Saturday, July 2, 2011

Can't find anything

I have only used the wikimedia commons a few times to try and find images. I always found it to be remarkably hard to find things on it. I always assumed that they simply didn't have enough images. Submitting pictures it became obvious that this is not a problem of too few images, it is a problem of having a silly organization.

Typically when you are searching for something you first check the most general term. Then if you can't find something you go to more and more specific terms until you find it. That just doesn't work in the wikimedia commons though. You can't skim images easily. Lets say you want an image of a scorpion. You don't care about what kind of scorpion, so you type in scorpion into their search engine. You only get four images. It is easy to conclude that they simply don't have many images of scorpions.

If you are more persistent you might try a different key word. Scorpiones does better. Still, you only see ten images of scorpions. Are there only ten images of scorpions?

No, you have to click on one of 18 additional options to find all the images of scorpions. There is no option to see all the scorpion images at once. The system works pretty well if you want to find one particular species of scorpion and has some hope if you want to know pictures of scorpions from a particular country. It completely breaks down if you are just looking for a picture with a particular attribute, say the prettiest picture to put on the scorpion.

This is a shame. Most people would quickly give up and use google to find an image. That would leave them with an image which they probably don't have the legal right to use, while a wikimedia commons image would serve their purpose without being bound by copyright law.

To fix the system all they would need to do is automatically tag each image with every tag above it. For example if you tag a particular scientific name of scorpion, it would add the tag for kingdom, phylum, order, class and so on. Instead the rules of the wikipedia commons specifically say you should not do this. They should only be labeled with the most specific labels you can get.

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