Gravatars (those pictures by your name in the comments)

Lately, I’ve had several complaints about the Gravatars — those computer-generated pictures next to the readers comments. This post will explain what they are and how you can select your own. (Some seem to think the computer is being very unfair to them in its choice of images. However, I’ve been impressed with the accuracy of some. But for the monocle, Zach’s Gravatar would look just like him!)

An “avatar” in Hinduism is a god taking human form to perform some task. The term was adopted for computer fantasy games to refer to the being shown on the screen who represents the person typing on the keyboard. (The term goes all the way back to the computer game Ultima IV, which I mention solely so the gamers who read this will be impressed with my knowledge of such things. The rest of you should pretend that I don’t know this.)

The term was later adopted for use in internet forums and blogs for the picture or symbol next to your name when you post a comment. It’s very common in internet forums for one’s avatar to be a cartoon character, character from a movie, or actual picture of the commenter from childhood. That is, an avatar does not have to be what you actually look like — and I entirely understand the desire to project oneself as Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley, as reality can be so, you know, real.

A Gravatar is a Globally Recognized Avatar. And people who blog on the major blogging services get a Gravatar when they set up their account. This Gravatar follows them around to other blogs and sites that cooperate, looking up their Gravatar using their email addresses to pull the images from a central database.

If you don’t have a Gravatar, it’s easy and free. You go to, click the “Get your Gravatar today” button, and follow the instructions. Then you can upload whatever image you want — and you will (at last!) no longer be represented by a computer-generated face.

If you want, you can change your Gravatar daily. Some commenters in the forums do just that.



10 Responses

  1. I kinda like the Gravatar assigned to me. It has character. Besides, I’m too lazy to look for another.

  2. I like the monocle cause it makes me feel like a pretentious Episcopalian. =)

  3. Thanks, been wondering. So do you see me now?

  4. how about now?

  5. OK, remember to clear your old internet files and wait a bit.

  6. Thanks Jay, this is the Gravatar I will use for my “what you talking ’bout Willace” posts.

  7. The gravatar that I usually have is fairly good, a triangle with glasses. I wear glasses most of the time and the triangle is probably my favorite geometric shape.

  8. See my face

  9. Actually I tried to present my face to the audience, but it seems as I will have to be conent with this Picasso-style portrait

  10. Alexander,

    It’s indeed good to see you.

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