87

When I first signed up on a Stack Exchange site and got a profile image, it was this one (see my current user card I'm actually not sure what I look like any more):

One

Later, I got Area 51 and SEDE profiles, and my user image there was a different identicon. Because reasons I already know. I would have a picture of it, but that's the problem. ... Thanks to Bing.com's outdated (?) cache, I have a picture:

2

On those two sites, it changed from that purple one to this new one recently: 3

I don't know when the change happened exactly, but I KNOW I didn't change it (I don't know how to change it, otherwise I would have changed it to my main pink one).

Why did this change? Can I get my other icon back or will I be stuck with this new one?

Also, are the gravatars at Area 51 and SEDE securely generated?


After looking in my profile settings, I really confused (I am seeing my wrong avatar in more and more places since I first posted this.):

Nothing makes sense

Seriously.......

Mystery goes world wide

What...?

Twice!

(I'm using this site, but be warned that they will try to IP block you after a certain number of requests to force you to pay... May look for a better alternative later.)

  • Gravatar is based solely on the email you give it. This most likely means that the email address associated with your SEDE/Area51 accounts is different than the one you use for other sites, or that you have a custom email in the other sites. (I think you can't customise it in SEDE/Area51 and it's based only on the OpenID provider you logged in with.) – Shadow The Princess Wizard Aug 20 '16 at 5:07
  • @ShadowWizard I think SO main salts your e-mail hash, while Area 51 doesn't. (but both are gravatar). That's why the two gravatars are different for faceless users on the two sites. – Andras Deak Aug 20 '16 at 10:06
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    @ShadowWizard I tried to reproduce my identicon manually based on my e-mail's hash, and if I recall correctly, I ended up with the Area 51 version. Then the SO version is clearly different, so something else must be there:) And I remember to have read something about SO salting gravatar hashes (but this probably wasn't rolled out to Area 51). Right, I read this. You even have a comment there:D – Andras Deak Aug 20 '16 at 10:22
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    @Laurel regarding your edit: your original identicon hash produces the two identicons: proper with 328 pixels, purple one with 327 pixels for instance. – Andras Deak Aug 20 '16 at 14:30
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    @AndrasDeak Those appear to be the same image? – Laurel Aug 20 '16 at 14:33
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    @AndrasDeak Indeed, your two links look the same to me. You're right about different servers, see my edit. Not that the additional information makes any sense beyond that... – Laurel Aug 20 '16 at 15:00
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    Related: meta.diy.stackexchange.com/questions/1218/… - we're investigating – Marc Gravell Aug 23 '16 at 17:47
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    @Werner I'm chasing gravatar – Marc Gravell Aug 30 '16 at 7:32
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    I shall add that different people are experiencing this issue at different moments. E.g. for me, the change happened only a few hours ago. – ivan_pozdeev Aug 31 '16 at 12:57
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    Another instance, and several hours earlier another user came to chat with this problem. For people who want to recover their old ones, I was able to find them in the Wayback machine, though not necessarily the most-recent snapshot even though it's older than the change. – Monica Cellio Aug 31 '16 at 15:09
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    My "identicon" disappointingly changed as well — color they say has psychological effects, and now my identicon seems to evoke "envy" rather than the "excitement" it previously did. Instead of answers typically garnering upvotes it's the opposite, and I'm shell-shocked... I hope they fix this soon; I can't work like this! :p – l'L'l Sep 1 '16 at 18:52
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    @AndrasDeak: I read the question and your answer. Why do you (apparently) assume I did not? More importantly, I read Caleb's answer,* which solved my problem*. All my comment says is that I reported the problem by mail to SE, and the reply indicated that it was a Gravatar problem, not an SE problem. I don't see anything wrong with my saying that or with SE's email response. Just relating more information about this. – Drew Sep 1 '16 at 21:16
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    @ΈρικΚωνσταντόπουλος I have not changed anything. Neither did any of the other people who have this issue. – Laurel Sep 2 '16 at 18:41
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    @AndrasDeak Whenever I change my name, the identicon changes (although not immediately visible, you must click 'change picture' to see the changed identicon, and you must cler your cache to see it anywhere else.) – EKons Sep 3 '16 at 8:42
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    @ΈρικΚωνσταντόπουλος That's not at all true. It's based on your email, unless you don't have a Gravatar account, then it's based on a salted version of your IP. It changes when you update your profile because it's updating the hash to your new IP address which changed since you last saved your profile. – animuson Sep 3 '16 at 23:15
27

We noticed the same thing too last night. For at least one user, the gravatars in chat were not what they're supposed to be on main, even though the profile pages contained the original gravatars (when loaded by the same chat user), what they should've been.

Looking into the issue, I found myself that my Area 51 gravatars are inconsistent:

area51 screenshot

Now here's the catch: both icons in the above image point to the same gravatar hash, only with different pixel sizes. It's not strictly reproducible (the user who had the issue in chat didn't see the same effect), but for me, here are two gravatar identicons of the same hash with different pixel sizes:

http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/03f2d50ce2e8d713af6058d2aeafab74?s=48&d=identicon&r=PG 48 pixel version

http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/03f2d50ce2e8d713af6058d2aeafab74?s=128&d=identicon&r=PG 128 pixel version

Note that the only difference in URLs is the pixel size; and note that you may not see the same difference. For the record, the top/small one is the proper identicon I should have on Area 51 (if I'm not mistaken, Area 51 uses an unsalted hash from your e-mail, which is why it's different from main).

The above indicates that this is an issue on the side of gravatar; and the fact that it's user-dependent makes it more fun. I blame caching.


Update: after three weeks, both my Area 51 gravatar and my main site gravatar have changed to the "new" one, at every pixel setting, on both my home and work network. I gave up and set my old avatar manually. The bug seems to be spreading steadily, so I'll reiterate my hypothesis I noted in a comment:

Considering that some people are entirely missing their old gravatars, and that for others the old gravatars are only available at specific sizes (those that were used someplace on SE), I have a new hypothesis. What if gravatar messed up/changed their identicon generating algorithm, and the only reason the old ones are around is due to caching? This would explain why only a few sizes are kept as old, and new (hitherto-unused) sizes are generated anew, changing in the process. As I use chat a lot, my avatar is cached there; others who don't, might have their avatar lost with higher probability.

Now that weeks have passed, any caching that kept the old identicons around is gone, and we're left with the old ones. If I'm right, gradually every identicon should change everywhere (unless the user manually sets the old one, of course).

  • You might have another identicon; check your profile settings (and see my edit). I think this is related to a whole bunch of other posts, like the election one. – Laurel Aug 20 '16 at 13:32
  • @Laurel nope. Veeeery odd. I still blame gravatar, and some server-specific mixup on their side. It can't really be anything else if you consider the gravatar-only links and images in my answer. But hey: the 328-pixel gravatar of mine is correct; this is in this screenshot. But a 500-pixel one is wrong, and that was the one in chat! Wtf – Andras Deak Aug 20 '16 at 13:40
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    I did some testing on this tonight, because mine, too, has changed. It seems that any other size than 48x48 causes a different gravatar to be generated. In addition, if you change the rating of your gravatar (from r=PG to one of the other ratings: G, R, or X), the gravatar that's returned is also different than the 48x48 gravatar (but the same as the gravatar generated by specifying a size other than 48x48). So this seems to be wholly on Gravatar's end. So much for "globally recognizable".... – fourpastmidnight Aug 28 '16 at 5:26
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    Okay, but how can I fix this? – Wildcard Aug 31 '16 at 3:24
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    @Wildcard we've contacted gravatar - we're waiting on them – Marc Gravell Sep 1 '16 at 13:13
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    @Marc I imagine gravatar staff in the last ten days turning every rock in their office to find the old identicon algorithm;) – Andras Deak Sep 1 '16 at 13:21
  • Relevant: shouldiblamecaching.com – Wayne Werner Sep 2 '16 at 12:06
  • Within the past few hours my icon has also changed in a similar way, and I'm seeing a combination of new & old depending on the size it's displayed at. Right now, this is the old one: gravatar.com/avatar/… and this is the new one: gravatar.com/avatar/… - I think I'll save the old one and manually set it as a permanent icon if I can figure out how… – Dave Sep 4 '16 at 13:39
  • @Dave click on your name -> "settings" tab in the profile -> set your avatar manually, uploading the png to SO's imgur account – Andras Deak Sep 4 '16 at 13:52
25

Can I get my other icon back or will I be stuck with this new one?

Maybe. If you've been using any Stack Exchange site long enough that you've grown attached to your identicon, there's a good chance that it's cached or archived somewhere even if you don't have it yourself.

The tool that worked best for me was Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. I used it like this:

  1. Navigate to your profile page on your favorite Stack Exchange site. This is the page with the large version of your identicon (even though it's the wrong one). Copy the URL for your profile page. The URL will be of the form: http://site.com/users/youruserid/yourusername?tab=profile

  2. Paste that URL into the Wayback Machine and cross your fingers that there's a copy. You'll likely get a calendar showing the various dates on which your profile page has been archived. Click one of the dates and see if your old identicon is there. If yes, download the image.

  3. Go back to your profile page (the current one) on your favorite Stack Exchange site. Click the identicon to edit it, and upload the image that you just saved. Click the Save button at the bottom of the page when you're done.

  • 1
    Did your image change in your profile too? I mostly see cases where only non-standard sizes are different. Anyway, since the issue is server-dependent, you have a high chance asking around in chat or friends, some of them will probably see your old avatar with the standard size. – Andras Deak Aug 31 '16 at 11:04
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    Thanks, this solved my problem! – mMontu Aug 31 '16 at 12:20
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    @AndrasDeak It changed everywhere, at every size. – Caleb Aug 31 '16 at 12:22
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    I helped somebody do this yesterday and we found that the most recent Wayback Machine entry (from March I think) had the new image (WTF?) but an earlier one had the right one. So don't despair if the latest copy is wrong; go farther back and you might find it. – Monica Cellio Aug 31 '16 at 15:13
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    This worked for me — but I'm annoyed that I had to go to the effort of fixing what hadn't been broken for 7y 11m. – Jonathan Leffler Aug 31 '16 at 20:35
  • Incidentally, my flair is temporarily not showing any avatar at all — neither the old nor the new. I assume that's because flair is updated every 24 hours or so, but the problem is afflicting that, too. – Jonathan Leffler Aug 31 '16 at 20:58
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    I was able to find my old gravatar on Wayback just as you said, went to the Edit Profile page, pasted it in, and no effect. You should add step 4, click at the bottom of the Edit Profile page to save the changes, either to just that site or the whole network. After that, it works fine. Thanks. – Ross Millikan Sep 1 '16 at 0:10
  • Good call, @RossMillikan -- I added the save button to step 3. – Caleb Sep 1 '16 at 6:15
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    Easier way - just google your SE username and click Images. – cst1992 Sep 4 '16 at 8:12
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    Can I/you reduplicate your answer on the ELU meta site, please? – Araucaria Sep 28 '16 at 13:19
  • @Araucaria Done. – Caleb Sep 28 '16 at 15:25
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    "If you've... grown attached to your identicon"... - "You will adapt." (c) Seven of Nine – ivan_pozdeev Oct 24 '16 at 0:43
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There's two different things going on here; on the main site and chat, the problem is an ongoing quirk in gravatar;

I see (this may vary for you):

32-pixels, red - https://www.gravatar.com/avatar/dc4984b955fd2b2105f6c9777b3eb3d4?s=32&d=identicon&r=PG&f=1:

32-pixels

64-pixels, pink - https://www.gravatar.com/avatar/dc4984b955fd2b2105f6c9777b3eb3d4?s=64&d=identicon&r=PG&f=1:

64-pixels

128-pixels, red - https://www.gravatar.com/avatar/dc4984b955fd2b2105f6c9777b3eb3d4?s=128&d=identicon&r=PG&f=1:

128-pixels

This bit is entirely with gravatar. I'll chase them.

In case caching / server-nodes are part of the problem - here's a screen grab of the above as seen by me right now: http://i.stack.imgur.com/eYTRU.png


Secondly, we have area 51; I have manually confirmed that your email details are the same on both sites - they are. But area 51 is outputting a different hash - blue - https://www.gravatar.com/avatar/f0aaa84af6fe9735632f6b4036abd6b0?s=128&d=identicon&r=PG

blue!.

This appears to be a hashing oddity on area 51 - I will investigate why this is happening; this bit is entirely "us".

  • 3
    So, status-planned then? – Shadow The Princess Wizard Aug 30 '16 at 7:49
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    As I said above, Area 51 doesn't salt the hash generated from the e-mail. – Andras Deak Aug 30 '16 at 10:29
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    I'm going to cut them |: – Tim Stone Aug 31 '16 at 5:18
  • No this is not so - my new gravitas in header and profile are the same only cached ones are the old version - and it just happened and it is not just Area 51 – user151019 Aug 31 '16 at 10:20
  • @TimStone Have you just release something? – user151019 Aug 31 '16 at 10:21
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    Considering that some people are entirely missing their old gravatars, and that for others the old gravatars are only available at specific sizes (those that were used someplace on SE), I have a new hypothesis. What if gravatar messed up/changed their identicon generating algorithm, and the only reason the old ones are around is due to caching? This would explain why only a few sizes are kept as old, and new (hitherto-unused) sizes are generated anew, changing in the process. As I use chat a lot, my avatar is cached there; others who don't, might have their avatar lost with higher probability. – Andras Deak Aug 31 '16 at 12:31
  • @AndrasDeak I'm starting to think it's a Gravatar issue, too. I looked pretty closely at a case on math.se, and the Gravatar URLs for the current and archived versions of the identicon were the same. This strongly suggests to me that Gravatar has altered the algorithm. – user642796 Sep 1 '16 at 6:11
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    @ureser there's no question that it is a gravatar issue - we know that – Marc Gravell Sep 1 '16 at 6:44
  • @Marc and let me guess, they totally ignore your requests? – Shadow The Princess Wizard Sep 1 '16 at 8:30
  • @ShadowWizard yup; no response on twitter, and their technical support "is closed at the moment" - seemingly permanently – Marc Gravell Sep 1 '16 at 12:20
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    Typical. Any way to reproduce their identicon on your side, if it's not trade marked? Looks like Gravatar is dying, slowly but surely, so you'll just be doing everyone a favor. :) – Shadow The Princess Wizard Sep 1 '16 at 12:21
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    @ShadowWizard I voted that we should go back to unicornify! We're discussing options internally. – Marc Gravell Sep 1 '16 at 12:22
  • Something strange I noticed: I changed my profile image across all my profiles (to be my original profile image) and my Area 51 discuss profile image changed to that, but not my Area 51 profile image (which is still blue now). – Laurel Sep 3 '16 at 23:19
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    @MarcGravell Has there been any movement from the Gravitar side of things? Or from ours? – corsiKa Sep 16 '16 at 19:18
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    @Andras we've contacted them; they know the problem exists. Hopefully it should be fixed. Entirely out of stack's hands, short of changing provider and moving even more cheese – Marc Gravell Oct 27 '16 at 22:58

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