Not the Cameron movie. Not the Shyamalan movie either. February 11, 2010 7:54 AM   Subscribe

Is there a Greasemonkey script for displaying user avatars next to posts and comments?

I'm not sure I'd even like this, as MetaFilter has a minimalist style I've come to love. However, I just discovered that profile pic URLs follow a very standardized format (http://www.metafilter.com/images/profile/USERID.jpg) and surely somebody has built a userscript to show those next to comments and posts. I can't find it online but I'd be astonished if this doesn't exist.

I recently noticed that when I read a thread I never even pay attention to who's saying what. You guys all look the same to me. Maybe avatars would help with this. Maybe not. Either way, I wouldn't mind trying it just for kicks.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis to MetaFilter-Related at 7:54 AM (59 comments total)

grumblebee threw something like this together a while ago, yeah. Here's the original thread where he announced it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:57 AM on February 11, 2010


This is a terrible terrible thing. I'm fascinated and repulsed at the same time
posted by Think_Long at 8:07 AM on February 11, 2010


This would be ideal if everyone used their cutest baby pictures as profile pics. What kind of monster would snark at a baby?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:10 AM on February 11, 2010


What kind of monster would snark at a baby?

I don't know, but I do know which web site would be my first stop when trying to find such an individual.
posted by grouse at 8:17 AM on February 11, 2010 [12 favorites]


<== Can we calibrate optimal levels of snark for seven year olds? Is the presence of religious headgear a confounding factor?
posted by maudlin at 8:18 AM on February 11, 2010


I used it for a while the first time round.

Where it's useful is in following a particular user's activity in a thread, or quickly spotting comments by particular individuals. Images just seem to be that much easier to scan than little bits of mustard-coloured text.

In the end I switched it off. I found I was filtering too many good comments out on the basis of them not being next to recognisable faces.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:23 AM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


grumblebee's script is kind of a nightmare on the server. When someone loads a thread, it hammers the servers for all those little icons. I kind of wish it could do some smart caching of some kind.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:32 AM on February 11, 2010


Interesting. I just installed it and the generic blank gray squares are kind of annoying. I also wish pics were aligned with the top of each post instead of the bottom. And it should introduce a little margin between each comment because one-liners tend to run too closely together.

Hmm. I'm still not sure what to think. It's interesting. Sorry to mathowie, there really should be a way to relax the server load too. I'm undecided as to whether I'll keep running this thing.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:37 AM on February 11, 2010


grumblebee's script does look pretty nifty, thanks!

Regarding mathowie's concern, does anyone know why our web browsers wouldn't just cache the images & reduce the load on the server?
posted by ish__ at 8:38 AM on February 11, 2010


"What kind of monster would snark at a baby?"
Ogdred Weary ?
posted by SyntacticSugar at 8:38 AM on February 11, 2010


You may think it's my flaming sword that should make you wary of challenging my comments, but in fact it's the early modern Bible/executive toy combo in my left paw that really packs a punch. The party hat is because the lino cut was taken when I was on my way home from a Happy Meal birthday party for a leading Muggletonian.
posted by Abiezer at 8:47 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just installed it and the generic blank gray squares are kind of annoying.

Those are actually the real images for users who have none: Example. Interesting that is a GIF with a JPG extension.

I wonder if it would be cached better if that was done as a 301 redirect to the default image, rather than how it is now.
posted by smackfu at 8:51 AM on February 11, 2010


Those are actually the real images for users who have none

Curiously, grouse has a pic on his profile but it still shows up as a gray square here.

And if anyone's interested, grumblebee's script can easily move pics from the bottom to the top by changing PICS_AT_BOTTOM to false. Very thoughtful. :-)
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:58 AM on February 11, 2010


Tangentially related: The MeFi Navigator Script doesn't seem to be working on the Blue and Green. Hope, plz, etc.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:06 AM on February 11, 2010


mathowie writes "grumblebee's script is kind of a nightmare on the server. When someone loads a thread, it hammers the servers for all those little icons. I kind of wish it could do some smart caching of some kind."

