First let me preface what follows by saying that these comments are coming from my particular, somewhat old-school, and fairly basic web hosting and web system management mindset. For the last couple decades I’ve run PHP-based tools from blogs to forums to image galleries and more on simple LAMP stacks, mostly through WHM/Cpanel, and mostly on managed servers. The few times I’ve deviated from that it has been with heavy support from others, e.g. when I got Redmine running (Ruby on Rails) and used it as my “digital brain” for some years. WHM/Cpanel and PHP remain my “comfort zone”.
So to me Discourse’s hosting requirements are a little intimidating. That will (thankfully) not be true for everyone. But part of what I love about Discourse once it’s setup is that it’s remarkably easy to administrate and customize. For me that puts the potential challenges of initial setup and hosting somewhat in opposition of its eventual ease of use. My interest is strongly in favor of more people being able to create digital gardens more easily. So with that in mind…
I would say my biggest hesitation in recommending Discourse as a platform for digital gardening is hosting complexity vs. cost. If you have some commandline/server admin/hosting savvy, you can host Discourse for fairly cheap, either on Digital Ocean (maybe $10/mo) or for free on your own self-managed server at home (i.e. if you run your own server already and are comfortable managing it). Otherwise you need to use a paid, managed hosting option like https://www.communiteq.com/ which is what I use. They’re the cheapest option I know and still $20/mo, which for many is not very affordable.
Some people already have web hosting service they pay for to run e.g. Wordpress or other tools, usually PHP-based or otherwise something that can be run on a LAMP hosting stack. Discourse has different system requirements and isn’t necessarily compatible with that kind of hosting, especially if it’s “shared” hosting (which is always the cheaper kind).
So again it’s just a matter of cost vs. complexity. In the case of someone who already has LAMP hosting, they might be able to move to Digital Ocean without increasing cost, but would have to learn a bit to manage their server there as there is less “hand holding” than e.g. Dreamhost (my other primary web host where my blog sits: https://oshyan.com/ ).