Hi everyone!

A few weeks ago of exploring around travel forums I stumbled across Squat the Planet (abbreviated StP), an old anarchist travel forum created over 20 years ago. I was absolutely delighted to see that this was an old-school, web 1.0 style message board that still has a relatively active community. The content of the forum is right up our alley too; the site boasts categories of all sorts of anarchist/punk travelling methods and topics ranging from train hopping to vandwelling to squatting and so much more. Since Brooke and I are currently in the middle of getting ready to be vandwellers full-time, StP seemed like a complete gold mine of resources, information, and cool, knowledgeable people.

To my dismay, I read the banner at the top of the site stating that the forum is to be shut down by the end of the year. Apparently the owner and founder of the site, Matt Derick, was moving on from the site for extremely valid reasons, namely that he did not have the time nor energy to maintain the site any further.

It was at this point that I decided to reach out to Matt to offer our services to maintain the infrastructure and management of the community. A few email exchanges and Signal calls later, and we were collaberating on a plan to move forward, and he agrees to let us take over the backend of the site! From there we proceeded to start the migration process onto our infrastructure.

The website as it currently stands runs on a proprietary platform called Xenforo. This is a php-based application that is, tbh, quite dated, and its development has stagnated significantly over recent years. Our first goal is to migrate the forum to a fully open-source platform. Discourse seems to be the likely candidate for this, however Flarum is another possible option. We plan on rolling out this change gradually and with close feedback from the StP community. After the platform migration, we are planning on running two additional instances of the server on our other nodes using either docker-swarm or kubernetes to attain hyperavailability, making the site significantly more responsive and reliable.

We have also chatted with Matt about expanding the StP community onto fediverse platforms such as Mastadon and/or Peertube. These would serve to be companion communities to the StP forum, rather than be a replacement. While these plans are a bit far off at this point, we have also volunteered our services and infrastructure to host any possible future StP Fediverse nodes. Ideally we will work close with the community to flesh out these possibilities in a way that everyone is happy with.

I have also been thinking about possible features we could add to the StP forum to encourage more community engagement. Some ideas I had in mind include an improved event-planning interface to encourage more irl meetups and events, an aggregation feature for member-written how-to guides to make useful info more accessible, a mutual-aid tab so members can send/request resources and funds to each other, and a post-tagging system coupled with an improved search system to make content more accessible. Again, these are all just ideas and not concrete plans. I’m looking forward to collaborating with the community to hear additional suggestions and to implement features that people will enjoy and benefit from.

As of today we have migrated the Xenforo application to our Chicago server; so it looks like StP is going to be here to stay for a while. We will post updates on this project within the ‘Projects’ tab of this site (still under construction as of October 21st, 2023) where we will document the software stack, the platform migration procedure, as well as any future infrastructure changes and feature implementations.

It’s been a delight collaborating with Matt on this; he’s a very cool person and a seasoned traveller and anarchist, and he even sent me a copy of his book, An Anarchist’s Guide to Travel, which I am gleefully reading as Brooke and I work on our van project. We can’t wait to collaborate more with everyone at StP and help bring some new life into this community!