This charter represents what Mechanical Muse is and how it is operated. It encompasses our mission, philosophy, and ideals. It represents the rights and obligations of the business, and it describes our expectations for owners, employees, contractors, and contributors.
This is a living document. It can and will be updated and amended according to the wishes of the company’s owners and with the input of the company’s employees.
At Mechanical Muse we bring joy, hope, excitement, adventure, enlightenment, and inspiration to everyone who daydreams about fantastic worlds beyond our own.
We do this by delivering artistic content set in an interconnected universe of immersive new worlds that people can interact with and explore.
The experience we deliver is richer and more satisfying than what people find anywhere else because we bring together the finest creative minds and provide them with a supportive, respectful, diverse, equitable, and highly collaborative managed environment that helps them to achieve their best work.
The following represent our economic philosophy and financial goals.
The financial goal of our business is financial sustainability. This means that the primary financial objective for our organization is to fulfill our mission as described in this charter for as long as possible without interruption, ideally continuing well-beyond the lifespans of the founding members.
A difference between our model and the standard financial model for businesses under capitalism is that we are expressly not pursuing maximum profit or even profitability. All income beyond what is required to meet our base expenses is utilized to increase output and quality.
Furthermore, we do not wish to enrich any one individual, organization, or group. Rather, our goal is to provide a reasonable living wage to as many creatives and contributors as possible. At those times when net income allows, rather than using that wealth to enrich any individual, organization, or group, we seek to extend the benefits described in this charter to additional creatives and contributors.
Reasonable and Fair Living Wage
All employees at Mechanical Muse earn a reasonable and fair living wage. A reasonable and fair living wage allows the person to pay for food, shelter, transport, health care, basic comforts, and all other basic needs without undue hardship. Contractors are similarly compensated, paid an amount that matches the calculated hourly rate of full-time employees performing the same work.
Reasonable is defined as…
- …a wage that is in line with the average wages earned by other people doing similar work in the United States.
- …a wage that is representative of the skill, seniority, scarcity, and business value the person brings to the company.
Fair is defined as…
- …wages that are based only on the definition of a reasonable and fair living wage as described here.
- …wages that are aligned with the income earned by other people working at the company today who have similar skills, seniority, scarcity, and business value.
Living is defined as…
- …wages that allow the person to pay for food, shelter, transport, health care, basic comforts, and all other basic needs in the United States without undue hardship.
- …wages that may exceed what we define as reasonable or fair in those cases where reasonable or fair wages do not meet the first definition of living.
Wages are defined as…
- …a collection of benefits, typically but not necessarily monetary, provided by Mechanical Muse to the employee or contractor that have a combined fiduciary value equal to our definition of a reasonable and fair living wage.
Wages are never influenced or calculated by any of the following…
- Gender identity
- Gender reassignment
- National origin
- Religious belief or lack thereof
- Sexual orientation
- Marriage or civil partnership status
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Place of physical residence
Business Values, Responsibilities, and Expectations
In this section we discuss specifics around the way that the business is run in its efforts to achieve its mission as described in this document.
Annual Owner’s Meeting
The owners of Mechanical Muse will meet annually on the first Friday in December. This meeting may be held virtually, but all owners are required to be in attendance. An owner may send a designated representative in their place in the event of a true emergency. The meeting may be rescheduled once, to another date in December, if the owners unanimously agree to the change.
During the annual owner’s meeting, the owners must vote and sign-off on the following items:
- Budget and release plan for the coming year.
- Changes to the Table of Wages.
- Changes to the Ownership.
- Changes to any of the company documents, including, but not limited to, the Mechanical Muse Charter, Buyout Agreement, and Operating Agreement.
- Proposed increases to employee wages.
Agile Development Framework
Mechanical Muse uses the Agile Development Framework, specifically Scrum, for all projects in order to support the smooth operation of the business and ensure the most important work is finished first. The framework is also used to place a focus on finished, deliverable work.
Changing to the Charter
The Mechanical Muse Charter may only be changed with a unanimous vote of the owners as part of the annual owner’s meeting.
Equity and Diversity
Equity and diversity are two of Mechanical Muse’s primary values. There are three key ways that we protect and demonstrate our dedication to these values.
- Mechanical Muse has no tolerance for sexism, bullying, misogyny, racism, or homophobia. We do not tolerate harassment of any kind. Harassment includes, but is not limited to, offensive verbal comments or non-verbal expressions related to gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, ethnicity, age, or religious beliefs. Furthermore, harassment includes, but is not limited to, discriminatory images posted in public and quasi-public spaces (online and offline), intimidation, stalking, unwanted following, harassing photography or recording, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. Harassment may take the form of comments, epithets, slurs, discriminatory or insensitive jokes, teasing, display or discussion of written or graphic material, repeatedly standing too close to or brushing up against a person, or giving gifts of an unwanted or sexual nature. Advocating or encouraging any of the above is also considered harassment.
