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A moderator changed my profile picture telling me that it's not suitable for a serious and professional site like Stack Overflow.

Here is picture in question (warning, potentially NSFW):


I don't think that my picture will offend someone's feelings or disrupt somebody's work. I think if I answer the questions and participate, no one should care about my picture.

Could you please share your opinion on this matter?

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The picture is sexist. Do you think only men program? It is also unprofessional. This is not something you would hang as a poster in most work environments. –  Oded Apr 2 '12 at 15:03
Are you really that attached to it? :/ –  Robert Harvey Apr 2 '12 at 15:04
@RobertHarvey yes, I am. I think if someone doesn't like it - why they look at my profile then?) –  damluar Apr 2 '12 at 15:06
"why they look at my profile then". The picture is visible on every question and answer you post. No one has to go to your profile to see it. –  Oded Apr 2 '12 at 15:08
@Oded What it has to do with men or women? What does it tell about my professionalism? Nothing. –  damluar Apr 2 '12 at 15:09
@damluar - If you haven't noticed, user profile pictures are used everywhere on the site. Questions, answers, edits, and lists of questions all include the profile picture of the person who posted the content. In order for someone to not see your profile picture, you would simply have to not use the site. (which I'm sure a moderator can arrange...) –  cdeszaq Apr 2 '12 at 15:10
I don't really know what to say if you don't understand why I bring gender into it or why I believe it to be unprofessional. Would you think the posters/avatars of curse words are professional (for a different perspective)? –  Oded Apr 2 '12 at 15:13
I don't believe the photo is sexist, but it certainly is unprofessional (for programming professionals, Ok for swimsuit/underwear model photographers, but I doubt that will be an SE site anytime soon). Those of us who view SO at work are not so pleased to have an image such as that in our cache; due to corporate policies. –  user7116 Apr 2 '12 at 15:13
"I think, if I answer the questions and participate, no one should care about my picture." I bet I could find an image that offends you. Would you be so happy with this line of argument then? –  AakashM Apr 2 '12 at 15:16
The community sure "let their opinion on this matter" –  CoffeeRain Apr 2 '12 at 15:59
Two words: copyright violation –  e-sushi Aug 3 '13 at 11:27
The most important question: is it really you on that picture? Now you have male photo in picture, so either you are woman impersonating man or man impersonating woman. –  Łukasz 웃 L ツ Aug 3 '13 at 17:37
@ŁukaszLech you are so funny, you could work in circus. –  damluar Aug 3 '13 at 19:43
@ŁukaszL. In all fairness people can have whatever avatar they want so long as it's not offensive (as this one may have been) or the profile holder doesn't have the copyright for it (probably also true, people seem to be implying this is a celebrity of some variety). For example I don't believe the moderator BoltClock's a Unicorn actually is a unicorn –  Richard Tingle Nov 22 '13 at 12:49
@ŁukaszL. - I don't think Boltclock's A Unicorn is really a unicorn (although he might be), yet his profile pic is a unicorn. Argument - out the window! –  Johnny Bones Nov 22 '13 at 14:23
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7 Answers

I agree with the Mod's decision on the suitability of that picture as a profile picture for Stack Overflow.

For me, I often have SO up at work, and if my boss were to walk by and see that particular photo, it would cast me into a slightly less favorable light, regardless of my control over what other people use as their profile pictures.

In general, keep it G-rated in public, professionally-oriented places, even on the Internet.

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Well, it's not that big for your boss to see it. First he will see StackOverflow for sure. Tell me that you don't open Facebook at work. –  damluar Apr 2 '12 at 15:12
@damluar Do you not see the difference between your boss catching you browsing Facebook and your boss catching you browsing a site with pictures of semi-naked people? –  Michael Mrozek Apr 2 '12 at 15:12
@damluar - No, Facebook is blocked, and all connections and data to/from the Internet gets logged and audited. Images like this do get picked up by automated processes, and you would be amazed at the headaches that this creates. –  cdeszaq Apr 2 '12 at 15:17
@cdeszaq: do you work for the pope? Even if you were intentionally watching those kind of pictures, hell, even pictures of naked chicks (or guys) what's the problem.. –  Andreas Bonini Apr 3 '12 at 14:33
do you work for pope? Haha! epic!!! LOL –  Dave Jun 5 '12 at 18:43
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I don't think that my picture will offend someone's feelings or disrupt somebody's work

I disagree. A picture of a semi-naked woman will definitely offend many females, religious people and more.

It will therefore also disrupt the work place.

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The OP has nowhere written it's not her picture ;) –  Łukasz 웃 L ツ Aug 3 '13 at 21:03
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Look, of all the pictures of former meth addicts you could have picked, you probably picked the best one. I think its pretty obvious that it isn't professional, and even though some (lets say) ugly envious nerds might not like it, others can be legitimately concerned that StackOverflow is going to turn into porno gravatar central.

A line must be drawn between a gravatar of your child on a swing, and Mr. Hands (trust me, don't google that).

Nobody can draw that line in such a way that you can objectively measure your gravatar against it. Such a line is subjective by nature. Its up to those elected by the user base to evaluate flags on gravatar naughtiness and either say its OK or that it has to be changed.

