Commons:Photo scavenger hunts

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This page is a work in progress page, not an article or policy, and may be incomplete and/or unreliable.
Please offer suggestions on the talk page.

The primary implementation of this idea so far has been the Wikipedia Takes Your City concept, and that page also has details on individuals events of the type.

Wikipedia Loves Art is another, somewhat divergent, concept based on this.

Event wizard[edit]

Organizing an event[edit]

Varieties of goals[edit]

There are a number of types of goals that may be included on your list. The first and most obvious type are goals for a specific location, such as a historical building, cultural institution, or park; there can be goals for the interiors of buildings as well as for the exteriors. A second type of goal are stopping points of interest at a particular cultural institution, such as specific artworks in a museum or famous burials at a historic cemetery. A third type of goal are particular features or happenings according to a theme that be found in various places in places throughout a city, such as an aspect of urban infrastructure or a cultural event; themes such as transportation, education and ecology are possible, and a theme can also take advantage of happenings scheduled by other groups (for example, a parade or a cultural tour), on event day.

It is possible to mix-and-match these types of goals in forming an event's theme, which would depend both on local circumstances and in some cases on the partner organizations that are helping to organize the event. For example, the Fall 2008 Wikis Take Manhattan incorporated not only obvious goals under the first type, but also famous burials under the second type, and a transportation features theme under the third type in keeping with the transportation orientation of the event partners.

Working with partners[edit]

Though Wikimedia projects are recognized worldwide, Wikimedia has a remarkably light on-the-ground presence in most locales. Your should of course coordinate with Wikimedians in an area through online contacts and local meetups, but it is valuable to expand beyond that base.

Wikimedia has many friends in the world, and you may find other parts of the w:Free Culture movement better organized in your area than Wikimedians are. Free Culture activists at chapters of w:Students for Free Culture, w:Creative Commons and other organizations, have all proved generous and resourceful in helping to organize Wikimedia photo scavenger hunt events.

It can also be valuable to partner with another non-Wikimedia wiki or wiki-like project, which may also have need of photos of local sites. It can prove fruitful for you to pool resources in terms of organizing, and compile a joint list with goals from both partners. In the case of most specialty wikis, their photos will also be of use to Wikimedia Commons, since our topical focus is so broad. For example, the Fall 2008 Wikis Take Manhattan incorporated transportation features requested by the partner organization StreetsWiki.

It can also be valuable to partner with a cultural institution which is interested in having its collection documented on Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects, such as a museum hosting a photo event for the artworks in its possession. For example, the Wikipedia Loves Art project is partnering with several art museums in different cities.

Other possibilities for partnership are with Open Source groups, or photographic groups (especially for judging an artistic component), or architectural groups, or just plain urban groups. It is generally a good idea to have as many partners as possible, as all will at least add to publicity of the event among their members.

Participant guidelines[edit]

It adds to the fun factor to allow participants to compete in teams. Allowing teams of 1-3 is generally recommended. It is important that the members of a team share one camera, and one memory card; this will make organizing and uploading their photos much easier later on.

The great majority of participants will not be regular Wikimedia contributors, which is the point. It is appropriate to collect information, as in the Wufoo form for the Fall 2008 Wikis Take Manhattan, asking for participants' names, their chosen team name, a contact e-mail, whether they want their names published online and, most importantly, a copyright release to place their photos under a free license.

Contributors to Wikimedia projects have a right to pseudonymity under the meta:Privacy policy. When we specifically ask participants whether or not they wish to publish their full names online, most participants are likely to say yes to that. But we should also respect the trust of those participants who choose to remain pseudonymous, as their choice of attribution to a pseudonymous team name is just as valid as an attribution to a typically pseudonymous Flickr or Wikimedia username.

Event venues[edit]

It might be desirable to hold the starting point outdoors. This could be on a public plaza or in a park, or perhaps optimally on a large sidewalk in front of your building which can accommodate a good crowd. It would be good to have a laptop at the starting point to electronically register teams who have not registered themselves beforehand.

The ending point / uploading party, however, should be indoors. For a small event, a bar or library meeting room might be sufficient. For a larger event, it might be best to have a university student activities center or a space provided by one of the partner organizations or sponsors. Preferable accommodations would allow food and drinks, and computers or at least wireless access to facilitate uploading.

It is possible to have more than one starting point, where the printed packets will be initially handed out. This might be especially appropriate if you have multiple partners supporting the event, and they wish to establish starting points in different parts of a city, and of most distinct advantage when they serve different audiences, for example a starting point on a university campus that would be very convenient to students there, but fairly inconvenient for most others.

