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Currently, if your accounts are associated there's a button to let you disassociate them.

Clear All Associations button

I really think we ought to kill this feature. Its pretty worthless as is and adds a lot of (error causing) complexity to account management.

But first, some numbers since we all love data.

On Stack Overflow, 206 users have disassociated their accounts and remained unassociated (0.1% of >1 rep users). Only 2,588 have ever disassociated their accounts.

This is not a terribly popular feature.

And what's the point? To hide your behavior on other sites*?

There is a lot of complexity making this possible at all, and it would be much simpler** to just treat "related accounts" as associated without an explicit association step. It would also eliminate some recurring issues.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting a policy of "if you have accounts on two sites, they must be associated." Just that if you signup with the same OpenId on two sites, they would be; you would remain free to use distinct identifiers and retain distinct accounts.

So, are there any good reasons for the disassociate button to remain around? Or is it finally time to kill it?

*Protip, doesn't work since moderators can see some of your "related accounts."

**One of the grand simplifications would be being able to treat "once associate" as "always associated," which would let us kill some ugly GUIDs. Network account links, for example.

**On further reflection, it'd actually be simpler to just always do a lookup by identifiers; so disassociation would remain possible by changing ids, but your accounts would need to actually be disjoint in terms of identifiers.

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Isn't it used to help make sure accounts are associated correctly and also by people wanting to get the 100 point bonus when one of their accounts reaches 200 rep? –  ChrisF Apr 20 '11 at 23:13
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@ChrisF - yes, but nearly all of the problems with associating (and the bonus) in the first place come from allowing disassociating. –  Kevin Montrose Apr 20 '11 at 23:14
    
What about when the bonus doesn't happen because they peak 200 after already linked? –  random Apr 20 '11 at 23:19
    
@random - that's going to be solved eventually (its getting a lot easier to detect cross network events now), but even if it weren't why should that be "disassociate/re-associate" instead of a "check for bonus" button? The end state isn't being disassociated. –  Kevin Montrose Apr 20 '11 at 23:24
    
I somehow feel you actually want us to vote for something else ;-) –  Arjan Apr 21 '11 at 6:43
    
When removing this, would one still be able to change the OpenID for some specific account, hence yielding a kind of automatic disassociation? (And if yes, then maybe the "swap to delete the 2nd OpendID" could be made a bit easier?) –  Arjan Apr 21 '11 at 7:20
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If this doesn't prohibit us from clearing associations by just changing our OpenID (thus allowing two or more separate "groups" of accounts that use two or more completely different OpenIDs, literally separating the accounts), then I do think it probably is more effective to cut out this middle man. I assume that the association bonus stuff will also get fixed? –  Grace Note Apr 21 '11 at 16:50
    
Regarding the edit - what's an "identifier" in this context, and how does it differ from an "id"? –  Shog9 Apr 21 '11 at 16:55
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@Grace Note - in the short term, the disassociate button will probably be replaced with a "check for bonus" button. In the long term, yes it'll get automatic-ized. For a very long time cross-site checks were prohibitively expensive, they're getting better though. –  Kevin Montrose Apr 21 '11 at 16:56
    
@Shog9 - OpenId (and occasionally e-mail... though that comes from trusted OpenIds generally; so I guess just OpenIds). –  Kevin Montrose Apr 21 '11 at 16:57
    
This has been done, according to this later answer by the OP. –  Pops Mar 13 '12 at 21:20

4 Answers 4

I am one of those 206. I don't want public links between different sites in SE.

Drawing a line between personal and professional is a strong reason to do this - especially as SE expands. For example, someone might not want a coworker to see that their SO account is linked to radical-political-and-religions-views.stackexchange.com.

My reasons for staying disassociated are my own, so I'll just say that I feel very strongly about this, and would sooner delete accounts than have them linked.

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How do you keep being disassociated? Are you using multiple, different OpenID accounts? Or different subdomains and delegated OpenID maybe? –  Arjan Apr 22 '11 at 8:20
    
@Arjan: that would kind-of defeat the purpose of OpenID of being a single way to log on to supporting sites, wouldn't it? –  Joachim Sauer Apr 22 '11 at 8:35
    
@Arjan: oh, I misread your comment. Sorry. –  Joachim Sauer Apr 22 '11 at 8:46
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@Arjan - you just click the button to clear all associations. If you get automatically associated again, you have to repeat the process. I'm not sure what triggers the automatic association, but it doesn't happen often. –  user27414 Apr 22 '11 at 11:12
    
Then you make a new account with another id. –  Ivo Flipse Apr 30 '11 at 20:38

This is not a terribly popular feature.

Which it is mostly because it doesn't actually work.

