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Mission of Gravatar

One thing I didn’t quite figure out with WordPress before New Year’s Day was how to upload a userpic for myself. It’s not a critical issue, and I kept bumping it to the back of the “look into this” list–until this morning, when I realized that a commenter had a userpic. This is not LiveJournal, where thousands of people have their accounts all on one server and userpics are stored centrally. This is my own private instance of WordPress, installed on my own hosting service, with no blogs on it but mine. So wherethehell did that userpic come from? Shortly thereafter, Julian Bucknall showed up in a comment, with his own userpic. At this point, I quit gnashing my teeth at Ubuntu for being atavistic (why isn’t there a dialog in the admin menu tree somewhere for setting a search path? Huh? Huh? Why?) and did some digging.

Of course, something interesting is going on here. There’s a Web service called Gravatar, which maintains small images (either photos or drawn art) intended to be used as personal avatars on blog comments and discussion forums. Each image is keyed by an MD5 hash of the image owner’s email address. Blog or forum software (anything, actually) simply makes a request to with the hash, and it gets back an 80X80 image.

This works great–when it works, which is most but not all of the time.

I’m still scratching my head here. I can see my gravatar image on Contra from every browser in the house except the instance of Firefox 2 here on my main machine. IE6 on this box shows it. FF2 and all IEs V6 and after show it. But FF2 on this box won’t–except in the “Recent Comments” pane of the dashboard. Then, sure. Gotta make it complicated.

This does not compute. It’s the same damned version of FF I have running everywhere in the house. ( I’m not big on plug-ins, and there’s nothing peculiar about this install of XP. I do not see why viewing WordPress on this instance of FireFox would be any different from viewing WordPress with any other instance of Firefox–and it does see other people’s gravatars over their comments. Just not mine.

Still stumped, and I’m posting this to see if any of you do not see my picture in the avatar block of any of my comments here on WordPress. Suggestions, of course, are welcome. I won’t croak if I can’t see my own gravatar as long as everybody else can, but things like this give cloud computing a bad name.

One final note, which boggles this old mind: Gravatar has a rating system. You can have G, PG, R, and X-rated gravatars. You heard me: X-rated gravatars. In an 80-pixel by 80-pixel block. Damn. I can’t have a GUI dialog to set the Linux search path, and you can have an X-rated gravatar. Somebody’s getting ripped here. Deciding who I leave as an exercise for the reader.


  1. Rich Dailey, N8UX says:

    Hi Jeff – I noticed that I posted a couple comments on your first post (“What is a Contrarian”), but they never showed. Also, I do not yet have an avatar that will migrate to your new self hosted blog. Will have a peek at Gravatar.

    Also, is there a specific reason why you are not upgrading your boxes to Firefox 3? And eek! Internet Exploder 6? I know there are a few gripes from some FF users about the smartbar, but it is a lil less bloaty, and has some very nice features that are not in FF 2.x

    I rarely use IE anymore, except for a brief period when FF 3 would not work correctly with a snapfish photo uploader plugin. But it was eventually fixed.

    The new Contrarian site feels great!

    Rich, N8UX

    1. I rarely do major upgrades like FF3 immediately; typically I wait to see what blows up and then install the fixed version. Did too much “1.0” software back in the day, heh. I don’t use IE much but I have IE7 here, along with IE6 and IE5, for testing purposes. My point was less clear than it should have been: IE showed the gravatars; FF2 on this single box did not–except on the dashboard. As time allows I’ll install FF3 on one of my lab machines and see if it’s fit for human consumption, and then all the production copies will upgrade.

      Apart from the fact that it’s obviously intended for very young people (by my standards) I think the Gravatar system is a good idea and reasonably well done. It’s free and I haven’t heard of them spamming or doing anything else dicey. One wonders what the business model is, but that’s hardly a new problem in the Cloud.

      Those two comments on my 1/1 entry never showed up here; feel free to resubmit.

  2. Jeff, Search me why of all the browsers, in all the machines, in all your house, why FF2 doesn’t display an avatar on that one, I dunno. The URL of the image is calculated by the web server after all, and all the browser has to do is fetch it. Also, I’m not familiar with WordPress’ workings: I use GraffitiCMS for my blog (an ASP.NET-based engine). I can tell you that all comments here show up with an avatar or the default one. There’s a plug-in available called Identicon which will generate a mosaic-type image if there’s no avatar (it uses the MD5 hash in some way as a seed for the image).

    Cheers, Julian

  3. Jeff, Forgot to mention: loved the allusion… Dammit, why can’t I think of punning titles like that?

    Cheers, Julian

    PS. Any chance of a feed for comments?

  4. Jeff, Uh, never mind, found it…

    Cheers, Julian

  5. bcl says:

    I’m assuming that you tried all the obvious stuff like flushing your cache/cookies/rebooting/spin clockwise in your chair while muttering/etc.

    If you did try those, then I’m out of ideas.

    As for their model, I wonder as well. I set mine up and promptly forgot about it. I was surprised the first time I saw it show up.

    One warning about that — if you want to make an anonymous post someplace make sure not to use your gravatar email or you will be outed!

    1. Still not visible from this copy of FF on this machine, but I haven’t done much poking yet. As long as other people can see it, I’m a happy guy. I’m guessing that FF3 will do a better job. We’ll see.

      I have a general policy of never commenting anonymously anywhere. It keeps me honest, and sane.

  6. Ok, I finally signed up for this and I’m curious if it’s going to work. It may be too soon.

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