11

For a few days now, I have wondered why my small avatar changed to some "colored blob". I've tried with different browsers, all the same. Found some related questions here at Meta:

But none of the explanations seem to match. Some facts:

  • I haven't changed either my image nor my mail address for years (so it shouldn't be a caching issue)
  • while the small image resolves to a blob, the big one comes fine
  • URL of the small: https://www.gravatar.com/avatar/e2b29bd68eb03763a0e18c691ecf9fa5?s=32&d=identicon&r=PG
    URL of the big: https://www.gravatar.com/avatar/e2b29bd68eb03763a0e18c691ecf9fa5?s=328&d=identicon&r=PG
    • you see they only differ in the s= parameter (size)
    • you see both are using d=identicon instead of d=gravatar (trying the small URL with d=gravatar resolves to the correct image)
  • My profile image is set to "Gravatar", not to "Identicon"

Any way to get that fixed?

  • 1
    Not us. The d parameter tells Gravatar which icon generating algorithm to use when there is no image attached to that email hash. It is not an override - that is the f parameter. If Gravatar is returning a pattern, then something is messed up with Gravatar (again). – animuson Jan 15 '17 at 22:49
  • Thanks, @animuson – I suspected as much because the "big image" resolves fine. However, so does the small one when changing the d parameter to gravatar. Maybe that should be done by SE if the user has set it such? Even ommitting the d parameter resolves to the correct image. – Izzy Jan 15 '17 at 22:52
  • That sounds like Gravatar just glitched and the one set to identicon is cached incorrectly - meaning that it will eventually correct itself whenever that image expires. We cannot just change it to gravatar because then it will display this for all users who are not set up with Gravatar. – animuson Jan 15 '17 at 22:53
  • I didn't say to set it "regardless of", @animuson . But in the profile, the user can chose whether the Avatar should be "Gravatar" or "Identicon", so IMHO the d parameter should honor that. – Izzy Jan 15 '17 at 22:55
  • 1
    No, that's not what those options do. The "Gravatar" option treats your email normally, letting your Gravatar shine through or using the Identicon if none exists. The "Identicon" option is a forced method which also changes the hash which gets sent along completely. It's perfectly possible that an Identicon would still be shown using the "Gravatar" option on our site, because it doesn't guarantee that the user actually has an image there. So anyone with that set will end up with a bunch of generic blue Gs which we do not want. – animuson Jan 15 '17 at 22:58
  • @Laurel related, but not duplicate. In that question, the user explicitly has set his profile image to "Identicon". I have mine set to "Gravatar" explicitly, and that for ages. – Izzy Jan 15 '17 at 22:58
  • 2
    Bottom line: we have always used the identicon option there, since creation. It's never changed. All that's happened is something on Gravatar's servers screwed up the image for that particular size, and it will eventually correct itself on its own given time. There's nothing we need to do here but wait. – animuson Jan 15 '17 at 23:01
  • @animuson I see. That's even more confusing (from the user's end). Thing is, I do have a Gravatar setup. Had it right from the beginning, when I joined SE back in 2012, and never had that option changed. // So you say just "sit and wait" until it fixes itself? How long does that usually take? The issue popped up a few days ago already, just now spreading farther (e.g. into chat and onto other SE sites). // Uh, our comments crossed. If it's that, maybe you could sum that up to an answer for me to accept? – Izzy Jan 15 '17 at 23:02
  • 2
    Gravatar has been experiencing a lot of issues lately, so I don't know. I mean, so many issues that we've looked into dropping it completely and finding an alternative profile picture option. It's annoying to have to support users trying to use a service where some 3rd-party service keeps doing random things that are completely unexpected, and all we can say is "it's not us, it's them." But unfortunately, their support seems to be virtually nonexistent and until we come up with an alternative, we just kind of have to deal with their nonsense. – animuson Jan 15 '17 at 23:05
  • OK, the world will continue turning around :) I had no issues uploading a picture to my profile alternatively, if that would be an option. Even if you'd then back it by Imgur ;) Thanks for all the details, @animuson – learned something new (to me) again! – Izzy Jan 15 '17 at 23:21
  • @animuson I've summed up the facts in an answer now. Feel free to remove the "comment chain" :) – Izzy Jan 16 '17 at 0:42
  • @animuson if it's the Gravatar messing up, why this affects the avatars shown in questions and answers but not the avatars in profiles? – ypercubeᵀᴹ Jan 16 '17 at 18:13
  • @ypercubeᵀᴹ They cache the image basically for each set of parameters you use. The image got messed up for a particular size, but not for other sizes used in other places. As for why that happened, only Gravatar could tell us. – animuson Jan 16 '17 at 18:14
  • @animuson i believe you but are there different parameters for the avatar in profiles versus the avatars in answers? See for example my answer in this question (at dba.se): dba.stackexchange.com/questions/161192/… Now for even more weirdness, go and let your mouse hover over my avatar.! – ypercubeᵀᴹ Jan 16 '17 at 18:16
  • @ypercubeᵀᴹ Yes, there are. Profile pictures in all locations use a different s parameter to retrieve a different size image depending on how large they're displayed in that location. That way users aren't downloading a giant 256x256 profile picture on pages that only display it at 32x32. It makes more sense to just download a 32x32 image in those places. – animuson Jan 16 '17 at 18:18
7

Summing up from the comments:

It's again Gravatar's servers screwing up things – and nothing SE could do about it. For understanding:

  • the d parameter is not about what type of icon to use – but it tells Gravatar which icon generating algorithm to use when there is no image attached to that email hash. It is not an override - that is the f parameter. If Gravatar is returning a pattern, then something is messed up with Gravatar (again).
  • the issue sounds like Gravatar just glitched and the one set to identicon is cached incorrectly - meaning that it will eventually correct itself whenever that image expires. SE cannot use d=gravatar as a general replacement to the current d=identicon (which was always used here) – because for users who are not set up with Gravatar this would result in this profile image:
    img
  • The "Gravatar" option in the user profile treats your email normally, letting your Gravatar shine through or using the Identicon if none exists. The "Identicon" option is a forced method which also changes the hash which gets sent along completely. It's perfectly possible that an Identicon would still be shown using the "Gravatar" option on our site, because it doesn't guarantee that the user actually has an image there. So anyone with that set will end up with a bunch of generic blue Gs which we do not want. So while the names correspond to the d parameter, they are there for a different purpose.

Bottom line: SE has always used the identicon option there, since creation. It's never changed. All that's happened is something on Gravatar's servers screwed up the image for that particular size, and it will eventually correct itself on its own given time. There's nothing we need to do here but wait.

Gravatar has been experiencing a lot of issues lately, so it's not clear how long it might take until it resolves itself. There were so many issues that SE has looked into dropping it completely and finding an alternative profile picture option. It's annoying to have to support users trying to use a service where some 3rd-party service keeps doing random things that are completely unexpected, and all SE can say is "it's not us, it's them." But unfortunately, their support seems to be virtually nonexistent and until SE comes up with an alternative, we just kind of have to deal with their nonsense.

gravatar support

PS: As explicitly asked: "Why does it only affect the avatar shown in questions and answers but not the avatars in profiles?" It could also be the other way around. Just depends what size Gravatar messed up. See the text of my question: In my case, something went wrong with s=32, the small avatar which is used in the signature added to questions/answers. Their CDN cached the broken version of that, but the correct version of the bigger one (s=328).

PS2: As pointed out by Shadow Wizard, the issue can be "worked around" by uploading the avatar image directly (instead of relying on Gravatar). SE then uses Imgur to store it. Do so, don't change any other profile detail, and hit the button to update on all sites – and this will update the avatar only, leaving all other details untouched (important if you've tailored those specific to the site, as I have).

  • "again"?? Not really. Gravatar images are screwed up for me for long months now, never has been fixed on their side. Gravatar is just bad and for some odd reason they simply don't care one bit about their images not working. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jan 16 '17 at 15:52
  • @ShadowWizard Well, that gives me some hope to have mine restored in the foreseeable future.. :( – Izzy Jan 16 '17 at 17:03
  • But why don't you just upload directly to SE? – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jan 16 '17 at 18:12
  • The answer doesn't explain (or I don't understand it) why this affects the avatar shown in questions and answers but not the avatars in profiles. – ypercubeᵀᴹ Jan 16 '17 at 18:12
  • 1
    @ypercubeᵀᴹ It does, but I indeed didn't state explicitly: the Avatar in the profile uses a different size. Only the small ones are affected, not the big ones. Let me fix that in my answer :) – Izzy Jan 16 '17 at 18:21
  • Please do and thnx. I was meaning to add a question since Friday that I noticed but I was rather lazy ;) – ypercubeᵀᴹ Jan 16 '17 at 18:22
  • For extra weird effects, go and check my answer at dba.se dba.stackexchange.com/questions/161192/… (or any answer there) and let your mouse hover over my avatar. The new avatar is magnified (and replaced) by the old one (that I have been using for years). I guess the magnification requests with different parameters, so that is explained, too. – ypercubeᵀᴹ Jan 16 '17 at 18:25
  • @ypercubeᵀᴹ Yes, I've noticed the same with mine. Are you using the MPIV UserScript (Mouseover Popup Image Viewer) as well? ;) – Izzy Jan 16 '17 at 18:27
  • No, standard Firefox. – ypercubeᵀᴹ Jan 16 '17 at 18:28
  • Ah, yes, I see: SE has that hover-effect for the entire signature "button", true. – Izzy Jan 16 '17 at 18:34
  • 1
    Yup, it's called "usercard" and is part of the Established User privilege, see under "How do people see an expanded usercard?". – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jan 19 '17 at 7:58
  • @ypercubeᵀᴹ true, the ordinary icon is 32x32 pixels while the avatar in the expanded card is 64x64 pixels - usually they're the same, just resized, due to gravatar bug yours is different. Guess re-uploading to Gravatar will fix it. (not sure, they're REALLY bad) – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jan 19 '17 at 8:00
  • @ShadowWizard thnx. I haven't tried yet, just in case it's helpful to fix the issue. But will do that, seems like it's nothing the SE can do for now - unless moving to a different service. – ypercubeᵀᴹ Jan 19 '17 at 8:04
  • 2
    @ypercubeᵀᴹ SE already offer their own upload system (using imgur to host), no need for users to use Gravatar. They keep it around probably because lots of people are too used to it. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jan 19 '17 at 8:09
  • 1
    @Izzy it works, I just made a live test with my sock. I changed my About Me here and here, also changed the name on SO, then changed only the avatar on arqade and clicked "Save to all profiles". Avatar was changed on all sites, the custom details are still there. Just make sure to not change any other fields, as it's updating only what has been changed. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jan 19 '17 at 15:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .