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I'm just wondering why unregistered users are allowed to ask questions? And then I keep on wondering and think: Why are unregistered users allowed to answer questions?

IMHO it might be more adequate to have only registered users ask questions. The reasoning behind this is that we would have less fire-and-forget Q & As popping up and the quality of the questions might benefit from having to register.

I do however agree that having unregistered users answering questions could be a bit more beneficial for the community.

Similar question have been asked before in META:

Question: Encouraging users to create an account (and keep it)

I know SO's policy is "you don't have to register to ask questions," but there are so many new members and so many hit-and-runs... The majority of the questions I see now are coming from new users (i.e., it's their first question).

Answer:

I have decided this policy no longer makes sense, given a question volume of 4k-5k questions per day.

So from this point on, registration is required to ask questions (but not to answer).
answered Sep 23 '11 at 8:29 Jeff Atwood ♦

Question: Can unregistered users be blocked from answering on some sites?

A few years ago, a policy change was made so that unregistered users could no longer post questions, only answers. The reasoning given by Jeff Atwood for not requiring registration across the board makes sense...

Answer:

It's possible, or likely, that the benefits of getting people registered and answering with their "golden nuggets" and then more activity, outweighs the low risk of any potential loss of a "golden nugget" because they only want to post anonymously.

Question: Can we prevent some of the low-quality questions from entering our system?

Stack Overflow has been wildly successful. And maybe in some ways too successful.

I am concerned that Stack Overflow is being inundated by a stream of low-quality questions from users who are accidentally poisoning our well -- by turning off and turning away the core answerers who do all the real work in the system.

In theory there is "no such thing as a stupid question" but in practice, there are: •users who can't be bothered to form sentences •users who don't do the most basic kinds of research themselves •users who barely even explain what it is they are trying to do ...

Answer:

I think there are several things you can do, and they should all be taken as parts of a whole: They should be implemented together for full effect...

What is the stance here on DBA.SE? Should we only allow questions from registered users to uphold the quality of DBA.SE or should we leave it as it is?

My question is open for discussion.

5
  • 2
    What problem are you trying to solve? Are you saying that DBA.SE "is being inundated by a stream of low-quality questions"?
    – mustaccio
    Apr 12 '17 at 16:05
  • 2
    No. I would like to improve the procedure of asking questions before it gets really bad. I know you should "never change a running system", but there it also the idea of "preventing problems before they happen". A kind of pro-active approach.
    – John K. N.
    Apr 13 '17 at 5:33
  • 1
    There's a lot of assumptions here. Is there evidence that the quality of posts from unregistered users is qualatitively lower than that of users obliged to register? Apr 22 '17 at 12:33
  • 2
    Acknowledging this request is on the CM team's backlog, @PaulWhite, and we'll update y'all as soon as a CM gets assigned to dig into it.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Oct 8 '20 at 14:16
  • @JNat Thank you for the feedback.
    – John K. N.
    Oct 8 '20 at 21:21
18

From my own perspective of site moderation for a period of time now:

I can say my strong impression is that questions from unregistered users are much more often lower-quality, and not improved on request.

For example, it is common for someone to ask unregistered, then create an account. This results in a loss of control of the question - and e.g. answers that should have been question edits or comments on answers. While it is possible to merge accounts, the number of times this is completed successfully is relatively small.

More to the point: There is a growing number of users who have taken to posting low-quality content using a new unregistered account each time, with an obviously fake email address, and VPN. This makes it difficult to contact them privately, and for the system and moderators to take enforcement action when necessary.

It also clutters the site with duplicate/abandoned questions, which our close/delete process doesn't always do a good job of tidying up.

Overall, my current view is:

Database Administrators would be better off requiring registration to ask.

I don't see as much of a problem with answers contributed by unregistered users.


Being unable to ask a question without logging in is currently active for:

  • Ask Ubuntu
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Meta Stack Exchange
  • Movies & TV
  • Physics
  • Software Engineering
  • Stack Apps
  • Stack Overflow
  • The Workplace
  • All per-site metas
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  • What happens when a question is migrated from some other site to DBA.SE? The account/user is then kind of unregistered. What happens with that question? Is it displayed or locked until the user "registers"?
    – John K. N.
    Sep 1 '20 at 9:33
  • 1
    @Johnakahot2use "If the author of the question or any of its answers does not have an account on the target site, their username is displayed as plain text until they create an account." - from the FAQ. So yes it is displayed, and not locked.
    – Paul White Mod
    Sep 1 '20 at 10:05
7

Requiring a user to register doesn't actually add that big of a barrier for new users to ask questions and to provide answers. It also doesn't do much to encourage them to play by the site rules.

What DOES help is proper community interaction. Poking them to clean up their questions and informing them WHY their answer isn't a good answer, while maintaining a civil and polite tone, goes a lot further to helping new users adapt to the way we do things on SE.

A registration screen doesn't teach them how to use the site.

3

While unregistered users being able to answer is not a big barrier, we need to apply more security to avoid spamming.

Here, that will open gate for spammers, and we do not want any junk here...

Only account holders being able to ask and answer questions does make that process a bit safer, and avoids spamming to some extent. Or at least it makes it easier to remove users from the system.

3

Let us look at data:

questions by unregistered users by type

  • Unregistered users ask ~ 52 questions per month.
  • Almost half of all questions asked by unregistered users are either deleted, closed or negatively scored.

questions by registered vs unregistered users

  • At the same time, deleted, closed or negatively scored questions from unregistered users are only 9.6% of all deleted, closed or negatively scored questions on DBA per month.

We think that the requirement that people have an account to ask a question or post an answer is just another barrier to participate and we try to avoid it if possible. The general rule is to disallow unregistered users to post only in case of serious issues. For example, if there is someone deliberately posting low quality posts or spam in large amounts and we cannot block them by IP or somehow else.

Based on the numbers above, the quality of the questions asked by unregistered users could be higher. On the other hand, it is just a small fraction of all questions that require attention from the community. There is a possibility that disallowing unregistered users from posting may not lead to any tangible changes. Still, if the community thinks that we need to give a try, we can run an experiment and let us say for 45 days disallow posting for unregistered users, then measure the results.

Please let me know if you still want to run an experiment after looking at the data.

Update

The data above represents unregistered users but not deleted. The chart below shows the number of alive / deleted questions asked by now deleted users.

question by deleted users

Update 2

We agreed to disallow unregistered users to ask questions. At the same time we are going to keep an eye on data. We want to be sure that everything goes at least no worse than before disallowing. Also we want to leave a public artefact about decisions and whys behind them.

The metrics we will look at are:

  • Number of deleted, closed, and negatively scored questions. At the moment, low quality questions from unregistered users are the main concern. We will try to understand how the situation has changed after we disallow unregistered users to ask questions.
  • Number of questions from new users. It would be great to understand if users start registering to ask their questions.

The plan is to take a look at data before holidays and then during February.

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  • 3
    Are you counting questions/answers posted by unregistered accounts that were deleted/destroyed by moderators? As I said in my answer, "There is a growing number of users who have taken to posting low-quality content using a new unregistered account each time, with an obviously fake email address, and VPN. This makes it difficult to contact them privately, and for the system and moderators to take enforcement action when necessary." For more detail, pop into the site mod chat room chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/553. If you prefer, we can escalate each case to CMs on a ticket instead.
    – Paul White Mod
    Nov 3 '20 at 10:21
  • Public chat room for discussion: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/115780/…
    – Paul White Mod
    Nov 3 '20 at 11:14
  • 4
    After reading the numbers I still think that a reduction of 10% of closed / deleted / negatively scored questions would benefit the community and those working the queues.If somebody really wants an answer, then he/she/they should sign up with a valid e-mail address so that the community moderators can contact them if problems arise. Having anonymous questions isn't fun and sometimes are a waste of resources.
    – John K. N.
    Nov 3 '20 at 11:32
  • What other website, anywhere, for any purpose, allows you to not register to partake in their services? I cannot think of a single one. That registering would be a roadblock to asking questions would, in my mind, only dissuade those who are not serious about asking a real question. In other words, requiring registration would cause exactly the effect we're after, which is a reduction in the number of low-quality first-time questions that are, essentially, a waste of our precious users and moderators time.
    – Hannah Vernon Mod
    Nov 3 '20 at 13:47
  • @PaulWhite Thank you! I added a chart with questions asked by now deleted users (the original charts were without this group of users.
    – Nicolas Chabanovsky StaffMod
    Nov 3 '20 at 18:00
  • 3
    Especially given that this site is intended for a very niche field instead of the generously open Stack Overflow I think that having it be required is perfectly acceptable.
    – jcolebrand Mod
    Nov 3 '20 at 18:17
  • 2
    @NicolasChabanovsky The new chart is very hard to interpret. Why the huge drop in 2017? Is that questions from unregistered users only? Or both ureg'd and reg'd? It's also very hard to trust a graph without seeing the query it is based on (remember you are on dba). Also frustrating we can't run SEDE queries like this ourselves see e.g. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/196835/…
    – Paul White Mod
    Nov 4 '20 at 12:42
  • @PaulWhite This is the query: data.stackexchange.com/dba/query/1322518?period=month#graph Thought, public data dump does not contain deleted posts.
    – Nicolas Chabanovsky StaffMod
    Nov 4 '20 at 14:17

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