Interest-based forums are perhaps the ultimate community experience. These oases on the internet are where you realise that geeking out big-time on knitting, robotics, fantasy football or what-have-you is totally a thing, and there’s no shortage of likeminded enthusiasts out there ready to geek out with you. Unfortunately these communities are also the most difficult to support, because general interests are hard to monetise.
That’s where companies like Patreon come in with crowdfunding for creators. Content creators and community builders are often the one and the same, which is why we’ve made it easy to use Patreon and Discourse together.
A few weeks ago we quietly rolled out our Patreon integration to all of our hosted customers. Along with the self-hosted early adopters (thanks so much!) there are plenty of live examples to look at already:
Let’s assume you already have a profile on Patreon and the integration with Discourse has been set up. This is what the integration does for you:
1. A user on your forum decides to give a monthly donation to your project through Patreon
2. Discourse detects that this user (email) is a Patron and adds the user to the patrons group
This group membership comes with a lot of added “cosmetics”, which admins can customise to fit their brand. Patrons can get a custom Title, Avatar flair and Badge.
With the right incentives in place you can take this one step further and give patrons access to a private category or even an exclusive forum for paying members only, like the Video Creators community is doing:
3. Increase patronage through visibility
While that extra flair is a fun and rewarding way to recognise your patrons, it also doubles as advertisement for your Patreon campaign.
Donations is a numbers game, and you want to remind your users as often as possible that their support is needed, without becoming an annoyance. The patron flair accomplishes that by being ever-present in daily discussions, serving as an unobtrusive but daily reminder that donations are a thing. It’s a positive feedback loop.
If you’d like to customize @discobot user for your site, please do! You can edit the bot’s username, full name, avatar, about me and other fields in the same manner you’d edit it for any user. Although you can’t (yet) build your own interactive narratives, every single bit of text can be customized as you’d expect from Admin, Customize, Text, too.
One of the most persistent requests we heard was for user specific themes — the ability to select an individual color theme just for you, on your specific device, exactly how you like it. And with this release, now you can:
I’d estimate about 10 to 15 percent of people just plain prefer dark backgrounds. Discourse now ships with both dark and light user themes built in (and the site admins can add as many additional themes as they like); just visit your user preferences and select what you want. Oh yeah, and we restructured the user preferences with sub-tabs so they’re simpler to navigate, too.
Stay tuned as we plan to offer a theme design contest in the next few months with prizes!
We’ve had auto-closing topics forever, but sometimes a little “time out” to get back on track was all a topic needed, not a permanent close. We also kept hearing sensible requests for other time based actions to take in topics, so we’ve grouped them all into the new Set Topic Timer… action for staff:
Set a timer to close, open, delete, publish, or just remind yourself about a topic.
New Box Subcategory Style
In order to better support common FAQ and Knowledge Base scenarios in specific categories, we added new subcategory styles of “Boxes” and “Boxes with Featured Topics”.
The big boxes may be a little easier to navigate for new users.
New User of the Month Badge
Healthy communities are always growing, and one way to keep growing is to encourage your best new users. In the past we’ve advised staff to keep an eye on the stats in the users page and remember to periodically send out personal thanks and/or swag to the most avid users. But we felt this was too important to leave as advice, so we’ve added the New User of the Month badge and email.
Every month, the new users with the most likes on their posts, weighted by trust level, will be selected for this award. Note that the users must have joined in the current month and have at least two posts in two topics to be eligible.
Better Invite UI
Invitations now have a proper, and prettier, landing page where people you’ve invited to Discourse can set up their username, full name (when required), and password to taste.
This also highlights who invited you to the party, so to speak, and lets your invitees confirm their arrival.
New Signup Email Actions
We want to make signing up for your Discourse as easy as possible. So after a new user creates an account, we offer easy ways to resend their confirmation mail — or change that email address if it was incorrect, had a typo in it, or the email didn’t arrive after multiple resend attempts.
Private Email Mode
If you run a secure and private Discourse, you may not want any content leaking out. To support this, we’ve added a new site setting to remove all post and topic content from email. When enabled, you’ll still get email notifications as you would expect, but absolutely no content from the topics on your site will be sent out via email. In order to see the content, the user will need to authenticate and log into the website.
You may recall we launched a public exploit bounty program at Hacker One as a part of our security policy in January. We’re continuing to follow up on any concerns and issues raised, to ensure Discourse is as safe and secure as possible. There was a big chunk of work in 1.8 to completely revamp cookie handling and support per-device cookies, so even if your Discourse database somehow falls into the wrong hands, nothing bad will happen to your community.
These are just highlights of 1.8 — there are literally hundreds of other tiny improvements, refinements, and bugfixes in the full release notes.
Easy One Click Upgrade
In addition to all these these fabulous new features, this is also a major security release — we urge everyone to upgrade to it as soon as possible. If you are on our hosting, you’re already upgraded. Otherwise, upgrading is as easy as clicking the Update button in our built in one click updater linked right from your dashboard:
In some upgrade scenarios, you may need to SSH in to update your server. It’s just 3 commands:
As always, let us first thank our customers for their direct financial support, without which there would be no Discourse project at all.
Any open source project is only as good as its code contributions, and we’re lucky enough to have 87 contributors in this release — 5 more than last time! Thanks for the pull request contributions in this release from:
Also, thanks to the greater Discourse community for their numerous contributions toward this release, including translations in Transifex, and posting support / bug request / feedback topics on meta.discourse. All your suggestions make Discourse better for yourself, and everyone else, too.
As far as we’ve come with Discourse, there are so many great things left to do. Keep an eye on the releases category at meta discourse to check out our roadmap … we’ll see you in Discourse 1.9!
Most early adopters of Discourse were developer communities, as is often the case with open source projects. Our own meta.discourse.org community is also a development-centric community, so we’ve been mindful of this use case since practically Day 0.
Consequently, Discourse caters to a lot of developer communities. We reached out to 30 of them to learn more about how they use Discourse.
How does your organisation use Discourse?
We use Discourse for a number of public and private communities, the most prominent of which is the Atom and Electron community message board at https://discuss.atom.io. This allows us to provide tech and community support directly to the people that are curious about, use and build on top of Atom and Electron. It also allows the community to provide support to each other in a healthy and positive environment (a rare thing on the Internet these days) and offers the ability for them to collaborate on projects or communicate ideas to the development team.
~ Lee Dohm, GitHub
Discourse is used as an open community platform for Kotlin-related discussions. In addition to other feedback channels, it helps the team to get direct feedback from language users and contributors in a convenient manner, and discuss all the issues and suggestions with all interested parties.
~Mikhail Vink, JetBrains
What are your 3 favourite things about Discourse?
Ordered by most frequently mentioned:
Easy for new users to get started with; Clean and simple interface
Easy branding and moderation tools
It’s much easier to search and reference older posts [compared to mailing list archives]; great search engine indexing
The feature set around creating posts is really fantastic; developers tend to be fond of Markdown
The ability to customise the languages that can be used for code-highlighting and select one as the default, lowering the barrier for people to format correctly in the most used language on the site
Upvoting (hearts) without downvoting
Browser & phone push notifications for new posts
Tries to answer questions when you ask one
Community digest by email & “unread” on the web (for those who can’t keep an eye on the web site all the time);
Converting a post to a wiki post, so everyone can edit it
What would make Discourse better?
We’d like to install custom plugins on the hosted plan.
All our hosted forums (besides Enterprise) runs on a multisite cluster, which makes it technically difficult to enable plugins on a site-by-site basis. It also has serious implications for security and customer support. In short; this isn’t going to change in the short term, but we’re thinking about it.
not obvious how to set up as a mailing list-style user rather than a web forum.
The “all categories merged” display can be confusing for people used to the classic “first select category, then see list of topics” layout. We’d love to have a “Splash page” that has big links to the individual categories, and maybe the unified topic list below that.
You can select the categories page as your homepage. In Discourse 1.8 we also added a “giant clickable / tappable boxes” style for categories which can be clearer for new users. We’ll look at extending that to the categories homepage as well.
To follow up on any of those, please search meta.discourse for existing topics or start a new discussion.
As always, we’re immensely thankful for having customers that readily engage with us to improve Discourse. Big ups to Twitter, Kirby, Rancher, Mattermost, TrueOS, Serverless, OpenAI, Appium, EVE tech, Rust lang, Kotlin lang, Julia lang, Atom, Peplink, Jekyll, Ember, Chef, .NET foundation, GitHub, Docker, Hubspot and Grafana, as well as the self-hosters, Hugo, React, Nextcloud, Go lang, Vue.js and Libretro.