Create a private Topic only accessible to specified users

I’ve read dozens of topics about groups, categories, sub-categories, etc. Somewhere along the way I thought I remembered seeing that you can add specific members to be able to access a document (kind of like gDoc/Google Document permissions) But I can’t find that thread! Maybe it was talking about something else. But I feel like I saw a screenshot of a field where you could add specified individuals to a topic or something.

Per the title of this topic, I want to be able to have a private topic within a public category, where only individuals who have been granted access, could see the private topic.

Does this feature/functionality exist? Is there a better way to approach what I would like to do?

Let me add a little color to my request…


I want to have a public category for Accountability where everyone can post new topics. This would be a place where people can support each other in starting and keeping their goals…
I start a topic and titled… “Master the lob shot” and in the description I write: “Over the course of the next 4 weeks I’m going to work on mastering the lob shot. I’ve notice that’s a part of my game where I’m weak. I’m going to practice X every day, and also work on Y and Z for the last two weeks… for 30 mins each day…” (you get the point)

:arrow_up:︎ this topic would naturally be PUBLIC, in the Accountability category

But I also have some Pros/Coaches/Instructors that I work with. They will be offering clinics to select groups of users. I want them to be able to work in a private setting with just the cohort of players who booked for a respective clinic. I would like this to be a private topic, within the Accountability category, but only allow a specific list of individuals to see and access this topic. They could go into the other public topics that others are posting but I only want those who have been invited to this private clinic to be able to view/access the topic.

We will have hundreds of instructors/coaches/pros who run these types of clinics. These groups of members who attend a clinic are constantly changing. Each new clinic usually has a completely new cohort of players, so I don’t want to create thousands of groups or subcategories to manage these members. If we could just have a single, private topic that we invite individuals to join, follow, and participate in, this would be ideal.

This way nobody else join the private discussion that these members have paid for. And the members could subscribe to this particular thread to get immediate notifications… and it would really keep them engaged with their group.

Any thoughts on a better approach to what I’m trying to do here?

Or maybe the feature exists where I can do exactly what I’m imagining here, and I just need someone to point me in the right direction.


You won’t be able to do that with discourse.


The only kinds of per topic memberships are in private messages. These obviously aren’t part of categories, public or private.

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@pfaffman and @Stephen - thanks for the quick responses and the confirmation that it’s not possible to have private topics in a public category.

Based on the scenario I shared, what might be our best workaround? Maybe just have private categories for all of our coaches/pros and they can start a new topic when they have a new cohort and @mention the members of the new cohort. In this case, others who are part of a particular pro’s “group” and sub-category would be able to see the conversation but the ones that were mentioned would be the main participants ¯_(ツ)_/¯ ?

Maybe there’s an even better workaround that I’m just not considering?

I looked through this thread and still haven’t arrived at the best solution here.


Why not create groups per-cohort and use group messaging?


Or create a group and sub-category for each cohort.


Or write a plugin that can tag a PM to any topic and show an ‘Add and/or Edit a PM associated with this Topic’ icon/button on all topics. (The ‘Edit’ icon/buttons would only be available to people in the distribution list of the PM, the ‘Add’ icon/button would appear on all topics)


I feel @Stephen gave you the solution without really knowing it: Private messages.
The person creating the PM can add a lot of users and in the end, it pretty much works like a thread. Try it, you’ll see. As for being part of a “category”, if the thread is private, thus not visible publicly, and only accessible by a specific list of individuals, there really isn’t any need for a category. Just create one to host the public threads, and explain to your pros/coaches/instructors to create a private message to their first contact (or themselves if they want to start without anyone), and then they’ll just have to add additional users.

Just try it by yourself.


Yes, that works for one issue, but try it for 10 public topics where you have created a PM for each of the 10 public topics and each of the 10 PMs has a different recipient list.

That system very quickly gets unwieldy.

BUT, if we had the ability to tag a PM to specific topics using a new plugin as I described, that problem would disappear.

