Running a photo competition

We’re organising a photo competition to be run for our forum members. Everything’s pretty much in place for the competition with tha last bit being how to manage the entries and voting.

This is the current plan:

  • Create a new category: Photo Competitions.
  • Create a new new sub-category (e.g. Photo Comp 2023) for members to upload their competition entries. Each photo will be a new topic. Replies should be disabled. I don’t want people posting ‘Lovely pic, Dave!’ etc. The sub-category should be just a gallery of images. I’ll create a separate ‘discussion’ sub-category so people can chat about the competition entries etc.
  • Members must be able to vote for (like) entries. The winner will be the one with the most votes when the competition closes.

I see couple of problems ahead:

I suspect that disabling replies but allowing people to ‘like’ posts may be mutually exclusive features within Discourse and a showstopper for this approach.

It doesn’t seem possible to enable create for a group without having reply as well, so
I’ve installed and enabled the restricted replies plug-in (on a test server) and created a new category to see if that works but I’m not seeing the new option in the Security settings I’m running the latest beta of Discourse.

Plan ‘B’ for running the competition is to enable the Require moderator approval of all new replies category setting. More work for me but at least I can divert errant posts to the discussion category and not frustrate users who don’t understand why (because they haven’t read the category description!) they’re unable to reply. I haven’t tested that setting; I’m assuming that’s how it’ll work

Does anyone have any better ideas, advice or experience of doing something similar?

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You could create a link for submissions which sends a message to a group inbox, such as moderators, and have your mod team move new posts into the category where users can read, but not create or reply.

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I could be wrong but I believe that if replies are restricted then it applies to likes as well.

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No, that’s not the case. All that’s required for a signed-in user to like a topic is the ‘see’ permission.


Ah, I see. I’ll have a play around with it and see what works best in that case.

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We don’t have anything native to close topics immediately, but you could also try setting in the category:

Auto-close topic after: 1 minute

And hiding the Reply button from that category with CSS.

Alternatively, you could set up a webhook that triggered an external system to call back and close the new topic immediately.


Setting auto-close to 1 minute would be quite an effective solution except I’ve found and installed the voting plugin and closing a topic also prevents any votes being cast for it.

Auto-deleting replies after a minute would be another way of cleaning up the sub-category but as far as I can tell that’s only possible on a topic-by-topic basis, not at category level.

It looks like sending all replies for moderation is the only viable option at the moment. Unfortunately, they can’t be redirected to a different category at the same time, which means either deleting them (and irritating users who, quite reasonably, would say they shouldn’t be able to hit the reply button in the first place) or accepting, then splitting/merging the reply in to another sub-category - more work for me but a slightly better user experience.

Webhooks and CSS are the undiscovered country at the moment and I want to launch the competition over the weekend. I can look at it retrospectively though. This would be a good excuse to broaden my knowledge.

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Topic votes also work in categories where users have the ‘see’ permission, but can’t create or reply.

Using a link to create a pre-filled PM to a group mailbox as per this guide:

Would create an initial manual step for said moderators to move entries across into the competition category, but from there they could be voted on with no commenting possible. If there’s any entry criteria for the competition then topics could be vetted at that stage, or just moved in bulk a few times a day.

As the number of topic votes is limited by default will you be allowing votes to be cast before all of the entries are received?


I launched the competition this weekend and am just trapping replies so they don’t reach the category. I did ponder vetting all the entries but decided against at the time as I didn’t have enough of a compelling reason, up to now. There are a set of competition rules. Not everyone feels the need to read them, it seems…

I’m letting people vote immediately. It was only after kicking things off that I thought it may have been better to have all the voting done in, say, the last week.

If the competition is a success we’ll probably do it again next year so I’m hanging on to all these good suggestions.