2019: Next steps

We’re excited to announce that our recent Project Grant proposal has been approved. 🙂 This means there will be lots of improvements coming up in 2019, with focus on improving stability and the upload experience for users.

Our first priority will be rewriting the legacy backend code to adhere to modern standards and reduce complexity (especially the network layer, which currently uses a deprecated API). This is aimed at resolving a few major lingering bugs (especially upload failures for a few users), as well as creating a solid technical foundation to base future improvements on. Several new features are slated for release after that, including filters and bookmarks for the “Nearby places that needs pictures” feature, a pause and resume function for uploads, and a “limited connection” mode.

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported us thus far, especially in the last rocky year! 🙂 At the conclusion of this grant, we hope to deliver a much better app to you.

2019: Next steps

v2.10 beta

New features

Search for (and upload pictures for) places that need pictures in any location

Don’t you just hate it when you go on a photo trip, take photos of places that need pictures, then go back home… and you can’t upload those photos via Nearby because you’re not near those places anymore? We agree. We have now implemented a “search this area” feature in Nearby that allows you to search any location for places that need pictures, and upload photos for them.

To reduce vandalism, we have also implemented a check where the coordinates of a photo  being uploaded via Nearby are compared against the coordinates of the place that needs pictures. If they are very different, a warning will pop up, reminding the user of this and asking if they are sure that they want to proceed.

News about ongoing campaigns

We have been wanting to integrate campaigns into the app for a long time now, and finally took the first step in this direction. During campaign periods, users will see a message on the main screen of the app about the active campaign, and tapping the message will bring them to the campaign page. Just like the “nearest place that needs pictures” message above it, swiping this message will remove it from the main screen, and it will not be displayed anymore unless the user re-enables it in Settings.

Implementation of this feature was surprisingly tricky, as we were unable to find any upstream APIs that we could access with a clear start and end date, even just for major global campaigns. We eventually decided to create a “campaigns” repository containing a JSON file with the information that we needed. Currently we have only added WLE and WLM to the file, but we welcome pull requests from anyone who would like to add to it. Other improvements that we are hoping to implement in the future are country-specific support, and full campaign upload integration.

(Yes, the WLM dates for the screenshot above are wrong. We had to temporarily change the dates in order to take the screenshot, as there is no campaign running currently. 😉 If you look at the latest alpha version of the app now, you will not see any campaigns. However, you will see them once the next campaign becomes active.)

Easily re-upload failed uploads

Users can now re-upload failed uploads directly through their main screen by tapping the “retry” button, or remove the failed upload from their contributions list by tapping the “cancel” button. Also, if we are able to detect the reason for a failed upload (for instance, an authentication error), we will display a Toast explaining the reason and suggesting steps that the user can take to fix it.

We do understand that this does not solve the underlying problem. There are plans to overhaul the way the app handles authentication tokens, as well as plans to save upload progress when a connection is lost. However, those changes are not trivial and will take a lot of time to implement, so we hope that this improvement will tide users over until that can be done.

Other improvements

New Medium blog

We have a new Medium blog, for those who prefer to read updates via Medium – https://medium.com/@commons_android_app ! 🙂 If you prefer this blog instead, no fear – we intend to update both.

Optimized Nearby loading

The Nearby Places feature should load much more quickly now! Give it a whirl. 🙂

Alpha testing

Announcing: Our new, automated alpha testing system! 🙂

For the first time, users can easily access our development builds via alpha releases. Rather than having to wait for a Play Store release that is painstakingly tested and deployed by the devs, by signing up for alpha testing you can access all (or at least, most) code changes as they come in, with only a delay of a few hours.

It may be worth noting that these builds may be unstable sometimes, with a higher risk of bugs and crashes than beta test versions. Also, the automated nature of releases means that alpha testers will usually be getting updates every day or even several times per day, so be sure to set up Google Play to only download updates on Wi-Fi.

If none of that deters you, feel free to sign up! Testing the app takes a lot of our time and resources, and we greatly appreciate any help with that. If you find any issues, please report them here and mention that you are using the alpha build.

