Cover letter

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Hi there,

I popped in to one of your stores last Thursday, and mentioned to your staff that I was from the Programmers' Society at the University of Technology, Sydney, and that a few of us (myself particularly) are interested in trying to get a software development project off the ground.

You can read about our society and our charter here [1]. We're a student group interested in programming and free open source software. Most of our members are studying (or have studied) computer science at UTS.

The idea is for ProgSoc to pursue relationships with small business in Sydney and provide volunteer software development and support, with a view to incubating a larger project in which hopefully the university and its students can ultimately be involved. Our primary goal is to promote the use of free open source software in local industry, and we'd be prepared to consult and develop custom software tailored to meet the information technology needs of small business.

What we're looking for are some 'real world' problems to solve with computers. We'd be interested in talking to you about how you manage your IT, with a view to perhaps finding some areas that we could help you with.

We want to be careful managing expectations, and we don't want to over-commit ourselves. We understand that software development and support is difficult and often time consuming, and as we're a volunteer group of full-time students (many of us, such as myself, are alumni and full-time professional programmers) we may not have the resources to deliver high levels of service. In short, we're trying to get something off the ground, but at this stage it's all a little experimental and the details are fuzzy.

We do have access to a lot of bright young people, and also a lot of wise old programmers (many of our alumni members are presently working for big corporations throughout Europe and Asia, as well as in Sydney), but we've had leadership and motivation problems trying to get projects off the ground in the past. My hope is that if we're doing something tangible that is actually useful (as opposed to contrived and silly programming activities with no practical value) that we'll be able to foster more enthusiasm and participation than we've previously managed.

To give you an idea, it would be possible for us to do web development, online ordering systems, point-of-sale systems, accounting systems, rostering systems, personnel management systems, payroll systems, inventory management systems, etc., etc. Many of our members have professional experience developing such systems, but in this case we're looking to do it with only free open source software, and at no cost.

Long term we'd hope to set up a relationship between industry and the university in which UTS would charge a small annual subscription fee to raise funds for tertiary education in Sydney (in my view there is a dire need for funds) and in exchange offer professional support and other services (e.g. new-for-old replacement of hardware, automated offsite backups, web and email hosting, etc.). ProgSoc's role is to get the project off the ground, and the software we develop will always be free. (i.e. we don't want money, but one day we'd like to think that we might be able to raise some for the uni -- assuming our project has legs.) We'll never charge for the software, but we may ultimately charge for feature development, and we may charge for provisioning of services. Initially we won't be charging anything at all, nor will we unless we can 'sell' the idea to the powers-that-be at UTS.

We don't have any authority within the university to commit them to anything, but what we'd like to do is get something in place and hopefully act as a catalyst for a larger project that the uni could integrate with their curriculum (i.e. we'd like student assignments to be to solve the technology problems of small business in Sydney). Our society does have exclusive access to a whole heap of space and computing facilities at UTS (i.e. we have our own dedicated room and scores of computers and other equipment.)

So... we're looking for someone to collaborate with us during an 'incubation' or 'pilot' phase. Perhaps it would be possible to arrange a time and place to further discuss this idea with the owner or manager of $your_business?

[1] http://www.progsoc.org/wiki/index.php/What_We_Do

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