We've made some changes to profile editing. The TL;DR is:

  1. We now encourage users to set a name and picture during signup. If you sign up with Google or Facebook, we pull them in and let you edit them before you create an account.

  2. We've made editing your profile across multiple Stack Exchange sites easier:

    a. Profile editing now defaults to saving everywhere, and syncs much faster (<5 seconds, where before it would take up to 5 minutes)

    b. If you've customized your profile on different sites, you can now sync only your changes to all sites (so you can avoid overwriting customizations if you need to e.g. change your email address)

Now, a bit more detail and a quick word on why.

New User Signup

As part of our efforts to clean up the homepage of Stack Overflow, we noticed that a large percentage (~60%) of new users had no name or avatar -- the ubiquitous "user1859302". While this can be used as a signal of a low quality post, in general it's bad for the site because it makes it look like nobody cares, the opposite of an expert community. When they're common on the homepage or in search results, it becomes something of a broken window.

So, we now encourage users to set their username and avatar during signup. To make it even easier, if you sign up with Google or Facebook we'll pull in your name and picture and let you edit them before you create an account. Since we've turned them on, these changes have reduced the number of nameless users from about 60% to less than 3%.

Here's what it looks like, for the curious:


Note that we don't store your image unless you confirm that you want it, and you're free to change both the image and display name and go back to being "user19580329" if you really want.

Profile Editing

The old profile edit page gave you two options: save your profile for this site (the default) or copy all your changes everywhere in the network. This caused two problems:

  1. Most users didn't want to customize their profile on every site. The default was wrong, and the thing they wanted to do (just update it everywhere) was a big scary "Copy changes to all Stack Exchange sites" button.

  2. The users who did want to customize their profile, often didn't want to customize all of it, just one or two fields. If they ever accidentally clicked that "Copy changes..." button, it would blow away all their customizations.

So, we made it a bit more intelligent. Here's the original spec which basically outlines how it works:


Basically, the system now assumes that most users just want to have one profile everywhere and makes that the default. If you want to customize, it's now a bit easier to find and when you make changes only those changes will be copied everywhere so you don't have to worry about losing all your other customizations.

To make this even work, we fixed up the syncing process so that it happens nearly instantly across all the sites. This gets rid of the 5 minute delay when you save changes on one site before they show up across the network.

That's it! Try it out and let us know what you think.

Credit: m0sa on the profile editing and Anna Lear on the signup changes.

  • 4
    how does one go back to being "user19580329" if they want to? Screen shot shows "Joe User" but looking at it I can't figure how one would fall back to default if they wish
    – gnat
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 14:47
  • @gnat assuming you mean "...when signing up," if you're signing up with an SE auth (email and password) you just don't fill in the field, and you'll get assigned a "userXXXX" name. I think you can do the same thing when signing up up with google, FB, etc. by blanking the field, but I'd have to test to confirm.
    – Jaydles
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 15:06
  • @Jaydles thanks! Yes I am specifically interested in details of Google / FB signup, would appreciate if you test. Also if it indeed works that way (not quite obvious), I would consider adding tooltip like "clear the field to get default name user123456" (gee why I wonder about this kind stuff? only reason I can think of is I was UI tester once upon a time, old habits die hard:)
    – gnat
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 15:10
  • 17
    @gnat But why just accept the given user number? This is an opportunity to choose your own! Why be user589302 when you could be user007? Or user1000000! The possibilities are endless! Except not really since there's a max length. Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 15:19
  • 21
    David, I am disappointed to learn about max length. I wanted user314159265359141592653589793238462643383279 50288419716939937510...
    – gnat
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 15:31
  • 12
    Nice, but I'm afraid it doesn't help me. I have a customized “about me” field on some sites, and I'd like to update my default “about me” without affecting the sites where I've customized it. Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 17:15
  • 5
    I too would like a way to update the "About Me" on all sites that don't have a customized About Me.
    – nhinkle
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 18:43
  • If a nameless user has a default nameless name, does it make them not nameless at all? [insert thinking dinosaur.png here] Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 20:40
  • There is no spacing between the links now, is this by design? Any chance to add such spacing in such case, or fix if it's a bug? Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 21:26
  • 5
    Whoa... Capital letters? SE IS USING CAPITAL LETERS?!
    – bjb568
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 0:45
  • 6
    @gnat Why would anyone want to be a 62-digit approximation to pi that fails at the 11th decimal? :-)
    – Luis Mendo
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 22:55

3 Answers 3


You forgot one thing: allow birthdays before 1920/01/01 in the profile. Please consider allowing it, because my birthday is 1914/05/29.

And, by the way, are you planning to make the mobile version of profile editor?

