The Wiki Loves Monuments annual international photography competition has completed for the sixth year. This is the first time that Wikimedia Israel has been involved in organizing the competition. Despite our many concerns, the numerous challenges, not least of which was the very short time frame and the partial transfer of knowledge, the competition went smoothly and we are pleased with the results.
The competition has surpassed the goals in all of the metrics we set forth in the beginning, including in the number of photographs (321,571, ~107.2% of the goal), the number of participating countries (41 vs. 39 planned), and the number of uploaders (8,913, a whopping 178.3% of the 5,000 we would have considered good).
Unlike previous Wiki Loves Monuments competitions, where planning for the next competition started with the end of the existing one (end of calendar year), for 2014 no international competition had been planned.
This was not immediately obvious; there were some talks on the mailing list about holding a competition, and sister competitions took place (WLE and previously WLPA), so many assumed that WLM would be conducted automagically by the teams from previous years and competitions. The impetus for the current organization was the realization on July, at Wikimania 2014 in London that no such international team existed, and most of previous organizers were not planning to participate in another Wiki Loves Monuments.
On the other hand, many local teams relied on the international prestige of WLM to get sponsorships and convince local bodies to help them run their local competitions. We received messages from France, Israel, Pakistan, Ukraine and others that without international prizes their local competitions would either be harmed or not take place at all, and in retrospect it is clear that most participating local teams (especially the small ones) would not have held the competition without international coordination.
However, the above presented a serious challenge: how to bridge the gap that had been created through 8-month-long uncertainty? In other words, how to do in 1.5 months what the teams usually had 10 months to do?
Some of the solutions that came up and were executed:
- Downsize the international team: We realized that previous competitions had very large teams, usually in the area of 8 people. These teams were able to do a lot of works, much of which could not be done quickly because of having to coordinate meetings in different time zones, etc.
Moreover, the very act of gathering volunteers internationally could take more than a month. It was therefore decided to minimize the international team to the minimum required amount of people: a general coordinator, a volunteer who would run the actual tools in real-time, and an international coordinator for the tools, contact, prizes, etc.
This is not ideal, since it means that the team cannot innovate significantly, cannot execute large-scale tasks, and can not give around the clock support to the local teams etc., but makes planning much easier. Having the volunteers in very similar time zones (Belgium and Israel) made coordination easier. This is not to say that only three people were involved in the international organization: the team asked volunteers to help with ad-hoc tasks, and a number of volunteers based in the same country (Israel) were a great help in moving things forward.
- Involve a chapter: The financial management of WLM requires a certain set of skills and free time. The small team realized that we would also need a financial coordinator, but short of a paid staff member, it would not be possible to organize the finances effectively while running the competition (note: all three members as outlined above were also local competition organizers). We kindly asked Wikimedia Israel for help with the financial management, and received the GAC’s agreement for this.
- Draw the international jury from the community: In previous years, contact was made with international bodies like National Geographic and others to send judges to the international Wiki Loves Monuments. This was not possible in 2014, as we did not have existing contacts with such organizations, and in any case getting their reply could take away from the time we did not have. It was therefore decided to draw the jury from the existing Wikimedia community: the organizers requested the help of photographers and prominent GLAM volunteers in the movement, and some of them agreed to serve as judges for the international competition.
While all international volunteers in WLM 2014 (except one core team member) were from Israel, coordinating them still presented a challenge. The volunteers were either not dedicated to the project all, or dedicated to the local competition. Along with real-life commitments, the availability of these volunteers was low. However, the team managed to make the most of the situation and give small tasks to the volunteers that could be managed in one sitting and did not require a long-term commitment to the project.
Another challenge was passing decisions: because of the short time frame, many decisions had to be made on the go, by one core team member, without consulting with the others or holding a meeting. This created some minor conflicts, and we imagine that in a bigger team there would have to be a dedicated liaison between the community/organizers/participants and any decision-making body. In any case, any decision makers need to be available almost 24/7 from our experience (see failure section in next challenge).
Working with local teams
As in previous years, working and keeping contact with the local teams presented a special challenge, and was possibly the most intractable problem in the long-term. The two greatest problems were, as before, the time differences, and the varying levels of commitment from the local teams: some had a large team and budget dedicated solely to the competition, while others were run by one volunteer with little to no offline organization. The language barrier presented yet another issue in some cases.
We dealt with this problem in two ways:
- A contact form: in the very beginning of the organization, when we all returned from Wikimania, a request was sent in the mailing list for contact details (including real-life information like a phone number). More than half of the teams filled out the form and we had a reasonably good way of contacting them.
- One of the core team members was in constant contact with the local teams on the subject of submitting photos on time, which was met with a high success rate.
However, there were two major failures in this field as well:
- Many of the local organizers did not know exactly who was on the international team. The relevant Wiki pages were updated belatedly, and there was much confusion. Some local organizers were saying things like “as far as I know there is no international team this year”, even during the competition! Even when people knew whom to contact, it was usually just one member of the team.
- Only one member of the core team was available most of the time to answer questions, and that member did not always know the answers (through no fault of his own). This added to the above confusion. Attempts to get volunteers to go into the IRC channel and mailing list to answer questions mostly failed.
Availability of technical support
Aside from some basic explanations given at Wikimania, the tool maintainers of previous years’ teams were absent this year: one was unavailable and the other made it clear that he could only help with specific questions and not in the actual running of the tools. Therefore in many ways, this year we had to hope that the tools would simply work.
To avoid a complete disaster however, one of the core team members learned the basics of erfgoedbot’s code and how to update it if necessary, and we also had the help of a prolific WLM toolwriter who, though not involved in the core tools, ran a number of custom ones that were invaluable to the local and international teams.
Reporting and documentation of expenditures
This section describes the grant's use of funds
- Did you send documentation of all expenses paid with grant funds to grants at wikimedia dot org, according to the guidelines here? Answer "Yes" or "No".
The prizes for the international competition were only revealed after the contest was over. This is a result of the grant request process. We believe this dissuaded professional photographers to enter the competition. If we would have advertised the first prize (which is substantial – a trip to Mexico City) and other monetary prizes we believe many more people would have joined, with many more pictures and of a higher quality as well. For professional photographers the competition is fueled by prizes more than any altruist cause. This is one of the results of our survey.
Prices in bold denote the original currency in which the price/quote was given. $1=3.886 NIS (average dollar exchange rate throughout the entire period), unless stated otherwise. The corresponding sums in ILS are the exact sums paid by Wikimedia Israel.
|Expenditure||Local currency (ILS)||$ US|
|Graphics design for the Wikimania exhibition prints||800||206|
|Prints for the Wikimania exhibition||1,546||398|
|Exhibition shipping to Mexico City (FedEx)||2,280||587|
|Expenditure||Local currency (ILS)||$ US|
|First place flight tickets||5,982.79||1,540|
|$500 First place winner cash prize||1,925||500 (1$=3.85 NIS)|
|$750 Second place cash prize||2,976||750 (1$=3.968 NIS)|
|Bank transfer fees||183.23||47|
|$300 Third place cash prize||1,206.37||300 (1$=2.021 NIS)|
|Bank transfer fees||183.23||47|
|Wikimania registration wire transfer fee||174||45|
- Total amount requested from WMF (from your approved grant submission, this total will be the same as the total project budget if PEG is your only funding source)
- ILS 35,763.30
- Total amount spent on this project
- ILS 18,274.28
- Total amount of Project and Event grant funds spent on this project
- ILS 18,274.28
- Are there additional sources that funded any part of this project? List them here.
- Are there any grant funds remaining?
- Answer YES or NO.
- Please list the total amount (specify currency) remaining here. (This is the amount you did not use, or the amount you still have after completing your grant.)
- ILS 17,489.02
- If funds are remaining they must be returned to WMF, reallocated to mission-aligned activities, or applied to another approved grant.
- Please state here if you intend to return unused funds to WMF, submit a request for reallocation, or submit a new grant request, and then follow the instructions on your approved grant submission.
- Remaining funds will be deducted from WMIL's next Annual Plan Grant payment.