When a user creates an unregistered account while asking a question, or posting an answer without being logged in, there isn't any note that the account being created is linked to the browser being used, and to the cookies created from a Stack Exchange site in that browser.

On Drupal Answers, I noticed that in some cases the user that asked a question adds an answer instead of commenting because the user (I suppose without having any intention) created another user. It could happen because the user cleared the cookies from the browser or because the user used a different browser/computer. The user notices Stack Exchange is asking again a username and an email, but the user probably doesn't understand that adding the same values used the first time, a new, completely unrelated user is being created, nor does he know all the consequences of this (e.g. he cannot edit of the posts created with the other account, as they are two different accounts).

Would not be possible to add a simple text warning about the user being created depending from the cookies present in the used browser?

Unregistered users get a message similar to the following, on the notification bar:

Have you considered registering to preserve your account and reputation across multiple computers?

That message is shown the first time when the unregister user reaches a reputation of 100 points, and it is then shown (apparently) every 100 points more gained. I guess it is done to show the message to users who effectively participate on the site, and not to who is just interested to check out the site.

I also understand that showing a message to somebody who uses the same username, and email address from different browsers/computers could not be the solution. Stack Exchange keeps a record of those values (that is why moderators can search for unregistered users using "Find Users by OpenId, Email, Website, or DisplayName"), but as those values are not validated, two different users could use the same username and email (maybe a fake one) to register, and in that case the users should not get a message about registering. (If that would happen, somebody could try finding the email address used for an unregistered account.)


Since moderators cannot anymore merge accounts, maybe a warning should be given in some cases, for example:

  • When a unregistered account is used to answer a question asked using another account with the same username and email address

  • When a registered account is used to answer a question asked using another unregistered account with the same username and email address

There are other actions that could trigger the control, but I am not sure in which cases it is more appropriate. I imagine that voting could be another action that could cause the system to check who is voting whom, but maybe in this case the warning should not be given immediately.

  • 6
    I don't see what it would hurt; no one reads text warnings anyway.
    – Cody Gray
    Mar 8 '12 at 20:59
  • I didn't realize this. All good reasons to create a genuine account with an OpenID.
    – user102937
    Mar 10 '12 at 2:13
  • @CodyGray if there would be not too many warnings and if there would be EULA-like "I read, understand and accept" checkbox or button - won't it help somewhat ? Apr 18 '13 at 6:51
  • 2
    @Arioch'The No it won't because nobody reads EULAs. The first thing they do is find the "I agree" checkbox and continue.
    – Mysticial
    Apr 18 '13 at 7:15
  • @Mystical EULA's are worded in intentionally undecipherable ways, based on fineprints and on TL;DR effect. However advertisements are not what everyone enjoys and want to read through, still they are working more or less, because they are made for easy perception. Apr 18 '13 at 7:39
  • @Arioch'The The purpose of the EULA is not informing you of everything about Stack Exchange: It doesn't explain you (for example) how voting works, or what question-banning is; it doesn't even link you to the relevant page about that. In general, relevant information should be given when strictly necessary. If I cannot vote a question, that information is given me when I watching a question I cannot vote, not in the EULA, or every time I log in.
    – apaderno
    Apr 18 '13 at 7:45
  • @kiamlaluno i said EULA-like. It meant that user has to say "i do accept" and while he still can cheat that is not so easy to do as to skip adv banner (and many system notices are automatically skipped just because they could be banners, reflexes are not very picky). I agree that long-long EULA does little help. But this topic was about short and context-related notices. They CAN be read and enforced by such a checkbox. Mouse tooltips are not substitute to manual volumes, but the opposite holds too. Apr 18 '13 at 9:07

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