Ability to view if PM has been read (Moderation ability?)

So, this is a feature that many, but not all, communication platforms have. I would like an option to view if a user has “read” (seen) a PM sent to them. Facebook Messenger is the most prominent service that does this, and I believe Google Hangouts and Skype provides this as well. While I do not want to see this in regular topics (too messy), PMs are generally small enough where this would be a nice things to see.

However, I am torn about whether this should be available to all users, or just to staff. The recent example that brought this feature to mind was a user publically complaining that their post was flagged and hidden. As the moderator who flagged - and then preceded to hide - the post, I flagged the post again and sent the user (and @moderators) a PM explaining why I hid it (the link posted http://lmgtfy.com, violates our site guidelines) and asked the use user not to post that type of link again. While multiple moderators have liked the PM, the user has not, and I have no way of knowing if he has even seen the PM. So that is the moderator use case.

As for a regular user, I think the use case is similar (know if your message has been seen), but not as needed. Additionally, I am not sure how users would react if they know others could see if their messages were read, even though they are PMs.

Further, the ability to customize the “edit the post please” PM would be great, but I will create another topic for that per Meta rules.


Sorry, I disagree. Like a user I do not want the staff (or other users) see if I read or not my PM. We use discourse like a forum not like whatsapp or facebook. I want my (and their) privacy.

Like an admin I do not care if a user read a moderator’s PM. It is their responsibility. Let’s stop treating users as children.

For Regulars it would only be good if you change the title and want to know if the OP is O.K with your change. But as @Trash said, it is their option to notice you, you shouldn’t be able to see if somebody read a post or not.

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I wouldn’t like to see any kind of member to member messaging being monitored in any way - including read receipts.

However, being able to see whether a user has ‘read’ a formal notice is something I would like to see. It’s part of their education process and ours if and when the user comes back with reasons for their behaviour.

I see PM’s as being different from moderators’ messages and notices. It’s part of their relationship with the system, not just a general member to member exchange. If we don’t know they’ve read the reasons behind the moderator’s actions, how do we know whether the next time they do the same thing, it’s because they are being obstinate or they’ve forgotten the rules and also didn’t bother to read the PM attached to the moderator’s action.

All we need to do is state clearly in the T&Cs and, or Privacy Statement, that member to member communication is 100% private, but system to member communication may be tracked etc, stating instances where this is the case.

But some act like children, or worse set out to cause issues. Let’s remove the ambiguity and besides, on your system, assuming this is configurable, you can disable it.

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The moderator knows the reason. He sends a PM to explain his actions (where appropriate). It must be the user to take the trouble to read moderator’s PM. If a user act like a child and continues to do so I (the admin) do not care if he read or not the PM. I know what I have to do.
Some users will remain children forever, PM or not. All the other users read moderator’s PM, reply to it and ask if something is not clear.

Well, each admin can already read anything on his forum.


I’d just like to be able to prevent an otherwise good contributor from being suspended or banned for doing something they weren’t necessarily aware was contravening community regs.

It happens.

I was wondering whether that was the case - clearly that’s not good at all. Does your forum’s privacy statement draw attention to that?

Yes. When we translate and update the Policy and the Terms of service for our forum we have specified that the adminitrators have access to any private data of any user (for our and their own safety).
Something similar is in the Privacy or Terms of service here on Meta.

Imho, a good contributor (and a good user) read a moderator’s PM especially if his own post has been flagged or hidden. There is no need to check if he read or not. :slightly_smiling:

A hypothetical situation.

User seo-expert makes a few fake signature posts in fairly rapid succession.

Moderator sees that the posts contain some value, but as fake signatures are against policy edits them out of the posts and sends a message to seo-expert asking them to please stop with the fake signatures.

Without knowing if seo-expert has read the message, if seo-expert makes a couple more posts with fake signatures, what to do?

If they are made within a short time of having sent the message, it can reasonably be assumed that they did not read it.

If they are made after an arbitrary length of time, it can be assumed that they read it but are ignoring it.

The problem I see is determining what the amount of time needs to be to “reasonably assume”.

IMHO it’s better to be generous in giving benefit of doubt and better to think of “multiple offenses” within a shorter period of time as a single offense.

Knowing for certain whether or not a member had read the message would eliminate the need of making assumptions and make being “judicious” easier.

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You are right. But moderators can mark a PM like “official warning” and the user see a red (= alert) envelope in his notifications and he receives an e-mail.
If he remains on the forum (makes a couple more posts with fake signatures like you said) why he should not see the warning?

