Continuing the discussion from Discourse vs. email -- Pros & Cons:
When should we use Discourse instead of plain email or a mailing list?
Discourse excels at group conversations. Email is still great for 1-to-1 and 1-to-a-few exchanges. But when these conversations attract even more people and go on for a extended period of time, email chains become increasingly unwieldy. Mailing lists were invented to remedy these issues, but it was a bit like trying to build better horse carriages as opposed to inventing cars.
There are still some valid use cases for mailing lists, but we firmly believe Discourse is the better tool more often than not, because...
Discourse makes it easy to link to and from different topics. The participants of a topic that's been linked to will receive a notification about an incoming link. Furthermore, every topic maintains a clean list of all incoming links.
Lastly, while Discourse works great for internal communities, it was designed first and foremost for public discussion. And on the world wide web, links let you be part of the conversation & knowledge network at large:
The World Wide Web (abbreviated WWW or the Web) is an information space where documents and other web resources are identified by Uniform Resource Locators (URLs), interlinked by hypertext links, and can be accessed via the Internet.
Lower bar to entry
Choose whichever onboarding process works best for your community:
- Social logins (Google+, Facebook, Twitter, GitHub etc.)
- Single Sign-On with your organisation's custom login provider
- Invitation links
- Whitelisting of company emails.
Prevent spam and bad behaviour with crowd-powered moderation flags.
Reduce generic comments
Think of all the times you've muttered "mhm" or merely nodded your head in agreement. While disagreement usually benefits from elaboration, agreement just requires clear acknowledgement. Discourse attempts to discourage "me too" comments with Likes so you can nod your head in virtual space without risking neck injury.
Once you've sent an email, there's no going back. Your typos are forever recorded in history, and the only way to correct a particularly bad mistake is to send yet another email.
Thankfully Discourse, like most other modern communication platforms, allows editing. Post edits are clearly called out and readers can even look back at previous revisions to clear up any confusion that may arise.
Regulate the firehose
If your organisation requires more than one mailing list, you know you're in trouble. Joining individual mailing lists is a pain, and figuring out which are essential, sort-of-essential and non-essential reading takes a long time to figure out.
Categories with granular tracking controls
A dedicated Unread page for topics you're following, and a New page for brand new topics you've never seen before.
A Top page for newcomers to sift through the most popular discussions for the past year/quarter/month/week, on the site as a whole or in specific categories.
Search friendly archive that prevents repetition
Discourse keeps an exhaustive archive of all conversations. A clever algorithm uses that archive to suggest similar posts to a user who's drafting a topic that might be better off as a continuation of existing discussions.
All of this content is also highly searchable by humans:
Searching through content of multiple mailing lists is rarely an option; even getting to search through a single mailing list is a rare luxury. Usually you'll have to make due with a public archive and some clever Googling.
Discourse supports full text search with a great variety of custom variables. Do a quick inline search or use our Advanced Search to pin down who said what when.
World wide web
As mentioned, Discourse excels in public spaces. Search engines see Discourse topics in an easily crawlable format. The multitude of outgoing and incoming links on a forum makes for excellent SEO juice.
Discourse can be used as a mailing list
With properly configured incoming mail, Discourse can be used just like a mailing list. If you'll be interacting with Discourse exclusively by email, consider enabling
Mailing list mode in your personal preferences, provided it's enabled on your forum.
How do I import my mailing list?
Isn't a forum community rather excessive for an early stage project?
It absolutely is! We openly recommend against starting a community with Discourse until you've built up the critical mass needed for a brand new community to be successful. But in the meantime, the option isn't usually "start a mailing list". Practically every collaboration tool today comes equipped with some type of messaging board (see GitHub, Kickstarter, Deviantart etc.).
We highly recommend engaging with the people where they're already at before trying to convince a core following to follow you to a space of your own. Not all platforms will let you export your discussion data (they should!) but usually you can get away with some copy & paste magic to take your key takeaways with you.
My organisation manages multiple mailing lists. Can they be imported incrementally?
Yes. You'll have to import the list into a blank Discourse instance first, but once that's done you can export that list as a category to be imported into a live Discourse instance.
Mailing list pros
- Can run on modest hardware
- Works well when everyone needs to see everything.
- Firmly established workflow for most IT professionals