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Since 2012, unregistered users (users who haven't explicitly signed up for the site) have been prevented from asking questions (not answering questions) on this site. This block was implemented because a very large percentage of questions asked by new users were of low quality or off-topic.

However, this was back before the major re-scoping of this site from Programmers to Software Engineering. Back in 2012, many users who had asked off-topic questions on Stack Overflow would be directed to ask their question here because of the existing question base on this site and its general perception as a "subjective" site. However, after the major re-scoping, this is no longer the case.

The Stack Exchange team generally prefers that the settings to block unregistered users from making posts not be set unless absolutely required (e.g. too many low-quality questions getting asked), to ensure the site remains inclusive. Looking through the questions asked by new users, most appear to be in scope for the site.

In my opinion, most of the problems that resulted in many new users asking low-quality or off-topic questions have mostly been resolved, mainly as a result of the site scope change. I also no longer see Stack Overflow users directing users to this site.

Is it still necessary to continue blocking unregistered users from asking questions here? Does the community still consider the percentage of low-quality questions asked by new users to be high enough to warrant continuing to block unregistered users?

(I'm asking this as I'm updating the general network list of sites requiring registration to ask or answer questions so each one has a link to the relevant meta post. I noticed that the post for this site is from 2012 and possibly outdated. Notice that very few sites are on that list; the vast majority of sites on the network do not require registration to make posts.)

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My initial gut reaction would be that it is still necessary. I'd have to dig and look at the hard data, but we do get a good number of off-topic posts from people who went through the hurdles of creating an account here. The reason that you don't see them is that we aggressively delete them, either through moderator action or with 3 user delete votes. Deleting them keeps them off the homepage, so it doesn't become cluttered with closed off-topic posts for our registered users.

I do think that SO users have gotten better about directing people here, but I'm not sure there's enough data to warrant making the change regarding registered users.

If staff wanted to run an experiment, it would have to be a fixed timebox experiment and we'd have to make sure we had accurate before and after data regarding questions, close reasons, deletions, and who was making them.

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  • An experiment sounds like a nice idea. I'm wondering what the percentage would be compared to the 2012 numbers.
    – gparyani
    Oct 10, 2022 at 23:27
  • @gparyani Yeah. I'd want to see if the community was open to an experiment, but having data from ~2012, now, and during an experiment window is needed.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Oct 10, 2022 at 23:33
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    For what it is worth I am willing to give it a trial. Its been a decade now so it is possible we may not see a problem.
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Oct 12, 2022 at 15:09
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    stats as of 2016 suggest that 20-25% of total questions here are from folks trying to circumvent a block at Stack Overflow. Wonder how much they will be inclined to (ab)use unregistered accounts for this purpose
    – gnat
    Oct 15, 2022 at 14:55
  • @gnat The site was still known as Programmers at the time. The scope change to Software Engineering may have changed up things.
    – gparyani
    Dec 8, 2022 at 19:19
  • @gparyani maybe. We can tell if SE developers re-check how these stats look currently
    – gnat
    Dec 8, 2022 at 19:22
  • @ThomasOwens: I see you added the [status-review] tag to this question recently; could you clarify what exactly the request is here? It's not obvious from the title of the post, especially given an answer that argues against changing the current setting.
    – V2Blast
    Jan 23, 2023 at 18:30
  • @V2Blast It feels like it may be necessary, but if there is time and ability of the staff to support an experiment to collect data, that would be beneficial. I don't think we have hard data at this point.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Jan 23, 2023 at 21:54

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