Interface with discourse through email. Why?

Why is it important for people to interface with the forum through email? I don’t understand how your main interface with discourse would be better through email than on the actual forum. Do people who want that feature get every single thread and post sent to their inbox and divided into folders?

Erik,

I guess it depends on how you define “better”. I only have to interface
with a single gmail account to track everything I’m interested in. I
probably monitor a couple dozen forums, not even counting social media
sites, and everything I’m interested in has one single simple interface for
me. And it doesn’t matter whether a forum like MakeICT decides to switch
software in mid-stream, as along as it has a decent email interface it’s
all captured as email to me. Whereas, people reading the forums directly
will now have to look at two separate forums whenever they want to search
for an old discussion.

So even though there may be some whiz bang new feature in the latest trendy
web site or forum software I’ll miss out on, for me the simplicity of a
single unified interface wins out. In fact, I probably wouldn’t actively
monitor a forum that doesn’t have a decent email interface just because
it’s not worth the hassle.

I feel the most important feature of any new forum software we are
considering should be “will it increase participation in the forum”. Since
it sounds like I’m probably not the only person using email to interact
with our main forum, switching to new software that doesn’t have a decent
email interface would be a non-starter for me.

Since I just got access to Discourse I can’t say much about the email
interface yet, but I’m hopeful it will be just fine. And to answer your
question, I have gmail filters set up so that all the messages from each
forum I monitor get tagged with a label for that forum. And gmail
automatically aggregates related messages into a single thread or "topic"
for me. So I’m really just as puzzled as to why people feel it’s better to
read from the forum directly, and what am I missing out on by using email
instead?

Curt

1 Like

It’s not about what’s “better” or “worse.” I use email interfacing because
it’s more convenient to open the Gmail app and read the posts as emails
than it is to open a web browser, navigate to the forum page, and then read
everything there. (Especially from my phone.)

Furthermore, as a member of the Board of Directors and the IT group, I try
to keep up on most things going on, so I read (or at least skim) every post
that’s made to our forum. Also, because of the volunteer positions I hold,
I try to keep a record of email and forum discussions, because we’ve had
plenty of administrative debates happen in those places and it’s good to
keep that history. Forum posts can be deleted, but I personally control
which emails I delete from my inbox/folders.

1 Like

Interesting. I didn’t even know that was possible until i saw your post the other day. So you get every thread sent to your inbox no matter if you have participated in it or not? Organized?

Since I’m so unfamiliar with how that works I don’t know what features you don’t get to use that a normal forum interface offers. I would assume a gmail user can’t “like” through gmail. So any post on a topic that garnered support would have to have a new post from each member describing their support for that post. Rather than a like.

I don’t know that gmail has “quoting” which allows you to pick a specific passage from another post to address.

Polling is obviously possible anywhere online, but discourse as well as many others have it built in.

My gmail is never as organized as discourse allows. (Then again, apparently I’ve been using gmail on easy mode). I actually don’t like getting tons of email and prefer to check forums specifically when I want to. Discourse allows me to control which threads I get notifications on.

Those are just off the top of my head features of the discourse interface.

Curt expressed it pretty well, but I’ll add a couple things. The short
answer as to why email is better than a web interface, is that I would
almost never participate in a web interface only forum. If I have to
remember to go to a web site and sort through all of the new or updated
threads since I was last there, I’ll never do it. I don’t want to take
that time.

It is similar to reading news sites and blogs. There are a number of
news feeds and blogs that I follow, but I don’t go to each site
individually every day to see what’s new. If that was the only way, I’d
never do it. So I use a web based news reader application (tiny tine rss
if anyone cares) and I subscribe to the RSS feed for all the sites I
care about. All I have to do is open one web page and all of the
news/blog articles are right there in one stream.

If the forum had an RSS feed, then I could probably do it that way too,
but that isn’t the best interface for replying to a post. An email
client, however, has that functionality already built in and so it is
the “perfect” interface for discussions.

Steve

1 Like

Wow. I kind of totally despise having my mailbox clogged up with forum stuff. I have tried them before…but maybe they were bad forums…
I find it is a little bit like video taping tv, i never watch the stuff once it is on tape.

Discourse has the option under the nav menu to view “latest”, “new” and “unread” posts which filters what you want to see across all categories.

I’m genuinely interested in the difference between a forum like discourse’s interface as compared to the same forum being interacted with through an email only interface. I understand your preference somewhat for a single unifying app such as you are using gmail for. Maybe there is room for improvement in forum software to allow multiple forum’s native tools to be used in a single unifying app? Seems like that’s a perfectly legit way to increase user engagement. Just a thought. I don’t code so there’s a freebie for someone else to make their millions on. :stuck_out_tongue:

1 Like

Keep in mind that before there were such things as forums, there were
things called mailing lists (or if you go back even further, they were
called listservs). This is what I like to call, “the good ol days” :slight_smile:

Quite frankly I find the typical web based forum interface to be rather
clunky and not particularly nice to use. But then, if you are comparing
to a web-based email client, you might not notice much difference. Those
are clunky and not particularly nice to use either. Understand that
isn’t what I’m using. And I don’t use GMail.

Also, understand that my perspective is affected by the fact that I have
my email client open pretty much all day, everyday. It is my primary
communications mechanism for work and for personal correspondence. The
mechanics of writing messages, replying to messages, and sorting
messages is the essence of what email is. Why wouldn’t I want "forum"
traffic to flow into that same mechanism that I’m using anyway?

I recognize that I’m a bit old school and not everyone shares my world
view. So if you like the web interface, go for it. I, and others, just
appreciate being able to interact with it via email too.

Steve

There are tasks Discourse will allow us to do that would be more difficult with Google Groups.

One that I think is needed is topical forums based on the area of the makerspace, such as woodshop, metalshop, cnc, etc. We can (and have) done that with Google Groups by creating an entirely new group, but it is messy, not easy to manage, and difficult for new members to stumble across… Discourse will allow everything to be in one place and each person can choose to participate in the forum as a whole or get focused messages on just the area they want, like the woodshop as an example (I did not like this segregation at the beginning, but now that we have grown I don’t think it’s fair to expect our members to wade through the volumes of messages to get to the ones they want to see).

Another capability I look forward to with something like Discourse is implementing the concept of “gamification” that we have talked about several times in the past. If we connect Discourse accounts to Wild Apricot there are lots of cool things we can do with badges or other things that will make the online interactivity more exciting/meaningful to existing members as well as attractive to new members (think bragging rights). I don’t think this capability is essential for a successful online existence, but I think it will add value for our members long term.

Right on! I’m not making a sales pitch. You could have it all printed on to watermelons and mailed to you and I would be fine with it.

My main device for MakeICT communication is my phone. I work in front of a computer all day so the last thing i want to do in my own time is sit in front of a computer. So for personal stuff it’s 95% on the phone. I just leave tabs open for whatever I have interest in the past week or 3 and bookmarks for the rest. I have 17 tabs open on my phone right now.

MakeICTs forum seems to have its own permanent tab. Lol

Jens,

Your remarks about creating topical forums in Discourse raises the question
of how do I specify a category or topic when I initiate a message thread in
Discourse via email. If I want to initiate a message thread via email that
is related to the wood shop, how do I specify “wood shop” as the “topic” or
"category" in my email message? Maybe there will be different target email
addresses for each possible category that I might want to address my email
to?

This is the kind of thing that could frustrate those of us who want to keep
email as our interface to the forum. There’s probably a way to do it, but
we should try to figure out as much of this as we can before we switch over.

Curt

We can set up a different address for each category, but we haven’t.

As Christian has pointed out, Discourse supports using varying email addresses (such as woodshop@makeict.org) to allow initiating a post from email. We have only enabled it on the general category so far, but it can be turned on for other categories as well if we desire that.

Ok, thanks…that should work. - Curt

Does anybody know how to eliminate the “In Reply To” with signature ending
for every email message Discourse sends out? It wastes a ton of screen
space.

Also, when I send a message to Discourse it seems to want to resend the
message back to me with added formatting. If I sent it I would really
prefer not to get a bloated copy sent back to me. Again, these are small
things, but they really affect the feel of the interface.

Curt
In Reply To
Jens http://talk.makeict.org/u/jens Discourse Guru
December 12

If you go into your email settings (user icon -> gear -> Emails) there is an option for ‘Include an excerpt of replied to post in emails’ which you can turn off.

Also in your emails setting, under “Mailing list mode” you can change it to “Send an email for every new post except my own.”

Christian, Thanks but I’ve already done all that and I still get the “In
Reply To” stuff at the end of each message. - Curt

Hmm, I thought that was supposed to disable it. Are you still getting
emails for messages you send?

Yes, here’s a screen shot of the reply to the email I sent. It’s both
sending me the email I just sent as well as including a big “In Reply To”
trailer.

Curt

What about now?