When a topic starts to 'heat up' and become a flame-war

When a topic starts to ‘heat up’ and become a flame-war

Sometimes you will have an important topic on your forum, which people feel strongly about, and this can lead to rapid flurries of posting which can escalate.

What you can do about it

Depending on your community you may have different ways of handling this kind of situation.

  • Highly professional or work-related groups can sometimes ‘self-moderate’ and users may intervene to de-escalate.

  • Other types of communities may find that the situation continues to escalate to the point where the value of the initial discussion is being lost.

  • Moderators or admins could become involved in the discussion to try to de-escalate the situation.

  • If there is a small number of problematic users then you may need to consider Blocking them.

  • If taking action using any of the above, it can be useful to PM users you are taking action against so they understand why you are taking action. Referring them to the Community Guidelines can also be helpful here.

Below we’ll focus on some of the inbuilt Discourse features that you can use to help.

1. ‘Slow Mode’

  • This feature of Discourse prevents rapid posting of responses. It imposes a customisable time interval between one post and the next from the same user. Because users aren’t able to repeatedly post right away in the heat of the moment, they go away and do something else, allowing some of the ‘heat’ of the topic to settle. This can be enough to let people cool off and restore some more constructive discussion.

How to do it

Select 'Set Slow Mode in the Wrench menu

There are two ‘Slow Mode’ site settings you may like to experiment with:

  • Slow Mode Interval: Minimum time between posts from the same user in slow mode topics.
  • Min Trust to Slow Mode Immunity: Minimum Trust Level for Slow Mode Immunity.

2. Close the topic temporarily

Alternatively you might want to close the topic entirely, perhaps setting some kind of reminder to re-open it in a few hours or days. Discourse has the timer feature built in but it is non-obvious. If you choose 'Close Topic from the Wrench menu it will just close the topic permanently. To use the timer you need to use ‘Topic Timer’ from the Wrench Menu

How to do it

Select ‘Topic Timer’ from the Wrench Menu


In the modal which pops up, select ‘Close Temporarily’ and then choose the timeframe.


Different communities, topics and situations will need different timeframes. You many need to experiment, or even discuss the best option with your community.