Confusing: email notifications about topics but not about posts

I recently experienced an initially confusing but generally interesting behavior of Discourse, and most of you have observed it in …

To save time, I currently work by email. So, currently I tend to be only active in the discourse topics I have been already active before, which means I have them on tracking or watching.

Yet, since I have email notifications obviously enabled, I got a mail from an introduction topic (the one noted above). I have never thought about it before since we usually have only one topic for introductions and I tend to post there so that I have that topic on tracking/watching anyway (so I expect to receive notifications from there).

But this was a newly created topic and thus it seems that notifications are generally created if a newly created topic belongs to introductions (feel free to correct me if my assumption is wrong). However, since my email notifications are enabled, I thus received a notification email about this topic and had the possibility to answer by email - just as usual.

If you review the topic, you will see that I have re-answered what @vwbusguy has already answered hours before me. Of course the reason for that is not that I deny Scott’s existence (promise :wink: ). The reason is that I received a notification email only about the new topic, but because I had then not posted to the topic whereas I also had not manually set the topic to tracking/watching, I have not received notifications/emails concerning posts. So from my perspective (the email perspective), I was the first to answer the question of the topic creator.

Obviously, this is nothing critical and for now we might focus the merge of the discourse pages. But we might keep in mind that it can be a bit confusing for both the “email poster” and the readers of the topic.

On the long term a suggestion could be to cease the automatic notification of new topics in introductions or at least the email notifications if that is possible separately. I like the idea to have introductions notified in the community, but I think that people who post there tend to watch the topic anyway, and those who don’t, dismiss the notifications (likely) anyway.

The other way around would be to automatically make the related topics tracked in order to get notification emails about the posts as well. For me, that would be fine, too. But I guess some people would perceive the “welcome” answer posts to be bothering at some point.

Still, since I am maybe the only one in the community who uses the email posting function, I can also live with keeping it as it is since from now on, I know about the issue :wink: But I thought it’s an interesting behavior to note.

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My personal perspective on this is that maybe we should disable the email posting option.

Even when new topic notifications are not turned on, It almost always causes confusion in the topics because of the delays involved in the emails. Also, the emails don’t contain the post edits so it creates a situation where you are often responding to something the post doesn’t even say anymore creating even more confusion.

I would prefer to not consider this possibility because the email
postings help me to save much time in my current context, which is
currently very valuable for me. I would be disappointed if that
possibility is taken from me.

I am not sure what you mean with delays, I have observed it at the first
2 or 3 email postings, and it is <10 seconds when I send a post by
email. Maybe that was more critical in the past? At the moment, this
delay seems to be not noteworthy.

Also, I received your post at 13:31, while it seems that you have
written it 5 minutes earlier: when you answer within discourse’s web
interface, it can also happen that you do not become aware that someone
else has posted while you were still writing your own post. So 5 minutes
until I receive your post and <10 seconds until my answer is shown looks
not problematic to me. The issue above is about several hours, which can
be indeed more confusing, but it is not due to delay but due to the
absence of a notification at all.

Additionally, it is common that people also answer within topics to much
earlier posts: you can see in the post to what previous post it answers
(also in the email posts; see the example I mentioned above).

I admit the risk of overseeing edits might be a little higher by email,
but it exists in each case: e.g., a post can be edited while you write
your answer to it. But I guess any poster should be expected to not post
one thing and then edit it to something completely different. Btw,
everyone can see if a post was made by email.

I think the function as such is valuable and the decision should be left
to the poster, although you are right that the poster should be aware of
the differences, and here I obviously experienced a difference I was not
aware of in advance. But I would be happy to keep the email posting
possibility because it currently facilitates my contribution (in
conjunction with imho only minor risks).

But the difference is that when you post in discourse the new posts come in dynamically so unless you are not looking, you should see them while you are writing your post.

However, that difference assumes you spend 100% of your time staring at your email and respond immediately. Chances are that isn’t the case. At the very least, most people take breaks to eat and sleep. Although I can’t confirm this, I have read that some people even have activities that don’t involve staring at a screen and responding to messages. :rofl:

In these cases, you could be responding to a message that is much more than a few minutes old and the conversation may have totally changed in that time.

Again, in discourse you would see the post changing while you were writing your response or, more likely since you probably aren’t reading every post the second after it is posted, when you went to read it, it would already be modified.

In email, the message goes to the email is usually the initial message.

I guess the issue here is:

  1. In a Category / Tag, have (by system default?) notification enable when there are new posts
  2. But that new “thread” is not being tracked until we are reading that thread for 4 minutes (which I don’t think it will trigger for you as you are reading / replying via email)
  3. Once you email reply got posted, now you start tracking. (Do you get notifications for the further replies for that thread?)

@dalto Well, that’s generally correct, but I don’t think this makes a
noteworthy difference as far as it concerns the technical means: a
discourse reader can check if posts had been dynamically added before
posting (which not everyone does, at least on ask.fp it happens that
questions got 1+ answers with equal/comparable information within a
short amount of time), and an email reader can check if further emails
have arrived from the topic before replying to any of them (which brings
us back to the 5 minutes delay as major difference). In both cases, I
think this is less related to any technical issue but a social one about
responsibility (think and check before posting), and it has not yet
proven to be problematic in our two discourses. However, this is not an
issue worth so much discussion. I just wanted to put it FYI to have it
documented. I don’t see the need for immediate action and I think as
long as the issues do not prove as noteworthy problem on discussion.fp,
I would be happy to keep the function :wink:

@sampsonf Concerning your three points: I think that’s not completely
the issue, because your 1st point is about posts, but the current
setting for automated notifications of untracked/unwatched topics seems
to be only about topic creation. So, notifications are triggered when an
introductions topic is created, but not when posts are made to these
topics, unless a “tracking”/“watching” of the topic is triggered by
other means (posting something, manually set watching, and so on).

Yes, to my understanding reading the default notification settings, we are “subscriped” to new topic posted under introductions . But we are not automatically watching those new topic, untile we “enter after 4 minutes”. Or we will be watching after we post a reply to that topic.

Among the main reasons why was Discorse chosen for project discussion was that it provides a sort of support for those who prefer e-mail workflows.

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So, this is all my fault. :classic_smiley:

Discourse lets you set your notification level for topics[1] in these ways:

  • Watching (subscribed to everything)
  • Tracking (no subscriptions, but on the category or tag lists you see a count of such topics)
  • Normal (notifications if you are replied to directly or @mentioned)
  • Muted (no notifications)

These same 4 also apply to tags or categories — if you set a category or tag to one of the above, that becomes the default for all topics in that category or tag.[2] There is also a fifth option: “Watching First Post”. That lets you subscribe to a category or tag and get notified on the first post in a topic, but not replies. This is useful if you want to, for example, follow Announcements — but don’t want every single comment like “wow this is cool” and “thanks” and “this broken my system I hate you”.

And, when I set up this site, I chose defaults that I thought would be sensible. These defaults are in turn your default category and tag notification settings, until you change them[3] in your settings for Category notifications or your settings for Tag notifications.

The defaults I chose are:

… now, is having introductions configured like that a good idea? :man_shrugging:t3: … seemed like it to me at the time, I guess. But we could easily change it, or any of the other defaults.

  1. or, as Sampson notes, does so automatically when you interact with a topic — you can change how that works in your Notifications preferences. Pick a shorter or longer time, or make topics never auto-watched. ↩︎

  2. Note that there is no precedence — categories don’t override tags or anything. Instead, most verbose wins — if you’re watching a category, you’ll get everything in that category, even muted tags; if you’re watching a tag, you’ll get notifications for that tag even in muted categories. ↩︎

  3. Or — being added to a group can also increase the notification level — for example Watching the Fedora Magazine category when you’re added to the Magazine group ↩︎

FYI: I have turned off “Watching First Post” for introductions for new users going forward. I did not change it retroactively.