Why is open source so fast?

While most projects move at the pace of the slowest team member, open source projects proceed at the pace of the fastest one and that, when more people are added, things move even faster.

UC Davis, best-known perhaps for its excellent veterinary program (go Aggies) has gotten a $750,000 grant to tackle one of computing's great mysteries -- why does open source development go so fast?

Premkumar Devanbu is heading up the team, and told reporters that while most projects move at the pace of the slowest team member, open source projects proceed at the pace of the fastest one and that, when more people are added, things move even faster.

The team will include professors of engineering and management as well as the computer science department, the school says.

Devanbu thinks the organizational structure of projects like Apache, Python and PostgreSQL can offer clues others can use. So they will go through message boards, bug reports and e-mail discussions and try to find common threads that can be woven into generalizations.

What are they likely to find? If I were to guess, a different leadership style based on the old maxim "there is no end to what a man can do if he doesn't care who gets the credit."

Or they could find that there is something in the organizational structure. Usually such projects are organized around a few key "committers" with the bulk of the code farmed-out to the community.

Who knows? What do you think they will find?