The Yahouyhnhnms Are Coming

By Tom Peters |

There are so many organizations involved—ten at the time of the initial press release—in the Open Content Alliance that it's difficult to tell how each organization will be involved. At the very least, Yahoo probably will be a major financial backer and a major (if not the primary) distributor of the content. One way to understand the OCA is as Yahoo's response to the Google Library Project.

If kids who use Yahoo are called "Yahooligans," I suppose we could call the future users of the OCA collection "Yahouyhnhnms." Like the Yahoos in Jonathan Swift's book, Gulliver's Travels, the coming Yahouyhnhnms will be using a major resource involving for-profit companies, advertising revenue, governments, and other Yahooish, all-too-Yahooish pursuits. On the other hand, these coming users also will be interested in books, reason, and the life of the mind—Houyhnhnmish pursuits.

I wonder how the academic tribe as whole will accept these Yahouyhnhnms? Will it be acceptable for lower division undergraduates to use and cite OCA content, but not graduate students and scholars? Will libraries need to help create the metadata and other tools of intellectual access into this content?