Well, regardless of the notification type, it is impossible to know how users use the forums. As regulars here on Meta, and (in many cases) moderators or admins on our own sites, we know Discourse forwards and backwards, and will look at notifications (especially green and red) when we see them. We don’t know what the user on the other end will do.

I actually just had a discussion on a similar vein with a user on my site about who the users are. I was emphasizing that we really don’t know (in the case of an open site). We have users who do not speak the primary site language. We get young children who don’t quite know how to fully explain themselves, or read the guidelines. As @ccdw said, I generally don’t want to suspend or block a user. That is the last thing I want to occur. I want to help educate and steer users in the direction we want on the forums. I understand the concern about user privacy. I do. But we already have a huge amount of information about users, particularly admins, and I have not really seen any concern about this. If an admin wanted to, they can get the user’s last IP address, when they were last seen, their e-mail address, and a whole lot more. I fail to see how giving mods and admins the ability to see if a PM was seen would be any bigger of a privacy invasion then all the other data the site already collects. (And I don’t agree that there is a privacy invasion with the current information anyway).

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There are some scenarios where knowing who has read something can be useful…


I suppose that use a red (blinking?) icon instead of green, when a user receives a formal warning by a moderator can be usefull.

Oh Lord - please not a blinking icon. That would drive me insane (and possibly drive me away from the site before I ever discovered what it indicated). OK, so I’m a moderator, and unlikely to be on the receiving end of one of those, but I’m not the only person for whom moving/blinking images causes problems, so I’d hate to see it implemented.

I have also been stunned to come across member who actually have no idea that the wee coloured circles with numbers in are indications of any kind of notification. So I always end up wondering whether members have read warnings, ignored the notification, or are totally unaware that they’ve received a PM of any kind. The ability to check for “read” would be useful as a moderator tool.

And, to make it worse, can actually be dangerous to people with certain kinds of neurological conditions.


Yeah, no blinking icons please! I don’t think we can do much more on the user’s side to make PM notifications more obvious without making it too invasive. That is why I am looking for something on the moderator’s end, as opposed to the user’s end.

Ok, blink erased.

Well, I am not talking about all PM. I’m talking for only moderator’s PM with official warning. When a user receives an official notice he see the green icon used for PM. A user can think “Ah ok, it is only another PM, I do not want read it now, maybe tomorrow”. If a user see the red icon he can think “Wait a minute, what is this icon? Why is red? Let me see”.
Now there is no difference from a normal PM unless he looks at the list of notifications (official warning have a red envelope).

BTW @codinghorror wrote that he agree about this feature…so it’s ok for me if I can choose to enable/disable it.

Well, @ccdw and I are talking about a good contributor not about new users or users that are unable to read a simple Welcome message :slightly_smiling:

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I just had a situation where I warned a user about something and closed a topic to prevent them from posting. I have no idea if they got the message, or are just confused because I locked the topic. A read receipt would have made me feel confident to walk away from the situation or take further action.

But I agree it should be a staff privilege.


What if for official warnings, the recipient had a button labeled “Acknowledge” or similar to click that inserted a “action post”:

A simple step for the user, but it has social contract implications. It’s like you’re saying “okay, I get it, I won’t do it again”.

Probably on top of the topic action buttons.

Click below to acknowledge receipt of this official warning.


The problem with that approach is users are notoriously bad at responding. Even clicking a button, I’d venture to guess many won’t do, purely because, they could have easily just replied with “Okay, I won’t do it again”

They might however, read the topic, and that knowledge would be useful to moderators and admins alike, especially if we see them repeat the offense we warned them about, and we can verify they did it after they read the PM.


I’ve been trying to workup a query to find unread system PMs

Still in very crude condition but it seems to work OK

WITH unread_messages AS (SELECT topic_users.user_id AS tuui
    , topic_users.topic_id AS tuti
    FROM topic_users 
    WHERE topic_users.last_read_post_number IS NULL 
    AND topic_users.highest_seen_post_number IS NULL 
    AND topic_users.notifications_reason_id = 2
SELECT unread_messages.tuui
     , unread_messages.tuti
FROM unread_messages, topics, users 
WHERE topics.archetype LIKE 'private_message'
AND topics.subtype LIKE 'system_message'
AND topics.id = unread_messages.tuti
AND users.active 
OR ( users.suspended_till IS NOT NULL
   AND users.suspended_till < NOW() )
AND NOT users.admin
AND NOT users.moderator
AND users.id = unread_messages.tuui 
ORDER BY unread_messages.tuui

Maybe things could be switched around to grant a revocable "read all PMs) badge.
If the member has the badge, they read them all, if not, they didn’t

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