Alternatives to private messaging

Given some of the concerns in the last 48 hours, I think we should consider if there’s an alternative to DMs on Discourse (if we can turn them off) (which I think we can but the back end is very confusing)

I have no way of monitoring or policing what users are sending to each other, however there are multi million messaging platforms with these tools to prevent unsolicited explicit imagery and allow for blocking and other protections.

I’m not really sure how we could connect another platform to DiS or if this is an over reaction based on feedback of some of the worst offences and privacy concerns, some of which dates back over a longer period of time but the impact of them remain troubling and important to many users, myself included.

If this is an issue users feel we should address, even by disabling the feature, I’d be curious to consider some alternatives which may have more resource and protections for users, especially if we move to a self hosted model where concerns around duty of care, especially if users are contributing to the upkeep, will be even more crucial.

I know that DMs may have a lot of other users and that people like being able to connect with each other directly but I think, having listened to concerns, this is something we should consider moving forwards.

Any other platform would have to be connected somehow so you can trust people are who they say they are.

I’m not across the issues raised this week, but having a quick read about Discourse chat that was briefly turned on, that might be better in achieving a sort of private DMs system. It looks like only admins can add people to chats, users can only invite others to chats.

If the issue is admins having access to DMs, it looks like admins can only see private chats if they’re flagged.

To be clear, the issue isn’t about anyone having access to anyone’s DMs.

It’s about a brief and immediately addressed when it was found issue with the old server over a decade ago, and preventing anything like it ever happening again. It was before we were on Discourse and users want assurances it will never happen again.

Understandably, given this is still being mentioned (and is new information to some users), several users seem to be concerned that I do not take privacy seriously.

Secondarily, there have been examples of awful behaviour from users sent to others on here and I would like to think that these are old examples but I don’t know the chronology and if I can prevent even one user receiving anything untoward or upsetting, then I think it’s important these safeguards are put in place as previously this has caused a lot of distress to some users and it should never have been possible.

I’m also concerned that if people are having any private conversations on here that there’s no way of anyone but the individuals involved knowing the contents of them. However, some members of the community seem concerned around privacy and that I’m relaxed about it, which is definitely not the case. It feels like the best way to put users mind at ease is not to have private messaging with the limited resources we have to protect users.

Not that I disagree with what you’re proposing, but what you’ve done right there is literally define a private connversation.

Yes and other private messaging apps have image filters for instance or limits to what a first message can say. And can detect if certain words are being used. Or instantly report the conversation to a moderation team and block the user to prevent them moving on to cause pain to someone else.

Ok, I only mentioned that because that came up on another Discourse page but I guess it’s a backend option.

Something like Twitter or Instagram private DMs could be a solution to this, so people just send message requests initially. Or is it possible to restrict DMs to certain levels of users? I understand that turning DMs off is the simplest solution but there’s lots of positive stuff that’s only organised via DMs, like the hardship fund and secret Santa, and probably loads more I’m not aware of.

Yeah like I say I don’t disagree with any of what you’re proposing, it’s just that sentence was a tautology.

In the last couple of months someone has shared some information with me that they were happy for me to know, but didn’t want on the public forum. Additionally there is another user who I would like to give private advice to, which I wouldn’t express publicly, but they had DM switched off (presumably for the reasons you suggest). So it has uses, the question is whether those uses outweigh the downsides and risks, and personally I don’t feel qualified to comment. I also wouldn’t miss the feature massively if it were switched off.

The only way to do this is be accountability and hoping someone speaks up. There’s no way to prevent someone from abusing someone in a DM at all, and moving it to another platform doesn’t solve any issues, it just moves them to a new location.

Nothing is an over reaction, if we are discussing it.

Definitely consider, but I reckon that we should have more mods who can potentially look at these. Like, I can flag a conversation in a DM, like in any other way - does that mean that the mods can see it, like in a normal thread?

I didn’t realise users have the option to do this. That’s good to know (back end of Discourse has so many options and I probably did already know that but hadn’t looked at it for ages)

Actually not sure, could you try it? Message @colinfilth for example (just cause he’s already in this thread) and then flag something?

flagged my own post, funnily enough

process went the exact same as when i flagged @xylo for not complimenting my glasses in that one selfie thread


Ban request?


I could see the whole thread when @escutcheon flagged one post.

Well this got interesting and confusing fast!

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I don’t think anyone (that I saw) had any particular issues with the DM system in Discourse. I don’t think you are expected to be able to stop people messaging others in unkind ways. (Obviously if someone flags something about their own DMs and brings it to your attention then moderators and/or you are expected to listen, but I take that as a given in terms of something you would do.)

While we are hosted by Discourse we are also automatically (seemingly) being updated with security patches so should something problematic occur with their software then it’s going to be with them to fix it and I can’t see how you could be liable.

If we move to a different server setup where we are responsible for our own updates then obviously it will be up to some/all of us to keep an eye on security issues raised with Discourse that necessitate updating.

Adding a new messaging system into the process makes everything even less controlled and secure IMO.

However, you could look on the Discourse plugin options. There may be some kind of one that specifically allows word blocking within DMs. Would be very hard to imagine this really solving any problems rather than causing new/frustrating ones, again IMO.


Really disturbing to me (and yeah probably naive of me) to think this stuff is still going on with regular users, not going to say that this place has changed for the better anymore as I clearly don’t know anything.


Don’t want to seem like a rubbernecker, but what happened?

Yeah I don’t really know why this thread has been made

In the original thread on the Music board about the forums costing too much the fact there was once a huge security hole in the old forums (although seemingly quickly fixed) was raised as a worry because people were first unsure if the all the old data existing and thus DMs maybe being hacked, and then second were concerned that WayBack Machine stores of the old site had included the period when DMs could be viewed via a generic URL and a bit of luck, and thus this old DMs might be visible.

I don’t think this site’s situation was ever under question but I think Sean is just being more cautious as a result.

Oh yeah I know about that. But don’t think anyone has raised an issue with DMs on Discourse as you say.

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