Wording for private/secure categories

We have a lot of groups that map to private categories.

Up until now I used to call them “closed groups” and tried to disguise the difference between groups and categories. As you can imagine, that’s created a lot of confusion on my system.

I’m throwing in the towel. I plan to call groups just “groups” (which is confusing by itself because some of these are “committees”, others are “interest groups”, etc.). But I’m not sure what to call private categories.

I think @tobiaseigen uses the term “secure categories”, which I like because it sounds safe and authoritative. But it’s an unusual term that I haven’t seen used elsewhere, so I’m concerned it might confuse/dissuade users.

“Private categories” is a decent term, but I’m afraid it might create confusion with “private messages”, which can also be sent to groups.

Any other ideas? If you have a similar arrangement, what do you call them?

I don’t run a Discourse forum, so I can’t say I use the term. But I think having “privileged” could work.


I think you might be over thinking this. I’d be surprised if people confused those two terms.

Or what about ‘private forums’? I know that’s a mis-use of the term forum but it’s commonly misused.

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I generally don’t call them secure categories except when talking about it here on meta. I think I am following someone else’s example but don’t remember whose. Maybe it’s the “security” tab on the categories settings that prompted me.

Here’s how I call it in a few cases on my site… really depends on who is involved.

Incidentally, “private messages” is also not the preferred term - I call it “personal messages” and am very up front with members that they can be (but generally are not) read by admins.

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FWIW, I’ve been in this debate in my community as well - people want to create “working groups” and such, which I think is super confusing. I almost wish discourse groups had a different, special name (like flock of geese or murder of crows? rainbow of unicorns?) so the software functionality never get mixed up with the types of groupings people want to create for various purposes using the software.


I like the way you think :slight_smile:

I’ve tried to use the Discourse-appropriate terms to save me the trouble of explaining the vocabulary later.

Me: Just post the minutes in your committee’s category.
They: I thought the committee had a forum.
Me: It’s a category. Don’t worry about it. Here is an emoji of a levitating man :business_suit_levitating:

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My two cents:

When I ask people to post in a specific category I tend to provide a link to the category to avoid any confusion. (That’s regardless of whether the category is public or not). With some people, I even include a link that opens the editor and starts a new message for them)

Tobias has it in his screenhots but doesn’t mention it in the text: “spaces” gives a similar sense of space (duh!) as forum, while avoiding the abuse Hawk mentions.

I don’t think you’re overthinking this (it depends on your users, and you know your users best). Now, my first thought is, of course, that PMs are officially no longer called private messages but personal messages. So one way of avoiding confusion in the long term would be to promote the term personal messages. But these kinds of cultural changes are difficult to achieve.

So if we stick to the term private, then I tend to use the terms private, semi-public and public, to indicate the three levels of visibility or access. I agree that “semi-public category” sounds a bit bulk, but the question is: do you need to use that term at all? For example, in the category description, you can say “This category is semi-public.”

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I’m strongly inclined to renaming our groups to “Usergroups” by default. Many other community platforms use the term “group” for a multi-purpose space that tends to include a forum-section, including Facebook. I’ll start a separate topic for this next time I have to explain to someone that groups are for user groupings and nothing more.

As for your categories, how about “restricted category”?


Yes, that is also how we use it… since you can view all of a group’s posts, group status, description, title, and join/leave the group from the group page. I would not support such a change in naming.

I do as well, but point taken. We should provide less flippant examples.

I appprove.

:rainbow::unicorn: is certainly better than Usergroups :slight_smile:

But @erlend_sh is on to something.

The confusing bit is that the groups don’t have a built-in conversation space. I was hoping that group messages would fill this gap, but they’re not quite there yet.

So, for the moment, I use a plugin to make groups & watch categories. It would be useful if that plugin I just linked to (originally by someone from the Discourse team and then hacked by yours truly) was expanded into a plugin with a UI, or even built into core.

But even that would not resolve the tension in having groups without a designated place for them to talk. Maybe there should be a way to link a group with a category. So, that for example, you could see the group’s category as a separate tab on the group’s page. That sounds like it would work for my case, but I don’t know if it would make sense for other systems.

In other news, I’ve settled on “private categories”, although my main collaborator objects to the “category” vocabulary. Maybe @HAWK was right all along :slight_smile:


Incidentally, I built something like that for our use with plain ol’ links.



(Notice that I also hid the “Activity” button which we felt was confusing.)


Nice. How did you do it?

I may have oversold by using the word “built” :smiley:

All I’ve done is use the built-in description settings to link the category from group and vice-versa. I just made sure that the icons and descriptions align well.

What’s unusual (but unrelated) is the “Groups” nav item visible in the category screenshot. That’s just a theme component to provide a link to the group page.

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