Q and A with Nathan Yergler for Mozilla Drumbeat

This is my full Q and A with Nathan Yergler, the CTO of Creative Commons. The summary was published on the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival blog.


What are you going to do in Barcelona?

I’m coming to Barcelona for both Drumbeat and OpenEd. At OpenEd I’ll be presenting a paper on OER search and discovery that talks about the issues with OER search, and how Creative Commons has been trying to address those. In particular, there are some strong similarities between issues Creative Commons faced before Google, Yahoo, and others adopted CC-license search, and the issues currently facing the OER community. I think those similarities uniquely position us to work on some of the issues and try to bring together people from all parts of
the community. At Drumbeat I’ll be participating in the Open Content Studio.

This will be my first trip to Spain, so in addition to presenting my paper at OpenEd and participating in Drumbeat, I’m hoping to find time to enjoy the food and check out the Picasso Museum.

Who are you most excited to meet up with in Barcelona?

A big issue with making OER search work is figuring out just what constitutes an OER. We’ve been addressing that by developing tools for distributed curation: tools that allow experts in specific areas to identify resources that are the best for them. Curators might be people publishing and creating OER, remixing OER, or just straight up
making a list of the OER that works best for them. I’m really looking forward to meeting people in Barcelona who are currently involved in curation so I can better understand how they’re working, and how their effort can benefit the community as a whole.

What do you think is the most exciting thing happening today w/ learning and the web?

I think the most exciting thing on the web today with respect to learning is the potential for remix and reuse. Right now we’re seeing lots of people publish OER and educational materials, but it’s not clear that we’re getting this cycle of reuse and remix that would really scale the impact. So I think that this potential is the most exciting thing, and I’m really interested in figuring out what the bottlenecks are and how we can eliminate them.

What are your expectations of the Festival given its somewhat unique approach?

The Festival seems like a great opportunity to connect with people from a variety of backgrounds who bring unique perspectives to the idea of the open web. I’m not certain what the outcome will be, since it does have a unique format, but I expect that these connections will be one of the most valuable outcomes.

What have been your highlights in your time as CTO at CC?

I think one of the highlights of my time at CC has been that I’ve been around long enough to see a lot of our early bets proved correct. The biggest of these bets — that decentralized, linked data was the most scalable, sustainable way to describe the license of a work — was proved correct when commercial search providers started indexing
linked data and allowing you to query it. We’ve been able to take this model and build a variety of interesting things on top of it, including copyright registries and curation tools. Seeing people get excited about linked data isn’t something I’d have expected when I started at CC six years ago, but it’s really gratifying.

What does the term ‘open web’ mean to you?

An “open web” is one where anyone can build tools and applications for any user to use, where the protocols and specs are freely available and unencumbered by software patents.