Difficult to tell that watched category notifications are to the forum

I’ve got a community of mostly older and non-technical users. Several times people have responded to email notifications to a public post as if the notification were sent to them rather than to the forum (or the person that the message was a reply to). In gmail, for instance, I see this:

If I expand “to pfaffman” I see that the message was sent to my email address, which still makes it look (to someone less familiar with Discourse than I am) like David is replying to me personally rather than to whomever he’s replying to.

I’m not quite sure how to fix this, perhaps if it said "David Kingham to <category name>" or "David Kingham to <forum name>"?

Is there a way to do that in customize text content? There are dozens of items with “email” in them and I’m not sure how to start paring it down.


I’ve seen the same thing in our community, as well as users writing me a new email message instead of replying to the private message email for fear it would go to the public forum.

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Hmm. What do you think @awesomerobot?

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Mailing lists sometimes do “David Kingham via (list name)”.


So something like this?


I’m not against it, but am not super convinced this would actually make any difference in terms of

I’d also add that this behavior is correct, there’s very little conceptual difference between “I am replying to Matt Palmer because he emailed me” and “I am replying to Matt Palmer because he replied to my forum post.”

Yeah, you don’t want to say weird private things (like how much I long to hold Matt Palmer tenderly in my arms wait did I just type that) but seriously how often does “intensely private reply to {person}” deviate from “general public reply to {person}”?

Because anyone can take an email you sent and post it anywhere, too…


I didn’t realise you had a goat named Matt Palmer… that’s a bit weird.

Ooooh! Ooooooh! Contemporaneous example:

  1. [Servercert-wg] [EXTERNAL]Re: Results on Ballot 202 – Underscore Character in SANs
  2. [Servercert-wg] [EXTERNAL]Re: Results on Ballot 202 – Underscore Character in SANs

(And these are the people who run the world’s certification authorities… :roll_eyes:)


via might not be clear enough if someone’s struggling to understand what’s going on… I guess you could go very literal?


No. It’s that I received a forum post that was too someone else, but I recieved it because was watching the category.

You said “you love boats” to @mpalmer, but the email said it was to me. I am very sensitive to marinephilia, so I threaten a lawsuit.


Oh, that’s a whole other thing. I don’t think any of us realised that was what you were talking about. That’s a much harder problem to solve, really – if an e-mail arrives in my inbox, I’m going to assume it’s to me in some way.


I don’t get emails (no need, I’m here every day) but would it be easy enough to use the icons that are used for the notifications as a way to indicate what was what?

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Was this person forced to watch the category, or did they voluntarily set the category to watched themselves?

If the former, the problem is bad site ownership.

It’s both. The one I alluded to above changed his own settings to watch his categories.

The forum has many people who are clamoring to return to Ning who would totally agree, but moving back to Ning really isn’t an option. :wink:

But before we made the change that attempts to have Discourse send the same notifications that Ning did (because many, many, users were complaining that they weren’t getting the notifications that they had been getting), even people who managed to change their own settings to watch their beloved categories were still confused.

Best I can tell, they didn’t have the same confusion with whatever-it-was that Ning was sending.

It seems like it should be a little bit easier to tell whether a message was sent to a topic/category that a user was watching or was a direct reply to a post that the user had made.

Again, best I can tell, these people were getting an email for every single message posted to their Ning “groups” (basically a group and a category) and they didn’t seem to be confused then.

I’m glad you’re bringing this up as this is something I also see a lot. I earlier suggested this as a possible solution:

Would this help in your case?

It might help, though the problem is not so much that people are replying to the wrong place, but are confused by the notifications.

I got two messages like this today (did something change in the past few days?)

This user posted this in the forum about an email notification she received because she was watching the category. (She’s been watching the category for sometime, so I’m confused why she’s only just now confused by the notifications.)

It sounds like it’s because the OP of that topic is also called Susan so that helped her to make sense of why she was getting a message that is “not for her”.

But anyway.

That’s not what you said in the OP, though. So maybe we have two classes of issues here:

  1. People don’t understand why they get certain notifications, e.g. because they don’t understand the concept of watching a category which in turn may be due to them being forced to watch a category without even realising it.
  2. People misinterpret a notification email (about a public post) as an email directed to them and respond to it without realizing that their reply will be posted publicly.

Of course, people may reply to a message because they don’t understand why they’re receiving it and not realize that their reply will be published, but I don’t think that’s the issue, is it?

Right. The issue is that they don’t understand why they are receiving the message. At this point, we’ve turned off reply-by-mail, so the not-knowing-where-the-reply-is-going thing is moot for now. But even still, this person went to the forum in a web browser and replied there, still convinced that they shouldn’t be getting the notification.

It’s been a hard row for this former Ning users to hoe.

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Okay, so what about adding a line at the top of each notification email stating

You’re receiving this notification email because…

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Sounds like they don’t really want or need those category notifications after all. There are two very different things here: what users tell you they want … versus what they actually want in reality.

I am not opposed to copy changes, but I remain unconvinced any copy changes would actually help here.

I would put it in the subject, [PM] [watched] etc so that it can be identified at a glance and easily be acted on by mail rules.

I would be curious to see if a notification header would do the trick. I don’t believe it’s currently possible to provide specific reasons for why the email was sent, but it might be worth trying with a generic note like

You are receiving this notification because of your user settings at great.forum.foo/my/preferences/categories

@pfaffman Just enter something like that (the field does take html) into user_notifications.header_instructions and see what happens.