SE sites used to allow anyone to ask questions in guest mode, with a user name of the form userXXXXX . See this question. This is particularly valuable for sites which often involve legal or interpersonal issues; I was going to ask such a question this morning.

That is why I learned that, if you go to academia.SE in incognito mode and attempt to ask a question you will now see this screen:

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Moreover, the site will not simply let you create an account with a fake e-mail address, but will send a confirmation e-mail to the address you enter, so you need an actual throw away.

I am annoyed. While it is obviously possible to get a throw away e-mail and set up a throw away account, this is adding extra hurdles. Was this really necessary to keep out spam?


3 Answers 3


Not a full explanation, but some general information:

  • This is a site-specific setting.
  • This was activated earlier this year and successfully put an end to a very annoying spam wave. So, it was arguably necessary at the time.
  • Whether this is still necessary now is up to debate and something we will naturally only truly know after deactivation.
  • A welcome side effect of this was that it reduced other unwelcome contributions.
  • Naturally, it’s difficult to estimate to what extent this reduced welcome contributions.

I initiated a discussion with the other mods and CMs as to whether we want to change this setting.

Mind that we will likely not just put this up to a vote here on meta, because you (the community) do not have access to a considerable amount of information factoring in this decision.


We moderators conferred with the staff and decided to leave unregistered posting disabled for the following reasons (summarised):

  • Before being disabled, the vast majority of posts from unregistered users had been bad by objective standards (votes, closure, etc.).
  • Since unregistered posting was disabled, we have seen a subjective reduction of abusive behaviour and other nastiness. This is stuff that causes disruption and requires moderator work to a significant extent.
  • It reduces blatant spam. This doesn’t require much moderator work, but it may be visible for some hours if no moderator is around, causing disruption.

Mind that we do see the upsides of enabling unregistered posts, such as lowering the entry barrier.

We decided not to actively put this to a vote by the community. However, if anybody feels sufficiently strongly enough about this to make a meta post soliciting a community consensus on this, we see this as an indicator that the downsides of disabling registered voting may need more attention.

  • 5
    This is a good summary; I would just clarify the comment about "significant moderator work." I think it is not so much that we are overworked and cannot keep up; rather, the issue is that excessive intervention by diamond mods is inherently discouraged by the theory of moderation. In other words: sometimes the solution is not buying larger garbage cans (even if you can afford them), but in eliminating processes that produce mostly garbage.
    – cag51 Mod
    Sep 12, 2022 at 18:49
  • @cag51: Indeed, and what I totally forgot to mention is that this also causes general disruption.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 12, 2022 at 21:59

I think this policy is OK moving forward, but consideration needs to be given to the multiple-account approach that would be required to "anonymously" post.

Multiple accounts are allowed for valid reasons (How should sockpuppets be handled on Stack Exchange?), which would facilitate anonymous questions, but at the cost of a little more trouble for the person asking.

Personally, my assumption is that there's always a risk of account info being compromised, and the user doxxed -- so my policy moving forward would be to not ask any questions that I wouldn't want associated with my personal identity, unless I could ask it completely anonymously, without any potential link to any identifying information. I don't know enough about SE user policies to know if that's possible.

  • Moderators have access to some account information regardless of registration, see: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/149636/… We do not view this information unless necessary, and all access is logged. SE the company potentially has access to any information that they store when you access a web page through a browser (like the rest of the web). The only effect of disabling guest/unregistered questions from the perspective of a user who wants to ask anonymously is that they must use an email address that they can receive emails at to register the account.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Sep 14, 2022 at 19:29
  • That's sort of what I thought, @BryanKrause. That would 100% preclude me from asking any questions that would be compromising in any way. I don't mind that, but so long as you're looking into issues surrounding the impact of disabling anon questions, I thought I'd provide the data. Sep 14, 2022 at 20:28

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