You may have noticed a while back that I turned on gravatars for comments on the blog.
What this means, in a nutshell, for those who aren’t already down is that if you have a “globally registered avatar” at Gravatar.com, then your comments here will show the image beside the commentor name. (Assuming that you use an email address on the comment that is associated with your gravatar.) The underlying idea is that you want to have one image, or “avatar”, that will show up any place that makes use of the gravatar service–and since WordPress now natively includes gravatar support that means “on a whole honking pile of blogs” at least.
Until just now, people who didn’t have a gravatar got the “I missed photo day at school” silhouette for their avatar image, however Gravatar.com also just rolled out the ability to generate images for people who don’t have a registered image using one of three schemes. The idea here is that the generated image is always the same for any given input (i.e. “email address”) but distinct enough that you can tell them apart–so people who don’t have an avatar will get images that are recognizable over time as representing them. This is more useful on sites with much higher comment traffic than we have here, since it helps you scan for comments from particular users, or distinguish users with similar display names, etc, but I still like to play with the technology.
Update: I just spent a few minutes looking at what gets created for many of the people who have commented here over the years. Mostly they look like either quilts, southwestern art, or “bad guys” from Atari-era video games. A couple did stand out though:
Gwenda’s Identicon looks a lot like the flag of Nova Scotia. Alex’s Identicon looks vaguely buzz-sawish. Drake’s Identicon looks like a decorative border made out of the kind of bombs that you see falling out of bombers in old WB cartoons. And, sadly, Will’s Identicon looks like nothing more than a cyan swastika.