Self-organized criticality in code repositories

Conference Date
Lyon, France
Date Published
September 2017
Conference Date: 2017, Vol. 14, Pages 545-552.
(doi: 10.7551/ecal_a_087)
© 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license
Article PDF (1.88 MB)

Software development teams eventually become complex systems reaching a critical state, a fact that has already been proved by several researchers. This state, reached by self-organization, is characterized by three conditions applied to the sequence of changes: a scale-free structure, long-distance correlations, and so-called pink noise. In this paper, we use a new methodology to measure whether this self-organized critical (SOC) state actually exists. Instead of focusing in a single and long-running project as is usual, we will rather work on 16 different repositories with different sizes and ages, and use a novel, more natural and precise methodology to examine the sizes of changes. Our research shows that in all 16 repositories analyzed, at least one of the SOC characteristics exists, and most of them exhibit all three, which leads us to think that SOC is more widespread in software development than previously thought and that very few initial conditions might be needed to reach it.