Bulk editing topic categories should not trigger thousands of email notifications

I just performed a bulk-edit action on nearly a thousand topics to clean up/re-organize a category slightly. I did not expect this action to send emails (except maybe to the creators of the posts that their posts had been edited), but the users who were watching the destination category were sent nearly a thousand emails each!

Note that this bulk-edit action did not change the topic bump date — even on topics that had no replies. I started with a few topics to confirm that this was the outcome before doing all thousand of them. That’s exactly the behavior I’d want there, and in my naive mental model a refreshed bump date is fairly tightly correlated with an email notification (but obviously that was flawed).

This is an unexpected behavior with a highly consequential outcome. It’d be great if either the UI would make this more obvious or if it simply didn’t happen.

The dialog itself looks fairly innocuous, and the ellipses in the Set Category… button make it look like there will be yet another pane before the action is taken.

Previously: Any way to NOT send emails when a topic category is changed?, Moving old posts triggers email notifications, both of which seeking workarounds for this behavior (but not directly asking to change it or identifying it as a bug).


So for example?

  • Jane is watching foo
  • You bulk change bar to foo
  • You don’t want Jane to be notified


  • Jane is watching foo
  • You change bar to foo
  • You do want Jane to be notified

I don’t quite understand what you’re asking, but the (default) status quo as I understand it is:

  1. Jane is watching new first posts on the category #foo.
  2. I bulk change 1000 old topics, moving them from #bar into #foo
  3. Jane gets 1000 notifications (emails or dings or badges) that appear “stale” to her — navigating to the #foo category doesn’t show any of these topics as actually being new as the topic bump date hasn’t changed.

I would like this behavior to change in one or more ways. I think it’d be helpful if Discourse called out the possibility of lots of notifications during step 2. It’d be even better if it’d be possible to avoid these notifications with a checkbox or some such during step 2. And I think it’d be best if that were simply the default behavior — maybe it’s my lack of imagination, but my gut is that administrators generally want to perform bulk actions without sending bulk notifications. This is very different case from moving a single topic.


FWIW there are these settings, which I (usually) remember to toggle before and after doing big bulk changes.


Yeah, I discovered that the “Disable category edit notifications on topics” setting does apparently affect watching_first_post notifications after searching here and finding the linked topic above. I wasn’t aware of the setting prior to that, bit even if I was aware of it I think I’d only expect it to affect the topic author’s edit notifications based on its wording. It’s definitely helpful to know, but I think the fact that you try to remember to disable it for bulk actions is pretty telling.

I do think it makes sense for a manual (non-bulk action) category edit to trigger a watching_first_post notification. And I don’t really mind having the topic author’s get an edit notification on a bulk action (there are likely orders of magnitude fewer and they’re much more obvious why they’re happening).

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I kind of see this as a feature request:

You are about to change categories on 1293 topics which will notify 8000 people watching the new category, Would you like to notify them?

There is also the possible new feature of a “bulk” notification for cases like this that would need to be fleshed out:

784 topics changed from categoryA to category you are watching / watching first post.

Does not feel like a bug, but more like a possible improvement we can make.


Also @JammyDodger is this a complete dupe of:

Should we merge?


(I love related topics)


There is also a setting disable system edit notifications, which "Disables edit notifications by the system user when ‘download_remote_images_to_local’ is active“.

I assume this is so that, when posts get automatically re-written to use local upload URLs, it isn’t annoying. (Can someone confirm?) But it also seems to mean that you can make “silent” changes via the API if you use the system user…


It does seem like this has cropped up a few times. I think there’s this one too which also makes a point about the re-notifying of people who were @mentioned in the original:

Let me see if I can tidy these up. :+1:

(I opted for a ‘close and redirect’ as a merge seemed like it could get messy)


I did search for threads like these and found a few, but goodness there are a lot. This just isn’t working how many folks expect. My expectations here were pretty much in line with this sentiment:

But that’s not accurate. It’s true that bulk edits don’t bump topics, but they do trigger notifications.


We have some limits in place elsewhere like maximum mentions that just provide informative feedback along the lines of “you’ve exceeded the maximum number of mentions so no one will be notified.”

Maybe that’s what we do here? Set some maximum bulk size for notifications and show that in a non-obtrusive way when it’s exceeded?

We could pick a reasonable default between 5 and 20. Sites that never want bulk actions to notify could set it to 0 and sites that always want to notify can set it to a very large number.