Commons:Wiki Loves Monuments 2010/post mortem

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Wiki loves Monuments

This page gives a description of how Wiki Loves Monuments was organized, and some of the important lessons we drew. The description will be specific, but the lessons are formulated as broadly as possible, partially based on Wiki Loves Art/NL (June 2009) as well.


Wiki Loves Monuments was a photo contest around national monuments (rijksmonumenten) in the Netherlands in September 2010. You can find more information about the national monuments themselves on rijksmonument. Participants were allowed to send in photos (irrespective of when they were made) of rijksmonumenten together with the rijksmonumentnummer (unique identifier for a national monument) under a free license. The goal of the contest was twofold: First of all, we wanted as much photos of rijksmonumenten as possible to complete the lists existing on the Dutch Wikipedia. Secondly, we tried to make more photographers and monument enthusiasts aware of free licensing and adding information and materials to Wikipedia. That way, there are both a well measureable short term and less well measureable longer term effect.


The contest resulted in over 12.500 photos by more than 250 participants. Several of the participants indicated were unknown at the projects or active otherwise, and some of them indicated they intend to keep contributing to the projects. The project was mentioned some times in National and regional press.

What do you need?[edit]


It is important to make it clear to people what falls in the scope of the contest. On one side, it has to be narrow enough to be interesting to potential participants and give a clear focus to the contest and make it easier to "sell". On the other side, the number has to be high enough to allow everybody to participate with a relatively low threshold. Ideally, everybody can photograph something nearby their home. Wiki Loves Monuments had ~60.000 objects which were allowed to be photographed all throughout the country.

To make it clear what is allowed and what not on beforehand, it is very helpful if there are extensive and complete lists of allowed objects with a unique identifier. In the case of Wiki Loves Monuments, lists were constructed with all monuments for each municipality - sometimes devided further into subpages. See for example Lijst van rijksmonumenten in Westland on Wikipedia and the corresponding Category in Wikimedia Commons.

Each monument has a physical address, geo-coordinates and a link to the original, official, database. The coordinates are linked to a Google Maps page which shows all the rijksmonumenten in the neighborhood. That way, everybody can use their preferred method to work out a viable route and build upon the work done.


Keep it Simple. When targeting an external audience, one has to keep in mind that the complicated form on Wikimedia Commons is horrible to use and impossible for most people. It is extremely important to help the participants as much as possible with uploading, and to not bother them with details you already know the answer to, or which are not important at the end. For that purpose, a simplified form was constructed which only asked to select the file, a title and the unique identifier. All the other information was set for them (i.e. license, source) or removed (i.e. date). It gives some limitation (not being able to upload for other people) but those people can use other forms. The less you ask, the higher the chance they will actually complete the upload. The questions should be simple and non-legal, and assuming good faith. There was little abuse of the form even though it was quite well advertized.

However, still not everybody will be willing to use such a form with one photo at a time. Therefore, it might be a good choice to offer multiple methods. In Wiki Loves Monuments, there were basically three methods offered: the simplified form at Wikimedia Commons, a Flickr group which was moderated and images were transferred to Commons on a daily basis and uploading through Commonist. Commonist is a complicated uploading method, but does allow mass uploading - which is a must for people who want to make more than 25 photos. A special step-by-step how-to was made with a screenshot and explanation what people had to type where. It is definitely not n00b-proof, but for the really enthusiast it is much better than the Commons form.

As always, forms can break down at Wikimedia, so ideally you have an upload method outside the Wikimedia World, which works independently. We chose to use Flickr alongside, and gave extensive instructions there too. We asked people to freely license photos and tag them with the "rm=AAA" tag, where AAA was to be replaced by the identifier of the rijksmonument.

All with all, the uploads had both the unique identifier and a contest template. Based on that, a bot (or volunteer) could categorize the images into the relevant categories, add information about the monument and place them on the right pages with the lists. Tools were developed to make it easier to handle them.


Partners can be very useful in setting up a project with such outlines. When dealing with well defined collections of objects, an authoritative partner can help with setting up such lists and put definitions out of discussion. In the case of the rijksmonumenten, a governmental organization has helped to complete the lists with the not yet available physical addresses of all monuments. In return, because no database is without errors and inconsistencies, the volunteers who work with the material likely can provide improvements. An important part of such partnership is therefore the improvements can be suggested to the partnering organization to implement or not - that also motivates the volunteers and participants again.

But partners are possibly very valuable in many other ways. There are potential partners that can help with seeking out awards which can draw in more participants, or to help spread the word to an audience that would otherwise not be involved likely. This is especially the case if you focus on objects which have their own volunteers interested in them, people living in/near them or having a fan base. In the case of monuments, you can for example think of an association of house owners of monuments, magazines focussing specifically to monuments or forums on the internet on that topic.


As with almost everything organized which has a direct relation with the projects, volunteers are highly critical for success. Especially are volunteers necessary when it comes to compiling and completing lists with large amounts of data, such as the objects lists, when it comes to categorization of images, moderating a Flickr group or preparing outside communication such as local news papers. Most likely you will also require some more technical skills to create or adapt forms, tools, bots and websites in such a way that they work properly to your specific purpose. If you also want to let the organization of the event itself depend on volunteers (in some level that would be highly advisable because it gives you a good touch with the community), that should also be considered of course. The exact numbers will depend on the size of your object base, the number of participants and the level of involvement.

It is good to realize that most of the work to be done by the volunteers, of which the compilation, categorization and completion of the object lists is possibly by far the most work, has to be done well in advance of the actual contest. Make sure that all lists are completed at least a month on beforehand (likely to be started many months in advance), so that everybody can familiarize themselves with the topic in their neighbourhood and prepare sufficiently. Also the more technical work has to be done well in advance, because you do not want to have that as a bottle neck to let the actual contest begin. Work on gathering awards and press attention require less advance time, because they are pretty straight forward, and will take up time mainly in the weeks before. However, the amount of work there is still not to be underestimated, similarly to the writing of the website contents which lays out the rules, explanations for uploading etc.

Involve volunteers as always in the decision making process. Of course that is highly important because it would be awful to have lists being deleted in the midst of the competition. But that also motivates them to a higher level. But this is the usual lessons of Wikimedia :). A thank you is also, as always, on its place. At Wiki Loves Monuments, we tried to give the volunteers a more physical thank-you present - a mug with the winning photos on it. You can find the design here.

Remember that the work is not done when the competition is. There will have to be an independent jury to judge the photos, you might want to organize a prize ceremony and images still need placement, categorization and correction.


As all Wikipedians probably realize instinctively, rules are never perfect. Therefore, it is much better to keep them simple and intuitive, and make it clear who takes decisions when the rules don't spell out so easily - usually either the jury of the organization. Some things to consider in writing the rules are how to define the objects that are allowed to participate, who will win the contest (quality or quantity multiple classifications), who can participate and how, contact details, what the criteria are for the jury and how to handle conflicts of interest (are jury members allowed to participate, to win? And the organization?). Are you allowed to send in old photos, what license to use, are you allowed to send in your fathers' photos? You can find the rules for Wiki Loves Monuments (in Dutch) here.


Although Wikimedians are used to all kinds of activities without tangible rewards, that is not really what attracts people in general. It might be worth considering to try to get more participants who are not the usual suspects of your local Wikimedians crowd with a nice few prizes for some kind of classification. In the end, for us one of the goals was to involve more people, so getting a nice prize as main award (an iPad for the best photo, an Android for the second place, some WikiReaders and some subscriptions to a monument magazine) was an obvious step towards reaching that goal and get them familiarized with our purposes and methods of working. Surprisingly, the contestants that were drawn in by the prizes do not necessarily quit once the prize is forgiven and might continue contributing one way or another. One big prize gives a better impression than several mediocre.

A professional jury is of the important for your organizational credibility in the long term. Try to involve both professional aspects (professional photographers and people from the specific object field, such as monument experts) and Wikipedia editors who can help decide which images are actually useful (assuming that is one of the criteria used for quality).

In Wiki Loves Monuments, we tried to define as simple as possible classifications: Quality and Quantity. For quality, there were three simple criteria: technical quality, originality of the setting and usefulness of the image in Wikipedia. The jury selected a top-15 for 8 prizes (you need to consider the possibility that one or more contestants refuse their prize for some reason). There was also a quantity classification, for those entered the highest number of objects (not number of photos, to avoid submitting 100 photos of one object) irrespective of their quality. With the high quantity submitters this especially took care for a nice race at some point, with >1300 objects for the number 1 and 2 in this classification (although they were awarded the same prize).

For the partners offering the prizes but also for the contestants to share experiences, for the community to get in touch with them and the organization to get another go for press attention, it might be helpful to organize a prize ceremony combined with some other event such as a mini-conference.


For Wiki Loves Monuments, we had a special website lining out the specifics of Wiki Loves Monuments all at one place, to make sure people could use that as a starting point, and could be pointed to a simple url in press releases, announcements etc. Information that should be given includes:

  • Tips & tricks for planning routes, uploading etc.
  • Description of how to find the objects and plan routes
  • Rules & procedures
  • Some kind of counter of the number of submissions and some kind of example set of the photos and twitter feed might be helpful to motivate people and keep a pleasurable atmosphere.

Attracting participants[edit]

A contest without participants is as useful as a windmill without wind. Gathering participants might seem trivial, but is important and can be made much more effective when some points are taken into consideration. The foremost important tool for gathering participants is Wikipedia itself, the sitenotice more specifically, and the existing communities. Both the sitenotice and anonnotice can reach a different target group of potential participants. Keep the message simple, and try to explain at the same time why they should participate (with words like "win" or "help Wikipedia") with a link to your website with a more extensive explanation. Messages in village pumps and personal talk pages of active users on the topic also might be very helpful.

However, it would be a waste to only focus on Wikipedia communities. Think about existing photo communities, like Flickr and photo magazines. If you use Flickr as an alternative upload possibility it is a small step to informing active Flickr members in your topic of interest, notice boards etc. Note there is a maximum of some 50 messages you can send per day through Flickr.

Also partners of all kinds who have an audience of interested people (monument magazines, associations for house owners, photo magazines, organizations responsible for Open Monument Day) are a very valuable partner because they have access to people who are potential participants and editors. Also, they give a better image to the contest, which makes it more likely that people will actually participate.

Press is a good way to reach out to another group of people, but you should not expect miracles. Contests are not that interesting to news sources, but if you pick your language and send specific press releases to outlets, you might have a chance. Especially with monuments, you could approach lots of local news papers (depending on your country) which are usually thrilled to publish local news. A photo contest can be made into local news if you write a nice general story and point out the importance to the region ("There are XX monuments in VillageName").

Finally, the time of the year for the contest is to be considered. Do not have contests in the Winter, because of the little light - but also mid summer is a bad timing because of numerous vacations. Ideally, you could try to connect with existing events - for Wiki Loves Monuments we connected with Open Monument Day, which was a good opportunity to reach out to people and ask them to contribute. September was named "monument month".

Time path[edit]

The contest itself was only one month, but the whole time path was some longer. Some rough time path:

  • June 2009: Begin with extensifying monument lists on Wikipedia
  • 4 July 2009: WM NL bbq in eindhoven, where the first suggestion for contact to the RCE was done.
  • 25 february 2010: first meeting with the RCE
  • March 2010: First (online) meetings
  • April-June 2010: Real life meeting with volunteers, meeting with RCE, getting and processing database
  • June - August 2010: Creating upload environment(s)
  • August 2010: Final updates website, Wiki pages and press releases. Testing environments
  • September 2010: whole month, competition
  • October/begin November 2010: Jury deliberations
  • 20 November: Award ceremony; miniconference
  • 20 November - mid December: sending out prizes