A Guide to Getting Started on Wikimedia Commons

This post was originally published on 28 August, 2013 on the Wikimedia Commons blog, and was written by Sage Ross, Online Communications for Wikipedia Education Program. 

With more than 18 million freely licensed media files, Wikimedia Commons is the repository for files illustrating Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. But as many new contributors find out, understanding the world of free licenses and encyclopedic content can be a challenge. With the release of a new tutorial brochure, we hope to dispel common misconceptions and make it much easier to collaborate and contribute your media files to Wikipedia and other sources.

Puzzly, the cartoon puzzle piece who guides users through the licensing rules of Wikimedia Commons, is the star of the new brochure, Illustrating Wikipedia: A guide to contributing content to Wikimedia Commons. In the instructional document, Puzzly learns about free licenses and how works shared on Wikimedia Commons can reach hundreds of thousands of people from across the world. The brochure is available both printed and online in English, and Wikimedia community members interested in translating and adapting it to other languages are encouraged to do so. The design files are available in InDesign and Scribus formats.

Illustrating Wikipedia: A guide to contributing content to Wikimedia Commons

Illustrating Wikipedia: A guide to contributing content to Wikimedia Commons

The big challenge with this project was to balance the need for a simple introduction to Commons with the intricacies of free licenses and copyright rules. Even for experienced contributors, it’s often tough to figure out whether a work can be added to Commons. To help navigate these complexities, we turned to the Wikimedia Commons community. Wikimedia Commons is the most linguistically and geographically diverse Wikimedia project, with people from across the world collaborating on one wiki. Commoners work across language barriers and at the intersections of copyright laws that vary tremendously from country to country.

Knowing how complex the rules can be, I was a little anxious when we started asking for feedback that the brochure would get more and more complex — that we would lose the focus on a simple guide for newcomers. But as soon as the first feedback started coming in, I knew those fears were misplaced. Sharp and generous feedback from around 20 experienced Commoners, on the initial text and several design drafts, led to a much stronger final product.

Illustrating Wikipedia covers the essentials for getting started with media contributions — from uploading files, to illustrating wiki pages using both wikicode and the new VisualEditor, to choosing a free license, to finding and using freely licensed and public domain works by others, to common misconceptions that often confuse new contributors. If you work with newcomers who want to contribute to Wikimedia Commons, or if you’re a newcomer yourself, give the brochure a try, and let us know what you think.

This article and image were republished under a Creative Commons license.

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