Monday, March 17, 2008

Bad pictures?

While some say that too many pictures can detract, a picture, any picture, can really add a lot to a Wikipedia article, I think. Compare this version of "Walker (machine)" with this version ... (actually finding where the article on this topic (legged vehicles) was located in the first place may be the subject of a different post, it was a chore). False modesty aside, the picture adds a fair bit of interest to the reader, I think, as well as giving illustration to some of the points made in the article.

I've been sitting on that picture for the better part of two years. It was taken in April 2006 when I visited the U.S. Army Transportation Museum ... see "procrastination" for part of why I sat on it... the other part of why? It's just not a very good picture.. it's blurry, the machine is out of focus, there are distracting elements in the background, the entire machine is not in the picture, the angle is bad, and so on. In fact, it hits most of the reasons why pictures fail to become rated as Quality Images (much less Featured Pictures, which has much stricter standards) at Commons. So that held me back, I was embarrassed.

However, I've realized that I believe what many probably already knew to be true... A bad picture is better than no picture. If you have a free image that would illustrate a previously unillustrated article, use it. The article will be better, and perhaps someone else will be spurred to add a better one to replace it. Another case in point, the U.S. Army Transportation Museum article itself. Compare this version (no pictures) with this version (bad pictures)... a noticable improvement (I added a lot of other stuff as well, to be sure). But that's not the end of the story. Someone else found and uploaded a better picture of the Liberty truck to produce this version. Now, the reason they saw the article is probably the Did You Know process (another blog post topic!) but the point is, they saw my crappy picture, and improved on it.

So then, if you have freely licensed pictures, don't be bashful. Add them to articles that have no pictures, and either they will improve the article, or they will be replaced by a BETTER picture, also improving the article. You can keep your fair use ones, Wikipedia has enough of those as it is. :)


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