Is this because so many people are using it or because it doesn't cache any images?
posted by Mitheral at 9:30 AM on February 11, 2010


Could we also have little cartoon avatars that vaguely look like us and more idiots on the site? And no limit on how many questions we post? And free accounts?
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:38 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Okay, I'm getting curiouser about how http://www.metafilter.com/images/profile/square/USERID.jpg processes images. What is that "square" bit supposed to do? It looks like it's supposed to reduce an image to a 68x68 square but it doesn't really do that all the time. Alvy Ampersand's pic, for example, is only 53x68 and it gets all stretched by grumblebee's script. Grouse's pic, like I mentioned, doesn't show up at all (even though he has uploaded one).

Grumblebee's script also has a no-longer-functioning bit of code that points to this generic image, which is a lot nicer than the plain gray box. I wonder what would need to be done to the script to make that work again? I don't do Greasemonkey coding so I can't really propose a fix.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:41 AM on February 11, 2010


Interesting thing is that the generic image is returning a last modified of February 6th. Wonder if it is dynamic?
posted by smackfu at 9:48 AM on February 11, 2010


Where it's useful is in following a particular user's activity in a thread, or quickly spotting comments by particular individuals. Images just seem to be that much easier to scan than little bits of mustard-coloured text.

I don't use the script for avatars here, but that's been my experience other places as well. In fact, it really throws me off when people change their avatars at other sites sometimes because I get used to identifying them that way. Also, in online poker it's much easier for me to keep track of how different people play (which is a key part of the game) if the players have avatars. Then again I am bad at remembering people's names in real life so maybe it's just me.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:56 AM on February 11, 2010


I'm miserable at remembering people's names, but for some reason usernames aren't a problem. Broader namespace, I suppose.

When I was traveling around last fall I'd spend every meetup doing this "oh, hey, nice to meet you, but what's your username? Oh, hey!" thing a dozen times because as much as it was nice to shake someone's hand and find out their actual name, (a) I was going to forget it five minutes later no matter how hard I tried not to and (b) I didn't have context for their real name like I did for their username anyway.

I don't personally like avatars in this kind of setting; usernames are a good enough reference for continuity and I hate the visual clutter and the weird uggo mishmash of aesthetics that creep in when you've got a thousand different people approaching their personal iconology a thousand different ways. I can see the utility in something like poker where you're more interested in establishing a sort of quick memory aid for behavioral reference/recall, but here I'm more interested in trying to get a sense of who someone is and how they approach conversation and what they're interested in etc. than I am in sort of quick-filing a dossier for tactical reasons, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:04 AM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm one of them "visual learners" and I would love a script that uses avatars, but I don't want to cause pain to the servers. Hrm.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:07 AM on February 11, 2010


anything that makes metafilter more like a vbulletin site is a net positive, as far as I'm concerned. avatars next to every comment, a "joined on xx.xx.xxxx" right where you'd think the timestamp of the comment would be, up/down user voting, sig files and threaded comments. yes, please.
posted by shmegegge at 10:07 AM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


This reminds me that I landed in a Something Awful thread the other day, following some little bit of referrer traffic, and got to read a conversation in which people complained, at a rate of three avatar-and-.sig laden comments per screen, about how unreadable mefi is. Heh.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:11 AM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


To be honest, I like avatars but hate sigs.
posted by smackfu at 10:12 AM on February 11, 2010


I'm getting a brainstorm.

I might just build a Mefi portal hosted on my own site. Something that, say, reads raw data from RSS feeds and dumps it into a new page template. With cached avatars and maybe some other stuff, subject to change on a whim (so don't get too attached to it). Or I might not, since it is after all just a brainstorm. But if I did... would the mods approve of such hackery?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:23 AM on February 11, 2010


Or I might not, since it is after all just a brainstorm. But if I did... would the mods approve of such hackery?

There are a bunch of spammy sites out there that already do just that and those guys probably didn't ask so you're already ahead.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:28 AM on February 11, 2010


I'm miserable at remembering people's names, but for some reason usernames aren't a problem. Broader namespace, I suppose.

I wouldn't say that usernames are a problem, per-say, but I think it would be much easier for example to think "Hey, I've never seen that person before" while reading random comments here with avatars.

I don't personally like avatars in this kind of setting; usernames are a good enough reference for continuity

Yeah, I agree, I'm definitely not arguing for avatars to get added or anything like that. In fact I think on MetaFilter specifically the fact that who is commenting is less important/memorable than the contents of the comments themselves is a feature rather than a bug.

I hate the visual clutter and the weird uggo mishmash of aesthetics that creep in when you've got a thousand different people approaching their personal iconology a thousand different ways

I don't think it's any weirder than say, people on the street wearing clothes that have wildly different aesthetics. I've seen some forums that actually have threads where people can request custom avatars that more graphically-inclined users make for them. The interesting thing about that is since usually only a few people are involved with creating the avatars and many active users have them, there is actually a fairly consistent aesthetic with regard to avatars on those forums.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:36 AM on February 11, 2010


mathowie: "grumblebee's script is kind of a nightmare on the server. When someone loads a thread, it hammers the servers for all those little icons. I kind of wish it could do some smart caching of some kind"

How odd. I ran the script with firebug open. It showed retrieval times for the first page load, then for 2nd and subsequent loads, the server returning 304 (Not Modified) -- indicating the browser can (and does) use its cache.

Is this hammering the server just on 304 responses? I'd be curious to see some logs for my past few page loads.
posted by boo_radley at 10:37 AM on February 11, 2010


Another greasemonkey option to consider is the MeFi Comment Divider script—it doesn't show avatars or profile pics, but it does highlight the posted by line for each comment. I find it really helps distinguish individual comments.
posted by carsonb at 10:43 AM on February 11, 2010


I don't think it's any weirder than say, people on the street wearing clothes that have wildly different aesthetics.

Absolutely. My previous comment comes off as a much broader statement than I intended: I meant only that I don't like that weird eye-catching aesthetic moshpit in an otherwise visually restrained setting where the focus was not explicitly on graphical stuff.

What is an obnoxious distraction here can be a totally wonderful thing in more general contexts, and I'm totally down with people shoving a thousand different looks together if that's what a situation is about or at least if it's not getting in the way.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:46 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whoops! It seems like it can junk-punch your servers on 304s. It doesn't always happen, but it's not hard to provoke.
posted by boo_radley at 10:47 AM on February 11, 2010


Do I have to feel guilty because I love this script?
posted by bearwife at 11:08 AM on February 11, 2010


BEWARE THE GOATSE!!
posted by blue_beetle at 11:26 AM on February 11, 2010


But if I did... would the mods approve of such hackery?

Are the user images visable to non-logged-in people? (I guess I could log out to find out, but...)
posted by inigo2 at 11:34 AM on February 11, 2010


Speaking of greasemonkey....have any of you had any luck getting them to work in chrome? Is there a trick that I'm missing?
posted by pearlybob at 11:42 AM on February 11, 2010


inigo2: Yes, images are visible to anyone. FWIW, my brainstorm is leading me to require logging in to MetaFilter to use the portal. I won't log any user credentials, obviously, but it'll make template design quite a bit easier if I can assume that all users are authenticated. And it will reduce bandwidth consumption too.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 11:46 AM on February 11, 2010


pearlybob: greasemonkey scripts won't work in chrome IF they have @IMPORTS. I think there's another blocker, but I can't remember offhand.
posted by boo_radley at 11:50 AM on February 11, 2010


FWIW, my brainstorm is leading me to require logging in to MetaFilter to use the portal. I won't log any user credentials, obviously, but it'll make template design quite a bit easier if I can assume that all users are authenticated. And it will reduce bandwidth consumption too.

