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To limit the possibility of identity capture, this site now uses avatars from Gravatar. There has been at least one known case of identity capture on this site. We don’t want more.

Using identity icons plus logging in will protect your identity on this site. You will display with your icon, and have a greyed background. E-mail addresses will be made unique here for people who are registered.

Also check out this post and comment thread.


This site uses a MD5 hash of your e-mail address to send to Gravatar. If it matches with a known MD5 of an e-mail on their system, then your avatar is sent back. It it isn’t then this site requests a identicon for the MD5. We do not ever transmit your e-mail address outside of our database.

While a MD5 is not perfect, it is adequate for non-critical purposes.

Read Gravatar Privacy Policy before making a decision. You can also get a synopsis of their history from wikipedia.

To sign up with Gravatar

You can sign up for free to define your own avatar. The upside of signing up is that you can use an image to uniquely identify you on this site (and others that support Gravatar. The downside is that you will be giving your e-mail to someone.

There is an alternative dicussed below – the default option.

  1. Go to gravatar.com and /or
  2. Click on Sign up now
  3. Give them a valid e-mail address
  4. They will mail you a link (which expires in a few weeks). This gets past lprent’s spam filters ok.
  5. You can then enter the login and password against that e-mail address.
  6. Then you can add pictures from:
  • My computer’s hard drive
  • An image on the internet
  • Your WordPress.com Avatar

Images do not preserve transparency. Make sure you extend the borders of the image to cover the whole area you wish to use.

You can then add others and select a default.

You can also set your rating G, PG, R etc on your images. We will set accepted images as being at or below some level. Probably PG – Possibly offensive, usually for audiences 13 and above. Given the attitudes of some of our more juvenile commenters (young and old) this will be prudent. The sysop will use the Gravatar Abuse because he has no sense of humour.

The alternative – identicon’s

In the site, the default is to use a identicon to identify individuals. This was better than the alternatives. This isn’t foolproof because it uses a MD5 hash of the e-mail address you put on the your comment, either manually or from your login.

It is a primitive shared secret. While other commentors can see your psuedonym or name, they cannot see the e-mail address you used. A MD5 of the e-mail is sent to Gravatar to generate a reasonably unique identicon.

The advantage over Gravatar is that you do not have to use a valid e-mail address. The disadvantage is that someone else can use your e-mail address on a comment if they know it. On this site only the moderators and sysop can see the e-mail addresses that you use. However the e-mail address may be known to operators of other sites.

If you consistently use the same e-mail, then your comments will get a consistent image.

Speed and bandwidth issues

The identicon takes time to generate the first time it is used for a given MD5. But after it is generated then it displays fast. A image from a signed up Gravator user doesn’t get generated.

This site restricts the displayed image to 32×32.

Your browser will usually cache the image (depending on how you set your browser options). The nett effect is that there will be a slight extra bandwidth use when you first see an image, but little after that.

If you read down to here – have a look at this site.

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