Many community driven projects have a problem with overgrown bureaucratic processes reducing the desire and ability of casual contributors to contribute. Debian has struggled with this problem, with efforts like Debian Maintainers and sponsorship to address it, but it's insidious and difficult to completely overcome. I recently ran into this problem again with Wikipedia, where I'm a casual contributor (I probably average an edit a month).

Sometime in 2006, I uploaded an image of a Boojum tree I took in 2004 to Wikipedia to provide an image for the Boojum tree article. It wasn't a particularly awe inspiring image, as I took it while I was teaching second quarter freshmen biology on campus, and showing the students the awesome Botanical Gardens at UCR. In 2011, a Wikipedia user asked for deletion of the image because of some confusion about the copyright on the image, as Apache::Gallery's default template footer contains Apache::Gallery's copyright. I didn't notice that during the 7 day deletion review period because I rarely log into Wikipedia.

A few days ago, I noticed the deletion and asked for a Deletion Review. I assumed that my explanation that the copyright notice was for Apache::Gallery would be understood (or at least believed), and that at least the original reason for the deletion would be seen to be invalid. Instead, during the process I was questioned as to whether I actually took the picture, why I used GPLv2+ for the pictures, whether I was claiming other people's images, and whether the image was actually good enough to be in Wikipedia in the first place. Hundreds of lines of text, an edit to the template in A::G, hours wasted, people still unsatisfied, and the potential contributor (myself) feeling so annoyed with the entire process that I bothered to write this blog entry.

While I'm not sure what to do about Wikipedia, I've been forcibly reminded of how important enabling easy contributions are, and how alienated one can feel when one is stymied by them to the point that your (admittedly insignificant) contribution to a project no longer seems worth the effort.