Should We Retire the Mystery Man?

CK MacLeod

WordPresser: Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001.

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41 Responses

  1. Tod Kelly says:

    I kind of miss the monsters, to be honest.Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I once had a web-technically innocent commenter who had grown, or so she said, quite attached to her particular monster. Before I switched the site to a different system, I copied and preserved hers for her, so she could continue using it under the new regime.Report

  2. dragonfrog says:

    The “identicons” have an unfortunate tendency to auto-generate swastikas…Report

  3. aaron david says:

    Well, they are called Ordinaries because they came before Safety bicycles. They are often referred to now as Penny Farthings.

    Please keep the gravitars as I rather like my Tintins and obscure magazine covers. I would say to move to straw boaters for a default avatar for they were worn by both sexes. But the T with the ordinary wheel works well also.Report

  4. Will Truman says:

    I like just using the hat.

    I liked the monster generations, though I think maybe we got some complaints? I can’t remember. The complaint may have been from MA, too.Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Will Truman says:

      So, either you believe that Liza defeats the hat = male assumption, or perhaps you don’t believe that the male assumption is a significantly problematic assumption?

      I’d advocate doing something unique to the site rather than click a radio button and go with built-in cartoon monsters…Report

      • Will Truman in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        I think in the contemporary setting, the male assumption might not be what it was in a previous setting.

        I had contemplated submitting a picture of multiple people together, with at least one female. But I think that approaches Trying Too Hard. JMO.Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to Will Truman says:

          Yeah, a little TTH. After reviewing the discussion so far and seeing no great groundswell for MOG or any other option. I’d lean towards the “branding” option – i.e., some version of OT as in the favicon – since it seems to be a common second-best option. Of course, though I can implement whatever option at any time, it’s still up to the Eds.

          Also haven’t looked at why GoG is showing the Gravatar default rather than the Mystery Person: Something hinky going on in the code, no doubt, may require hacking/fixing once this momentous decision has been finalized.Report

  5. Chris says:

    On the internet, no one can tell you’re a dog… Unless the default avatar is one.Report

  6. I’d suggest following my lead, and using random baseball players. Who wouldn;t want to be Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson?


  7. Alan Scott says:

    What about an icon that includes the traditional gentlemanly bowler alongside a period appropriate ladies’ hat?Report

  8. zic says:

    I don’t mind him.

    In some ways, he’s sort-of ironic; if there’s a stereotype of the kind of person that makes women go anonymous/genderless on the internet, it’s the sad meme of the basement-dweller in the fedora. Deserved or undeserved, the OT dude far predates that, and I was quite happy to hide behind his masking abilities for a long, long time. You didn’t get my Godzilla ferns (my current gravator,) or any of the other I’ve used until CK asked me how come I was still dressed in a bowler hat.

    What might be nice, though I don’t know if it’s possible, is another, more feminine version, and some random assignment of them.

    Or just use the bike with the red T.Report

  9. Guy says:

    I’m personally a fan of identicons, swastikas notwithstanding. I’ve never noticed any on sites I’ve seen that use them, anyway. Though it is worth noting that many of the sites I know of that use identicons are rationalist aligned? This may just be a reflection of where I go in the blogosphere more than anything else. I also happen to think MonsterIDs and the Retros look nice. Although…

    “looks like a reverse polarity keyhole”

    Perhaps the MM could be replaced by an abstract keyhole, in reference to this statement? Just a circle and a trapezoid, relatively easy to generate with any graphical editing tool.Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Guy says:

      Guy: Just a circle and a trapezoid, relatively easy to generate with any graphical editing tool.

      Would point to a more radical re-design approach – something I’ve been refraining from proposing, because it will be a complex undertaking, especially if intended to bring the community along with it.

      Which brings up an interesting problem: The abstract forms would evoke an entirely different aesthetic approach that also will tend to evoke a political concept.

      References to the cultural past tend to re-capitulate the mores of the past. The retro accents – at this point mainly the fonts, the logo, the bowler, and the URL – will tend in one way or another to recapitulate retro assumptions, for instance that the kind of topical conversation encouraged at this site is something conducted by “gentlemen,” whose status or membership in that certain social stratum will be signified by a common mode of dress: including bowler hats during the period, approximately, that people also rode “ordinaries” and that the font the site uses for post titles and within the logo – “Gaudy Bookletter 1911” – might also have appeared in signage, playbills, and illustrated magazines.

      Now, if we were really dedicated to retro, we could go big with it, but we’re not, so we don’t. It’s just a quaint distinctive mark or artifact, but I think, like the remnant reference to “gentlemen” in the URL – it exerts some (gentle) influence on site culture, not a perfect restraint by any means, just a bit of a check on progressivism for better and for worse: a reminder to be “gentlemanly,” but also a set of sexist-classist-racist-imperialist etc. assumptions that also happen, inevitably, to show up in typical objects, especially, fashions: The whole state of the world ca. 1911 can sooner or later be derived from a bowler hat. (Liza as “Sally Bowles,” sexy in a bowler, is not random either… )Report

  10. Marchmaine says:

    Aloysius is pestering me to no end… he suggests:

    hmn… wont let me embed the picture. Here’s the link

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Marchmaine says:

      Yes, blank blankness is also an option, and not a bad one IMOReport

      • Will Truman in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        OTB has blank blankness, which has the added benefit of allowing me to scroll through more quickly since I tend to be more interested in the thoughts shared by people with gravatars than without them.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

          That’s a good point. I got a gravatar pretty much in direct response to James H saying my having one would make it easier for him to refudiate all my bad arguments. 🙂Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to Will Truman says:

          Right – people who agree to play along and get avatars should be rewarded. To heighten the rewards, we can make avatars larger, accentuating the blankness of the avatarless name and the expressive potential of the avatar itself. If we really wanted to ensure that everyone got an avatar – as much for the ancillary benefits of enforcing a dress code as for the avatar as end in itself – we could even attach/deny certain privileges accordingly, but that’s probably going too far.

          Current thread-avatar size is 40px. Can easily be expanded to a higher number + maybe get rid of the radius setting that make them all circles – so:



          96px (Gravatar Max):

          Note: We could also install a capacity to allow people to use OT-only avatars – in case they want to “get away from their day-jobs”. Since some potentially very worthy commenters are vastly tech-impaired, we could also nudge and spoon feed anyone who is interested.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            I think I like the 60px, and the more I’ve thought about it, the more sold I am on empty space in the absence of a gravatar.Report

            • CK MacLeod in reply to Will Truman says:

              I recall briefly or inadvertently trying “blank”/empty space and getting complaints. It will tend to throw off displays – like in the sidebars – that use avatars.

              While there is a lot more we can do with site “branding” other than the favicon “wheel/T.” So, just for example:

              Or, just the wheel (also saying “zero”):

              Or, moving away from Gaudy Bookletter and 1911 references:


              • Vikram Bath in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                CK MacLeod: I recall briefly or inadvertently trying “blank”/empty space and getting complaints.

                What about a spacer image?Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Vikram Bath says:

                Vikram Bath: What about a spacer image?

                If I understand you correctly, that’s what choosing “blank” does, introduces space in the dimensions of the absent avatar where the avatar would go. It doesn’t throw off the layout in the sense of disrupting it or moving elements around, but it does throw it off visually. Even an empty box, in other words a space but with borders, would throw off the visual less.

                I could adjust the setting to blank to show you. Or do it on my own blog if you think it would be too disruptive here. Give me a time window if you want to try it out.Report

              • Vikram Bath in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                By spacer, I mean an image that is the same dimensions as a gravatar, but white rather than a hat or figure or anything else. So the image is there. It gets loaded and displayed. You just wouldn’t notice it as a user since it’s the same color as the background.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Vikram Bath says:

                Right, that’s what I thought you meant, and it’s the default behavior.Report

              • Guy in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                The wheel is nice, I think. Also, while encouraging people to get gravitars is great, I think there’s some merit to picking a non-ugly generic one; we do want the site as a whole to look nice, after all.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Guy says:

                I’m kinda liking the wheel, too, until and unless a broader decision to go anti-retro is adopted. In addition to “zero,” says “spinning wheels,” but also says “moving (probably forward).” Could be turned into an “O” at any time if desired.Report

  11. Burt Likko says:

    As I’ve suggested behind the scenes, my favored default would be the ordinary bicycle — the whole thing, not just the big front wheel.

    Failing that, a bowler hat motif is a fine tribute to the site’s history. Plenty of women wearing hats choose bowlers, or at least that’s what I see when I go to Hollywood.Report