Configuring Default Notification Settings for Users

:discourse: This is an explanation guide intended to help understand the process of configuring default notification settings for users on a Discourse site.

:person_raising_hand: Required user level: Administrator

As a site admin, it’s important to understand how to setup your users default notification preferences for tracking topics and receiving emails.

These settings are crucial for user engagement and ensure your users stay up-to-date with the topics and discussions they care about.

Let’s go through some of the Admin > Settings > User Preferences (.../admin/site_settings/category/user_preferences) that you may want to configure to help your users ensure they’re being notified about important discussions on your site.

:person_tipping_hand: Before getting started, you may want to review the New Users Guide - Notifications and How does the notifications menu work? topics to understand how users receive notifications from Discourse.


In Discourse, a topic can have one of the following five notification levels:

  1. Watching: Users will be notified of every new reply in this topic, and a count of new replies will be shown.
  2. Tracking: Users will be notified if someone mentions their @username or replies to them, and a count of new replies will be shown.
  3. Watching First Post: Users will be notified of the first post in each new topic, and a count of new topics will be shown. (Can only be set per category or tag, not on individual topics). After the initial “Watching First Post” notification is sent, the topic will move to a “Normal” notification level (You will still be notified if someone mentions your @name or replies to you).
  4. Normal: Users will be notified if someone mentions their @username or replies to them.
  5. Muted: Users will never be notified of anything about this topic, and it will not appear in their list of latest topics.

Users can change the notification level for a specific topic at the bottom of the topic, and the changes will be reflected in their activity summary.

Users can also change these settings for all topics within a specific category or tag on their Preferences > Tracking page.

Admins can also change the default tracking notification level settings for all users for specific categories or tags by adjusting the default categories... or default tags... settings.

Default Category Settings

Default Tag Settings

Categories or tags that are added to these settings will automatically be set to the corresponding notification level for all new users on your site.

When adjusting these settings you will also have the option to apply the changes historically for all active users on the site.

You can also adjust the time it will take for a topic to be auto tracked as a user is reading through a topic with the default other auto track after msecs setting (default: after 5 minutes).

:person_raising_hand: Why would I want to adjust Topic Tracking settings?

Admins may want to adjust the default tracking notification level for all users to manage user engagement and notification frequency. More notifications can boost engagement, especially for new users or in forums focused on support or issue tracking. The site’s focus may also dictate defaults, such as promoting specific content by setting certain categories or tags to “Watching”.

Remember, these are just defaults. Users can always adjust their individual notification and override these preferences to suit their needs.


Admins may also want to adjust notification related User Preferences settings to optimize user engagement and experience.

By default, a topic will be set to Tracking anytime a user replies to a topic. This can be adjusted by changing the default other notification level when replying setting.

Admins can also change the default other like notification frequency to adjust how often users will receive notifications when their post is liked, or mute notifications for all categories with the mute all categories by default checkbox.

An admin might choose to mute all category notifications for all users to manage the volume of notifications, direct user focus towards personal interactions like replies or mentions, or encourage users to actively explore the forum.


Admins can also adjust the default settings related to users’ email preferences to help balance user engagement and email overload.

The following site settings can be adjusted to change these preferences for all users:

  • Default Email Digest Frequency: Sets the frequency at which users receive summary emails by default. (Default: weekly)
  • Default Include tl0 in Digests: Determines if posts from new users are included in summary emails by default. (Default: Disabled)
  • Default Email Level: Sets the default email notification level for regular topics.(Default: only when away)
  • Default Email Messages Level: Sets the default email notification level when someone messages a user. (Default: always)
  • Default Email Mailing List Mode Frequency: Determines how often users who enable mailing list mode will receive emails by default. (Default: an email for every new post)
  • Disable Mailing List Mode: Prevents users from enabling mailing list mode, thus disallowing any mailing list emails from being sent. (Default: Enabled)
  • Default Email Previous Replies: Decides if previous replies are included in emails by default. (Default: never)
  • Default Email In Reply To: Includes an excerpt of the replied to post in emails by default. (Default: Disabled)

Similar to the Tracking preferences, all of these settings will have the option to apply changes only moving forward or historically as well.

:person_raising_hand: Why would I want to adjust global user email preferences?

