Migrating from Google Groups


(Geoff Bowers) #1

Continuing the discussion from Reply by email requires reply at top:

I’m assisting in the migration of a developer community to a Discourse install from Google Groups and we’re encountering some pretty vitriolic feedback. Predictably perhaps, a core group of users only wants to work via email and never wants to touch the web ui.

There are two key issues that block that workflow and if resolved would defuse the whole thing.

Inline comments in an email reply are borked

Whilst you can respond to an email with the “reply at top” inline responses require fiddly formatting of the email which despite efforts to educate users are simply not working.

Personally I think this is the real deal-breaker for my “mailing list only” brethren. I have to agree that if you can’t respond inline to emails then email is not really a viable interface to the forum.

While there appears to be some acknowledgement of the issue here and in the topics I’ve cross referenced, I’m not clear on whether or not this is on the current Discourse roadmap to be addressed. Can anyone shed some light here?

Less critical is email threading in Apple mail clients.

This is already discussed here and how-to here.

I’ve changed the email subject config which has helped immensely:

%{optional_re} [lucee] %{optional_pm} %{topic_title}

This config certainly improves things in Apple mail in that replies to a post are now appropriately grouped. However, the original post (ie without an RE) is orphaned from its replies. I could hack in a compulsory RE for all email I guess. I make note of it as others are bound to encounter the problem.

Not sure what more can be done here as it appears Apple Mail doesn’t respect the mail headers – mind you Google Mail doesn’t have the problem.

Edit: There is now an officially supported tutorial on migrating from Google Groups to Discourse:


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(Alessio Fattorini) #2

I’m in the same situation, we’re using inline reply all the time and it’s a big limit for my main developers. Please can we deepen into it? And make it works properly?


(Alessio Fattorini) #3

An example for a good inline reply is github, it works like a charm! Please keep a look at it!


(Tobias Eigen) #5

We are facing this in my community as well, but the approach we are taking is actually the opposite - the benefits of logging in are so great that we push back (gently, gently) to get people to log in more and more. We’ve found that explaining the benefits works. It’s better and more fun to participate in discussions by logging in, and it’s pretty easy to do so. On the other hand supporting email-in users by fixing their posts, answering questions and smoothing over frustrations are a real headache.

We also have been trying to explain to people that logging in is beneficial since they can use the online editor to teach themselves how to write markdown, which they can then use (in a pinch) to contribute to a topic by email.

I also think the email notifications might need to be revisited to make the link to click through to respond via web more prominent, or to put in a big warning that inline responses only work if using markdown. It’s simply not apparent enough in the email notifications that they are from a platform that is a completely different beast from google groups or any traditional mailing list/listserv, and so require a different (and better) way to participate.

Below are two help topics we use on our forum for this purpose… so far they seem to be working.

Tip: 4 reasons to log into Discourse every day Discourse lets you start and participate in discussions by email, but the real magic happens when you start logging in every day.

Don’t believe in magic? Read on to sneak a peek behind the curtain and learn four easy discourse magic tricks that will astound and amaze you! :circus_tent:

###1. Stay on top of activity related to YOU
When someone replies to your post, quotes your post, or mentions your @username, a number will immediately appear at the top right of the page. Use it to access your notifications.

Don’t worry about missing a reply – you’ll be emailed direct replies (and private messages) if you aren’t online when they arrive.

It helps to make a habit of logging in once or twice a day to check your notifications, or keep discourse open in another tab as you work. When you get an email from discourse, follow the link to read the topic online to see it in context before you reply.

###2. Show your appreciation with a heart!
There are action buttons at the bottom of each post.

To let someone know that you enjoyed their post, use the like button. If you see a problem with a post, privately let them, or our moderators, know about it with the flag button.

You can also share a link to a post, or bookmark it for later reference on your user page.

###3. Write thoughtfully crafted replies

  • To reply to the overall topic, use the Reply button at the very bottom of the page.

  • To reply to a specific post, use the Reply button on that post.

  • To take the conversation in a different direction, but keep them linked together, use Reply as linked Topic to the right of the post. A link to your related topic will be displayed in right next to the post, as well as in the summary of the post at the top. There will be a link back next to the new topic as well.

To quote someone in your reply, select the text you wish to quote, then press any Reply button.

To ping someone in your reply, mention their name. Type @ and an autocompleter will pop up.

For adding smileys, just start typing : :smile:

###4. Embed video directly in your posts

Just copy/paste a youtube video directly in your post, on its own line, and it will automatically be displayed.

For example, pasting in this YouTube URL on its own line:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0m6ygvXuok&feature=youtu.be

Displays this video:

This method works for all sorts of media including pictures, wikipedia pages, twitter posts, and discourse forum topics. Try it!

###That’s it!
Let @tobiaseigen know if you have any questions or want a personal discourse tutorial.

Tip: Let the online editor show you how to create formatted posts Formatting of discourse posts is handled through *markdown*, a simple syntax that is legible in its raw form but looks amazing when published.

Markdown takes a little time to learn, but you can use the online editor to learn the basics. Once you have it down it is super easy to use. You can then draft beautifully formatted posts anywhere, even offline in a plain text editor, before logging in to paste it into the editor!

(In a pinch you can write markdown in email replies to discourse topics, but be sure to remove all other formatting first which will not be recognized properly by discourse)

Here’s a snapshot of the online editor that appears when you start editing a post. As you can see, you can use the editor to teach yourself markdown syntax to add bullet points, headings, or bolded text. Use the preview to experiment. The text you are writing on the left appears on the right just as it will look when you save your post.


Simplified HTML emails
(Geoff Bowers) #6

Apparently Discourse is using the same library as Github uses for processing comments:

However, i’d suggest either its not properly implemented on Discourse or Github are using a different code base. Discourse does not appear to process inline replies with any degree of success.


(Geoff Bowers) #7

Unfortunately, we’re dealing with a cohort of users who simply refuse to use anything other than their email interface to interact. Other use cases, no matter how compelling are of no interest to them.

As it happens I’ve just lost the battle entirely and the community is reverting to Google Groups. While much of this is simply the religious zeal for mailing lists of a small group, our fate was sealed by the lack of inline reply support and threading issues I’ve mentioned earlier.

I have participated in several threads on meta already around the topic of better email interactions; if there’s any traction I’ll do my best to help. These really seem like relatively trivial issues that could be resolved and make mailing list transitions much less painful.


(Geoff Bowers) #8

While I certainly agree with these points, threading in mail clients and inline replies are critical. The move to Discourse would be easier for list users if their most basic workflow is retained. Incorrect threading and you have no context for the topic. No inline replies and you have no context for the post.

Another less critical issue several complained about was the specific context of responses coming from the forum. ie where users do not quote anything. While i personally like the fact that email notifications only show Previous Replies for the first post notification you receive, it would help many mail-only users if there was a profile preference that included the parent post of a reply within the email.

Essentially to bring die hard mailing list users across we need the ability to provide the basics of mailing lists without forcing users to change their behaviour.


(Alessio Fattorini) #9

I’m in the same situation. My group are using github reply to notification and like it fairly


(Alessio Fattorini) #10

@tobiaseigen that’s a fantastic post :wink: I will copy it for my forum… To get people to login more and more… But now I need a reply inline which works pretty well


(Peter N Lewis) #11

I changed mine to always include the “Re:”, even on the first message, which is what is required to make Apple Mail properly thread the messages (as broken as that is). Given a lot of Mac users on my group (pretty much all), its a no-brainer to suffer the stupidity to get a better result.


(Joe Billings) #12

Same situation here. Lack of inline replies is a deal-breaker. I hadn’t yet spotted the lack of threading so thanks for highlighting that.


(Michael Downey) #13

I agree … The “Previous Replies” section of notifications seems to confuse our users (specifically devs) for some reason.

I am also getting complaints that notifications are coming out of order. (Possibly due to confusion about the above.)

Email notification UI still needs a bit of work to be ready for prime time. I will not be able to convert my last Google Group (for devs) over until it’s more reliable.


(Alessio Fattorini) #14

Is there the possibility to switch off previous replies? Adding a good inline support my gg user could be happy :smile:


(Jeff Atwood) #15

Can’t you just set the previous replies to include in emails to zero in the site settings?


(Geoff Bowers) #16

The Previous Replies feature only appears the first time you receive a message from a topic. Subsequent messages do not show Previous Replies. This is not immediately apparent, but completely the right approach.

I had two types of complaint/misunderstanding:

  • “previous replies is superfluous” from people assuming that this was something they would see every email response from a thread. At first it seems like this as you get the previous replies section once for every topic, so when you sign up you may see a fair few. But its not an issue once they realise its only providing the context the once per topic.
  • “replies have no context” in that subsequent replies via the web only give you the specific response and you don’t have all the quoted guff at the bottom of a standard mailing list email to give you better context. This is not relevant for many list users as its common practice to just keep all emails from the list in their own thread, in your own email client.

(Michael Downey) #17

Actually it is an issue because there is only context once per topic. Replies don’t always happen to the last message in a topic. So when notifications come, for example Adding custom fields with custom controls to the user page which is an out-of-sequence reply to my message (not the last one), I get no context in the email notification what the author is replying to.

If I look up in the previous messages (including the deleted ones!) in the thread in my email inbox, I can only assume he’s replying to the previous post. In that case, it makes no sense at all. And, since I don’t have an email notification of my own reply (which the author was actually replying to, and which I would if I had sent an email by virtue of a mail client keeping replies together in the thread) it makes things even more confusing. :frowning:


(Erlend Sogge Heggen) #18

Continue discussion here: