Hosting Needed!

I have gotten distressing news from WebFaction, which has hosted LH since 2013:

Dear WebFaction customer,

This message is concerning your “languagehat” hosting account.

We emailed you in October 2020 to let you know that the WebFaction platform would be closing down, and where possible all websites and services would be migrated to a new platform. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to successfully migrate your hosting package.

We will be closing down all websites and services on 15th September 2021, at which point your website and email will be offline and no longer accessible. […] You will need to create backups of your website, databases, applications and emails before the closure of the platform, and move your hosting to a new provider.

Songdog, who does the tech support for this site (bless him), says “the most unusual thing is its size — you’ve got a long archive which means more traffic and load when Google et sim come crawling. It would be nice to find a host where that won’t be a barrier, but it might not be easy to tell.” Needless to say, he’s looking for a replacement, but he’s a busy man, and he and I would both welcome suggestions from the Varied Reader. Thanks in advance!


  1. What are the numbers? How much storage, how much traffic?

    (To add to the 19th anniversary encomiums, since hosting at this scale isn’t free, thank you for paying for our collective fun for this long.)

  2. “Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to successfully migrate your hosting package.”

    Have you tried to find out why they weren’t successful? You might be able to make certain changes that would make migration possible.

    You may want to explore Bluehost.

  3. Steven Lubman says

    Stephen, I’ve used Dreamhost and it’s an easy interface for WordPress. Let me know if Songdog needs my help.

  4. Andrew Goldstone says

    I’ve never commented but I’ve long read, enjoyed, and clicked many, many links here. It’s distressing to learn that you’re at sea for web hosting. I’d suggest you contact Reclaim Hosting–they are academically inclined and in my experience very resourceful with tech support. They ought to give you a straight answer on hosting costs.

  5. Reclaim Hosting is looking good so far! Thanks to all who have commented and e-mailed; I will of course update when we decide on a host.

  6. Just to make sure: There are backups, yes?

  7. Oh, yes indeed!

  8. On the off chance Reclaim Hosting doesn’t work, a colleague of mine is in the same situation with his multi-decade long blog and the WebFaction support staff told him to check out Opalstack (which is run by former WebFaction staff).

    Also, because I happen to be in a textbox, here’s a cool visual dictionary of Aztec hieroglyphics, from U of Oregon.

  9. A Fistful of Euros have been hosted by Totalchoice Hosting for more than 15 years and also has vast archives and WordPress. We’ve been largely satisfied with them, but I have no opinion on how they compare to other hosts.

  10. Brief update: I’ve set up a Dreamhost account (Reclaim wanted me to use the expensive Business account) and we’ll update the site this weekend. It may look different.

  11. I mean move the site.

  12. Songdog just updated it to WP5 (in preparation for the move) and it looks good so far.

  13. I look forward to the flashing yellow bold italic type on glitter sky-blue background, in the style of the late nineties. Put some pep in it.

  14. With flying unicorns!

  15. David Eddyshaw says

    Will there be PONIES???!!!

  16. I doubt it. Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof, as Ecclesiastes would say if he were a contemporary German.

  17. Ah, the noughts of this century ! A follower of “Stromberg”, I presume ?

  18. No, not really – I saw some snippets here or there, but I don’t really follow that show. The expression is quite frequently used among my friends and colleagues.

  19. I vaguely remembered hearing Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof a lot about 20 years ago. The WiPe claims that its use by Stromberg helped this to happen. Thus my guess.

    I never found any tv series particularly interesting over the long term, apart from Die Sendung mit der Maus. Where else can you learn how brooms are made ?

  20. What does the German phrase “Leben ist kein Ponyhof” translate into and mean in English?

    5 Answers

    Tom Lively, knows German
    Answered 1 year ago · Author has 179 answers and 155.5K answer views

    All the answers you have received are good. I personally would go with “Life is not child play.” But that is just because when I think of a ‘Ponyhof’ I think of a fenced in area or yard where kids would ride ponies. Farm is also a possible translation but in this case I think a Pony ride, like you might find at a fair, is a more likely meaning.

    Related Questions

    What does “kein bock auf Nazis” translate to in English?

  21. I never found any tv series particularly interesting over the long term, apart from Die Sendung mit der Maus.
    That’s a classic, of course. The only things I watch regularly these days are Tagesschau, the Heute Show, and the Tatort from Münster.
    @LH: A good translation for Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof is this here . 😉

  22. Now you’re talkin’!

  23. David Eddyshaw says



    Yer man Charlie Watts again!

  25. À propos life not being a Ponyhof, it looks like the “Commented on LH threads” site is down…

  26. I’m checking with Songdog to see if it might be related to the WP upgrade we just did rather than being the usual problems.

  27. Songdog says:

    I don’t know about the site or how it works, I’m afraid. It might have been relying on some WordPress 4 thing that’s not there in WordPress 5, but I don’t know enough to say.

    I can’t reach at all, for what it’s worth.

  28. As of just now, it contains the four most recently commented posts, so it seems to be rebuilding (or John Cowan is rebuilding it manually again, I guess).

  29. OK, we’re about to transfer the site; no point making a post about it, because once it starts people will just see a message about maintenance mode rather than my post, so I’m just notifying the few people who read this, and I’ll apologize for the mess after the fact. Warning: LH will look different!

  30. Thanks for the excellent notification. These are exciting times.

  31. Yay, back on line ! But everything looks the same ?!

  32. Giacomo Ponzetto says

    It looks the same to you and me, but it will look different to the enlightened.

  33. Am I correct in noticing a tiny difference in the bold font of the titles of the posts?

  34. January First-of-May says

    no point making a post about it, because once it starts people will just see a message about maintenance mode rather than my post

    There might, however, be a point making a post about it after the migration had happened – if nothing else then to reassure people that they don’t need to wait for it any longer.

  35. The bold font used to be Lato. Now it’s all Helvetica.

    (Thank you, Internet Archive and Font Squirrel.)

  36. Languagehat asked me to let y’all know he’s just waiting for the DNS change to work its way to where he’s sitting so that he can reach his own site at its new home, and then he’ll be right back with you.

  37. Thanks, Songdog!

  38. Everything looks fine except the list of recently commented-on posts at (unsurprisingly). A smooth transition!

  39. Now you may think that this is the end. Well it is.
    But there’s some that go on singing.


  40. It works well on my phone, but Google Chrome on my laptop computer is erratic. It works fine, but if I reload a few minutts later it says there’s a certificate issue. When I overrule it I get a message from saying “Site not configured”. But wait a few minutes and it works again. Could well be a weird effect of some security setting on my side, likely defined by my employer.

  41. David Eddyshaw says

    Same thing here (though I can’t blame my employer.)
    Happens intermittently with the phone as well.

  42. I’m back! Yesterday was frustrating, but overnight my computer finally let go of the old DNS and I can finally post and comment. Thanks for your patience.

  43. The first spam under the new order may have crept in almost unnoticed (vide supra) while the chicken house was all in a flutter of expectation:

    Thanks for the excellent notification. These are exciting times.

    Has Akismet been shown the door ?

  44. That ain’t spam, that’s just another David.

  45. On my usual computer and browser (Firefox), I finally see the lock sign for a secure connection next to the URL, and clicking on it for information shows that it’s verified by “Let’s Encrypt”. But on my phone (Android, Firefox) it still says that the connection is insecure. Hm.

  46. It’s still erratic. It’s now the same (but not the same message and not synchronously) on both devices and in all available browsers. Could it have to do with whether (or when) it”s checking the validity of the certificate or the IP adress against some internal register or downloaded cookies?

  47. Songdog sez: “It’s probably punch list stuff for the switch to SSL, which we’ll get to soon. The top priority was the hosting change (which may also still be causing trouble for a few people due to lingering DNS propagation delays).”

  48. PlasticPaddy says

    Re your “Russian word of the day” link, the (former?) blogger Don Livingston has removed this content from the site and “broken” the link. Maybe you can ask him (U. Ariz Dept. of Slavic Studies) if there is a new link or archive.

  49. Unfortunately, the Commented-On Language Hat Posts feature, including the Random Link, has stopped working.

  50. Yes, JC is working on it; he has to recover his password or something.

    Re your “Russian word of the day” link, the (former?) blogger Don Livingston has removed this content from the site and “broken” the link. Maybe you can ask him (U. Ariz Dept. of Slavic Studies) if there is a new link or archive.

    Nah, I’ll just delete it — I’ve got too much junk in that sidebar as it is. Thanks for the heads-up!

  51. I see that the link is actually missing, now.

    I should think that it would be possible to use WordPress itself to build a commented-on-posts page, without needing an outside scraper.

    As long as I’m wishing, it also occurred to me that it would be nice to put the date of the the most recent comment next to the link to the post.

  52. I should think that it would be possible to use WordPress itself to build a commented-on-posts page, without needing an outside scraper.

    Very likely, but I’m not going to put Songdog to any more trouble than I have to after all he’s had to do these last few days. If anyone familiar with WordPress can come up with a likely chunk of code, I can ask him to try it out.

  53. PlasticPaddy says
    It is more about deciding what you want to implement. There are a few options. I have done HTML stuff, but this looks easier (but I do not know what “legacy” issues Songdog has to deal with in fitting this “recent comments box” in to your site😊).

  54. Well, those show recent comments, whereas JC’s showed commented-on posts, not to mention the all-important “random link” feature. I hope he’s figuring it out behind the scenes and not having to deal with unanticipated life events.

  55. PlasticPaddy says

    Oops, sorry…
    I thought maybe one of the options would allow you to have the last ten commented posts, which would be enough for me…
    Or you could try

  56. I wonder if it would be possible to have one page with just that widget, closed to comments? I think that would replicate the former functionality, more or less…

    The code for the above widget is surprisingly short. The heart of it seems to be a MySQL query:

        * Query for posts sorted by the last approved comment without password protected posts and pingbacks.
        * @param $limit
        * @return object|mixed
       public static function query_posts_with_recent_comments($limit)

           global $wpdb;

           $query = "select
                   $wpdb->comments wpc
                   wpc.comment_post_id =
                   AND comment_approved = 1
                   AND post_password = ''
                   AND comment_type NOT IN ( 'pingback' )
                   AND comment_type NOT IN ( 'trackback' )
                wp_posts.post_date  ) as mcomment_date
                $wpdb->posts wp_posts
                post_type = 'post'
                and post_status = 'publish'
                and comment_count > '0'
             order by
        mcomment_date desc  limit $limit";

    The default value for $limit is 5.

    Some rough back-of-the-envelope estimates for languagehat posts in a 20-year span is about 7300.

    Checking the page for the recently-commented page, I see that as of 2021-08-14, there were 7425 posts linked. So the real 20-year post span is probably closer to 7700.

    Guessing that LH might be around for a maximum of another 4 decades (probably wildly optimistic, but we’re doing estimates here), and posting more or less constantly at the same rate for that time (more optimism!), the probable maximum is let’s say 48000.

    Of course, since the SQLquery is just part of a text file, I suppose it would be possible to just edit the limit out . . .

    (Relatedly — are there literally 0 languagehat posts with 0 comments?)

  57. Relatedly — are there literally 0 languagehat posts with 0 comments?

    No, I run across them every once in a while.

  58. Apologies for not getting the posts-with-comments feed up again. I recovered my password, but the recreate process keeps crashing for no apparent reason. In addition, I had an internet outage during most of yesterday. I’ll try again this evening Language Hat time.

  59. Okay, the screen-scraping process was broken by the new installation, which is sensitive to the exact layout of the multi-entry pages (/page/1, /page/2, /page/3, etc. etc.) Now that that’s fixed, I’m downloading the posts themselves, so far 3129 of 7771 pages.

    Tomorrow morning I’ll run the process that sorts everything and makes links to the latest comment on each page, and then we’ll be back to normal.

  60. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Thanks John for doing this in the first place, and thanks again for your efforts to fix it. I thought that the new host was probably to blame for the problem I encountered yesterday.

  61. Yes, I add my thanks. I’ve become hopelessly addicted to the Random Link!

  62. There seems to be some bugs — currently, the “Commented-On Language Hat Posts” page lists the Random Link, a line for “DER VOLF/THE WOLF.” (which actually links to /the-geography-of-river-names/), and “100 WORDS” (which actually links to /words/, not the same post as /100-words/), and then the closing words. And that is all.

    /Just sayin’

  63. I know, but I hate to pester JC any more than I have to — I presume he’s aware of the problem and is trying to fix it.

  64. David Eddyshaw says

    I too had not previously appreciated just how much JC’s Commented-On feature adds to the site. You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone …

  65. The DER VOLF/THE WOLF. and 100 WORDS links (which had been there for several days) have now been replaced by the most recent posts (including this one) to have received comments. This list is short, showing posts with comments from the last few hours, rather than the exhaustive listing of past posts in order in which they were most recently commented on—but it’s usable! Thanks, John!

  66. Just checked with JC, who says: “The upgrade to WordPress required a lot of code changes and flushed out a bunch of bugs, but I’m still working on it as time permits.”

  67. Seems to be functioning again!

  68. Yes, even working in New Zealand. Thank you JC.

    Now, which topic was I about to follow-up on …?

  69. Thanks JC. And Hat.

  70. There is a list now, but it doesn’t seem to be ordered by the most recent comment. I clicked on a few where the most recent comment is years ago.

  71. Huh, you’re right: the third link is now this post, whose latest comment is from 2019. I guess there are still a few bugs to be flushed out…

  72. It really started working as previously about an hour ago for me.

  73. I believe my liberal application of insecticide has now been successful. However, the snarfer (which captures the recent comments from the home page into a temporary file until they can be integrated) was running during most of the hiatus, but not all of it; consequently, some pages that had new comments during this period will link to something other than the latest comment. All posts now appear on the page: posts without comments are at the bottom in (as it happens) reverse alphabetical order.

