So lately I've been trying to understand open source licensing options for software code, which is hard, because I'm not a coder. (If I don't understand an xkcd, it's almost always because it's some sort of Python joke.)
Anyway, Michael Ogawa made some videos a few years back depicting the growth of various projects (Python, Apache) as various developers came on board and committed code to the pool. His Python video is fascinating; it starts in 1991 with Guido van Rossum, who slowly attracts other developers. Through 2000, you can easily watch individual participants come in and out of the project. But in 2000 - about 3 minutes into the video - the popularity of the language takes off, and the names and clusters of lights (representing documentation, core, and modules) become frenzied. Then Guido is hired by Google, and it looks like a bunch of fireworks:
Ogawa's Apache video is similar, but it doesn't start out as a one-man show, and the participants are more classically internetizen-esque (a developer with the handle "rodent of unusual size" is a prominent player, and "life is hard, and then you die" shows up a bit later). The fireworks also start much sooner:
Jamie Wilkinson has done something similar with Wikipedia edits. Here's a "Wikiswarm" visualization of the edits to Barack Obama's wiki page over the period of October 2005-November 2008:
As with the Apache swarm, there are some interesting names at work - "Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters" stands out - but the really interesting thing is how a ring of regular editors close in around the page over time. I'm guessing (but only guessing) that's to maintain its integrity as Obama the politician grew more popular and his page became a bigger target.
You can learn more about code_swarm at code_swarm. (The code_swarm code itself is open licensed under GPLv3, but I doubt it'll ever get big enough to produce one of these videos.)
Thanks to Miles for the links!
PS. Matt also suggests this video, in which Michael Ogawa discusses his code_swarm project: