Discourse traditionally sends a PM to all new users which does the following:
- welcomes them to the site
- offers tips and tricks for those new to Discourse
- briefly explains trust levels and new user limits
- mentions our rules of civilized discourse
Unfortunately, it was a bit of a … wall o’ text. I’m not sure how many people actually read it, or cared. But we sure as heck sent it out to everyone that ever signed up for any Discourse… ever.
As of Discourse 1.7 we pared that PM down to a much simpler, shorter text with a link to a blog entry that contains the tips and tricks part which was the bulk of the message. That at least fixed the wall of text problem…
… but there’s another problem.
If you think about how real people approach learning a new communication tool, they certainly don’t clink links or read FAQs or read anything really. No, they jump in and use the tool, that is, they talk to real people using the tool, even if it’s only a friend or a number of colleagues they recruited to help them test it out.
For Discourse 1.8 we’re building something better than a boring old PM telling you stuff. We’re building a robot buddy that will greet all new users, a synthetic person that will reply to you and teach you stuff … so new users have a comfy, safe place after they arrive, where they can use Discourse to learn about Discourse!
We’ve been working on the Discourse Narrative Bot in alpha form since October 2016.
- This will be a bundled feature that is on by default and replaces the static welcome PM.
- If you prefer the old Discourse 1.7 and earlier behavior, the first bot message can replicate the “old” PM and ignore all replies. Just tick the “disable bot replies” preference.
- Users can completely ignore the bot and nothing is lost. In that sense it is identical to the new user welcome PM, which we’ve sent since Discourse 1.0.
What does the Discourse Narrative Bot teach new users? What we believe to be the essentials of using Discourse:
- Oneboxing links (linking)
- Very simple bold and italic formatting
- Quoting replies
- Adding a picture to a reply
(Replying is implied, as reply to the private message is required to do anything with the bot. It also indirectly teaches users about private messaging, and notifications, of course … by generating their first notification!)
This bot has been live on try.discourse.org for several months and we’re fairly comfortable we’ve sanded away the rough edges by now. But more feedback is always welcome. If you’d like to try out the Discourse Narrative Bot right now, please go to https://try.discourse.org and sign up with a test email.
The primary focus of the bot is the new user experience, and that narrative is more or less complete. However, we are also building out a few other narratives:
- new moderator → defer to 1.9
- new admin → defer to 1.9
We’ll be enabling this bot here on meta.discourse.org in the next week, and we’d like your feedback as we continue to integrate the narrative bot as a bundled feature of Discourse from 1.8 onward.
- make sure bot can be renamed without issue
- bot should not show up as admin in /staff, nor shield glyph
- allow skipping steps if you get stuck
- first notification spotlight was not appearing when logging in via Facebook, Twitter, etc
- should not reply to staged users
- ignore all post length limits when talking to system users
replying in a PM does not require
@discobotin front of commands
- advanced user narrative is complete with award cert
- terminate narrative if user thanks discobot
- globally ignore flags on system users
- site setting to disable all public bot responses
- rate limit help message in the same topic
- improved min / max checking for dice rolling
- badges for new and advanced user narrative completion
- add 10 random quotes as multi-language backup for dynamic quote webservice
- prevent triggering on anonymous users
- move to shorter “unknown reply” and require explicit help command
- make commands translatable
- add site setting to make first PM non-replyable (and close the PM)
- ensure bot commands inside tickmarks aren’t responded to
- add site setting for delay to first bot PM