Projects/Overview of Wikicommons
Report by villy - April 2005
Wikimedia Commons was launched on September 7, 2004 as a free repository of multimedia files (including images, sounds, and video) to be used on all projects of the Wikimedia foundation. It has developed faster than any other Wikimedia project. By April 16, 2005, over 76,000 multimedia files were available, and the site had over 5,250 users, including 53 administrators and 2 bureaucrats.
Multilingualism is probably the most difficult challenge to address on the Commons. This single project directly serves the collected sites of the foundation in every language. Contributors to the Commons, from all languages, must be able to communicate with each other without language barriers becoming insurmountable obstacles. The possibility of assigning one or more categories directly to images, and of being able to visualize image labels from their category page entries, has been one early response to this problem of multilingualism in searching for files. Within the pages of the Commons site, users have developed a significant linguistic infrastructure, with the principal help pages available in some ten languages.
However, the creation of a coordination center for translations has made it possible to reduce the need for translating the various help pages. The interface for the Commons is also available in the majority of Wikipedia languages. A final revealing detail: for every fifteen English-language administrators, there are thirteen German administrators, six in French, three in Dutch, three in Polish, two in Russian, two in Swedish, and one each in Romanian, Japanese, Portuguese, Icelandic, Hebrew, Czech, Bulgarian and Belarusian.
The Commons has seen the addition of many design features to improve the ease of use of its files. The central feature of the Commons is that its files can be included directly on other Wikimedia Foundation sites without needing to copy them into the local database for each site. Another new feature is a sidebar link that displays a gallery of the most recently uploaded files, with a thumbnail of each image. A new "gallery" software library, developed for the latest version of the MediaWiki software, allows for these thumbnails to be constructed quickly.
Though the Commons exists primarily to provide a service to the other Wikimedia Foundation projects, the users of the Commons quickly implemented the kinds of tools for community interaction that one finds on the Wikipedia sites—in particular, a "café" for general conversation, and a page for voting to remove individual files. A separate mailing list and IRC channel were created (#commons.wikimedia). A specific community spirit has thus been gradually developed. This spirit is particularly well-expressed in a recent vote for high-quality images: nominations for such 'featured' images are discussed and voted upon every day. Some of these images are of great beauty, and are often the personal work of gifted Commoners. 86 images have thus been chosen so far. In these featured images one can see a sign of the vitality and originality of this project, hardly seven months old, yet already seen by some as one of the most beautiful achievements of the Wikimedia Foundation.