In mailing list mode, is there an option to include prior comments for context?

We are considering switching from Gnu Mailman to Discourse. I reviewed some docs including Why use Discourse instead of a email mailing list?.

I also joined a popular Discourse site that allows me to enable Mailing list mode in my personal preferences so I can gain experience using it that way.

What I notice is that the emails I am receiving lack context. You can’t see what the person was replying to. You only see what they wrote. It’s confusing. Definitely not friendly for new members.

In our Gnu Mailman list, the history of the discussion is quoted and popular email clients like Gmail allow that to be expanded and viewed.

What are the configurable options for this in Discourse?

Thank you.

This is a side comment to your primary question, but: “Mailing List mode” is a trap!

It doesn’t really do anything to make the site act more like a mailing list. It is really subscribe to all “lists” offered by this server and do not allow me any fine-grained tuning mode.

If you are literally replacing a single list, that might be OK. But, I think it’s a lot better to consider creating tags that correspond to each individual mailing list.[1]

Then, make sure you have your notifications set to “Email Always”, and set the tags[2] you want to “subscribe to” to “Watched” — email always + watching a tag = actual “mailing list mode” for that tag.

  1. You can also use categories in this way, but tags have some advantages — you can “cross post”, for example. Downside is that it’s hard to make Gmail filter on tags — an unfortunate Gmail quirk. (There’s a thread about that somewhere around here.) ↩︎

  2. or categories ↩︎


That said, there are two related per-user preferences relating to what you’re looking for:

  • Include previous replies at the bottom of emails
  • Include an excerpt of replied to post in emails

And one site-wide one:

  • email posts context (How many prior replies to include as context in notification emails.)

Thank you. The UI is confusing because when you enable mailing list mode it tells you the other email settings do not apply. But some of them do, as you pointed out. I disabled mailing list mode, made those changes, and then re-enabled mailing list mode. It works as I had hoped now.

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Excellent info!! Thanks for adding this. I will probably fully agree with you once I have more experience, but at the moment (limited testing) mailing list mode does seem to do what I would have wanted/expected. But I will read up on tags and categories as you suggested.

For what it’s worth, here is how we have it set up on Fedora Discussion site, which I hope to convince the project in general to move to from some hundreds of Mailman lists.

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This is excellent. I will join the Fedora Discourse and get familiar with how you have set up Discourse. As a Linux user, I can learn something about Linux while also learning about your Discourse configuration.

For our community, what you have created here will almost certainly be too complex. I will need to find a way to simplify it for non-tech users. Sadly, some of our members are still running Windows 7 and some can barely understand email technology. We are not a tech-savvy community, so I need to keep that in mind when choosing an approach.

Briefly, how would you simplify what you have done if you have to set it up for a community like I’m describing?

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I think if you only have a few, and most people’s interactions are by mail, I’d forgo tags[1] and just use categories.

  1. maybe even disable the tag feature entirely until / unless you have a specific use for it — most sites seem to just use them haphazardly, which isn’t really useful ↩︎

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Or, another idea — rename tag to “list” using the string editor pretty much everywhere it occurs. Make only one published category. Use some UI tweaks like the Tag Cloud and Tag Sidebar theme components to make tags more prominent.

This would make it easier to grow into a more complicated tag-based setup if you ever decide to.

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