Apply "mailing list mode" per category

I’m not Sam, but most groups who are moving from mailman (or listproc?) have many lists, not one. I’m working with a group now (that I think will become a customer when they’re convinced that the 1990s are over) that needs to be slowly weaned from mailing lists and per category mailing lists would help.


I’ve got a use case for mailing list mode per category: urgency.

I have two sites, one of which is a community housing association. When we have an onsite ‘incident’ like a burglary, it is assigned to a category called ‘Incident’. It would be nice to have this category mail everyone with urgency, whilst all other posts can be served by a less urgent Digest.

Perhaps there is another way to achieve this?

You can force everyone to watch that category. You can do that with a plug-in.


Thanks Jay I’ll try that.

There are a couple plugins that force group members to watch a category, but they must be configured in the plug-in code.

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I’m confused, what will be the difference between “enabling category-specific mailing list” and Watching a category?

I still stand by this:

…provided we make sure no old topics are missed:


The difference is that by watching a category, all topics in the category become watched in the Discourse and notifications appear for them.
The mailing list mode is solely about emailing topics in a category without affecting notifications.

If I’m looking at a category then I will either look at the category manually on the Discourse interface or use mailing list mode but I don’t want the excess notifications caused by watching a category.

My watched topics section in Discourse becomes a bit of mess when every topic in a category is watched as then I can’t find the topics that I primarily want notifications from.

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What if you were able to disable in-app notifications for Watching? (Or for any content that has already been sent by email, as also suggested earlier here).

Because I want the in-app notifications for my watched topics and have per-category emails.
This is no reason both features can’t be used at the same time.
Watching only specific topics with notifications on the web site and getting all emails for a category.

I think it’s fine to consider “mailing list mode per category” as an enhancement of our existing mailing list type support. I am still curious to hear what @sam thinks about it.

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I think it is fine but I would place this in the UI here:

By default when you enable mailing list mode “all categories” are included, if you don’t like that you can clear All and select the specific categories.


If you’re going to replace a set of mailing lists with discourse, there needs to be an easy way to subscribe to or watch categories but also mute the ones you’re not subscribed to.

But I think you’re right that watching a category and a per category making list mode are the same thing, or maybe a mailing list mode that turns off email for all but watched categories is what’s needed.

This is brainstorming, not a recommendation.

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I think in addition to this we should also have a “Email All” option in the category notifications dropdown:

@LeoMcA correct me if I’m wrong but I’m assuming the Mozilla community would really like to be able to set mailing-list settings from here.

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This is tricky cause this is a “parallel” state. I am also concerned that this is a very uncommon feature and baking it deep into the UI everywhere is overkill.


I just see no good reason why it should work any different from the rest of our category notifications settings:

Cause it is a completely orthogonal system that operates in parallel with the rest. It has close to zero impact on existing notifications. Only thing it ensures is that emails do not double up.


I’m of mixed opinions on this. With the Mozilla use-case that would be the best place to put it - burying it away in a user’s preferences completely disassociates it from the category and makes the feature near impossible to discover - but for every user welcoming it I imagine there would be many more finding the new menu horrifically confusing.

I don’t think it’s possible to square this circle and make a UI which is understandable for both the classical-Discourse/forum use-case and the Mozilla/mailman-esque use-case for anyone other than people like us deeply involved in the project.

@erlend_sh I still think your post from last summer about this is brilliant, and I regret I haven’t had the time to throw any development resources behind making it a reality:

I wonder if this per-category email-only notification setting we’re discussing should exist like “Enable Watching First Post” in your proposal. That way we could set sane defaults on an instance level (not show it on Meta Discourse, definitely show it on Mozilla Discourse, for example) but still allow power users do whatever they want on any instance.

EDIT: In the meantime, I would agree with @sam on the placement of UI. I don’t think adding this feature should depend on the whole-scale revamp of the behind-the-scenes notification settings. Indeed, that should probably be done separately from this - being able to additionally hide the category-level tracking option by default would be very useful on Mozilla Discourse considering how useless the option is there.


Yep, that’s what I want. I already imagined it would work this way seeing as mailing list mode, as opposed to watch-first-topic, is already something you need to opt into.

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As a member of a community with a strong mailing list culture / legacy, I still believe that “mailing list mode per category” is a simpler approach that would make happy the users of mailing lists.

“Mailing list mode” at a category level should allow users to keep a full email archive with the activity in that category. “Watching” a category is not enough because (as far as I can see) misses email notifications for posts the system knows that the user has read via web, including their own.

Maybe this has been proposed by someone before (I have read this thread and some spinoffs but I might have missed comments), but I think the implementation could be relatively simple, at least UI-wise.

  • Create an admin setting to enable Maling list mode per category (disabled by default).
  • When enabled, this setting allows to enable Mailing list mode in specific categories (new categories would have it disabled by default).
  • When a category has Mailing list mode enabled, users see an option Email everything (or similar wording) on top of Watching.
  • Selecting this mode assures that all posts will generate emails regardless of whether the user has seen the posts in the forum or has authored them. Activity in this category will not generate web notifications because it is assumed that the user is reading the emails instead.

Sounds reasonable?

Note that in a real scenario of mailing list & web forum integration / migration, it is very important that mailing list users feel comfortable when the process starts. Quite often strong stakeholders, influencers and decision-makers on a topic like “Let’s deprecate Mailman and use Discourse instead” will be among these long term contributors with email-based workflows. They will be way more open to experimentation if they can keep their workflows untouched. Then, over time, they will see the full benefits of the integration / migration and for most the “mailing list mode” will give way to other levels of watching categories in the now wider and better integrated discussion forum.


In general I am fine with:

But for now you can simply mute the categories you do not want in your email box and enable mailing list mode and be done.