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
- 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.
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.