Who is Discobot?

Jeff Atwood August 29, 2017

As of Discourse 1.8, every new user who joins will get a welcome PM from discobot:

discobot greeting

Discobot is a natural extension of our original, static welcome PM. However, Discobot is much more than a greeter; it also offers to interactively “play” the Discourse game with each new visitor.

The goal here is to teach people Discourse by inviting them use Discourse, interactively replying to a PM in the same way you’d reply to a real person. If you’re curious about how it works, watch the video above, or create a temporary account at and give it a shot live. Why require people to read a boring old wall of text when they could try their hand at replying to a real PM topic in Discourse instead? Learn by doing!

Note that @discobot has a complete profile, so if anyone wonders who it is, they can learn more by visiting that profile, just like they would for any other user:

discobot user profile

If you’d like to customize @discobot 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. Just visit discobot’s user page, select the preferences tab and begin editing!

discobot user preferences

Note that the “About me” field is on the Profile subtab, and contains this text by default

Hi, I’m not a real person. I’m a bot that can teach you about this site. To interact with me, send me a message or mention @discobot anywhere.

Feel free to edit all the profile fields, the profile picture, and the about me; changing any of this won’t interfere with the interactive narrative at all.

Although you can’t (yet) build your own interactive narratives, every single bit of text in the narrative can also be customized from Admin, Customize, Text:

editing discobot gretting text

We typically recommend searching for a specific word or sentence to find exactly what you want to change. Remember all text in Discourse can be customized — search for narrative_bot to find just the text associated with discobot.

Discobot will also reply when someone mentions @discobot the name in any topic, public or private. The bot has a few parlor tricks up its sleeve:

discobot topic commands

This is mostly for fun, but there are two badges associated with completing the new user tutorial, and the advanced user tutorial. So you may want to ask @discobot to begin the tutorial narratives if you want the badge, but joined a Discourse before discobot existed.

There are also a few other ways to customize the behavior of discobot in Admin, Site Settings. Just search for “narrative” to locate these settings:

discobot site settings

Here in the site settings, you can:

  • disable the bot entirely :(
  • disable the welcome post sent to new users
  • switch the welcome post from an interactive narrative to a non-interactive quick start guide
  • add a delay to the time the first PM gets sent to each new user
  • disable public replies when someone mentions @discobot

We hope Discobot is helpful as a live, real world tutorial and onboarding for new Discourse users. We also have plans to build an interactive moderator narrative in the future for new moderators, to complement our moderator guide. Give it a try and keep your feedback coming —
we’ll continue to refine and improve our narrative bot experience as we go.

Notable Replies

  1. It’s a fun feature for sure, but the interaction from our users was negligible. Other sites may have had better results, but it appears not to fit with friendly local community forums such as my own.

    As a forum admin I prefer the automated message which allows new users to reply to a human if they need help. This feature was lost when Discobot arrived.

  2. I would expect interaction to be rare, the main point is to deliver the key elements in the first message:

    1. Here’s how to reach a person (link)

    2. You’ll be slightly restricted until we get to know you better

    3. Be nice, see our guidelines (link)

    That first link is to /about which is how anyone can contact a human, if they need to.

  3. Sean_R says:

    We did a contest around it in our forum and require it of employees and got 136 certified. Nobody self-certified without the contest.

  4. elijah says:

    Just ask it. Pretty sure it even works to ask in a public topic. @discobot start new user Then the bot PMs to begin the tutorial. The bot does not do the tutorial in public, and won’t respond to third parties if you do it in a group PM (but will still pollute that group PM).

  5. I suffered some procrastination, so I invoked Marvin the Paranoid Android to pimp discobot:

    Wouldn’t that be übercool to have an H2G2-themed discobot narrative? For now I leave it on a private forum to avoid, you know, non-private troubles with copyright.

    Thank you for this great addition!

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