Suggestion to change topic-subscription descriptions

Currently we have:

You will be notified of every new reply in this topic, and a count of new replies will be shown.

A count of new replies will be shown for this topic. You will be notified if someone mentions your @name or replies to you.

You will be notified if someone mentions your @name or replies to you.

You will never be notified of anything about this topic, and it will not appear in latest.


You will be notified* about every new reply in this topic, and a count of new replies will be shown.

A count of new replies will be shown for this topic. You will be notified* if someone mentions your @name or replies to you.

You will be notified* if someone mentions your @name or replies to you.

You will never be notified of anything about this topic, and it will not appear in latest.

*You will also receive email notifications unless these have been turned off in your preferences

Anyone else think this more clearly describes things?


Unless I am missing something small, all I am seeing is the * explaining email, and renaming of the top 2 names. I like the asterisk a lot, I do not like renaming tracking to watching at all. No way. Never.

The amount of confusion that would cause is huge! Besides the implications that all discussion regarding topic/category subscription types here on Meta would be invalid, anyone who has been using Discourse for the last 3 years has worked with these titles. Imagine the confusion if all of a sudden you have a bunch of topics subscribed, and topics that you never said to watch marked as such. If you want to rename the titles, great, but no way should a title’s meaning be changed.


Yeah renaming tracking to watching is a non starter that would cause immense confusion. That ship sailed years ago.


This is an excellent suggestion. “Tracking” & “Watching” are way too similar and this helps with the confusion greatly.

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Perhaps “Following” as an alternative word?

I think it’s very unfortunate that ‘Watching’ and ‘Tracking’ were not reversed. Tracking suggests that it is more than merely ‘watching’.

With regards to any change causing some confusion, yes that may be unavoidable (tho possibly mitigated) but DC is the platform for the next 10 years and the last 3 really were really all about getting it to this point.

How about as a compromise ‘Watching’ is changed to ‘Subscribed’ - that fits the hierarchy better imo, though I would argue that what’s currently ‘tracking’ really is just ‘watching’.

I don’t know. Maybe it has more to do with how much and what meaning one imparts to certain words.

To me, “tracking” is a bit more removed than “watching”.

That is, if I am tracking (my mind goes to “as in hunting, stalking”) something I may be following it at a distance.
I’m interested, and I do hope to catch up to it, but I may not be “on top of it”

If I’m watching something, it means I’m right there up close enough to see it at the moment.

In any case, I’m not so sure it is the “words” that need to be changed, and in fact I think changing them now would be a very bad thing.

On the other hand, if the descriptions of what each setting means could be made more understandable for those unfamiliar with them I think that wuld be a good thing.

My problem is, I know what they mean and I know what they do. So the settings and their descriptions and effects make perfect sense to me as they are now. But I have lost the ability to see them with the fresh eyes of a Discourse newbie.


I am in the exact same boat. I can remember being confused when I first used Discourse 2 years ago as an internal forum for a job a worked, and the difference between the 4 items was not at all clear. Like @Mittineague I am not sure how we can explain it better, but as mentioned above I strongly agree that using an existing “title” for a different description is not a good idea, and I also agree that changing titles isn’t necessarily what is needed here - description is far more important.

I agree. This is one of the features that can be greatly simplified to enhance the user experience. I think it is valuable to consider how others are approaching the same experience, e.g. Facebook below

Yes, there are edge cases where you need very precise settings - but mostly, a good user experience is created when the user is not always presented with too many options. In this case, i feel it will be much easier to solve it in a way that Facebook did. You’re always ‘watching’ what you post and comment on - which you can turn off on a post setting.

In my opinion, there is very little reason for a notification setting such as ‘tracking’ to exist. It is simply too granular.

I also believe that the muting setting should be separated from notification settings and treated as either

  • a second layer to ‘flagging’ content as on Twitter, or
  • a separate option on posts on the same level as bookmarking and flagging, as on Facebook



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I would argue that there are much more than edge cases for why we have the settings we currently do. For example, you say there is little reason for tracking to exist. I am a moderator on another Discourse. I track every single category, and thus every topic/post that is created on the site. This ensure that everything is in my new or unread pages, and I read everything that comes onto the forum. I don’t want to be watching everything, because then “real” notifications would be buried within the mass of new posts, and I don’t want normal, because I might miss things. There are likely many more examples that are not edge cases, but off the top of my head I am not thinking of them. Essentially, there is a very real use case for posts to be marked new/unread without generating a notification.

As for your mute suggestion, I don’t agree either. Muting on Discourse is different than Twitter and Facebook as you are muting topics or categories (at least when discussing muting along with track/watch), not users. I don’t want an option to mute a topic when I am flagging a user. Also, the Facebook image you took appears to have the equivalent of mute in the same menu as other notification related settings, as well as the equivalent of flagging.

