Mailing-list-like sign-up process

I want to start a Discourse forum for a software project that’s just starting, and I want to do it before there’s a mailing list and everyone is on it and all hope is lost that I’ll move them over to a forum.

Current sign-up requires button click, email and password. As a mailing list replacement, I think it would work better to only have an email input field and a submit button.

That email field would be on a conversion-oriented landing page, not Discourse’s regular topic-list front page.

The user would get a confirmation email, click the confirmation link, and be done.

They would by default have “get every post as email” checked on their preferences.

That way, they never even have to know that the website part of the forum exists if they don’t want to. Optionally, they could set up a password after clicking the confirmation link, or just be asked to do it the first time they actually want to sign in to the website.

Is this possible? Would it be a lot of work for me to hack this into place myself? Is it something Discourse plans to have? Thanks!

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Why not go ahead and start the Discourse forum? There are a number of fairly mature email-only ways of interacting in Discourse, including this preference:

Receive an email every time a post is made on the forum (unless you have muted the topic or category)

which we call “mailing list mode”

I am also working on this right now… I agree with @codinghorror that discourse is generally ready to start a new forum instead of just using a mailing list tool.

However, one feature missing in discourse right now for drop-in mailing list replacement is indeed the ability to add subscribers or allow them to subscribe just using their email address. They also need the full name and username and password:

I guess you could complete that signup form on their behalf and make up a password if you know their name and email address but then they would still have to click the link in the email to verify their email address to start participating, and somehow get their password.

There are also some cultural differences between forums and mailing lists and how they work that I’ve been grappling with that you might also have trouble with if you are hoping to seamlessly replace say mailman with discourse.


Yes, having “mailing list mode” on by default for new users who sign-up through the email-only form is one the things I mentioned on the original post. Is it possible to set it as default?

The other thing is allowing sign-up through a (embeddable?) simple email form. Think Mailchimp. That’s a more distraction-free sign-up process than the plurality of content and calls to action one sees on the forum’s front page, and dispenses with choosing a password. Is this possible/planned?

No, but it should be.

@sam maybe we can have a better way of globally setting any site setting at the admin level?


What does “mailing list mode” mean exactly? Just that the user has Receive an email every time a post is made on the forum (unless you have muted the topic or category) selected?

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I guess setting the “mailing-list mode” flag for new users is the easier part and, worst case, I could do it myself. The main issue, though, remains having an embeddable, email-only way of signing up new users.

Was there any progress on this? I guess google auth is one approximation, but not everyone uses gmail.

Discourse seems to build on a username and full name. Username could be set to email username (part before @domain.tld), plus uniquifier (digit, random word…), and reused as changeable full name.

To my mind, the current signup form is very darn close to email-only. If that’s a huge barrier for your users… then… uhh… err…

We did add the email login option a few releases ago which makes this much easier, and I believe it is now on by default in Discourse 2.2, so … maybe that’s what you meant?


By “email login option” do you mean (email + nickname + fullname + password)?

If so, then yes, it’s a problem (for the use-case of “abusing” Discourse as a mailing list) - not a “huge” problem, but it adds unnecessary friction - causing people to fall out of the funnel.

I’m not sure if there’s a technical term for this, I’d call it “incremental signup”, or “only as much work for the user as necessary”.

The idea would be to place a “join mailinglist” form on a landing page, requiring nothing more but an email.
They would get signed up for a topic or two (with a lure to signup properly, i.e. pick a password, finalise their nickname + full name). To post, they’d also have to signup properly.

Of course you’re free to see this as out of scope. Egoistically thinking, I’d just love to do away with a separate mailing list for my project - and actually tie in the mailing list closer to inviting users to signup for the forum


One option you have is allowing a certain category to accept incoming emails from randoms:

Then when they eventually sign in via the web they can get the full blown account and all the posts will be associated with the email they use to sign up.

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Another option is to add an email address as a staged user, and then go to edit the staged user email preferences to turn on mailing list mode, or to set certain categories to watching. You can also add the staged user to a group giving access to private categories.

I see this as a hack… so I would use it with caution and only when you are dealing with people you know well and who you are certain actually want to participate in this way even though they don’t bother to sign up.

If a case study helps… we have done this with working groups that exist already outside our forum. The people convening the working groups want them to use the forum and everyone has agreed to it. But there is always the straggler or two who for whatever reason ignore all the invitations to join and participate via the forum. With this approach we don’t have to have a hybrid system where we use the forum to work with most people but then follow up separately by email with that straggler.

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This would be helpful to be inclusive towards communities that are used to email-first workflows, so once they send a message, they are signed up. Similar to how works, no?