I know that my avatar is based on my email address, but how can I predict the kinds of shapes and the color of my avatar based on my email address?
What characteristics (characters, I assume) of the hash equal what shapes, colors etc?
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The way Gravatar works, the hash of your email address is used to form the parameters to their image generating function. These are passed to a special URL which returns an image:
The default Gravatars for StackExchange are Identicon images (notice the
d parameter in the URL above), so given your email hash and the function that generates the images, yes - you can predict what it will look like.
Edit: the source code for Identicon can be found here: http://downloads.wordpress.org/plugin/wp-identicon.zip