Outlandish We make data useful. @outlandish   ●   +44 (0) 207 561 9968   ●   hello@outlandish.com

Harry Robbins
22 May 2017

An Outlandish 12 months

The last year has been an exciting time at Outlandish. We’ve (finally) become a co-op and started a national network of tech co-operatives; we’ve delivered more projects than ever before for some great clients; we’ve found more great Outlanders and collaborators to work with; we’ve learnt and deployed dozens of new technologies and worked with some inspiring partners. We’ve invested hundreds of thousands of pounds on improving the UK tech sector and unleashing the power of technology for good. We’re honoured that our hard work has earned us a nomination for Growing Co-operative of the Year and can’t wait to see what next year will bring us.

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Outlandish would be nothing without its fantastic clients and their fascinating projects. This year we completed the main development of our largest project to date – the NOW: Pensions Gateway. We also completed a major refactor of our arts big data insights portal to take advantage of its new fancy cloud infrastructure. We’ve open sourced the Social Monitor application thanks to the hard work and brilliant persuasive powers of David Blundell at the British Council and deployed a version for the Goethe Institute. We developed the School Cuts application that’s shown hundreds of thousands of people how much their local schools will lose in proposed government cuts. We built a corruption-fighting document portal for an inspirational Papua New Guinea-based charity. We’ve also managed to squeeze in a few projects for the snap election including NHS Cuts, a new JC homepage (our local MP), Unelectable and Vote for Policies. We’ve undertaken a technical specification project with Mind and won a major product innovation grant for cloud architecture as part the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. We’ve also got out there a bit this year and presented to Open Conference, Open Tech, the European Economic and Social Council, the Worker Co-op weekend and the Employee Ownership Association.

The Outlandish office has always been a nice place to work, but every day is exciting thanks to all the wonderful people who have joined us on our quest to get good technology to people who need it. There are now eight members of Outlandish thanks to Joaquim, Matt Crow, Matt Kendon and Amil agreeing to share the legal responsibilities for running the co-op with the existing members – Rasmus, Abi, Sam and me. Brian Spurling got bored of modelling corporate data warehouses and joined the cause, Kayleigh Walsh joined us from charity consultancy NPC, Matt Parsons exited his start-up to help us start something up, Matt Shearer sallied forth from the Big British Castle to join us, Ian Bellchambers joined us from Torchbox, Alex Worrad-Andrews showed us how to manage servers properly and Nick Sellen showed us that we didn’t need servers to manage servers properly, Laurence Bascle showed us how to do agile properly, Pete Burden helped us communicate properly, Tom Marshall left his front page scoops behind to join a nice industry, Oskar Winter joined his big bro Rasmus from Sony, Jason and Chris Crysostomou joined the design team as well as keeping their Glowbox brand, Will joined us from the Guardian and Aoife joined us fresh from her master’s in digital wizardry. Ellie didn’t join or change status this year, but she deserves a special mention for putting up with me at home as well as at work.

We also got to grips with a whole load of new technologies and platforms that we look forward to using more. In the world of databases we got up to speed with the aggregation framework and DIY transactions in Mongo; we fell in love with the JSONB datatype and PostGIS in Postgres; we mastered Redis and Memcached and we mapped the awesome power of Amazon’s Redshift columnar data warehouse. We continued to develop our expertise in Node and fullstack javascript, and built an open source WordPress/React bridge, Kasia, to add to our existing stable of market leading WordPress tools – Wpackagist, Object-Oriented WordPress and Routemaster. We switched our continuous integration pipeline from Jenkins to Gitlab; switched our load testing from Jmeter to Gatling; moved a lot of our build tools from gulp to webpack and adopted a whole range of new testing frameworks including Mocha, Chai, Protractor, Selenium and PHP Unit. Our infrastructure is now managed through Ansible rather than shell scripts; our developer environments through Docker rather than Vagrant and our virtual machine images are managed by packer and CloudFormation.

We’ve done some great collaborations with other CoTech members including Glowbox, Co-operative Web, Tableflip, Webarchitects, Agile Collective and we look forward to working with the other 20 members next year. Rather excitingly we’re expanding the Outlandish office to include an events, co-working and meeting space for other organisations that share our mission to use technology to make the world a fairer place.

Having written it all down I’m hardly surprised that Outlandish has been so fun and busy this year. I think it’s fair to say that we’d all appreciate a bit of a breather once we’ve launched all our election projects but if history is anything to go by, I dare say we’ll be thrown into some other exciting adventure. At least we have a couple of nice residential trips planned – a hack weekend in Norfolk, the second CoTech retreat at Wortley Hall, a CoTech summer camp and a long-promised visit to roaming Outlander Matt Parsons in Malta Sweden.

If you’d like to find out more about what we do, would like to discuss a project or technical challenge with us or think you might like to come and join us, or just need a bit of friendly advice then email hello@outlandish.com, call us on 0800-999-HELL or drop by our offices in Finsbury Park. And don’t forget to vote for us.