Configuring Default Notification Settings for Users

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

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).
  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+

Related Topics


Does watching first post work per topic?

1 Like

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