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Recently, I had the occasion to make a meta post on Parenting on behalf of another site to discuss a possible FAQ mention. Now, Parenting is an excellent site, but since I am lacking any genetically viable progeny at this time, I can't say I'm going to stick around and post any questions there.

There are a couple of obvious options that I have here. I could just let the account fester in my profile, it's not hurting anyone, but I don't want to clutter up their rolls, either. Since I haven't voted on anything on the main site, I can delete the account, but that would orphan the Meta.Parenting post and disconnect it from my username (so if anyone needed to reference it in the future, it would have to be hunted down through other means).

Perhaps my "first world problems" aren't convincing, but I know of one colleague who was spreading the word about a particular shortcut for all of the LaTeX enabled sites, and as a result needed to, I believe, create accounts on each Meta. This account creation also perhaps burdens those who need to post SE sanctioned Community Ads (example) on a hosting site's Meta.

I would like to see a method through which users with 200 reputation on another site (who would join as members with 101 reputation and meta privileges anyway, were they to sign up directly) be able to post up to 3 (5?) questions on a per-site Meta without having to sign up for the parent site. The login and interface could be similar to using www.stackexchange.com and of course, this type of account would carry no badges or anything with it.

Having such a feature would of course be a luxury, but it may also have the side effect of active users being able to get more involved in the meta of a nascent site to help it along or offer a valuable perspective from an outsider's viewpoint.

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+1 interesting idea –  Ernest Friedman-Hill Jul 18 '12 at 22:00
    
As a quick fix, how about posting it on the respective main site and immediately flag it for moderators to move to meta? This situation should be rare enough not to add significant work for anybody. –  bitmask Jul 18 '12 at 22:20
    
@bitmask But then one would have to have an account on the main site anyway. Also, that sounds like it would be a lot of clutter. –  jonsca Jul 18 '12 at 22:21
    
@jonsca: You can post questions on a main site without an account. –  bitmask Jul 18 '12 at 22:23
    
@jonsca: I don't have a parenting account, but the site allows me to post a question. But yes, you're right, the question would still not be associated with your account. –  bitmask Jul 18 '12 at 22:27
    
I should specify I tried on SO only. It looks like you're right. It's still "skirting" the system a bit, so I'd rather a straightforward way to do it. –  jonsca Jul 18 '12 at 22:29
    
Shouldn't meta users have some "skin in the game" anyway? –  Robert Harvey Jul 18 '12 at 23:46
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@RobertHarvey Well, these users would have earned the right to participate on any Meta anyway. I see where you are coming from, and that would be the reason for not granting these users carte blanche. Certainly this is no guarantee that they would be taken seriously, without any experience on the site, but I think we've all had occasions (and I've seen people flock to certain religious-based sites and sign up) to weigh in on something that affects all of us as citizens of SE, not an individual site. –  jonsca Jul 18 '12 at 23:54
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Does a user profile really take up that much space in a world where hard drive space is now so incredibly cheap? I'm not 100% sure I understand the benefits of this proposal, considering that only people who actually cared would use it, leaving still countless "festering" profiles across the network. –  jmort253 Jul 19 '12 at 1:35
    
@jmort253 I don't think it was ever about drive space. I think it's more about keeping the communities organized, giving people a chance to participate on a "foreign" meta when they might not have taken the time to sign up, and (perhaps) keeping a more accurate head count on sites that are trying to get off of the ground. People would be able to use it or not use it as they wished. –  jonsca Jul 19 '12 at 1:43
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I'm not sure why you'd really need a guest pass to post on meta. The way I see it, you're either part of the community or not part of it, even if all you ever did was propose a cross-community function on that site's meta. Certainly there are registered users who have done much much less and still have an account. –  jmort253 Jul 19 '12 at 2:06
    
@jmort253 I'm not proposing taking accounts away from anyone that wants one. This would just be an option. If someone on Meta.UnderwaterBasketweaving.SE was complaining about the lack of project management questions on their site and you wanted to guide them to the site you moderate, would you really make an account just for that one comment? –  jonsca Jul 20 '12 at 15:58
    
This really seems to be over-thinking it, and the process of creating multiple accounts is already more complicated than it should be (there REALLY should be a "make me an account on all sites FFS" option) –  Ben Brocka Jul 20 '12 at 16:43
    
@BenBrocka Next time you get to make the account on Parenting ;) –  jonsca Jul 20 '12 at 16:48

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

This is really weird feature creep, over-complicating an already complex login process of multiple accounts on multiple sites.

It's already confusing to have all of your accounts linked, but you log in separately (sometimes! Sometimes it auto-logs you in!) to dozens of "different" sites. Now you want to add a "Kinda sorta" account option, that's kinda-sorta attached to some sites. This is unnecessary complexity "solving" the extremely minor problem of "eh, I don't really use my account on X".

As an avid user of SE with over 200 rep, you tend to collect lots of accounts on lots of sites just to vote/ask one question/ect. It's not really a big deal, and the Accounts page does a good job of sorting these inactive accounts down at the bottom of your accounts list. Sure, they're a little ugly to see. But wouldn't a 101 guest pass temporary double secret probation account be just as ugly, if not uglier? You still have a weird account you never use. It's just more complicated now.

Keep it simple, this fix solves an extremely minor problem with a very confusing solution. That's not a gain.

On the other hand, maybe you have a point about these minor accounts being weird to keep around. Maybe accounts with only Meta activity should be easier to dissociate.

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I would say that it's worthwhile to just leave the (barely used) account on that meta site around, and still linked to your network account.

There are a lot of 1 or 101 reputation accounts out there from people who created an additional account on another site without ever (or only barely) using it. I have seen no indication from the community or SO itself that this is a problem, nor can I think of any problems related to it myself.

Though marginal, I can think of benefits to posting on another site's meta with a linked account rather than an anonymous one-time-use account. Primarily the notifications. You'll get answers/notifications related to that thread, and you'll be able to notice them even after the thread has cooled off and you stop regularly checking it. You are also providing information to the members of that meta about you. They can follow your network profile to see your other accounts, know that you are an active SE user, just not from their site. That may (or may not) be useful information for that meta community.

If you really don't want to get notifications, or you explicitly don't want that meta community to know about your other accounts you can obviously create a new unlinked account easily enough, or unlink the account after posting. To me "keeping the site clean" just doesn't seem to be a real problem here.

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In my conception of it, everything would still be linked to the overarching account entity, though, for comments, etc. In this specific case, since I have not voted on the main site that I signed up for, I could just as easily delete the account. That leaves the loose ends of user1234, etc. –  jonsca Jul 20 '12 at 16:01
    
just doesn't seem to be a real problem here It's not an emergency for sure, but having it as an option would make things more convenient for people that are constantly crossing over into other sites. Such an infrastructure could potentially be tweaked to support admins who otherwise need to have accounts everywhere. –  jonsca Jul 20 '12 at 16:03
    
All feature requests have an opportunity cost. If you're asking devs to spend time on this then they're not spending time doing something else. The problems that this solution "fixes" are, in my eyes, not problems. If I could just press a magic button and have these features for free, then it might be justifiable, but since that isn't the case and the benefits are negligible I just don't see it being worthwhile to implement. –  Servy Jul 20 '12 at 16:12
    
How do you know that most of the infrastructure doesn't already exist? It probably doesn't, but I don't know that. I do respect the developers' time. I'm not asking for this tomorrow, or next week, or even a year from now, but as more sites go into Beta, this is going to become an actual problem for more people. –  jonsca Jul 20 '12 at 16:16
    
In my mind the "cost" of having an account on an extra dozen sites that you never use, or have only used once, is approximately none. Therefore, if there is any cost whatsoever to implementing this (and there would be something) then it wouldn't be worthwhile in my mind. –  Servy Jul 20 '12 at 16:20
    
If you go to any Beta site and click on their front page, there is a box with Site Stats. On there is a running count of how many users the site has. This is essentially a "census" for the community. I am reflected in the counts of 4 Beta sites which I do not currently, and probably will never, use. For them, I am a piece of misinformation on their site usage, which is used to make decisions about the future of a site. –  jonsca Jul 20 '12 at 16:30
    
If you never do anything at all on that site you can feel free to delete the account. If you have participated (by asking even a single question) then you are a member of the site, and should be counted. Note that anytime anyone ever utilizes member count stats of sites they do (or at least should) take into consideration that a significant amount of those users are inactive, and don't (and possibly never) made notable contributions. –  Servy Jul 20 '12 at 16:35
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The cost of development is one thing, but there's also the cost to the user figuring out what this weird "kinda maybe create an almost account" option. I consider that much more important here. –  Ben Brocka Jul 20 '12 at 16:51
    
@BenBrocka I would envision it being no different than when you log into SEDE. That's not part of your linked accounts, but the system knows who you are. –  jonsca Jul 20 '12 at 16:57
    
@jonsca Logging into SEDE is a freaking nightmare –  Ben Brocka Jul 20 '12 at 16:59

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