of goals whose articles lack photographs, or that are missing certain essential photographs. There may also be recognition of excellent photographs of sites not on the list.

Photography is to be done the day of the event. We'll post rules later that will ensure this.

Code of conduct

  • Respecting personality rights: You should not make persons on the street the focus of your photographs, without their permission. If someone is in the background, or part of a crowd, or happens to be standing in front of a building in an inconspicuous way, it's OK. But, you shouldn't focus on an individual.
  • Respecting the rights of artists: Artists have the right to restrict photography of their artwork, such as public statues (this does not apply to architecture, for which there exists a "freedom of panorama" exception under US law). Don't photograph copyrighted public art (created after 1923). If it is necessary to include public art in the frame to photograph something else, the public art should not be the focus of the photograph.
  • Respecting the rights of property owners: Property owners have the right to restrict you from taking a photograph while standing on their property. But, you can take any photograph as long as you are standing on public property. If someone asks you to stop, stop.
  • Respecting the police: If the police ask you to stop, stop.

Photography advice

  • Keep pictures in focus.
  • Avoid shadows.
  • Show the whole subject in one shot, if possible; avoid cutting off tops of buildings.

Ending party and prizes


The ending party will be held that night at Columbia, the photographs will be uploaded, and prizes given to the winners.

Party location: J.D. Satow Room (5th Floor, Lerner Hall (map)) at 11:30 PM. Alfred Lerner Hall is the student center at Columbia. The party will run till about midnight, or possibly later.

The first prize winning team members will get iPod shuffles jammed with free music, and the second and third prize winning team members will win free copies of the newly-published Wikipedia: The Missing Manual, generously donated by O'Reilly Media.

Wikipedian volunteers


Wikipedian volunteers are especially encouraged to help with the organizational side of the event, either helping us with check-in during the day, or helping us upload and tally the images at the party at night. Of course, they can "compete" directly if they want as well.

If you want to help with this event (especially if you want to help with check-in during the day), please e-mail User:Pharos with your name and mobile phone number.

Even if you don't intend to compete, if you're coming to the party, you should still register online.

The set-up period for volunteers at the party will start at 10:30 PM.

The uploading at the party will be guided by this process:

Wikipedians are also encouraged to help with the goal list (and make additional suggestions), as part of the preparation for the event.

Watch this space for future possible changes. And please watchlist this page.

Also, you should subscribe to the Wikimedia NYC mailing list for the latest updates.



Likely attendees at the event


Possible attendees at the event


Volunteers to help organize online


Articles illustrated


We got photos for 92 specifically requested sites (90 separate articles), nearly half of the 188 on our list:

Several of these photos also proved immediately useful in illustrating other existing articles:

There were also photos taken of Verdi Square and Astor Place, which was not planned.

Also, the existence of the list appears to have led several Wikipedians to contribute photos of these sites, without participating directly in the contest. Their contributions are appreciated as well.


Commons:Wikipedia Takes Manhattan/Gallery

All of our photos from this event, licensed CC-BY-SA 3.0, are on Wikimedia Commons in chronological galleries showing the teams' adventures throughout the day.

The gallery is really cool, you should check it out.

Some of our participants talked about how the event proved a great way to learn about their neighborhoods, which they had never really explored before.

Uploading party and winners


Photos by User:Becksguy

The 1st-place winners were Team "official-ly cool": Eric Ramirez and Ashley McMasters.

The 2nd-place winners were Team "New York Dolls": Neha Solanki, Roochi Solanki and Melissa Hanna.

The top winners got iPod shuffles, and all winners received copies of Wikipedia: The Missing Manual (donated by O'Reilly Media), real life barnstars (donated by Wikimedia Board of Trustees member User:Mindspillage) and frisbees (donated by The Open Planning Project).



On the day of the event we talked to one reporter writing for the New York Post, and another reporter working on a WNYC public radio "Street Shots" project on street photography. The Post story didn't materialize, but the WNYC coverage should at appear on their blog in a few weeks.

We were also covered by student-produced Columbia Television News, and they produced a video segment on the event (unfortunately, we didn't quite get "hundreds" of participants, though).

This hardly counts as "media", but we've also covered Wikipedia Takes Manhattan: Our First Outreach Project on WikiNortheast, your friendly regional Wikimedia blog.