Delivered and read notifications?

Maybe a crazy, big brotherish idea, but a colleague mentioned that she is missing a whatsapp feature she has come to rely on - delivered and read ticks/checks next to names of people in messages she is communicating with. We often use discourse messages and posts with @ mentions to communicate directly with people about activities and events in our community, and it’s super frustrating to not know if they even saw it when trying to follow up with folks… to the point that colleagues ask me to look in mandrill to see if they got the email and opened it.

I know discourse tracks info like this, but am not sure how to readily get access it in the service of stewarding community engagement. Some system of indicating delivered and read status would be very valuable, e.g. on the popup user card when selecting a user’s avatar in a conversation? It could be controlled via an admin setting, e.g. to disable entirely, display only for staff, or display to all members?

What do the ticks mean in WhatsApp?

WhatsApp uses a system of ticks to indicate different statuses of messages you send. The ticks will be visible at the bottom right hand corner of the message speech bubble, next to the time stamp. One grey tick means that the message has been sent successfully. Two grey ticks means that the message has been delivered successfully to the recipient’s phone. If the two ticks turn blue, that means that the message has been read.


From: WhatsApp: What do the ticks and other symbols mean? | BT


That works in WhatsApp as each user has a single device. Messages are only delivered into an app, and besides skimming the notification previews you can’t “read” a message without opening it.

Discourse OTOH is all about users accessing from multiple endpoints, some of the ways to consume such as email couldn’t convey a read state if you wanted to.

I wouldn’t mind a “read up until” notification for Messages, but it would need a huge disclaimer that it’s not an infallible measure.


A work-around is to make “liking” a post an indicator that you’ve seen it. This puts the “I’ve seen the message” in the court of the receiver (and doesn’t require any changes to Discourse).


Yep I have clients who require their staff to do this to acknowledge all posts in a particular category.


This all makes sense… thanks, both. We use the “liking” as well, but with very mixed results. The 150+ colleagues in my organization around the world are just not disciplined about logging in and using the like even when asked to add a like to confirm receipt.

Ultimately there is a lack of confidence in discourse for time sensitive communications and people are reverting to just using email, slack, whatsapp etc to communicate. This is a shame because it means we are not using discourse as much as we should be!

To take a classic example. When we organize webinars, we start a message with everyone involved to gather the required info and take care of logistical details. Unfortunately it often happens that weeks go by without a response, and then we have to follow up via another channel because we need to get the webinar on the calendar, line up a mailer, etc. Then because we get the response we need there we abandon the discourse message, or end up updating two places. Three, really, because we also use a separate project management system to plan everything that has to happen to pull off a webinar. Comedy ensues when we have 3-5 presenters involved, and have to use different channels to reach all of them.

A “read up until” indication in the user card would indeed be helpful to give us all confidence that it’s worth updating the messages, or at least some sort of indicator that the people in the message are actually reading the message or topic at all. A percentage?


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I think Hangouts and Facebook messenger does a good job just by dropping user icons at the bottom of the message a user has read up until, but that’s the domain of IM with a limited audience, not structured discussion.

You could easily incentivize bad behavior here. If someone isn’t choosing to read a topic and it’s just made mandatory they’re going to scroll through the topic to fufil the requirement and bypass the content entirely.

One trick I’ve used previously is badges, for any mandatory training stuff we issue a badge per topic for reading the OP. Then if someone doesn’t do something correctly we can check to see if they reviewed the required training materials before they attempted the task.

What’s the consequence if they don’t read the topics? Do they miss out, or does it impact the overall community? Is there sufficient incentive for them to remain up to date?


I’ve never seen that - but then I haven’t use facebook or hangouts for years. I do use slack though so will see what slack is doing.

Like I explained above, the consequence is that engagement is moving out of discourse, which causes us to have to keep track of conversations in lots of difference places, and slows down activity on the forum. It also puts a squeeze on organizing events because we don’t hear back from people early enough. This hurry up and wait cycle occurs too often and is stress inducing!

One thought I’m having is that we can work harder on onboarding, to make sure that people we work with on events (like webinars) are full members of the network and logging in regularly. This is an area we tend to neglect because we have a small staff. But for events we do tend to have logistical calls and we can reserve time during those calls to log into discourse together and make sure they know their way around, and actually show them the message we use for communicating about the event and ask them to reply to it to show us that they know how it works and are there.

I don’t know what’s technically feasible and what the discourse team are interested in providing, but I can’t help but think the “read up until” would really help to increase confidence in discourse as a communication tool across the board.

BTW, I also am impressed by the whatsapp group messaging feature that indicates when everyone in the group has received a message. Pretty cool! From the blog post:

WhatsApp’s tick system also works on group messages. If you have sent a message to a group, the double grey tick will appear when all of the group has received your message. Likewise, the ticks will turn blue only when everyone in the group has read your message.


