Do you like to use online forums or comment on blogs? If you do, chances are you’ve seen, or perhaps even have, a small icon or picture that often sits to the left of a commenter’s name. These are called avatars (the Weblin service, which I blogged about a bit ago, uses the same concept, except Weblins are interactive). These give people a visual cue about who you are and/or what kinds of things you are interested in.
The problem, however, has been that you often have to upload or specify your avatar for each web site you want to participate in. This can be a real hassle. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just specify one avatar in one place, and then web sites could just pull it in as needed when you visit?
Gravatars (Globally Recognized Avatars) do exactly that. You sign up with just an email address (and you can associate multiple email addresses with your gravatar, which is really handy) and upload your image. That’s it.
No, really, that’s it. Honest.
Well, ok. There is a catch. Signing up for a gravatar is just as easy as I said…the problem is, not every site is (yet) gravatar-enabled. But the concept is spreading rapidly, as more and more platforms adopt it. Most major blogging engines now support it with plugins of some kind. And there are ways to do it with different scripting languages (see previous link) for those sites that don’t have plugins. So the burden is on the web site, rather than on the user.
What does this mean to me, Laura?
- If you like to comment on any blogs or web sites, this is a handy service that makes avatars much more convenient.
- If your library has a blog or site that allows comments, this is a nice service to provide for those users who have a gravatar. Even if users don’t have one, you can specify a default image that appears next to their name (note that comments in this blog now sport a default OPLIN logo…so this is another branding opportunity as well).
- Implementing this on your library’s blog/site is not (in my limited experience) as intuitive as one might hope for. But it’s probably not rocket science, either…for an experienced developer. ( If you’re looking for a little help with getting gravatars implemented with WordPress, however, I can probably give you a clue.)
- Is this something for your library’s “must do” list? Probably not yet. If your library has someone on board who can do this though, I recommend that you do. It never hurts to make things more convenient, right?