I know SO's policy is "you don't have to register to ask questions," but there are so many new members and so many hit-and-runs... The majority of the questions I see now are coming from new users (i.e., it's their first question).

Although unregistered users should still be able to ask questions, I think we should encourage users to create an account. Here is a couple of ways we could do that:

  1. Explicitly encourage people to get an account: there's currently nothing telling people to do that. Maybe tell people something like "Get an account, it's easy!" and maybe show some of the perks of having an account (and having rep).

  2. Maybe give a few bonus points for registering; and have that enable a basic privilege. It could be taken from one of the new user restrictions, for example.

Of course getting people to register is just half of the battle. I don't know what the stats are on this, but I think there's a number of users who create multiple accounts anyways. We could curb that by:

  1. Having smart(er)? duplicate account detection systems, alerting someone who is about to create a new account and possibly has an account already. Give them a message like "Hey, it looks like you already have this account, are you sure you want to create a new one?"

  2. Create a new privilege (10k? 20k?) that gives users tools to detect possible duplicate accounts, eg: "List users with the same e-mail," "List users with the same IP addresses," etc. (without revealing said emails and IPs).

    Then the 10k/20k can look at other stuff (e.g.: posts) and refer the new user to a moderator for a possible merge.

  • Why should I register my account?
    – random
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 3:54
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    Yes, I particularly find edits in the edit queue "funny" where the OP apparently lost the cookie and is trying to edit his own post from a new account... Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 7:16
  • 2
    Your #2 tool would be useful for moderators too!
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 8:36

3 Answers 3


I know SO's policy is "you don't have to register to ask questions,"

I have decided this policy no longer makes sense, given a question volume of 4k-5k questions per day.

So from this point on, registration is required to ask questions (but not to answer).

  • 18
    Wow, are you serious, or just kidding around? Seems like a major paradigm shift. Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 8:33
  • 7
    Wow that's going to be huuuuuuuuge, but desperately needed. It's so depressing seeing the type of questions and "answers" that come out in certain times of the day... Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 8:36
  • If this is an attempt to prevent crap questions being asked, I think you shot yourself in the foot by making it so easy to register ;) (proof).
    – Matt
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 8:58
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    @Jeff It doesn't need to be there to stop people from intentionally creating new accounts, but it would help those who accidentally create them. Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 9:26
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    I think the FAQ should be updated accordingly. Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 11:41
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    Well, I guess you were serious. I don't think making SO less inclusive is really taking it in a positive direction. Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 16:23
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    This is a bold move, and I think it's a good one.
    – user154510
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 16:37
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    It's too bad that little experiment failed. I remember how highly you touted it when SO launched. Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 21:38
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    @eds it still works, just not at the scale of Stack Overflow. And to be brutally honest, the important part is unregistered answers; we don't really care about putting barriers in front of question askers. See blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/06/optimizing-for-pearls-not-sand Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 21:57
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    @Lance I welcome this. It'll speed up flag processing. It can be time consuming where there's a question by a user with an unregistered account who then goes on to lose their cookie. They re-appear with a new unregistered account or have worked out how to register a different permanent account. They then start posting updates to their question in the answers because they've become disconnected from that original unregistered account. I've even seen three different unregistered accounts belonging to the same user in the answers section. Verifying that they are all the same takes time.
    – Kev
    Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 0:21
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    @Kev, I can see where it'd be handy, and that is how all the other sites do it. I'm just amazed from the about face, since SO had proudly proclaimed this as one of the main aspects. It doesn't matter that much to me, everyone is used to signing up, just a surprise. Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 0:24
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    @LanceRoberts I disagree that this will make SO less inclusive, most other sites make you register before you can create new posts. However the Stack Overflow registration is pretty light-weight compared to some forums I've visited where they make you fill in up to 15 mandatory fields with everything from your inside leg measurement to your granny's favourite brand of boiled sweet.
    – Kev
    Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 0:26
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    @LanceRoberts yet again, answers are the real unit of work in any Q&A system. Answers require no registration. I guess I'll just keep saying this over and over until it sinks in... Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 0:40
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    Note: This only seems to be enabled for Stack Overflow right now. Other trilogy sites and SE 2.0 sites don't require registration ask or answer questions.
    – nhinkle
    Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 19:20
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    @jeff yes, that was my oversight; now corrected. Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 9:08

The biggest piece of this dilemma, as I see it:

An unregistered user, who asks a question once and has no interest in registering an account, will see a decent answer to their question, and sursequently will take it.
They will be unable to accept the answer, or indeed even to comment. They will cease to engage the community. The question appears to be unanswered.

Therefore, if such a user asks a question, we need a way to acknowledge that fact. Tagging a question as Community Wiki will actually function as a disincentive for those users to register their account, because they could perceive that as unwelcomely.

Despite the fact that Stack Exchange — or its original, Overflow — deliberately lack social networking features, one of the differences between its system of operation and others which are more ‘Q & A’ focused is the personification of its membership.
Although the act of accepting an answer does serve to signify that a method indeed worked for a certain problem, it does more than that: it, of itself, encourages askers to mark answers as that which they requested; in so doing, a user could see their judgment as ‘validated’.

That, itself, should be enough encouragement, and should be touted as such.

However, for the related problem — which is that of the questions unanswered in perpetuity, — all the encouragement will not help there.
Regarding those who don't care to engage that social function, their questions will need some special accommodation.

So far as I can figure, the easiest thing would be to mark those questions as being asked by an unregistered user. That would indicate that further responses from the asker are unlikely, while not completely preventing such people from asking questions.

  • You can register after posting as a guest, though, if you want. Or request to have the accounts merged later. This doesn't really seem to be a problem these days... if a user never engages with the community again after this happens (and they are sufficiently warned when posting as a guest) they probably weren't going to engage anyways. On the other hand it's not unusual to see users who are truly interested in participating create a real, registered account and become contributing members, possibly asking for their accounts to be merged when they come back later.
    – Jason C
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 21:52
  • (Note that if a site grows so much that this becomes a problem, the community could always ask SE to look into it to verify that it is really a problem on that site, then disable guest questions for that site if so.)
    – Jason C
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 21:53

I think letting those who register have a 15-rep bonus which would allow them to upvote would help a lot. Upvoting is addictive.

  • 53
    this would create a massive hole in the voting system. Need sockpuppets? Just click away.. Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 7:57
  • Well, you use captchas to test for humanity elsewhere, why don't you insert a captcha in the registration process to stop automated sockpuppets? (maybe it's already there, been a while). Manual sockpuppets will just do a little work to get 15 rep, and be there anyway. Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 8:00
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    You're talking about removing a serious barrier that would require multiple accounts and multiple questions/answers to get around, and replacing it with a few mouse clicks. Not going to happen on my watch. Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 8:04
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    @JeffAtwood It's not like it's terribly hard to get 15 rep anyway. If I'm creating sockpuppets, how hard is it for me to just upvote 2 answers on the new account? Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 8:04
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    @null you have to make posts, which people will notice (do they suck? are they rational questions and answers? why would anyone upvote them?). Nobody can "see" you magically getting 15 rep for registering and then voting 40 times in a day. Again: not going to happen, really bad idea, you and Lance honestly should know better than to propose such a catastrophically bad idea. Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 8:30
  • @JeffAtwood Well, you do get 100 bonus points "magically" by associating your account with other SE accounts. Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 18:57
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    @NullUserExceptionอ_อ: Well yes, but in that situation you have already proven to understand the basic rules of an SE site by earning 200 points "the hard way" first.
    – awe
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 12:28

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