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Gradual Engagement

The other day, I was looking at some delicious Rails plugins when I scrolled to the bottom of the page and noticed a header containing the words "No Signup Forms". What? How is that possible? Well, for those who don't know, gradual engagement is a form of user registration that doesn't require registration forms. What? Insanity!

Actually, it makes a lot of sense. See, what you can do is let the user wander around and do their thing. When they want to do something that requires an account, you automatically generate an account for them and set a "remember_me" cookie to something like 5 years so that they are automatically logged on to their new, autogenerated account when they visit the site. Then they can modify their account settings to fit them and it's allllll goood! :P

Well, I instantly caught on to this idea because, like most Internetters, I dislike having to fill out forms. Wouldn't it be much better if we could just visit a site and do what we want without having to fill out long forms, confirm stuff and then check our email to activate the new account just so we can tell someone that $_SEVER is actually spelled $_SERVER? Yes, it would be much easier and much less annoying.

I see one problem with it, though. The whole system with the remember me cookie is very fragile. If a user clears their browsing data, switches to a new computer or is actually still frequenting that website after 5 years, their account will be lost to them as they were provided with no credentials with which they could use to log in again. I think a good thing to do would be to ask the user for their email address upon auto-generating their account. It's not like filling out a huge form and we could reassure the user that it's simply so we can remember them. Then, we can email them a welcome letter along with a random password that the user can use in case their cookies get mangled. That seems fair, right?

So, what do you, the user, think? Is entering your email address too much like having to fill out a registration form or do you think you would be okay with that? Imagine accessing a site, seeing that someone is wrong about something and clicking "Comment". A little popup appears asking for your email address, which you dutifully fill in. Your comment is then added to the post and next time you want to correct someone, you don't have to even enter your email address. Sound good? :P

Hatkirby on February 21st, 2010 at 12:30:32pm
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alternatively, use another login service eg login via openid, twitter, facebook, etc. and have registration/login handled by them. all you need to do is visit the site and click the login button.

Bluemonkey on February 22nd, 2010 at 8:02:51am

Lol, someone thinks he's so smart. I was actually already going to do that for The TGS Website as well as gradual engagement. I'll probably leave out the gradual engagement, though. :P

Hatkirby on February 22nd, 2010 at 10:25:15am

Yay for modes of login! The problem with alternate login systems is that you end up with "Facebook users" and "Google users" and "regular users" and it gets very confusing when trying to remember which password you need.

tamasys on February 23rd, 2010 at 8:24:31pm

Well, it depends on who you think your main userbase is. For rawr, for example, Facebook Login works just perfectly, and there's no point in having any other logins. If they already have a Facebook login cookie, then they won't even need a password to login.

Bluemonkey on March 5th, 2010 at 7:48:23am

Well, my main userbase will be tamasys and Drifty, so.... :P

EDIT: 250th comment!

Hatkirby on March 5th, 2010 at 9:44:53am

they both have facebook, google, openid etc. i prefer centralised login to gradual engagement.

Bluemonkey on March 5th, 2010 at 6:51:07pm

Centralised login as in Facebook Connect/Google Connect/etc.? I hate it... it just gets so messy...

tamasys on March 5th, 2010 at 7:50:26pm

I think we decided long ago not to use Gradual Engagement. And is Facebook Connect/stuff messy? Because I was planning to use it....

Hatkirby on March 5th, 2010 at 8:44:07pm

erm... I don't think it's particularly messy...

Bluemonkey on March 5th, 2010 at 9:33:19pm

It gets messy because I have an OpenID, and a Facebook account, and a Google account, and a Twitter account, etc., etc., etc.

tamasys on March 6th, 2010 at 1:08:55am

Ohyeah, that's true. What I was thinking was that you could possibly link several external accounts to a single real account, but that gets very confusing with the auto-generation and the problem solving and the aaaaahh, so you'd just have to remember which service you used.

Hatkirby on March 6th, 2010 at 9:24:29am
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