Determinism and evolution

TitleDeterminism and evolution
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsGonzález-Barahona, JM, Robles, G, Herraiz, I
Tertiary AuthorsHassan, AE, Lanza, M, Godfrey, MW
Secondary TitleProceedings of the 2008 international workshop on Mining software repositories - MSR '08
Date Published05/2008
PublisherACM Press
Place PublishedNew York, New York, USA
ISBN Number9781605580241
Keywordschanges, evolution, source code, sourceforge

It has been proposed that software evolution follows a Self-Organized Criticality (SOC) dynamics. This fact is supported by the presence of long range correlations in the time series of the number of changes made to the source code over time. Those long range correlations imply that the current state of the project was determined time ago. In other words, the evolution of the software project is governed by a sort of determinism. But this idea seems to contradict intuition. To explore this apparent contradiction, we have performed an empirical study on a sample of 3,821 libre (free, open source) software projects, finding that their evolution projects is short range correlated. This suggests that the dynamics of software evolution may not be SOC, and therefore that the past of a project does not determine its future except for relatively short periods of time, at least for libre software.

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