There is this thing called "stigmergy" that was originally discovered when researching termites, but is also common among ants, bees, wiki users and open source developers. The idea is simple: instead of agreeing up front on some grand plan, everyone just looks around them and does what remains to be done locally, based on what is already done, and what pheromones or code comments are lying around. The end result sometimes looks gnarly and has some spurious elements, but works very well.

There is however one problem with stigmergy: it is sensitive to outside influence. Most of the time that's good: you want the design to adapt to the circumstances. But if you know how it works, an outside force can have a lot of control over the whole project by just disrupting how a few of the agents work. Ants will follow sugar instead of pheromones, and people will follow whatever incentives are placed in front of them. This way you can do a lot by expending very little resources of your own.

But what would you even want to do with such a project? Well, the possibilities are many. Stunting it, so it never becomes a serious competitor of yours is the simplest thing, but you can do so much more. If you get a hold of a programming language or a framework, you can "move fast and break things" — meaning everyone who uses it, has to spend most of their development time just adapting to incompatible changes, or their software stop working. This also prevents accumulation of good software.


This is very important for open source software, as it is usually developed very slowly, but gradually improves over the years, accumulating both stability and features. It wins in the long run. But if you manage to disrupt that accumulation, suddenly the project finds itself in a red queen race — you have to run as fast as you can just to stay in one place!

@isziaui I wanted to make it a lightning talk, this toot was to gauge the interest and maybe find reasons not to do it. The response was positive, so I went ahead with it. Now probably half of the developers hate me, but what can one do.

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