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Can I sign up for all currently existing StackExchange sites, or am I supposed to sign up or create accounts for ones I'll be active on?

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You can do whichever you prefer. You'll have to sign up for each site individually and there's no particular benefit to having an account on a site you don't participate on, so in my experience most people don't create an account on a site until they need to. But "need" can be anything from asking or answering a question to flagging something to favoriting a question. I once created an account because I wanted to bookmark (i.e. favorite) a question on their meta.

Accounts that have 1 reputation and no participation get automatically deleted after a while (six months? a year?). So if you create such accounts and never use them you mind find that they've gone away, but if so you can just recreate them. The association bonus protects you from this.

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    If you have the association bonus these profiles are permanent, since one of the criteria for user deletion is that the profile only has 1 reputation. – animuson May 12 '16 at 3:52
  • @animuson thanks for the correction! I'll edit. – Monica Cellio May 12 '16 at 12:29

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