Creating and Sustaining Commons

Posted on September 28, 2014 by Marko Dimjašević

Ever since I got hooked on ideas of emancipation and solidarity by learning about free software, I’ve wanted to give back by writing free software and in general making other things such as art and writing a common good. That’s what is called social production. When I create, I draw from pools of creative commons and then give the outcomes back to the community to be used, studied, modified, and distributed, all with the four essential cultural work freedoms. So I translated part of the KDE desktop environment from English to Croatian, I’ve been writing some software, sharing my photos under free culture licenses, adding and improving my hometown on the free as in freedom world map OpenStreetMap… but I’ve never contributed a single word, a pixel, or a sound to Wikipedia.

Photography by Lane Hartwell

“Anyone can put Wikipedia in the palms of his or her hands, including you. All you need to do is simply edit an article.”

Therefore, according to the quote associated with the above photo of the Wikipedia puzzle globe held in hands, I never did that — I never held Wikipedia in my hands. That makes me feel uneasy. Just like pretty much every other netizen, I use Wikipedia daily. I use it 100 times a day. Maybe even more, I can’t tell. It’s there for me whenever I need to look up something, and I am looking up something all the time. Even while writing this blog post, I looked up Wikipedia and its sister projects like Wiktionary and Wikimedia Commons so many times. All of them form an incredibly rich source of knowledge and inspiration. Have you heard of a piece of software called MediaWiki? That’s the software that serves you not just articles from the above listed projects into your browser, but from thousands of other web pages. MediaWiki is free software, which is no wonder. The whole Wikipedia is based on free software principles.

So, I’ve been simply using what millions of volunteers have been writing and adding together to Wikipedia without making a dent myself. A few years ago I’d decided to put an end to the unease — since then I’ve been donating money to the Wikimedia Foundation. The foundation is the non-profit charitable organization behind Wikipedia and its sister projects. People in the foundation don’t write articles on Wikipedia; that’s what netizens do. Instead, they provide a valuable service by running the projects and their infrastructure. Wikipedia is used by millions of people, with 10 – 20 billion page views every month, which makes it the #5 website in the world. To keep it running, the foundation needs both the people and the infrastructure.

It feels good to make a donation to such an amazing cause. Wikipedia is the knowledge library of the Internet. As Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia Founder, has put it: “It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind. It is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others.” Wikipedia is an astonishing achievement of the mankind. It is a creative commons good.

I’ve donated to the Wikimedia Foundation again a few days ago. It’s a small amount, but that is okay because so many other people donate money too, which makes it possible to meet the foundation’s multimillion donation needs year after year. Have you donated this year? Even if you do create and edit articles on Wikipedia, consider making a donation to sustain the truly awesome project.

Should I also finally start editing Wikipedia articles? I definitely should and I am going to!