Discourse platform design: open community vs. gated content

Hey community, I have a question regarding a closed vs. open design of a discourse platform.

About us:
We are a SaaS company offering an enterprise platform that enables organisations to work as a network of self-organized autonomous teams (including agile, OKRs).

My question
We planning to migrate an existing slack community to the Discourse platform to exchange about relevant topics regarding agile management, OKRs and so on.
At the core, we are asking ourselves, how to design the community in terms of its openness. One the one hand, we want to have the benefits of SEO exposure of relevant topics, on the other hand, we want to incentivize our users to sign up by offering unique benefits resulting in gated content.

Did you have a similar decision to make? Can we set the boundaries as we like? And what are the general pros/cons of open/closed community design?

Thanks a lot in advance and kind regards from Germany

Hi @msworkpath,

I suspect this is more of a general ‘open vs. closed’ community question rather than a Discourse-specific question.

I wouldn’t recommend incentivising users to sign up. That tends to lead to a lot of people signing up but few participating. The real question is what’s the benefit of the private community? Are members sharing genuinely sensitive data with one another? Is it private where you only allow the top people to join? And if it’s private, will you be rejecting people who don’t match a criteria?

Hi @richard_millington,

thanks a lot for coming back at this. Maybe I did not hint at the real decision I was aiming at with my post, so let me try to clarify our position:

With “closed”, I rather referred to not being able to see all content of the community if not signed-up, but everyone would be able to sign up for it, of course.

This brings me to another question though: Can we set the boundaries (e.g. in discourse) where we want? So can we hide some threads and content from public visitors as long as they don’t sign-up?

Of course, we also want to benefit from organic visitors - so if we are able to “gate” specific content/threads, will they be still listed on google?

I know, that I am touching a lot of topics here, still would be extremely glad if you had some answers for us. :slight_smile:


Discourse boundaries are usually set by category or sub category.

It is common for Discourse sites to have gated categories that are only accessible to specific user groups. One example is a default category called The Lounge for users who have reached a high trust level.

Some sites only allow joining by invitation. Others differentiate users by paid versus free. In any case anonymous users can be allowed access or not.

Here’s a related topic at Discourse:


As @remah mentions, yes – but only at a sub/category level. You can hide entire categories of content based on group membership.

Slack and Discourse are very different tools. It might make sense to keep Slack for quick conversations and promote Discourse for topics that might be useful an hour, day, or weeks later.

If I can’t see the content to know that it’s worthwhile, there is no chance that I am going to give you my contact information.

If you have to log in to see your content, then Google can’t see your content, so you won’t have anything in Google, so there will be no organic visitors.

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Some thoughts:

  1. The rule of thumb is that if visitors can view the content, then Google can access the content. If visitors can’t view the content, then neither can Google.
  2. I don’t know if Discourse has this option, but you might be able to allow visitors to view the list of topics, or to view a block of new posts, but when users click on the URL they’re asked to sign in.
  3. And I probably should have started with this point first, but worry less about public vs private and think more about the value of being private. Are users or customers sharing corporate data? Those are the kinds of questions you should ask yourself first, which will determine the permissions.
  4. You can potentially “push” content from private areas into public areas for showcase. For example, you have a corporate customer who posts a question about their agile development, and the community helps him solve his question. You can manually copy / promote / push / write up a case study for public consumption, on your main websites front end, in newsletter drips, etc. This gives you the benefit if gating your community while selectively promoting the best content to the public.

Not out of the box, no.

Is there a plugin that is getting the job done by any chance?

I believe that https://meta.discourse.org/t/topic-list-previews/101646 does that. It’s a third party plugin, though from a well respected developer. To use it you’d need to be on the enterprise plan or self host (I also provide installation and maintenance services).

Hoop.la offers the display of a personalized activity stream via an embeddable “widget” and/or via top nav. (Disclosure, Hoop.la is my platform…just thought I’d weigh in :slight_smile: )