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This submission has been noted and is pending review for WikiConference North America 2019.


Becoming a Reliable Source: Writing for Off-Wiki Publication


Reliability of Information

Type of session:



Writing nonfiction work for mainstream publication is a world where NOT everyone can edit and there IS a deadline. But the process of creating and editing Wikipedia articles makes you into a solid writer. You have a skillset that can create content of value in the off-wiki world. Our skills in assessing research, determining the reliability of source material, critically reviewing our work and that of others are valuable to a publisher.

Many Wikipedians who create new content or seek to improve existing articles often lament the dearth of reliable source material for certain topics. An editor who develops a strong knowledge base can also be faced with a dilemma: the need to find good, reliable research material where little exists beyond obscure primary sources — colliding with Wikipedia’s necessary restriction on original research and synthesis.

Just as many Wikipedia writers become contributors to Commons by taking photographs to fill in the empty illustration gaps in articles, one solution to a lack of source material is to go off-wiki to write, thus, with luck, to create a reliable source! Publishing new information is a way to contribute to the world’s knowledge. Future Wikipedia projects may benefit not only from your end work, but also from in-depth research you perform along the way.

After bringing multiple Wikipedia articles to Featured Article Status, I first brought together my Montana History and Horse knowledge to create some magazine articles. From this seed grew a desire to write a book. The end result was an accepted proposal, a finished manuscript, and an actual hardcopy book published in July 2019.

Along the way, I discovered forgotten people in Montana history, filled in some significant gaps that had been overlooked or unexamined by previous researchers, busted multiple myths, and in the process, located source material to correct and improve several Wikipedia articles.

By using the skills honed by writing for Wikipedia and contributing images to Commons we can create what may well be a reliable source for future writers.

Wikipedians can build upon their skills to take passion for a topic to print. Where little work has been published, an experienced Wikimedian can fill in the empty gaps in the world’s knowledge, and we are well-positioned to do so.

This presentation will walk through the process of development of an idea into a book-length finished work, discussing the perils and pitfalls along the way, from finding a publisher to getting to a final draft with a discussion of how the Wikimedia movement and editors can nurture and grow valuable contributions to the world’s knowledge both on and off wiki.

A link to my book is here: https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467140324

Google Books excerpt here: https://books.google.com/books?id=PGOoDwAAQBAJ

Academic Peer Review option:


Author name:

Brenda Wahler

E-mail address:


Wikimedia username:


Affiliated organization(s):

Estimated time:

30 minutes

Preferred room size:

30-50, larger OK if attendance warrants.

Special requests:

Projector and HDMI cable

Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?:

I have given about six programs across Montana about various chapters in my book between November 2018 and the present

If your submission is not accepted, would you be open to presenting your topic in another part of the program? (e.g. lightning talk or unconference session)