Disassociating accounts is temporary. If you create a new account on any of the SE sites, you are forced to associate all accounts again. Else the UI does not allow account creation.

And just logging out and logging in again on any SE site will give you this lovely notification bar:

Welcome to Stack Overflow! Your account has automatically
been associated with 15 other Stack Exchange sites. [x]

So the system is already optimizated to frustrate willful account disassociation. Which is why I would also think it's better to just drop that feature.

(The old account management thingy allowed to individually disassociate accounts. But it's gone. So currently the only choice is re-dissaociating all accounts repeatedly - if you don't want people to know that you once logged on to Wordpress.SE or seriously require fitness advise. Hey, these were just examples.)

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So... why exactly do you want to be disassociated; logging into a site doesn't send any messages, really. Heck, I'm a member on Parenting. I'd also expect there to be more explicit disassociations than there are since we're so aggressive about associating. –  Kevin Montrose Apr 21 '11 at 1:13
    
@Kevin: For most poeple there is a simpleminded reason to dissassociate. Stackoverflow is for professional programming discusssions (or at least intended). The rest of the SE sites are more about fun topics, if I may say so. The ability to dissassociate them is just a convenience over having to create multiple OpenID endpoints to get divergent accounts. It's a workaround really for what would be simple with username/password pairs anyway. I agree it's not an existential use case, but it's valid ntl. –  mario Apr 21 '11 at 8:56

Well, first off, mario is right - the current UI is crap. It took me a while to figure it out, and even then only with considerable help. It makes sense, once you know how it works... But digging up that information isn't trivial. So yeah, if < 10% of the users who've tried have managed to keep their accounts disassociated, it's hardly surprising.

Beyond that... Do we really need it? I don't really care if my SO account is associated with my Cooking account. If I was especially concerned about privacy, I'd avoid specifying personal details on either account.

That said, as the SE network expands, there'll almost certainly be sites launched that... Users regret signing up for. Maybe just cold feet, or maybe because the definition finally hashed out during beta didn't line up with what they had hoped for. Sure, committing to Public Media might seem like a good idea now, but what about two weeks in when it's become apparent that it's really just a front for The Socialists who want to Destroy America? D'you really want folks tracing that back to you when Zombie McCarthy crawls from the tomb to go Huntin' Reds? Sure you could just ask for your account to be deleted, but that's drastic; maybe you just want a few weeks to think it over...

I guess my feeling boils down to this: it's a nice option to have available, even if I never use it... But if you can't justify making it easier to use, you might as well kill it entirely, since right now it's more trouble explaining it than it is just telling malcontents to email team@ and ask for a deletion.

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Right now (and in the past), to really disassociate an account you have to change all your identifiers and then find the disassociate button. With the button gone, you'd... change your identifiers. It'd arguably be simpler (though I still don't think its valid use case). I really can't take a "red scare" example seriously either; the solution to that isn't a disassociate button, its to nuke it from orbit (its the only way to be sure). –  Kevin Montrose Apr 21 '11 at 5:46
    
@Kevin: Oh, so you would be able to break associations then. I'd assumed "if you sign up using the same OpenID on two sites" meant the decision was made at sign-up and permanent thereafter. Good. And yeah, I've yet to see an argument for disassociating that doesn't strike me as... a bit silly... but, I'm not exactly the posterboy for successful personal branding either. –  Shog9 Apr 21 '11 at 15:34
    
I don't see how having an account on a not-so-awesome site discredits you as a user of a ZOMG-dis-iz-so-awesum site. Plus, I thought our plan was not to have not-so-awesome sites to begin with. (I am saying this as someone who is registered on every site ever, and has always been. On a second thought, I am a Socialist Who Wants to Destroy America... Hm.) –  ЯegDwight Apr 21 '11 at 17:38
    
Dammit, @Reg - now Kevin's gonna have to nuke you from orbit. What were you thinking?! –  Shog9 Apr 21 '11 at 17:42
    
I get nuked from orbit by Hateful Capitalist Monsters in the ELU chat every single day. Trust me, you get used to it. –  ЯegDwight Apr 21 '11 at 17:46

I think the ability to hide the connection between accounts on different SE sites is very useful. The current implementation is not easy or intuitive to use, changing it certainly makes sense. But no matter the implementation, there should be an easy way to hide the connection between accounts.

On professionally-oriented sites like StackOverflow many people use their real names, on other sites you might not want to do that. You might not want potential employers looking at your SO profile follow the link and look at your Gaming profile. If you have just debunked some crazy claim on Skeptics, you might not want the crazy people making the claim have your full name.

Maybe the disassociate button should just lead to a short explanation on how to use a different OpenID and disassociate the accounts that way.

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