The Outpost Platform (Scout + Outpost + Outpost API)

Hi everyone,

I’m going to attempt a quick introduction to the Outpost Platform. Theres a much longer write up here and on the reusable directory product project website too for those who are interested.

Here is a link to a recording of our recent show and tell which covers all of the below (this link is the demo + Q&A only)

The Outpost Platform is a suite of applications, tools and resources. They’re open source and free to use. The two core applications are Outpost and the Outpost API service.

The problem

The platform was design to solve a deeper problem that councils hold a lot of data, in this case community services. Its all stored for lots of good reasons but because our organisations are structured in certain ways, we end up holding lots of the same data in different parts of the organisation.

The Royal borough of Greenwich are currently working on using Outpost in their community directory. The reusable directory product work means we can start building new features and improvements into the platform.

Our goals with the work are

  • That Outpost is low-cost and easy to adopt for any local authority
  • Increase the number of Local Authorities storing and sharing data in a consistent way ​
  • Create an active community to continue to develop Outpost ​

The ‘solution’

The Outpost Model. We wanted to build a new model for service directories that could fix this problem. Open Referral was central to this and we based the architecture around the open referral structure.

The benefits

  • We can give residents more useful results and information when they go looking for things around them
  • We can reduce duplication of effort and data within a local authority
  • And, longer term, we can connect the data of different regions together and start forming a national, real-time picture of local community service provision. (this is my favourite one!)
  • (and eventually I will get a t-shirt with Outpost on it)

What it looks like

Outpost

You can view a video demo and some of the Q&A from our last show and tell.

Outpost is a service management system, its built around two user types.
Admins and Service providers. Each has their own view of the admin system.

Outpost functionality

  • Manage services

    • diff viewer to compare versions
    • approval based workflow
    • notes and watch functionality
  • Labels can be assigned to services and users to help group and manage them

  • Manage organisations, locations, taxonomies, feedback, labels

  • Create custom fields

    • you can also choose whether you want the fields to be visible to service owners and if its exposed in the API.
  • User management

  • Outpost is also an oAuth provider which could be used to build a network of applications for admins and service providers.

  • Ofsted feed integration
    Outpost has access to an ofsted feed client which transforms the ofsted feed into a format outpost can use. It then creates linked services.

    From the feed admins can create services, amend existing ones when changes come through and archive services when they’re taken out of the ofsted feed. IIRC you can automate this process too but I didn’t work on the project until right at the very end so I’m not familiar with that part.

Outpost API service

We run a separate API application built in Express with its own Mongo database. The database only contains the public information and data is stored in the Open referral format.

Scout


A quick start directory application. Its a react application thats built specifically to work with Outpost and the Outpost API. You can see a live demo here. It can be themed and extended or used as a base to create something more elaborate. I can see it fitting in very nicely with eleventy, nextjs or gatsby.

We (TPXImpact formerly FutureGov) have created a few directories in the past, Scout is a combination of everything we’d learnt over the years.

Getting it up and running is very simple, you can see the documentation on configuration here currently.

(I’d like to create a ‘Create your own Scout’ application at some point that generates the config file and theme for you to make it even quicker. This ties in nicely with the work we’re doing with Greenwich to make Outpost easy to set-up without any developer input​.)

Residents can do all the basics.

  • Search by keyword and location
  • Filter by category and sub-category
  • Filter by Accessibility, Suitability, SEND needs, days the service is open, age, and the most popular - is it free!
  • View individual service information
  • Pin services which can then be emailed or printed
  • Leave feedback on a service - this takes them to a form in Outpost
  • Register/Login to their Outpost account to manage their service
3 Likes

Wow, this is awesome. Congrats on putting this all together.

I’ve got lots of questions, but I’ll keep it short. :slight_smile:

  • Are you aware of the HSDS 3.0 work and will you be incorporating/upgrading your data model and API to support it?
  • Are you focused solely on serving the UK market or are you also interested in offering solutions to (or supporting) adoption of your software in the US?
  • Are you and/or others in your group interested in joining the tool ecosystem conversation being had among software solution providers that utilize HSDS?

Really great work. Congrats, again.

Hi @devin

Mike has mentioned HSDS 3 i’ve not looked into it in any details but I would imagine we would look to support it by versioning our API. (assuming theres no huge architectural changes!)

Are there any key differences between US and UK services? I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work as it currently is in the US, with the exception of spelling and date/time formatting things.

The reusable directory product work we’re currently focusing on the needs of UK councils (and other organisations) the goal is to get the Outpost Platform into a position where anyone can create something to suit their needs and customise it if needs be.

Yes, its definitely something we’d be interested in - my email is hannah.nicholas@tpximpact.com.

@alex.sturtivant might also be interested as well?

The US market appears much more fragmented than the UK market.

Directories are sometimes controlled by nonprofits, or nonprofit networks, or regional information and referral providers, or local government, or some combinations of stakeholders who often have different needs, are starting with different tool sets and want different stuff. Some just need an API, or a backend, or a front end, etc.

Once HSDS 3.0 launches, which should be any day now I think, we’re going to reassemble our solution provider community to talk about our ecosystem of tools so we can achieve as much interoperability as possible. I’ll let you know when the next meeting is. And please contact me (devin@sarapis.org) with any other developers/architects etc who should be in those conversations.

All the best.

Hi @hntpx, thanks for sharing. And welcome :slight_smile: This is inspiring work. My team has been working on some Open Source software that is more focused on the public display of resource data. I’m keen to learn more about Outpost, and potentially show you our work as well if you are interested. Please reach out to sky@sitesavvy.com if you would like to chat.

Cheers!