Send a Personal Message to an Email Address

You can now send a PM to an email address, even if the user does not exist on your site! Email addresses sent to in this way will become staged users, and will have full access to their PM history if they sign up for the site.

Thank you @nbianca for the PR!


But only if they have staged users enabled in the admin site settings.

I love this feature and look forward to using it.


Yes! This is awesome. As a result of it I have started using Discourse with the Assigned plugin to manage my client todo list. Thanks, @nbianca!


Sorry if this should be obvious, but I don’t seem to grasp the magnificence of this new feature. Could you say a few words about how exactly you are using it?

@pfaffman is probably talking about the whole package involving personal messages, staged users and assigned plugin. This particular topic talks about a feature that adds some magic to that by letting you send a PM to someone by email even if they are not yet signed up. It creates a staged user with that email address and they will then have full access to the PM history if they sign up later. That’s pretty cool.

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Yes, but what can you do with it? Do you have a use case?

I guess it means you can include anybody in a personal conversation on your forum? But will they subsequently receive all replies in that private topic?

I now found this:

but I’m still trying to grasp how it works in practice. Because if you are one person who wants to contact another person who is not a member, you might as well just send them an email, no? So the advantage is that (a) you can include the non-member in a conversation among several non-members (right?) and (b) even if it’s just yourself and the other, the advantage is that you are pulling them into the forum?

Sure - what you’re describing is possible. They will indeed get an email for all replies in that private topic. They can participate fully by email. If and when they join up later they will see the full history there in their messages. If they cc other people in a reply, it also creates staged users for them or includes them if they already exist.

For me, the opportunity is more in the ability to use discourse messages as a support portal or CRM. You just set up a discourse group with an email address and use that group to field inquiries and to manage them. With this feature you can also start the conversation yourself via discourse PM, without having to go to email. Because it’s all in discourse, you can work with your team to delegate who follows up etc etc. I believe the discourse @team group works this way now.

I don’t use it this way yet because there are still some quirks to messages (and group messages in particular) that I’d like to see resolved first. Also, PM tagging is on the roadmap and when that happens will make it easier to manage messages.

Another very real concern and reason to be careful with starting emails via PM is that the email looks like a discourse notification, and uses the discourse FROM email address for matching replies. For people not already signed up this will be unfamiliar, disconcerting and likely unwelcome.

There’s alot of magic here and it’s very exciting - but more testing by more people is going to be needed to work out the kinks and make sure it all works in a predictable way for everyone involved. So it’s good you’re raising these questions. I hope you also go test. :slight_smile:


Yes, that was one of the uses I had in mind. Or rather, a specific variation of “customer management”: management of conference/workshop participants (in an academic context, but I guess it can be applied to any conference). My experience is that at the end of a workshop or smaller conference, there is often an urge to “keep in touch” and perhaps someone sets up an email list, or a group on Facebook or LinkedIn. So my idea was to setup that communication platform already before the conference even takes place and use it to communicate with participants (program updates, accomodation and transport tips, menu options and what not).

One of the many advantages of that is that if someone signs up late® all the information sent out previously is still there for them to go through (which doesn’t mean that people will look at it, though). Another is obviously that the organizing team can jointly handle those communications and incoming queries.

So that’s what I did earlier this year. I set up a discourse forum for my conference participants (or, if you wish: I organized a conference to start off my discourse forum :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:). The problem is (was?), that I had to ask all participants to join the forum (or rather: to accept my invitation) and several people did not understand that, ignored it or forgot about it. So I had to remind them and I actually lost one participant who simply refused to sign up. :sweat:

So this new feature might help address that challenge, although it would mean that the communications would have to be limited to a single private topic (right?) and if someone replies to a message, everyone will get the reply (right?), which is precisely the kind of thing I was trying to avoid by using discourse (I used a restricted category with all participants were watching_first_post).

Another use case that just came to my mind was this: does this feature mean that I can basically use my (any!) discourse forum as my email client? In some email conversations I really miss discourse’s quoting feature… By using discourse PMs, my interlocutor will probably still use ordinary email, but at least I can quote with ease. :sunglasses:

But you are right with this, of course: