Taking a WikiExpedition

A Wikimedian at work. By Krzysztof Maria Różański, released under the CC-BY-SA-3.0 license.

I really like this idea. Wikizine briefly covered it thus:

[The] Polish community has had its first annual WikiExpedition. The ten-day journey to the Polish region of Podlasie (northeastern part), focusing on collecting material that would be used to enrich Wikimedia project content with photographs, has brought gigabytes of photos and tons of material.


Between July 10tth and 20th, well, actually 21st, in the territory of Polish Podlaskie voivideship a group of Wikimedians (Wikipedians being a majority part of the group) photographed whatever there was to be photographed in the area, as well as collected materials related to the places and sights of the region, while all the time contacting the local people, bringing them news of Wikipedia and Wikimedia in general. The expedition was sponsored by Wikimedia Polska Association.

The idea of organising a WikiExpedition came up over a year ago as a derivative of a few factors. My wife (Wikimedia user Pleple2000) and myself roamed through the north-eastern regions of Slovakia in the August of 2008. We could say that those were our ordinary holidays, if not for the fact that in order to fight our Wiki-addiction we took our camera… While on our way back home an idea came up that we ought to take a larger group of Wikimedians to our next journey and organise the whole thing a bit better. Polish Wikipedia sported spontaneous ideas such as “a weekend with a photo camera”, however their results are not widely known, since nobody reported the outcomes of such endeavours, even the number of photographs taken on such weekends. However we assumed that in spite of a relatively low number of active Wikimedians in Poland we will be able to construct a 15-person adventurer group.

During the “Where? Where to? How?” (GDJ on Meta-Wiki) Wikipedia meetup in Poznań in September 2008 I outlined what such an expedition could be like. After initial reconnaissance I decided on the region of Podlasie – there were but several active Wikipedians in that region opposed to a rather large number of towns and villages described in Polish Wikipedia in the form of bot-created stubs. Although the idea was welcomed warmly – we were discussing the ways to spend Wikimedia Polska’s donations which came from the people donating 1% of their income tax – I had difficulty convincing the Association’s decision-makers that we needed e.g. better cars (preferably off- road) while creating the plan for the expedition. At the same time a group of Wolin-based (which is rather a long-distance) group of people contacted us and expressed their will to join us if we only covered the cost of the fuel. I had to modify the plans in order to make driving around in cars belonging to the Wikipedians possible – I couldn’t locate any off-road car owners. Starting in the autumn of 2008 first candidates for the expedition signed up. The only thing which we had to deal with was the timing, enabling the explorers to synchronise their holiday plans. We decided on setting out in July.

In the spring of 2009 part of the proposed route has been plotted and the photos illustrating relevant Wikipedia articles have been analysed. Together with the volunteers we decided to place the expedition between July 10th and 20th. Because the planned route of the expedition led along the eastern border, through areas where national and landscape parks are located, I also assumed visiting those, in order to photograph some plant and animal life. Additionally, a month before setting out we contacted a number of local institutions (such as city halls, local authorities, park management, forest administration), as well as some media – including local. We forecast the costs of the expedition at about 30 000 PLN [US$10,100], however after looking at the structure of the expenses we considered 16 000 PLN [US$5,390] to be just enough.

Almost until Day One it was unknown how many participants will actually show up, which complicated organising overnight stays at agricultural tourism points. What was more surprising was the fact that the plan, detailed to the last speck of dust (vide The Cathedral and the Bazaar) proved to be worth none or very little, when considering the solutions brought up on the spot. Of course, putting aside the fact that we did not prepare a printed copy of the expedition plan and one of us (Polimerek) printed two copies (some tens of pages each) practically strapping his rucksack on his way out of his home. It wouldn’t have been necessary if we had Internet access, but that was a problematic issue as well. We acquired maps late – on the second day of the journey. Instead of the planned 4 cars we had 3, one of which broke down after a single day of adventuring, and one had difficulty navigating the dirt roads. Luckily we had a few bicycles and roof racks on the cars. Instead of the planned 15 participants there were 13, four of which had to return to their homes earlier; all in all the participant count was rather high. Additionally, for three days of the expedition we were accompanied by local volunteers, helping us as guides. Our e-mails were answered by few institutions and local associations, but those who did contact us surprised us very positively. We also were in touch with the local media during a few points of our journey.

Despite these and more adventures we managed to take a few thousand photos in a few hundred towns and villages. In mid-August we edited, selected and uploaded to Commons 1000 photos. We bought and were presented with tens of books, which make up the Association’s library. The final costs of the expedition came up to 10 000 PLN [US$3,350].

How cool is that? I don’t speak Polish so I can’t figure out precisely which Wikipedia articles were improved, but the 1000+ photos taken speak for themselves.

It also picked up a decent amount of media coverage.

WMPL are the consistent quiet achievers of the chapters, I think. :) They are hosting Wikimania 2010 who knows what great adventures they will cook up for us?

17 August, 2009 •



I meant to say, I think this idea could work really well in Australia too. Maybe we could even find a local council willing to sponsor such an expedition in exchange for potentially quite comprehensive Wikimedia coverage!

pfctdayelise · 18. August 2009, 01:07

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