Invite people to reply to a topic without them needing to create an account

I’d like to be able to invite people to reply to a public topic without needing to create an account. How do I do this?

I did experiment with the Share > Invite by Email feature, but I get an email that doesn’t allow me to see the full post or say that I can reply via email to participate.

This feature would mimic how people can reply immediately to personal messages.

I’d like this feature because there are many people who I’d like to give input on specific topics, but for whom creating an account will be too big of a barrier.

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I don’t think that is supported.

The “Share → Invite” flow will generate an invite email like the one in your screenshot, but the invitee will need to click the link and select at least a username, and will be directed to the topic right away.

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Thank you for the answer! I’ve changed this post category to feature request now.

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I’m intrigued that you misunderstood how the invite to topic feature works - we will be reworking this feature to bring it in line with the newly improved invite system. Hopefully in the process we can make it less confusing.

This feature request enters staged user territory. Staged users are not really users because they can only participate by email, and staged user functionality is not well fleshed out except in the PM system. I think you are asking to push the limits of what staged users are intended to do which is interesting but not likely to happen anytime soon if ever.

For most communities it is nonsensical to have people participating in discussions who are not users. There is a slippery slope here as well… what user privileges should we give staged users next? Staged users cannot be @ mentioned, they do not watch topics or categories etc, they don’t have access to attachments in private categories. They can’t log in to edit their own preferences, including email preferences. They can’t get weekly email summaries. They don’t show up in user lists. When do staged users just become users who never log in? We want the forum experience to be awesome for everyone, so really the goal should be to lower the barriers to getting people to log in, rather than letting them hide in their email.

Can you elaborate a bit on your use case, and what you’ve already tried with existing Discourse functionality and where you are running into trouble? Can you describe these people you are trying to loop in and why they are not willing or able to sign up and participate as users?

A use case I can imagine for me personally is to invite family members and friends who are reluctant to join the private discourse site I am using to manage family projects like photo albums and such. I know they will be excited to hear about isolated topics, add replies and talk with me and maybe a few other people in those topics. However, they will not ever want to join the site and be burdened by logging in to reply and also seeing all the other topics they are not interested in. But this is a fairly particular and likely rare use of Discourse, and I am able to deal with it by just emailing these people separately to talk to them about my projects.

Another use case might be in Discourse for Teams, where we are already experimenting with guest user functionality. At the moment, the way guests interact with Teams sites is by being invited specifically to join guest categories. Guests are counted separately from the user limits (the same number of guests can be invited as team members). Topics can then be created in the guest category that are isolated from the rest of the site, allowing the team to engage with guests on specific topics, e.g. on client projects. So far we have not seen many Teams sites using the guest functionality, but they might start using it if they saw an easy interface to use to invite guests to topics and let them join it via their email without having to log in.

I guess we could achieve what you describe by following the example of how staff can PM email addresses, creating staged users who can then reply and get emails whenever their PMs are replied to - and if they decide to create an account later, they gain full access to their activity as former staged users. A button could be provided to send a post to an email address, maybe with a personal note at the top. A staged user would be created and the full post would be sent to them by email. If they reply, they’d then be watching the topic so they get future replies (this came up in another topic this week). If they are overwhelmed they can use the unsubscribe link in the footer of the email.

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This is precisely my user profile as well. They want to engage in just one topic, for example, but don’t need to or want to see everything else. This is actually quite common for us because we’re a grassroots organizing organization. We’re always interacting with people who are at the periphery of our network whose involvement is necessary in some specific instances but who would be overwhelmed by any more information.

Yes, this is exactly what I think would work and what I had assumed inviting someone to a topic would do when done via email because it mirrors how personal messaging to an email works.

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This is unlikely ever to happen, not in core discourse. You can always invite these people to join the community, and then help them set their preferences to turn off email summaries and other notifications from the site.

Meanwhile, thanks for pointing out the confusing “invite to PM” UI which is easy to confuse with the site invite system. These are two completely distinct features. We’ll take a look at that.

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I came to this thread because I have a related use case that I’m trying to figure out: I want to be able to have a topic be visible to just a few people (and they are not members of my site).

Or, another way to think about it: I want to create a topic that is private, and invite select others to view it–but they don’t need to create accounts to do so.

Why? My case is similar to the “invite family members and friends who are reluctant” case. Except for me it’s not family members–it’s professional contacts that I want to show certain items, unique to them, in part as a way to encourage them to join the larger site.

Seems like this is not possible now? Perhaps there’s a workaround?

At the least, I wanted to add another voice to supporting this idea.

That’s an interesting use case. Maybe you want to take a look at Page Publishing - the page becomes public but the URL needs to be known to access it, so maybe this fits your use case?

Kind of an interesting idea to add a feature like nextcloud has, where you can create a sharing link to a file or folder that is unique, and also provide an expiration date or maybe a password to access.

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Thanks. I’ve thought recently that it would be cool if you could give a topic a complicated link (like dropbox, google docs, and others do)–so that anyone can access it, but you need the link to do that, and it’s unlikely anyone would have the link unless you sent it to them. That could work nicely–and get closer to the “private posts” functionality that people request on this forum every now and then.

And it wouldn’t require a published page (I could just take a public topic, but give it a complicated link to access).

I think there are two limitations presently–for a published page or just a normal topic you want to keep available to only a few select people through the “complicated link” method:

  1. How do you create a complicated link for a topic? Right now, for topics and published pages, I think that the url is generated automatically and it’s a straightforward read of the title. (I guess you could create a weird title, but that wouldn’t look very good and would be confusing to people who view it.)

  2. Search engines would be indexing the published page / topic, right? That would def diminish the potential privacy of the page/topic.

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