Best practices for archiving topics

(Tobias Eigen) #1

What are best practices for archiving topics? I’ve not used this feature before, and don’t fully understand what happens when you archive something and when we should use it. Appreciate any explanation/links :slight_smile:

(cpradio) #2

We don’t use archive on our instance (except our staging instance where we like to try and break things), so I can’t really say when to use each as we don’t focus on archive at all in our live site.

(Mittineague) #3

A lot depends on your edit time window and much work your Mods feel like doing.

eg. if you have a very long edit time window, you may want to archive an older discussion so posts don’t get edited into something not desirable.

We’ve found that having a shorter edit time window (many have complained that it’s too short) and auto-closing topics that gone dormant works well.

(Jeff Atwood) #4

It’s a subtle distinction but

Close only prevents new replies.


Archive freezes a topic in carbonite so nothing about it can ever change. Ever.

Refer to this handy diagram:

The idea is that archived topics would eventually be moved out or deleted. Archiving a topic means it has one foot in the grave.

What is the difference between Closed, Unlisted and Archived topics?
Safe to archive messages?
Archiving vs Closing & Bulk Topic Update

My main set of categories are configured with auto-close. I don’t plan to ever archive in those categories.

I have an Admin category for Administrative Announcements. Everyone can read, but only Staff can create and reply. This category is not configured for auto-close, but I archive topics when they are no longer applicable.

(Tobias Eigen) #6

Thanks everyone - and esp @codinghorror for the amusing visual. I think I actually understand pretty clearly what happens when you archive a topic, but I am still wrapping my head around why we would use archiving. Looks like we just won’t use it.

I will reflect on auto-closing of topics as well - that’s an interesting thought. Thanks @kensims. One of the issues we are running into is that we go back and close topics that are old, because the discussions have run their course. But that then bumps them up in lists and generates notifications which is unfortunate, and causes some complaints because people think they should be paying attention to them.

(cpradio) #7

This was fixed… It should only notify the OP and it definitely no longer bumps the topic…

(Tobias Eigen) #8

OP means Original Poster?

That would be good. Thanks for clarifying. What about moderators? Do moderators get notified?

(cpradio) #9

OP = Original Poster

Well they likely closed it… so no they don’t. If they were watching the category/topic, it does appear under the Unread tab (may not be true for auto-close), but nothing in the notifications area.

(Tobias Eigen) #10

Ah - so we have a category that we require everyone to watch. When a topic is closed in that category, does everyone get notified?

(cpradio) #11

In the Unread tab, yes, an actual Notification in the top right - no.

Again, may not apply for auto-close, but it seems to apply for a moderator closing a topic (based on the experience I have at Sitepoint and here at Meta)

(Jakob Borg) #12

Is there a difference in search engine visibility for Archived topics? I for one would like to see archived topics be not-indexed by Google and co., and be invisible or deprioritized in the in-Discourse search. This for many of the reasons stated here, but still leaving the topic around for people who have the link or otherwise know where it is…

How should category archiving work?
(Jeff Atwood) #13

I think that is a very good idea and would be another important point of distinction between closed. @techapj can you add this to your list?

(Kane York) #14

I’m not sure that “archived = hidden” is a good line to draw. Alternatively, you could do something crazy like automatically submitting archived topics to

(TechnoBear) #15

I always understood an archive to be a place of public record, to be referenced when required. So I assumed the purpose of archiving a topic was to ensure a particularly-important topic remained preserved and unchanged - like locking cells in a spreadsheet to prevent accidental changes.

This sounds more like bundling up old business records, ready to throw them out when they get beyond the seven-year limit (or whatever the local legal requirement is). I’m not sure quite what I’d call that, but it wouldn’t be archiving.

(cpradio) #16

Yeah, I don’t like that idea either. They can unlist if they want it hidden from Search Engines, why should Archived be removed?

Archived simply means you want to store it in its original state, you don’t want it modified. It would be similar to a static page which are still visible to search engines.

There is already a solution for this, they can unlist it and archive it. Done. Bam. Easy. Archive does not equal invisible.

With the change proposed, it is impossible for me to save a discussion in its current state without making it invisible/impossible to find. That’s frustrating.

Definition of archive:

Keywords: “Long term storage”

What if all of the important documents from our history were archived in the way you’ve outlined? They would be nearly impossible to find by new users because they don’t have a link to it. Hardly the best use of long term storage, yes?

(cpradio) #18

So it seems we do actually have a few archived topics (over 20 pages worth). So the impact on us is real (just an FYI).

(Jeff Atwood) #19

Yes that is an even better idea. @techapj make it so unlisting a topic removes it from Google search results by adding the no index header.

Unlist vs Archive
(Dean Taylor) #20

This post has been updated re-posted here:

Original post below

I was trying to get a handle on what “archiving” a topic does compared to “closing”, I walked though the code and made a few notes - which I thought I would share.

I just want to point out and re-iterate that @codinghorror’s post here really does visually display quite well this functionality:

##So how does “Archiving” vs. “Closing” a topic compare?

###Common to both

  • Displays a “lock” icon next to topic in lists
  • It is possible for two lock icons to display if both closed and archived: Close and Archive a Topic
  • Disables replying to topic
  • Disables voting.
  • Disables “Invite” button at bottom of topic.
  • Closing or archiving a topic does not bump its last activity date.

###Specific to Archived topics

  • Disables users ability to a delete a post.
  • Disables likes.
  • Disables display in “all categories” “latest” page (usually the homepage for logged in users).
  • Disables display of topic on the /top page
  • Disables inclusion in digest emails.
  • Disables display of topic in “random” topics list in footer of topic page.
  • Continues to allow flagging of topic or posts.
  • Continues to allow bookmarking.
  • Continues to be displayed in the Unread list (i.e. you see the post marking it as Archived, this is by design).

##Where do they go?

  • You can see archived topics via the status=archived query string parameter: Discourse Meta
  • You can still see archived topics when browsing to a specific category.

##The Future

And I also noted this comment, which indicates that what archive ultimately means might change:

There is further discussion in this topic:
How should category archiving work?

If you spot an error or something changed, please do reply to this post - I’ll update it.
Perhaps this could be a start of a spec post for archived topics?

Unlist vs Archive
What is the difference between Closed, Unlisted and Archived topics?
(Dave McClure) #21

My 2 cents for added features:

  • archived topics should also behave like unlisted topics
  • should be excluded from search by default
  • should not be crawled by bots.
  • should remain available to search with a special search operator (include:archived or something?)
  • should remain available to those with a link

In other words, they should be put in a state where they are out of the way enough you don’t have to delete them.

(or should those be just features of ‘unlisted’ and a shortcut could exist to “archive and unlist”?)