Martin Peacock sent me a link to this fascinating study of ant behavior in The International Herald Tribune. The article tracks the research of Iain Couzin on ants, locusts, and even humans and their instinct and ability to swarm.
While it doesn't call out open source specifically, I found the "follow-the-leader" behavior corresponds nicely to the forking of open-source projects. Despite the talk about the importance of the fork to open source, we actually rarely see it happen. Why? Probably because the group inertia is such a strong force:
Couzin and his colleagues have built a model of the flow of information through swarms. Each individual has to balance two instincts: to stay with the group and to move in a desired direction. The scientists found that just a few leaders can guide a swarm effectively. They do not even need to send any special signals to the animals around them. They create a bias in the swarm's movement that steers it in a particular direction....… Read more