In the OP’s case the public topic would be “Master the lob shot” and then the OP could invite certain instructors to comment on the public topic, inside a tagged PM of limited distribution. In the PM, the instructors would be replying to the OP privately (other than admins who can view PM’s if they choose).


@DaleKramer I think you share my sentiment about why it would be nice to make private topics within an existing public category.

In the short term I’m glad to have this PM option as a workaround b/c it seems like it could help me do what I’m looking to do.


Yes, that actually looks like a pretty clean workaround!

THIS is the image i remember seeing! (adding people to a PM) but I didn’t realize it was a PM at the time. I must have created an illusion that this feature existed for Topics.

Nonetheless… Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to elaborate and help me arrive at a solution that should work for the short term. :pray:


It does exist for topics, too. :slight_smile: That’s why the (misleading) text in the dialog says “invite to this topic” even though it’s a private message. (A bug, perhaps.)


Okay Using groups you can take your Accountability Category. If it is a Parent Category. Create a Sub Category with security setting

Group Name See/Create/Reply

Set your Pros/coaches/Instructor as Group Owner. Now if these folks control the the topics created then you will need 2 groups. With following Sub Category security settings:
Group Leader See/create/Reply
Group Members See/reply

You will need a Sub Category and Group for each grouping of users.

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That isn’t material. This isn’t something Discourse does, and if you took the time to use the search and read around on the topic you would quickly find there’s no appetite for blurring the lines between private messages and topics in core.

We’ve presented the options which exist in Discourse, that’s the purpose of #support. Private messages and group inboxes are widely used for this kind of purpose today.

If the OP wants to open a #marketplace topic with a sufficient budget then someone may be willing to pick this up as a plugin. Thus far nobody has been interested in funding such work, because the existing tools achieve this, albeit in a different way.

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Wow @Heliosurge! Thank you for taking the time to map out this scenario. I’ll have to ruminate over this a bit to see if it makes the most sense as we scale thing.

Ultimately, I want to build the best system and then “get out of the way” so that these group leaders can run with it and not need any supervision or administrative management from us.

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Since you are still looking for an ultimate solution, perhaps this workflow would work within the current Discourse version. It does not involve any SubCategory or Group creations:

  1. Coach begins a clinic with a listing of paid-up cohort usernames, who each have a public Accountability topic that would show the Coach their current area of interest in improving their game, or even just a public topic there that tells the Coach their history with the game etc…
  2. The coach initiates a PM to this list of cohorts and adds them each to the recipient list of a PM in which the PM topic is something like ‘Clinic March 5-12, 2020’. The 1st post text would describe the particulars and blah-blah about the clinic and asks the list respondents to reply to the PM with a one line introduction of themselves along with a note from the Coach that asks each cohort to temporarily edit their personal settings so the their ‘Website Address’ points to a direct browser address to the first post of their ‘Accountability’ topic. This is the ‘Accountability’ topic where they can each provide more information that the Coach may like to read (he might even read some of the replies from the public on that topic if it interests him :wink: ). @jord8on, this is the way that we are creating a ‘tag’ to something like your “Master the lob shot" topic you mentioned earlier :wink:
  3. When the cohorts respond with the 1 liner to the Coaches PM, the coach can then click on the cohorts avatar and then immediately click on the link to the cohorts ‘Accountability’ topic that will popup so that the Coaches can learn more about you.
  4. All communication from that point on between the coach and all the cohorts with be done as replies to this ‘Clinic March 5-12, 2020’ PM.
  5. When the clinic is over the cohorts put their WebSite Address in their account settings back to what it was before the clinic.

I think that covers your issues as I understand them and which were not fully listed in your Topic Title.


Jord8on, your very welcome. If you need any help let me know. We can always use PM if you prefer and can provide Screenshots to help make things easier as well.

Level 4 Users are able to delete posts but not manage flags. But being a private group; Flagging shouldn’t really be needed as the group owners can boot and re add users as needed.



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