Disappointed and overwhelmed by Discourse

No, I use gmail’s web interface, which is about as lacking in features as you’re ever likely to get.

I don’t honestly know quite why I find mailing lists easier to follow. I think it’s the tendency towards more quoting, or greater depth of quotes. It’s definitely mainly about how people structure their replies rather than the UI (although scrolling a long thread on Discourse with the way it hides things really sucks).

Reading and responding to recent posts is OK in Discourse - it’s referring back to older points that’s a pain - which is why I say my responses end up “shallower”.

Certainly it’s not a perfect answer (and rich text does not integrate well with mailing list style quoting in my experience). But the point is that “Discourse can do bullet points! And images! Etc.” isn’t really about Discourse per se. It’s great to have, but there’s other ways of getting it.

That one’s actually not bad (there are others that are really annoying, like the one about quoting a URL repeatedly, when I’m only including it because it was in someone else’s text that I quoted!) but it’s essentially pushing me to discard my reply (or post something half-completed, there’s no way I know of to keep a “draft” reply for later) so that I can respond later once I’ve collated information from a number of other comments - which as I pointed out above, I find really hard to do because of the thing about reviewing older posts.

Well, sort of. Only to one level, though, so if I try to find the original context of quotes in a multi-quoted message, I find I get lost very quickly. Having said that I just discovered that it’s possible to “expand” a quote block to get context. That’s a good example of a non-obvious feature in Discourse that if you haven’t found it, the interface sucks for you in ways that other people aren’t aware of :cry: And part of “accessible to new users” is about not having features like this which are hidden unless you are “in the know”…

This is a very good point. We really need to be very clear on priorities here - are we trying to find an effective medium for readers or participants (writers)? Obviously “both” would be ideal, but which do we favour in trade-offs? Further, participants can be divided into people who want to add in-depth comments, and people who just want to express relatively low-content “I agree” sentiments. A “like”-type system is suitable for such people.

I genuinely wonder whether having multiple communications channels is actually the best solution here. Fragmented discussions is a big issue, but so are some of the other things we’re talking about…

I just want to point out that discourse will save drafts serverside for you. You don’t have to do anything special it’s all done automatically. I think the limitations are you can have 1 in progress draft reply per topic, and only 1 in progress draft for a totally new topic. Since this is saved server side it will follow you between devices.

That’s not negating your feedback, just thought I’d point it out incase it made Discourse easier for you :slight_smile:

I think that we skipped some of the natural onboarding in Discourse because we have an existing community. I could be remembering wrong, but I think as you work up in “trust levels” it prompts you to discover different capabilities and tries to reward you for learning them (through gamification which people have varying, often strong, opinions on). I think we bypassed that for core committers because we put them in a group that automatically inferred a high trust level. I could be wrong about that though, since I skipped all of that onboarding too, I just seem to remember that it existed when I looked years ago.

I thought that it might keep drafts (although as it’s “automatic” it’s a bit hard to be sure without experimenting - gmail has a little “saved draft” notification which would be nice here). But one draft per topic is a frustrating limitation, reflecting the difference between how I work and how Discourse thinks I should work :slight_smile:

I’ll stop commenting here now, or I’ll get the “you’re monopolising the conversation” nag :stuck_out_tongue:

That’s an interesting question. Obviously way more people will read what is written here than will participate in the discussion, but if participating sucks then no one will discuss anything. :slight_smile:

A key point here, though, is we are discussing communication here and not developing software, so I don’t think that should necessarily act as a restriction of what approach is taken.

And I will admit I’m surprised at how often I come across someone who is doing most of their reading of python-dev-related stuff on their phone while commuting or doing even PR reviews that way.


Note, that you can reply to multiple messages in email.
Assuming you are using mutt: Tag messages with ‘t’, reply with ‘;’ and ‘r’.

(Reading this makes me feel like Mom and Dad are fighting)

As someone who has been forced to solve internal communications for several startups (including self hosting readthedocs.org and discourse), I have a few observations:

  1. There is no single tool that solves all use cases for all workflows.
  2. Some tools are mature (Hyperkitty) and others are still evolving. I’m delighted to see @SamSaffron piping in suggestions.
  3. Discourse out-of-the box is pretty awesome, and with some thoughtful moderation, it can be divine.

I have found that communities that focus on a single mode of communication tend to self select for a particular demographic.
If you only do IRC, then you tend to get only the ninja hackers who are online 24x7 and do everything from their heavily modified (vim/emacs) shell.
If you only do email, then you tend to drift into silos of parallel sub-communities.
If you only do (unmoderated) discourse, then you tend to get lots of n00b questions that go stale, along with the long, single topic discussion threads.

Given the caliber of the participants here, I would love to see some sort of federation where other, more local forums (like a fedora email list, or a slack group, or another discourse) could link to material on this site that might be voted on, branched/merged, edited, etc.


@willingc have you been able to do that?

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Hi @sumanah,

I began a draft of an informational PEP early in the former steering council cycle. At that point, the consensus was that we would move things to mailman3 and keep Discourse for items that required more collaboration than a mailing list lends itself. Zulip would still be available for those that find it useful. Other items gained priority over the informational PEP at the time.

If you are interested in resurrecting and moving forward with an informational PEP, I would be happy to share what I have or co-author with you.


One flaw in Discourse that I find extremely frustrating is the lack of a “mark as unread” feature. See PEP 627: Updating PEP 376; making RECORD optional in installed .dist-info for the latest case where it tripped me up.

Because of this lack, I find Discourse very frustrating for managing threads that need follow-up (as opposed to general discussions where the world won’t end if people are denied the dubious benefit of my insights :slightly_smiling_face:)

It’s not perfect, but if you go into your user preferences, under interface there’s an option to “Enable defer to mark topics unread”. Which adds a button at the bottom of a topic called “Defer” which basically does this. The one wrinkle with it, is, at least as far as I can tell, it only is able to mark the last post in a topic as unread. Which does mean the topic will show up as unread so it roughly achieves the same thing.

I believe that limitation exists because Discourse doesn’t have a good story for “read holes”, e.g. if given a series of 4 posts, where 1 is read, 2 and 3 are unread, and 4 is read. It just draws a line in the thread that indicates at which point you stopped reading.

Maybe that will work for you though?

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Thanks! That’s certainly better for me. I wasn’t aware of that option.

There’s also an interesting mechanism for bookmarking posts (hidden behind … on every post) that might be relevant to your use case. You can set a reminder for bookmarked posts (if you want, or you can keep stuff in the bookmarks indefinitely), you can set them to auto-delete after a reminder has been sent, and bookmarks are also easily accessible:



edit: So I think for your use case this combo should work: “No reminder needed” / “Automatically delete: Never”. And if you change these settings Discourse will remember them for future bookmarks.

Another thing to check out are bookmark reminders, they are green notifications so they do not go away till you visit the topic

Thanks. I did mention it in the linked post, but bookmarks don’t work as they don’t show up in the “unread stuff” view, so they don’t work with my workflow.

Edit: I have just discovered that I actually have a bookmark from March 2019, that to my knowledge I’d never noticed and never followed up on in all that time… :slightly_frowning_face:

I think that feature is something that, once you start using it, you will quickly adapt to. If you need to “mark stuff as unread” often, then by making use of bookmarks I imagine it’ll soon become a second nature to check the bookmarks tab once in a while, like a to-do list.

And for more important tasks you can employ reminders. I just tested them, they are pretty hard to miss, just like PMs. Even though they do show up in a different place than unread posts.

But yeah, it’s still a workaround, an actual unreading feature might be better, I agree. Although less reliable? What if a new post pops up in a topic that I purposefully keep as unread, I get curious and click on it, and then forget to re-mark the thread as unread? Bookmarks are less fickle.

Maybe bookmark reminders could have a setting “Remind me: always”, so that it stays on top of notifications until it is deleted.

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I don’t want to mark a thread as unread, I want to mark a message as unread. For a very simple reason - I didn’t read it. I opened the topic, skimmed the shorter messages then hit a big long message and didn’t have time to read it now.

Fundamentally, the problem here is that Discourse can’t model the idea that I opened a webpage and closed it again before I read everything that was on it. So it forces me into an unnatural workflow of “don’t look at a topic unless I’m sure I have time to deal with every message that’s new in that topic - and I have to be sure without any indication of how much work I’m committing to”.

That’s just not true. Just a moment ago I opened a thread with 50 unread messages, read a couple of them and closed it. The thread’s still highlighted as ‘unread’, and if I click on it it brings me back to where I stopped reading it. The marker of ‘unreadness’ on a message disappears only if a message has been in the view for some (granted, not large enough for longer posts; is it configurable?) number of seconds.

And if I, say, read half of those 50 messages and then realize that there’s one in the middle of that half that requires a more careful reading later, well, that’s what bookmarks are for. Modelling ‘some msgs can be unread in the middle of read msgs’ would be hell in terms of UI. Right now it’s ‘read msgs and then possibly an unread tail’.

Right, discourse tracks unread status by drawing a sort of high water mark on what has been read, but it’s easy to get part way through a post and have it flagged as read, then be unable to finish, without a great way to remedy that.

Other forums I’ve used allowed you to basically say “mark this topic as unread from this post on”, which doesn’t introduce the problem of a “read hole”, it just gives the user more control over the state of where the system thinks they’ve read or not. It’s similar to the Defer feature, except I get to pick where to draw the line at.


We did toy with the idea of a recurring reminder. One that will remind you every week and so on.

The current reminders do have some advanced options already:

One thing that is super important to remember about reminders:

  1. You get better fidelity, you can set the reminder on post #20 of 100

  2. The reminder is “sticky” the green bubble stays green until you visit the topic.