Tag Archives: Wikimedia

An open letter to Rupa Huq, MP, regarding official Parliamentary videos

Dear Dr. Huq,

I have been very interested to read about your recent call for an end to the prohibition on the use of footage from official parliamentary broadcasts in satirical programmes, made at the behest of your brother-in-law and constituent, the television personality Charlie Brooker.


Rupa Huq 2015

Rupa Huq

I was equally disappointed at the stance of the (Conservative) Leader of the House of Commons, Chris Grayling MP, who said:

it is very important that we make sure the coverage of this House is use in an appropriate way — I am not in favour of it being used for satire programmes.

He is wrong, because satire is not an inappropriate use of such footage, which is made with public funds.

But the right to use it in satire is not enough — we should all be able to use it wherever we want, freely. For example, on Wikipedia, for educational purposes. And for that reason, it should be made available under an “open licence”, allowing anyone to use it, for any purpose (subject, of course, to existing laws such as those on decency and defamation), with the only requirement being to attribute the source. (I have written previously about what open licensing is and why it should apply to media about politicians.)

Please take up Mr Grayling’s suggestion, and pursue your campaign with the Commons’ administration committee — but please don’t limit your request to the right to satirise. Please push for full open licensing.

Thank you.

Wikimedian in Residence at the Royal Society of Chemistry

I’m pleased to announce that I have accepted the position of Wikimedian in Residence with the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), a learned society and professional body whose roots go back to 1841 (see ).

Over the next year, starting 22 September, I will be helping my new RSC colleagues, and the Society’s members, to understand Wikipedia and its sister projects, and to contribute to making knowledge of chemistry, and related subjects, more freely available. The job is titled “WikiMedian”, because as well as WikiPedia, it covers those other projects, which are run by the Wikimedia community.

a room full of people at computers

Trainees hard at work at a previous RSC editathon, in
Burlington House’s library, at which I volunteered as a trainer.

This follows on from my previous Wikipedia residences with Wildscreen (on their ARKive project), with Staffordshire Archives and Heritage Service, at the New Art Gallery Walsall, and with Lancashire County Council’s Museum Service (at their Queen Street Mill), plus shorter projects with a number of other institutions (including West Midlands Police, The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Black Country Museum, and more). I’ll continue to be Wikipedian in Residence at ORCID. The RSC have already integrated ORCID into their publishing workflow and the two organisations obviously share interests in research and academic publishing.

I’ll be working part time, partly from home, and at the RSC’s Cambridge base one day per week, plus travelling around the UK to various events. I’ll also enjoy spending some days at their palatial London HQ, at Burlington House. My work days will vary to suit the requirements of the post, and my other commitments.

The rest of the time, I’ll still be available, as a freelancer, for other work, not least relating to Wikipedia, and facilitating open space events (for example, I’m MCing GalleryCamp on 23 September). Do drop me a line if you think I can help you with that, or if you have an interest in my RSC work, or if you want to meet socially, after work, in Cambridge.

What have I been up to, lately?

I really ought to blog more often (cobbler’s children’s shoes and all that…), but in the style of a back-to-school, what-I-did-on-my-holidays essay, here’s a round-up of some of my recent activity. And inactivity.

In June, I suffered a detached retina, and had to undergo emergency eye surgery. This happened again, in the same eye, a couple of weeks later. My eye is recovering well, but I’m likely to need a further operation for the resultant cataract, at some point in the future. Thanks to everyone who expressed good wishes.

The first detachment happened around the time I was speaking, twice, at the WikimediaUK AGM in Lincoln. There’s a video of my talk on Wikipedians-in-Residence.

I subsequently received a grant from WikimediaUK for a digital recorder to assist with my project asking Wikipedia subjects to contribute recordings of their spoken voices.


Institution of Civil Engineers - One Great George Street - Library

My picture of the Institution of Civil Engineers’ library

Following my surgery, I was laid up for a few weeks, but managed to get out and help at a couple of local Social Media Surgeries (thanks to Si Whitehouse and Steph Clarke, who acted as my chauffeurs). As my recovery progressed, I also visited London, and ran a Wikipedia editathon at the prestigious and historic Institution of Civil Engineers.

Shortly after my first operation, the Museum Association published a series of case studies (some behind a paywall) of collaboration between Wikipedia and British GLAMs (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums), including one about my work as Wikipedian-in-Residence at the New Art Gallery, Walsall, which is freely viewable.

I also took the train to Shrewsbury, to teach Shropshire County Archives staff there to edit Wikipedia. At the “Skill Share Jamboree“, where ‘hacktivists’ came together to share practical knowledge in a number of disciplines, I taught a session on recognising garden birds, and another on how to edit Wikipedia.

