Please restore email digests

I think this is a really great discussion and I love it when you can see how we are collectively figuring out what the different needs of different types of users are and how to meet them.

As I see things at this point (and I have no stakes in any of the discussed features), the big question is whether it is better to make summary emails extremely customizable for the individual user so that it can be used in a very similar way as the daily digest, or to bring back/introduce digest emails in addition to summary emails.

On the surface, it seems like option 1 is the more elegant one, apparently keeping things simple and avoiding confusion between two similar looking email functions.

But I think that if the summary emails get a lot of additional options, this will probably be more confusing for users that having an additional email mode that is hidden somewhere further down in the user preferences. And, as has been pointed out, since the summary emails and the daily digest have quite distinct purposes, it’s probably better to keep them apart.

Also, thinking of the feature requests (plans?) for a [category based mailing list mode]
(Apply "mailing list mode" per category), it probably makes sense to see daily digests as a variation of mailinglist mode.

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I think this is a good summary.

As far as I can see there is no option for this.

A valid question. With a rule you still have all of the individual emails coming in. My user demographic is 60+ and most are doing well to get signed in to their email or bookmark a web site. Setting up rules is truly beyond some of them. They will scream bloody murder if they suddenly start getting 30+ emails in their inbox every day, filtered or not.

Good question, since setting up rules in Gmail is really simple. But I still know enough people who are not even aware of the possibility or if they have a faint idea that something like this might be possible, probably wouldn’t be able to do it nonetheless.

But Gmail is only one email provider/client. At work we have an Exchange Server and Outlook and I have given up trying to configure rules there because they just don’t work most of the time (my solution is popfile). If the same is true on outlook.con accounts, then you have quite a number of people without email rules.

So my users don’t see this in their inbox:

Not following, they don’t the emails would skip the inbox

For myself, personally, I’ve never seen the value of digests. They make it hard to read only those messages which are actually interesting (based on subject line) and they’re murder to try and reply to without making a complete dog’s breakfast of the whole operation (everyone who’s seen a new thread on a mailing list with the subject Re: <foo> digest, 1997-01-02 knows what I mean).

That being said, digest subscriptions have always made up a perplexingly large proportion of subscribers on any non-trivial mailing list I’ve had admin on, so if Discourse wants to have a really solid “mailman replacement” story, they are, sadly, something that’s going to have to be implemented.

As I understand it, the main blocker to daily digests is performance – busy topics/categories create many posts, which equals large e-mails, and huge strings, and performance sadness. The way that mailing list software has dealt with this since time immemorial is to have a size limit. You’re going to get at least one digest e-mail a day (if there are any new posts, anyway), but you may get more if things heat up. You can see this in, for example, the mailman digest configuration; specifically, the digest_size_threshold option.

One thing that makes it a lot easier for mailman, et al, to send out digests without exploding is that they can assemble a single digest for all subscribers and send it out rapid-fire, rather than having to hand-craft a new message for every subscriber based on each person’s individual tastes and circumstances. If it would be a worthwhile performance improvement, I think a similar strategy would work for Discourse: if you subscribe to digests for a category, you get all that category’s messages: no filtering, muting, etc, and if you subscribe to multiple categories, you get a separate digest e-mail per category, possibly on a different schedule to the e-mails for other categories. It’s how existing digest die-hards are used to things happening, so while I won’t be surprised if they complain (because a certain percentage of people will, just on principle), it’s easier to explain that this is how it worked before, and your cheese is just a teeny, tiny bit further to the left than it was, see, it’s right there, you can stop hyperventilating now please.

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This would also fit nicely with per category mailing list mode. You’d simply turn on mailing list mode for a category and choose whether you want digest or not. That would mimic the mailinglist experience pretty well.

Things are falling into place here, I think.

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I suppose you could filter Discourse email to the Forums category but it would look the same there.

Sam, Jeff; Would this cause a performance hit to generate?

Our users would be ok with a full daily for each category.

I personally don’t use mail digests/summary - my inbox/folders are active enough with “How do I…” mails from users, but my users do miss the all-in-one-mail-complete-story-since-yesterday mode.

The biggest perf culprit we have with mega digest is the single giant HTML document that needs a bunch of nokogiri magic

Perhaps the easiest thing to do would be to give people text only digests, we can do them real fast and memory impact will not be severe, especially if we truncate stuff at son sane limit

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I don’t think we can truncate stuff here since what I’ve read so far suggests that the users want to be kept updated but will not visit the site.

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That is the case for my user base. They don’t want a “teaser” to make them go to the site, they want a 1:1 version of the last 24h in their inbox. Some of them send replies in via email, some go to the website if they have something to say.

If this is becomes a performance issue in digest mode, I think these people will have to bite into the sour apple :green_apple: (as German idiom goes) and choose between truncated digest mode or full mailing list mode (with full copies of every single post). Sour apples are healthy :wink:

Are they happy with raw markdown?

I’m not sure what that means.

Italic text comes out as _ text _ as opposed to text and pictures/oneboxes arrive as URLS?

If there wasn’t a url for every user avatar, and there was some form of “Reply to this post via email” and “View this post online” then yes, that would probably be acceptable.

Don’t truncate the messages in the digest; send more digests if an individual one would be too large. Figure out what an acceptable default memory usage is, determine roughly how big an e-mail needs can be without exceeding that memory limit, and send out multiple digests per day, each no bigger than that.

That’s going to be even more painful to do with Discourse than it would be with a regular mailing list digest, and given how many people make a mess of replying to a “regular” digest, I’m inclined to tell 'em to visit the website if they want to reply when they get a digest.

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Come to think of it…
I’m not entirely sure that the email replies I’m thinking of are to digests, or if those users have digest and notification emails.

I’m not even through my first coffee of the day and I’m wondering if I can fashion a data explorer query which would show:

Users who had email digests enabled, with no notification or individual emails, who've replied via email.

The other possibility would be to ask them, but I’m not entirely sure I could phrase the question clearly enough that I could be sure the answers were correct.

I’ve no idea how the digests were generated before, or what it is that is that would be causing the performance hit. My point was, keep doing that, but reduce the level of “prettify” processing.

Howdy all. We’re bummed about the removal of the Daily Digests too. Our community started 20 years ago (obviously not Discourse to begin with) and lots of members got used to reading the Daily Digest every day. Engagement on our forum drops off significantly when the Daily Digests aren’t sent out (we’ve had an outage or two in the past).

Haven’t said that, Discourse is great! Just wanted to add our 2 cents on this issue. :slight_smile:

One question about using the Activity Summary (with freq set to Daily) as an alternative: Can we currently ensure that that email goes out every day? I was under the impression that it won’t go out if the user visits the forum or gets any other kind of notification within a 24 hour period.

How much work would it be to put the email digest functionality into a plugin?

The code is all done, it’s there in git history, isn’t it? Could it be repackaged as a plugin with the caveat that running the plugin may cause a performance hit?

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It’s very little work if you’re not going to improve it. I expected someone out there to have done it by now, but sadly it hasn’t happened.

@mpalmer brought up the question about how people reply to topics from email if they’re only getting the mailing list digests… They’ve opted out of being able to reply from email if they’re getting digests? They have to visit the site to reply??

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