A few years ago, a policy change was made so that unregistered users could no longer post questions, only answers. The reasoning given by Jeff Atwood for not requiring registration across the board makes sense...

I found in my years of blogging at Coding Horror that the value of one person happening by with some gold nugget of absolutely the right information you need vastly outweighs the cost of ongoing moderation of anonymous posts.

...for sites like Stack Overflow, Super User, and Server Fault, as well as a couple others. It can absolutely happen that a random person can drop by, see a question they know the answer to, write it out real quick, and drop it on the question to the great benefit of the asker.

As a moderator of Christianity.SE...this doesn't happen. The community's standards have evolved since the early days so that answers are expected to be substantial and have support and references. The VAST majority of unregistered-user answers that I have seen have some combination of the following problems:

  • not an answer (at all)
  • not an answer (wrong scope/perspective)
  • poorly written and/or formatted
  • no support or references
  • treating SE like a forum

It's bad enough that when I'm going through flags, if I see a user has 1 reputation, I look at their profile to see if they're unregistered. If they ARE unregistered, I am far more likely to just delete their answer (with a comment explaining why), especially if they haven't been around for more than a day, because I don't expect them to come back and fix the issues with their answer(s). If they are registered, I am much more reticent to take such actions.

In short, I understand Jeff Atwood's reasoning, and I acknowledge it works fine for technical sites. For a site like Christianity.SE, I honestly think that an unregistered user will practically never contribute a good answer. There's, well, pretty much no such thing as "absolutely the right information" on a site that is scholarly in nature. In theory, I do see that there could be such questions like "What work does this citation, <cryptic letters>, refer to?" that could in theory be answered perfectly by an unregistered user. However, in practice, such questions are extremely rare, and rarer still would be that a random person would just happen to know the answer.

My solution would be to enforce registration for questions and answers on some sites, like Christianity.SE. I honestly don't know how feasible this would be technically, and I understand if it's an unreasonable request. However, this issue has been bothering me for a few months now, and requiring registration would go a long way towards keeping average content quality high.

tl;dr: I believe that with some sites, the chance of some person happening by with a "gold nugget" of just the right information is practically zero, so there is a net detriment to allowing anonymous posts.

  • 4
    The site you're posting this on requires registration to answer...
    – Shog9
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 5:10
  • 6
    @Shog9: Ah, didn't know that. Still, MSE could be considered a "special" site in a sense. That does address the technical aspect though, so thank you for that! Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 5:12
  • while i can totally understand and get behind the reasoning behind your post, i'm not sure it's actually attacking the problem from the right angle. I.SE also gets a lot of problematic first posts like you're describing here, but from registered and unregistered users alike: I'm not convinced that just enforcing registration would really make a huge difference.
    – goldPseudo
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 7:02
  • 2
    If MSE has this already, it seems like a no-brainer to me. It certainly won't solve the problem of bad first posts (nothing ever will), but it'll help at least a little and has no real downside for sites like this.
    – Ixrec
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 7:08
  • Yes, I think we can enforce users to signup for posting answers on religious sites.
    – Pandya
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 11:02

2 Answers 2


This feature exists — to SE staff developers, not directly to site moderators, and has never been turned on permanently for any network site.

Narrowly construed, this feature technically exists. For example, as of this writing, that is the actual state for the general Meta and Workplace sites. However, various comments by SE staffers (see below, here, and here) indicate that (a) it's not a power granted to individual site moderators ("Moderators do not have this ability but they can request that it be turned on - but we would require a strong argument for it", SE Community Manager Catija), and (b) it has never been turned on permanently for any network site ("We've yet to encounter circumstances that would cause us to consider a scenario where the setting would be enabled permanently", SE developer Tim Post).

In short, per the SE Community Manager: "it is possible, we just almost never do it" (Catija).

Now personally, I am convinced by the OP's arguments, and I feel that this is an ongoing mistake by the SE network in general, so I've made a request that site moderators be given full authority to shut off anonymous answers on a permanent basis (here). Note that question was at one point marked as a duplicate of this one, but based on SE staff comments drawing a sharp distinction between the two questions, that one was reopened. (Personally I was surprised by that interpretation, as the (a) freedom of choice by site moderators, and (b) permanent prohibition seemed clearly implicit in the current question -- but SE staff seem to disagree, hence the two separate questions.)

