Gravatar: Pretty neat.
Update, 2011.1.29: Welp, there's been sufficient concern expressed in the comments here and elsewhere that we've decided to make display of your Gravatar purely optional. If you visit your account settings, you should now see a checkbox labeled "Use the Gravatar associated with your e-mail address?"
We'll improve the interface to this over the next few days, along with some other planned tweaks to the comment system, but hopefully this strikes a reasonable balance.
So, a while ago, some of us in IT got to talking about how handy Gravatar is.
If you're not familiar with the service, Gravatar pretty much just does one thing: It lets you associate an avatar image with an e-mail address, which can then be used by any site that knows your address.
There are a bunch of major sites currently using Gravatar, including GitHub, Stack Overflow, and WordPress. So, we figured, why not sparkfun.com? Most days of the year, we get way less traffic than those guys. There's even an option to fall back on retro-arcade-style pixel art for people who don't have an account with Gravatar yet.
This turns out to be way easy. For a web developer in PHP, it's as simple as saying:
$hash = md5(strtolower(trim($some_address))); echo "<img src="https://gravatar.com/avatar/' . $hash . '?size=60" />";
Here's mine, for example:
Neat, right? It only took me about 20 minutes to implement this one everywhere on the site. If you look at the comments section on a given news post right now, you'll probably get a lot of that old-fashioned Space Invaders vibe.