Yikes. Hundreds of PMs sent after category change

So, we’re doing some house cleaning on the forum, and I just moved a few hundred posts into a new category. It was going well until …

Dozens of users have now reported getting re-sent private messages dating all the way back to 2015.

And because I was the one who initiated the change, it looks like the personal message was sent from my username.

Should we have been aware of this?

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This is the first time I’m hearing of this scenario.

Is there a standard message being sent? It isn’t clear to me how a personal message is resent, but looks like it’s from you; were you the original sender of the PMs?

When you go to /admin/email/sent, what is the “Email type” for the messages going out?

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One example is a user_mentioned email. It was sent 4 hours ago. But the mention originally happened in 2015! The email they received was addressed like this:

From: myusername via The Forum <no-reply@my-forum.org>

Using generic language here because the contents/forum are private.

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Some users are reporting a flood of notifications at the same time I was re-categorizing the topics.

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Could it be related to the disable_category_edit_notifications setting?


I did think that as well initially, but the user_mention email didn’t stack up. I was wondering if these older posts were imported ones from a migration to Discourse? You shouldn’t get a mention notification a second time for the same post, but if a record of it wasn’t created during a migration somehow then perhaps it would think it was the first time on the category move?


Was it from a topic you had moved? Confirming this will help us troubleshoot it.

There’s a chance it is the setting disable_category_edit_notifications, try disabling that and check if email is going out when you move a topic.

You can changed it at /admin/site_settings/category/all_results?filter=disable_category_edit_notifications

I believe this is the behavior, I just moved some topics around on a personal site and got email for all the messages I was mentioned in. It very rare, and the I like folks to be notified when this is done, so I’ll live with it. But that might be a bit much for a larger community. :slight_smile:

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Oooh, that’s interesting. I don’t think it should be doing that.


I mean, that’s what’s odd. Is that it isn’t power users receiving notifications. It’s … anyone who was mentioned in a post that was moved from that category to another, so we have reports of people getting 30-40 notifications.

I’ve had this happen too. It really puts you off housekeeping!!! I thought I’d been sufficiently clever by turning off the category notifications - but no! Mentions caught me out and resulted in several angry emails directed to me. Not fun.

Turning off emails altogether will save some of these, but means that the work needs to be done out of hours. And this isn’t possible on busy international forums, nor does it suppress notifications.

In future I plan to do things from the console to make sure that unwanted notifications don’t trigger.

But it sure would be nice to have a fool-proof “housekeeping” mode for staff that allows use of the GUI but completely suppresses notfications.


We saw the same thing happening with a mention in a post from 2016 that was moved to a different category, on a recently imported forum.

I cannot find any recent changes (everything related to these notifications seems at least 11 months old code) but I think it’s too coincidental to see this happening just after this was reported here.

This is absolutely totally unwanted behavior. Especially right after a migration, this should not be peoples first interaction with a Discourse forum.
Why would one want a notification to be sent out if a topic is moved to a different category anyway?

@JammyDodger @maiki is this indeed prevented by disable_category_edit_notifications ? If not, is there a way to backfill the notifications so this won’t happen again?

I don’t think doing these things from the console would prevent notifications from triggering. If you want to circumvent notifications, you would need to do it in the database (and that could have other kinds of unwanted side effects).

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Isn’t think the way you schedule topics to post? Move them from a private category to a public one?

At least that is one way we use our forum software. We collaborate on posts in the staff category and then when we’re finished with them, publish them out to a public category. It would make us sad if notices didn’t go out for those.

I think there should be a way to prevent it from happening in cases where it isn’t the desired behavior.

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I’d have to imagine that your use case is far less common than people who simply want to move posts from one category to another, no?

Also, these were not moved from a private to a public category. They were shifted between two public categories. Why on earth would anyone want to be emailed about their mention from seven years ago?

I can’t think of a scenario where this is expected behavior.

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I don’t claim to have any insights on how popular it might be, it is just the documented workflow and we use it on a regular basis: Use a Topic Timer to schedule a topic to be published in the future. Without it working this way, I suppose our option would be to cut/paste into a New Topic.

In our case our categories function as distinct email list serves. We’ve had scenarios in the past where it was a desired behavior to have the moved topic generate notifications to go out to the new “list”. Did we want that to happen EVERY time, may be not. As I said, an option would be preferred.

Maybe a checkmark box in the bulk actions dialog?


Just want to point out: it’s hard to design the workflow for folks seven years from now. :slight_smile:

We have many folks using it as is as part of various workflows, such as the one Wes linked to. I use it on a few different sites.

On the other hand we don’t have many people moving:

  • a lot of older material
  • which also mentions others

Most of my older topics from 5+ years don’t make much use of user mentions, so this would not have been happening to me as I was cleaning up older content.

We’ll figure it out. We don’t like bugging users. :+1:

Hearing more use-cases will help us understand how folks interact with that part of Discourse. :mag:


I guess incidents like this are what happens if features (like scheduled posting) are being implemented in - what in my opinion is - an over abstracted way.

The post I referred to was moved from a public category to another public category, by the way.

:heart: Let me know if you need any information that helps you to sort out what happened!

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