Whether you have one or multiple starting points, you should definitely have one ending point for the uploading party, so all the participants can come together, hand in their memory cards, mingle, and wait for the announcement of the winners. People who will be scoring the teams should come earlier to the uploading party so they can be given a brief training session in this. It would be best to have food and drinks at the ending point to heighten the party atmosphere, and also perhaps films or other presentations to entertain the participants while they wait for the scoring and the announcement of the winners. It is also advisable to just let participants know that scoring will take a while, and have a realistic time scheduled beforehand for the announcement of winners, that is some time after the start of the uploading party.

Printed packets[edit]

The finalized list should be printed in an instruction packet to be given out at the start of the event, with full instructions and a code number for each of the locations. The code number can be numeric or alphanumeric, whichever is most convenient.

It is important that participants take a "context photograph" of an index card with the location code written on it (held up in front of the camera and the target location), before actual photographs of the target location. This helps reconstruct which photographs are of which location. A small set of index cards can be included with the instruction packet.

Getting the word out[edit]

Publicity beforehand is very important. The success of your event will be in direct relationship to how many participants you attract. Make sure that the event is advertised on all the blogs and mailing lists of all the partners organizations. The event can also be promoted in person at meetings of partner organizations, and at other related meetings. The event information should also be distributed to all independent blogs and mailing lists, and local event websites, that might have an interest in this type of activity. Free events listings in local newspapers and magazines should not be neglected either. Remember, even if a notice in one particular forum only attracts one or two teams, it will be worth it.

Local journalists may also be interested in covering the event, and they should be invited to the event. They may want to follow around one of the teams, or just in at the uploadiing party at the end.

Times and scheduling[edit]

It is important to schedule the event for a day on the weekend, when most people can have time to participate. If the event is outdoors, then it may be best to hold the event during a warmer or just more pleasant time of the year (depending on local climate). Again if the event is outdoors, one should prepare for the possibility of a rain-out; if adverse weather is predicted, a decision on whether to delay to the next week or not should ideally be made a few days prior, so all those interested can be properly updated.

The greatest success has been with a starting time in the early afternoon, and an ending time in the early evening, just after sunset. Five hours might be a good duration; longer might be off-putting. You should hold the crowd of participants at the starting point until a set time, when the printed packets will be distributed and the contest rules explained. You can maintain a light presence, if possible, at the starting point location throughout the day, to accommodate late-comers.


Many businesses and organizations may be interested in sponsoring prizes for these events. These may be wiki-related (for example, a book on Wikipedia), photography-related, or may be a gift certificate or anything else that a sponsor chooses to offer. Partner organizations may also be able to offer free memberships, etc., as prizes. Sponsors may also help with providing food and drinks for the uploading party.

Real-life w:barnstars are always a fun prize.

Artistic component[edit]

Establishing an artistic component to the contest opens up possibilities beyond that of merely checking off boxes for goals covered. It can also encourage higher quality photographs as a whole. It requires however, partnership with an organization or individual qualified to judge this component.

For the Fall 2008 Wikis Takes Manhattan, a partnership was formed with the Camera Club of New York. Each team was asked to select its best photo, and a representative from the club chose the winners. There will probably be more sophisticated approaches to integrating an artistic component in future, with possibilities for recognizing high quality images of sites which are currently only covered on Wikimedia by subpar images.

Technical considerations[edit]

Compiling the list[edit]

The method that has been used in the past is to compile a list of articles needing photographs that can be compiled from sources such as w:Category:Wikipedia requested photographs in Manhattan, and even by manually going through articles in subcategories of w:Category:Manhattan.

In general, it can also be that some articles which do have photographs need more modern photographs, or photographs of specific things at the location. The list should be broadly organized by neighborhood, with addresses and cross-streets included. You should also solicit fellow Wikipedians for their own suggestions.

Another possibility, discussed but not yet tried, would be to develop a special tool to discover articles without any images.

Another possibility, discussed but not yet tried, and particularly relevant to less dense non-urban areas, could be a series of villages within 50 km of the starting point. (perhaps a university town- such as Reading:UK, Lancaster:UK, Montpellier:France). The hunt would then be a type of car rally.

For a map-based approach, you need to consult Google Maps, Commons and en:Wikipedia and the local:Wikipedia. Firstly select any photo in target area that has a geotag. Find it on commons and click on Location of Photo:Google Maps. This will show each of the images in the area (that has been properly geotagged) showing where images are missing. Still on the map, click on the more tag and then Wikipedia, this shows you all the articles on Wikipedia within that area.

Now the fun starts. Read each article and on your texteditor (gedit/notepad) list any notable item that needs a picture. At the same time, you can give an approximate {{Coord}} of the item. This can be done by creating a w:bookmarklet containing the code:


A little thought now saves time later. For each item- cut and paste details from the wikipedia article into your text file- you can use this in the photos descriptions later when you are uploading them. Other items can be included, for instance villages/ building that look great but don't yet have an article. There can be fun generic items (jokers) - like a gas meter, a gasometer, a taximeter showing exactly £5.60, a traffic camera flashing a speeding car other than your own..... all that may have use in a future article.

