Recently, the Gravatar service was bought out by the founders of WordPress. The immediate result was to move Gravatar over to their servers which resulted in a significant speed boost, and also accelerate gravatar support into the WordPress core. The major advantage of this is that it fosters a sense of community among your commenters, because the visual icon really accentuates everyone’s identity in a way that mere text can’t. I wasn’t motivated to actually sign up for a gravatar myself, however, until Shamus installed it on his blog over the weekend. However, there are two major disadvantages to the service: 1. your users have to actually sign up, and 2. it really slows down the page load.
Instead of Gravatars, I decided to go with MonsterID. This is built on Identicon technology which creates a custom hash based on the user’s email address. MonsterID takes this a step further, using that hash as an input to create a custom, unique “monster” graphic for each user.
I’ve installed the plugin here and on my geekblog, Haibane.info, and you can see it in action on this post about anime which has a healthy discussion thread. I am quite pleased with the result, especially since there is no real impact on page load since all the action is happening locally.
2 thoughts on “WP_MonsterID: automatic, unique avatars”
I think the slow page loads were not the fault of Gravatars. I got a firm letter from HostingMatters letting me know that my site was beating the living hell out of their server, and they’d even had to restart it.
I disabled gravatars, re-enabled Akismet, and did a bunch of other stuff, but the problem didn’t go away until I disabled the plugin that removed the “nofollow” tags from comments.
I can’t believe that such a simple plugin would cause so much trouble, but a few tests seem to confirm this.
Intriguing… I suppose it has to parse the entire comment thread, and then remove the nofollow links rather than intercepting the no-follow links before they are added. Also you tend to have very active discussion threads, so the problem gets worse over time.
As far as gravatars go, though, I think there’s a limit to performance since the script has to fetch the avatars from an external site. The MonsterID icons are stored locally on your own site domain. So I imagine that the latter is faster, but maybe it’s not a difference thats perceptible as your thread now loads quite quickly (though I’ve reloaded it a few times so some of the images are probably in my local cache).
Also, I kind of like the look of these monster dudes 🙂 But thats purely an aesthetic choice, of course.
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