More frequent emails can increase user engagement by keeping them informed about new posts and messages. However, too many emails can overwhelm users and may lead to them ignoring the emails or marking them as spam. Striking a balance is key, and the default preferences you will want to set depend on the type of site you are managing.

:discourse: If you’re on a Discourse hosted site, you will also want to keep in mind the monthly email limit for the plan your site is hosted on:

Community Basic Standard Business Enterprise
Monthly emails 50k 100k 300k 1.5M+

Additional resources

Last edited by @pedrom 2024-07-05T03:40:55Z

Check documentPerform check on document:

Does watching first post work per topic?

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No, the Watching First Post tracking level can only be set for specific categories or tags and not individual topics.


In the screenshot that you shared, all of the notification levels start out with an empty list of tracked categories or tags. Does this mean that by default, new users enter into a Discourse forum without any notifications for any categories or tags? I don’t think this is correct, but maybe it is; if users do have some default tracked categories or tags, then I want to understand how that functionality works and how it intersects with these settings.

By default, the default categories... and default tags... settings are empty, so users who create an account on a brand new Discourse site would have all categories and tags set to the Normal level of notifications.

Unless categories or tags are explicitly set with different notification level using the default categories... or default tags... settings, or unless a user changes their Notification settings manually, all categories and tags on a site will default to the Normal level of notifications.


1 Like
  1. Does this also notify for edits of the first post?

    • if so, why not allow this to be chosen per topic?
  2. Also, why is it not placed above Tracking? It seems to be a higher level of notification unless I misunderstand it.

1 Like

When a new topic is created in a category or tag that you have the notification level set to Watching First Post, you will be notified when the topic is first created.

After being notified about the topic creation, the topic will default to the “Normal” notification level, unless you manually change the notification level for the topic, spend enough time in the topic to automatically track the topic according to your Automatically track topics I enter preferences, or post in that topic depending on your When I post in a topic, set that topic to preferences are set to.

Unless a topic is set to “Watching”, you will not receive notifications for edits.

Notification levels can always be set per topic manually to override any default preferences. If you want to be notified about topic edits for topics that you are “Watching First Post” you would want to make sure that the topic gets set to “Watching” after being notified about the topic creation. Alternatively, you could set your notification preferences for those topics to “Watching” instead.

“Watching First Post” allows users to receive notifications for just the first post in each new topic within specific categories or tags, whereas “Tracking” will provide a count of new posts next to the topic. This means that “Watching First Post” will only provide one initial notification for topic creation, instead of a count of new posts in a topic.

The “Watching First Post” notification preference is useful when you want to be notified about the creation of new topics but do not necessarily want to receive notifications for every subsequent reply or post within those topics.

1 Like

Thanks for that clear explanation, Sara - much appreciated.

This seems a very narrow use-case (tracking does not send notifications). I guess it would be useful for announcements, where subsequent replies are of virtually zero interest; I’d be happy with them being ‘tracking’ though. Perhaps I lack imagination.

Personally, I’d much rather that Watching 1st Post was included in the deal with Tracking and the option removed from the default menus as it doesn’t make a lot of sense as is.


I don’t know about that. I would like to hear about themes and components, or when something happends on documents and bugs as well, so I’m Watcing First Post. But if I’m interested in a topic and its posts I’ll start following — I change notifications quite fast to Normal, here anyway, but I’m reading almost every topic here (except dev-thing, because they are using some strange language, close to english, but not)

My forum is general one, but its ground is builded on dogs, I’m using only four categories, plus two metas, but we are strongly trusting on tags.

So under one category will pile up a lot of stuff, but everything rarely interesting everyone I teached my users two things:

  • how to mute tags, because it is the most effective way to cut down annoying noise, but also
  • how to follow perhaps interesting topics using Watching First Post

I have an user who is triggered easily about… well, quite many things, but otherwise he is really easy going, knows a lot and writes well. So he has muted all potentially explosive tags like politic related, but he is using Watching First Post and email notification from tags like hiking and paddling.

So from my point of view Watch First Post works really well when there is enough activity and proper using of tags.

And yes, I know. Off topic, again, because I was talking about what users are doing, and we should discuss about defaults. But still :woozy_face: