As stackoverflow grows in popularity, I’m seeing it as frequently as Yahoo! Answers when asking technical questions. Doing a bit of Rails lately, there I found the answer to my question-of-the-moment. Stackoverflow is about us helping one another, so I had a look at the front page to see if I could return the favor, when I noticed this question:
There are some great examples in there, tinged with frustration – the same motivator that is responsible for this blog. I pointed the OP towards this site, as I have about a years worth of gripes saved up :-) Before posting, I noticed that it’s possible to get credit for responding. In order for me to login (to get credit), I have to choose an OpenID provider. OpenID? What’s that?
From OpenID.net, “What is OpenID?”
OpenID lowers user frustration by letting users have control of their login.
Less frustration? More control? Let the healing begin!
Here we are at the OpenID login prompt.
I’m not quite sure what to enter in this field, though I do know how to use a drop-down. Let’s see what happens. Note though, that I’m interacting with the components in reverse order, using the drop-down to fill (or understand) the contents of the login field.
I have Yahoo!, Google, Technorati, Flickr and Blogger accounts and maybe an AOL account from 10 years ago. Which of these is the right choice? What are the ramifications? My Google and Yahoo! addresses contain a lot of personal information; will it be visible on the site if I choose it? Will stackoverflow have access to my personal information? I choose Google (for no reason really) while feeling a sense of empowerment and control like never before.
Next, the “login field” appears as below:
Is this correct? Or a bug? What does this mean? Should I replace this with my Gmail address?
The only two things I know about OpenID so far:
- I should feel like I just landed on the moon having ridden a rainbow of non-frustration.
- The administrator at stackoverflow knows that “OpenID is awesome” and that it belongs with at least one person.
That posting at uservoice (a request to not require OpenID) has many comments: should stackoverflow be using OpenID? Will it limit site adoption? My guess is that it would have many more comments though it was declined as a feature request and cannot be voted on. Understandably so, as OpenID is quite contentious.
Jeff Atwood, author of codinghorror and the founder of stackoverflow has this to say:
…which means the real question is not whether or not stackoverflow should be using OpenID. It is this:
How can stackoverflow increase satisfaction with its OpenID implementation, such that the purported benefits of less frustration and more control are realized?
One would start by learning from others, such as Yahoo’s OpenID Best Practices:
Promote the utility, not the technology. To reach the majority of users who aren’t familiar with OpenID as a technology, promote the ability to log in using an existing account, not “OpenID” itself.
Or even uservoice.com. In order to login and reply at uservoice, Jeff would have had to go through their OpenID sign-in process:
An OpenID login process, with no mention of OpenID. Clicking on “Google” sent me over to Google and voila! I’m logged in, all the while completely unaware of OpenID and its empowering effects.
Stackoverflow gets a lot of things right. The site is responsive, the UI is slick, sharp and minimalist and if you get as much of your technical help from message boards and blog posts as I do, you’ve got to love the idea behind it.
What Jeff should keep in mind is that if he’s going to evangelize, he’s got to do more than the bare minimum. Simply stating your opinion and creating an implementation-model UI isn’t going to win him any OpenID converts. In fact, quite the opposite – provably so from the momentum of the aforementioned uservoice posting before it was locked.
I do hope stackoverflow nails their OpenID flow, at least for my sake because I’d love to get credit for my responses ;-)