Should We Retire the Mystery Man?
We all, or all of us worth knowing on a question such as this one, know the Mystery Man, the pseudo-guy who looks like a reverse polarity keyhole, and who/which is the default avatar for wet-behind-the-ears WordPress sites – only rarely seen at this size:
Problems with the MM: First, it’s lazy to use it. Second, the figure is traditionally taken to be a “he”: Maybe it’s because he seems to be bald. Whatever the explanation, and despite WP’s decision to rename him the “Mystery Person,” relying on him or zir or it may still qualify as sexist.
Third, he happens to be… white.
Now, if you don’t like WordPress’s other built-in alternatives, as shown above, adding the code for your own default avatar is a straightforward operation. 1
One possibility, which you may have noticed already, would be “MOG,”” for “Mystery Ordinary Gentleperson”: Shehe’s an avatar of not-exactly-color, but not white – in my opinion also of no pertickler gender – before a drab off-yellow background of the sort you might see in some boring government office…
I added herhis hat with OT in mind – based on a design suggestion from Ordinary Gentleperson James K – and I chose the background with the specific intention of keeping it less than very attractive, the theory being that we want users not to like wearing the default avatar too much, and instead want them to go to gravatar.com and get their own avatars – it’s not hard.
Now, I’m not married to Mog. I happen to like himher for now because I have recently been arguing at my own blog with a confessed racist who also happens never to have bothered to get his own avatar. It tickles me a little to see him represented as a netizen of tone.
Eventually, I will cease to find the idea amusing, and may choose some more serious way to represent avatar-slackers – or I might decide to go avatarless. Some sites will assign their own branding to avatar-less users. An alternative for Ordinary Times, for instance, might be based on this:
The above is taken from a free graphic from Freepik, used previously. There’s also this hat on file:
Where it came from originally, I’m not sure. It happens to have been used already at OT, and still turns up in odd places. The explanation goes back to the original name of the site, “League of Ordinary Gentlemen,” as still evoked in remnant “retro” references and stylings, for instance in the site’s fonts and in the old-fashioned bicycle visible in the OT icon, and for that matter in the site URL at “ordinary-gentlemen.”
I was informed by Ordinarius Burt Likko in that same discussion with James K that “ordinary” was a common name for those bikes. As for the claim (voiced previously by commenter Bert the Turtle) to the effect that a bowler hat says “man,” maybe that’s a problem, too – or maybe not!
- Code and instructions are available at my site, where a version of this post has been cross-posted.