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I had a question that was migrated to Stack Overflow from another site:

Parsing in a textfile in C++

This arrived as an "orphaned question", i.e. it had a greyed-out accountless user. However, the OP had created a new Registered account on Stack Overflow and posted an answer as an update, because he couldn't edit his question. I couldn't re-unite the question and the user, because the OP account is greyed out and the user merge tool needs a live account.

Now, in this case, I was lucky because the OP re-asked the same question on his new registered account on SO, which allowed me to merge the migrated question and answers and fix everything up.

However, had he not done this, then I wouldn't have been able to re-unite the user with his question (i.e. by merging accounts).

As it so happened (and whilst I was sorting this problem out), there was some chat with other mods this evening about this scenario happening for them, so it appears to be something other sites are also experiencing - enough for this to be a discussion point.

Is this just something we'll need to ask the devs to fix, or can the mod tools be enhanced to help fix up a user with his orphaned question?

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I've had a few of those as well, usually due to a user not associating their new account with the original account on the sending side. It also happens when cookie based accounts are used on both sides and the question is migrated after the cookie vanishes. Depending on the user's browser settings, that could be within hours of the question being asked. –  Tim Post Jun 6 '11 at 0:04
    
Still, half of the battle remains helping inexperienced users to understand "If I'm about to type anything other than an answer in this box, I should probably just be asking for a moderator to help me instead." –  Tim Post Jun 6 '11 at 0:06
    
@tim - I agree, especially those that arrive at one of the SE sites for the first time via google, have no idea there is the Greater Metropolis of SE and then suddenly their question is whisked away to somewhere else and they hit this road hump and get thrown off the wagon. –  The Anti-Santa Jun 6 '11 at 0:11
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Starred this. I was going to propose something similar, but couldn't think of any good way to do it. I'm interested in the feedback on this, even if it's why it really can't be made any better. –  Tim Post Jun 6 '11 at 0:32
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This just seems like part of the larger problem, which is that user accounts are not unique, Open ID's are not unique, and IP addresses are not unique. Without such an assurance, users are going to find an almost limitless number of ways to get this wrong. –  Robert Harvey Jun 6 '11 at 1:08

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The system tries to get this right, but ultimately that question was created on the 27th, and the user arrived 3 days later on the 30th. However, the dev team do have an existing push button to re-unite owners, which I have done on this example.

Allowing this for mods... isn't impossible - I guess as with anything there is scope for abuse, but we kinda trust our mods not to go completely crazy.

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YES PLEASE! Every newbie who posts his first question on the wrong site without registering (and boy are there a lot) means wasted time for everybody: the confused newbie, the commenters who request updates to the question (confusing the newbie even further because he can't), the passer-bys who flag a non-answer (the only thing the asker could do is answer, not comment or edit, so answer he did), the duplicate questions (the other thing the newbie can do), the moderators who can just delete and merge but not actually help, the devs who need to be told of and treat each case individually… Stop! –  Gilles Jun 7 '11 at 0:39

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