'Watching' for first messages only


(Duozmo) #1

This is an idea for an approach to notifications that I haven’t seen discussed here yet. It’s a model offered by GroupBuzz, another piece of group discussion software. In short: Allow a user to watch a tag/category, such that they are notified of each new topic started, but then automatically drop each topic back to ‘Normal’ notifications after the first message. This lets users get emails about new threads, and opt in to receive followups. It’s essentially the opposite of the current watching option offered, wherein watchers opt out of each topic they aren’t interested in (if I’ve understood things correctly; I’m new here). It’s particularly useful to occasional visitors who want to keep a beat on a forum but are unlikely to participate in most threads.

I’m sure there are all kinds of reasons why this would be complicated or difficult both technically and from a design perspective, and I’m not realistically expecting to see this become an option, but I just wanted to put the idea out there.

(Jeff Atwood) #2

No, you only auto-track topics in Discourse if you replied to the topic, or read it for more than 4 minutes.

You do auto watch topics you created, though.

(Duozmo) #3

Sorry Jeff, I don’t understand your reply.

Maybe I mockup would help explain what I mean.

(Jeff Atwood) #4

My point is that you may be basing this entire request on a misunderstanding – your statements in the first post are incorrect – and I don’t think that is a good way to proceed.

(Sam) #5

A quick question - would this provide some functionality that “Consider topics new when: I haven’t viewed them yet” doesn’t?

(Sam Saffron) #6

I get the request, just feel that it introduces lots of complexity.

  • What happens after you get the first notification are you tracking or is it in normal state?
  • We already struggle explaining the diff between default, tracking and watching… adding one more state makes it even more complex.
  • Do you just want emails or both emails and blue notifications.
  • This is the first such request in 3 years, its obscure and I do not think the complexity is justified.

It just feels complicated maybe a plugin can do something like this I don’t know.


Here’a a second such request! :grinning:

Gosh, it seems pretty straightforward to me, both in terms of interface and implementation. Thanks to @duozmo for an excellent mockup

@duozmo specified normal, which makes sense to me - it’s a topic that I’m just not into :wink:

I think there is a wide world of users (including me and many of the users of my forum) that prefer to use email as their way of staying current on what they are interested in. Please keep in mind that while content creation is important, it only creates value when it is consumed. I think that there should be support for complete notification and participation via email. After all, one of DC’s killer features, and for my community, perhaps THE killer feature, is posting and replying via email!

For instance, I am very interested in new feature requests here on Meta, such as this one, but I’m not interested in many others that spawn many replies. The only way I can track that via email at the moment, is by watching the category. However, that sends me emails to every new topic and every new reply. I end up clicking on alot of “To stop receiving notifications about this particular topic, click here” links.

What I and @duozmo want (and I am sure many others) is a way to track a category but only get an email for the first post of a new topic. In that topic-originating email, there would be a link to continue “watching” this thread, but at the moment the email is sent out, the user’s notification level for the topic would be downgraded to Normal.

So it’s just an email notification of a new topic. If you are interested in staying informed via email click here. Doesn’t that make sense?

The key to effective email, as I’ve written before, is maintaining a high signal to noise ratio, customized for each user. This mod helps do that. If you really feel it is too complicated, then allow the admin to disable it. But if you ask me, it is the tracking/normal distinction that is complicated and non-intuitive, though worthy.

The other key tool that is needed for email participation, is a highly customizable digest. After I dig out for taking care of my mother for the last 2 months, I’ll offer a spec for that.

Respectfully submitted for your re-consideration.

(Tom Newsom) #8

Xenforo has this distinction between “Watched Threads” and “Watched Forums”. I use it myself on a forum where most of the traffic is in a dozen popular subforums, but I don’t want to miss threads in a few of the less popular ones. My priorities when visiting that forum are to read Watched Threads, Watched Forums, New Posts in that order. (In Discourse-speak, Unread, “Watched Categories”, Latest)

Another example: If I was a part-time Discourse developer with limited time on my hands, I might set UX, Bugs and Dev to “Watch for new threads” so I can keep an eye on those categories without having to visit the site and read each in turn, manually filtering the New from the Bumped.

(Duozmo) #9

@Barry_Chertov nailed what I am trying to get at.

(Wes Osborn) #10

You’re saying that Tracking a category, doesn’t generate an email notification for new topics? If so, that explains something I’ve been digging into for a little while trying to figure out why folks weren’t getting emailed on new topics.

So the benefit of Normal vs Tracking is just that tracking includes the count of new posts?

I totally agree and don’t have a silver bullet solution, but I can confirm that Watching First Posts is actually what I thought Tracking was already doing. Time to go update some of the internal documentation I’ve created for our users.

MOSS Roadmap - Mailing lists

Tracking Watching a category does indeed send an email notification for new topics, but it also sends email notifications for replies as well. The mod being discussed on this thread is to suppress the emails for the replies, unless the user requests for them to continue for that topic.

This does bring up an issue though: How are replies that were created between the time of the new topic notification email, and before the user requests to continue tracking that topic?

I would propose that the link included in the new topic email to continue tracking that topic contain a setting so that DC can know that is what is happening, or that DC can just infer that because the tracking request is applied to a topic in a category that is set for “first posts only” and it would look for replies before the tracking request and email those out too. Make sense?

(Jeff Atwood) #12

No, you are thinking of Watching in your first paragraph.

And see why we don’t want to add Yet Another State? People can barely keep “track” of the four that we already have (Watching, Tracking, Normal, Muted).


Thanks for the correction @codinghorror.

Regarding adding another state, I think the problem is that the current terms are not immediately understandable. I must have popped the state popup a couple of dozen times to see which was which between Watching and Tracking.

I suggest renaming Watching to Email or Instant or Follow or Notify.

Keep in mind that the Watching First Posts proposal only relates to the category level. Topic level tracking choices would not change. Setting/Changing the tracking state at the category level is very powerful, but also very infrequently changed and the addition of a “first post only” or “new topic only” option is immediately understandable.

What’s more, if “Watching first post only” were added, I bet it would be used more than the Watching (including all replies) at the category level. That option could be renamed as “Please spam me!”

(Thorbjørn Lindeijer) #14

I’ll just add that the “watching for new topics” is the first thing I looked for after setting up my forum over one year ago.

In the end, I haven’t missed it because it’s my own forum so I’m interested in both new topics and all replies anyway, but for any other forum I would still find it very helpful if I could limit the notifications going to my inbox to just the new topics. If a topic is interesting for me I can watch it specifically, after all.

I’ve also personally not immediately understood the difference between “watching” and “tracking”. I feel that for example @-mentions and replies should always trigger notifications, regardless of watching status, so I don’t understand why those are mentioned there. So there’s this confusing distinction between watching and tracking, while at the same time there is no way to get notified about new topics only, which is as far as I know how watching a forum on most other forum software works.

As a last thing I will add that for the few Discourse instances I follow, I have had to fall back to the weekly summary mode due to the lack of this feature. However, that means I’m sometimes late to the discussions.

(Joshua Rosenfeld) #15

Having used a Discourse now as a “user” for work, and being a moderator for a community forum, I too can see the benefit to this suggestion, especially as a user (non-moderator).

While I can agree that muting, normal, tracking, and watching, especially with their current descriptions are not 100% clear, I do not think that is a reason to not develop this feature further.

I would agree with @bjorn81 in particular on this point. If I am @ mentioned on a thread, unless I specifically marked it a “muted,” I should be notified regardless. Same goes for replies, if I write a post in a thread, and someone replies to it, unless it is muted I should know regardless of normal/tracking/watching.

As for the initial request, I agree that while this “may” add a further level of complication, it only works at a category level. Watching and already created thread for a new “first post” makes zero sense, so that interface will not change. As for a category, I tend to “watch” certain categories on the forum I am a user, and then have to go in and return individual threads to “normal” if I find the topic to not be important. It would be nice to be notified of a new topic in a category (via email similar to the current “watching” feature), but then have to “opt-in” instead of “opt-out” for further post notifications.

(Jeff Atwood) #16

This is the way it already works. You are always notified when someone is talking directly to you, unless you have expressly muted the topic.

(Brendan) #17

This is something we were looking for at work as well. It would be nice to be able to get a notification only when a new topic is created with a specific tag.

For a use case example, a couple of the teams in my office use a ticketing system where every time an email is sent to a certain address, a ticket gets created. They want to set up an account on our discourse that will use that email address and receive notifications when new topics are created with their tag so that tickets are automatically generated. However, since the Watch setting also sends notifications when someone replies to the topic, multiple tickets get created for each topic, which won’t work for them.

It would be great if there was a way to disable notifications for replies to a tag.

(Brendan) #18

From a cursory search, here are a few times this has been requested in the past:

Maybe duozmo didn’t word this request as well as it could have been, but this isn’t the first time the general idea has come up.

(Jeff Atwood) #19

Sounds like an implicit request for more frequent digest email options to me.

We don’t have any plans to work on this in the near future. If you’d like to purchase an enterprise hosting contract, we can consider adding it in some form, but I strongly oppose adding additional notification states beyond the four that we currently have (muted, normal, tracking, watching).

Otherwise you can sponsor the feature in the marketplace category here if you have budget for it.

Category watch only for initial thread post
(Jeff Atwood) #21

Dupe of Get notified of new topics, but not posts