Got it. My suggestion would be to close this loophole if it’s unintended and unsupported behavior. E.g. look to see if the user is staged and if so prevent editing prefs or admin settings, and display a notice. When admin tries to impersonate a staged user, display a notice and don’t allow it.
It can be fine to have a command line option to make a staged user into a registered user. After that, we can then edit their prefs and admin settings so they can participate by email.
That said, it would be helpful if admins were allowed to activate a staged user via the web interface as though the user had come and signed up themselves. Not everyone has regular access to the command line and knows how to use it, and there are times when it is time sensitive to get some people up and running on the forum quickly even if they are not able to log in. Two use cases from my experience:
on my personal forum, I am collecting family stories with the the help of family and friends. I also organize a weekly family conference call in Sundays. Many of these people are elderly and wary of starting new things, and onboarding them to the forum is not feasible. So what I do is add them to the forum as staged users, by writing a message to their email address. In that message I let them know what is coming and what to expect. Then I log in as them to activate their accounts and set up their notification preferences. After that I start topics with a photo or anecdote I want to learn more about, and mention them. I also send a request for RSVP on Fridays for the upcoming Sunday call. It’s been amazing and wonderfully heartwarming already to get replies!
at the global legal empowerment network, we work very closely with many individuals who do not have regular access to the internet, and/or are not responsive to joining the forum on a timely basis even though they are reachable by email and other channels. These are people who have completed long forms elsewhere to apply for learning exchanges or leadership courses, or some other event or opportunity organized through my community. We have vetted these folks carefully carefully, and as part of that form they have agreed to join our forum and get our mailings etc. We use the forum to run these events, e.g. using private categories and PM, so it is essential to get these people up and running quickly. Inviting them the normal route is not enough, because in many cases they just can’t respond on a timely basis. Nor is just creating them as staged users by sending them a PM. Sometimes it can be a list of 50 people, and we need to be certain the stragglers are emailed when the group is mentioned so they get pre-event logistical details and assignments to do etc. So we invite as staged users and then if they don’t respond by a certain deadline we go ahead and activate their accounts for them.