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A user 'NEOatNHNG' just posted a question about the Careers: GitHub import stuck where he put a link to his Careers profile (it's fixed now) which was created by him using a 'custom URL' option given under the 'profile / privacy settings'. But the user did not know that he had to also make his profile 'Public' to be accessible which resulted into a 'broken link' and displayed the following error:

enter image description here

As per 'NEOatNHNG' comment: (Note user says 'published' but actually meant to say 'created')

I published the profile but was not aware that I also have to set it to public for it to be accessible. The original problem with the GitHub import still persists though.

I think it would be great if the current 'Page Not Found' message can be replaced with something that is more relevant e.g. 'Profile is Private' along with a short description and a possible link on how to make it 'Public' for the profile owner. This would certainly help.

I would also like to add ShadowWizard's comment:

simple enough to have a different view if viewing your own page or others view it. (i.e. only the user will see the "profile is set to private" message)

  • What if my profile is careers.stackoverflow.com/myunique-realname, and I don't want my current company to be able to tell I even have a profile? – Undo Sep 3 '15 at 21:32
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    @Undo simple enough to have a different view if viewing your own page or others view it. (i.e. only the user will see the "profile is set to private" message) – ShaWiz Sep 3 '15 at 21:36
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There's room for improvement here. My opinion (and this is a personal opinion, not a decision or a promise at this stage) is that the solution is not replacing the "page not found" message.

The issue here is a misunderstanding of the various settings we provide to give developers complete control over who views their information. There are actually several things that you can choose:

  1. Whether or not companies who purchase our candidate search product will see you in search results and can message you
  2. Whether or not your profile is indexed by search engines
  3. Whether or not any person can view your profile with your custom profile link

Item 3 in that list is the one we currently word as "make my profile public" and "make my profile private". The intention behind that setting is to allow users to share their profile (maybe, say, linking it from their personal website site, or attaching it to a job application) with any user, regardless of whether that intended viewer has an account on Careers. That can be completely independent of whether you want companies to view your profile in the candidate search database.

The place where I think we can improve is by clarifying the wording of each of these settings, and doing a better job of guiding users through the initial choice of preferences. If the root of the problem is that users don't know they have to change a setting to achieve their goal, we shouldn't be relying on them viewing their own public profile link; the much more common reason for viewing one's own profile via the public link is to see what it looks like to other people.

I think the "page not found" message for other people attempting to view a private profile is the best option, for the use case that Undo mentioned:

What if my profile is careers.stackoverflow.com/myunique-realname, and I don't want my current company to be able to tell I even have a profile?

  • +1 - I agree with you including what Undo's use case. But OP thought his profile was published after creating a custom URL and system also gives you success (green 'saved') message. I think this is where we need to do some improvisation. Since OP is currently logged in, upon clicking his custom URL, we can show him a "Profile is set to private" message along with a link on how to make it 'Public'. And, leave the current "page not found" message for other people attempting to view a private profile. – HackerKarma Sep 4 '15 at 2:16
  • What if it displays (for an existing profile) 'This profile is restricted' kind of a message instead of 'page not found' and also give an option to 'request access', like in google docs? – Rajeev Sampath Oct 25 '15 at 7:02
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I think this is by design. Trying to navigate to most pages that are off-limits to you results in a generic 404, rather than any kind of "forbidden" message. For example,

There are exceptions, such as private betas and 10K tools.

This practice was discussed in What is the reason behind marking forbidden pages as 404?

  • I agree (so +1) with you on the links shared but we could make an exception here just like the 'exception' mentioned in your post. Point to note here is 1) User is currently logged in SO Careers site 2) Just created a 'Custom URL' and system reserved it successfully. -- So, upon clicking on his newly created custom URL he should get some relevant message. Please see my updated question. – HackerKarma Sep 4 '15 at 1:35

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