The Snowballing Number of Inuit Words for Snow
An excellent example of the Information Ecology in action is the promulgation of the myth that languages of the Yup'ik family (of which Inuit is a member) have 40 or 100 words for snow, which is an unfortunate misinterpretation of the actual fact (which, carried to its logical conclusion, is also a gross underestimate, the actual number of "Eskimo words for snow" then being about 280,000).
In fact Yup'ik has only a few more morphological units which refer to snow and snowy things than does, say, English (witness: snow, sleet, flurry, blizzard, avalanche). It's the morphilogical structure of Yup'ik which gives rise to the misinterpretation.
The point of this exercise is to try to explore the dynamics of this analogy of the "Information Ecology" with a "real" Ecology. If the only measure of fitness in this Ecology is "accordance with peer-reviewed scientific belief" then this species would have perished before learning how to walk or talk. But there are other "Ecological Niches" to which species can adapt. It is highly entertaining and thought provoking to believe the above myth, and so it gets transmitted quickly.
Here's something I don't know for a fact, but it seems reasonable and I personally would really like to believe it, so I'll share. The Yup'ik work for "snowflake" is "qanuk." When the Yup'ik-speaking people encountered white people for the first time the seemed to be "white as a snowflake" and that's where the term "Canuk" came to refer to Canadians.
Steve Adler expresses some concerns about the robustness of the OSS phenomenon in the face of the uncertain perils lying in wait amongst the other denizens of the ecosystem. Species come and go, and if OSS were to be exterminated by some large ungainly creature (Microsaurus Hex, (Gatus Williamsii) or some such), it's seeds have been irrevocably sown. In particular, the worry of OSS people being attracted into industry should not be seen as sinister. Let industry be exposed to the ideas developed within the OSS community.
The most interesting thing, I think, about the OSS movement, is related to a point that Doug Englebart has been attempting to make for some time now: Markets are very poor at creating and integrating innovations. The OSS movement, in large measure, exists outside the market economy, and, appearing to support Englebart's claims, innovation happens very rapidly. The fact that those innovations can be widely distributed very rapidly, however, seems to me to rely very heavily on the market economy--more and more every day--because the Internet is a growing factor in the market, and growing market pressures will apply. I predict that this single factor could produce the largest obstacles for OSS. OSS encompasses issues which stress market and legal systems developed for agrarian societies, then retrofitted for industrial societies. To develop significant innovation in an industrial setting requires substantial market backing. To innovate in the information age requires a pencil and a pad of paper.
I'd also like to take a paragraph to explore the notion of fragility that seems to be inherent in the discussion. The tone of the comments seem project an asuumption these ecosystems are fragile in a brittle way, and that they can fail catastrophically. That's possible, but not the most likely mode of failure. Because the connections are tenuous and fleeting (people leave jobs or die. IP routers burst into flame, The "Y Ought Naught" problem, etc) the whole is more like water than glass. And, as often happens, (GNOME/KDE as an example) water can be divided into to separate vessels and retain all it's properties. It can also effortlessly be rejoined. And, introduced into more brittle substances, like rock, can rend them asunder.
Too, the "Information Ecology" is subservient to the "Earthly Ecology" so, try to tend to both if you care about either. (And who knows what the Earthly Ecology is subservient to. I know that's part of what Steve and his colleagues are trying to find out)