  • 21
    That's a lot of Yearling badges
    – Bojangles
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 17:48
  • 43
    Happy 100! (Or is that just four in binary?) Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 19:58
  • 2
    How is that possible?
    – William
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 20:11
  • 20
    @WilliamDavidEdwards People that are older than the age of 94 isn't uncommon. Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 20:37
  • 13
    Wow, I have a lot of respect for you; I'm just 86 years younger than you...
    – user262481
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 23:33
  • 1
    @Derek朕會功夫 Wow. That's... special. I think he's the oldest member then?
    – William
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 5:53
  • 7
    We just +1ed to show our respect. :)
    – SMR
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 7:04
  • 4
    If only we could get to a hundred votes.
    – cubecubed
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 2:24
  • 1
    @AffableGeek Yes, happy 100!
    – nicael
    Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 21:37
  • 1
    Wait, you're joking, right? I mean... you certainly are, I suppose? Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 9:51
  • 2
    @CamiloMartin What makes you think that I am joking? It is a known fact that I am 100 yo.
    – nicael
    Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 9:58
  • 1
    @nicael I've seen people half your age which think they're too old to use a computer (e.g., facebook is too hard), and barely understand concepts like "you have to remember that password you chose before", then you come along and reply in 7 minutes on Meta Stack Exchange. If you're really of that age, I wish I could visit to bake you cookies. Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 10:11
  • @nicael Awesome, keep it up! :) You're really setting an example. Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 10:59
  • 2
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centenarian 82.8% of people over 100 are female. Uncommon outside Japan. Are you a Japanese woman? ;) Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 7:12
  • hopes that @Jeff can't read my mind :D
    – nicael
    Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 8:49

Can I please have a button to copy changes to all sites I haven't customized?

The reason I ask for this is because I have (partially) customized "about me" text on a few sites. Currently, to preserve those customizations when editing my default "about me" text, I need to:

  1. remember which sites I had customized my "about me" text on,
  2. open the profile editor in a new tab for all those sites,
  3. edit my default profile (on some site I haven't customized) and copy the changes to all sites, and
  4. re-save the customized "about me" text, possibly after some manual editing, on all the sites where I wasn't using the default.

This is, honestly, a pain in the ass. When I started reading the post above, I was really happy, because I thought the new features described there would solve that problem. Alas, they don't seem to: I can still only change my "about me" text either on just one site, or on all of them.

In fact, let me go a little bit further. What I'd really want to have is a place (say, my network profile on stackexchange.com) where I can set up a default profile that automatically gets shown on all SE sites, except for those where I've customized it. That is, the display logic should work like this:

  • Have I entered a custom value for this field on this site? If yes, show that.
  • Else, have I entered default value for this field in my network profile? If yes, show that.
  • Else show nothing.

Also, when editing a per-site profile, there should be a way (say, a link/button) to reset a particular field to the "default" state. (This probably should be a distinct state from "empty", since I might want to hide a particular default value on some sites. That said, if this would be prohibitively difficult to implement, I could live without it.) When editing, the default state should be visually distinct in some way; for example, the default content of the field could be styled as gray "placeholder" text.

Also, obviously, there would need to be some kind of an "edit default profile" link on the per-site profile editing page, so that users can easily discover this feature. It would also be nice if, when editing the default profile, any fields that I've customized on some site would have a small notice about that, and maybe some way to easily reset those customizations.

  • 1
    Too many buttons! Just pop up a window with a list of sites, by default all are checked. A button to select all, deselect all, and select uncustomized.
    – bjb568
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 0:47
  • 4
    @bjb568 1 or two more buttons is too many, but a checklist of 131 sites is perfect? Seems like opposite world.
    – hichris123
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 1:27
  • @hichris123 Well, awkward looking buttons with too much text seems definitely wrong…
    – bjb568
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 1:33
  • 1
    This is exactly what I have been looking for on Stack Exchange since not long after joining
    – shea
    Commented Sep 27, 2014 at 4:36

It would be nice to know a bit more about the technical side of how this works, and whether it might discourage new users from signing up with OpenID. Presumably when you attempt to sign up with Google or Facebook now, you'll get a prompt that the SE site you're signing up on wants to see not just your email address, but also your real name and profile picture (and possibly other data). Is this correct? Is there a way for users to sign up using OpenID while opting out of this information sharing, without having to trust that SE is going to do the right thing and discard the data if the user chooses not to use it?

  • IIRC, OpenID providers are supposed to already provide this "no, don't share thanks" functionality, putting that responsibility on the provider's side, not the consumer's side. Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 19:44
  • So users can opt out on the provider side without the consumer rejecting the whole signup/login attempt? Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 20:06
  • Yeah, user data is an optional/extra part of the provider's response, not required for a successful authentication. Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 20:23
  • Google also has sort of a "one-size fits all" policy here which means that if we request email address (which we need), we are also requesting a bunch of profile information. So it doesn't actually show any different on the permission screen. Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 21:10
  • 1
    @DavidFullerton: Every time I've signed up for an SE site via Google OpenID, the confirmation page from Google has listed my email address as the only item the site is requesting to see. No mention is made of real name or other profile information. Are you saying now that SE is requesting more, Google will automatically group it together and won't let users opt out of sharing individual items? Or that it was always included and Google is just failing to tell users that other information will be shared? Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 2:12
  • 1
    @R.. See meta.stackexchange.com/a/234515/146719 and stackoverflow.com/questions/24410179/…. You likely remember the old OpenID prompt, which Google deprecated and forced us to OAuth2. We only get what is publicly visible on your Google+ profile, so if you don't have one or it's not public, we don't get it. Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 12:37
  • I see. Not having Google+ is probably why I've never seen any of that. Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 15:52

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