Grants:IdeaLab/Encourage profile photos

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Encourage profile photos
Social sites/networks which do not have expressive user profiles or profile images also tend to be largely male dominated (e.g. IRC, Wikipedia, Usenet, 4chan). I speculate that there is some causal connection.
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created on01:45, 12 March 2015 (UTC)

Project idea[edit]

What is the problem you're trying to solve?[edit]

There are probably some women who love being anonymous drones, working for the common good, butting heads with practically anonymous IP addresses who pretend to be university professors, or are children, or dogs, or other users who they know nothing about other than their username. Some women might love the idea that a profile photo they upload to Wikipedia can legally be used by anyone for any purpose forever, although their purpose was simply to make themselves (and by extension, the social environment) less seemingly anonymous. Some women might love the idea of reading through a 7000 word essay on what "limited autobiographical content" is allowed for them to express who they are on their Wikipedia user page. But I'm guessing most probably don't, and that the impossibility of contextualizing who you're trying to work with leads to the sterile, argumentative, male-dominated environment of Wikipedia. And that fixing this would make it a more pleasant environment for everyone.

Is it a goal of the WMF to build a permanent library of photographs of its users and former users that anyone can use for any purpose? If not, stop it. It's weird.

What is your solution?[edit]

The obvious starting point is to allowing user profile images to remain under the copyright of the uploader. No license should be granted for anything beyond the intended use as a profile image on Wikimedia sites. Many Wikipedians and staff have bravely licensed their own photos to be used for anything at all, including commercial usage, as required to upload an image. But they never should have been made to. An organisation which is so quixotic in its attempts to defend the individual's privacy should not be forcing its users to license their profile photos for any purpose by anyone. It's seriously weird and creepy that this is effectively a requirement, and it is easily fixed.

When or if discussion pages are ever redesigned from the ground up to be mobile friendly, not require bots for signatures and archiving, to not require special work to keep the threads both flowing correctly and readable, to prioritize answers that are seen as useful by the community and bury unhelpful or offtopic threads and responses, to notifying the person being replied to consistently, allow users to follow a particular thread, to automatically aggregate discussion of a topic category instead of having it split over thousands of talk pages, and to generally not be a hack, perhaps user images could be incorporated into talk pages as well, like they are in pretty much every other forum system on the Internet in 2015.


  • Uploading a profile image should be as easy as it is on any other normal Internet site where people communicate, such such as Twitter, StackExchange, Steam, Soundcloud, Google+, Ebay, or the Wikimedia Foundation's own Phabricator.
  • Default to a non-free license for such images. It is not the goal of WMF to create a free archive of user images.
  • Allow users to remove or re-license images of themselves which they have previously uploaded. Do not require an administrator or technical knowledge to carry out the action. Automatically suggest this action to users who appear to have uploaded photos of Wikipedians under the CC license where it is not an image used on a content page. Make it the policy of Commons to honour such requests and apologize for not previously having the option. Do not egregiously state that "Commons is under no obligation to honor uploader's requests".
  • Associate profile images with user names throughout the site (like every other modern website does)
  • Reduce and simplify the restrictions on what content is allowed on user pages (throughout Wikimedia's sites).
  • Do not require the content of user pages to be licensed as creative commons (Are we creating an archive of free-content user pages? No.)
  • After fixing the broken communication system that is "talk pages", include user icons on those.
  • Make Wikipedia less weird. It's seriously weird. I've been using this site for 11 years. I've uploaded around 200 images, including a couple which have been "Image of the day" on, but I've never uploaded any of myself because my photo is not "free culture" for others to reuse and remix, and requiring it to be is just weird. Really weird. I have a photo of an ugly preserved fish on my user page instead because that photo is less weird than the licensing requirements I would have to agree to for a photo of myself. Seriously it's really really weird. Next time you do one of these surveys to find out how much more women hate editing Wikipedia this year than they did last year, ask if you can take their photo and allow anyone to use it for any purpose forever, including commercially, or if they think that's weird and inappropriate. I can tell you the answer. They're not going to say "Oh, that's ok, I'm sure the image will be partially protected by personality rights laws in some countries I visit." No, they'll say it's weird. Doesn't anyone employed by WMF find it weird that their photo is CC licensed for anyone to use, for any purpose, forever? Am I really the only one that finds this weird? It's weird.

Get Involved[edit]


  • Volunteer Lo que haga falta para ayudar Pp96 (talk) 20:40, 28 March 2016 (UTC)
  • Community organizer youssef azizi

loooooooooooove 16:45, 29 March 2016 (UTC)


  • Profiles, personalized, with pictures, would make this place seem a lot more human and friendly. Ocaasi (talk) 00:53, 20 March 2015 (UTC)
  • I'm not positive I would have a profile photo if it could be non-free, but the free photo requirement is the #1 reason I don't have one. I don't want a photo of me up for anyone to use anywhere, and I have zero confidence that potential reusers understand personality rights and how they restrict reuse. I agree that Wikipedia would seem much more friendly if there were more profile photos. Calliopejen1 (talk) 18:50, 20 March 2015 (UTC)
  • I would personally use a generic image, as i do on other forums, but for those inclined to share their picture, i think this could attract more social oriented users; and perhaps more women. Bcharles (talk) 15:34, 21 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Profile images would make the site much more friendly. The profile picture idea is employed at the Teahouse and this seems to work well. I think it would make it less daunting to get started using Wikipedia and as such attract a different group of people. Falkirks (talk) 02:24, 22 March 2015 (UTC)
  • It should be technically possible to change mediawiki so that you could have an image uploaded that was solely in your userspace, and quite sensible. WereSpielChequers (talk) 14:12, 23 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Sounds like a great idea: user pages have long been a personalization space, and when users started creating more profile-like templates for those spaces, they have definitely begun to feel more professional and welcoming: lowering the barrier to those pages really being personal could make other editors appear more human (thus harder to harass, I would think). Sadads (talk) 15:36, 23 March 2015 (UTC)
  • This makes a lot of sense, though I'm not quite sure how effective it will be. Raptortech97 (talk) 18:32, 23 March 2015 (UTC)
  • I am passionately in favour of profile images. It helps so much if you see (and know!) faces. I think you're onto something when you relate social sites without profile images with male-dominated environments. I assume this might be researched somewhere? Spinster (talk) 07:20, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  • This is an excellent idea! Just FYI, you can already upload photos of yourself to your user page on Wikiversity and keep the copyright by licensing it as Fair Use. Then, you can try to improve Wikipedia as well from a pleasant, supportive university-style environment. --Marshallsumter (talk) 13:57, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
    • Firstly, thanks all for the supportive comments. I wrote this proposal as a rant, without expecting it to get much notice. So I'm glad that to see the many supportive comments which have a much more positive tone than my rant. It's also good to hear examples within Wikimedia sites where profile images have been encouraged already (Wikipedia's Teahouse, phabricator, and Wikiversity). Choosing "fair use" may be a technical way to get around the free-licensing requirement, but it incorrectly implies that either (a) the user does not own copyright of their image, or (b) that Wikimedia has not been granted explicit permission to use the image. Also, I imagine it would lead to the frustration of a deleted image on many Wikimedia sites. Besides that, the upload process is still significantly more involved than uploading a profile image on any other site that I know of (which typically have a one-step drag-and-drop interface). To encourage profile images, the user should not be expected to look through a list of licensing option. If the images are stored as images on Commons, then a license specifically for user profile images really needs to be made, i.e. disallowing use on content pages as well as outside of Wikimedia. Pengo (talk) 21:23, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
With respect to (a) if it's a photograph of you, whoever took the photo always retains the copyright, fair use means it is for non-commercial use only. Regarding (b) yes, Wikimedia has not been granted explicit permission to use your image. Don't know about other sites, but if you license it and it's on your user page it cannot be deleted on Wikiversity. It's easy to use our upload and a lot easier than changing commons. --Marshallsumter (talk) 00:26, 29 March 2015 (UTC)

No support[edit]

  • Please read en:WP:ANONYMOUS and en:WP:IPHUMAN carefully. Privacy on Wikipedia is a tricky thing. If having a picture, a real name, a real email address etc becomes the norm, soon people who want to stay anonymous become second class citizens and diminish their contribution. Just like IP users are second class despite the best efforts of the Foundation and special policies against it. And it is super important for a lot of people to be recognized without bias regarding their age, gender, ethnicity, or race, recognized solely on the basis of their contribution and talk. SSneg (talk) 07:28, 30 March 2016 (UTC)

Expand your idea[edit]

A newer proposal is here: