Fixing circular login failure commenting on Wordpress blog

Wed, 11/04/2018 - 10:52 -- James Oakley
Gravatar and Wordpress

Here's a technical problem I encountered a while back.

Someone wrote a blogpost using the Wordpress platform. I wanted to post a comment. I wrote my comment, and entered (as requested) my name and email address.

I then received a message that I have to log into my Wordpress account:

"You are being asked to login because {my email} is used by an account you are not logged into now."

So I enter what I thought was my Wordpress password, and I discover that I have remembered wrongly.

No problem: There's a password reset feature. I go there, and enter the email address to have a password reset sent to me. Here's the response:

Unable to reset password. I'm sorry, but we weren't able to find a user with that login information

This is, to say the least, a little frustrating. The email address I've given is associated with a Wordpress account, so I have to log in before I can post using that address. [That's commendable. I wouldn't want someone else posting comments that appear to be from me.] But then they tell me that the address isn't associated with a Wordpress account. So which is it? And how can I use that email address again?

Exploring the problem

Here's how what I did next that led me to a solution.

I wanted to use a different email address to post. So I entered a new email address in the comment form. But then I stopped to think: My other email address is associated with my Gravatar account, which means that a little icon appears next to comments when I use that email. I decided to add my new email address to my Gravatar account.

[Just an explanatory comment: Gravatar accounts can list multiple email addresses. You can also upload multiple comment icons to your account, and link each email address to the icon of your choice.]

So I went to log into Gravatar. I knew what email address to use for that, and what password. Only, Gravatar wouldn't let me sign in directly. I had to sign into either Wordpress or Google, and then login using that account. So I logged into Wordpress using my Gravatar email address and password (it all worked), and from there I logged into Gravatar. I could then add my additional email address, and return to the blog at which I wished to comment.

The blog now let me comment. In fact, it no longer asked me for an email address and name; it told me that I was logged into Wordpress so it would use that account to identify me.

The Solution

So here's what had happened.

Gravatar is owned by Automattic, the company that owns Wordpress. At some point, they merged the accounts people held on Wordpress and Gravatar.

The email address I was trying to use was associated with my Gravatar account. That's why they told me I had to log in. But it was not the primary address on my Gravatar account. That's why there was no Wordpress account with that as the account email address.

So I solved the problem by logging into Wordpress using my former Gravatar credentials. I could then either just proceed forever with that email and password, or I could do what I actually did: Change the primary address on my Gravatar account to be the one I had been trying to use. Then I can log in using that address and the password of my choice.

This should solve the endless loop for anyone else who has the same problem I had. Login to wordpress.com using your Gravatar (primary) email and password, and you can comment as you wish. If you want to change that email address, log in to Gravatar from that Wordpress account, and change the primary email.

If you can't remember your Gravatar password, use the password reset on wordpress.com and give your Gravatar email address. The only people who will still be stuck will be those who discover their email address is linked to a Gravatar account, but they cannot remember the primary email address on their Gravatar account. In that case, you'll need to contact Wordpress support and see if they can help you resolve things - but at least you now know what the problem is.

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