Why offer Private Messaging?


(Stephen Paul Weber) #1

Why? Isn’t this a misfeature that’s come in from existing webforum software?


(Grandy Peace) #2

@singpolyma I wouldn’t call it a misfeature. I think it’s a smart feature to add to any forum software. I’ve never yet encountered a forum where PMs wound up displacing actual community discussions. Private messaging allows slightly more intimate contact between parties (while this is usually not needed, it’s nice to have IMO), and is sometimes necessary for the community “cops” to help put out fires.


(Stephen Paul Weber) #3

For me, all that PM’s offer is yet another inbox. I guess if I get email notifications and can reply via email, it’s not a big deal, but I don’t see the point.


(Peter Stoinov) #4

Why would anyone need ANOTHER inbox to check? I prefer PM’s to go to my email inbox


(tpak) #5

PM’s are often used to facilitate members of a forum exchanging private or semi-private information in a sale transaction and takes that back and forth out of the public conversation space where it has no place.


(Jason) #6

I don’t want people sending stuff straight to my email personally, I’d rather just talk to people through the website (preferably with an email notification of the PM for similar reasons you guys want emails). It’s just a good way to say something to a specific person that would be either off topic or that is of a more private nature without having to involve personal email accounts.

Admittedly I probably use PMs more than the average forum user though as I’m a moderator on the only one I’m regularly active on.


(Jeff Atwood) #7

PMs do in fact get sent to you via email by default in Discourse.

That’s partly why we we send a greetings and quick-tips PM to new users directly after signup, so

  • they know about this email behavior (and can adjust it if they want)
  • they know that PMs exist.
  • they learn about on-site notifications

(Grandy Peace) #8

@stoinov I haven’t tested the feature but it’s possible that PMs on Discourse actually work through email, and there are certainly arguments email is how such a feature should work (otoh, some people prefer not to get email that way, even when the sofware obfuscates the actual email address; it’s not a problem for me). I’ve seen forums that did it like that before (and alternately I’ve seen forums that allowed both PMing and “obfuscated emailing”).

I don’t think “yet another inbox” is a serious problem where PM’s are concerned.


(Stephen Paul Weber) #9

What makes you prefer PMs that come to your email to actual emails?


(sparr) #10

Many people (who aren’t me) don’t want to share their email address(es) with random forum-goers. Some people like having one “more inbox” for every context in which they relate to people.


(Peter Stoinov) #11

I meant that you don’t have to show your email. The site will just forward the PM to your inbox without the other person knowing what the address is. And you could make a filter for such emails and neatly organize them in separate in one “more inbox”.


(Jason) #12

For one it keeps everything related to this forum conveniently right here on the website if I want to find it (I get lots of emails I don’t care about and am really bad about cleaning out my inbox >.<), plus I can choose to disable email notifications if I don’t want them on a particular site rather than it having to go to my email whether I like it or not.

There’s also the issue of sharing my email address, though there are certainly ways around that.

(I also don’t know how replying to email PMs would work without sharing my email address with the other party or having to go to the site to send a reply email, but for the sake of the discussion I’m assuming there’s a good way that hasn’t occurred to me.)


(Grandy Peace) #13

It’s been my experience over the years that a sizeable group of people prefer “on-forum” PMs and not having them being delivered via email, even if email addresses are hidden. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable stance, even though I don’t mind the usual “PMs through emails” when it’s done correctly.

FWIW @jpeg , the typical implementation of “PMs through email” - which Discourse seems to be following - is that the forum software acts as an intermediary; it’s the one doing the actual emailing, so you don’t see the other person’s address. Just openly revealing the emails would be a huge breach of the sort of privacy people should expect when they sign up to a web forum (IMO, of course).


(Jason) #14

I know, all I said was I don’t know how it would work since it would not be sharing email addresses else they wouldn’t even consider doing it.


(Mark) #15

PMs have fewer deliverability issues than email. There is value in that.


(Willie Roberts) #16

Depending on the topic and the forum, I often disable email notification of PM’s and actually manage my interaction with that forum only when I visit it. Therefore, I am happy to receive private messages from members, however don’t want those messages to affect my day and only pay attention when my focus is on the site/discussions.


(Jeff Atwood) #17

I realized my earlier response did not answer the basis for the question. Philosophically, why are PMs important on forums?

Let’s say you’re being a jerk. What feels better:

  1. Me telling you, and everyone in the topic, that you’re being a jerk?
  2. Me sending you a private message informing you that I think you’re being a jerk?

There is a strong element of shame in the first option. And in systems of opinion, versus systems of fact and science, who are we to even tell you anything? Shame can lead people down dark paths, like:

Well, the whole world obviously thinks I’m a jerk so I guess I better act like one then. Screw you guys!

Instead of

Hey, normally I’m a rational guy who gets along well with others. I guess you’re right, this one time I kinda went over the line. Let me go back and edit my post a bit.

Does that make sense?

p.s. I’m sorry you’re a jerk


Group private messaging
(Jeff Lunt) #18

From a functionality perspective, what’s the difference between a PM and a discussion (or perhaps just a portion of a discussion) being private between a limited circle of people?

Say I’m talking to my friend Joe, and I want to tell him to calm down and stop flaming a discussion, but I want to do it privately. Why couldn’t I just hit the “Reply” button in a discussion, but address the reply just to Joe, thereby giving he and I visibility to it in the context of the conversation at large, yet maintain privacy?

In terms of the back end my reply is just like any other reply, except it has a limited audience, and the notifications only go to that limited audience (me and Joe), while future replies may only be between myself and Joe, or maybe we both jump back into the main, public discussion.

It’s almost like Joe and I are having a meta discussion about the discussion at hand, yet we don’t have to go to a separate page or part of our profile to manage that conversation between ourselves - it stays in the context of the discussion where the PM is most relevant.


(Jeff Atwood) #19

We don’t believe reply-as-PM is important enough to make it that easy. And making it that easy might get people to send too many PMs, which is also antithetical to a forum, which should be 99% public discussion (within the group, I mean, not necessarily to the world), 1% private.


(Jeff Lunt) #20

@codinghorror so there are two things there:

  1. Making it too easy can degrade the publicness of discourse - I get the ethos here
  2. Reply-as-PM is not important enough - in terms of prioritization, that’s fair