If you are a registered user logged onto the SE network, say to UX.SE, you have a user account with reputation and badges, etc. When you go to check out another SE site (cooking.SE for instance), at this moment, you'll be treated as if you were a new user.

Do you think that a registered user should be treated as a new user when visiting another site?

Edit I'm not an advocate for automatic user account creation. I think a 'visitor' role would be a good idea. When a registered user goes to another site, he/she will have a username and a 'create account' link or something. No reputation, no badges, but yes a username and a single click to create the account. The visitor can remain 'anonymous' to the new site, but the site does know he/she exists as a registered user somewhere else.

Disclaimer I've posted a very clumsy question about that on MSO.

  • I think this is answered as appropiate to your question at MSO. It is even explained why it is like it is, and that your request is declined.
    – awe
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 11:21

4 Answers 4


Absolutely not. In fact, at my organization, I just used the StackExchange network as an example of a bad implementation of a user account system. I understand why it's implemented the way it is (due to the network originating as an outgrowth of SO), but for the user, it is very confusing.

A registered user of one site should absolutely be recognized as a network user on another site. While it is acceptable to have the user create a site-specific sub-account, this should be an easy process for already logged-in users. When the user goes to post a question, vote, or post an answer, they should get a lightbox popup with a customized message, e.g.:

Hey Daniel Newman (not you?),

Welcome to UX.StackExchange.com. To post, vote, and comment here, you need to create a site specific account -- but don't worry; it's easy!

Create an account based on my Stack Exchange network account »
Sign out of my network account and create a new account »

(This would need to be wordsmithed to be implemented, but you get the idea.)

To develop a fully-fleshed out solution, I'd have to be privy to the details of the SE network's ID system implementation. It's be really easy to screw it up otherwise. Here's one of my favorite stories of a single-sign on system gone wrong (from UXMatters).

  • Don't agree. When I follow a link to another stackexchange site, I do not want to have an account created for me automatically. That would add it to my network profile and that is something I do not want to have "edited" by casual visits to sites I may never visit again. Plus the single sign-in when I do choose to add an account on another sites, makes it a pretty painless process. Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 6:12
  • @Marjan, I'm talking about a 'visitor' role, not automatic account creation.
    – GUI Junkie
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 10:43
  • @Marjan, Right, I'm proposing a "known visitor" role (a GUI Junkie mentioned) that makes it easier for users to get started. Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 14:37
  • @Daniel: yeah, see that now. Missed it at first reading, sorry. Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 18:59
  • For your info, I just created a discussion on MSO about this.
    – GUI Junkie
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 21:47

The thing to remember with Stack Exchange is that an expert in UX is not necessarily an expert in Cooking (to use the two sites from your question).

This means that there is nothing about the UX user (apart from the user entered details) that can be transferred to the new site. Your reputation and badges here have no meaning there.

Therefore the system creates a new but linked account on the new site when you register and (if you have enough experience here) a reputation boost to the new account. You must prove yourself to be an expert in the new field - to all intents and purposes you are a new user.

  • 1
    I fell foul of something on SE that I should have checked out first which is that different sites have different rules (as part of their faq) - in particular what makes a valid question. I recently blundered over to English.SE and asked a question that I thought was ok, and in a similar fashion as I would here on UX.SE, but it got closed within minutes because it wasn't about english language usage. I then realised that, well actually yes, I am a new user here! Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 10:56
  • Chris, as commented above, I sustain nothing of the sort. I'd like to have a visitor role. No badges, no reputation, just your name or nick and the possibility to create an account with one click.
    – GUI Junkie
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 21:57

Consistency is the point here. You're asking 2 questions at the same time:

  1. should users have the same preferences/profile/reputation/badges accross the SE network, and
  2. how should the login experience look like?

The first question rather belongs to meta (and is discussed over there). Being given that StackExchange decided for seperated, but linked user accounts, the current user experience reflects that: it's between simply logging in and registering a new account.

So I don't see a need to change it: if it was possible to simply log in, the user would wonder why you don't have the same profile over here.

  • giraff, please look at my comment to Chris.
    – GUI Junkie
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 22:00

When you create a new user, you will automatically be connected to you other sites if you use the same openID. If you also have more than 200 rep on another site, you will also get 100 start rep on the new site. This is enough to remove the basic limitations that are related to the basics of how a SE site works. Other limitations will be related to the topics of the site, and you will have to prove your rights for each site. This has to do with trust within a group, not knowledge of how a community works.

As ChrisF say in his answer:

You must prove yourself to be an expert in the new field - to all intents and purposes you are a new user.

Personally, I think the system here works very well.

  • awe, read my comment to Chris, please.
    – GUI Junkie
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 21:58

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