Gibberlings 3 and Stormhold are down, have been a while and not for the first time. And every time it happens it is a major problem for those looking to install 70% or so of mods, because not even Google gives alternative links for mods at those two sites. One has to ask around for them here or hunt for exotic versions, which may be out-of-date or incompatible.
There was a strange thread around here with links to some mods just for those occasional downtimes. It was strange because as soon as the sites came back up for air, the admins deleted the links, and after they submerged again, people had to post the links once more. The reason for removal, apparently, was that the authors of the mods did not want (or rather it was assumed that they would not want) their mods getting scattered all over the Web, to unknown hosts.
To sort this out once and for all, I suggest that a few regulars of these boards volunteer as keepers of the more essential mods. They can keep them at some free but controllable hosting service like Google Docs etc. - permanently. The advantages of this idea are:
1) The mods would be available at all times.
2) The storage would be provisionary - until objected to. The authors of the mods would not have to be consulted individually, but they would in principle be guaranteed reasonable oversight of their work. The purpose of the Internet is to share information, and it is not too difficult for the authors to drop an e-mail to the keepers asking for removal of a mod, if they really object to the hosting.
3) Unlike random links, these files would be pooled and in the keepers' responsibility.
4) The keepers would not have to worry about maintaining or updating the mods, unless they want to. The most important ones have long achieved stable condition, they run more or less hassle-free. All we need are a few reliable download sources and people who keep an eye on them.
This is the end of my idea: keepers. Below are my "optional" thoughts.
5) New players often do not know which mods are the best or even what is available. With a clear list of essentials a new player would be able to immediately get a sense of how much the game has been expanded over the years, download and get down to playing. The list of essential mods should be agreed on by the community - here, for example. In my opinion, for BGEE they include Dark Side, Dark Horizons, Unfinished Business, Mini Quests, Stratagems, Randomiser, several others that are highly acclaimed and often mentioned. They would not all have to be installed, because it is still a matter of preference, but they need to be listed together to give a sense of the most download-worthy additions to the game. This is my opinion, but I think that something like Dark Side or anything with a new, hand-drawn area to explore or a revamped AI is more work-intensive, valuable, simply adds more to the game than, say, a romance mod or a couple of magic staves.
6) These miscellaneous mods could be listed too, just not in the top.
7) Unlike other games, Baldur's Gate is thankfully free of a mess of very optional files. The nice part about the essential ones is that they do not contradict each other, with minor exceptions. They can all be installed together, adding hugely to the game, and they break nothing. They could almost be combined in a fan expansion pack. This is another reason to make them available as a bunch.
8) Listing the best and most necessary mods on top and everything else on the bottom is a more useful principle than doing it through categories: new content; NPC and dialogues; items and so on. Categories are neutral to the point of being useless. They tell nothing. Instead we should not be afraid to point new players to creations generally found to be the most gratifying. Because what we ultimately look for is fun, whatever shape it takes. That way mod makers will also have a clear goal in front of them - strive to be beloved, in whatever area they decide to work, rather than make a mod "just because" and think it is worth others' attention only on account of fitting a category. For example, I do not care for romances as they are, but I might if there was great writing. Such a mod could not displease, therefore it would not annoy or break anything. There would be no reason not to include it in the must-have list. But it takes quality.