September is about to start in a few minutes. It is going to be a busy month: several important conference deadlines, speaking at Software Freedom Day, remotely participating in SLE workshops, traveling to MoDELS, putting together the programme of WCN, being on “holidays in a broad sense” for half of the month, etc. However, this all pales in comparison to the last year’s September, when in addition to all WCN emailing, I was taking some time almost every day to go out on the street and make pictures of Dutch state monuments.
WLM, or Wiki Loves Monuments, was an initiative that I occasionally learned about by hanging out with wikipedians at Wikimania 2011. It sounded nice: you could pick up a camera, walk around and create some information that is: (1) useful, (2) structured and (3) free. Being @grammarware, I am obviously a fan of structured data — noblesse oblige; being a hacker, I support that all information must be free; entertaining myself with dreams of being a practical person, I should like the idea of creating something useful as well. And indeed, I found myself doing something I usually don’t (i.e., taking pictures); engaging in it regularly, through rain, wind, cold and tooth pain; taking away precious time from hobbies, girlfriend, and even from my own birthday. At night, instead of hacking, I was spending lots of time on classifying and uploading said pictures to Wikimedia Commons. In the morning, instead of watching an episode of Dr.Who, I was walking around the Jordaan neighbourhood and documenting the monuments there. In the evening, instead of hurrying home to have a nice gratifying dinner, I was taking lengthy detours on my bike to visit places I’ve never been to, and to take pictures of houses I’ve never seen.
I did not become a photographer after this, and I never will (even though it should sound strange in our era when everyone thinks of him or herself as one due to having a camera). I did not become a GLAM expert, and I never will (even though I did probably visit more musea than restaurants in Amsterdam). It is probably even safe to assume that I enjoyed it that much exactly because I was a total newbie in all the things WLM stood for, and still took up the challenge.
In the end, I uploaded more than a thousand pictures and won the 3rd prize in quantity (would’ve won the 1st if they judged by the number of pictures and not the number of monuments — Tropenmuseum counts as one even though it took me half a day and a hundred of photographs). This activitly utterly overshadowed everything I have been doing on Wikimedia Commons for years and years before that (creating vector graphics illustrations, retouching old scans and only occasionally making pictures of rare objects). Still, I regret nothing.