[Product Post] The 4 Vanilla Discussion Types

4 minute read

March 10, 2017

[Product Post] The 4 Vanilla Discussion Types

As many of our customers have different requirements in using our platform, we’ve created four discussion types that reflect their needs. These are:

  1. Discussions
  2. Questions
  3. Polls
  4. Ideas

Social platforms have slightly different naming conventions for the content posted by members. Before going through our 4 discussion types, here is the naming convention we use in Vanilla:

  • Posts: any content posted weather it’s the start of a discussion or a comment.
  • Discussions: also known as a discussion thread or sometimes a topic.
  • Comments: a comment added to a discussion.
  • Category: a grouping for a specific topic of discussion. Some people will refer to a community forum as the plural ‘forums’ and refer to a category as a singular ‘forum’.
  • Question & Answers: similar to a discussions & comments but with additional options
  • Ideas: a discussion that describes an idea and with additional voting and sorting options.
  • Polls: A single question survey that you can set-up and ask your members for purpose of engagement

Different member roles can have have different permissions and may be allowed to post certain types of discussions. For example, you could allow your customers to suggest ideas but not create polls.

1. Discussions

Regular discussions are the most common. A new discussion will require a Discussion Title and Discussion Body Text where additional detail can be added. As mentioned earlier, members can have different permissions that allow them to post certain types of content. Here are a few things you may not know about Vanilla discussions:

  • Discussions posts can be edited by member for a limited time (set by the admin) or through earned rank.
  • There is an auto-save feature so that posts are not lost if you browse away from the page accidentally.
  • You can announce (or pin) discussions on top of the category, allowing visibility on interesting posts.
    Promoted posts will show up on the ‘Best of’ page.

2. Questions

A Question is similar to a Discussion but is augmented with Q&A functionality. The Q&A feature is helpful when you are using the forum as part of your customer service strategy. Questions can be answered by other members or someone on staff.

Once the question is answered, the members who posted the question will receive a notification and be asked to indicate if the question was answered or not. Answers that are accepted will appear at the top of the discussion thread and featured.


Q&A has its own analytics to help you see how your community is contributing to customer success. Analytics include:

  • # of Questions Answered
  • Avg. Time to Answer
  • # of Questions Asked
  • # of Answers Accepted

3. Polls

Want to get the opinion of the community? If the Poll plugin is enabled, members of the community can create polls to measure community opinions on any topic. To start a new poll make the selection from the drop down and select “new poll”. Fill in the form that appears. The poll question will be the discussion headline. The optional description will appear just above the poll. You can also make the votes anonymous.

Once you save the poll it will go live and members of the community can start voting and add their comments on the poll (if comments are allowed). Polls can be public or anonymous. If a poll is anonymous, the identities of the voters will not be displayed.

There is a permission rule for polls. Only users with the ‘Add’ permission will be allowed to create a poll discussion.

4. Ideation (Brainstorming with your community members)

Ideation is a great way to collect feedback from your community, especially from high value customers. You can learn more on how to setup ideation categories here. Idea discussions work as follows:

  • A member can post a new idea
  • Other members can vote and comment on the idea
  • Community managers can change the status of an idea
  • Ideas can be sorted and filtered based on votes and status.

Idea type discussion can only be created in a category that has been designated as an Idea category. This can be done in the Dashboard when creating a category.

Interesting in learning more on how to leverage the 4 types of discussions? Here are more resources:

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Luc Vezina

Written by Luc Vezina

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