Mailing list - to a topic

Discourse provides great email integration so users can

  • Post a new topic to a category by email (this can be set up as a user friendly email address)
  • Reply to a message in a topic by email (this is an autogenerated email address with a OID string of characters)

I’d be grateful for advice on how best to achieve this…

We have a topic we want to use to record emails sent out on a mailing list - as well as allowing users to post up directly. The reason is not everyone is on Discourse - so we have to cater for the users that are not technically savy enough to use the forum - whilst still having the benefits of using the as a repository for the emails for those that can.
My idea is simply to copy in a Discourse forum email address when sending out the old style standard email mailing list.

My current approach is to create a topic and post a message. That sends out an initial email - and you can work out what the email to reply to from that email (i.e the email address and OID). Include that email in the group email - and hey presto - all future emails sent out from the group email are copied to the forum.

The only issue is they are all seen as in Reply to the original message. Is there a way to do it so you can include an email to add to a specific topic - without them being seen in ‘Reply’ to an existing message. Ideally I’d like to make it a more user friendly email as well - like you can when you set up a category “Custom incoming email address:”

It seems analogous to the “Post new Topic to a category by email”. I’m looking for how best to “Post new message to a Topic by email”

Hi, I’m still having problems setting up reply to a topic by email.

The reply by email works but requires you to reply to a message.

I want to be able to copy (cc) in a discourse email address so each time we send an email to a distribution list it is posted up to the same topic.

Any suggestions?

1 Like

Have you seen this? Creating a read-only mailing list mirror

I haven’t tried it out yet but bet it would help you.

The topic is about using Discourse as a read-only mirror of the list (ie everybody has to post using the list, not using Discourse).

But some of the comments mention Discourse’s email-to-forum ability, so it might be possible to have it both ways.

I imagine you subscribe the category’s email-in address to the list (so list emails are sent to to the forum as replies - or new topics), and subscribe a “user” with the list’s email address to to the forum category to receive email notifications (so forum posts are emailed to the list).

Thanks - I’d looked at that. The mirroring is at category level. Each email received is added as a new topic.

What I was looking for was for each email received to be added sequentially to a Topic - as it does when you reply by email to a topic discussion. It doesn’t look like that’s possible?

I got the impression that that is what would happen. The explanation mentions something about using the Message-ID header rather than the special Discourse reply email address to work out which topic to put the email reply into.

Every email thread becomes a topic. See for a demo.
If you want every email to appear in the same topic (so, just one topic for the whole mailing list), no, that’s not possible.

I think we may be talking at cross purposes here! I’ll have a go myself and see how it works first hand.

As I’m sure you’re finding, it will always be suboptimal to try to loop in people who are not actually members of your site, if not impossible.

If you can, you want to invite these folks to join your discourse and set up default settings for them to watch the categories you expect them to participate in by email.

You can set up groups with default category notification settings to target these people, and add those people to the group as you invite them.

You can also write a topic to send them to the first time they log in that explains how they can participate by email. Then they never have to log in again.

Thanks. I agree that’s the ideal. The organisation i’m supporting is not in the tech sector and wants to support members (including elderly patients with cancer) who are less tech savy. It does not want to mandate users registering with the forum but sees the benefits for those that do.

It would be simpler if we could register users directly as you can with a mailing list - but with Discourse users still need to confirm their email address by responding to invites etc and many chose not to - or are afraid to. We are therefore using email as the primary communication method supplemented by the forum - as a record of previous communications for those that do register.

As I say it’s not ideal but I hope that explains the reasoning.

1 Like

PS We’ve decided to keep it simple and do it at category level as that’s how Discourse mailing list features have been designed. We were doing it at topic level when posting directly to the board but we can make it work at category level so that’s no problem. Thanks for the replies.


Well, the times have changed. It’s no longer really acceptable (or legal, for that matter) to just add people to a mailing list anymore, without getting a double opt in from the person via a link they click on in their email. It’s become impractical as well, since email senders will not want your business either if you continually cause their server IPs to be blacklisted.

This certainly makes it difficult for chasing down people who don’t like to click links in their email. I guess if you are small and you know everyone already, you can always find workarounds, but the software can’t support this type of usage because it will be abused.

It sounds like it’ll be hard given your clientele, but I think you’ll be better off tackling this problem at the other end - find ways to get the people to sign up and opt in, rather than trying to hack the software.

1 Like

Thanks. Unfortunately I’ve just heard the group have decided to discontinue the forum. It’s a pity as it worked well at the outset.

We also had a difficult issue as the organisation changed its email domain name, issued new email addresses to everyone and turned off forwarding after a few months - so everyone who had signed up with their old email had to login and change their email. A substantial number hadn’t requiring administrators to send emails out as well to maintain comms. I couldn’t change the emails for them and some of the senior team only ever read the email notifications anyway - so couldn’t see the advantage over email. Once they had decided to go back to email there was no incentive to update their email on the forum and it became a no win situation.

Final straw was the comms and admin team weren’t prepared to maintain both the groups and separate email distribution lists. Appreciate what you say about being unacceptable to add people to a mailing list - but when you are simply sending emails out to people in your organisation that’s exactly what they do.

Ah well. I’ve other forums that work well and don’t have these problems. You can’t win them all.


Wow! Thanks for sharing your story. I guess this is a reminder that every community is unuqie and deals with its own set of circumstances that require different strategies and efforts. Sorry it didn’t work out for you this time!

I have found that Discourse works really well when you are starting up a new community or when there is a high incentive for enough people to participate to get the ball rolling on the forum. With enough people actually logging in to participate - some people will always be recalcitrant but we can pull them along thanks to the email notifications. I recently migrated a yahoo group and it took months before it started to look successful. I was constantly cherry picking people who were leaders in various ways to come and start topics and get things in the community going via the forum. You have to be dogged! :dog:

And then, yeah, sometimes you have to admin defeat. :sob: