Both the recent recalculation and the April Fool's Day hijinks have created somewhat of a storm on meta. I find it interesting, however, that the number of complaints about messed up gravatars seems to be signficantly larger than the number of complaints about the reputation recalculation, despite the obvious change in everyone's gravatar and the fact that it's April 1. I conclude, therefore, that people are more concerned with how they look than the value of what they know. I find this to be both a rather unsurprising and slightly disturbing observation.

  • I think it's worth noting how much ponies/unicorns dominated everything today on Meta, even in serious discussions. If there was a single friday of fridays in iceland, today was it. – rlb.usa Apr 1 '10 at 22:23
  • Pretty insightful analysis! - it's way too depressing though :( – DVK Apr 2 '10 at 1:49
  • @Flimzy not a problem, but I wonder if a tiny typo on a 18-month old question was really worth bumping it to the front page ;p – Marc Gravell Sep 26 '11 at 10:55
  • @MarcGravell: Yeah, probably not... I need to learn to pay closer attention to the dates on these questions I'm linked to from chat :P – Flimzy Sep 26 '11 at 10:56

A picture is worth a thousand rep.

Here's a completely unrelated picture of a unicorn to illustrate nothing in particular:

(source: alice-in-wonderland.net)

At this moment the Unicorn sauntered by them, with his hands in his pockets. 'I had the best of it this time?' he said to the King, just glancing at him as he passed.

'A little -- a little,' the King replied, rather nervously. 'You shouldn't have run him through with your horn, you know.'

'It didn't hurt him,' the Unicorn said carelessly, and he was going on, when his eye happened to fall upon Alice: he turned round rather instantly, and stood for some time looking at her with an air of the deepest disgust.

'What -- is -- this?' he said at last.

'This is a child!' Haigha replied eagerly, coming in front of Alice to introduce her, and spreading out both his hands towards her in an Anglo-Saxon attitude. 'We only found it to-day. It's as large as life, and twice as natural!'

'I always thought they were fabulous monsters!' said the Unicorn. 'Is it alive?'

'It can talk,' said Haigha, solemnly.

The Unicorn looked dreamily at Alice, and said 'Talk, child.'

Alice could not help her lips curling up into a smile as she began: 'Do you know, I always thought Unicorns were fabulous monsters, too! I never saw one alive before!'

'Well, now that we have seen each other,' said the Unicorn, 'if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you. Is that a bargain?'

'Yes, if you like,' said Alice.

Now that I've got that out of the way, what I mean is that numbers are (as people on Meta keep saying) pretty arbitrary. One's avatar, however, is an expression of one's personality. (I have none, obviously.)

Recalculating one's reputation merely means your high score isn't quite as high as it was. But changing one's gravatar is almost an offense to many people. And it's much more noticeable, too; not everyone memorizes their rep score every night and checks in the morning, but almost everyone who customized their gravatar can tell even out of the corner of their eye that something is dreadfully wrong.

  • So, where's the picture? No upvote until I see a picture. – gnostradamus Apr 1 '10 at 21:32
  • I see a picture of a unicorn right next to my 6000 rep. (Actually I don't, but you probably do.) – mmyers Apr 1 '10 at 21:34
  • If I give you a picture, will you give me 1000 rep? What if the picture has cute kittens walking on computer keyboards and lotz of wordz ending in z? – tvanfosson Apr 1 '10 at 21:35

This is a very good observation indeed.

I think it's probably to do with the fact that reputation is earned; and everyone understands that when the rep recalc was done we all took the same hit respectively - even if the effects were different.

However Gravatars are a choice - conceptually it's part of the user's identity, however ephemeral it really is, and nobody likes the idea of somebody messing around with that.

It's also I think to do with a loss of control - with the rep-recalc, it's just a case of working hard again to regain it.

With our beloved unicorns, however, despite the fact that this has affected everybody bar none, there is no escape from it save waiting for the 2nd of April to roll around.


Suppose instead of changing the gravatars (which I found momentarily funny and then increasingly irritating), they changed the user names to something equally (i.e. not very) funny? Perhaps changing "tvanfosson" to "prune faced gerbil"? Last year's April Fool was fun. This year's - I would say not, and not too well thought out.

Edit: Perhaps I haven't made myself clear - messing with a person's identity (gravatar, name, whatever) is the #1 no-no of the 21st century., and people are naturally cross when it happens.

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    Resisting...temptation...to...change...name...to...prune...faced...gerbil. Ah, success! – tvanfosson Apr 1 '10 at 21:43
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    @tvanfosson Don't resist - be guided by your inner voices. – nb69307 Apr 1 '10 at 21:49
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    @Neil -- I didn't realize you were my inner voice. Can you tell me where I left my glasses? – tvanfosson Apr 1 '10 at 21:53
  • @tvanfosson - give in to your anger! – DVK Apr 2 '10 at 1:49
  • @tvanfosson - I'm betting your nose, based on vast personal experience :) – DVK Apr 2 '10 at 1:50

Totally agree... Unless it comes to a discussion about why leaving a comment with a downvote is necessary. Heaven forbid there is an unexplained downvote...


I'm curious to know how many of those 'complaints' were merely an attempt to play along with april fools day for people who didn't see any avatar questions on SO...


Reputation decrease is like a robbery. I had 5k, now I have 4.5k. Of course I do rant, but, well, I have an insurance anyway.

Avatar change is like a plastic surgery someone made when you were too drunk to notice. And no wonder that I'm like "Oh my God, what have you done with my face???!!" An only person that would not be too concerned is Jeniffer Lopez, who I'm not.

  • Plastic surgery is a little more... permanent. This is more like having cocks drawn on your face with magic marker while you're passed out drunk. Sure, people are going to be looking at you funny, but you know you only have to wait until you get home to wash it off. – Aarobot Apr 2 '10 at 0:49

The problems I have with the gravatar change is that there is no way to remove the gravatar entirely and it seems hypocritical to try to push the trilogy as a place for professionals to answers questions AND get me to pay for posting my resume but fooling around with the site to make it look goofy.

Having said that it's a whopping 1 day a year- it's annoying but not THAT annoying

  • Hmmm. I had permanently changed my meta gravatar to a unicorn. I guess I'd better start looking for another job. – tvanfosson Apr 1 '10 at 22:15

People are mad because unicorns... specially "nice" unicorns are EVIL!


Excellent observation. Now... SO should capitalize on this to encourage desirable behaviours in the "masses".

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    With what? Threats of permanent unicornification? – tvanfosson Apr 2 '10 at 1:13

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