What’s going on with GameStop right now got me thinking about the relevance to what we do in KDE.
For those not closely following it, here’s what’s happening: a small army of individual investors has purchased as many shares of the GameStop company as possible, calling the bluff of several large hedge funds that bet against GameStop by selling borrowed shares, mistakenly borrowing more shares than actually exist. Oops. A lot of these individual investors used a popular trading app named Robinhood, which it turns out is controlled by one of the companies betting against GameStop. So yesterday, Robinhood prohibited buying more GameStop shares, only selling. This drove the price lower and allowed some of the hedge funds to get out at a lower price than they otherwise would have had to accept, and reduced the value of Robinhood’s own users’ GameStop shares.
The people using Robinhood–whose name seems pretty ironic in retrospect–believed they could trust its owners to be good stewards of their money and investment desires, but this turned out to be false: when the owners were caught between serving their users and serving themselves, they chose the latter.
It got me thinking about platform stewardship. When things are going well, it’s easy to be a good steward. The challenge arrives when your own interests, money, or feelings are imperiled by doing the right thing for the people counting on your wise maintainership of the platform. If you let your own desires get in the way, people will start to distrust you and leave your platform.
In KDE, we also have a platform that people depend on, and trust us to be good stewards of. By and large we don’t have the same potential financial conflicts of interest, but others are possible when it comes to our feelings and other personal interests: we might want see ourselves as kings of a little digital kingdom, or want the software to reflect our own preferences rather than those of our users, or whatever.
In the interest of remaining wise stewards of our platform, we must always resist these desires. Not only are they selfish, but they are ultimately short-sighted and would lead to us losing users and credibility. By and large I think KDE community members already do a great job of this! And that’s a good thing, because the bigger we grow, the more important we will become, and the more frequent these potential conflicts of interest will become. In the face of these challenges, we must retain our culture of stewardship, and I feel fairly confident that we will!
Full disclosure: I own a symbolic one share of GameStop. It was not purchased using Robinhood. 🙂