Can Discourse mix allowed account posting and email submissions to a private category?

One of my Discourse installations is for the local running club, and we want to have a post-race debrief discussion between the race director and the set of volunteers for that race. Some criteria:

  • We would prefer the discussion to be private because we think the volunteers won’t speak freely about bad behavior or other things if it could be viewed by anyone.

  • We’d like these discussions to be viewable by other race directors and board members for posterity (hence, we don’t want to silo these discussions in private messages).

  • The set of volunteers changes for every race, so it’s not feasible to create a single private category with all volunteers in it. Nor is it sensible to create a private category for each race, since there would be almost no traffic other than volunteer assignment and then debrief messages, once per year.

  • Because Discourse is still new, many people don’t yet have accounts, so it would be nice if the solution could be email-friendly.

The only solution I’ve come up with is to give up on the private category. If the category is public, anyone can post so the race director could create the debrief topic and manually mention all the volunteers so they were notified. Those without accounts yet could be invited to the topic. As I noted before, the downside is people speaking freely or there being private side discussions about negative topics.

I was trying to figure out if there was some way to combine a private category with anonymous email posting to allow the topic to be held in email, but with Discourse receiving all the email and maintaining a conversation in the system as well. But I can’t figure out if that’s possible—anonymous email accounts and then the staged accounts they create can post to a private category, but as soon as someone creates an account and it doesn’t have permission, they can’t email in anymore.

Am I missing any clever Discourse features that will let me bring both registered users and email users into the same private discussion in Discourse?

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You mentioned that you don’t want to use personal messages because you want race directors and board members to all be able to refer to them in future. But have you considered using group PMs?

For each race, you create a new PM which includes

  • @race-directors group
  • @board-members group
  • Any individual volunteers involved in organising the race

If there are any volunteers that don’t yet have a forum account, you can add their email address to the PM, and they can participate via email (or sign up and use the UI).

I think that would resolve all the issues you mentioned above?


Oh, interesting. I do have groups already set for the board members and the race directors.

Is it possible to add a group to a PM after the fact? I ask because even though I’d like race directors and board members to be able to see the discussion after it happens (and have it be searchable for those groups), people who weren’t involved with this particular race won’t want to be included in the back-and-forth. (We have a lot of email-oriented users at the moment.)

Or, is it possible to transfer a PM into a private category? Then there could be a group PM that could be archived to the Race Directors forum. I don’t see a way of doing that, but maybe I’m missing something.

My guess is that my users won’t search well, which is why I’m trying to collect things in categories for later reference.

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It sure is! You can add and remove recipients under the first post in the PM.

Each group can have a default ‘tracking level’ on their group PMs. You could set the race director / board member tracking levels to ‘normal’. That would stop the email notifications, but users could still navigate to the group inbox via the UI if they want to.

Yes it is, but the volunteers would lose access. The button is Make Public Topic, under the admin wrench button :wrench:.


Bingo—being able to transfer to a private category after the discussion dies down is perfect. Volunteers don’t need access for posterity; just the race directors and board members.

So in this case, the group PM can be between the particular race director and volunteers, and then the whole thing can be archived to a private category after the fact.

Thanks so much!


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