Ways to retract an initial PM?

This happened to me on another online community recently. I sent a PM but did so based on mistaken identity. A harmless mistake. The content, however, is not so harmless and might leave bad feelings for the unintended recipient.

I’ve been to a few communities that have such a feature (such as MUSHes). Where clicking a link (or for a MUSH, typing a command) before the PM is read by the recipient. The action retracts it and deletes it so the recipient doesn’t view the contents and never knows it was sent in the first place.

I understand if the current system doesn’t allow this and cannot be hardcoded in. My questions ask ways to deal with this if a user messages an admin that has permission to view all PMs and can query/edit the database.

My first thought is having the user edit out the content but if they don’t make the ninja edit window then the original message shows up in the edit history and negates the entire point of editing it. The other idea is having the admin go in and hard-delete it from view and that opens the whole “breaching privacy” can of worms that’s been debated ad infinitum. Don’t want to go there, please. My last thought is if the sender of the initial PM can hit the trash can button and that equals a retraction. The button would be available if the recipient didn’t read the message yet.

So what should be standard practice for this if using a Discourse-run community?

(Also, my concern has nothing to do with replies within a PM already in progress. This has to do with the very first message of a PM.)

If the admin deletes the PM before the recipient reads it, this will work. But it requires the admin to be aware of it and take action quickly (depending, of course, how often the recipient visits, checks their email, etc).

And yeah the email notification, which includes the content of the PM, will probably go out within 5 mins of the PM being sent, so that ship has basically sailed…

I suppose self-deleting of the first post in a PM, in both the edit and email windows, if there is no other read records, would be okay.


That was the problem elsewhere (non-Discourse community). I contacted them and they said they refused to go and delete the PM because they didn’t want to breach privacy. They even told me to use the ignore feature of their system if I didn’t want my accidental recipient to contact me back if I feared I would be flamed. I immediately sent an apology PM and thankfully the other person took it and didn’t broach it anymore. I got lucky. Knowing that community it could have been a lot worse and I would have had to use the ignore feature.

I, as an admin on my own community, have deleted PMs within an SMF database if the sender immediately contacted me and I knew by “last seen” records that the recipient didn’t read it. It’s prevented feelings of humiliation, extreme awkwardness or outright drama. It doesn’t happen a lot but when the mistake happens it’s not pretty if there’s no way to pull the message immediately.

That sounds best. If the admin can edit the email window in the admin CP separately of the edit window then that would allow me to set it longer and give time for the recipient to self-delete if they feel they made a mistake.