Besides the Subscribe to Comments plugin, I got hooked onto other important blog community-building ideas at WordCamp Dallas. The next to go live on is the concept of Gravatars.

A shorthand brand name for “globally recognized avatar”, it’s a nice (and simple) way to spice up blog comments with personal thumbnail images on the many different web platforms that support the concept. In October last year, Automattic, the parent company of WordPress, acquired Gravatar and began working the concept into the WordPress core. But don’t be fooled by that relationship — Gravatars can be used nearly anywhere on the web that chooses to support them.

A nice thing about Gravatar support is also the inclusion of identicons. In the event that one of your commentators doesn’t have a Gravatar when they leave a comment, instead of your blog displaying a whoppin’ blank space (or worse, a default graphic that doesn’t aesthetically mesh with your site’s theme), a graphical hash is instead displayed in its place. The pattern and color are calculated from the IP address of the comment author, so it remains as unique as your fans.

Visit here to see what my personal Gravatar looks like on one of my more-recent comments. And here are the Gravatars/identicons for the top three commentators on my blog:

If you haven’t already, sign up for your own Gravatar account, then leave a comment below to see how it looks.

Gravatars Now Working on

Just a quick note to mention that Gravatars are now working on my website.  As taken from the Gravatar home page:

A gravatar, or globally recognized avatar, is quite simply an avatar image that follows you from weblog to weblog appearing beside your name when you comment on gravatar enabled sites. Avatars help identify your posts on web forums, so why not on weblogs?

This now allows for your picture to appear alongside your comments, and I hope it goes a long way towards developing a stronger sense of community.  For your image to appear, you need to register your Gravatar here.