[guest] AntWeb goes CC-BY-SA

Waldir has previously guest-blogged here and I am happy to welcome him back for his second post. Congrats on helping make this cool project happen! —Brianna

Image by AntWeb, licensed CC-BY-SA-3.0

written by Waldir Pimenta

Did you know that the most venomous insect in the world is an ant? That’s right. One sting from the Maricopa Harvester Ant is equivalent to twelve honey bee stings — the required amount to kill a 4.5 pound rat.

I found that over a year ago, through University of Florida’s Book of Insect Records. I immediately headed to Wikipedia to see what it had to say about it, but to my surprise there was no such article! I thus started one from scratch, using some information I found in several ant-related websites. Eventually people started adding information to the article, up to the point that it contained a fairly good collection of information about this fascinating species. But still one thing was missing — something that single-handedly could make the article ten times more useful: an image.

So, when searching for images to illustrate it, I found the fantastic images from AntWeb, a project from The California Academy of Sciences, which aims to illustrate the enormous diversity of the ants of the world. I was especially happy to find that they were using a Creative Commons license — but soon after I was disappointed to find that the specific one they used (CC-BY-NC) was not appropriate for Wikipedia (or, more generally, free cultural works, and thus discouraged by Creative Commons itself).

So I sent them an email suggesting them to change the license. When they replied, I found out that they actuallly had been internally discussing license issues for quite a while. I kept in touch, and made sure to let them know the advantages of having their work showcased in such high-traffic websites as Wikipedia, Commons or WikiSpecies.

I like to think that my two cents helped in their decision, some time later, to not only change their license to CC-BY-SA, but also upload all their images to Commons themselves! This was part of their overall mission: “universal access to ant information”. Before, the AntWeb project focused only on digitization of content and development of the web portal; but now they also decided to “export” AntWeb content to improve access. Putting the images and associated metadata in Commons was an example their outreach initiatives.

This was very welcome by the community, and there was a lot of input on how best to perform the mass upload in order to make the images easy to find and be used to illustrate articles and other relevant pages. The process took several days, but finally, over 30,000 images were uploaded, full with EXIF tags, taxonomic data, and geographic information when available.

This is just the beginning, though! As usual in the wiki world, you can help! There are articles to be illustrated in the various Wikipedia language versions (Magnus’ FIST tool comes in handy for finding them!). There are WikiSpecies pages to be illustrated. There are categories in Commons to be created to allow the ant category tree to be navigated and have every ant image reachable through it. And more importantly, there are these great news to spread and let people who are interested in ants know that they can now count on what’s possibly the greatest online repository of free, high-quality ant images.

Many thanks to Brian Fisher, AntWeb Project Leader, who coordinated the license change process, Dave Thau, AntWeb Software Enginer, who wrote the upload script and performed the upload, and to all the AntWeb staff for their outstanding work!

06 November, 2009 • ,



That’s simply awesome! Thanks for the thousands of images!

Izno · 6. November 2009, 15:31

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