It you plan for all your teams to take photos of ten items and two jokers, a little thought is needed to ensure that it is possible within the time limit. If you are hitting an area by car, remember to get a driver to help at this stage. They know about one way systems, the time it takes to park, to get from the car to the target etc. In urban areas- note bus and tube routes and the time to cross streets (in some countries there is a quaint convention about using pedestrian crossings and waiting till the little man turns green!)

When the list is prepared, it is worth trawling through commons to discover what Categories may be appropriate for your target photos. Obviously the name of the locality, but do check- a church in Castrop-Rauxel does not go in Category:Castrop-Rauxel but in the sub category Category:Churches in Castrop-Rauxel!


There are three principles here.

  1. It must be unambiguous
  2. Easy to understand
  3. Weighted to achieve the desired result.

One system.

1 points for a photo of the target
2 points for a photo of the target that is uploaded successfully
3 points for a photo of the target that is uploaded successfully with the prepared description and meaningful name.
5 points for a photo of the target that is uploaded with description and a correct {{Location}}
A bonus of 10 for photograph of one joker, and 25 for two or more jokers.

Post processing[edit]


Download each cameras treasures into a separate directory on one of you master machines- by hook, crook, USB stick or cable. On the master machine you will have the upload software, usually Commonist.

For a small event (maybe associated with a meetup) where the participants are all regular Wikimedia contributors, pictures can of course be uploaded by the participants to Commons by themselves.

Another option is for the pictures to be uploaded to a third-party site such as Flickr, which is the method used in Wikipedia Loves Art, or to a third-party wiki, which is the method used in Grenoble and Vercors.


Using a Mac- Using Linux- mv command Using Windows XP there is a convenient program called Irfan View Thumbnails that allows for Batch Renaming of selected files in a directory. You use this to change all your filenames from DSCF2366.jpg into something more meaningful like Winchester cathedral South Door WTW176 2366.jpg . That is Where, What, Scavenger Hunt code, image number Renaming can be done during uploading using Commonist but doing it first is more robust, and helps focus the mind on which images to abandon.


Multichills geotagging tool[edit]

Uploading and adding the geotag[edit]

A quick way of uploading a directory of images is to use Commonist. This should be loaded onto each of your master machines. Also you need to have a w:bookmarklet


This is different from the one you use on en:wikipedia, because they use a {{Coord}} and commons uses {{Location}}

Open Commonist, and find the teams directory. All the images will be displayed on the right side. The general stuff that applies to all images is placed on the left side, and the stuff specific to each image on the rightside. It is here you put the geotag and the description you have saved in your gedit/Notepad file.

Now with their upload software open in one window, and a map of your target city open in another, you move around the street map till you are at the very spot where the crime was committed (or image taken). Hit the bookmark button- and a pop up window explodes- There is the location tag they need. Ctrl-C and then Cancel- move over to your image on the upload page (in Commonist)and Ctrl-V.


All images must be in a category. There are several tools to help.Cat-a-lot,HotCat and Commonsense.


Galleries are optional, but to finish the job each team will want to display their photos so they can be scored.


Content expansion[edit]

Most importantly, these projects add to the media content of Wikimedia projects. For example, the Spring 2008 Wikipedia Takes Manhattan contributed hundreds of photos to Commons and illustrated 90 separate articles on English Wikipedia. The total contribution of the Fall 2008 Wikis Take Manhattan has not yet been tallied, but it should be several times this number.

Exposure to free content[edit]

These projects expose the general public to contributing to free content in a unique way, as no special technical knowledge is required of the participants. The great majority of the participants are not regular Wikimedia contributors, but they are consumers of content on Wikimedia sites like Wikipedia. These projects can bring the openness of the Wikimedia projects home to the general public, and encourage them toward taking a more active role in the websites they use daily.

The participants are also acquainted with free licenses, which they personally agree to placing their works under, and are introduced to the Creative Commons system and the general Wikimedia use of copyleft licensing.


These projects are high-profile events which can attract media coverage. It is also important that these projects remain documented on Commons, including the context shots, which are also useful documentation of Wikimedia activities. To quote from COM:SCOPE, "Files relating to projects or events of the Wikimedia Foundation are also allowed (eg photographs of user meetings).". It is not only that the context shots record information about the target, but, just as important, in a gallery like that of Team New York Dolls, they show the participants actively engaged in Wikimedia content creation, giving the whole project a human touch, with the modest hand-drawn index cards adding artistically to that sense of quixotic adventure.

This human touch and sense of adventure in the image galleries can both help non-Wikimedians to intuitively understand these projects, and serve as an inspiration for Wikimedians in diverse locales to organize events of their own.


This project needs the help both of Wikimedians holding events, and Wikimedians organizing and processing the photos after events. Sign up!

See also[edit]