An urgent cry for help – and an offer of dinner

Would you like free software and dinner? Want to help save a drowning man?

As you all know, I’ve got to get a damned good quality version of Ariadne out the door by the end of next week. The better the program, the more likely NG is to react well and either give me a quote or mention me on his blog. His blog, I hear, gets about 50,000 hits a day; if I could get even a small fraction of that audience to look at and buy Ariadne, I’ll be very happy. If I have a big NG quote on the front cover of the CD, I can probably expect to quadruple the chance of a sale.

It’s a pretty tall order for me – the program’s nowhere near a tested and ready state yet – it’s not even feature-complete. There’s no documentation, and I have no way to sell it even if it were ready. So, I’m spending every free second this week trying to whip it into shape.

I’m hoping that I might prevail upon some of my friends for help in this; I have a number of ideas for discrete jobs, and if anyone is willing to complete one of these jobs to a professional standard, I’ll be happy to give them free copies of Ariadne for life. If NG either gives me an endorsement or a blog-mention, I’ll take you for dinner, too.

So here’s the list of jobs. If you want to help, tell me what you’ll do by sending an email ASAP to steve at

The Jobs;


* The Rough Guide: Write a short description (probably 5-10 pages) of how Ariadne works. I just need a tutorial-style guide, a getting-started kinda thing, not a full reference. This’ll involve lots of coordination with me, as obviously the software isn’t finished yet. Probably a rolling thing that goes on throughout the week. (Hell, if you want Neil Gaiman to read some of your writing, this is your chance ๐Ÿ˜‰
* Website: Redesign my website to inform people about ariadne, and guide them to a sale. Really needs less than a dozen pages, focusing more on clear written content than graphical tomfoolery.


* Early User Testing: I’d like three people to download, install and run Ariadne by tuesday this week (25th) to give me general user interface comments.
* Download & Test: Next weekend (29-30 Jan) I’ll need as many people as possible installing and running the software, and giving me feedback.
* Testing at Frances Street: On Sun 30 Jan, I’ll be hosting a ‘bring a laptop and test stuff’ session. As bugs crop up, I’ll fix and give out reinstallation CDs.


(In both cases, obviously, I’ll cover any costs)

* CD Cases; Print 100 copies of my cover art onto quality A4 paper. Trim with a guillotine, insert into DVD cases. (I have the DVD cases, but don’t have photo-quality paper).
* CD Design: Design an image for the top of the CD itself. Print 100 blank CDs with the artwork on top, so that I can burn them when they’re ready.


* Merchant Site: Recommend me a site which will take credit-card orders for the software by Wednesday 26th Jan. If I OK the recommendation, set it up for me.
* Software Activation: Recommend an off-the-shelf activation system for preventing piracy that can be built into a .Net application.


* Business Setup: Recommend a legal structure for selling things; should come in the form of a set of instructions I have to follow, something like ‘set up a limited company at website A, send a letter to Companies House stating ‘B’, contact the inland revenue and tell then ‘C’, ask your bank to do D.


8 responses to “An urgent cry for help – and an offer of dinner”

    • Ed has already offered to help with the documentation, but I also need some website copy! If I could coordinate something shared between you and ed? I’ll phone you both tonight if that’s OK?
      It’d be great to have you over on sunday trying out builds as I build them, too!

      • That’s fine; I’m happy to co-ordinate with Ed (writing help files is my job). Call my mobile, though, as if Jerry’s on City of Heroes, I don’t answer the phone as it disrupts the adsl (yes, I know it’s not supposed to). And testing builds is always fun. ๐Ÿ˜‰ “Is the screen supposed to go this shade of blue when I click that button?” *evil grin*

      • This sounds cool…
        I guess there’s common copy on a print userguide, a help file, and the website – I have no idea how I want it all arranged yet, but all copy is good copy… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  1. Hello. I can’t help with testing I’m afraid (don’t have a machine running Windows, which I suspect puts me at a disadvantage). Hope you got my email regarding PayPal and merchant accounts.
    Re: small business. It kinda depends on how much you expect to make from this and how much legal protection you think you’ll need:
    Sole Trader:
    it’s trivial setting up as a sole trader (start selling something. Tell Inland Revenue. Fill out tax return at end of tax year). On the downside, you and the business are legally the same thing, so if someone successfully sued the business for X million pounds you would be personally liable (ie, bankrupt, which isn’t such a problem as it was a few years ago, so don’t be too put off by this).
    Limited Company
    Costs about 150 quid to set up, means you have to file corporation tax returns, but you have measure of separation from the business if it goes under with massive debts. There’s a lot more paperwork involved, and really do need an accountant if you go this route.
    Whether you’re Limited or Sole, if you gross more than (about) 55,000 in one year you /have/ to register with Customs and Excise to pay VAT. That might sound a lot, but if there’s even the risk of it happening you should register (sooner rather than later), because once you cross the threshold you /will/ get landed with a big bill, and if you’ve been paying for several months already the big bill will be a small-to-medium-sized bill.
    Legal Stuff
    If possible get a solicitor to vet any software licence agreement to make sure you’ve covered your own back. Failing that, (and at an extra personal risk of being sued for breach of copyright) crib from other software licences (but only use those which use the provisions of English law unless you fancy braving the US legal system if someone rips you off — admittedly, you might end up having to do that anyway, if the person you’re sueing is in hte US.)
    If you’re in employment (especially in the software industry) beware that there aren’t any clauses in your contract about your employer owning rights to any code/misc intellectual property you generate outside work, and if you want to go the Limited Company route make sure your contract doesn’t prohibit you from being on the board of a company.
    Most importantly, take all of my legal advice with a pinch of salt: these are things I’ve picked up along the way, and I’m not in any way shape or form an authority on legal matters.
    Hope that’s of some use to you — bear in mind that my knowledge of this stuff derives from several years as a sole trader pulling in less than 15k doing bespoke software for small companies, so I’m rather woolier (and my knowledge is less up-to-date) on exact details for the stuff (VAT, Ltd company, software licence agreements) that didn’t directly affect me.

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