Separate admin and personal accounts?

Are there any recommendations or simply experiences that you might like to share regarding the question whether or not admins should have two separate dicourse accounts (a personal one to participate in forum discussions, and an admin one for, well, admin stuff)?

Technically, the answer is simple: one account per person should do. But I also know that it is good practice in face-to-face discussions to “wear different hats” depending on the type of contribution one is making at a particular moment. Apart from playing different roles in public, there might also be personal pros and cons of having two accounts, the most obvious con being that you have login and logout when switching between roles (or use different browsers) and the most obvious pro being that you can focus on being a participant without being distracted by admin tasks popping up all the time.

So I’d be curious to hear your thoughts and experiences with this.


There is the “add staff color” option via the post wrench menu.

In other words, post with no background color when posting as a peer, post with the background color when posting as an “official”


To add to @Mittineague, here’s what I generally do:

Normally, I just post. I don’t really worry whether I’m seen as a mod or not - but that might just be the atmosphere in our community.

If I need to say something as a “regular user”, ensuring that my comment is not construed to be official, I add a disclaimer at the bottom. Something like: Note: this is my personal opinion, I’m not speaking in my role as a moderator.

Conversely, when I need to be sure that my comment is understood to be official, I use staff color.


I use two accounts. I normally work with my admin account, regardless of what I am doing, I only use the regular account when I am writing a user guide or such, so that I am sure that the guide only includes what a normal user can see and do.


I’m not sure I understand. You use the regular account to write a user guide, i.e. to write something that usually comes from an admin, but you use the admin account for anything?

But as far as I can see, that just changes the background colour of the post but for community members there is nothing that tells them what this color means, right?


I know it seems counter intuitive.

If I am writing a guide I want the screenshots and any error messages or links which I include to be things that a normal user would see. For that reason I have a regular account.

But for the rest of my activities, be that participating in the conversation, or helping a user with a problem, or moving posts to an appropriate category or such I use my admin account.

It works out faster that way. As a matter of fact, if I am composing a user guide I login with the regular account in a different browser, staying logged in as admin with my normal browser. Once I’ve completed the guide with all screenshots etc I PM it to a couple of users to have them check it for readability etc, and when it is ok to publish it I use my admin account in the other browser to make the PM public, and assign it to the “User Guides” category, which is read only for normal users.

EDIT: Our forum is generally pretty uncontroversial. I rarely need to use the Moderator truncheon (2 user suspensions and about 6 Flags since Nov 2016). The users know I’m a mod, and that I also happen to participate in the discussion. I keep the two roles separate in my own mind, and so (apparently) do our users. I think the changing hats thing is highly dependent on your user base, and what your forum concentrates on. Ours is a classic car forum, If I disagree with a user about whether some repair should be welded or brazed my point isn’t influenced by which hat I’m wearing, and none of them see it that way either. YMMV.


As a sighted person that has experience using Discourse I know what the background color signifies.

The question does bring up an important accessibility consideration. Using color alone to convey meaning is not best practice. eg. red for error messages.

For visitors that can’t see the color, maybe something non-visual could be added somewhere for a screen reader to pick up on?

For those that can see, they also have the “tone” of the post and its context within the topic to help them distinguish it from a peer post.

An analogy would be if a child picked up a toy and a book of matches. If the parent said “Put that back down” I think the child would know both that it was they that was being addressed and which item was being referred to.