- Mechanical Muse is dedicated to representing our ideals in our products. We go out of our way to ensure that the many and varied faces and lifestyles present in the real world are respectfully represented in our products. We desire an inclusive experience for people who choose to interact with our worlds and products. We put these ideals on display at the forefront of our products.
- Mechanical Muse purposefully builds a diverse group of creatives and contributors. We want a team that represents the diversity of our world. We want creatives and contributors who can speak to their personal experience and bring that experience to the work. We want the people who discover our worlds to see themselves represented not just in the worlds we create but in the people creating them.
In addition, we will not back down from these ideals. We will openly and publicly uphold them. We will not give in to intimidation, and the company will die on this hill if it comes to that.
Forty-Hour Work Weeks
All wages, whether for employees or contractors, are based on the expectation of a 40-hour work week. If an employee or contractor is unable to complete the week’s agreed upon work in 40 hours over 7 days, this is a problem for Mechanical Muse to solve. No employee or contractor is ever expected to work more than 40 hours over 7 days.
The 40 hours of work may take place at any time over the course of the week as agreed upon by the employee or contractor and their manager. In most cases, the employee or contractor will dictate when they work their 40 hours. There may be situations where it is necessary to schedule specific “at work” periods to support collaboration.
In the event that an employee or contractor is unable to complete the expected work in the time allotted, this should be explored as part of the annual Sprint Review and Retro to understand the root cause and identify solutions.
Management Good, Control Bad
Effectively managing shared-worlds is vital to their long-term success. Good shared-world management creates cohesive, organized, and successful products. Good shared-world management means staying flexible, keeping an open mind, and always being willing to run with someone else’s idea instead of your own. Control of a shared-world is bad. Control hampers creativity, dampens enthusiasm, and reduces the richness of the setting.
Payment to Employees and Contractors
All contributors will be paid in a timely fashion. Timely is defined as payment made as soon as possible after the conclusion of the work or at logical intervals agreed upon in advance. Interval payments should only be used for the purpose of:
- As a method of distributing regular pay to employees of the company.
- For large project or retainer style contract work where it is beneficial to the contractor to receive payments over time rather than at the end of the project.
All payments should be made in cash if possible. Mechanical Muse does not undertake or contract for any work where there is doubt about their ability to make the agreed upon payment to the contributor. Mechanical Muse may, with the permission of the employee or contractor, deliver some or all of the payment in the form of benefits such as insurance or a percentage of company ownership. In each case, the value provided should equate to the monetary value determined as a reasonable and fair living wage for a person performing that sort of work.
Maximum Wage Gap
The highest paid full-time employee at Mechanical Muse may never earn more than the five times the salary of the lowest paid full-time employee at Mechanical Muse.
The primary responsibility of the President of Mechanical Muse is to ensure that the values, philosophies, and ideals described in this document are upheld by the company and everyone working for the company. Their success is measured by how well they accomplish this task.
The President’s secondary responsibility is responsible stewardship of the intellectual properties and shared-worlds owned by Mechanical Muse. Responsible stewardship means ensuring the core essence of the properties remain intact, the consistency and tradition of the properties is never sacrificed for a sales boost or marketing shock, the properties are never creatively strip-mined, and the original creative concepts that made a property successful are respected and preserved.
This is very hard to do successfully. Do it anyhow.
We believe that most employees are as effective working remotely as they are working from a centralized office. We do not intend to establish a permanent “office” where employees are expected to work unless doing so demonstrably helps us to accomplish the goals outlined in this document. Even then, we will embrace and support remote work with the same level of commitment as office-based work.
Table of Wages
Mechanical Muse will maintain a table of wages containing the wage ranges for different roles and types of contributions common to the execution of our business.
The table indicates Starting, Average, and High wages for each role. Starting represents the minimum pay necessary to ensure a Fair Living Wage. Average represents a target wage to which we hope to increase and maintain all employees and contractors doing this type of work. High represents the wage cap for this sort of work, regardless of skills, seniority, scarcity, and business value.
This table is reviewed each year in January. At this time the pay ranges are updated to represent the US standards for that type of work during the coming year. If these changes place the pay scheduled for any employee or contractor at a level below the Starting wage, that person’s pay is immediate corrected to meet the Starting wage amount. This work must be completed before January 30th of each year.
The table will indicate the sources used to determine the listed wages.
Mechanical Muse is dedicated to transparency. Except as noted below, all information about the company, including, but not limited to, its business dealings, finances, and wages, are open and available to every owner and employee of Mechanical Muse.
The only exceptions to this rule are:
- We will not share information if doing so is illegal, unethical, or immoral.
- We will not share information if doing so may harm the dignity, mental health, or emotional well-being of a person.
How Income is Managed
This section describes how we will manage any and all income that is generated by Mechanical Muse over the course of a year.
Budget and Planning
Each year, before December 31st of the previous year, Mechanical Muse the owners or a manager designated by the owners will sign-off on a release plan and associated budget for the coming year. The budget should cover all expenses, including any all costs of development, and do so according to the rules outlined in this document. Only work that Mechanical Muse will have the funds to pay for will be included in this plan. The company is not permitted to “roll the dice” in the form of starting work it cannot pay for. We can plan for work that will be funded over the course of the year from sources such as crowdfunding, but the work must not be scheduled to start until we have the money to pay for it.
Note that the budget and plan are a living document and may change if agreed upon by the owners or a manager designated by the owners, as long as the budget and planning rules outlined here are upheld.
All income generated during the year is applied first toward the year’s budgetary needs. To put it simply, if the budget set in December is $100,000, until we’ve earned $100,000, no funds may be diverted to other expenses, projects, or costs. The only exception is in the case of sudden, catastrophic expenses. In these cases, the first goal should be to alter the plan and budget to cover the new expenses. If that is not possible or is unsound from a business perspective, the owners may choose to seek other means of covering costs. The company may not draw off funds intended for other work already underway or committed to as a means of covering these additional expenses. To put it another way, if something goes horribly wrong, the owner’s financial burden to bear, not the employees and contractors.
In the event that the company’s income exceeds the budget, a portion of the income generated is distributed among the owners according to their percentage ownership of the company. A total amount no greater than 10% of the budget may be distributed in this fashion each year. As an example, if the annual budget is $100,000, the first $10,000 generated beyond $100,000 is split among the owners. Any income beyond this is used as described under Additional Income below.
The 10% described here is set aside when earned and not distributed until the last week of December in that fiscal year. In the event unexpected expenses, if there are no other funds available, the company may use these funds to cover the costs.
Any income earned beyond 110% of the budget is used to further the goals set out in this document. As with annual planning, it is at the discretion of the owners and president to decide how this is best accomplished. Examples of how these funds may be used include:
- Held in savings to ensure the long-term financial stability of the company.
- Applied immediately to improve or expand on products listed in the annual release plan.
- Directed toward new products not originally in the annual release plan.
- Held in savings to fund the following year’s budget and plan.
- Committed to a charity that upholds the ideals of Mechanical Muse.
- Reducing the MSRP of a product.
- Any action that furthers the goals set out in this document.
- Set aside to cover taxes as needed.
Ways additional income must not be used include:
- Increased wages without merit.
- Investment in businesses outside of Mechanical Muse.
- Additional profit sharing.
- Unwarranted gifts, luxury improvements, or unnecessary benefits.
Although the tax burden can and most likely will fall on the owners, in the event of profits greater than 10% of the annual budget, Mechanical Muse will attempt to mitigate the burden of this additional amount by setting aside funds for tax payments. The amount of tax owed by any one individual is dependent on the individual’s tax bracket, deductibles, and location, making it extremely difficult to accurately and fairly estimate tax costs and cover those, but we will make a best effort to cover the tax burden beyond 10% profits.
The ownership of Mechanical Muse may change annual depending on a number of factors. This section describes how this is handled. These rules are in addition to those described in the Buyout Agreement. In the case of a conflict, the terms described in the Buyout Agreement take precedence.
Ownership as Compensation
At the discretion of the company, creatives and contributors may choose to receive an ownership stake in Mechanical Muse as payment for their contributions. These may include time, material, and cash contributions.
Tracking Ownership and Contributions
Ownership percentages and contributions made in exchange for ownership are made using the systems described in the book Slicing Pie and the related Pie Slicer tool. In addition, records of percentage ownership and contributions are exported and backed up by Mechanical Muse on the first Friday of each month.
Recording Changes to Ownership
Changes to ownership percentages are legally recorded at least once each year. Before the annual owner’s meeting, current ownership percentages are recorded and a proposal is placed before the owners to legally change the percentages of ownership. These changes will be registered before the end of that calendar year and new certificates issued to the owners.
In the event that any owner’s stake changes by more than 10% cumulatively or in a single change, within 30 days of the change, a proposal to change ownership should be voted on by the owners, legally recorded, and new certificates of ownership distributed.
Last Update: 1/8/22