How to sign up for alpha testing:

  1. Under the Google account associated with your phone and Google Play, join this Google Group: https://groups.google.com/d/forum/commons-alpha
  2. Still under the same Google account, go to https://play.google.com/apps/testing/fr.free.nrw.commons/join and join the test program (if it says you have already joined, then skip this step)
  3. Check the “About” page of the app – the app’s version number should display something like The Play Store listing will still tell you that you are a “beta tester” (a Google Play bug that we cannot do anything about).
A more beginner-friendly Nearby package

We have added Javadocs and tidied up the code in the Nearby package, to make it more accessible to new volunteer developers. 🙂 If you’re contemplating dipping your toes into open source development for the first time, you are most welcome to drop by our repository and take a look. This volunteer guide in our wiki is a great way to start!

v2.10 beta

Commons app Project Grant proposal

Hi folks,

Hope you’ve all been well! 🙂 We (the Commons app team) are applying for a Project Grant to fund the development of v3.0 of the Commons Android app. At the moment, we’re approaching completion of our 2nd Individual Engagement Grant, having implemented several major new features, e.g. a revamped map of “nearby places that need photos” with direct uploads and Wikidata integration, user talk notifications, browsing of other Commons pictures with focus on featured images, and 2FA logins. We currently have 4000+ active installs, and 15,000+ distinct images uploaded via our app have been used in Wikimedia articles. In the last 6 months alone, 21,241 files were uploaded via our app, and only 1738 (8.2%) of those files required deletion. We are also proud to report that we have a vibrant, diverse community of volunteers on our GitHub repository, and that we have increased our global user coverage since our first grant.

It has been a rocky road this year, however. One of the major issues we faced was that a large portion of our codebase is based on sparsely-documented legacy code from the very first incarnation of the app 5 years ago (a long time in the Android development world), leading to unpredictable behavior and bugs. We eventually found ourselves in a position where new features built on top of legacy code were causing other features to not work correctly, and even fixes to those problems sometimes had side effects that caused other problems. (My sincerest apologies to users for the inconveniences that they were caused!)

In view of that, our Project Grant proposal focuses on these areas:

  • Increasing app stability and code quality: We plan to overhaul our legacy backend to adhere to modern best practices, reduce complexity and dependencies in our codebase, and introduce test-driven development for the first time.
  • Targeted acquisition of photos for places that need them: The “Nearby places that need photos” feature has come a long way, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. We plan to introduce new quality-of-life features (e.g. by implementing filters and bookmarks) and fix a few outstanding bugs to make it more user-friendly and convenient to use. We will also complete the final link in the chain of collecting photos for Wikipedia articles that lack them by prompting users to add their recently-uploaded photo to the relevant Wikipedia article.
  • Increasing user acquisition in the Global South: We plan to implement a “limited connectivity” mode, allow pausing and resuming of uploads, and put more time and effort into outreach and socializing the app, especially to underrepresented communities.
  • We also wish to continue to assist the Commons community to reduce vandalism and improve usability of images uploaded. This will be done by implementing selfie detection, and a “to-do” system that reminds users if an image lacks a description/categories.

Your feedback is important to us! Please do take a look at our proposal, and feel free to let us know what you think on the Discussion page, and/or endorse the proposal if you see fit. If you would like to be part of the project, new volunteers and additions to our diverse team are always welcome – please visit our GitHub repository and say “Hi”. 🙂

We want to thank everyone who has cheered us on and supported us throughout the years. As a community-maintained app, we wouldn’t be here without you.

Commons app Project Grant proposal

Version 2.9 beta

Version 2.9 of the Commons app is out for beta testing on the Google Play Store! \o/ You can register for beta testing here. If you experience any bugs or crashes, or if you find any aspect of the new features to be unwieldy, please do let us know on GitHub. There are several extensive UI changes in this patch, but with your help, we hope to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone.

New features

New main screen UI

Our new main screen UI features a more prominent Nearby tab and a floating action button for uploads. It also displays the nearest place that needs pictures (if location permissions and GPS are enabled), and alerts you if you have user talk messages that have not been read.

New upload UI with multiple uploads

You can now do multiple uploads within the app itself, without needing to use the stock gallery workaround! You will need to input a title and description for every image, but can select categories once for all. This design decision was reached because we did not want to risk vandalism where someone uploads their entire camera roll in one shot, but we also wanted to provide some conveniences for genuine multiple uploaders. We may reconsider this in the future depending on feedback.

Oh, and we have a new upload UI! 🙂

“Send Log file” option

We have revamped the “send log file” feature, which was not generating anything useful previously. If you are experiencing a bug, it would help us greatly with solving it if you send us your log file shortly after the bug occurs. To do this, go to Settings > Send Log file, and follow the instructions there. As mentioned in the subtext, please note that this may potentially reveal identifying information about yourself to us, so only do this if you are comfortable with that possibility. Logs are sent to a private mailing list that only developers who have signed a NDA with WMF can access, and we have made every effort to sanitize the logs. However, things like your location etc may still be revealed in them.

Major bugfixes

Fixed issues with wrong “image taken” date

There was a bug with v2.8.x releases where the upload date was used in the date template of images, instead of the date the image was taken. This has now been fixed.

Fixed default zoom level in Nearby map

Previously, the default zoom level in the Nearby map was too high, meaning that you would need to zoom in a lot before the map was usable. It should now be fixed to a more reasonable level.


Version 2.9 beta

Commons app – version 2.7 beta release

Version 2.7 of the Commons app has just been released for beta testing on the Google Play Store! \o/ Please feel free to register for beta testing if you would like to help test the new features. If you experience any bugs or crashes, or if you find any aspect of the new features to be unwieldy, please do let us know on GitHub.

New features

New “Nearby places that need pictures” UI with direct uploads (and associated category suggestions)

You can now upload a photo directly from the map or list of nearby places that need pictures! Below are screenshots of my workflow for uploading a photo of “Queen Street Mall”:

  1. Go to the map of Nearby Places and select the corresponding pin from there, or the corresponding item from the list
  2. Tap the camera or gallery button, and select or take an image as usual
  3. The title and description of the image is automatically pre-filled in the next screen, but you can edit it if you wish
  4. If that item has a Commons category associated with it, that category will be on the top of the list of suggested categories


Enabled two-factor authentication login

Power users with two-factor authentication enabled for their account can now log in to those accounts via our app.

Added Notifications activity to display Commons user talk messages

Any user talk messages that you received can now be viewed via the “Notifications” screen (can be accessed via the navigation drawer).

Added real-time location tracking in Nearby

The map of Nearby places should now track your real-time position, moving your marker on the map as you move.

Improvements to UI of navigation drawer, tutorial, media details view, login activity and Settings

Added option to nominate picture for deletion in media details view

You can now nominate (your own) pictures for deletion in the media details view.

Also, too many crashes and bug fixes to mention!

Various crashes and bugs that are commonly encountered should have been fixed in the latest version. If you encounter any further crashes, please send feedback to us in the popup dialog.

Join our community

We have had a record number of contributors to our GitHub repository last month! 🙂 If you are interested in joining a diverse community of volunteers and grantees to work on the Commons app, check us out on GitHub. Both technical and non-technical contributors are greatly appreciated – non-technical contributions may involve testing, translations, patrolling, or writing documentation. More information for new contributors can be found in our GitHub wiki.

Coming up next….

  • Wikidata edits – uploading an image via Nearby will add it to the p18 property of the associated Wikidata item and remove that item from Nearby
  • A showcase of featured images
  • Multiple uploads
  • New UI for the main screen

A huge thank you to everyone who has supported us thus far! ❤

Commons app – version 2.7 beta release

Commons app – our plans for the next 6 months

We are excited to announce our (tentative) plans for the Wikimedia Commons app for the next 6 months! 🙂

A little background: The Wikimedia Commons app was funded via an Individual Engagement Grant (IEG) last year. Several new features and improvements were made to the app over the course of the previous grant. Examples include a list and map of nearby places that need photos (based on Wikidata), category suggestions based on the image title, prevention of duplicate uploads, and a new tutorial to educate new users on what types of photos should or should not be uploaded. 20554 new files were uploaded via the app during the grant period with an overall deletion rate of 15.74% (11.7% in the final two weeks after the new tutorial was implemented), and 3485 images that were uploaded via the app were used in Wikimedia articles.

