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I am approaching 20 accounts on StackExchange sites, and this is becoming a mess. Why not unify all accounts into one? This would increase the number of new users to other communities, as it would reduce the barrier of entry for those with existing accounts.

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    New users in a community isn't necessarily good if they don't visit the site... – Dynamic Apr 29 '14 at 22:51
  • Why not an opt-in option? – Mazura Jul 31 '14 at 2:37
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    I knew from the beginning there is a dupe, took me almost an year to find it. ;) – Shadow The Burning Wizard Feb 2 '15 at 23:26
  • This is marked duplicate but it's NOT the same question. One asks if I can have a common account, this asks if there can be just one signup, ever so the first question would be moot or would change to 'can I have more than one account'. And it looks like a pretty common complaint, so can there be some action on it, please? Saying it's not a lot of work is not a helpful answer. – punstress Jun 7 '15 at 17:38
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The barrier you're describing is: click "sign up", choose an OpenID provider, and grant permission. Once. That's not a lot of work. Automatic sign-up on visit, on the other hand, would produce a couple (related) problems:

  • You would lose the ability to use different OpenID providers for different sites. Maybe you want to separate professional accounts that your coworkers might be looking at from some of the others.

  • Maybe you don't want a public presence on some sites. We have sites for religion and politics, and there was a failed site for relationships and dating. Do you automatically want to sign up for everything? Even if you do, do you think it's a good idea to force that on other people?

You could argue, I suppose, that clicking "log in" on a site where you don't have an account should automatically create one for you from whatever OpenID you're currently using. But what if you're logged in to, say, both Google and Facebook in the same browser? Should Stack Exchange guess? Or would there need to be a "choose one of these" UI dialogue? At that point that's pretty close to what you have to do via the sign-up link.

My recommendation would be to write a user script if you really want to do this. Building it into Stack Exchange would cost effort, wouldn't save you that much, and would actively interfere with some valid use cases, so I don't think it's likely that they'll do this.

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    This is a good answer, but I was mainly referring to other new users when I mentioned "barrier of entry". Tiny actions like clicking sign up is a significant issue for user retention on the large scale. Maybe my interests are more broad than others', but it seems more natural to use a single account for anything related to Stack Exchange, Inc.'s products. – Vortico Apr 29 '14 at 22:29
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    Imagine if you were required to register for a new account each time you commented on a post in a new sub-Reddit board. I imagine many potential new members would be driven away by that. The number of Stack Exchange sites I have signed up for is about the same number of subreddits I follow, and I am much more bothered by Stack Exchange organization than Reddit. – Vortico Apr 29 '14 at 22:32
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    I'm not a Reddit regular, but it seems like "Reddit" is more cohesive than "Stack Exchange" in terms of feeling like you're on one site. Every SE site (that's not beta) looks different. As another data point, today I bought theatre tickets from two different venues and made a hotel reservation, each of which required me to do something with their site. That seems pretty normal these days. Being able to just use OpenID and not create a new name/password everywhere saves most of the frustration for me; YMMV. – Monica Cellio Apr 29 '14 at 22:41
  • I suppose I see your view. Although, many subreddits allow custom CSS so many boards look just as different as Stack Exchange sites. Stack Exchange having OpenID support is a plus; I wish more websites did that. – Vortico Apr 29 '14 at 22:48
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    The theatre venues probably did not have a dropdown allowing you to switch between them easily. There's an irritating halfway "we're sort of a unified network, but not really" where there are many ways to seamlessly jump between sites (site switcher, inbox, achievements, hot network questions) only to find out you haven't been logged in or you aren't signed up for that particular site, even though you have accounts elsewhere. Having been tripped up by this multiple times, I'd much prefer clicking "log in" on a new site to auto-generate an account for me with the info SE already has. – Troyen Jul 9 '14 at 22:22
  • @Troyen I'm ok with clicking "log in" auto-generating an account if needed. What I'm not ok with is an account being generated on my behalf either universally (per the question) or on visit (per some comments). Imagine that usenet (or Google groups, if you prefer) had per-group accounts; if you signed up for comp.lang.perl & didn't notice that a link you were following led to alt.sex.with-goats, would you really want that being publicly associated with your c.l.p account? Auto-creation+linking with SE's mix of professional & highly-personal sites is like that. (Also, leaks PII to all mods.) – Monica Cellio Jul 9 '14 at 23:09
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    As a real-world example of this "not a lot of work" signup system, I just accidentally signed up for meta with the wrong of many logged-in gmail OAuth accounts. Twice. Had to delete the accounts until I found the one I use for Stack Overflow login. All to simply give this question an upvote. The multiple logins thing is extremely annoying and user hostile. – pkamb Feb 2 '15 at 23:24
  • @pkamb why not create brand new login using Stack Exchange OpenID then use it for all your accounts? I think the team didn't take into account people using different email for each site they visit when planning the system. – Shadow The Burning Wizard Feb 2 '15 at 23:31
  • Honestly I don't really understand what you just said, and I'm a programmer. That's the problem with this OAuth/account mess. Two+ logged in gmail addresses (work/home/etc.) is fairly common. The selector gives no indication which is used on my other Stack Exchange accounts. I would prefer to simply use my Stack Overflow account to upvote random answers across the web. – pkamb Feb 2 '15 at 23:37
  • * and my request is rejected because it looks like suspicious activity, as noted in my answer. You forgot that part of the workflow. – djechlin Feb 3 '15 at 0:11
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I'd like to add that this is a mess with the new "hot network questions." I click, I upvote because hey that's a good question! and my upvote is ruined and occasionally my signup request looks like suspicious activity because I'm not yet a member of whichever SE happened to have the interesting question.

Frankly it's terrible UX to think that it's not a problem if a user "only" has to sign up twenty times.

Also I now have to update my picture, profile, etc. on 20 different sites. Hope I never want to change my picture! That will be a small project.

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    I understand the frustration, but as for the last point, you can edit one profile and choose to update this on all other sites, even if it's 100 sites. See the big "Save And Copy Profile To All Stack Exchange Accounts" button. – Shadow The Burning Wizard Jul 9 '14 at 15:19
  • @ShadowWizard oh, that's definitely nice. – djechlin Jul 9 '14 at 15:56

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