I love the question/answer nature of this community but it's frustrating to do a Google search and find a question/answer on here that I'd like to contribute to, but then be presented with login phase, not be sure of which login I use, and then go through the phase where I try to figure out how I logged in before. This system lets me "login" using whatever email and password I want, but then creates a new user and makes it feel like I'm starting over every time I use any of these communities.

Can StackExchange make it obvious which account I've used to login before, and then make it clear that I'm not creating a new login for every community I participate in?


4 Answers 4


As a long time user of the site, and someone who figured out the site in a kinder, gentler less confusing age, it feels like this is a aggregation of a few problems

  • SE is frictionless for new users. You don't really need a login, until your cookies get messed up (or eaten) or you switch PCs. You don't need a logon but it helps ensure your questions are all on the same account.

  • Having a bunch of login options is confusing for a new user. While the magical universal login would be nice, everyone wants to run their own, and having multiple option saves us when google or facebook decides they want out of the SSO game.

Unfortunately the solution is up to the user and involves a slight understanding of how SE does logins.

Unregistered accounts are a bit lame But hey, you're on meta. You ought to register on a site. Its as simple as clicking on sign up and picking whether to have a SE account, or better yet, google/facebook

pick one site to act as your home site. I do SU, obviously, though for a period I had SR as my main site on chat. This is just so you know where you have accounts. Basically if you know you have a login on one site, you can check if you're logged into it, and do the whole "join this site" and "automagically login to sites you have an account on" things. If I'm logged into superuser, I'm logged in everywhere else I have an account (and that's a lot of sites. I occasionally create accounts to flag spam.)

Use an SSO option unless you're paranoid. Use a google login or facebook login. Or both maybe. If you don't want google or facebook knowing you use these sites, then get a stackexchange login, but that's one more password. I have google and SE logins setup, and you can use more than one. IMO a stack exchange login is a fallback. I use google and rarely have to sign back on. And as a moderator, being able to use two factor authentication is useful too.

Always make sure you're logged in And since SU is one of my default tabs, that's simple.

Associate don't create new accounts. And once this is done, these sites should be logged into. If you're logged in, its automatic. This is where having you have a site you know you have an account is handy.

  • +1 I also recommend adding an SE account as a backup - that way, even if (heaven forbid) Google or Facebook shut down, your SE account is still accessible. and hey, if SE shuts down, you won't need it either :P
    – Robotnik
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 3:15
  • You've listed a number of Do's without linking to the how. "You ought to register a site." Huh? "pick one site to act as your home site." I had no idea that option was available. "Associate don't create new accounts." Which one of these happens when I click "join this community"? Paraphrasing system terms to a person unfamiliar with the system can create more questions than it answers. And then, try searching SE or googling those terms. As Op said in comments, since you've already succeeded in using the system and your response seems to rely on the same from the reader.
    – monsto
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 4:24
  • @monsto good points Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 3:24
  • Thanks Journeyman, but I think maybe the point is being missed. The solution shouldn't be up to the user because we want everyone to be able to identify themselves as easily as they do in real life, don't we? And non-techies (who are far more numerous than techies) shouldn't be left out in the cold when it comes to identifying themselves to the SE world. I think the magical universal login is just a matter of how descriptive someone wants to be about themselves to whoever is listening. And what communities or social id's or user/pass combos I use, are just more descriptions of one user. Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 4:18
  • Journeyman: monsto raises a valid point.  In particular, what is this home site / main site of which you speak?  I can't find either of them in the Help Center. Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 5:13
  • @scott attempted to clarify that. No offence to the OP, but I'm really trying hard, and not quite getting where his pain points are. SE's login system has always been insanely intuitive to me, and in understanding, maybe I can go post on MSE on a better solution to this
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 0:12
  • @JourneymanGeek perhaps if I created a screengrab video of the problem? Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 15:54

This isn't a problem with SE, it's a problem with you remembering your login info. There are a few things you could try

  1. Use a password manager like LastPass to remember it for you
  2. Use a Google or Facebook account that you are almost always logged into so that you automatically get logged into SE
  3. Write it down somewhere.
  • 1
    No no no, it does no good to blame the problem on the user. I guarantee others have run into the same issue and expected better behavior from SE. I've seen this problem on other sites as well but I expected a better solution from SE. Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 18:40
  • 4
    @BenDespain I'm going to call your bluff on that one. If you can guarantee it than show me someone else who has your problem.
    – David King
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 18:42
  • google.com/… Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 18:44
  • 3
    In the first page of results there were exactly 0 SE sites mentioned. This isn't a SE problem it's a user problem.
    – David King
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 18:46
  • Well, maybe I need to ask the question better without putting blame on SE, I see it as a internet-wide identification problem but I see if most problematically at SE cuz I love this site and am always frustrated when I use it (I guess if I used it every day I wouldn't have a problem). The solution to just "remember" what login I used and where, is hard for me. Sometimes I use facebook, other times github, other times, google, other times microsoft, and other times a miriad of other accounts. It would be nice if SE were the first to fix this problem... Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 18:56
  • 1
    Sometimes I use facebook, other times github, other times, google, other times microsoft, and other times a miriad of other accounts. This is the real problem here. We offer multiple ways for people to authenticate to the site, that is true. However, the onus is most definitely on the user to use a modicum of brainpower to remember which method they used last time, or at the very least click the "forgot username/password" link. Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 19:46
  • I think we all have modicums of brainpower, some more than others (in the grand scheme of things I'd say the difference is very small), but, I guess what I'm getting at is that it isn't obvious when I've used a social ID to signup or a username and password. It'd be nice if SE indicated as much, and then made it obvious that we were using that ID to join new communities when we did so, instead of using terms like "signup" when we already thought we'd signed up to the "system" that houses subsystems. Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 21:42
  • 1
    Come on it's clear as day....again take some personal responsibility in the process
    – Ramhound
    Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 21:26
  • @DavidKing Me. It's been a while, but that's because I limit the sites I use specifically because it's a giant PITA to get logged in. I originally started with an SE account before OAUTH or SSO days. At one point, it wouldn't accept my original SE account creds on one site while I was logged in with those creds on another site. The problem is that I'm probably part of the "last 5%" that would take 95% more resources to fix. So why fix it when such a small portion of users have these problems? Therefore, it won't be fixed not because there's no problem, but because the problem is so sparse.
    – monsto
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 4:07

