5

As you know it is legit to create more than one account in the SE universe, especially when they are used on a set of sites that don't overlap. I have this account, connected to email address A using Yahoo as my open id provider. I also have another account that I use only on one site, and it uses SE as the open id provider and email address B. These two accounts never interact in any way and I never publicly interact with that other account either (eg tweeting links) because on that site I want to be completely pseudonymous and not connectable back to me. (it's personal, not public.)

Now I want to make a third account. I don't want to make a new email address if I can help it, nor to use any of the many email addresses that have been set up for me by clients. If I use email address A or B, but use say Google as my open id provider, will this third account stay separate from the other two? I especially don't want to nuke my anonymity on the single site where I now use email address B.

I understand having lots of accounts is a bit of an edge case. However having one personal (hobbies, politics, religion) and one business (SO, Programmers, technical sites) account is becoming so common as to be mainstream. It's then a small jump to wanting a third account, completely unconnected to your real name, for posting about delicate personal or workplace matters. I think it's helpful to know how not to accidentally connect accounts you wanted to keep separate.

3

If you use the same email address on two separate accounts, they might be merged.

There are a ton of factors involved here that determine whether or not a merge will happen, whether it will happen automatically or in response to someone clicking a button after the system suggests it should happen... But I'm not going to go into them because they might change and that's really too much to bother worrying about. The simple rule is:

If you want two separate accounts to stay separate, don't use the same email address for both of them, anywhere.

Not as your contact email, not for email notifications, not for newsletters, and certainly not in your credentials.

...That being said, you don't necessarily have to set up a new email address to have a separate account. Many email providers offer some mechanism for creating aliases or "disposable" email addresses - in Yahoo this is buried in the account settings, while for Google it's as simple as just appending +something to your account name in your address (so for example, shog+thisisanaccountfortesting@stackoverflow.com). You can then use this to create a separate SE account (using https://openid.stackexchange.com/ for the login provider) without worrying that the system will merge them.

Most of the folks who get into trouble doing this either don't keep their accounts separate (using one to vote on / comment on / answer the other's posts, etc.) or forget to log out of one before trying to log into the other. We don't provide very much explicit support for this, so if you think you're gonna use the same browser for both accounts you're gonna have to be really careful.

See also:

  • Is that last sentence a guarantee then? Something like "Using Google's 'plussing' system to create an unrelated account with an already-registered e-mail address, you may rest assured that the two accounts will not be associated except by your request"? Not that setting up throwaway e-mail accounts is such a big deal, but it would be nice to have that clarified. (For, uh, science. And sciency things. Also moneyz. Lots of moneyz. Did I mention science?) – Jonathan Garber Jul 24 '14 at 17:52
  • No guarantees, because there are still ways you can screw it up (and even more ways we can screw it up if you go and do something crazy that ends up flushing both accounts into the support queue) - but I'll assure you that if you stick to using separate credentials and separate email addresses, the system won't automatically merge your accounts - at that point, it's entirely on you to make sure you actually keep them separate, which isn't really something we can help you out with but also isn't really that hard if you're careful about it. – Shog9 Jul 24 '14 at 18:46
  • Another way to prevent same browser conflict is using private mode, either for both accounts or one of them. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jul 24 '14 at 18:54
  • @Shog9: Fair enough, I shouldn't have put it as "guarantee". Not really that different from anonymity elsewhere on the Internet, in other words. At least SE actively permits non-destructive multiplicity of accounts, even if it does mean the possibility of a higher support burden. – Jonathan Garber Jul 24 '14 at 19:48

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