Dividing line between private chat and personal message

personal chat and private messages are totally unrelated, right?


yes, entirely right now. Might be more interesting pairings in the future but for now unrelated

For me, the use case feels clearly different though. One is about a specific topic (it has a title!) and the other is… chat


Yeah, topic vs. not seems like the most clear dividing line you have to work with, both for general forum discussion and PMs

There will inevitably be fuzziness having both these functions in one tool, but the alternative is more painful. So the best thing to do is provide good tools for moving discussion between them as appropriate. Which seems to have a good start here in the alpha chat functions already.


exactly! I’m sure we will have more conversation around this as we iron out more details


I agree. But to reinforce that separation, PMs ought to behave more like any other topic. They should appear in the Latest feed alongside all the other topics (but of course only visible to its respective invites).

There were discussions about how to approach this when PMs were first introduced. I think we concluded that treating PMs as something more separate from topics (with its own special feed interface) would ensure a more safe (privacy-protecting) implementation. While it was probably true then, it may not hold up today.

I know @joffreyjaffeux is also leaning towards making PMs behave more like regular topics.

Found one prior discussion related to this, but I feel there are important ones that I’m missing:


Oh, woah, that’s an interesting leap. I’m not sure I agree, actually, but I think I get the logic. Have to think about this one…

I think there are a lot of existing design models for this, and few that I can think of intermix direct/private and group. Slack doesn’t, neither does Discord. Telegram does, but I find it quite disorienting. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

I suppose in a way what you’re talking about is a more email-like model, actually. Would you agree? Where there is not necessarily a different feed or inbox or anything for 1:1 vs. “group”. That said I think the context of email is generally fairly different from that of a forum, with the balance leaning pretty heavily toward “most of this is directly relevant to me/relevant only to me” in email, whereas in a forum it is often much more “a lot of this may not be relevant to me”, and a PM is absolutely relevant to you. So mixing it in to some feed where not every message even “includes” you explicitly seems odd… And putting it into some view of only subscribed topics or something seems like a recipe for it not getting seen or, at the least no different/no better than just treating PMs as you do now… :thinking:


Private chat and Direct messaging … should be unrelated.
… bar
Possibly save/quote personal chat to DM
Invite to chat in DM?


Nothing subtractive needs to happen here really. It’s all additive. The inbox interface would remain. We’d just be exposing private messages in one more feed, namely the Latest feed.

And rather than thinking of them as private messages, they are now private topics.

That way when you’re looking at a person’s profile and considering whether to:

  • Open a private chat, or;
  • Open a private message

(:point_up: if you’re seeing these options for the first time, how can you possibly know the difference between the two?)

…the options can instead be:

  • Open a private chat
  • Open a private topic

So what we’re talking about here could at its very simplest just be a name change, but I think the name would be much more intuitively understandable if it co-existed along with all other topics in the “All Topics” feeds.


Interesting! I remain unconvinced, but curious, and testing this approach will of course bear out whether it makes sense. :slight_smile:


This wording change (especially calling it Topic) makes sense to me. In terms of where this could go in the sidebar, perhaps Private Topics can go under Topics as opposed to under Messages.


Another possibility for “Personal Chat” would be to use “direct messages.” The terminology is common across many platforms.


I really like this new language. Helps in my mind to delineate the two and seems to structure the platform in topic-oriented vs person-oriented conversations.

And then if one is having a good private chat and thinks it could be easier to discuss as a topic itself, could then break out those parts as a private topic, perhaps even adding other people to participate in the topic-oriented conversation over time.

Side note: I’m noticing that I’m typing a lot more on Discourse right now than I ever did before and I think it has a lot to do with the chat feature lowering the barrier to entry for me contributing.


I think this would take us to 5 forms of communicating on Discourse… and 5 definitions:

  1. personal message (a PM - which is core in Discourse)
    a) 1-on-1
    b) multiple users by invitation

  2. private chat
    a) 1 on 1
    b) multiple users by invitation

  3. group chat
    a) invitation only similar to a topic for groups but without the topic format
    b) members by invitation only

  4. private topic (pretty much the same as a group topic?)

  5. Public Topic (Everyone’s on! :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:)

1 Like

I think Personal messages & private chats should eventually be integrated. While it is useful to have the ability to asynchronously communicate is very well appreciated, I personally believe that personal messages and 1 to 1 chats are just redundant. I see the eventual resulting product having three forms of conversation:

  1. Topics: For everyone participating and for everyone else who just wants to browse (non-logged in users)
  2. Group Chats: informal conversations (especially off-topic) go here, anything that is important or needs to be made public can be exported into a topic.
  3. Person to Person conversations: as of now, there are two ways: either send a message or through chat. what I see is these two to be integrated as one and be made into one robust system of person to person interactions.

We use a topic Random Thoughts for things like that. So far that works well for us.

Personal Messages are used like a “private chat”. We use it on my forum and it’s being used on another forum I’m on, but as a “private ‘group’ message” with about 8 members. It would be interesting to see how this would play out in a Group Chat.

As @sam points out in the chat message, one really nice feature is being able to see both the Chat box and other topics at the same time. Even though I noticed it, I hadn’t given that a thought. A :+1: for that!


My challenge with this proposal is that we’ve been using PMs to draft topics collaboratively before they’re moved to a public category. We’d still need a way to create topics with permissions by group or person that don’t include using categories every time. I imagine there are other use cases as well.

That’s why I’m intrigued by Topics versus Chats that are then posted in Categories, Groups, or Person as the organizing principle.


I’m going to close this topic in favor of this one: Now I've got Chat 💬 what do I do with Personal Messages?