While we are very happy with the progress made, users have requested many other improvements that we would like to make but were not able to fit into the scope of the previous grant. Thus we are proposing a renewal of the IEG in order to work on these. Highlights of the proposed improvements include:

Mock-up of the planned new UI
  • Enhancing the “Nearby places that need photos” feature by (1) allowing users to upload their image directly from a location on the list or map, with suggested title and categories based on the associated Wikidata item, and (2) displaying the user’s real-time position on the map to allow easier navigation to the location they wish to photograph
  • Improving user education by displaying Commons account and user talk notifications (e.g. picture nominated for deletion) in the app, adding a gallery of featured images, and adding various notices and explanations in the upload screen
  • A sleeker, more intuitive, and more interactive user interface – a floating action button for uploads, “Nearby places that need photos” in a tab alongside the user’s contributions, and a panel to display Commons account notifications and information about the nearest place that needs photos
  • Various technical and quality-of-life improvements, such as two-factor authentication login, multiple uploads, preventing overwrites, and fixing memory leaks and battery drain issues


We would very much appreciate feedback and suggestions on the renewal proposal. Please do take a look at it, feel free to ask questions and make new suggestions on the Discussion page, and/or endorse the proposal if you see fit. If you would like to be part of the project, new volunteers and additions to our diverse team are always welcome – please visit our GitHub repository or Google groups forum and say “Hi”. 🙂

Commons app – our plans for the next 6 months

Wikimedia Hackathon Vienna 2017 & Prague pre-hackathon

Had a blast at the Wikimedia Hackathon in Vienna! 🙂 A few of us also got together for a pre-hackathon in Prague a few days before the start of the hackathon, courtesy of our hosts (Wikimedia Czech Republic).

Prague pre-hackathon


We worked together from the 12th to the 16th of May in Wikimedia Czech Republic’s co-working office. 5 days and several svíčkovás later, we produced:

A map of nearby places that need pictures!

Every pin on that map is a Wikidata item that needs pictures. You can scroll around and browse, or you can select an item to get more information about it, or directions to it. (Many thanks to Mapbox for their API)



Also… a navigation drawer!

So very much better than using an overflow menu in the action bar. ‘Nuff said.

Users can now view the coordinates of their uploaded image, and date of upload.

Also, we added a logout option, and are now giving users the option of choosing how many of their previous uploads they would like to view on the main screen.

Flyers were created to publicize the app in the hackathon, videos were made, breathtaking sights were seen… oh, and Adam wrote a blog post covering the pre-hackathon, too.

Commons Uploader flyer

Wikimedia Hackathon Vienna


After a short break, we met up again (in Vienna this time!) for the Wikimedia Hackathon (19 – 21 May). While we possibly weren’t as prolific during the hackathon, some memories that stand out in my mind include:

  • Learning how to detect and fix memory issues in our app from Dmitry Brant (Wikipedia Android app team).
  • Introducing new contributors to working on the app – Adam Baso and Fitos made their first commits on our Android app GitHub repo (welcome guys!)
  • Being given UI help and pointers by Rita and Pau
  • The tremendous amount of support shown by the community during our slot at the open mic and showcase 🙂
  • Being taken around Vienna by Praveen and Tobias on the final night, including an amazing Italian dinner
  • Realizing that no matter how excited I am about a new patch, I should NOT push anything to production without going through beta (oops. sorry all those who crashed!)


Thank you

To the folks at Wikimedia Czech Republic (Vojtech, Jan, Petra, Martin, and others) who tirelessly worked to make the pre-hackathon happen, hosted us in their office, helped us with whatever we needed and showed us around Prague: Thank you.

To my team who put up with me at the pre-hackathon and hackathon (Neslihan, Vivek, Dinu, Tobias, Adam Shorland, John, and hopefully I haven’t forgotten anyone…): Thank you.

To the Wikimedia Hackathon organizers and scholarship committee, and the wonderful people we worked with at the hackathon (Dmitry, Rita, Johann, Pau, Adam Baso, Fitos, etc): Thank you.

It was all amazing, and I hope to do it all over again next year. 🙂

The Commons app is free to use, no ads. You can download it here.

We are resolving a few bugs with the new improvements listed in this post, so the new features are currently only available in beta. Anyone can sign up for beta testing here. When the bugs have been resolved, the new features will be released to everyone.

Wikimedia Hackathon Vienna 2017 & Prague pre-hackathon