The BrewCamp meetings which I and a small group of friends run in and around Birmingham, to allow public sector activists to meet and discuss digital engagement topics, were successfully spun off by us and local collaborators into Dudley (as “BostinCamp“) and Stafford (as “OatCakeCamp“), and will no doubt both now develop independent lives there.

I helped launch the “Best by West Midlands” white paper and website, including case studies of social media use in local government. One of the case studies was about my work as Wikipedian-in-Residence with Staffordshire Archives and Heritage Service. At the launch, I ran a discussion session for the attendees, on “trust in social media”, with a subsequent on-line write-up.


Library of Birmingham - interior 2013-08-28 - 34

Inside the Library of Birmingham, in the week before opening

I was kindly invited to a preview of the new Library of Birmingham, where I took a lot of photographs, which are now available on Wikimedia Commons, under an open licence, and so freely available for reuse.

More recently, I attended State of the Map, the annual international OpenStreetMap conference. I volunteered to “captain” some of the sessions, acting as timekeeper, but was honoured to be asked to chair the main strand for all three days, introducing keynote and other speakers from Japan, the USA, Australia, Indonesia and across Europe. Not only was it a great opportunity to catch up with friends, and to learn, but I was able to find people to work collaboratively on a number of tasks, such as automating links from OSM to Wikipedia, which I’ll be writing about soon.

The very next day, I was back at the New Art Gallery, Walsall as the MC for “GalleryCamp13”, the inaugural unconference for people working at or with, or simply interested in, art galleries. I also spoke there, about my Wikipedian in Residence work. There’s a Storify post about the event.

I’m now working on a number of other projects, about which more in the future, and am available to help your organisation to understand Wikipedia and open content, or social media more widely, or to plan and host (un) conferences.

How eBay could help Wikimedia Commons get more open-licensed images

Here is a screen-shot of a recent eBay auction (ends 18 April):

eBay auction page for '18th Century Token Warwickshire General Elliot Henry Biggs 1792 Birmingham'

It’s for a 1792 trade token, commemorating General Elliot and worth a halfpenny at Henry Biggs, of Moor Street, Birmingham.

Here’s the close up of both sides of the token:

Both sides of the token

I’ve taken the liberty of using the latter image without asking permission, to illustrate the points I’m making in this post, and it’s(permission now obtained) The latter image is one of many I could have chosen — eBay is full of such pictures, of old tokens, coins and medals, old books, documents and ephemera, plus all sorts of other objects. Those images lead transient lives, effectively disappearing when their auctions end.

I’d really like to upload it to Wikimedia Commons, the repository of media for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, and freely reusable by anyone.

It could then be used to illustrate Wikipedia articles on the general, trade tokens, and various aspects of Birmingham’s history — and by anyone, on other websites or printed projects. All the benefits of free content would apply.

I’ve written before about open-licensing images, what it means and how to do it.

Of course I could ask the seller concerned for permission to upload their image to Wikimedia Commons, but doing so on an individual basis would be time consuming and require them to send e-mail to a third address, confirming their agreement. Doing this on a large scale is infeasible, and contacting individual sellers many times — or several people contacting them —  would be irritating to them.

I would like eBay to consider (after discussion with me and the Wikimedia community) introducing a feature where their sellers are asked to confirm that they are the author of such images and, if so, to tick a box releasing them under a suitable Creative Commons licence (as described in my earlier post).

These open-licensed images would then be flagged, be searchable, and could perhaps be made available via an RSS feed or feeds.

Wikimedians could then add them to Commons individually, after checking that the subject of the image was not itself subject to copyright (in the case of, for example, a recent book or CD cover). As with uploading open-licensed Flickr images to Commons, tools to expedite this could be written.

Sellers with Commons accounts could even be given the opportunity to upload images to both sites at once.

What about it, eBay? Can someone put me in touch with the relevant people there?

Politician pin ups – open-licensed pictures, please

Politicians, like visits to the dentist and taxes, are a necessary evil. We all moan about them, but someone has to take care of the machinery of state.

So it’s important that we hold them to account, and elsewhere document their activities in a neutral way. Hyperlocal bloggers do the former, and the latter takes place on Wikipedia, and on sites like the excellent OpenlyLocal (both of whose content is open-licensed).

To illustrate such articles, bloggers and Wikipedians need photographs of the politicians (and senior officers). While it’s possible for individuals to take such pictures (and even open-license them, as I described previously), it would be better if such pictures were available from official channels. Such organisations already take or commission professional quality shots and make them available to the press. If they don’t already, they should make sure that their contract with photographers pays for full rights, enabling open-licensing.

I recently asked Birmingham City Council’s press office to make their pictures of members of BCC’s cabinet available under an open licence, and, to their credit, they did so. I was then able to use one of them on :

Wikipedia article using a picture open-licensed by Birmingham City Council

Some might ask “but what if the pictures are misused, to misrepresent those people”. Well, if someone’s going to do that, then they won’t bother about copyright anyway, and other laws (libel, human rights) already enable redress.

So come on all you councils, civil service departments, police forces/ authorities and so on — let us have pictures of your elected members and senior officers, free (i.e. with no “non-commercial” or “no derivatives” restrictions) for reuse on our blogs, Wikipedia and other sites. Major companies, too, could do this for their most-public board members.

Then there’s all public bodies’ other photographs. After all, West Midlands Police kindly agreed to my request to open-license the fantastic aerial shots from their helicopter…

St. Martin in the Bullring Church, Birmingham
Birmingham’s Bull Ring, from the West Midlands Police helicopter. Although this picture is ©WM Police, I can use it, here and on Wikipedia, because they kindly make it available under a CC-BY-SA licence

Talking about GLAM, Wikipedia and QRpedia in Amsterdam and Hamburg

During the first weekend of December, I was in Amsterdam, at the invitation of Wikimedia-UK and Wikimedia-NL (two of Wikipedia’s many “chapters”, which support the work of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects). I was there — along with Wikipedians from 22 countries — to participate in GLAMcamp, an unconference about GLAMWiki collaborations, between Wikimedia volunteers and Galleries, Libraries, Archves and Museums (GLAMs), including my work as Wikipedia Outreach Ambassador to ARKive. Unlike most Wikipedia events, which are open, this one was an invitation-only event (though there was a public workshop on the Friday afternoon), so I was flattered to be invited.

I was asked to lead a workshop about QRpedia, the project with which I’m involved, which puts QR codes into GLAMs, linking to Wikipedia articles, but detects the language used by the GLAM visitor’s mobile device and serves them an article in that language or offers the alternative languages or a Google translation if none is available. Did you know Wikipedia exists in 272 languages? How many museums do you know that can afford to offer interpretive material in so many languages? Or even a few?

A square barcode

This QRpedia code links to the Hindi article about Qrpedia — but if you scan it with a phone set to use another language, such as English, guess what happens..?

Feedback about QRpedia was positive, and I was told of its use in India, though I’m still awaiting details. The biggest areas of concern expressed were the availability of statistics, so I was delighted to be shown this QRpedia stats tool created by the project’s developer Terence Eden; and the need to provide unique URLs for institutions, so we can distinguish, say, requests for the article on the industrial revolution from a museum in Amsterdam from one in Birmingham. We’re currently holding a consultation on how best to create custom URLs for that purpose, and input from museum colleagues would be especially welcome.

While at GLAMcamp, I also gave a brief talk on my work deploying , which aroused quite a lot of interest, and I’m now in discussion with representatives of a couple of non-English Wikipedias, who are looking to deploy them.

Our venue was Mediamatic, which doubles as an art gallery, and had an exhibition in progress about fungi. They kindly agreed to allow us, durng the event, to deploy the Netherlands’ first QRpedia code, on an exhibit about .

People using mobile phones to scan a QRcode, displayed above specimens of a fungus

Wikipedians from various countries queue to scan the first QRpedia code in The Netherlands

Of course, it wasn’t all work, and we managed to fit in two backstage museum visits, to the (whose staff were particularly accommodating) and , as well as some good meals and some local snacks, including broodje kroket, the moreish stroopwafel and the seasonal delights of banketstaaf, kruidnoten, and gevulde speculaas — all traditionally eaten on Saint Nicholas’ Day, the final day of my stay, when visits.

We also spent an evening at “Boom Chicago” an hilarious comedy improvisation show, delivered by US/Canadian crew, in English. And guess who they decided to pick on?

paunchy white male in blond wig, comedy glasses and massive false red beard

Boom Chicago: I have no idea who this is supposed to be…

Sarah Stierch kindly videoed “my” guest appearance, complete with references to an answer I gave earlier in the evening, when I was asked to name a profession, and replied “Saggar Maker’s Bottom Knocker “.

After my QRpedia presentation, I was surprised and delighted to be asked to repeat it — four days later, in Hamburg, Germany! A very quick turnaround by Wikimdia-DE, who kindly funded my trip, meant I was able to book flights immediately upon my return to Birmingham — flying out via Zurich and back via Copenhagen. Spending my first, brief, visits to Switzerland and Denmark wholly inside airports, was bizarre.

So, a few days after Amsterdam, I found myself delivering a localised version of my presentation to staff from the various museums that make up the Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg (Foundation of Historical Museums of Hamburg), as well as enjoying a tour of the Hamburgmuseum and even a little birdwatching (my German bird list now includes Grey Wagtail, Fieldfare, Peregrine and Buzzard, among more common species) But best of all, we were able to deploy Germany’s first QRpedia code at the museum.

Young white woman scanning a QR code using a mobile phone

Martina Fritz of the Hamburgmuseum scans the first QRpedia code in Germany

So, two national firsts for QRpedia, and five airports in five countries, in five days for me. I have to say, much as I enjoyed it, speaking about Wikipedia in Dudley a few days later wasn’t quite so glitzy!

My thanks to everyone involved for making the two trips both possible and memorable, and especially Peter Weis in Hamburg, who sacrificed two days of his own time to make sure I was kept entertained. I came away from GLAMCamp with renewed enthusiasm for working with the GLAM sector, and a bunch of new friends and contacts with whom I can share tips and requests for advice and assistance.

Open-licensing your images. What it means and how to do it.

I do a lot of editing on Wikipedia. Sometimes I approach someone connected with a subject I’m writing about (or the subject themself), and ask them to provide an “open licensed” image. In other words, an image whose copyright they own, but given a licence which allows anyone to reuse it, even for commercial purposes.

Noted art historian and television presenter Philip Mould kindly agreed to my request, and released this portrait of himself under a CC-BY-SA licence so I could use it on Wikipedia

With a few exceptions, only images made available under such licences can be used on Wikipedia.

Creative Commons

The commonest form of open licence is Creative Commons — a set of legalistic prose documents which cover various ways of licensing images.

Some Creative Commons include “non-commercial” clauses; these are incompatible with Wikipedia, because people are allowed to reuse content from Wikipedia in commercial situation, such as in newspapers or in apps which are sold for use on mobile devices (provided they comply with other licence terms).

The Creative Commons licences compatible with Wikipedia are:

  • Attribution Creative Commons (CC-BY)
  • Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA)

In which:

  • “Attribution” means that the copyright holder must be given a credit
  • “ShareAlike” means that if someone uses your picture, anything made with it must have the same licence
  • “NoDerivs” means that people cannot crop, recolour or otherwise change your picture when reusing it.

I took this image of John Madin, architect of Birmingham’s Rotunda and Central Library, and made it available under a CC-By-SA licence. You can use it, free, provided you credit me as the photographer

It’s important that anyone open licencing an image understands what that means. For example, Wikimedia (the organisation behind Wikipedia) suggests that people donating images are asked to agree to the following:

  • I acknowledge that I grant anyone the right to use the work in a commercial product, and to modify it according to their needs, as long as they abide by the terms of the license and any other applicable laws.
  • I am aware that I always retain copyright of my work, and retain the right to be attributed in accordance with the license chosen. Modifications others make to the work will not be claimed to have been made by me.
  • I am aware that the free license only concerns copyright, and I reserve the option to take action against anyone who uses this work in a libelous way, or in violation of personality rights, trademark restrictions, etc.
  • I acknowledge that I cannot withdraw this agreement…

(and yes, that wording has a CC-BY-SA licence!)

Which is the best licence to use?

That depends on the circumstances, but CC-BY-SA fits most cases, giving the re-user the greatest flexibility, while protecting the copyright holder’s right to be recognised.

So, how do I open-licence an image?

There are a variety of ways to open-licence an image. Here are some of the commonest:

  • Upload your images to Wikimedia Commons, the media repository for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects
  • Upload your images to Flickr, specifying one of the above open licences
  • Upload your images to your own website, with a clear and unambiguous statement that they are under a specified open licence

My images are on Flickr, how do I change the licence?

To open-licence a single image in Flickr:

Selecting an open licence in Flickr's pop-up dialogue

  • View the specific image
  • Under “Owner settings”, alongside current licence setting (perhaps “All Rights Reserved”), click “edit”
  • In the pop-up window, check one of the compatible licences
  • Save

[Postscript: My friend John Cummings wrote an equivalent guide for YouTube]

Won’t I lose money doing this?

the ingliston gorilla

kindly made this picture of Nicholas Monro’s statue of King Kong available under a CC-BY-SA licence, at my request, so I could use it on Wikipedia

Not necessarily. Some commercial photographers release low- or medium- resolution copies of their images, and sell high-resolution copies, but most people take images for personal purposes, which have no commercial value, and for which they will never be paid. Open-licensing them enables the community to benefit, at no cost to the photographer. Think of open-licensing your images as a way of giving back to the community which has given you so many open-source tools, without which the web would not work.

If this post has inspired you to openly-licence your images please let me know, in the comments.

And yes you can use other people’s open-licenced images, including many of mine, free. Help yourself!

Caveat

Yes, I know there are other open licences, and more complex use-cases. This is intended as a beginners’ guide. A competent lawyer will be able to provide you with legal advice. I offer more general advice to institutions wanting to open-licence their images or other content, or to work with the Wikipedia community, as part of my professional services.

Licence

This post is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (3.0 Unported) licence. Attribution should include a link to the post, or, in print, the short URL http://wp.me/p10xWg-jM.