Discourse technicalities

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Discourse overview

About Discourse

Discourse is open source software, started in 2013. It is run by a private business currently with a team of 33 staff who earn their keep by hosting Discourse for US$100+ per month. They are committed to keeping Discourse open-source and provide regular updates which are easily installed. Freegle uses the open-source version so there are no fees to pay. We do pay a small amount for our own backups and sending emails, as well as some paid geek-time.

Discourse updates are notified to admins. Some updates can be installed by any admin; others will need to be done by geeks. There may be a small amount of down time during upgrades.

Discourse has many many configuration options, controllable by admins. In addition, Discourse can be "programmed". The API was used by the geeks to set up all the user accounts and set the right email choices. The theme appearance of the site has been tweaked.


It is important that the Freegle Discourse system is resilient and independent of the main Freegle servers, so we can communicate if they are down!

Discourse runs on a Bytemark server that is separate from the main Freegle servers in a separate data centre. Discourse is configured to back up all its data every day overnight. The data file is then automatically backed up to Google cloud storage. Five backups are kept on the main Discourse server. The Google cloud keeps all the daily backups for 90 days. Restoring from a backup has been tested. If data has to be restored, any discussions or setting changes since the backup will be lost.

You can still log in to Discourse even if MT is down. This is partly done by Discourse remembering your login in a cookie. In addition the Discourse server remembers the MT logins every 30 minutes to use if someone needs to login when the site is down.

To cope in the event that the main Discourse server is unavailable for some time, a second Discourse instance has been set up on one of the main Freegle servers. This standby instance can be brought into service by the geeks fairly quickly using the last available good backup, ie the snapshot taken overnight.

Mail in and out

Discourse sends mail out and can receive receive mail in. Both these processes are independent of the normal Freegle email facilities.

Mail is sent using a Mailgun account which costs us a little each month.

Mail is received at a Google hosted mailbox called discoursereplies as described elsewhere. The mailbox is polled every few minutes for mails to process.

To do

Note: there is great help and support about Discourse here: https://meta.discourse.org/