You may have heard that Wikimedia Commons, the media file repository which makes available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content, recently reached the landmark of 15 million files donated. To celebrate this achievement, we asked Commons contributor Deryck Chan to write a guest blog about his experiences of using the site. This is below.
I grew up in a densely populated residential district in eastern Hong Kong. When I first stumbled upon Wikipedia in 2004, coverage about my own district was almost non-existent.
So I started writing about my home district. I found that I could also contribute pictures, so I strolled around, took some pictures, and uploaded them too. Other editors then moved them to Wikimedia Commons and told me Commons is the correct place to upload original pictures which I want to contribute to Wikipedia. That’s how I started contributing to Commons.
Over the next two years or so, I filled many more gaps on Wikipedia by uploading my own photographs and drawings onto Commons. Wikipedia was also becoming saturated, and some of my pictures are gradually replaced by higher quality pictures by others, so my contribution tailed off.
Then in 2009 I had the privilege to begin my undergraduate studies at Cambridge University. It soon occurred to me that many people I meet in real life there have Wikipedia articles which lack pictures. So, I started taking pictures of them at whatever social occasion I get to see one of them. The list grew and grew: Duncan Robinson, Lulu Popplewell, Bishop Simon Barrington-Ward, Sir Fred Catherwood… and most recently, 2012 Nobel Laureate John Gurdon. When I tell them I hope to put the picture onto Wikipedia, some of them even told me about mistakes in their articles, which I would promptly amend.
I’m not a Commoner in the sense of making lots of edits to help curate Wikimedia Commons. I simply drop by to contribute the occasional picture. Nevertheless, it is the casual many and the confluence between Wikimedians of different backgrounds that makes Wikimedia Commons so successful as the universal repository of freely licensed media for educational use. I’ve contributed my part to it, and I think you should too.