Membership Shares

Note: This proposal has been edited, changed, and clarified based on shareholder feedback.


A strange thing about my credit union is that I have to have $5 in my savings account all the time. This small amount represents my share of co-ownership and also secures my membership, giving me a stake in the institution's well-being. Shares of KmikeyM are somewhat similar, creating the shareholder community, but don’t provide me with quite the same foundation as the credit union.

The shareholder community not only approves my creative projects but they are the main audience of my various videos, podcasts, and writing. Most shareholders tend to buy and hold, maintaining their membership, while casting votes to help guide my choices. And I'll admit it bothers me a little when a long time shareholder sells all their shares.

The Membership Share

This proposal creates a basic membership tier for KmikeyM. Membership requires the purchase and holding of one share. This first share is called a "Membership Share" and will grant access to functions of KmikeyM such as seeing the vote and trade history, but also blog posts and other updates.

Each Membership Share will be connected to an account, and will create a clear distinction between the general public (0 shares) and the shareholders (1+ share).

This "Membership Share" (or the last share in any account) cannot be traded away on the market. Once a Membership Share is granted, it will be held in perpetuity.

This means that every shareholder will have one share that is designated the Membership Share and can't be sold.

UPDATE: Based on shareholder feedback we will grant every existing shareholder one free Membership Share if the proposal passes. It will be explained to new shareholders coming that the first share is a Membership Share which can't be sold, but all other shares can be traded.

A successful example of this is the $5 fee that Metafilter charges to allow users to post and comment. This fee allows the site to create revenue based on growth. The idea of the Membership share is the same, which is why it can't be sold.

Goals and Advantages

When we started thinking about Build Week 2024 we talked a lot about membership and the idea of focusing on the members and building features that benefit shareholders. By creating more advantages for shareholders versus the general public we hope to increase the size of the community and encourage more trading, voting, and participation. A membership share is the first step of this development.

I will sometimes give someone a share as entry into the community, and this proposal would allow those people access to the community but require them to go to the market and make a purchase if they are interested in trading. And by putting aspects of the KmikeyM system behind a “share wall” it allows for discussion I’d rather not have in the general public.

And a big priority for this proposal is that it reduces the liabilities of KmikeyM. With each member holding one share that can't be sold, the financial burden I carry as a publicly traded person is a little smaller which helps cover operational costs. After an especially hard financial year in 2023, it's become a priority to create a sustainable model for KmikeyM.

This is also an opportunity to continue to experiment with the idea of community through capitalism. An idealized future based on this proposal could result in 100,000 shareholders, each holding one share, helping to enable the perfect decision making that comes from The Wisdom of the Crowds.


  • 81% Yes
  • 19% No
  • 0% Abstain

51 users voted with 5377 shares


  • sam [ 5 ]

    Holding one or more share could/should grant special access and features, but it should be allowed to be traded. I think the premise should allow for someone liquidating their position in an individual (though obviously their access would be revoked)

    Maybe I misunderstand the proposal?

  • Mike Merrill [ creator ]

    @sam - I think you get it! the reason to lock the share to the account is that it creates a kind of "one share fee" for users that generates a lot of value for KmikeyM! right now there are 1195 shareholders and the share price is $5.26, so that's more than $6,000 of value that can be used for the costs of the website, hosting, development, projects, etc. If the last share could still be sold then we've lose the ability to build value with the proposal.

  • alexmalinovich [ 162 ]

    This doesn't feel right. You already have to own at least one share to be able to participate in any meaningful way, and if you ever sell all of your shares, you can no longer participate in any meaningful way. While I can appreciate the desire to have some liquidity by allowing $6,285.70 to be spent, it doesn't seem to be in the spirit of the publicly traded person. Raising capital should be done by recruiting new shareholders, not by locking in (and thereby reducing value for) existing shareholders.

  • aaronpk [ 868 ]

    @alex I think you're misunderstanding a little bit. There is a future change implied in the description of this vote that wasn't explicit:

    > And by putting aspects of the KmikeyM system behind a “share wall” it allows for discussion I’d rather not have in the general public

    If there are some things (votes, content, whatever) that can only be viewed if you have a share, that's different from today where having a share lets you cast a vote but today you can still read the vote without a share.

  • Mike Merrill [ creator ]

    @alex - I also understand that this is a change to some of the assumptions of how share operate in the KmikeyM ecosystem and some people are going to not like it. That's one reason I felt it was an important vote! But the ask here is really, can you sacrifice one share for the greater good of the project as a whole? If you can, I really appreciate it! And if you find it conceptually too far from the idea we started with back in 2008, then I understand if you vote no.

  • beau [ 425 ]

    one question I have is around what happens to existing shares, e.g. if someone has 1 share, if this approval passes, can they no longer sell that share? or does this only apply to the NEXT share that person acquires

    if the former, should it apply only to people with at least 20 shares, so that you're putting no more than 5% of their investment off limits? (and then anyone with <20 gets a membership share only if they buy another, but they can sell their current shares?)

  • Mike Merrill [ creator ]

    @beau - there would be some flex period before instituting the new class of share. but it would then for simplicity in both understanding and developing the solution it would apply to every account.

  • krickeyb [ 401 ]

    I'm trying to understand how this could dilute my existing shares, impact the value of my existing shares, and the risk of membership shares to have more voting power over regular shares over time.

    Does the membership share get a vote, or it's just for access to shareholder related content that presumably will be "pay walled" in the future?

    Will existing shareholders all lose a share that is converted to a membership share? Or will these be considered separately from the number of regular shares allowed?

    Let's say in 10 years, there are 30,000 membership shareholders vs. the 20,500 regular shares available today (plus a few hundred more issued), does that mean membership shareholders are now the a majority in a vote?

    > An idealized future based on this proposal could result in 100,000 shareholders, each holding one share, helping to enable the perfect decision making that comes from The Wisdom of the Crowds.

    Wouldn't it make sense to more aggressively issue the remaining 80k shares to get here vs. the membership proposal? That would be more capitalistic?

  • Mike Merrill [ creator ]

    @krickeyb - Membership shares still vote! They are also the share that will access past the "share wall" of things like details on the vote, comments, and updates. Making some of KmikeyM accessible only to shareholders creates an inventive to get the Membership Share, but also allows me to share more opening than I can in a fully public setting. . All accounts will have one non-transferable Membership Share, so as of right now there could not be more than 100,000 shareholders if everyone had a single share (that is more of a though experiment based on how to have "perfect information"). Aggressively issuing shares is possible, but those sales/auctions if it's too aggressive can bring down the share price. Membership shares will be tied to growth, so as more shareholders join it will continue to have a small impact on each shareholder while providing larger gains for the organization.

  • Zach [ 35 ]

    It's like an NFT except it's useful. I'm in.

    For whatever it's worth, the idea of tiered-membership has been proven to work for a lot of communities since Patreon became a thing. Defector is probably one of the better examples; contribute x amount to access the content, and if you're more heavily invested you can pay x amount more to comment on posts.

    I could see this working similarly for KMikeyM. Votes are already gated strictly for shareholders; a membership requirement doesn't seem like a huge leap from that logic.

  • beau [ 425 ]

    I am mostly worried about negative sentiment from existing small shareholders (the vast majority of shareholders) who may feel that something has been taken from them when one of their few shares becomes un-sellable, so I'm a no until that's addressed comprehensively

  • Nick Mershon [ 210 ]

    I'm a yes assuming we figure out what we're doing with the shares moving forward as Beau has asked.

  • Marcus [ 78 ]

    I'm voting a strong yes while acknowledging that this a very complex way for you to have explained "I need a little spendable money to help support this project."

    But hell, unnecessarily complex mechanisms are exactly what your fanbase craves. We're complex systems masochists.

    We demand several more paragraphs of explanation! So like, our share count will go up by one after purchase, but if we try to sell it, we'll get a helpful error message reminding us that the final share is untransferable? But it still votes, correct?

  • uperfection [ 135 ]

    I like the idea but wonder if there may be a better way to achive the goal without any impact to the current shares like a perminent locking.

    If someone cashes out or choses to leave the project they would be left with 1 unsellable share. This will create issues later down the line. For starters once someone has "chashed out" and that share is no longer being used it essentualy has a value of $0.00 and the total shares in circulation have reduced perminently by 1. This shrink in supply will raise the value of the shares still available and eventualy could lead to shares being unaffordable to the average person, this would require a stock split or new shares to be issued (or fractional shares). With a 2/1 stock split that dead account would now have 2 shares (1 that could now be sold) and in effect the share holders with more than 1 share would be getting diluted. Issues with dead accounts would also crop up should a dividend ever be introduced.

    TBH I think this would be a good topic to delay and establish a board of directors that could discus with Mike to come up with a more refined plan of action for the share holders to vote on. There are a large number of points to consider on a complex vote like this given that it is a structural change to how the shares and market will work/function.

  • aaronpk [ 868 ]

    Good discussion. I am not totally convinced to vote "no" yet, but I am no longer convinced the current proposal is exactly correct, so I changed my vote to "abstain" for now.

  • Mike Merrill [ creator ]

    @beau (and others) - in terms of the small shareholders, I think the right thing to do if the vote passes is to have a grace period where anyone who wants to sell their Membership Share can before the permanence is applied. I really like what @uperfection mentions in terms of the impact on the share price and the possibility that in the future we'd have to do a stock split because I've always wanted to do one of those! And as @Zach points out, a membership tier has a lot of parallels in various online communities. I'll send out the email announcement tomorrow morning and we'll get more input from the other shareholders. Thanks to all for the discussion, this is a lively vote!

  • beau [ 425 ]

    I ran some numbers:

    There are 1,194 shareholders (people with 1 or more shares).

    1,070 of those (~90%) hold 20 shares or fewer. If someone holds fewer than 20 shares, then 1 share represents at least 5% of their holdings, and so making one one those shares un-sellable represents diminishing at least 5% of their investment.

    Additionally, 396 of those people (~33% of total shareholders) only hold one share, so making it un-sellable represents a diminishment of 100% of their investment.

    If the solution is to give people a heads-up, you might expect some percentage of those 90% of shareholders to liquidate rather than to have their investment diminished (the heads-up is a call to action, you would expect some number of people to take action).

    I initially told Mike I was positive on the idea but to talk to some small shareholders to see how they'd feel about it. After looking at the numbers I think giving people some leeway to decide whether they're OK with the permanent share and liquidate if not will incentivize the wrong outcome (share price will go down, there will be fewer shareholders total).

    But I do think we should explore alternate ways to achieve the overarching goal of freeing up money/making the project sustainable. That might involve creation of a "behind the scenes" pass, or the concept of voluntarily "staking" some number of shares for behind the scenes access.

  • alexmahan [ 63 ]

    So existing shareholders would be required to purchase this one new share, and then could never sell it?

  • Mike Merrill [ creator ]

    @alexmahan - clarified it in the proposal, but it's not a new purchase. it's just one share in every account becomes a Membership Share, and the first share of any new shareholder is the Membership Share.

  • alexmalinovich [ 162 ]

    I’m totally onboard with the idea of limiting access to various functions based on whether or not someone owns a certain number of shares, has held 1 or more shares for X number of days/years/etc. But I’m still very much against the idea of unsellable shares.

    If liquidity is needed right now I’d much prefer a one time “membership fee” that allows you to buy and sell shares but that doesn’t lock up any existing shares. Though as I said before, I think the optimal way of keeping in the original spirit of the project is to recruit more shareholders instead, or incentivize existing shareholders to increase their stake.

  • Mike Merrill [ creator ]

    @beau and others: I think it's clear that the cost of a share is too high for many of the shareholders who only hold a handful of shares, and I like that the major shareholders are looking out for them! I'll amend the proposal so that all existing shareholders are granted a free share and we'll make the terms clear for new shareholders coming in.

  • martey [ 8 ]

    I voted no. I understand the liquidity issue but I don't see how creating this share class will help facilitate "non-public facing discussions with shareholders". I'd also like to retain the option to sell all my shares in the future (in case KMK wakes up one day and decides to become a Nazi).

    I'm surprised by @beau's stats that 90% of shareholders hold 20 shares or less, since discussions on votes (including this one) seem to be dominated by whales. I don't know what the numbers are on engagement by small shareholders, but I know I find it hard to be excited by votes when voting doesn't even make the percentages change.

    Finally, I feel like Major Changes like this should require more than the usual majority to pass - either a supermajority of all shares or a majority of all shareholders voting in favor.

  • warmest.regards [ 123 ]

    In the interest of keeping this project sustainable, I'm voting yes. Most trading platforms have a way to monetize their popularity. Whether through investing money that's sitting un-invested, or charging membership, or charging per trade (maybe not so much anymore), but it seems wild to me that for years now, we've paid nothing to be a part of this project. The next best thing to having had this as a policy all along, is adding it now.

  • Vampyre [ 1 ]

    I think this is a great idea.

  • aaronpk [ 863 ]

    Ok, now that the proposal is amended to say that each current shareholder will get one share, I believe that addresses the concerns discussed in the thread, so I am changing my vote to YES

  • Mike Merrill [ creator ]

    UPDATED PROPOSAL - The proposal has been modified to include a free Membership Share to all existing accounts. This way no one will lose a share and this policy, if it passes, will apply to all future first time shareholders.

  • whatscene [ 4 ]

    I think the updated proposal to give existing shareholders a membership share assuages my big concern of having a large % of my shares locked up. However, I agree with some comments above that there are perhaps cleaner ways to get income for the project. And to be clear, I support the idea of getting a steadier stream of revenue for Kmikeym.

    I think the example of the credit union falls a little flat for me because that 5 dollars you need to have in your account simply keeps your account open. If you close your account, you get your 5 dollars back. Many people who own a single share own it to have access to kmikeym and be a member of the community. If they no longer wish to participate they can "close their account" by selling their share. I'd say most small shareholders essentially have a membership share.

    The issue for Kmikeym is the project doesn't get any of money when someone joins the community. They are buying from other shareholders and the core project doesn't benefit from it.

    Ideally, kmikeym could benefit from a transaction fee or something like that, to benefit from increased interest in trading. But I think that was not technologically possible when considered before?

    I also think a flat fee added to someone's first share purchase could work, which could give them access to the features you've described and keep the idea of shares and voting separate from a one time membership fee, which is what it seems like you are really after. That is closer to the Metafilter model, in my opinion. You pay 5 bucks for a lifetime membership in Metafilter whether you decide to engage with it for life. You are buying access to a service with no expectation of profit. That seems different than buying an ownership stake in the Coca Cola Corporation, but having a percentage of your stake that you can't sell.

    TL:DR I think kmikeym should get a smoother revenue stream. I'm not sure it needs to be a permanent "share". A share you can't sell doesn't really seem like a share at all. I'm on the fence though because realistically kmikeym needs some money to succeed and that's what we all want.

  • whatscene [ 4 ]

    @beau, is it possible to see how many shareholders have exactly 1 share (even better if we can subtract gifted shares) Is it possible that most people only want a membership share, and would that drastically decrease demand for trading on the market?

    I'm assuming the membership share proposed doesn't come from sales from existing shareholders because that wouldn't create any revenue for the kmikeym project.

    If it works the way I'm imagining, I would definitely support a flat fee added onto your first share purchase, so that market is still healthy for shareholders who want to trade.

  • beau [ 425 ]

    @whatscene yes, that was in the original post; 396 members have exactly 1 share

  • whatscene [ 4 ]

    Ah, sorry I missed that. Thank you!

  • curt [ 127 ]

    Was there a vote/policy about requiring journalists/media folk to buy a share before you'd participate in an interview? I can't remember if that was just an idea or if it went into effect.

  • Mike Merrill [ creator ]

    @curt - Ha ha, that was an idea I had to compromise every journalist by making them a shareholder. I should put that up for vote, it's still a good idea.

  • Doug [ 1220 ]

    +1 to the journalist buy-in thing.

    And now that I see I get a FREE SHARE I'm going to vote and probably lock this in decisively. We all profit in partipating!

  • martey [ 8 ]

    While I like the change to the proposal for existing shareholders, I am still a "no" though, since I suspect this change will have a chilling effect on new shareholders joining and will depress the future share price. Explaining the concept of a "publicly traded person" is hard enough without adding unsellable shares into the mix.

    I think it's worth noting that Metafilter's new user fee is a anti-spam measure; its purpose isn't to generate revenue. If you can't pay and contact them, they will still let you make an account. Metafilter's revenue mostly comes from donations/subscriptions.

    It's possible I'm missing something, but wouldn't an easier/simpler way to raise revenue quickly be for another share Fire Sale (like the one before Mike's TEDxVienna talk)? Selling a thousand or so shares would raise about the same amount of money. Sure, the amount is an order of magnitude more than the business class seat sale, but it's nowhere near as complex as introducing unsellable shares.

  • Becki Grady [ 35 ]

    I am probably the least informed person on this thread. But, if existing shareholders are given one new membership share, is that effectively introducing 1,194-ish more shares into the pool, reducing the value of our existing shares? What happens when someone decides they no longer want to be a part of the community, they can't sell their share, does it just float in the ether? Now we have a block of non-tradable shares. At this point, shares are finite, right? I am going to vote no. I would rather a one-time fee of $5 for new shareholders. It is still a single monetary investment that would generate the exact same amount of revenue as a membership share would. If people want to read what is going on, but not participate, let 'em.

  • pc [ 1933 ]

    I'm a bit confused.

    Is someone only allowed one membership share?

    Are the number of membership shares capped at the 100k shares of the whole project?

    Is the membership share a one-time fee or a subscription? If one-time, why not a subscription - make it an actual membership.

    Why not create a separate class of membership shares and cap the number of them to allow their value to increase if bought/sold? When someone stops paying the membership, it goes back into the pool and the value incrementally comes down. But if someone holds and wants to sell, then the value increases. This feels like it would align the incentive of the project with the goal of the membership share - recurring funds AND increased engagement (because the more valuable it is, the more hardcore of a shareholder would own it and theoretically participate more than average).

  • Mike Merrill [ creator ]

    @Becki + @pc - each person can only have one membership share, all their other shares will be the regular shares. a membership share comes from the same pool of 100K shares, and it only "becomes" a membership share when it moves to a new account. that share can still vote, but can not be exchanged. this limitation is countered with the benefits of additional access as we put up a curtain that separates the public from the shareholders, meaning I can be a bit more free in sharing the context of votes and updates that I don't want searchable on the web. i think share classes are wildly interesting and confusing, and one of the weirdest aspects of them is how the class of a share can switch when it is sold (like Meta's B class shares). I should do a video about this!

  • Mike Merrill [ creator ]

    @pc - i love the idea of having separate classes of shares trade on the market, but that is a lot bigger technical lift than the implementation of this idea. i think of this as the "walking" of share classes and maybe we can work our way up to a full sprint in the future.