Notification levels - understanding and communicating category notification levels

Having used Discourse for ~1 year, I’ve underestimated category notification levels, both in terms of how much there is to comprehend, and how much they influence the user experience - too low, and things seem dead, but too high, and people (and spam filters!) get snarky at the quantity of emails.

I’ve created this table to break down the differences between the various options. I’ve been testing it for a few weeks, and I’m mostly confident it’s accurate (which is to say there’s a good chance it’s inaccurate).
Does anyone (a) know of a similar or better resource, or (b) have any edits / updates / suggestions to make this more accurate?

Discourse Notifications testing.pdf (12.7 KB)


There’s some Notification info in the New User Guide that may be useful.

Maybe some links to the sections in Preferences where you can change the settings may be good? (you can make them generic for your site by adding ‘my’ instead of u/username - eg



Thanks @JammyDodger.
This is great info, that will be very helpful in training up our users. I think I’ll still add in more info about category level notifications, but you’ve definitely made my task easier.
Thanks for taking time with the links.


Thanks for your table, it will be very useful. I’ve not done much of anything to communicate the use of notification levels in my community, and find because our visitors are more infrequent, many are missing out.

I don’t find a screenshot of the different levels helps much, I struggle to understand the impact of changing them myself. Your table makes it more clear to me.


Since I just wrote this reply, I’ll quote it again here. Still applies…

(Emails are only sent if none of your web browsers have touched the website in the last 10 minutes.)


I’ve continued to struggle with this one, in terms of how to understand the differences myself, then word the descriptions in ways that users can understand, and guide them in the right way. Also, initially mis-understanding our audience and the ways they’d interact with our Discourse install meant that we started with over-zealous email settings, and were really churning out a lot of emails (and, arguably, unintentional spam).

Here’s where I’ve gotten to (with thanks to @pfaffman for assistance the other week):

Watched (which could perhaps be renamed to ‘Emailed and Notified’?)
You will be notified (on the forum) of all activity in these categories, and also emailed about all activity. A count of new posts will also appear next to the topic. On CC forum: This setting can generate a lot of email traffic, so only use for categories where you want to be email-notified about everything. Recommended for the workshop ticket-buying categories, if you want to be notified and emailed about subsequent tickets becoming available.

Tracked (rename to ‘Notified’?)
You will receive no emails about activity in these categories. A count of new posts will appear next to the topic, and in ‘new’ on homepage. On CC forum: Recommended for most categories you want to keep track of, but don’t want emails about.

Watching first post (rename to ‘Emailed about first posts, otherwise Notified’?)
You will be notified (on the forum) of the first post in each new topic in these categories, as well as sent an email. On CC forum: Recommended for workshop ticket-buying categories, unless you also want to be emailed about subsequent additional ticket releases (in which case those categories should be in ‘watched’).

You will not be notified of anything about new topics in these categories, and they will not appear on the categories or latest pages. You will not receive emails about any activity in these categories. For CC forum: Not recommended unless you have a specific reason.

You need to decouple notifications from emails. A user may be watching a category but have email notifications turned off.

The descriptions here are sound:


Ah. Yes, you’re right, I need to separate out whether emails are turned on or not. Thanks for that.

I’m not sure about the default descriptions though. As someone that’s been (very part-time) running our install for a few years, it’s taken me a long time to get my head around these various distinctions, and from there be able to make recommendations for users, and default settings for categories.
We got a lot of feedback from users initially, before we changed the standard guidance descriptions, that it was making no sense to them, and they were reluctant to make adjustments; that’s why we’ve been trying to do some interpretive work (with varying degrees of success and accuracy).

That’s fair enough – I have lived and breathed Discourse for so long that I have warped judgement when it comes to some things. :slight_smile:

@mcwumbly may have further comments, but in the mean time are you aware that you can edit the text on your own site to say whatever you like?

Go to /admin/customize/site_texts and search for a text string.



Prior to joining Discourse, when I was running a community, I was also exploring ways to try to make these settings easier to understand. I did share some ideas about this here long ago: What is a notification?


Yes, thanks, have been doing that (with some questionable changes prior to really understanding them myself, and I think now some better and more accurate info - listed earlier in this thread).

6 posts were split to a new topic: Send Watching email notifications based on ‘post read’ not ‘site seen’