A Dozen Dirty Reasons to Get a Gravatar

You don’t know about Gravatar, do you? Of course not. That’s why you’re reading this. See? You’re still reading. Follow me, young padawan learner and let me teach you the ways of the Gravatar.

If you are an English major and hate creative explanations, or if you don’t like being told what is good for you, then you could just jump over to Gravatar.com and read the dry explanation there.

Okay, everyone else. We got rid of the stooges in the class. Let’s get back to the fun.

A Gravatar is an Avatar with a G and an R in front of it. Why? No one knows and that’s half the fun of the internet. Creating new words. Like Flickr. Or PhotoBucket. Did any photographers ever put their photos in a bucket before the internet? I hope not.

Photographer: “Here you go, Mr. Walkenheimer. Your family photos. They came out great”.

Mr. Walkenheimer: “Uh, what’s this?”

Photographer: “Oh, it’s just an old paint bucket I found in the garage. So you can carry your photos!”

Mr. Walkenheimer: “You put my photos in a bucket?”

Photographer (chuckling slightly): “Oh, Mr. Walkenheimer. That’s what all the pros do. We put photos in a bucket because it’s just so darn handy. Look you even have a handle.”

Mr. Walkenheimer: “I… guess… ”

Photographer: “What did you expect? Some kind of clean white envelope or an album? Don’t be silly, Mr. Walkenheimer. Learn to trust the experts on this, okay?”

And that’s why there is Gravatar. Actually, some people, like the owners of Gravatar, say it stands for Globally Recognized Avatar. But that’s just foolish corporate double-speak. That kind of mixing of acronyms and words could lead to trouble. Remember in War Games when Matthew Broderick asks J.O.S.H.U.A. to play chess and the computer starts playing Global Thermonuclear War? Same kind of thing. So be careful, Gravatar people.

“But Lawrence”, you say, “what’s an Avatar?”

It’s some kind of image that you use to represent yourself online. It could be a traditional headshot. Especially if you are an open and transparent webhead like me. But it can also be a picture of a goldfish, or an Imperial Stormtrooper, or something worse, like Jabba the Hut. Okay, maybe that’s a matter of some debate. Goldfish aren’t exactly innocent. I hear you.

To make things more confusing, James Cameron is putting out a sci-fi movie next year called “Avatar”. It’s not about the internet. It’s about “an interplanetary war in which aliens can manifest themselves by possessing human bodies”. Maybe it’s about the internet after all.

But it won’t be about Avatars as we’ve commonly known them on the internet all these ten years. And that’s going to confuse a lot of people. Especially those on dial-up. Because it takes them a lot longer to understand anything confusing. And James Cameron is the master of confusion. He’s the guy that put out the Titanic movie. If you are reading this article after seeing Avatar the movie, you probably won’t understand a thing I’m saying. Just move on to something else on the internet so your brain doesn’t explode. Maybe try poetry.com.

For now, when you register with Gravatar, a lot of blogs and forums will check Gravatar automatically when you comment or participate, grab your little Gravatar Avatar, and place it next to your comment or post. Isn’t that neat? You’ll eventually start to see your little Gravatar everywhere - on forums, on blogs, on basketball shoes, on the sides of milk cartons.

The guy who invented the idea of the Gravatar is Matt Mullenweg. Who is he? He’s the guy who invented WordPress. What’s that? It’s the blogging software that runs about 80% of the blogs on the internet. What’s a blog? Never mind.

The point is that Matt is very smart guy and he knows what is good for you. He has a lot of nerdy friends that help him make the internet a better place - certainly a lot better than the confusing movies of James Cameron. How smart is Matt? Very smart. He started a company called Automattic. See how he fit his own name in the title of his company. Is that as clever as a whirling dervish or what?

So, eventually out of peer pressure, or fear of alien possession, you’ll be forced to get a Gravatar. But even after everything I learned you already, you still might need some reasons to justify it in your soul. Just in case you are wrestling with it spiritually or something. So, here’s twelve of them.

1. It helps to stroke your ego. Sure, what better way to promote your silly little online identity than to have a picture of your alter-ego posted next to the tens of thousands of useless comments you’ve made on blogs and forums.

2. It gives you the illusion of a safer, better internet. When you see that there are little iconic graphical representations of all your co-commenters lined up next to their comments, you just feel better. It’s like walking into a bar at 1am and seeing all those friendly faces and you know you are, well, just home. Home, sweet, home. On the internet. On a blog. That’s pretty much how it makes you feel.

3. It makes it easy to update your Avatar. When you created your first Gravatar, you used the rubber ducky from Windows XP. Understandable. But now that you’ve started referring to yourself as “GorillaGuy69″, the rubber ducky has been causing some folks not to take you as seriously. So, you can just go to Gravatar and put in a picture of the chess piece from Windows XP instead. Which will cause people to take you more seriously. Because chess players play for keeps. I think everyone understands that.

4. It adds your Avatar to old comments you made before Gravatar existed. Yes, as amazing as it sounds, it’s true. A lot of old-school websites are busy hiring guys like me to update their websites - and implementing Gravatars. Magically, all their old blog comments and forum posts are populated with any Gravatars that have since been registered. Suddenly, you go from a nobody to a somebody. And if that isn’t an internet success story, I don’t know what is.

5. It helps you know the idiot who pwn’d your comment. Sometimes, seeing is believing. When you can see the Gravatar of the fool who publicly struck down your brilliance, you know there’s no reason to respond. Why strike back at The Pokey Little Puppy? Instead, you can move on to dealing with more important commenters. Like BigBird from Sesame Street. That lady just doesn’t know when to shut up.

6. It gives a username and password to manage. C’mon. If there’s one thing you don’t have enough of, it’s usernames and passwords. Gravatar gives you yet another one. In time, you will build up your username and password collection to the point that you can proudly display it at Comic-Con next to your Pokeman stuffed animals. Gravatar brings you one step closer.

7. It helps mega-bloggers to know you. Imagine running a blog that gets hundreds of comments with each post. Don’t you think you’d like to know the faces behind the names? Gravatars help! Seeing all those Star Trek characters and Color Swatches are just one way that the blog owner can “connect” with his “community”. You practically become a friend to a powerful multi-millionaire blogger. Fiendish, perhaps, but nothing wrong with using rubber duckies for your ultimate good.

8. It gives peace a chance. This is just my own private philosophy, but I think that when you can use imagery to break down stereotypes of race, gender, and… hmmm…. this point might need more work. Let me come back to this one later.

9. It fights fire with fire. Striking back at your enemies with even more powerful Gravatars is a way to gain the upperhand. When you get forum-fragged by a crowd of thug-like Axe-carrying dwarves, fantasy magic girls, and English long-range archers, you know what to do! Go change your Gravatar. Metamorphically, you can get rid of that yellow smiley face and put in it’s place the most powerful emblem of truth, justice, and the American way: The Superman S. What chance do they have then? None! Superman is invulnerable to everything. Just hope that they don’t go change their Gravatars to Green Krytonite.

10. It helps Matt and friends to own the blogosphere. Quite frankly, this is what it’s all about. Matt owns WordPress. And the most powerful blogs on the internet use WordPress to manage their blog. If you don’t register with Gravatar, you will probably anger Matt and there is probably some switch hidden deep in the bowels of Wordpress code that allows him to erase your entire blog. Is that what you want? If not, then you better get a Gravatar real soon. Maybe write a post like this one, too, so he knows that you clearly stand with him, not against him.

11. It helps mega-bloggers to manage their blogs easier. Oh! Remember those mega-bloggers I just spoke about? They need Gravatars on their blog so they can more easily see when you are putting dumb comments on their posts over and over. Because they get so many thousands of comments each week, they might not recognize your name starting flame war after flame war, but they’ll recognize that pink and purple rotating Live Strong bracelet. Never forget that these uber-bloggers are working all day long in their pajamas to bring the rest of us amazing factoids. Try and make their life a little easier, okay? It’s all about courtesy, really.

12. It helps to stroke your ego. After all of that, let’s be honest. The first reason was reason enough, wasn’t it? The rest was all gravy. Nothing wrong with stroking your own ego. The more you participate in the internet community, the more it will need to be stroked anyway. You’ll likely be crushed by massive hammer blows the first time you make a comment anywhere. You might as well have a cute little Avatar as your friend to help deflect some of the pain!

Finally, I’ll be implementing Gravatars here this week. So, stay tuned for Avatar goodness.

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That’s very funny and great reasons to get a gravatar!

Couple of things though: Matt didn’t invent gravatars, or even WordPress. Automattic bought Gravatar last year and made it more popular. WordPress came from the blogging platform b2. Matt and Alex King took that code and created WordPress from it.

Yes. What he said.

Donncha is correct. He works for Master Mullenweg so he knows. And kudos to b2 and its creators where ere they may be. Probably the Bahamas.

The current reality is that Mullenweg is pretty much the Sun by which the WordPress community revolves around. If you hear Matt speak, it’s going to be on his baby, WordPress. That’s why he is who he is. Yes, he has a big team of worker bees, and lots of “community” help.

But should WordPress ever be used, say for terrorism, Mullenweg goes to Guantanamo first. That’s just the way it works. I don’t make the rules.

But also some blame for WordPress, er, I mean credit, goes to Alex King, too as Donncha said. King still writes plugins and stuff for WordPress. Still, anyone who calls volleyball a sport is questionable in my book.

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