Badges and general chattiness of Discourse

This post is my attempt to understand the rationale behind Badges feature of Discourse and general behavior of the system towards new users.

A little background: I’m by no means an experienced Discourse admin, I have a single instance that I’m successfully running for my org’s community for about a month now. It was a learning curve for me to setup the system and make it behave as it’s applicable to our needs, but once set up, I’m very happy with most of its design decisions.

This brings me to a seeming contradiction that I’ve encountered during my short tenure as Discourse instance admin and a long-term Discourse user of several independent instances.

On one hand, Discourse’s UI is minimalistic and slick, both on desktop and mobile, truly a primer on UI design.

On other hand, the system is incredibly chatty and constantly requires my attention for quite a while after a new signup. I’m talking about endless stream of badges, notifications thanking me for a first like, first post and I expect for the firstborn if I ever have one. I will make an assumption that there was a serious rationale behind this upon the dawn of Discourse. It was a beast much different from most of the forum software those days. And you probably have had to come up with a way to educate complete newbies to how use it well and how to behave well.

Fast-forward to present day: now Discourse is almost a de-facto standard for any community that cares. And having no system of federated accounts, you have to sign up to each one. And on each one you will be greeted with a new badge. And another one. And UI tips. And this little unread counter that always has a (1) on it, always about some badge or helpful tip that system has for me.

Skip new user onboarding tips and badges’ setting in ‘Interface’ section of the Preferences helps somewhat, but I still see some new attention-grabbing notifications even after I activate it.

Maybe, just maybe it’s time to start moving in other direction in terms on defaults for this whole feature when there are a lot less people unfamiliar with the Discourse software now? I mean don’t we have enough of distractions in our lives?


The badges and the chattiness is there to increase engagement among new users. The idea is for them to feel welcomed and appreciated for their actions in your community.

However, badges is something that could be disabled in site settings in case you don’t find them useful in your community.


I bet I’m not the only one that feels annoyed and not welcome or appreciated. Let me give you an example: in pre-COVID era we all went to an offline store at some point of our lives. Sometimes there is a sales person that will greet you and try to be helpful, but me personally – I hated it with passion. Just let me browse the store, I know what I need if I don’t I will ask! But the store probably has monetary reason behind this behavior — having sales staff harass customers this way drives sales up by a measurable degree.

My question is did someone at Discourse perform any survey on whether this behavior was/is needed?

If your answer is ‘this is common sense’ let me counter with that 10-15 years ago common sense was to allow half of screen estate to be used by user signatures containing animated GIFs strong enough to induce epilepsy fit.

Btw, I’m aware of the fact that badges system can be turned off. I did that at our managed instance. The problem is that I don’t have control over the defaults of any future instances I will sign up for, for some of which I have to sign up for.

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I don’t know if this is the correct setting but isn’t that already a thing ?


Found at


Yes and no. It does indeed remove some of the badges, tips and notifications, but it doesn’t turn off badges for your account completely (AFAIK it’s not possible under current architecture).

For example I still earn ‘Basic’ and ‘Editor’ everywhere I go.


Carrying on with Your example, even if I hate it, I can not govern the store policy on employee behaviour for a store that I do not own.

Hence, I believe it makes perfect sense to let the store management decide what drives their sales the most.

The same could be applied to forums. If such encouragement drives engagement on a forum, there is no harm to it. If you’d rather not like it, maybe write a feedback to the store (forum) manager but theres only so much that could be done here.

Just to be clear, I’m not trying to advocate for the behaviour, I too believe the noise needs to be toned down a bit and such notifications be customizable to a do not disturb kind of low priority queue. However, I don’t see a harm with some encouragement coming my way if I am a newcomer.

However, that being said, once I’ve received the same set of badges and promotions on over three dozen forums, it feels very odd and redundant.

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Allow me to emphasize that in my example store’s decision to implement this policy is a conscious one. They weighed pros and cons and decided to actively push sales this way.

My subjective impression of multiple Discourse communities I saw is that they simply leave defaults as is or don’t know that setting disabling this exists.

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That’s very strange, it is fairly straightforward for an admin to locate the setting to disable badges.

And personally, I haven’t heard a similar complaint in my last 5 years of using discourse.

But I think this should be turned into an Opt-in setting during first setup wizard so admins could decide whether they want badges or not.

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I’ve just went though the experience of fresh install a month ago and can tell you that there is some degree of customization fatigue there. You initially focus on how the instance should look like, what policy texts should reflect and so on. It can easily slip through the cracks and, you’re right, generally no one will complain about it. Cause it’s easy to dismiss meaningless notification 10 times.

I agree on opt-in part. At least it turns this into conscious decision reflecting admin’s view.


Maybe I’ve remembered wrongly, but when you sign up to a Discourse forum isn’t there an option to ignore this stuff? And I’m sure not many people engage with Discobot.

With badges, maybe it could just become part of that - and/or maybe a setting available in preferences/notifications.

There is a per user setting to disable new user onboarding on a per-user basis and there is an admin setting to enable (default ON) badges globally. My understanding is that @max_gashkov is interested in the rational for the latter and wants it to be omitted as a default OFF.

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Yes that or the ability as a user to turn off badges/badge notifications.

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In some ways, this forum is used to survey user’s reactions to Discourse. As an example, have a look at the discussion that initiated the “skip new user onboarding” feature: Let experienced users skip "new to Discourse" features.

For some details about the thinking behind this approach, have a look at the blog post that’s linked in the response to How does the Discourse team do usability testing?.


Thanks, Simon. I do like the concept of Complaint Driven Development, so I will complain some more!

I’m not sure that the ‘Skip…’ feature is working as intended then. On each and every forum I sign up on, after I check this option, I’m still notified about ‘Welcome’, ‘Editor’ badges and several others.

May I offer another way to address this? Slack did many things wrong, but some right: it differentiates unread counter in dock on desktop for direct messages and all others, displaying digit or dot on the app icon. Is it possible to do the same in the Discourse UI? Digit for all user-initiated events (replies to topics, mentions, user-to-user messages etc.) and dot for all automatic activity (badges and I’m not sure what else).


This seems like an oversight on our part, we will certainly get these suppressed with the setting.


It was happening because of a bug. It’s fixed here:


Nice one … good catch.

Catching Major League Baseball GIF by MLB


This is great! I am glad people are able to opt out of these badge notifications… I also get them on sites I join and have become inured to them. Good catch complaining about this and also good catch getting this bug fixed. Thanks @andrei! :hugs:

On Discourse for Teams, we have disabled badges entirely because there is no need for such incentivizing on a private site for team collaboration amongst people who are already be motivated to work together!

What happens on sites with discobot disabled? Is there no way for users to opt out except by going to their user prefs?

Actually, I think this is about discouraging shoplifting!


I’d just like to chip in to say that I find the badges and general system chattiness on Discourse sites pretty naff.

I suspect that many admins simply don’t bother, or don’t know how to turn it all off. I guess very few users bother to complain about it - its just a low level irritation that reduces one impression of the organisation running the site, so the overall effect may be negative but is never measured.

It would make more sense to me if all this stuff was OFF by default and it required the creator of the site to make a conscious effort to turn it on.

For me all the badges and encouragement are at best patronising and at worst insulting and always a distraction. The system is treating users like primary school kids (which is ok if that is what they are).

Overall there are more people on the internet that are at the primary school level of computer competency than advanced users.

Badges are definitely a love it or hate it type of feature… some sites have users that get a little competitive about completeness, and others as evidenced here, aren’t a fan! Maybe that’s a good indication that they should be an option in the site setup wizard?

Though, it’s certainly possible that improving the “i’m not a beginner” opt-out at account creation could cover most of the complaints here.