In October 2003, our website redesign included a new page called Technology Challenges, where we invited volunteer developers to tackle some tough coding projects that could help the cause. Within a couple of weeks, some dude named Nathan Yergler had picked a couple of formidable challenges off like sitting ducks.
First was CCMoz, the Firefox browser plug-in that detects our machine-readable licenses and displays the legal information by icon in the browser progress bar. This means that if you’re looking at a page of photographs, for example, that carries one of our “Some Rights Reserved” icons, you can glance at the browser footer and know how you can legally use the photos without clicking through to the license. The CCMoz plug-in makes an author’s intentions instantly transparent, further reducing the transaction costs of creative re-use online.
Next, Nathan built CCValidate, which takes the next step for the code-savvy: it confirms that the machine-readable license is kosher. It’s sort of like a spell-check for metadata. Which frankly, given my tech literacy, is beyond me, but people tell me it’s really cool. (I dig spell-checkers, even in languages I don’t understand, so I sort of get it.)
Pretty soon it was clear we just had to hire the guy. And since then he’s only continued to crank.
Next, with Neeru’s and Mike’s and Matt’s guidance, Nathan built CCPublisher, the tool that could become the coolest of all Creative Commons apps. Already, Publisher lets anyone running Windows or Mac or Linux to simply drag and drop a music or video file they want to Creative Commons license onto a desktop icon, which then does three things: (1) It offers you the copyright license of your choice, (2) embeds the corresponding metadata into the file, and (3) zaps the newly freed bundle of creative joy off to the almighty Internet Archive, where it is hosted, in perpetuity, for FREE. You have no website? You have no clue how use FTP? Who cares. Use CCPublisher. Get your work seen and heard. Pay nothing. Have a beer. Toast to Nathan Yergler. And watch as Publisher gets slicker still and extends to handle a wider range of file formats in the coming months. (With more cool tools in the works.)
I’ve met Nathan face-to-face only twice, as he telecommutes from Indiana, and I look forward to the day when we can convince him to up and move into the Creative Commons lair in San Francisco. In person I’ve learned Nathan also has a great sense of humor. Or at least he always seems to laugh heartily when I say things. Which could have many interpretations, now that I think of it.
Whatever the explanation for that last bit — thanks, Nathan, for everything.
PS — If you’re in a company that needs a ridiculously good coder, I hope you have the pleasure of working with Nathan. But not just yet. He belongs to the Commons for now.
Pass a fond word on to Nathan.