But, I digress. This topic is discussing the wording of the topic subscriptions from a UX perspective. If you want to redo the functionality of the topic subscription system I would suggest making a new #feature topic.


Regarding simplifying the UI for me:

  • “Normal” doesn’t tell me anything as a user, I don’t think it should exist.
  • The large amount of text detailing tracking in the UI currently complicates it, you have to read quite a lot to work out which one you want. The textual descriptions of “Tracking” and “Watching” are very similar.

I believe that the option to “Get Notifications” should be separate and only shown when “Tracking” the topic.
This simplifies the need to add so much text to the menu, but still very clearly understand when you will get notifications.

Here is a screen grab of mock-up of possible replacement in different states:

And the menu contents:

Here is the CodePen:

This could be completed with purely UI changes, there is no need to change the underlying system functionality.


Yes, if you are are moderator - not for the 99% of your other users who don’t need such a granular setting. My post is regarding the user experience for a normal Discourse user. Moderators obviouly have other needs than normal users.

My point is you can create settings for everything, but sometimes this ends up confusing users more than benefiting them. In the case of how you control notifications on Discourse, i would argue we’re making it harder for users to understand.

OK, normal user example. Imagine a user on a game development site. On that site there is a suggestions category where users can post suggestions for new/improved features in the game. This user likes to follow the suggestions, as she tends to give feedback and add on to them when she can. She likes to know when there is a new topic and/or post for her to read when she visits the site, but she doesn’t need to get a notification (and then an email) every time there is a new post.

Another example. Take a user here on Meta. This user writes a new topic in the support category about an issue on his site. After creating this topic he sets notifications to watching so he is immediately notified if someone responds. After a few days of back and forth, the issue is solved, and no new posts occur. A few months later someone has a similar issue, so they post in his thread. The original user tries to help, but can’t, and lets other post. Now, the original user is getting notifications everytime someone posts. He still likes to see what is going on (in case he can help further), but really doesn’t need notifications anymore.

I absolutely agree. Too many settings becomes messy, confusing, and just plain difficult to deal with. However, I feel it is hard to argue that going from 4 to 3 subscription types is going eliminate a lot of confusion. Also, for users who have been using Discourse for years, getting rid of a subscription type will be tough. Something between normal and watching IS needed - otherwise there is no need for the new and unread pages, and no quick way for users to track if there are new posts in an interesting topic without being notified of every post.

Going back to the idea of changing the topic subscription descriptions, what if the wording was changed to make it clear that each “higher” option is the ones below it plus more. Something like:

Tracking mode + a notification for every new reply in this topic.
Normal mode + a count of new replies will be shown for this topic.

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I was starting to write up a new topic on this subject, but your suggestion is so close to what I am thinking of, that it seems better to just pick up where you left off.

A small tweak to suggest is just to also remove the Mute option. I fail to see why it’s necessary at the topic level. When you’re not watching a topic, you only get notified when you’re quoted or mentioned anyway.

This way, it’s a single click to Follow or Unfollow a topic.

Not only is the interaction much simpler, but I am not overloaded with choices.

And once you’re following a topic, you have a single click to also get notifications for the topic.

That’s the same number of clicks it takes today to watch a topic, but with a lot less reading. It also makes it clear that I’m both Following the topic and subscribed to Notifications.

Here’s another mockup:

And for the sake of completeness, what it may look like on the timeline:

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I find these mock ups very unconvincing; you want to add even more buttons to every single page in Discourse? You find “normal” notification state confusing? Why would we stop offering the mute notification state?

All this would be much worse, not better.

It’s only one more button when you are tracking/following a topic. And in general, it’s less clicks, less reading, and less decisions.

I think it would greatly simplify the experience for new users. But it could be done first as a plugin to test that theory.

Keep in mind my original suggestion was aimed to move things forward without the need to change underlying systems / data storage and almost a year ago.

I would also be happy with the removal of “muting” and would still keep two buttons to separate the notification state.

I think “Follow / Following” & “Subscribe / Subscribed” are interchangeable and changing the “notification state” should always have the word “notifications” mentioned in it as a name - i.e. “Don’t make me think”.
As such I don’t agree with the mock up by @mcwumbly (sorry buddy).


I went back and forth on Subscribe vs Notifications. I can see your point there, and could happily go with that instead.


I mute topics all the time. Why would I support that getting removed from the menu of notification states?

Interesting. I’ve never felt the need to mute a topic. What is your main motivation for muting them?

To hide them in the topic list?

Or because you’re being replied to and/or quoted a lot in a particular topic that you’ve lost interest in?

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