This site (and Stack Exchange in general), provide a few ways for users to log in based on the technology/concept of OpenID. The idea being that you don't need to remember yet another account for logging in. Instead, you can use one (or more!) of your preexisting logons for other services to act as your account here.

If you wish to check which logins you have associated to your current account, visit your Profile Preferences -> My Logins page. You can also add and remove accounts here.

If you have inadvertently created multiple accounts and want to merge them, then you should follow the instructions on how to merge accounts:

I accidentally created two accounts; how do I merge them?

If you have two accounts that you would like to join together, please sign into either account, visit the contact form and select ‘I need to merge user profiles’. After you contact us, the Stack Exchange Team will reach out to verify that you own both accounts. If we can confirm your ownership, we will initiate a merge.

If you can't remember how to log in, go here and enter the email address you used to create the account you are trying to sign into.
- Help Center: Merging Accounts

At a minimum, you should have your email accounts that you have your Facebook, Google (or other Open ID accounts attached to) ready, logged into and open, in order to verify any emails that the Stack Exchange team will send you to confirm the account merge.

  • The profile preferences link says page not found. I think your answer proves that this is something that happens to people and causes frustration: in other words people wouldn't create two accounts and need to merge them if there wasn't a common mistake to not be sure which account you used to login. People forgetting their username is further proof maybe. Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 23:19
  • @BenDespain - I updated the link, thanks. But I'm not in support of your hypothesis, I actually think that the OpenID stuff works well. I just thought I'd provide a solution to the problem of duplicate accounts. :)
    – Robotnik
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 0:21

This discussion has been bothering me for several days now and I think I finally figured out why. In the model for the community our first point is to Be Nice. We as a community failed at that. I failed at that. We had a member of our community who was struggling with an aspect of this site and we kicked him while he was down. And then we kicked him again. Ben, my Christmas gift to you is I'm going to change my tone in this discussion. This isn't a problem I share with you but I'm going to try to take the opportunity to see if there's something we can all learn from your situation.

Everyone has been chastising Ben for needing to take some personal responsibility on this but we're all ignoring the fact that identity management is a big issue on the Internet. Oauth has done a great deal to help solve that but not everything is Oauth compatible. There isn't a ubiquitous federated identity that's supported everywhere and that does cause problems.

Ben, you said you want the site to remind you of your username when you try to log in. How would you see that working? We can't rely on browser based info for that since most users log in from several different browsers on different computers. The only other option is that you would provide the site with some identifying information so that it could tell you what you used to log in last time. This is a very common practice on web sites. The problem is that the identifying piece of information is typically your username. Is there some other way that you could identify yourself to the SE site so that it could recognize you and remind you of what your username is? Is there some other method that SE could use to help you with this issue?

I do think in the end the solution to this problem will be an end user solution but if there's something that SE can do to lower the cost of entry wouldn't that be a good thing for the community?

Merry Christmas, everyone!

  • 1
    I don't disagree but that doesn't mean we should be nasty to him
    – David King
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 21:17
  • 1
    Which is why I wanted him to tell us how he thinks we should solve it
    – David King
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 21:18
  • 1
    @DavidKing Congratulations on being able to reflect and self teach. It is a hard learned skill that many people miss. Well done.
    – monsto
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 4:13
  • "Are you up for coming to the middle with him and seeing if you can help a guy solve a problem?" Didn't think so.
    – monsto
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 4:25
  • @DavidKing Thanks for changing the tone. I'd provide my "solution" here but I think it would take more than a comment space to cover how other sites do it better/worse, why this isn't already solved and why there is/will-be backlash to the solution from the entrenched techies. But I guess I'll have to wait for the reputation first. As I mentioned in another comment, though, the way I think we address one problem is to store a flag that indicates whether someone's username is associated with a social id or a username and password. Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 3:21
  • @JakeGould - JourneymanGeek and I managed to answer the question without snark, without delving into the argument about 'cliques',/'monastic orders' or 'levels of mental functioning' or 'tech experience'. Nor did we bite back at presumptions made in the question about the login process and SE in general. I don't get why is that so hard to do without lines like "I cannot see what positive things you can bring to a community. Not just this one, any site anywhere"?
    – Robotnik
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 12:19
  • (cont.) Yeah, some people can be dumb, oblivious, blind, unhelpful or just plain rude, we get it. It doesn't mean we have to be any of those things in return. @DavidKing Thanks for making the effort mate, @ All - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year :)
    – Robotnik
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 12:20

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