Good use cases for groups (to better understand groups vs categories)

I’m trying to get my head around possible uses of groups. Or rather: good uses, because the number of possible uses is virtually infinite. My basic question here is: how do you use groups?

My guess is that the most common use of groups is to use them a way of managing access to categories (and/or badges) and not much more. But with group mentions and messages there seems to be much potential for using them to communicate too. I imagine them group messaging like a little mailing list, though not necessarily with emails since those will only be sent to users who are watching the group, right? In contrast to categories, the group can be setup so that people can easily enter and leave groups.

When it comes to communicating through groups, a crucial seems to be Default notification level for group messages which is set to normal by default, which means that group members will no notice even the wildest discussions going on in their group unless they are mentioned, right? In other words, to make use of groups for messaging you probably want to change that setting to tracking or higher and you want to do it from the outset because it is not applied retrospectively to existing members.

But the point of this topic is: what does this look like in practice? And in cases where similar results can be achieved with both groups and categories, how did you decide which one to use?


Category permissions are the most common use case for groups that I’ve seen. On one of my sites (an internal company forum), we use two groups for category permissions. The remaining groups are used simply to “group” users. Without going into to much detail, we have two types of employees - main office “corporate” employees, and remote seasonal employees. All “corporate” employees are grouped by their department (HR, IT, Accounting, etc.) so the remote seasonal employees can more easily identify them.


Do you mean those are not even used for permissions but just as a kind of directory? No messaging?

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Correct. Group messaging is disabled for all non-staff groups. The primary reason is that every employee in a department is in the group. We have established procedures for contacting departments, don’t need the director of HR getting an email for a group message when it’s something that is easily (and properly) handled by an employee in her office.

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Within Mozilla we utilise groups for category permissions and group messaging.

We import a number of groups from our community directory and restrict certain categories to one or multiple of them. We also use the “Users who register with an email domain that exactly matches one in this list will be automatically added to this group” feature to add staff to a number of groups.

We use group messaging with a couple of groups to create “support ticket style” discussions, by setting a “Custom incoming email address” for the group. This allows anybody to email that email address, with only that person, the group, and anyone invited, able to see the discussion.


Great idea!

Forgive my lack of imagination: how exactly does this work in practice? I understand that all group-members can reply to a group message and see the replies from others (like a group chat) but what about the external person who sent the email? S/he’s also in the loop (and receives each and every message via email?)?

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Exactly as @LeoMcA described. On the Discourse side “email in” functions as a PM between the group and the user. Any member of the group can see and reply, as can the user who sent the email.


Group use cases at

including using groups to assign badge with a badge query.

The “request permission to join” group feature is nice also to let owners manage their private groups.


Here is a technical comparison between groups and categories: