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The user avatar (the icon besides your username) is taken from the independent site http://www.gravatar.com/ by converting the given email address on the user profile and turning it into an MD5 hash. A hash from the same input (here the email address) is always identical but it is not possible to calculate the original input from it. In other words: for a fixed email address you will always get the same avatar, but people won't be able to get your email address by looking at the avatar or its URL.

You can register at gravatar.com with any email address and upload any icon you wish. If this is not done, gravatar.com will automatically produce a random avatar from the email hash, like:

Now if no email address is given in the user profile your avatar might change frequently. This has happened to two users I know of which got a new avatar daily which is quite annoying in my opinion. The main reason for the avatars is to give a visual recognizable representation of that user. A frequently changed avatar (either automatically/accidentally changed because of an empty email address or manually by the user) undermines this and should be avoided. Therefore if you belong to the users which don't want to give away their email address then please insert some random but constant address just to have a constant avatar. Please make sure that it is clear that the email address is just a placeholder, e.g. noemail@notvalid.com, but please keep it unique otherwise you will have the same avatar like someone else.

Happy TeX'ing!

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    PS: I personally don't understand people which don't want to give a valid email address. If you don't want to give away your primary email address then simply get a free one and forward it to the primary one. It should not attract any spam if not posted somewhere in public. – Martin Scharrer Jul 20 '11 at 17:51
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    PPS: It would be nice if the most active contributors here (e.g. the top ten by reputation but also others) would upload a real image from themselves. It gives the site more character. – Martin Scharrer Jul 20 '11 at 17:54
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    I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who finds frequently changing avatars annoying. – lockstep Jul 20 '11 at 18:00
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    Perhaps it's also worth pointing out that the email is only visible to moderators (I assume that's still the case) so the loss of anonymity by providing an email is very small. – Loop Space Jul 20 '11 at 20:34
  • I guess most people might be reluctant to register to Gravatar just for changing the default avatar which is not so essential. – xport Jul 20 '11 at 21:56
  • @xport: I don't say people have to register. They just should ensure that the avatar doesn't randomly changes all the time. – Martin Scharrer Jul 20 '11 at 21:58
  • @Martin: I still don't understand why users with no Gravatar account will get randomly-changed icons frequently? – xport Jul 20 '11 at 22:06
  • @Martin: if users with no gravatar get randomly-changed icons frequently, we should complain this to the meta.stackoverflow.com because this feature (or bug) is provided by the system where most people don't realize. – xport Jul 20 '11 at 22:18
  • @xport: I can only guess why. Maybe they send the IP address of your last login instead or something similar. You are right, actually this should be reported as bug. However, I somehow doubt that they pay much attention to it. – Martin Scharrer Jul 20 '11 at 23:12
  • I guess it is an anonymity feature (not a bug) provided by the system. – xport Jul 21 '11 at 4:30
4

Getting a specific avatar for TeX.sx

I just figured out that it is possible to alternate one email address without making it invalid (i.e. you still get your emails):

If your email address is name@somewhere.com you can add some tag to the name using a + sign, e.g. name+tag@somewhere.com without changing the recipient of the email, i.e. the email still gets delivered to name@somewhere.com. This is part of the official email specification and all proper email services should handle it correctly.

This allows for filtering and for a specific avatar. If you use the same email address with other sites which also use Gravatar.com you will get the same avatar. Now if you want a specific avatar for TeX.sx you could change your email address to e.g. name+texsx@somewhere.com and add this email address in your Gravatar account with a different avatar image.

  • I need an animated avatar. :-) – xport Jul 21 '11 at 16:30
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    @xport: So that you don't have to change it so often manually? ;-) (They are fortunately not allowed by Gravatar.com) – Martin Scharrer Jul 21 '11 at 17:07
  • Does this mean I should be able to send e-mails to name+tag@somehwere.com? I just tried it with addresses at gmx.de and my university and neither one worked. It might be one of those things that are in the specification but not widely adopted? – doncherry Sep 5 '11 at 20:35
  • @doncherry: I guess that is the case. You should always try it out first if it really works with your email provider. It worked with mine. – Martin Scharrer Sep 5 '11 at 20:55

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