We have considered a “read until” kind of thing for group messages, so group members can tell which other group member read stuff, but its more in the “we are thinking about it” phase vs the “we are going to build it phase”.


I think one of the biggest factor of Whatsapp’s popularity is that sender of the msg knows (in most cases) whether (and when) user has received/read the msg or not. It gives him confidence, and in some cases, proof, that the user has read the msg.
It helps to clear the doubt from the minds of the both- sender and receiver of the msg. (because receiver doesn’t have to send acknowledgement to the sender that he has read the msg and thus now knows)

If someone would want to show that he has read a particular msg, even when he has not, it is to his own disadvantage I think.

Note: I know, I may not even know even 1% as you all guys do. But since this is all about sharing one’s thoughts, howsoever small, I couldn’t help myself but chipping in.

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Clicking the like button is an easy way to acknowledge that you have seen a message. In the case of a direct message it is generally clear that a like likely means more that the person has seen the message than they necessarily approved of it.


That’s the case when receiver wants to show that he has read the msg.

But when sender wants to know for sure, but receiver isn’t interested in acknowledging, that’s the point I wanted to talk about.

N: I’ve read the receiver could read the msg in the email and yet sender won’t know, but that needs a deliberate action from the receiver to perform every time he wanted to cheat someone.
Except email, he has to read the msg from the web server, there is no third way.

Discourse isn’t email (and email doesn’t really do this, anyway), and it isn’t a chat or instant messaging system. So the request generally doesn’t fit what the software is designed to do.


I think @BobbyZopfan and I are on the same page here. In parts of the world where internet access and communication is a challenge, WhatsApp has begun to dominate big time. I think a big part of their success is the immediacy of the messaging and the delivered and read notifications, which reassures people that their messages are actually being seen.

I love this and hope you decide to move from thinking to building. :slight_smile: Though in my case it’s in topics that it matters most, because (for other reasons altogether) we still stay away from group messaging.

My request was not about email, but about WhatsApp parity when it comes to delivered and read notifications. I get it now that this is not straightforward given how discourse works (thanks, @Stephen!) or even suitable for most discourse communities (privacy concerns, etc).

Maybe we’re looking at a plugin or theme component that provides the “read up until” info on the user card for each user who has contributed to or been mentioned in a topic, viewed when clicking on their name. This could be enabled on a category basis, and perhaps only used for those categories where logistical matters are being discussed. Or maybe a different approach, allowing markdown to be added to the OP (a la DiscoTOC) to display a list of members who have read a topic and how far they have read? Not sure.

Incidentally, I am responding today because I just got an email from Loomio announcing a new Loomio 2.0 version. It looks like they have added “seen by” and “notification history” functionality,.

Thread “seen by” feature

In one click, you can now find out who read your threads and when.

Notification history

Like the new seen by feature, when you notify or invite specific people to threads or decisions you can now see if they’ve read it.

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Hmmm since this topic was last posted we did build this feature for group messages:

So yeah, a lot of the mechanics are in core, its just a question of how many toggles we want to give people.

I can see the appeal in personal messages that are not group messages to “know” that you were read, but there are privacy concerns and I am not sure how many toggles should be provided.


Providing the avatars can appear at the last read until point that achieves parity with Hangouts, Facebook messenger and WhatsApp.


Whoa. That is cool! How do I access it? So far not finding it in my group messages. But as I said, we still stay away from group messages generally and rely on private categories.

What are the privacy concerns exactly? Could we address those on a category level or based on access? I can imagine for public categories this is a concern but what about private categories amongst people working closely together, who would otherwise move to email or WhatsApp?

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I’m not sold on this being a good idea for categories. There’s good reason this appears in FB messenger but not FB groups.


Perhaps try using this for a bit in the group messaging context? I believe the feature “just works” if you start a message to a group and have On group messages publish group read state ticked on the group like so:

Worth trying out the feature we have prior to building a brand new feature here, imo.


Did you ever try this @tobiaseigen? You can certainly see it in action in our team group mailboxes, the number of people who have read each message and specifically expand to see who has read it.

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:thinking: How does Discourse define “read” versus “seen”? Does the feature track time-in-view, or accessed, or something else?

This is the larger issue with delivered, seen, read notifications or demarcations in general.

I often glance at messages across platforms and services, which in no way should suggest that I’ve actually read the message. :grimacing::wink:

As far as accountability measures, which seemed to be a factor for @tobiaseigen and @BobbyZopfan, nothing is certain unless the recipient has taken an active step, such as clicking “like” as *pfaffman mentioned, or, as is done in Facebook Group units, clicked “done” (or “read” or “acknowledged”, etc). Then, whether the recipient truly “read” the message or not is irrelevant–they have actively asserted their responsibility for the information moving forward.

Something like this in group messages would need to be used in combination with community norms to work as intended.

As always, “read” /=/ “understood” or “agreed.”

*Sorry, pfaffman, I can only mention 2 users in a post, according to the reply bot.

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