Basic how-to guide for Discourse

Continuing the discussion from How replies work on Discourse:

Your post, plus the fact that Discourse is powerful in ways that take awhile to recognize, makes me think we should have a kind of “How To,” or “Tips” guide for using Discourse for our courses. I looked on the Discourse website and didn’t see anything. Do you know of one that’s already in existence? If not, I can write one up.

The problem with trying to do a web search on something like this for Discourse is that “discourse” shows up as the word it’s meant to be, rather than the software! I didn’t find anything on a web search.

That’s a good idea! Discourse automatically sends a welcome message as a private messages when a new user signs up. Maybe that is a good place to start?

EDIT - below is the content of that message:

Thanks for joining P2PU Course discussion, and welcome!

This private message has a few quick tips to get you started:

Keep scrolling

There are no next page buttons or page numbers – to read more, just keep scrolling down!

As new posts come in, they will appear automatically.

Where am I?

  • For search, your user page, or the menu, use the icon buttons at the upper right.

  • While reading a topic, move back to the top ↑ by clicking the topic title. Click the green progress bar at the bottom right to see full navigation controls, or use the home and end keys.

  • The topic title will always take you to your last read post. Use times as entry shortcuts. Enter at the top via the first post date, and the bottom via the last post date.

How do I reply?

  • To reply to the overall topic, use the Reply button   at the very bottom of the page.

  • To reply to a specific post, use the Reply button on that post.

  • To take the conversation in a different direction, but keep them linked together, use Reply as New Topic    to the right of the post.

To quote someone in your reply, select the text you wish to quote, then press any Reply button.

(To quote an entire post, use the Import Quote button on the editor toolbar.)

To mention someone’s name in your reply, start typing @ and an autocompleter will pop up.

What else can I do?

To let someone know that you enjoyed their post, use the like button at the bottom of the post. If you see a problem with a post, don’t hesitate to use the flag button and privately let them, or our staff, know about it.

You can also share a link to a post, or bookmark a post for later reference on your user page.

Who is talking to me?

When someone replies to your post, quotes your post, or mentions your @username, a number will appear over a conversation button at the top right of the page. Use it see who’s talking to you, and where.

You will get email notifications of direct replies (and private messages) if you are not present on the site when they arrive.

When are conversations new?

By default all conversations less than two days old are considered new, and any conversation you’ve participated in will automatically be tracked.

You will see the blue new and number indicators next to these topics:

You can change the individual notification state of a topic via the control at the bottom of the topic (this can also be set per category). To change how you track topics, or the definition of new, see your user preferences.

Why can’t I do certain things?

New users are somewhat limited for safety reasons. As you participate here, you’ll gain the trust of the community, become a full citizen, and those limitations will automatically be removed. At a high enough trust level, you’ll gain even more abilities to help us manage our community together.

We believe in civilized community behavior at all times.

Enjoy your stay!

Oh hey, this is really useful! I don’t remember getting this when I signed up for this particular page, though I do still have one from when I signed up for the main P2PU Discourse site a year ago (I just found that one right before I got your message!).

But now that I go look at my notifications and click on “view older,” I see that I have a private message when I go to my profile. But honestly, I didn’t get what this was all about even a year ago. That private message from a year ago was still in my notifications list! I wonder if the private message thing might trip others up too. Perhaps we could copy and paste this in a new topic, add any other thoughts we might have, and then let others ask questions underneath it?

We could maybe do that on Meta, but I’ve pointed our course participants just to the Why Open category for convenience sake, so they don’t get confused by the other course(s). So I’m not sure they even know about Meta! I can remedy that with an announcement, though, hopefully. Otherwise we’d have to copy it for each separate course, and then people might be asking the same questions over and over, from different courses, not seeing the answers from others earlier.

What do you think might be the best place to put it, and do you think it’s okay to just copy and paste the private message so long as we cite that it’s from Discourse (modeling good attribution behaviour)?

Lets put it in a seperate topic in Meta. We can turn it into a wiki post and allow everyone to evolve it for our forum specifically. We can also update the PM that gets sent if we want to.

For courses I would suggest linking to the meta topic after describing the specifics for the particular course (I assume every course will use their topic slightly differently). If you think a copy of the text is better, that is also fine. You can post it to the course category and then close the topic and direct questions to the topic under meta.

People from different courses will probably have different levels of familiarity with internet forums, so I think it is OK if every course doesn’t do it exactly the same.

Sounds great.

How do we make it a wiki post that everyone can evolve? I’d like to get something up very soon, at least the basics, so new people to our course can read it. If you let me know where to create a wiki post then I can do that and start a new topic under Meta.

Also, I don’t think I have the capacity to close a topic under our course category because I’m pretty sure I’m not an admin. I could ask @Jane to do it, though, if that’s easier than making me an admin!

I created this post: How we use discourse as a wiki topic, we can rename it if you want.

Closing topics shouldn’t occur frequently, so it’s probably fine to ask me or Jane to do so. I can also make you a moderator. It will add a bunch of extra things to the interface and you will be able to move and delete posts, create categories, etc. Discourse doesn’t limit that to a specific category, so you’ll need to promise to behave :smile:

@clhendricksbc - I made you an moderator, I don’t think the extra functionality will be too overwhelming, so now no more need to ask for permission or favors :smile: