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Update: We just (3/25/2022) received confirmation that, in response to this post, SE will turn off unregistered posting on the site starting later today.


When I first learned about the concept of an "unregistered user", I was surprised that such a thing is allowed. The benefit seems to be that it lowers the barrier to entry, so that more people can ask questions. However, we're not really experiencing any benefit from this. The vast, vast majority of our users are registered, and those that are unregistered tend to ask extremely low quality questions, and often come to us complaining later that they want to merge their two or three unregistered accounts into another registered account, at which point not even our diamond moderators can do anything, and we need to direct them to ask the CM team to merge the accounts (and the CM team has a large volume of work to do, and therefore can take a long time to respond, at least to every issue I've ever addressed to them).

Somehow recently, we went from having <1% of our accounts unregistered, to having 3 out of our last 10 new accounts unregistered: An unusual pattern of unregistered users?

Do we want to deal with the headache of trying to figure out why that is? Or should we follow Mathematics.SE, Physics.SE, ElectricalEngineering.SE, AskUbuntu, StackOverflow, etc., and just ban them from asking questions?. The few unregistered accounts we have had answering questions, were people that I or Cody asked to answer questions, and they would have registered accounts if they had to. So I don't think we need unregistered users answering questions either. Only Meta.SE and Workplace.SE and all Meta sites ban answers from unregistered users, and I can understand that if some expert sees a question and can answer it, but they don't want to register, we could benefit from allowing them to answer, but it's also pretty much never happened and with our 92% answered rate right now, I don't think we need to deal with the headache of not being able to track those users as easily (e.g. they don't appear in all the searches and reputation/voting/editing tables in which other users appear).

Please let us know if you would like us to ask the SE staff to ban unregistered users from:

  • asking questions
  • answering questions
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  • $\begingroup$ I created my SE account significantly recently. That too was because I was trying to find the solution to a problem which I couldn't solve through published literature (my usual go to approach until recently). So wouldn't it be highly unlikely that an expert in the field (who is not on SE) would randomly search something and get led to an SE site, where he can answer the question? Is there a way to check the statistics of good answers being written by unregistered users (not limited to MMSE)? $\endgroup$
    – PBH
    Jan 14 at 9:57
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    $\begingroup$ @PBH rounded to the nearest integer, it's 0% on MMSE, out of our 3700+ users and 2500+ answers. I'm not sure about other sites. $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Tyberius Does your adding of the status-review tag mean that you escalated this to the CMs? Should we try to get more people to write answers first, so that it doesn't look like it's just you and me and some voters that could have come from anywhere? $\endgroup$ Jan 18 at 1:13
  • $\begingroup$ @NikeDattani adding the tags puts it in a queue for them, I don't know how soon they will see it. More answers would be great, though we have rarely gotten more than 1-2 on Meta. if people who have already voted could at least comment as well, that would probably make for a decent show of support. $\endgroup$
    – Tyberius Mod
    Jan 18 at 1:55

2 Answers 2

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I would support this for answers and questions. An inordinately large proportion of the moderation activity on the site has been towards unregistered users, whether that is to format or generally clean up lower quality posts or to direct users to merge accounts when they inadvertently create multiple unregistered/registered accounts. I think the barrier to entry for the site would still be pretty low with this change, but blocking unregistered users would be a good low level filter for blocking out spam and low quality questions/answers.

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Late to see this post, but my opinion would be to ban only unregistered questions, and not answers. The reason is precisely the one you mentioned in the question. Experts may answer a question without registering, and I suspect this would become more prevalent as the site grows. Asking people to register before answering might make us lose a few of them. Additionally, most other sites do not prevent unregistered answers, so clearly it is not that much of a problem.

Banning questions from unregistered users seems quite reasonable, as someone would only ever ask a question if they wanted to find out the answer to it. Asking an anonymous question and then leaving means that the question is forgotten anyway.

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    $\begingroup$ I see your points. Unfortunately unregistered accounts are much harder to track or to track down. For example searching FrankNeese here gives zero results. Luckily I have a good enough memory to remember that it was your question that he answered, so I looked at your profile, clicked "all tags", then searched for "orca" and unfortunately couldn't find anything. Then I looked at the whole "orca" tag itself and found that you did in fact ask a question that he answered: mattermodeling.stackexchange.com/q/4319/7. $\endgroup$ Feb 1 at 0:48
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    $\begingroup$ Forcing him to sign up before answering would have avoided this problem of not being able to find his answer, and I think the number of useful answers that we have got (and will get) from unregistered users who would not otherwise answer if they needed to sign up is close to 0.000%. If you want to participate in almost anything, you have to sign up. It's a fact of life. We currently have a 94+% answer rate, which is the highest for all science sites, and we have one of the lowest closure rates (in fact we pretty much only close questions when the OP seems not to care about the Q anymore). $\endgroup$ Feb 1 at 0:51
  • $\begingroup$ @NikeDattani I edited your first comment to include the link to that question (initially it was a second link to the user page). Let me know if that was intended and I can reset the comment. $\endgroup$
    – Tyberius Mod
    Feb 1 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Tyberius your edit seems correct! Also, orca comes up in the second page of tags in SR Matiti's profile (I didn't see that when I wrote my first comment). $\endgroup$ Feb 2 at 14:42

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