Email Notification recipients unclear when PM is sent to multiple users

Can you expand on that, not following…

Not a horrible idea. But if someone did a “Reply All” (which would be the
logical thing to do to make sure everyone got the reply), wouldn’t that
generate errors for duplicate posts?

The way it is working in my mind is that Discourse would be smart enough to deal with this and simply discard the dupes, treat the dupes as simple aliases.

It is a slight departure from the way email works though cause you will not have a way to “just reply” to one of the people.

Your last post has just clarified this for me - ignore my previous “to a single user in the body of the email” comment.

That is true, and I could see some disastrous scenarios where someone tried
to remove others from the email distribution when doing a “Reply All” and
were embarrassed or worse when that reply went to all the recipients!


I would prefer just adding the recipients to the bottom of the email (just like the web view):

and keeping the “reply by email” functions the same. You could add messsaging: “Replies to this message will include all recipients.”

If people want to remove users from the reply, they can start a new email or private message. Seems simpler and more consistent with the web user experience.


This has come up now in my community now that we are starting to make more active use of messaging, especially group messaging. I like all of these suggestions but would love to see something happen as soon as possible to ensure happy uptake of messaging. So can we get some low hanging fruit solution in place?

So far it seems to be:

  • @DeanMarkTaylor suggested adding names at the top of the message
  • @sam suggested adding names as email recipients (a big cc list)
  • @scombs suggested replicating the recipients web view at the bottom of the email

Here’s another idea. In the Group message notification email: change “Visit Topic” to “Visit Message” I suggested the following which @codinghorror seemed to like:


I like adding the “You received this email because…” examples but it doesn’t seem to address the scenario of private messaging between multiple individuals (which is the issue for this topic).

Even a mostly web user may want to reply via email (and they would have no idea if anyone else is part of the message).

A simpler approach for PMs could be adding: “View recipients of this message” with a link to the message or change the current button/link text from “View Message” to “View Recipients.” At least that will get the user to the site where they can see the context. This could even be changed currently by an admin in the Customize Text section for user_notifications.reply_by_email_pm I may give that a go for now.

Good point. Maybe a line could be added: “You received this because it is addressed to you, along with @foo @bar @foobar and n others.” Those would be links. The n others would show if more than 3 users or groups are in the conversation.

(weird issue with the way I used preformatted text - reported over here)

My community found this confusing as well. As @sam noted, the proposed change is super noisy, but some indication is required. Otherwise, someone might reply to a message in their email client thinking they are sending it to just one person, when in fact they’re broadcasting it to a whole group. This clearly will not do.

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For general ideation, this is what Basecamp’s email footer looks like:

This follows from what their topic footer looks like:

I like that Basecamp lists the participants near the reply UI. In Discourse, if you land at the bottom of a topic by clicking on the “Reply” button in an email, you have to scroll all the way up to see who’s involved in the conversation.

It seems clear to me that this is clunky, but I haven’t thought of a concrete way to improve upon things.


I think adding the recipients where tags an categories are for topics is a good idea

It makes it way clearer who the pm is going to. The avatars would have to be tiny so we may have to simply use glyphs there or some other style. (also on mobile you don’t get the docking so you would lose out)

In emails it is a trickier issue. But I am open to displaying the list at the absolute bottom in a subdued style.


I think it’s a little too miss-able, but it’s hard to know without testing it (i.e., having my users complain :smile:). It certainly fits in with Discourse’s existing design.

Basecamp just lists them in gray next to the reply link. I’d actually like something a bit more obvious, but maybe this is sufficient. I’m sure they’ve tested this (in their somewhat different context). I think it’s worth trying and seeing what happens. I’d like to test both of these, but we’re a small group and the users who are likely to give me feedback are even smaller.

Following @DeanMarkTaylor, in both cases, we’d also need to fix how many users to list by name if they exceed X in total. In the email this might look like (with a limit of 5 users):

“Replies to this message will be sent to: Howard Shay, Asuncion Lukowski, Darell McChristian, Belia Graney, Tammi Sato and 7 other users.”

Not sure how the visible users would be chosen, nor how many they should be. Maybe by OP + recent activity, or is that overthinking this?

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Next to the reply link (which is an implied browser/web reply) is solid, but what if they just tap the reply button in their email client?

I’d prefer to deal with the email case first @sam, I think we can defer on the web side a bit.


The information is at least available on the web, even if you have to hunt for it. But there’s no indication on the email.

If we’re in agreement that some kind of indication is required then there are only two things to resolve:

  • Position. (Above or below the content of the message?)
  • Design. (How large, how subtle, etc.?)

For group PM, I like the design @DeanMarkTaylor suggested (including the positioning):

I suggested the more subtle approach at the bottom as being less noisy, but perhaps noisy in this case is a good idea.

Incidentally, maybe [PM] is not the correct term for the email’s subject. That’s a bit confusing as well.

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I realised just now that that when I made this comment:

I was thinking of group PMs, where the recipient would be a group such as @volunteers.

Probably the easiest thing to do is put the recipients in the footer, when there is more than one. The basecamp model is a good one.


I’m interested in seeing progress around this issue. I hope it will help if I summarise the three interconnected issues that I see here:

In notifications over email:

(1) Distinguish in the email’s subject between PMs with only one recipient and PMs with multiple recipients.
(2) Clarify all the recipients in the email.

The Basecamp solution is to always mention all recipients at the bottom of the email, beside with the option to reply via the web UI.

I really like the latest iteration of the Basecamp wording:

You can reply to this email or __respond in Basecamp__.
This message was sent to Alex Armstrong, ABC, XYZ, JKL.
__Unsubscribe__ • __Change your notification settings__

I’m not entirely convinced that the bottom part of the message is the best option. It works for Basecamp, but that has fewer types of notifications than Discourse – which will notify you for watched posts, @mentions, @group-mentions, PMs and group PMs, and probably others I’m forgetting. All these should, ideally, be distinguished both in the subject and in the email itself.

In the web UI:

(3) The recipients should be identified near the reply button, at the bottom of the page.

Basecamp handles this with a label that reads: “When someone comments on this message, a notification will be sent to: Alex Armstrong, ABC, XYZ, JKL.”

I’m not sure what a Discourse-ish design might look like, but Cobb has the right idea.


This has been my favourite, “most-email”, solution so far.

Does this have to be the case?

I see the solution being: if a reply lacks all of the reply keys it was sent out with, a new private message is created, linked to the old one, which doesn’t include any of the users or groups associated with the reply keys which are lacking from the reply.

YMMV, but @sam’s solution seems to be very technical to me. My experience working with students, faculty and academic staff at higher ed institutions is that most of them aren’t adept at handling multiple recipients in vanilla email. Let alone a system such as Discourse. I remain in favor of the Basecamp approach: listing the recipients in the notification email.