Getting started with Discourse
The Consortium’s discussion forums are powered by software called Discourse. It’s a modern discussion platform that’s easy to use and actively supported, but it still has a small learning curve. Here you’ll find some helpful tips for getting started with it. If you ever need any help, please start a new topic in the Help & Feedback category (other folks may have the same question!) but, if you need to, you can send a Personal Message to
Reply to a Topic
When you’re reading a topic and want to contribute to the discussion, there’s two ways you can go about it:
- To add your own thought, reply to the whole discussion. There’s a “ Reply” button on the right-hand side, underneath the timeline navigation. There’s also one at the bottom of the topic, if you’re read all the way to the end. Finally, you can use the
SHIFT + Rkeyboard shortcut to start writing.
- To respond to a specific point somebody raised, you can highlight the part of their post you want to comment on and a “Quote” button will pop up. Click this to create a reply that’s already formatted to include what you’re directly replying to—this extra context will help everyone else know what you’re responding to. If you want to reply to a specific point more generally, use the reply control on their post—this way it’ll link back to the post but not quote it at all.
Create a new Topic
Conversations in Discourse are organized into Topics. If you want to share a new link, ask a question, or start a new conversation, you should create a topic. You can do this by using the c keyboard shortcut, or by clicking the pink “+ New Topic” button from the homepage or any category page.
Every topic needs a title and a category, in addition to your post.
You can treat topic titles like an email subject—keep it short and descriptive.
Pro Tip: If you want to share a link, you can paste it right into the title field for your new topic, which will autofill all the other fields for you (you can still add your own commentary after the link if you’d like—and you probably should so that others know why you shared it!). It’s super convenient.
Choosing the right category will make it easier for other community members to find your topic. If you create a new topic from the homepage, you’ll need to pick the category your new topic belongs to. But if you create a new topic from a category page, it’ll automatically select the category you’re currently viewing. A few of the available categories are:
- General—Anything science or scicomm related. A great place to share interesting links or ideas.
- Events—Share news about conferences or speaking events. Topics created in this category can include a date range and create calendar events for others to download!
- Watercooler—Like general, but for anything not related to science or scicomm. Share favorite recipies, your review of the new Star Wars movie, or your rant against the crypto-fascist capitalist oligarchy ruining our country.
- Massive—We’ll post new articles we publish by your peers and send out calls for pitches here.
- Massive/Pitches—This is where you can pitch the Massive editors new stories
One of the most powerful aspects of Discourse is that it affords you a lot of control over what you get notified about. On any category or tag, you’ll see a button with a circular icon on the top right—click on it to choose how closely you want to follow it. On topics, you’ll see this button on the bottom right, underneath the timeline navigator and next to the reply button. Then, on the homepage and each category page, you’ll see new and unread tabs that help you keep track of what you’re following.
By default, everybody is subscribed to notifications of new posts in two channels, Massive (used to post new articles and call for pitches) and Announcements (used for more general announcements about the community as a whole).
The default homepage when you sign in to the Consortium will show you a list of Categories and a list of the most recent activity in the Forum. From here you’ll be able to see where new topics have been created since your last visit, as well as which discussions are currently active.
Using the navigation menu at the top of this page, you can switch from the default Categories view to just show the Latest posts across the site, check for any Unread messages in topics you’re participating in, get notified about New topics in the categories you’re watching, and check out the Top conversations of the last day, week, and month.
If you’d like to customize your default homepage view from Categories to one of the other options, you can do that too! You can select your default homepage from your Interface Preferences, which are always accessible by clicking on your profile photo, selecting the ⚙️ icon from the dropdown, and then choosing “Interface” from the sidebar menu.
Customize your profile
Customizing your profile is easy and a great way to add a little personality to your account. The more people who take advantage of this, the more friendly and personal our community will feel. For example, the custom profile backgrounds you can set in your preferences can be animated GIFs. That’s amazing.
If you’re somebody who hates pointing-and-clicking, there’s a bunch of shortcut commands that let you navigate the forum without ever moving your hands away from the keyboard. Just type ? outside of a composer, or click on your profile photo and pick “Keyboard Shortcuts” from the dropdown menu.
Here’s just a few of the helpful commands you can learn:
/to open the search tool
hto go home
SHIFT + Rto write a reply inside a topic
cto start a new topic from anywhere
Still have questions? Create a new topic in the Help & Feedback category. We’ll incorporate helpful answers back into this document to grow it over time.
Last updated March 7, 2018