Research:Supporting Commons contribution by GLAM institutions/Working with Wikimedia and Wikimedians

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"The images were removed by some volunteers at Wikimedia Commons."

The success of GLAM projects often depends on the support of Wikimedia Movement volunteers—and to a lesser extent, the Wikimedia Foundation. GLAM contributors, even Wikimedians in Residence, cannot be expected to begin their first project with a complete and correct understanding every technology and policy consideration that bears on their project. They rely on support from movement contributors to share information about tools and rules (especially copyright policy) and—perhaps most importantly—to curate their contributions and integrate them into Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.

Negative experiences and persistent challenges[edit]

Participant Negative experience
R_37Y4M2C1jMmHvPP "We had an incident when a Commons admin wrote a script that flagged all our uploads for deletion, despite us using the OTRS process etc. under the guidance of another Commons expert. This incident was discovered by me, I contacted the admin concerned and the items were not deleted ... however, if they had been deleted I am quite confident it would have caused our Wiki editing project to be shut down within our organisation, we worked very hard to build awareness of the value of contributing to the commons within our organisation and this would have killed it totally. Everything we were doing was clearly documented and we were uploading items with a specially prepared template that indicated a lot of information about our organisation and the copyright status of the items - the Commons admin obviously had not read any of it nor even realised what they caught up in their script. Ironically the Commons admin concerned is a champion of GLAMWIKI projects. "
p1 "Dealing with OTRS... we hadn’t talked about having any formal authorization for the upload. I wrote to the editor who had requested deletion, asked how we can do it right. He gave me a long list of instructions that I followed very strictly about how to upload properly. I sent a list of usernames of everyone who would do the upload. Asked the Museum to include a statement on their website that the museum was doing what they were saying they were doing, which the museum did. Now I’m an expert on OTRS, but I had to contact a lot of people to figure out I was doing it right. It was very frustrating - I was embarrassed in front of the museum director. OTRS were very polite, though."
R_0iACQeLhGdTQFHj "The images were removed by some volunteers at Wikimedia Commons."
p9 "A colleague got enthusiastic about the project, and started adding videos to articles. He did it in spare time. We got feedback form some of the more negative participants [on Wikipedia]. They gave him shit for working for S&V. They thought it wasn’t helpful that he was putting videos everywhere. So I came back and asked “where WOULD videos be useful”, and that started a conversation. It’s helpful to ask for feedback. That’s why I sent the rules for employees: we’re a guest on their platform, so we obey their rules, even if the rules being asserted aren’t documented, or only shared by a few people, or only the priority of the loud/vocal person who’s talking to you. But we’ve found that being transparent is the best long-term solution. I’ve seen other GLAM institution representatives get heavily into arguments, and various people have been banned at a result. SO I try to avoid that, to keep the stress low for me and maintain a productive relationship. I’ve seen others be harassed, and they didn’t deserve that, but I wouldn’t have approached it that way they did, in order to avoid conflict/stress."
  • OTRS process. Many research participants expressed frustration and confusion about the process of demonstrating copyright for the media items they uploaded. In fact, OTRS-related challenges were both among the most common issues reported by interview participants and also one of the most serious. Participants reported that dealing with OTRS often substantially delayed their projects. Many GLAM participants were not aware of OTRS until their files were unexpectedly deleted after upload. Others reported frustration that the OTRS process was opaque and drawn out, with unclear or haphazard communication, which left their project in limbo for months at a time without a certain outcome. One participant ended up creating a category to track uploaded media that are under OTRS review; some of the items in that category took over 2 years to be reviewed by OTRS, and others are still pending review almost 3 years after upload. Although in this case it appears that most of the original uploads have been retained on Commons even though they are not yet reviewed, this is not a predictable outcome.
  • Unexpected file deletion. Other participants reported that media were deleted without notice for copyright reasons, even when they believed they were following proper procedures. This caused not only delays, but in some cases jeopardized the whole project: the GLAM participant was put in the position of explaining to the GLAM organization why the content had been deleted, and offering them reassurance that the incidents would not be repeated. In at least one case, these mass deletions occurred while the participant was actively working with OTRS to demonstrate copyright for the media in question.
  • Lack of Movement onboarding. The GLAM participants interviewed and surveyed during this research had a widely varying levels of background knowledge about the MediaWiki software and the Wikimedia community, and the Commons project. Awareness of upload and monitoring tools, Commons policies, and the kinds of support resources available to help make a GLAM project successful were unevenly distributed. The majority of interviewees reported that shepherding their project along required a substantial amount of trial and error and learning on the fly. Participants often did not know who to go to when they needed help, or even how to articulate their questions. When they found technical documentation, it was often incomplete or out of date. Copyright guidance was confusing and difficult to apply. Projects that had the fewest issues generally had one or more experienced movement contributors involved, although the involvement of Wikimedians did not ensure awareness of the right resources, the proper procedures, or the most effective communication channels. Overall, the lack of a more structured, comprehensive, institutional onboarding and socialization process hampered many or most participants' GLAM projects in one way or another.

Positive experiences and perceived advantages[edit]

Participant Positive experience
R_2WBiN2s3sEZtiC8 "We would also thank the many WM Commons users who are already helping us to fix metadata of 17.000 images and locations of 8.000 of them."
R_SOxTwuflXqfrSql "it has been particularly relevant for this project to receive good recommendations and feedbacks from the WMF GLAM program officer"
R_3NCxKzmYfLLvBuY "We have gotten great help from Wikimedia Sverige during the upload."
R_2TT17URVj5l0EOD "The biggest obstacle was to get our domain on the white list of the GLAMwiki Toolset.Thanks to the members of the community who helped us with that and with establishing the mass upload process in general. Looking forward to the next uploads of (sub-)collections."
p9 "[Commons editors have] been responsive when I had questions. They were helpful. I was also talking to them on IRC chat. They were very strict on copyright--which I appreciate. It’s kept us focused and sharp. It has sharpened our ideas on open publishing."
  • Improving the collection. For GLAM organizations, one of the perceived benefits of donating media to Commons is access to volunteer curators who can improve a collection by adding and correcting metadata. One participant reported that Commons volunteers not only corrected an erroneous description of a media item (a dwarf horse skeleton that had been mistakenly identified as a juvenile horse in the museum's archive), they also cleaned up/re-processed the image files themselves to improve the quality (removing "dust" artifacts from scanned images).
  • Re-using content within Wikimedia projects. Another perceived benefit for GLAM organizations is the increased visibility of their collections that comes from the re-use of their uploaded media within Wikipedia articles (and to some extent, other Wikimedia projects). GLAM organizations were excited to see reports that represented the impact of their donations in terms of "organic" re-use of their uploaded media withing Wikimedia projects. Some GLAM institutions attempted to "seed" re-use by organizing edit-a-thons aimed at adding donated media to relevant articles, or creating new articles to which donated media could be added.
  • Ad hoc support networks. Interview and survey participants lavished effusive praise on the individuals who provided them with general advice, tool recommendations and access to tools, policy guidance and other forms of support during their projects. They contacted these saviors a variety of ways: through mailing lists, social media, and (of course) on wiki. Although not a sufficient substitute for good quality formal onboarding and training, the volunteers, Wikimedia Foundation staff, and Wikimedia affiliate staff who made up these ad-hoc support networks were critical to the success of many of the GLAM projects described in the interviews and survey.