    I classify the bugs I found thus: 1) consequences of the WordPress upgrade, 2) mistakes I made trying to correct for the first group; 2) pre-existing bugs that affected mostly the older pages. There still remains a bug I can’t correct without a major redesign: each comment link on the post is of the form “#comment-nnnnn”, and I assume that these numbers increase the further down the page you go. However, this wasn’t always the case for posts written before the conversion from Movable Type to WordPress.’

    If anyone discovers further bugs, comment here.

  74. You are truly a Hattic Hero.

  75. David Eddyshaw says

    Order of the Hat, First Class.

  76. This will all be fixed in the print edition, I trust.

  77. A tome of roughly 64 million words.

  78. It’s not updating. 🙁

  79. Yes, it looks like it stalled at some point on Saturday. I have a bunch of comments on older posts that I’m holding until the page is really working — I don’t want them to get washed out of the “recent comments” (which at this moment takes only about an hour) and never noticed!

    Still, a smooth transition overall, considering the size of the archive. Many thanks to everyone keeping it going.

  80. Did the old site convert emoticons in comments into emoji? I honestly don’t remember.

  81. John Cowan says

    The new stuff being picked up from the home page was not being integrated, just discarded. So many pages will be pointing to the wrong comment (and therefore will appear in the wrong order) until new comments are added, alas.

  82. PlasticPaddy says

    For me this seems accurate (for the most recently updated posts) for the first time since the move. The only thing I notice is that one post “the tearing of the red sea” appears twice consecutively.

  83. David Marjanović says

    Did the old site convert emoticons in comments into emoji?

    Yes, but only for the last few years.

  84. New comments since last night are now being *added*, but not *integrated*: pages that got comments both before and after the last six-day outage are now listed twice, including at this moment:
    The Basque-Algonquian Language of Canada.
    The Tearing of the Red Sea.
    Hosting Needed!
    The Origin and Evolution of Word Order.

    And pages that were posted during the outage aren’t listed at all if they didn’t have new comments this morning:
    Michael Rosen on Learning Latin.
    Three Etymological Oddities.
    The Bookshelf: Journey to Russia.

    So I hope “alas” isn’t the last word. Rebuilding again from scratch may be the safest path; it’s been done before. I wasn’t able to check the site as often as usual last month and I’m itching to catch up on what I’ve missed.

  85. John Cowan says

    I can do that, yes, and that would deal with the last three. But it takes the better part of a day to do all the necessary downloads, and I need to fix the bug that allowed the first four to be duplicated before I do that.

  86. Good to know you’re working on it. Thanks.

  87. John Cowan’s site appears to be down again. I don’t know if that’s temporary and/or due to a rebuild, but it’s a bummer. : (

  88. John Cowan says

    Unfortunately, is not particularly stable. I think I will need to have my own site. However, it usually pops up again. Note that a failure to connect indicates the site is down; a garbled or incorrect page indicates that a rebuild is in progress, and a 404 page indicates that something is deeply screwed up.

  89. The vrici site has been down since last night (US time), long enough that two threads that had comments during the night, Ivrit/Yehudit and EVERETT V. CHOMSKY, have fallen off the Recent Comments list. I’ve just subscribed to the RSS comments feed as a substitute.

  90. … and since Oct. 15 the site has been back up, down for a few days, up for a day or so, and now down again for at least a few hours so far. Down more than up, in general. At least the script is apparently still running even when the web page is unavailable, since the page seems to be up to date when it reappears, but I miss it a lot when it’s gone.

    The RSS feed works, though it’s a lot less convenient. Is anybody else using it? If I just look at the 10 most recent comments, I miss a lot.

  91. Unfortunately the page isn’t keeping up to date. “Uncleftish Beholding”, for example, was commented on today but is far down the list.

  92. You’re right, thanks; the page is up now, but it’s also missing recent comments on… comparing the RSS feed… Arabic and Islamic Elements in Dune; Preserving Welsh, Hawaiian, and Cantonese; HUNGARIAN YOU; at least.

  93. John Cowan says

    Right. When the server is down, updates get lost forever.

    Long-term plan:

    1) Fix the bugs in the script that merges the regenerated log with the currently-being-accumulated log.

    2) Run my own server.

    3) Hopefully fewer complaints.

  94. If you could use help paying for the server, I’m sure people here would be glad to contribute to a Patreon or whatever kids today are using.

  95. John Cowan says

    Not a matter of money: US$40/yr should do it. I just need to jump through the necessary admin hoops.

  96. 503 service unavailable. I do not know if it was so for everyone or just me, but as it is the first time ever, I decided that feedback won’t harm. It lasted about 30 minutes.

  97. David Marjanović says

    I seem to get the 503 error at random; not right now.

  98. Same here. Hopefully 2-3 weeks from now I’ll be able to do the necessary.

  99. David Marjanović says

    the necessary

    The needful.

  100. Also.

  101. I meant

  102. Wow, that’s weird. I wonder what happened?

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