Commons:Wikidata/How GLAMs can help the Structured Data for Commons initiative

From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
Jump to: navigation, search

(Developed from this post to glamtools-l; see also d:Wikidata:WikiProject Structured Data for Commons)

This essay was based originally on an individual personal understanding. Some details, particularly details of the Structured Data project's future plans, may not be fully correct and/or may be subject to change.
Talk-page comments and wholescale re-editing are both welcome and expected.

Why GLAMs have a lot to offer[edit]

So now Wikimania has been and gone, can we think about where we're at with the Structured Data initative for Commons ?

I do think, as the GW toolset community, we ought to have a lot we should be able to offer here, because essentially we are doing big uploads from data which is *already* structured, so

  • (i) we've got at least some experience already with working with data that is at least in some form structured
  • (ii) we may know and be able to flag some awkward edge cases
  • (iii) we would like to accompany uploads with data that can be "born structured", rather than converted later
  • (iv) in any case we're uploading a lot of images, which somebody is going to have to convert to structured
  • (v) we may have seen (or even written) some of the gnarlier templates on Commons, that migration will have to cope with.

It's not clear (at least not yet to me) how the Multimedia and Wikidata teams may best want to be communicated with, but I'm including Keegan (WMF) in cc:, who I think is the staffer with assigned community liaison responsibility.

Update (1): User:Keegan (WMF) has confirmed he is indeed the right contact person for this; he will be properly getting into the role in a few weeks
Update (2): Dan Entous (mw:User:Dan-nl) and Joris Pekel have been invited to attend the small 'kickoff' event planned for Berlin in September. Dan as the lead for the GWT, and Joris as the guy in Europeana who has the experience in managing dataset to make them work in the Europeana API.

Where data will live[edit]

Much information on GLAM-uploaded images will live on Wikidata[edit]

The biggest message to me from looking through some of the documents after the meetings is just how much of the information is going to be stored as part of central main Wikidata.

Essentially, if we upload an image of an object, then it is expected that an 'item' (ie a Q-number) for that object will be added to Wikidata, which will contain all the metadata that describes the object rather than just the image.

The Wikidata community is already developing a very strong ontology to describe such objects -- key resources are

where there are active and friendly communities involved in refining them.

We can get involved and help the process right now, by trying to identify and fill and gaps in these ontologies, and by being enthusiastic early adopters -- there is no reason we should not be getting involved right now, filling in appropriate metadata on Wikidata right now each time we upload an image to Commons -- real-world testing the current ontologies to see what creaks.

Per-file data will live on Commons Wikibase[edit]

Data specific to the image itself (rather than what it shows) will be stored in a separate Commons Wikibase.

This will include such things as the file name, a file description, photographer, wikicontributor name, precise geographical location etc.

Commons Wikibase is also likely to contain a tag-like "topic list" -- a list of all the Wikidata Q-numbers that apply to the image. These I think will be gathered by climbing up the Wikidata tree from any specified Subject identified for the image -- so a view of Westminster Abbey might get topics such as "Westminster; London; England; Cathedral; religious building" etc; and games will be invented to encourage people to identify more such topics for the best images.

This should allow WM to introduced a proper combinatorial search engine based on tags for Commons; and many of the most egregious Commons intersection categories will wither on the vine. (There is debate as to whether Commons will end up needing *any* category pages, but I suspect it will, because they are just so convenient to use as places for jotting down facts -- on the other hand, it is possible one might be forced to create an associated Commons article/gallery for that).

It would be nice (IMO) if there could be an interface to the topic list through the wikisource code for the filepage -- I think this would be well-received by the community, allow easy adaptation of existing bots, etc. But this may be resisted as being too fragile a point of failure, as it would mean that people making hand-edits would have to know (and get right) the meaningless number-strings of individual Q-numbers.

EXIF data will live on the file page[edit]

Finally some very specific text data -- such as the EXIF data describing shutter-speed etc -- is likely to continue to live on the file description page; because it's probably not something that people are primarily going to want to search, and it may be a bit unpredictable.

Data modelling is the immediate task at hand[edit]

Part of the immediate effort in the next few weeks is going to be to produce clearer ideas about what information is going to live where, and in particular what information is going to live on the Commons Wikibase, and how it will be structured.

The good news is that much of the most complicated information will be stored on WikiData, so can be as detailed as we like (and can be accessed live now).

On the other hand, the design for Commons Wikibase will initially aim to be as simple as possible, with the aim to evolve it as experience is gained, to migrate the edge cases later.

Immediate future of the file description page[edit]

The file description page (or something not entirely unlike it) will continue to exist as a view bringing together all the data.

Current templates will be re-written to draw information from Wikidata. However, this won't yet be possible until the Wikidata team has implemented the "Arbitrary Access" feature -- the ability for a wikipage to access the properties of an arbitrary Wikidata Q-number. What's causing the hold-up is that if the properties of the Q-number item are edited, then all the pages that access that Q-number need to be marked as dirty and regenerated. That's easy if you only have one page that can access the Q-number, but hard if arbitrary pages can access it, through a chain of properties.

(eg: the file page for a painting Q12345 may use property Pnnn to its creator Q4567 who has property Pxxx, a date of birth. If the date of birth gets made more precise, the system has to recurse back to indicate that all the file pages showing pictures of that creator's work need to be regererated. This is tough, but file-page templates won't be able to draw on Wikidata information until it is in place).


