Calling Coders for the Greater Common Good

The UK needs you

mySociety.org launched today with a call to arms for UK techies to come forward with ideas to further the common good by way of technology.

The not-for-profit organisation is also seeking enthusiastic tech-savvy people to put together what it calls Open Source++ projects that will benefit society as a whole.

"Our aim is to build websites and services which have positive real world benefits, and which cost about the same, no matter how many people are using them," Tom Steinberg, founder of mySociety.org, told The Register.

"We think that sites like FaxYourMP, UpMyStreet.com and TacticalVoter.net are highly socially beneficial and, at base, extraordinarily cheap. However, there are very few of them. Surprisingly few, in fact. We are a project to build more of them."

mySociety.org's remit is very broad, and there are only three limiting factors to projects that it will consider, Steinberg says.

  • The project must be Internet-based

  • The project must have some real-world, offline benefit

  • The project must scale at low cost - so it should cost the same, more or less, if a hundred or a million users are using it.

mySociety wants to recruit coders and developers who it will pay for their participation. "In particular, we had in mind lonely coders stuck in airless server rooms, chained to their desks writing back-end software for faceless monolithic organisations. To people like that we'd like to offer the chance of working in their own time, on a potentially high-profile project that they really care about, all whilst being able to pay the bills," it says.

The organisation is also interested in hearing from students or recent graduates who are looking for some way to use their skills while earning a "real world wage".

"If we raise the funding we are hoping to, we'll be able to pay developers a decent living wage, even if it is not as good as they might get working for a big company. We hope to more than make-up for that shortfall with job satisfaction," Steinberg said.

He aims to raise funding through donations from individuals, charitable trusts, companies and the government. A benefactor has already coughed up £10,000 to get the project up and running.

The next step is to identify a pair of "readily deliverable, high quality projects" that it hopes to get its teeth into before Christmas. ®

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