Face it, Ferg's naval and pushup bra is right out.

tl;dr (nsfw)

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Well, your picture of some clown from circus is also not professional. Do you want to remove it? –  damluar Apr 2 '12 at 15:19
@damluar: Look close at Yao Ming. He has the same face I currently am wearing. –  Won't Apr 2 '12 at 15:21
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The standard for what we consider a suitable Gravatar for the SE network is pretty high. If I see a flag complaining about a Gravatar, and it seems reasonable to me that it might be considered offensive to someone, I will redact it.

This is not about free speech; you are welcome to put Fergie's semi-nude picture anywhere you want, so long as it is not here. The purpose of the SE network is to help people get answers to their questions; it's difficult to see how your Gravatar promotes that purpose. We stifle people's, erm, "creativity" all the time, if the posted material detracts from our purpose. To do otherwise turns us back into a garden-variety internet forum.

It's not about rules or legalistic interpretations. You weren't cited a specific rule because there isn't one, other than community consensus. We have broad, discretionary authority to decide what is appropriate, especially in a Gravatar picture.

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That's what I was about to answer. We serve the community. If enough people in the community object to something (as was the case with this), we need to remove the disruption. Nothing more, nothing less. –  Tim Post Apr 2 '12 at 15:42
I understand your position. The problem is that you always offend someone nowadays. If I put well-dressed Fergie, someone will say she is without hijab and will require to delete it. So it's better to oblige everyone to put his photo and nothing else. –  damluar Apr 2 '12 at 15:53
@damluar That's a straw man argument. If you wish, you can post a link to the image, and I'll tell you whether it would be considered appropriate or not. However, rule of thumb: if you took her to meet your mother, and your mother doesn't think you brought home a hooker, her level of dress is probably OK. –  Robert Harvey Apr 2 '12 at 15:55
That seriously disadvantages the unfortunate people who have clueless mothers. And might offend those with hookers for mothers. :P –  Matthew Read Apr 2 '12 at 18:34
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I don't think that my picture will offend someone's feelings or disrupt somebody's work.

Doesn't really matter. You've collected several flags from several users who have found it offensive. That's not automatically a good reason for it to be removed, but it does show that it has proved a distraction for some people.

This is why we have moderators. So they can act as an impartial third-party in cases where opinions differ. In this case, at least three moderators reviewed your photo and considered the claims reasonable. In fact, no one has yet stepped up to disagree apart from yourself.

Given that this is a site for programming questions and answers and not an image board, I recommend you accept that, however unintentionally, you've caused a disruption with your choice of avatar, and change it to something else.

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Your icon is a dismembered head. And you think a woman in a bikini is offensive. –  Johnny Bones Nov 22 '13 at 14:25
Kinda missing the point, johnny –  Shog9 Nov 22 '13 at 16:09
Perhaps you did, Shog. My uncle was beheaded in Iraq. I find your icon EXTREMELY offensive. As a mod, and someone who is (pardon the pun) the "face" of SE, you should be a little more cognizant of that. –  Johnny Bones Nov 22 '13 at 16:42
First off, @Johnny, if you think my avatar is depicting or intended to bring to mind a beheading, then you haven't seen many actual images of beheadings. Sadly, we've had people try to post such images - it's extremely unpleasant. Second, if you read my answer, you'd know that I'm not imposing my own standards of "offensive" on anyone; we remove avatars that prove to be disruptive. Third, what brought this up? Did someone harass you? We got a complaint about your image a few weeks back, but I wrote it off as noise at the time - if someone's making a nuisance of themselves, flag it and move on. –  Shog9 Nov 22 '13 at 17:20
No one harassed me. No one could. I have the thickest skin on the planet, I laugh when people think they can rattle me. And someone flagged my icon? It's a freaking LOG, man! I'm sorry if nature offends people. :o) –  Johnny Bones Nov 22 '13 at 17:40
That's what it looked like to me, but then some folks have pretty fanciful imaginations. But I'm still lost; what brought a year and a half old post regarding someone else's avatar to your attention? Do you disagree that images which prove disruptive should be removed? Is there a more recent occurrence of this which you felt was poorly-handled? –  Shog9 Nov 22 '13 at 17:43
Richard Tingle added a comment, which put it back on the front page. So I started looking through it, looked at the original pic and didn't find it offensive at all. The rest, as they say, is history... –  Johnny Bones Nov 22 '13 at 17:49
Ah. Well, if it helps you to have some more background on this, the mods ignored flags on this guy's account for over a year before doing anything - I don't think anyone particularly likes playing the role of Avatar Review Board. –  Shog9 Nov 22 '13 at 17:57
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What's wrong with it:

  • It's NSFW. If someone peeks over your shoulder while they're using the site, especially a boss of yours. SO is something tolerated at many workplaces, but it won't be if stuff like this happens
  • It's offensive to many women. It portrays females as sex objects--and don't say that the audience is all-male--we have female programmers aplenty.
  • It's unprofessional. We may get lighthearted on stuff on SO, but not about this.
  • We're not Facebook. We do socialise here, but not to that extent. Please don't make us into Facebook.
  • Why do you really want it anyways? What does it tell about you? A picture of yourself is fine. So is some nice art. A picture of something you admire is OK, but not something like this. I, personally, prefer the random gravatar provided to you.
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I really admire fists. Because they symbolize power. –  Cody Gray Apr 2 '12 at 16:16
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Gravatar allows you to upload many images, and to give them different ratings. Stack Overflow asks Gravatar for the icon rated PG.

Feel free to leave that icon in Gravatar, but to also create a new PG icon. Then the different sites which use Gravatar can choose for themselves which icon they want, as suits the site in question.

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