Utilising discourse topics as mailing lists

How (and why) topics can be used like mailing lists.


  1. Make a new topic
  2. Add a mailinglist tag
  3. Create the topic
  4. Close it
  5. Pin it
  6. Anyone can then watch the topic
  7. You post replies to the closed topic

Ordinary users cannot reply to the topic, so everyone who is watching it won’t get unnecessary spam.

However, it can be a good idea to put a warning on the end of updates:

“DO NOT REPLY TO THIS EMAIL. Doing so can generate a reply on the forum, which will then be sent to everyone watching this topic”


You can effectively create targeted mailing lists for very specific topics, or shared work or projects. Others in the community can discover this activity and start watching the topic to keep up to date, and also read previous announcements and information to get up to speed with the work.


This only works for Trust Level 4 users, moderators and admins. If you need this capability then message the admins group and ask for your Trust Level to be set to 4. This also means any such users can reply to your topic. They’re an elevated trust level so they should know what to do, but everyone can make mistakes. Please be very careful when you reply to an Announce topic.

Replying to any notification from the a topic on the forum will post to that topic on the forum. This is a feature: the forum can be used entirely by email. But it does mean that any user with sufficient permissions to reply to your topic can also spam the mailing list by replying to an email from the mailing list. Hence the recommendation above to put a warning when adding updates to a mailing list topic.

If people turn off their email notifications and don’t visit the forum they won’t see the information. I guess they didn’t really want to follow the topic after all if they do this.

Other community members can’t ask questions about the topic in the topic, so best to make the first post as informative as possible: explain the purpose of the post, who it is for, how it operates (who updates it and approximately how often).

When you pin a topic a preview is displayed under the topic in the topic list view:

By default it grabs a fixed amount of text from the post, strips out all the formatting and uses this as the preview. You can control what is used for the preview by using an html element, e.g. in this post it looks like:

<div class="excerpt">How (and why) topics can be used like mailing lists.</div>

Let’s say I create such a topic, what is the way for ordinary users to ask clarifying questions? Send me a DM?

That is one way. Or create their own topic asking about how it works. I would suggest it is worth having a relatively informative top post for this reason. I will add this to the original post.

I have a question about using the forum as a distribution list. Zoom has enforced passwords on meetings to avoid random people joining in on meetings and make meetings more secure. So would posting a Zoom link or any VC link on a public forum be something we shouldn’t be doing?

I haven’t checked if the University has any restrictions about it.

At least for ANU, it only advises avoiding sharing links to meeting publicly. But it isn’t unallowed.

It is an issue to consider. I think it is fine to do until it is a problem. Some work arounds

  • Use a URL shortener like bitly.com, but you’re giving them tracking data :person_shrugging:
  • Have an image with the link details, but this is cumbersome and error prone to type
  • Use a QR code which points to the zoom meeting (only really works for mobile)
  • Use the spoiler tag
[spoiler]spoiler tag[/spoiler]
  • or details

put the link in here

I think the latter two are still vulnerable to scraping. As scraping is probably the biggest risk URL shortening is probably the best option for avoiding this.

There are also options when setting up the zoom meeting to only allow authenticated users and/or employ a waiting room:

Screenshot 2022-12-21 at 12.05.07 pm

Neither are preferred defaults, but could be turned on if issues arise.

I’m happy to amend the original post with some suggestions if we can agree on one or two.

Thanks. The image and QR code options are unwieldy, so I think we can scrap this.

ANU has a guide for Zoom meeting hosts (only accessible to ANU employees). It goes through the same ideas of the waiting room and authenticated users etc. It’s also possible to lock a meeting once all participants are in. We could add a link to that. And see if people at other institutions have similar resources.

Could just make a “best practice for zoom meetings” topic and summarise all this, and link to that.

@Aidan Why do you talk about pinning the topic at the end of the initial post? Should “pin the topic” be in the list of steps after “Close it”?

Yes. I will fix that. Thanks.

Note that pinning a topic doesn’t mean it will always stay at the top of a category. We can change the default for this, or you can bookmark a topic and view it in your profile

And the feature to sync bookmark reminders with a calendar could be just what I was missing. That would allow people to get their meetings in their calendars without a manual step.