Hidden features in Discourse!

(Tobias Eigen) #1

Below are a couple of “hidden features” I have discovered over the last few weeks using Discourse. These are really handy features that new users may find useful to be informed about, but that are not prominently documented. I will keep adding them as I find them - let me know what other hidden features I have missed.

Use “markdown codes” to format your posts

If you click a link on the formatting bar when adding a post you’ll see some weird codes appear in the text. These are called “markdown codes.” Take a look at this page to learn the markdown codes you can use here in your posts - it’s incredibly powerful yet quick and easy once you get the hang of it.

Use @name to mention someone to make sure they see your post

As has been standardized on the interwebs, it’s possible here to mention someone to get their attention and make sure they see your post. They will get a notification. Type @ and start typing their name or username and discourse will autocomplete. So @tobiaseigen will make sure I get it. You can also mention a group in the same way and it will automagically mention everyone in the group.

#Use “emoji” smileys to embellish your posts

To trigger emoji autocomplete, start typing a : colon then some characters. Hundreds of emoji are available.

Embed a video in your post.

Just stick the URL of a youtube or vimeo video on a line by itself and it will automatically be embedded in your post. This link Hari Kondabolu \"Speaking African\" on its own line produces this:
Hari Kondabolu \"Speaking African\"

Embed an anonymous poll in your post

Make your topic title start with "Poll: " and include a list in your post. The first list will be used.

Intro text

  • Some list
  • Some list con’t

How should we implement polls?
(Travis) #2

I think I’ll make a post like this on my forum. Good idea.

(Jeff Atwood) #3

Most of this is covered in the new user PM that all new users get when they create a new account on your forum.

You can edit the copy of this PM via the /admin content area of your site under “New User Tips”.

Or, you can suggest global changes so the default new user tips PM gets improved for all Discourse instances worldwide. It’s in server.en.yml starting at usage_tips:text_body_template, currently line #1141.

(However, this new user welcome/tips PM may not happen for SSO sites where accounts are created outside the normal flow of signup.)


So that’s how you do a poll in discourse. Neat!

(Tobias Eigen) #5

You are right about the new user PM - some of what I wrote should be replaced by that. And I don’t know if stuff about polls etc really needs to be in there. But it should be somewhere! :slight_smile: On the FAQ? A separate NEW USER TIPS page next to FAQ, TERMS OF SERVICE, PRIVACY?

That said, most of discourse doesn’t need a how-to guide at all and there is also something fun about people figuring things out as they move along and spend more time on the forum.

Maybe these hidden features should just be referenced in the Admin Quick Startup Guide so at least discourse admins and moderators know them.

(Tobias Eigen) #6

Just added a section above on mobile apps for discourse that I just discovered. I have tested out the android app and it seems to work ok, but I don’t have an iphone so have no idea how well that works.

(ampburner) #7

This is something I keep running into - Markdown is a great concept once you’ve learned it.
But if you haven’t, it’s obscure and automagical.

A PM isn’t good enough, because they get the PM after signup (at signup time). This is the kind of information you want to share with people at the same time they are writing a post, context is everything.

Discourse needs better coaching / out of the box tips / FAQ when it comes to basic stuff like syntax.

(Tobias Eigen) #8

I don’t know if I agree - you don’t need syntax to start participating in discourse forums, and the wysiwyg-like menu is familiar enough to people who use gmail or wordpress to get people into the most commonly needed formatting options. As they become more comfortable with the platform they will learn more features as they move along and become more interested in writing nicer posts.

That said, I wonder if a pop-up help menu behind a question mark might not be possible - on the top right side of the text box when writing a post.

How should we implement polls?
(James Finstrom) #9

The Android app kinda blows. Crashes on me. Discourse works fantastic on chrome for android so not sure I need/want an app.

(Tobias Eigen) #10

Agreed re android app - had that experience today too. I do find the chrome
interface pretty nice as you say but it is a bit overwhelming and I don’t
even have large fingers.

(Rikki Tooley) #11

Most important thing about the Android app imo is that it supports 2.1. Though it hasn’t been updated in a while.

(Tobias Eigen) #12

alrighty - removed smartphone apps from this list. android app is buggy and i have no idea about the ios app. And agree the chrome version is already awesome on my android phone.

added emoji with link to this faq and to the full list of emoji and their codes.

(Jonathan Feist) #13

My phone tells me:

Unfortunately, your browser is too old to work on this Discourse forum. Please upgrade your browser.

:frowning: *sadface* Android: 2.2 Browser: Webkit 3.1

(Dev Jyothichand) #14

Hi ampburner! I see you’re trying to use Discourse for Hitmanforum.

So yeah honestly I agree, Discourse looks very slick, but I think it has some issues that need sorting out, like marking polls, not being able to move to replies at will etc…

(ampburner) #15

That’s not what I’m saying, I love the software and don’t think it has any major issues at all.

This discussion is about certain “hidden” features that people might miss because they’re not familiar with the syntax - even though the features are actually there (just invisible to the casual user who is not used to markdown).
Basically it’s a UX discussion.

My point is, that I think the new user PM is the wrong context for explaining this kind of stuff (if it’s the only place). When people sign up, they’re interested in the content, the discussion at hand.

It’s only after they stick around and join or start a few discussions that they will generally require more markdown know-how. By that time, I doubt they will remember the new user pm, let alone the stuff that was in it.

(Michael Downey) #16

Really? Android 2.1 Eclair was released on 12 January 2010, over 4 years ago. Seems that such an outdated operating system shouldn’t be a very high priority. (Even the Google Play Store app only supports Android 2.2 and above.)

Last year, Eclair was only around 1% of all active devices, and that’s surely less now.


(Dev Jyothichand) #17

I know. That’s what I was trying to imply. Discourse is potentially very great software, and it can be the revolutionary software that changes forums across the world. But right now it has problems like the one you stated, poor documentation of “hidden” features (I don’t think they should be hidden in the first place), inability to move to whichever page you like and such. Though @codinghorror said that he’d correct the last issue, so I’ll see. :smile:

(Tobias Eigen) #18

Thanks for your post - I agree with all this. Right now I have created a pinned topic at the top of my forum called Tips, Tricks and Hidden Features based on this post. Hopefully it will help the newbies even before they sign up for the first time to get excited about and start using the lesser known discourse features.

What I’d like to see is the ability to add another page alongside the FAQ that provides this info that can also be edited by site admins.

(Tobias Eigen) #19

In fact, I just realized the FAQ is not even really a FAQ but rather a set of guidelines/rules. This is good but maybe the heading should be changed to reflect that. Alongside that another page that answers more technical questions eg like my TIPS AND TRICKS would help ensure that users have a place to go to inform themselves about the hidden features. In the menu it could be called HELP or some such and not FAQ.

… all minor details. :slight_smile: Right now I am supremely satisfied by my discourse and enjoying how it is starting to take hold in my community.

(ampburner) #20

I suppose you could edit the default FAQ and provide your own content.