How viable is a lightweight desktop app for Discourse, and could it improve engagement and/or notification awareness?

This is a followup to a question in today’s AMA. David answered very well and definitely understood where this question was coming from. I’ll link the AMA video to this topic when it’s publicly available.

Initial question was:

MSTeams is a standalone application that flashes notificaitons on the startbar. It dominates our comapny’s communcation because of this – it’s always one click away for all users, and immediately notifies them of new information. Is there any thoughts towards making some kind of discourse standalone app, or otherwise providing this kind of desktop notification feature?

To be a bit more specific, it’s really the why that is important rather than the what. The why here is as follows:

  • Imagine a big company, several communitcation channels: Teams, Outlook, Discourse, Sharepoint, and several more
  • Imagine you’re a busy person and you want to contact someone or a team about something.

Do you:

a) Open a web browser, type in the url (if you know it), log in, find the right category, create a topic, give it a title, outline question in detail, hit submit and patiently wait for a response

b) Click on the MSTeams icon on your startbar, type in the name of the person or group who might help, type and hit send - knowing the person on the other side will immediately get an alert on their start bar, that flashes orange until they response

I’m definitely not advocating the orange flashing but I am seeing us lose significant amounts of content to MSTeams. This is really the problem I want to solve, and I think the notification system could be a point where we are losing.

There is necessary friction:

  • Choose Category
  • Take care with topic

but also additional friction that a desktop app doesn’t have

  • Think about using Discourse - Is it capable of helping?
  • Decide to use Discourse - Is it worth the effort? How long till someone sees my topic?
  • Open browser
  • Go to the website
  • Log in

Note that the Think and Decide process for MSTeams doesn’t happen. It’s so low effort for me to click one button: I’m immediately in a position to start my question.

On the receiver side it’s also hard to know when you have notifications. Teams tells me how many messages I haven’t seen in the start bar, so I always know when there is something new. With Discourse I need to be on the website or have the tab open, and then notice it.

I think, not even a full desktop app would be necessary, perhaps even something like a desktop equivalent of the mobile app that helps you better manage your Discourse notifications.

Ultimately we just need something that means Discourse is always just one click away for all users, and requires zero clicks to know if there is something worth taking a look at.

Maybe something already exists that could be a good alternative?


Happy to discuss here too :slight_smile:

There’s been some experiments with an electron app for Discourse (especially the chat part). So it’s feasible to do something like that, but nothing has been attempted that fully considers what it means to maintain something like that for a wide user base.

I think your hunch about notifications is a good one, but I’m not sure it’s really the main issue here.

In this scenario, I think chat is the likely thing people are going to reach for. We use chat at Discourse for the same thing. You’re busy, you’re in between things, you have a question and want a quick answer. Much easier to type in a box that’s waiting for you into a space where you can see that “many people are typing” and available to answer.

I might focus on other scenarios instead. You mentioned these other tools in the mix:

Outlook man. Someone sends an email. They forgot to cc that one person, someone replies to add them. That happens a few more times. Oh, too many people on this thread. Someone replies and drops half the cc list. The next person replies doesn’t realize not everyone is listening anymore.

Ugh, let’s just take this to Team instead.

“Hey, so in the email thread…”
“Which email thread?”
“The one about X”
“I’m not sure I’m on it”
“Search for subject ‘the thing about x’”
“Oh yeah, I see that”
“OK, so in the message to so and so…”
“Hmm… yeah, I must have been dropped from the thread at that point”
“I’ll just forward it to you”

Bam, yet another fork in the discussion.

What if you could just drop a link to that discussion in chat instead?

I think that’s the angle here. Move discussions from email to Discourse. Then MS teams is even better because you can easily link to those conversations without all that other nonsense.

There’s certainly conversations in chat that’d be better in Discourse too, but that’s a harder push, as you’re describing. But I’m sure you’ve already seen that with other tools too.

“Hey, this thread’s getting a bit long. Can we summarize this in a doc for starters?”

OK, that’s a good step. It’s a signal people are willing to go async when it’s needed.

Then what happens?

How long are those comment threads in the docs that get shared? How do you find the right one?

OK, yeah, some those docs might be better discussed on Discourse too. That’s a harder move though in my experience. One thing that helps is that copy/paste from docs to Discourse is pretty good. Let people do their drafting in docs, but if they expectation is that the doc needs to be discussed, copy/paste it into Discourse and discuss a snapshot of it there.

This is the way I’d try to approach this problem. Look for the scenarios where people will see more value and try to develop a kind of “playbook” around them.

I love working at Discourse where we pretty much just use Discourse for everything that in the past I’ve used a combination of tools for. But existing companies are not blank slates and the tools they already use won’t easily be displaced. New tools need to be able to exist along existing ones.

Defining some guidelines for what tools to use when is likely necessary.

Here are a couple examples I’ve come across in the past where folks have attempted to map this kind of thing out in the open (neither of these include Discourse in the mix, but I think the idea still holds pretty well)

I’m tempted to retitle this to be all about the why and move it to community, but will let you chew on that idea first.


Interesting to hear it’s been investigated in the past, particularly with electron, though I imagine it would be quite a sizeable effort to produce and maintain properly.

This is true but unfortunately it is MSTeams, and I don’t think we can use Discourse Chat: we’re encouraging users to share information between customer projects on Discourse, but that needs to be moderated strictly – Customer A cannot learn about Customer B’s secret sauce and vice versa. By using chat we muddy that behavioural expectation in Discourse, and sciphon good information from the shared/open part of the platform into fully private conversations. Even the “move conversation from chat to topic” functionality may not help here - people rush directly to the next thing in a work environment, and many of them will never learn to use this functionality.

This is completely true and thankfully hasn’t taken much encouragement.

How do we solve information going in the other direction though? The questions that are asked in MSTeams don’t result in links, don’t get broadcast and are lost in the Microsoft Ether. The user knows their recipient will recieve a notification immediately. With Discourse this is not the case. Even with email notifications, those are mixed with other messages, and typically get filtered into a folder. This immediacy is a key reason those questions are asked in MSTeams rather than Discourse.

I can vouch for this as a good process. It’s had decent success, particularly when we can sync those topics from another platform with the same markdown flavour like Gitlab.

Thank you for providing these guidelines as reference. Our internal process for this has been a mess and remains undefined. There’s too many platforms, and too many chefs. I’ll bring these up as good examples.

If you feel it’s better suited in that direction I’m happy for you to move it. For us the key problem is losing great long term conversations to MSTeams. Whilst we can continue to insist on asking those questions in Discourse instead, one part of the why is the immediacy of MSTeams. That’s a point where Discourse is currently losing and I think it’s a massive shame. I don’t see us replacing MSTeams with Discourse chat, so I feel like there needs to be another way of competing on a technical level.

In terms of the what, a desktop app could be a way forward, but I can see it being a lot of effort and is it really worth that effort? Probably not.

On the other hand, my search lead me to a few notification mulitplexers/centres. Perhaps it’s worth monitoring projects like these for future integrations? I suspect the ideal solution would be a single platform that centralises all of these notifications, similar to how Discourse Hub centralises a user’s Discourse notifications.

I had a 3-4 minute look at the following options. Not sure if you guys have looked in to them in terms of providing integrations? Would something like this even make sense? - looks promising, though I couldn’t see a list of supported platforms
Pushover: Applications and Plugins - not sure if enterprise would go for this
GitHub - notifo-io/notifo: Multi channel notification service for collaboration tools, e-commerce, news service and more. looks pretty nice, web interface seemed pretty slick and easy.

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Have you installed the Discourse web app as a PWA on Windows? It will show a notification number badge on the Task Bar icon. This works out of the box.


This is a really good suggestion. I’ll give it a try for a few weeks and see how it goes. One downside is that it’s single tab - at least in chrome. But for this use case of monitoring notifications it’s still a good improvement.

For anyone else looking to try this, on chrome click the desktop icon next to the bookmark star in the url bar


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Yeah combine this with watching first post on specific categories might help you get alerted of unread new topics of interest.



Already loving it! Great suggestion :heart:


See my query here: Implement Badging API - #10 by merefield


Been using this for a week, and still love it. I’ve been pushing it accross the company and expect a very positive impact on response times.

For reference, this works in:

Here is a quick video of how to set this up with edge. I ask it to run on startup for extra convenience.
Note: First thing I click is in the address bar. This isn’t clear in the video due to compression artifacts.

There is also a guide for Chrome with images here: Implement Badging API - #11 by Tris20

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