I attended a lecture last night on Biomimicry - studying and emulating natural systems to find sustainable solutions to design problems. In one of her examples, she talked about how bacteria commune with each other.
The phenomenon is called "quorum sensing". A few bacteria will land on a surface and immediately begin emitting a chemical that attracts other bacteria. If no others join them, they'll move on.
I was already thinking about mySpace, having just read this interesting Chartreuse post on the subject, but the obvious connection between the way a bacterial colony grows and the way a social networking site gets hot made me realize something:
The users that flock to mySpace and before that to Friendster may be fickle, but that doesn't mean that their behavior isn't predictable. Our communities mimic natural systems that biologists have been studying for generations.
It also made me realize that being new isn't the only way to attract some bacteria to a networking site. As long as you can figure out the right core users to keep happy, they'll go right on emitting their chemicals.
By the way, if my brain wasn't so shamefully ensconced in this stuff, I probably would have written about the natural ventilation systems they're building based on termite mounds or the glueless tape they're developing from the technology on salamanders' feet. Pretty cool...