Avatars: Putting the Person in Personalization

People are what makes the Internet sing. People. Not search engines, not spiders, not even money, and especially not infomercials that promise easy money from “free” Internet businesses that rake in the cash and run themselves without personal attention.

Underneath the tech and the design, or the lack of it, there are honest to goodness humans who are absorbing, rejecting or reacting to a site or a page, or the need to do yet another redesign. Most of the time, a relationship to the human presence is inferred, calculated or taken on faith. Web site owners make a play for traffic, and use analytics and server logs to try and figure out what users care about. Users could be thinking anything at all.

And the Blog Said: Talk to Me

Humans don’t do well in isolation. We care about trust. We are curious and opinionated – essentially social. Put the power to tweak a web site in our hands and it’s only a matter of time until we figure out how to do two things: promote something, and have a conversation. Because of our natural attraction to both of these things, the birth of blogs was inevitable.

Blogs with their comment spam can be sticky business if not moderated. Fortunately, the longer blogs are around, the better tools we have.

To control promotion, blogs can use plugins for spam control and trackback validation. To encourage conversation and add more “human” to the touch of a comment, I like to put a face on the commenters through some form of avatar. To get the most possible avatar action, with the least hassle for users, my ideal comment avatar plugin would use both gravatars and MyBlogLog avatars.

Tomorrow I will review plugins for enhancing comments, especially comment avatars.

Because I’m taking 100 dedicated days to grow a site that reflects my values, and the human relationship aspect of the Internet is big with me, the adding of commenter avatars is a good fit.