  • This isn't exactly correct. We almost never turn answer blocks on permanently and you can see that this "feature" existed before this question was ever asked - the answer you link to was written in 2014 and the comments on this very question already indicate that it's possible... we only use it in very extreme situations and it's nearly always temporary.
    – Catija
    Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 16:41
  • 2
    @Catija: I would love to see a clear statement someplace from SE on exactly what the feature status is and how it's used. What you're saying contradicts other comments I've received today. Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 16:45
  • Can you point out what is being contradictory? It's only currently active on two sites - MSE itself and The Workplace. It was added - temporarily - on TWP at my request because there was a troll filling the site with obscene images.
    – Catija
    Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 16:50
  • 1
    Catija is correct. I've been involved in abuse mitigation for the last 6 years and we only flip that setting on in extreme cases where someone (or something) is flooding a site with spam, harassment or gibberish. We've yet to encounter circumstances that would cause us to consider a scenario where the setting would be enabled permanently.
    – user50049
    Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 16:53
  • @Catija: The top (and top-voted) comment on the other question that you responded to says, "The feature you're requesting already exists, and is in use on one main Q&A site in the network... Whether to enable it on one site or another is a matter that should be discussed on that site's meta", which sounds like it's a capacity given to individual site moderators. Is that not the case? meta.stackexchange.com/questions/349757/… Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 16:57
  • @TimPost: I will point out that in the context of this current question from 2015 (of which my feature-request yesterday was marked as duplicate), no suggested answer was given against making this feature available to individual sites. Perhaps an SE staffer can post a clear answer here about what the capacity or policy is for community voting. Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 17:02
  • @El'endiaStarman: You may wish to consider de-selecting this answer as the selected one, since my initial answer was exactly the opposite of the actual situation today (see comments, strikethroughs, and edit). Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 2:50
  • Just FYI, when I made the comment that enabling that feature would have to be discussed on the per-site meta, I did not say that it could be enabled by local moderators; rather, that it would have to be discussed on the site meta first. The actual physical act of enabling it would have to be done by an SE employee. My point was, the SE team generally does not impose site-specific changes on sites without the consensus of that site's members, so they'd have to come to a consensus first. Just clarifying. Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 3:24
  • Moderators have almost no control over the settings of the sites they moderate. They can edit copy in a few places but that's about it. All settings for the sites are managed by the company but the moderators and users on sites can request that we change the site settings - which we sometimes do. With your edit, I think you're confusing your request with the one here... this request does not in any way ask that a moderator be able to turn it on and off... it only asks that it be possible to have it blocked - and it is possible, we just almost never do it.
    – Catija
    Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 3:30
  • 2
    @Catija: This is the single most unclear series of communications I've ever seen from any interactions in my years on SE. I will ask again for a clear statement, in an easily referenced location, from the SE network. Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 13:51
  • 1
    @DanielR.Collins: Technically, this is the answer to my question. Unregistered users can be blocked from answering on a per-site basis. SE just won't do it in general though without strong impetus from the community. Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 17:58
  • 1
    @El'endiaStarman: Out of curiosity, did your question originally conceive of a temporary or a permanent ban on anonymous answers? (Because the staff also seem to see a key distinction there as well.) Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 22:26
  • Strike out is a poor form of revision history. The current version ought to be as if it was written now. Commented Jun 24, 2020 at 11:56
  • 2
    @DanielR.Collins At the time I asked the question, I was definitely thinking about permanent bans on anonymous answers. I posted this question four years after becoming mod on C.SE and crap anon answers came in fairly regularly throughout that time.. Commented Jun 24, 2020 at 22:29
  • 1
    @El'endiaStarman: Thanks. That's what I thought, but the company staff don't seem to be interpret your question the same way I did. Commented Jun 24, 2020 at 22:38

Jeff did it a certain way based on the circumstances at the time, but 4 years have passed by since then and so we have to consider if the sites and user base(s) has grown and changed to the point where there is no benefit from allowing anonymous answers.

Maybe this is very site specific based on niche rather than size. This is a valid consideration, as certain niches (such as sensitive topics) could attract anonymous users more than others.

tl;dr: I believe that with some sites, the chance of some person happening by with a "gold nugget" of just the right information is practically zero, so there is a net detriment to allowing anonymous posts.

This is speculation, but in the absence of facts/stats I agree.
It might have been the case years ago with a lot less users etc, but not necessarily the case now. Since 4 years ago, we have a lot more users.
We also have more sites in the network, and the sites can generate traffic to each other, from related topics, common/popular interest overlaps, the "Hot network" list, etc. More traffic means potentially more answers.


So a potential loss of an anonymous "golden nugget" is rare because it has to specifically be the scenario whereby:

  1. A user has an answer that would be a great loss if they could not post it
  2. And, as a non-user they understand what makes a great answer and so post a well written, well formatted (etc) answer
  3. And they would not otherwise sign up to post the answer
  4. And other registered users have not already posted a good or great answer which covers at least most of what the anonymous would have been

On busy sites, I think we have enough users now that it would be quite rare for the above scenario to play out.

And on smaller sites (including betas and Area51), and the rarity of this aside, I think we should be enticing users to register by not allowing anonymous posting, in the attempt to get multiple "good" answers rather than just one "great" answer from a passer by.

Need stats

However, without hard stats we're speculating and guessing too much, and stats would show if there has been any great answers posted by anonymous users recently, and potentially based on specific site(s) and niche(s).

Such as what percentage of total anonymous answers:

  • Are not deleted
  • Didn't need a substantial edit to make "great"
  • Have a positive score
  • Have a score greater than other answers on the same question
  • Is the only answer, is upvoted, and X time has passed by


I'm not the best person to get such stats, however.


Some good stats are very much needed here to provide facts, so we can remove speculative theories and weigh up the pros and cons.

It's possible, or likely, that the benefits of getting people registered and answering with their "golden nuggets" and then more activity, outweighs the low risk of any potential loss of a "golden nugget" because they only want to post anonymously.

  • 4
    Emphatically agreed on the stats. Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 9:46
  • 4
    The stat I would like to see is how many currently productive registered users started out their user life-cycle with a post as an unregistered visitor.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 13:00

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .