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Back in May, I asked the CMs to require registration to participate on U&L, due to a rash of low-quality posts from unregistered accounts.

The moderation strike is over, and Charcoal has resumed operations, so I'm proposing that we revert this temporary change. Please post an Answer if you think we should keep this registration requirement -- either longer or permanently -- or drop this requirement (revert the earlier change).

I'll gather the community's consensus and update this post with any action(s) taken.

As of 2024-01-05, the voting on the two answers tilts towards keeping the registration requirement, so that's what we'll do!

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    I'd personally be in favour of keeping the restriction, as a way of reducing the noise. It's a hassle when users who never register start to provide edits to their questions in answers, and when multiple identically named (but different) accounts pop up, with users wondering why they can't edit things they've written. It also makes it more probable that answers are actually accepted by someone.
    – Kusalananda Mod
    Nov 29, 2023 at 16:18
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    I will second the opinion of keeping the restriction. Allowing unregistered accounts to post questions encourages new users to ask questions but never check on the answers and can let users have multiple accounts asking the same or similar questions repeatedly.
    – doneal24
    Nov 29, 2023 at 21:14
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    I would then second @doneal24 adding some additional disgrace : Not only unregistered users might never check on the answers but also they won't interact with our comments asking for extra details.
    – MC68020
    Nov 30, 2023 at 0:14
  • Given the conflicting two answers so far, I'll leave this open through the end of the year to see if there's any other feedback or perspectives.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Dec 21, 2023 at 18:35

2 Answers 2

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What's the benefit from lowering the barrier by removing the requirement to register? As far as I can tell, unregistered participation only seems to cause trouble - we have all seen quite a few users end up making multiple accounts while trying to edit their posts. And over on AU I still see and flag AI-generated posts once or twice a week. Unless there's some clear benefit to be had, I don't think we should lift this.

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  • Mainly because that's the way it used to be, and I framed it as a temporary change to combat a temporary problem. If the amount of trouble caused by unregistered accounts gets to be annoying again, we can always turn this flag back on.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Nov 29, 2023 at 14:38
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    @JeffSchaller I think muru is asking if there was a benefit in the change, in requiring registration. Not if there's a benefit in reversing it. He is pointing out that since we have required registration, more users have made multiple accounts to answer/edit their own posts created y an unregistered account. And Ask Ubuntu, which also requires registration, gets several AI posts despite this. So it looks like there's no real benefit to requiring registration. Right, muru?
    – terdon Mod
    Nov 29, 2023 at 16:00
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    @terdon no, the opposite. Before we required registration, it was a fairly regular occurrence that somebody would post with an unregistered account, wish to edit it and discover they couldn't because they lost their cookie and make another account to do so (sometimes multiple times). I don't think that has happened for a while. And while AU still gets a few posts here and there, but I shudder to think what would happen if we let the floodgates open.
    – muru
    Nov 29, 2023 at 19:51
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    My question is: what's the benefit in further lowering the already (IMO) minimal barrier to making posts? Doing so just because that's the way things used to be doesn't make sense.
    – muru
    Nov 29, 2023 at 19:53
  • @muru I wouldn't have got started with Stack Exchange if I couldn't contribute, unregistered, on Stack Overflow. The people in this discussion are, by selection, not going to be the people who'd take advantage of unregistered participation.
    – wizzwizz4
    Nov 30, 2023 at 23:42
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    @wizzwizz4 that was over 8 years ago. The internet of today is a different place.
    – muru
    Dec 1, 2023 at 0:25
  • Requiring registration is not a low barrier, it is a very, very high one. It is usually enough for me to refuse to use a service, for example. So I wouldn't call it minimal at all. It is already hard enough for new users to figure out our system and participate, why make it even harder?
    – terdon Mod
    Dec 1, 2023 at 13:00
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    @terdon really? Throwaway emails are extremely easy to make these days, Firefox even comes with a service for doing so. Password generators and managers are built-in to most browsers as well. So you can register without revealing any real personal information, without having to remember anything and possibly with just a few clicks.
    – muru
    Dec 1, 2023 at 13:20
  • Yes, really. If I don't want to keep participating and don't really need it, I will refuse to use it. It is more time than I'm willing to spend. Given how the network is dying, I figure any barrier to asking is a bad thing.
    – terdon Mod
    Dec 1, 2023 at 13:27
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    @terdon ah, but I don't really want to welcome people who post once and never come back to respond to comments for clarification, and as far as I can tell, people who do try to update their posts are more often confused by this "unregistered account" business than not (see aforementioned multiple accounts problem).
    – muru
    Dec 1, 2023 at 13:31
  • Well, actually, even those questions are useful: when they really do require more details, we can close, but others are OK and can still help future visitors.
    – terdon Mod
    Dec 1, 2023 at 13:39
  • @terdon to make it easier for you and Jeff, why not provide us some numbers? How many users over the past N years (say N=2) posted a first question or answer, and came back and did something with post (edit, comment, accept anything), how many of those were unregistered, and how many over the past 6 months did that?
    – muru
    Dec 1, 2023 at 13:39
  • Hmm, getting numbers is always good, but why would it matter whether the OP has interacted? The pertinent question is how many of those were good but even that isn't really what bothers me personally. The main issue for me is that the barrier to entry to SE is very high. We have all these weird rules and regulations, so making it even harder to ask by requiring registration seems like it only has downsides. Indeed, you yourself pointed out that AU, which does require it, you still see AI problems so it doesn't seem to matter.
    – terdon Mod
    Dec 1, 2023 at 14:04
  • @terdon if those were good, then they probably would have helped someone else, and in such cases, if the question didn't exist in the first place, that someone else may well post it instead, so it wouldn't matter. It would just be delayed instead. As for seeing AI problems, I really didn't expect such a lame argument from you, terdon. You are far too smart to go about equating occasional spam that got past basic controls with bot-driven spam flood that accompanies unrestricted posting. Seeing only an occasional drop of water from a taped-up leaky pipe doesn't justify ripping away the tape.
    – muru
    Dec 1, 2023 at 14:15
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    @muru I don't have a horse in this race, so my best reply is still "because that's how it used to be -- and presumably is the SE default for a reason". I'm posting here simply because my previous post described it as a temporary change, and there was some concern about a timeline. Separately, please see my edit to make sure I've captured your answer's intention correctly.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Dec 1, 2023 at 17:04
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I think we should allow unregistered users to ask questions, the way was until a few months ago. First, for me, it's a matter of principle: we shouldn't force people to give us emails or go through hoops in order to ask a question.

Second, I want it to be as easy as possible to ask given that everything else about the SE system is so very complicated and we have such a steep learning curve for new users. We, the entire network, are already in decline with far less participation than we used to have, so adding more barriers to entry seems counterproductive.

Granted, this might mean a few more bad questions but frankly, being registered doesn't mean you ask good questions. I am not convinced there is any direct link between quality and registration. I admit I don't have data on this, this is just my impression, but that is the impression I have.

On the whole, I would prefer to remove the requirement for registration and so lower the barrier of entry to the site.

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