So...thoughts on Discourse?

Hey all,

The iNat team is on our annual retreat (I’ll have a report next week) but our Discourse trial ends on February 15th and I wanted to know what people think about it. I think it’s a pretty great platform and a huge improvement from the Google Group, but let us know what you think.

If we decide to move to Discourse, I propose that the Google Group be closed to new posts but still left up so it can still be looked through.

If we do move to Discourse, we would definitely need some volunteer moderators. Please see for more information.


so far i like it a lot better than google groups, more features and is laid out more conveniently. i also know some people don’t want google accounts. I do think it would be worth clarifying what is meant by the permissions you grant the message board when you join with the iNat account. Is it just the iNat admins who can see your obscured observations, etc, or other Discourse people as well?


I think it’s more convenient to navigate than the google group. I like being able to edit comments—it makes the conversations easier to follow. I really like the ease of quoting the exact part of the conversation I want to respond to, without ending up having attached a whole long conversation unintentionally as happened in the google group. I still don’t get how the edit feature works with voting, especially since there is no notification of edits made to feature requests that I have already voted on. I have the same reservation about liking comments that could subsequently be revised without notification. I appreciate the simplicity of being able to show appreciation for a comment, but I’m not really sure I like the reward aspect of it. I’m not used to social media, so it kind of bugs me to feel like it’s always watching my time spent reading, etc. and generally keeping score on everyone and everything. I would like to know the answers to the authorization concerns that others have raised.


Are any other options being considered? E.g. a phpBB forum? Or is this just a decision between Google Groups and Discourse?

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I’m going to use bullets to keep this uncharacteristically less long-winded:

mostly positives:

  • preferred over google group

  • quote function

  • liking posts w/o writing more

  • see that posts have been acknowledged

  • history easier to view

  • generally visually easier to navigate (I’m not tech savvy)

  • items can be “resolved”

  • voting for features (needs more explanation/ understanding)

  • syncing inat profile (when that gets worked out for everyone) makes it easier to know who’s who

  • private messaging doesn’t make me feel like I’ve violated privacy somehow like it does on email/google

  • drop-down profile menu helps me keep better track of all the various interactions and icons let me know what’s a priority (e.g.: don’t need to respond to the hearts but want to see why I was quoted, etc.)

a few negatives:

  • agree with @sgene that all the scoring / watching everything is a little uncomfortable but not a deal breaker for me, just weird

  • repeating paloma again…the edit notifications would help me know if I still like a post/ want to keep my vote

If I think of more I’ll return and edit. Thanks @tiwane!


Yeah, if the proposal is between Google Groups and Discourse, this is a big improvement and I think it’s a no-brainer.

Is the team considering the option to build a fully in-site forum (same account, layout/format, notifications system, etc.)?

  1. I love the opportunity to edit my comments

  2. I love the subforums, although i would prefer more subforums so I have to do less search. But this seems to be the Discourse standard, Best practice

  3. I try to use the list Item, but it is a bit weird.

  4. I might not use the voting system, but i think it is better than the Google forum
    Now i will post to see if i can edit this posting, look if i am allowed to post on this forum

  5. This forum, but i think every forum is better than the discuss group on Google Forums. The quotes got far to long and there was no subdivision in subjects.

  6. I would love a forum which explains which possibilities there are to exchange data, mainly with my backlog on observationorg. I just love the app observationorg has…it is so practical and so hard to say goodbye to their iphone app.

  7. Now i found out i am allowed to edit and submit subjects on this forum i will add some more points…I think the forum is to hidden on the current location…sombody else told me about the existense…i was looking quite long for the possibilities.

  8. The HEART function is the same as a like function ? I prefer a facebook thumbs up, that is more natural way of liking a post. But it is good the fucntion exist.

  9. The notification functions seems to be a good one…i just enabled it.

And Negatives

  1. May be the search might be a bit slower

So…did the trial end yesterday but get extended or has this become our new discussion home? Just wondering if there’s new information, no pressure.


It ended on Friday and it looks like Discourse can close this at any time. but it’s still up for now. Unfortunately we didn’t time this trial period well (my fault) because we were at retreat this past week and now we’re in the middle of a 3 day weekend here in the states.

My preference would be to continue with Discourse but I want to a) get the domain name changed to something like and b) get the log-in permissions changed, which Ken-ichi is working on.

@bouteloua - we’ve considered building our own forum, but I think this offers a ton of a great ready-made options and support from the Discourse devs. Also, I personally feel like our devs’ time would be better spent working on upgrading and maintaining iNat proper and staff who lack those skills (like me) can manage things here.

@JeremyHussell - I looked at it a bit but this seemed like it had pretty much what we wanted and I really like Discourse’s take on community and positive, constructive discussion. If you have examples of good/similar phpBB fora, however, let me know.


Nope, I was only wondering what stage of the decision process we were at. If you looked at alternatives already, and only wanted feedback on Discourse to make certain you hadn’t overlooked something important before making the switch, that’s fine. I don’t have any alternatives in mind that are obviously better choices.

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I do almost all of my iNaturalist google group reading via email, and pretty much never visit the actual forum. I would prefer to interact that way here as well, but so far have not figured out how to have a general email subscription to this forum. Perhaps I’m missing something obvious, or it’s restricted to people with more trust than I’ve so far earned?

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Try Preferences -> Emails -> Mailing list mode.

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So we’re going with Discourse, sorry for the late reply but we had a few things to work out. I will now ironically link you to the post I just made in the Google Group that has more info and I’ll close this topic. Thanks for your input, everyone!