Email support on forum, reply-by-email?

Continuing the discussion from Danyl Strype - ethusiastic Disintermediator:

There are several issues here. First, full reply-by-email isn’t a default, though it is supported. There are some complex separate issues about the email vs forum ways of working (such as how things can be moved around or changed or flagged on a forum in ways that email lists can’t do), and that makes it messy to think of the forum as somehow also full email lists.

Anyway, I know from participation in a different Discourse instance that setting up reply-by-email isn’t as trivial as turning on a setting. I don’t recall the details.

If there’s enough demand for it, we might look into this after we finish our systems migration to OSUOSL and have everything integrated. Right now, email from Discourse is still being sent through our old badly-maintained self-run mail server even though our regular email accounts for the team are running through OSUOSL.

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I can live with or without it, but it’s a bit of a nuisance receiving Discourse posts as individuals emails if I can’t reply to them. If you don’t want to go to the hassle of turning email replies on, I suggest changing the default behaviour so that new users receive a weekly summary of forum activity, rather than receiving email forum post as an individual email. If the forum gets busy, that can quickly turn into an unmanageable flood, and as I say, isn’t really that useful if you can’t reply.

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That is the default. However, there are separate settings for “when someone messages me” and “when someone quotes me, replies to my post, mentions my @username, or invites me to a topic” and those are set to send individual notification emails.

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OK, I see. But same grizzle applies. If I can’t deal with it in my inbox, I don’t really want it filling up my inbox. Does that make sense?

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If you don’t get notified of direct messages or pings, then people may be hoping to get your attention on something and you might be very delayed. But you can change your settings.

One setting to consider: uncheck “Include an excerpt of replied to post in emails”

I think that will make the email just a “forum thing happened” with link to go to the forum instead of including the excerpt.

Finally, I noticed we do have a “reply by email” checkbox we could consider turning on once our migration of systems is done. We will have to set what the reply-to email is, and I don’t want to mess with that on our old un-maintained email system.

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This definitely makes sense, but it’s a personal preference. For many people, emails are still the best way to get things into their inbox (and I don’t mean their email inbox). For me, it shrinks the number of places I have to go looking for new things to deal with.

While I’d certainly like to be able to respond to emails as emails, and while Discourse (and other places) could do a much better job with the format and threading of emails, it’s still a net positive for me to get notifications. I just tune the notifications depending on my needs, and I’m zippy with the ‘archive’ button.

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Fair enough :slight_smile: Perhaps I’m in the minority here and perhaps you are. I still maintain that the saner default behaviour is less email not more, with clear instructions for how to opt-in to per-post email for those who want them. YMMV.

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I’m also pretty quick at clicking buttons :wink: But the net connections I’m using here in China are often slower than dial-up and waiting for each email to load and delete takes minutes I’m never getting back. Less email makes a huge difference to folks on anything slower than GB ethernet.

Yes, I know, I ought to set up a native email client. I’ve tried this various times, with Evolution, IceDove, and Mailpile, but other than the speed advantage, none of them work as conveniently as my webmail client. For example, there’s no obvious way to sync the address books between the mailserver and native email client. So to keep them in sync, I’d have to regularly back up one and import it into the other, hopefully finding a way to deduplicate them in the process.

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FWIW, this is our explicit position. We started off even setting weekly digests to opt-in only to later realize that Discourse is poorly set up for that. Doing it that way results in people never opting-in and not realizing they didn’t. But we could maybe have some sort of opt (not opt-in or opt-out but require people to choose, no default at all) interface on sign up that prompts people to fit these settings to their needs. An aggressive pop-over style of such prompt would take some non-trivial setup but is doable.

But here’s what we set up after going over this concern thoroughly:

See the second post in the pinned Welcome topic: Welcome to the community forum

It explicitly focuses on what the defaults are and why and prompts the reader to adjust these if you prefer.

Perhaps we just need an even better way to get that post in people’s face. But there’s limited bandwidth for how much we push how strongly when they first sign up. We already have the CoC and more.

OK. Now that I think about it, I did read all that. Perhaps it needs to spell out more clearly that posts as individuals email can’t be replied to? That definitely would have made me turn off individual emails.

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That makes some sense. I added a note about that to that post.