This is a follow-up question to Why do user pages not show up when searching through user pages? where KennyTM pointed out that the user in question isn't registered and therefore can't be found.

This raises the question, why is a user who has answered questions, and has a user page, not findable through the user search?

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    @random: You do use a strange lorem ipsum. – sbi Dec 15 '10 at 2:05
  • I regret that I can't see more of @random's activity feed. – Andrew Grimm Dec 15 '10 at 6:59
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    If this is the case then why can I search for bjarne and see this user - I have asked the same question on the answer provided by KennyTM – codingbadger Dec 15 '10 at 7:39

Yep, I think it should show up too. It's especially weird since unregistered users do show up when you navigate through /users pages. I can't see the point of not having them show up in search (it can be confusing; I remember getting confused once long ago).

If they are not supposed to show up in search, it's better to remove them from /users altogether.

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I don't know why, but my WAG is that indexing and/or returning results for unregistered users was removed for performance reasons. As an optimization it makes a good deal of sense because:

  1. there are likely to be many more unregistered users than registered ones1, and

  2. it seems unlikely that searching for unregistered users will turn up any useful results.

It seems possible that the new search engine will allow performant searches of unregistered users. But will it be worth whatever extra cost that implies? Without knowing the cost-side of the equation (we need a Stack Exchange developer to look into that), we can only consider the possible benefits: why would such a search be useful?

I can think of two use cases:

  1. Find a post from an unregistered user whose name you happen to know.

    Perhaps the name was memorable or because you know it from some context outside the site. For instance, I know that Tommy Wasserman, a foremost expert on the New Testament book of Jude, provided an an answer on Biblical Hermeneutics. However, a search of users turns up nothing.

  2. Find all the unregistered users with the same name.

    When you think about it, this is a sort of subset of the first case. I've noticed a fellow on Biblical Hermeneutics who starts a new unregistered user to ask a question or two before taking an extended break. He goes by Radz Brown or something. Again, the name does not turn up in the user search or even a full text search of the site.

Google to the rescue

Thankfully, Google doesn't ignore unregistered users. So I can find Tommy Wasserman's post (and any posts that reference his work) and all of Radz' unregistered users. Unlike the built-in search, Google doesn't know that I'm just interested in user profiles, so we get all the various places each unregistered user shows up: badge lists, question lists, tagged questions, answer bodies, and etc. But we can narrow the search down:

site:[site_name].stackexchange.com/users "User Name"

That gives us just the users who have that particular name.

Rather than expand the built-in search, perhaps it would make sense to link to the Google search when a search for an unregistered user comes up empty.


1. This conjecture is hard to prove without being able to search unregistered users.

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    Just a FYI: as a moderator on BH, you have access to a tool that'll search all accounts, reg and unreg, by name / email / credentials / worst fears / whatever. Useful for handling type-2 situations. – Shog9 Jun 17 '13 at 23:32

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