It is progressively hoped to simplify the myriad of different templates used on the file pages as quickly as possible, to standardise them to draw from the structured data stores.

Templates to display summary information about collection objects, which will draw from Wikidata, may well be standardised so they can easily be used on Wikipedias and other wikis -- or, to put that the other way round, since Wikipedias and other wikis will also be developing standardised templates to display summary object information, it should well be possible to use the same code twice.

However, it would be good to get involved in the development of these templates, to make sure they accurately reflect the information we currently like to show in Commons.

(There may be some important details to get right -- for example the Wikidata data-type for dates currently comprises a 'best' value, and an optional numeric range (which is great for sorting). But if the catalogue source data says eg "mid 17th century to early 18th century", do we want to make sure that precise string is still stored? And should it still be possible to make it visible? This needs close engagement; but probably principally with the community-based development effort in the Wikidata community groups.

Already very standardised are the present Commons creator templates and Commons institution templates. These are likely to be an early quick win.

Update -- Testing arbitrary access

Arbitrary access will go live on on Tues 19 August. This will make it possible to start testing prototype Wikidata based templates.

I propose starting

d:Wikidata:WikiProject Structured Data for Commons to work on as much as can be achieved in user space,

-- eg templates like

d:Wikidata:WikiProject Structured Data for Commons/test/Creator:Edward Curtis
d:Wikidata:WikiProject Structured Data for Commons/test/Institution:British Library

It would also be nice to create a prototype template to let us test how to display a set of "topics", each topic being a Q-number, with options eg just to display a count of them; or to display a list of their names; or a list of the topic names with mini-descriptions.

The Source/Photographer field may be hardest to unscramble[edit]

Looking down a typical present-day filepage, that means that it is the Source/Photographer information in the present "Artist" template, which is currently free-form and often a freely composed pull together of multiple different sources of metadata, that is likely to be going to need the most work to unpick.

This is also the field most commonly used for the credit link-back templates to the originating GLAM institutions, which are obviously a key consideration for our GLAM partners.

These templates may currently often be very institution-specific, and may do quite complex stuff -- eg the present version of the British Library {{British Library image}} as used at eg

contains link-backs to a number of catalogues, each with their own corresponding text; and as well as linking back to the information about the underlying object (which is likely to be stored on WikiData), it will also likely contain a link-back to the source of the original file (in this case the specific file at BL images online), which being information specific to the file is likely to be living on the Commons Wikibase.

The Source/Photographer field as a whole is (I think) likely to be one of the last on the file page to be assimilated, because it can be so sui-generis, and so the present rats nest of templates may continue to be acceptable for some time -- though even they are likely to need modification, as eg Photographer information moves to the Commons Wikibase.

That said, each institution is only going to need to manage its own template.

But it probably would make sense to start an effort to think

  • what is the structured data that typically lives in these templates?
  • and is there some standardisation we could start to get into the box, even now

Apart from anything else, something readily customisable might be much easier for new institutions to adapt and adopt.

For the migration project as a whole, an audit of all the source templates of this sort would be useful. That is something the MM/WD project team could perhaps usefully encourage the community to undertake for them.

What gets a Wikidata entry and what does not?[edit]

I have to admit there are lines I am not sure about, as to what gets a Wikidata entry and what does not.

For example, when does a photograph deserve its own Wikidata Q-number ?

Perhaps a bright line is that an image of a photograph one took oneself doesn't get an entry on Wikidata, but a photograph by Man Ray perhaps does.

What about a photograph by a photographer by more intermediate notability? Or instead, perhaps an engraving from a book of 19th century engravings?

It makes sense to create an identifier for the book on Wikidata; and also the place depicted. This is often almost enough to identify the particular image, but really one would want to store the page number, and perhaps the scan number as well. (Since one might well have either one or the other or both). It would probably be good to store some identifier for the set of scans as well -- this too probably doesn't belong on Wikidata, (although one might identify it as set number <identifer> from eg the Mechanical Curator collection, which itself probably then *would* get a Wikidata identifier).

So the Commons wikibase probably needs to be able to identify images as having a sequence in a particular set, and that set as perhaps having an identifer that links it to a collection which has a particular Q-number on Wikidata.

This is the kind of thinking we will particularly need to be doing over the next few weeks -- what is the metadata that will *not* be stored on Wikidata, so will *need* to be stored on the Commons Wikibase if it is to be searchable and machine accessible? That is something that we as the community need to evolve, thinking of all the use cases we can.

Comment added -- I would say that an item that has metadata at a GLAM institution collection; can have item for institution holding and artist. (let them do the curation) -- User:Slowking4


There's a scratchpad of some bookmarks I started keeping on a subpage of my userpage at Wikidata that people are welcome to:

This gives a nutshell of where some different fields might be stored

This etherpad is good, esp lines immediately after 140, and "What new fields should be created to complement the old fields?" at 156 (actually in the context of Upload Wizard, but it gives some ideas)

There's a spreadsheet showing some of the fields they're thinking about

-- though I suspect quite a lot of what's down as living on WikiData should really be Commons WikiBase --

and also a suggestion based on some simple use-cases:

though I think we would probably see that as *too* simple, even for a first build, because for many of our applications properties such as sequence-number in set and set-identifer in collection are probably essential quantities to have (as they probably are for the WikiSource collection too).

Finally, this is an etherpad from the Hackathon just been, which has a lot of useful links at the end.