How we're using Discourse for a daily design challenge

Hi fellow Community Managers!

In 2D/3D design communities you regularly see ‘daily challenges’ like Sculpt January and Inktober. These are designed to be easy to enter, fun activities that help designers hone their skills in a specific technique. Sometimes small prizes are involved, but not always.

This year at Sketchfab we wanted to host one for 3D designers and we launched 3December (3D, get it? huh :wink: ) - a daily holiday-themed design challenge. Participants will receive a new topic every day for 21 days leading up to Christmas, and can share their results on their own forum topic.

We make heavy use of Discourse to share the daily topics and to build excitement around this event. I thought I’d share a little look behind the scenes of how we approached this.

Design Goals

  • Announce a new topic every day for 21 days.
  • Notify participants of the new daily topic.
  • Promote the activity to the entire community.
  • Make it easy to understand how to join and to access the previous daily topics.

It turned out that with a little tweaking, Discourse made this easy for us.

Forum setup

We created two new forum categories:

  • A main category for the challenge description and the challenge topics. Only staff can create new topics here. Participants will subscribe to this category to receive daily notifications of new posts.
  • A child category where the participants can create their own topic to share results. We made this a separate category to make sure participants only received a notification when WE created a new topic in the Master category - not when other participants created theirs.

Graphical elements

We created a custom header for these two new categories to guide new users to the challenge rules and topics. This header contains some logic to hide the blue ‘call to action’ buttons on specific pages.

We also created a video to instruct users how to subscribe to the forum (we learned that this is feature is not easy to discover for everyone).

Finally, we created a calendar that’s updated daily with the new topics. This element is also re-used on social media


We use the Data Explorer tool to keep an eye on user participation. This helps us spot users who need a hand setting up their forum subscription as well as report to management. (We also use an internal reporting tool to keep track of the individual entries).

Results so far

Discourse has made running this challenge easy and participants have quickly adopted it - even those who are new to our forum. We have over 80 participants so far with over 250 entries.

Initially we planned to use the timer feature to schedule posts in advance, but on the first day we learned this did not send out a notification to the participants. This is probably because we’re on an older version of Discourse. We did not have time to look into this so we resorted to doing manual updates.

Please have a look, I’ll be happy to answer all your questions.


Wow, Bart! This sounds amazing and my community would surely value this. Are you still doing these monthly? Would love to creep around one of them, if so.


Not every month, these events are quite intense and we found participation levels drop off we we do them too frequently. Right now we don’t have an active ‘monthly challenge’ like this going on.


“3December” implies that it’d be a yearly thing, like Advent of Code or NaNoWriMo :slight_smile:

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True. We have run other monthly events though, like Inktober :wink: