Ever wanted to add some flare to the commenting section of your WordPress blog? Grok-Code has coded up a nifty little plugin called Ravatars. Ravatars displays a random avatar for each visitor that is generated at random. The icons are based on email so if a user uses the same email address for each comment, the same Ravatar image will display. You can choose to customize the plugin to display Ravatars that are related to your theme or visitors can opt to configure their own avatar via Gravatar.
Ravatar comes with a default set of images, or you can remove those and upload your own. It works by creating a hash of the email address, and then using the hash to choose an image and the place where the image should be cropped. Uploading your own images gives you the power to customize avatars for your site. A backpacking site might use use nature scenes. Or you might pick images that match your blog’s color scheme.
In order to customize the plugin, you should upload photos to the plugins/ravatars/parts directory. As of this writing, the only two image formats supported are .jpg and .png. Grok-Code recommends keeping the amount of avatar images within the directory to around 40 although if your blog contains a lot of unique comments, you will most likely need to increase the amount of images if you want each commenter to have their own image.
You can download the Ravatar plugin from their release page by clicking here. The release page also contains installation instructions as well. If you happen to download and install this plugin, let us know what you think of it. I think it will be a nice way of spicing up the commenting section so it doesn’t appear so bland.
In a previous post I mentioned that I would highlight a plugin that enables avatars from both MyBlogLog and Gravatar to be displayed at the same time. That plugin is called MyAvatars MyAvatars displays avatar images from MyBlogLog and Gravatar yet, Gravatar support is not enabled by default. Among the obvious, MyAvatar sports the following features:
- Added nofollow for avatars (from 0.2b)
- “No image bug” solved (from 0.2b)
- Title attribute for avatars in english (from 0.2b)
- “Big images” bug fixed (from 0.2a)
- Improved XHTML validation (but we still use onload=””) (from 0.2)
- Gravatar support (not active by default) (from 0.2)
- Trackbacks/Pingback support (Works good, but it’s not perfect) (from 0.2)
- Support for blogs with more than 1 author, works very well (from 0.2)
- Separated CSS Style (from 0.2)
- Email address is now safe!!! (from 0.2)
- Customizable title for the avatars (from 0.2)
- Gets MyBlogLog avatars of your commenters
- Links directly to their MyBlogLog profiles
- Easy installation & template integration
- Added email support for retrieving profiles (from 0.1a)
- If not MyBlogLog member will prompt the registration page (from 0.1a)
I believe everyone’s comments.php file is different but here is a screenshot depicting where I have placed the MyAvatar function.
I’m not sure what impact the recent acquisition of Gravatar will hold for this plugin but so far, everything still appears to be working normally. One of the cool aspects of this plugin is that, if WordPress integrates Gravatar support within the WP core, you can turn Gravatar support off so it only displays MyBlogLog avatars. This will allow you to keep the functionality of displaying avatars from both services.
I’m pretty happy to see that Gravatar has been picked up by the WordPress guys. Gravatar is a neat concept in that when you upload an avatar to their service, any website or forum that supports Gravatar would be able to display your image. It was a concept that if it would of taken off like it was supposed to, chances are, we would of had the ability to use one service for avatar management instead of relying on individual sites and forums.
Within the past three days, Automattic has moved the Gravatar Rails application into their own WordPress infrastructure. This has allowed Gravatars to display three times faster as well as making the site load each time you browse to it. This was a problem I was experiencing with Gravatar a week ago where the damn site wouldn’t load. Glad to see thats fixed. Last but not least, Gravatar was running on the Mephisto CMS and has since been moved over to WordPress. Imagine that!
The most exciting portion of this acquisition are the plans that Matt and company have for the service:
- All of the Premium features will be free, and refund anyone who bought them in the last 60 days.
- Move the gravatar serving to a Content Delivery Network so not only will they be fast, it’ll be low latency and not slow down a page load.
- Take the million or so avatars we have on WordPress.com and make them available through the Gravatar API, to compliment the 115k already here.
- From Gravatar, integrate them into all WordPress.com templates and bring features like multiple avatars over.
- From WordPress.com, bring the bigger sizes (128px) over and make that available for any Gravatar. Currently Gravatars are only available up to 80px.
- Allow Gravatar profile pages with Microformat support for things like XFN
rel="me" and hCard.
- Develop a new API that has cleaner URLs and allows Gravatars to be addressed by things like URL in addition to (or instead of) email addresses.
- Rewrite the application itself (site.gravatar.com) to fit directly into our WordPress.com grid, for internet-scale performance and reliability.
I’m pretty excited to see the implementation of Gravatar into WordPress as a whole. The two services compliment each other and it’s only natural that they become ONE. I’ve used Gravatar for a few years now but it’s been awhile since I’ve messed with my account. Looks like I should blow the dust off as I’ll be using it again in the near future.
What do you think of this acquisition? Do you use Gravatar? Go ahead and leave some feedback.