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I have seen multiple questions here on meta discussing how to merge accounts that have originated as unregistered user.

Today it was this post on Music.SE where someone had posted a question under the name "Julia" (but as an unregistered user), and so posted a new question as an answer to her question with the same name Julia, but as a different unregistered user. It was clear that this was the same persion, because she said "thank you" and referred to "having another question" as intro.

This makes me wonder if there are many unknown occurences out there of potentially the same users having multiple unregistered accounts, and not experiencing the benefits of having one joint account that can live on all SE sites.

I think it might be causing more problems than gain to open for asking questions and posting answers without the registering process. It is not that big deal to register, and because we are a bit strict on how things are done in this network, it is easier to teach people the basic concept during registering.

The example I linked to was a typical problem for new users: They treat the original question as a forum thread...

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One of the good things about Stack Exchange is that you don't have to register to participate. I see that as a good thing. Otherwise why not require full signup and go down the Quora route?

Sure, some unregistered people don't fully 'get' how it all works, but the same can be said for registered users too.

Part of the reason the sites are so successful is that there is such a low barrier to entry. It's up to the community (and occasionally the moderators) to deal with any very low quality posts or to help to merge peoples accounts when they accidentally create additional ones, but that negative is overwhelmingly negated by the positives of having lots of ever expanding and growing Stack Exchange sites with lots of great useful content, from new and old users.

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    It is easier to educate registered users, as they can more easily see what happens to the commenting and editing to their posts. – awe Sep 17 '13 at 11:27
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    But how many fewer registered users would we actually have if they had been forced to register before they could even participate? – JonW Sep 17 '13 at 11:29
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    @awe Plus, if users don't understand how unregistered accounts work, the solution is making that clearer, not avoiding people to user unregistered accounts. That would be like avoiding suggesting edits just because there are users that don't use it properly. – kiamlaluno Sep 17 '13 at 12:05
  • Maybe there could be some mechanisms to give unregistered users a notice on the benefits of registering after they have posted something? I am not necessarily against allowing this for unregistered users - only wish to make the experience better for new users and a way to fully embrace them into our community. – awe Sep 17 '13 at 12:11
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It is not that big deal to register

It is a barrier to entry. Many people, given the choice to post without registering and with registering, would choose to post without registering.

If the choice were to be between registering to post and not posting at all, we would lose a significant amount of users.

That is why we don't require registration on most sites.


As for the problem you are describing. I don't see this as a problem - most people are used to forums and we have tools to help with that - suggested edits for low rep users and edits for higher rep users. This, in my eyes, is a non-issue.

  • The tools to help should be an aid to educate. If users keep entering with fresh unregistered accounts, they do not pick up on what has been done to their posts, and so the keep living in the shadows. – awe Sep 17 '13 at 11:25
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    @awe - How do you know? And why is it a problem for you? – Oded Sep 17 '13 at 11:26
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    @awe It is true that a user who asks a question with an unregistered account and tries to edit the question with another unregistered account gives more work for other users, since the edit for the question is posted as answer. Fortunately, that happens very few times, as far as I can see on Drupal Answers. – kiamlaluno Sep 17 '13 at 11:46
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    Worth to mention Anna's comment here which is using almost the same wording: "They're typically more trouble than they're worth" - senior community manager is considering ditching the whole thing so I'd say it's a big sign they do cause major pain. – Shadow The Dragon Wizard Sep 17 '13 at 12:07
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    Not directly related, but I do find it irritating when I visit a newspaper's comment section and, discovering spam, attempt to flag a post only to be told I must create an account to do so. I don't intend to visit again and I'm not going to create an account, I was just trying to help out. My potentially positive contribution (because I hate spam) has been declined (because I hate spam). As useful as it is to have an ID on everything, I think you lose out on a lot of good when you shut out anonymous strangers. – JDB Sep 17 '13 at 18:03
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    "we would lose a significant amount of users" yeah. Users who's questions get closed – Cole Johnson Sep 17 '13 at 22:37
  • @Cole: not necessarily. While forcing registration does reduce the number of support issues, when it comes to quality the results are... Not that impressive. The folks who persistently ask poor questions tend to have few qualms about registering an account to continue doing so - meanwhile, there's always the danger that Oded mentions of discouraging someone with something positive to contribute. This is why even on Stack Overflow you don't have to register to post answers - why put unnecessary barriers in place of folks looking to share useful information? – Shog9 Sep 17 '13 at 22:47
  • @Shog9 because people nearly every site you use requires registration to participate in discussion and such. So, logically, people would think you would need to register to participate. Proof of this theory: me. – Cole Johnson Sep 17 '13 at 22:52
  • If nearly every site jumped off of a bridge, would you suggest doing that too @Cole? HMMM? </mom> – Shog9 Sep 17 '13 at 22:53
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    @Shog9 Yes. – Cole Johnson Sep 17 '13 at 23:30
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    Seems like a good argument to stay off the bridge entirely, @Cole – Shog9 Sep 17 '13 at 23:34
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If unregistered users become so much of a burden on the site that a good number of active members start leaving, then I suspect something will be done about them.

Until then, what skin is it off the nose of Stack Exchange, Inc.? They have extra servers. They also need to write -- at least, they had better write -- some algorithms to deal with spammy questions and answers so as not to allow the spammers to abuse the helpful unpaid volunteers that curate the site. (Abuse them too much, anyway.)

Unregistered users are great for SE Inc's bottom line. More traffic means more CPM revenue. And the volunteers just keep cleaning up after them, for free.

Why should they force users to register? If it were your payday, would you?

But to answer the question, I'd think the contributions from unregistered users would have to be truly awful for management to consider taking the punch bowl away.

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