Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wikipedia Takes Manhattan: Our First Outreach Project

Team "New York Dolls": Our 2nd-place winners

I'm glad to announce the results of Wikipedia Takes Manhattan, our first real outreach project at the nascent Wikimedia New York City, held with great help and sponsorship from Free Culture Columbia and Free Culture NYU.

In the first event of its kind anywhere, we held a photographic scavenger hunt for places around our city needing photos for their Wikipedia articles.

The idea was to reach out to Columbia and NYU students, while taking Wikimedia and free content "to the streets" (literally, in this case) in creating a gallery of local sights. This was a project we pursued in lieu of a Wikipedia Academy for now, while hopefully building the way for bigger and better things to come.

We have tentative plans for a "Wikipedia Takes Manhattan 2" in the Fall, and hopefully a local Wikipedia Academy as well. Already, there are ideas for a Wikipedia Takes The City-type contest brewing on the Dutch Wikipedia, under the name "Photohunt 2008".

Judson Memorial Church designed by Stanford White, one of our 92 successfully photographed targets.

This really was a great adventure for the participants, as you can plainly see from the incredibly cool gallery on Commons, which shows all the sights the different teams visited over the course of the day.

And I was really impressed by the enthusiastic energy on display, with several of our teams going all the way out to the far Bronx or Queens for those distance-based bonus points we offered.

A member of Team "New York Dolls" told us how this unique itinerary really let her appreciate the Upper West Side, where she'd lived for years as a student, but had never had an opportunity to really get to know the area. I've always been a fan of learning with your feet as well as your fingers, and if her pictures encourage more people in exploring their own neighborhoods (and sharing their discoveries), I think we'll have put the world of free knowledge up a notch in more ways than one.

Hard at work uploading. Barnstars and prizes up front.

But the extraordinary thing about this event I want to communicate to fellow Wikimedians is this: it was not primarily organized by Wikipedians/Wikimedians. Sure, we compiled the list and set up the mechanisms online. But the outreach to the students, the printing of instruction packets, the iPod shuffle prizes, the uploading party and its 15 pizzas, all this was done by our amazing friends at the Free Culture student clubs (mostly Columbia, but both were great).

There is really so much more we can do when we work with like-minded people, and for an organizer to just (for example) make a decision to start attending meetings of groups in your area can be incredibly productive. As a start, I'd recommend you check out Free Culture clubs around the US (and more on cooperating with local groups in later posts).

And a good time was had by all.