4

Similar, but different from this question, is asking just for a recommendation for a web host on topic for this site? Note, this doesn't mean asking for help using some kind of feature that a certain host provides (though, those questions should probably go to the host's support department).

This is strictly about questions like (meta):

Who is a good PHP/MySQL host?

Or

Who is a good Wordpress host?

7

They're fine, and legitimate. And once one gets put up, the future ones can get closed as duplicate. Asking for hosting recommendations is a tradition in web site discussion mailing lists that spans at a minimum 12 years. There's no reason Pro Webmasters can't do the same. If someone is making a recommendation purely based on a referral fee, downvote it. If the thing gets too karma-whorish, make it community wiki.

That said, a more specific hosting recommendation, like "I need Postgresql and nginx and ssh access, what shared hosts have this combination and are good?" are legitimate question. They might be good questions for ServerFault too, but that doesn't make it a bad question for Webmasters.

Worrying too much about what is and is not on-topic makes a forum less useful. The key is to trim away obvious sales pitches and encourage constructive help for the people who come seeking answers.

  • 2
    +1 with caveat: I believe that "make it community wiki" is the first thing that should happen for this type of question - whether a host is "good" is always going to be subjective and allowing a recommendation based upon subjective experience to accumulate rep invites karma-whorish activities (like extremely long recommendations which end up reading like a sales pitch). – danlefree Jun 21 '11 at 4:17
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I personally feel that answers to every incarnation of the above questions could number in the thousands, and not one of those answers is technically correct. I think allowing these kinds of questions turns us partly into a web hosting directory, which isn't the point of the site.

A question that can be narrowed down significantly, such as "Do you know of a host that allows more than [number] queries to MySQL per second?" would be taken on a case by case basis, but as a general rule, I think we should dis-allow them.

These 'list of' questions become very problematic to manage in the future. A year from now, they will have well over 100 replies, many of them duplicating existing responses.

4

I don't think 'recommend a web host' questions belong on Pro Webmasters:

  • When questions are specific, they're too localized to be useful for others.

  • When questions are specific, I'm never entirely comfortable recommending a company I've not used, even if I find one or know of one that perfectly fulfils the original poster's requirements.

  • Even when questions aren't exact duplicates, people will make the same recommendations. I find myself deliberately avoiding hosting questions so that I'm not seen to pimp my favoured companies over and over.

  • It's rarely possible to give a 'right' answer beyond 'this is who I use'.

  • It's often hard to discern between answers giving genuine recommendations and answers suggesting companies people have an affiliation with, especially with newly registered users. I'm often tempted to downvote answers giving recommended hosts from people who registered the same day, but that might discourage genuine new users, so I've avoided it so far.

  • Many hosting questions appear to demonstrate a lack of research, or are only answerable by emailing several companies directly to ask if they support feature X.

  • The definition of a 'good' web host differs widely. (Do they mean cheap? Reliable?)

  • Mentions of price ('my budget is $50/month') or resources ('must support PHP 5.3') make answers less relevant over time, because prices and packages vary from month to month, and hosting companies spring up and die every day.

It can be frustrating trying to find web hosting for a project with very specific constraints, but I think the universal answer is always to do your own research and choose a company you feel comfortable with. Some possible resolutions:

  1. Leave everything as it is and treat each question on a case-by-case basis.
  2. Make all hosting questions community wikis (because none of them have 'right' answers).
  3. Close hosting questions and direct them to a more temporary setting, like chat.
  4. Create a dedicated 'hosting' chat room, and do our best to man it.
  5. Create 'Trusted [Apache/IIS/VPS/Shared/Dedicated/etc.] web hosts' community wikis and close hosting questions as duplicates of the closest match.
2

I personally believe that creating question about host recommendation is a really bad idea, for the simple reason that the host who usually have awesome thing to offer will often end up closing or will simply have more restriction over time, because awesome thing are often abused. This is very true especially for hosting that offer free plan. Over time those list will just be inaccurate and it's hard to keep them up to date. The votes for these question will also be too localize in time. One day a specific host can be a very good host that you would recommend and 1 year later it can be a host that you wouldn't recommend anymore.

  • Like Tim's response, you seem to be overthinking and planning for what to do about things which haven't even happened yet. – Kinopiko Jul 29 '10 at 12:54
  • @Kinopiko - again, I'm not saying we need to reach a consensus in any kind of a hurry. I'm just addressing issues that have plagued other trilogy sites (albeit in slightly different form) now, so that people see them and share their thoughts on the topic. Its just a discussion :) – Tim Post Jul 29 '10 at 13:54
2

I'm of a "wait and see" mind, but I am having difficulty seeing this kind of question ever being valuable to the community. There are temporal issues, differences in requirements/experience, gaming the system, and lots of other reasons why these kinds of question are bad, and not many why they are good.

I hope that it shakes out in a way where we can put some general guidance in the FAQ for off-topic like 'Questions looking for the "best" host or other service provider, though it is acceptable to ask questions looking for providers of specific (rare) technical requirements'

  • For now I'm just protecting them. We can make faq items here, as well, and just have the main FAQ link to our faq tag here. – Tim Post Jul 31 '10 at 8:33
1

If it's done with voting and community wiki, it could be useful, but on the other hand there are problems with such things as people using paid referrer links to DreamHost, and it might be that some spammers or otherwise manipulative people could try to influence the results unfairly.

But, like most problems of this nature, I would think that it would be better to wait and see what happens before making a lot of unnecessary rules and trying to predict potential problems which might never happen anyway. Can't we just deal with the problems that we actually have rather than the ones we imagine we might have in the future?

  • That's what I'm doing. Unfortunately I've lost my close vote (well, I still have it, but it becomes a supervote and just closes the question, which is hardly democratic, so I'm pretty much out of the 'shaping by close vote' process). Additionally, the reason why I open these discussions now is so that people see them and provide their input. Its not at all suggesting that we must reach some kind of consensus this week, this month, etc. – Tim Post Jul 29 '10 at 13:51
  • @Tim Post, for close-voting, you just need to create a sock-puppet account. :) Like this guy: Pekka's Serious Account and Pekka's Trolling Account. Granted they're on different sites, but still... – Cyclops Jun 22 '11 at 13:12
  • @Cyclops I'm so happy I'm no longer a mod here (I was), or I'd have to seriously grease a probe and send it in Pekka's direction. – Tim Post Jun 22 '11 at 13:27
  • @Tim Post, not sure why, he's not really a sock-puppet (that was a joke), just named different accounts with different names. Given his high rep on meta-SO, I think it would have come to light if he was really playing games. :) – Cyclops Jun 22 '11 at 14:02
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As I write this answer we have 2 people saying "no", 1 saying "yes" and 2 saying "let's wait and see". The site has been running for a while now, so can we get some sort of consensus now? On meta.stackoverflow.com this question is asked in general Are recommendation questions an acceptable kind of list-type question or should they be closed? and that question points to two other SO sites, one which says "yes" and one which says "no". My personal opinion is the same as Tim Post's.

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I agree with you, generic question like the ones you are showing in your answer I think should be banned!

They are simply meaningless, what does it mean "Who is a good host?" Good in what??? Is it a a good man hosting?! :-)

I would anyway allow more specific question, i.e.

Please suggest me a reliable host:

  • you have been using for at least 3 years
  • and you are still using it
  • that provide cPanel/WHM
  • that has got its servers in Europe not in US

as long as they are made Community Wiki!

Finally I would not make Community Wiki every hosting related Q/A like this one that was actually made Community Wiki by you. :-) It's hosting related, but IMHO is completely different, from yours and mine examples.

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