If I'm understanding you, you're talking about having mefites enter, on a non-mefi site, their mefi username/password? I think that's a really bad path to go down, regardless of how good your intentions are.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:24 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


And if not, I think you'll be blocked by the browser since that's cross-site scripting.
posted by smackfu at 12:29 PM on February 11, 2010


cortex: "If I'm understanding you, you're talking about having mefites enter, on a non-mefi site, their mefi username/password? I think that's a really bad path to go down, regardless of how good your intentions are"

Or, "if you're really cortex, put the string HOOBAJOOB in your user profile at http://www.metafilter.com/user/7418. Click OK when you've done this.

OK, I've confirmed that HOOBAJOOB is present at http://www.metafilter.com/user/7418. Now remove it and click OK when you've done this.

OK, I've confirmed that HOOBAJOOB is gone. The only person who could modify this is cortex or someone sufficiently like cortex. I trust that you are cortex; I now dispense you a user id on my affiliated site"

There's a ton of problems that way too, though.
posted by boo_radley at 12:34 PM on February 11, 2010


Yeah, boo's workaround has been used for stuff in the past and is, while clunky and very manual, one way to do authentication without asking anybody to get into the exceedingly bad habit of throwing their auth information at third parties.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:47 PM on February 11, 2010


What kind of monster would snark at a baby?

Hi, we've obviously never met. I'm quin. And, in my spare time, I openly mock babies;

"Yeah, that's right, you fell on your fat face because you don't have fully functioning motor skills yet. You bald little drool machine! Look at me, I can walk forwards AND backwards, can you do that? I didn't think so, baby. Now, I'm going to reach up to the top shelf and get myself a cookie, doesn't that piss you off? It must suck to be a baby!"

I'm very popular at local grocery stores.
posted by quin at 1:01 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


That's really academic, the more I think about it. It's weird and overreaching I think to utilize metafilter as authentication provider. It puts the mods on a weird "yeah you can do it but we don't support it and it's kind of a headache " vector for later days.

Maybe saying "hey, what's your metafilter name, I'll shoot you a memail to confirm". I dunno. I dunno.


Oh! Anyway! After disabling the avatar scripts, the site's much zippier in general, and I haven't seen any http requests over ~400ms.
posted by boo_radley at 1:02 PM on February 11, 2010


Well, I don't really know what the answer is. The authentication thing is a can of worms I wasn't really keen on opening in the first place. I mean, originally my brainstorm was just about something fun I could build for myself... then I figured there might be a few other folks out there interested in using it too. But a Mefi portal site is kind of pointless if you can't post, or at least comment, through it, and that requires authentication. No clever workarounds are gonna solve that one. The cross-site scripting issue might be a showstopper too.

So yeah, hmm. Maybe I will just keep it all to myself after all, and occasionally post screenshots of the awesome Mefi experience that you losers can't have. Er, that is, if I even build this thing. The proper level of motivation is tricky for me to come by these days.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 1:21 PM on February 11, 2010


Come on, boo. The Avatar script could be called many thing. Derivative... uninspired... a cynical retread of the concept of the Noble Savage... But disabled?
posted by BeerFilter at 1:28 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


After disabling the avatar scripts, the site's much zippier in general, and I haven't seen any http requests over ~400ms.

Strange. It looks like the images have pretty far in the future cache headers on them, so I wouldn't expect the images to even make a network call.
posted by smackfu at 1:31 PM on February 11, 2010


"disabling the marine in the avatar script"? I don't think I have a lot of options here.
posted by boo_radley at 2:44 PM on February 11, 2010


*something about boo_radley being an insensitive clod*
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:58 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd spend every meetup doing this "oh, hey, nice to meet you, but what's your username? Oh, hey!" thing a dozen times because as much as it was nice to shake someone's hand and find out their actual name, (a) I was going to forget it five minutes later no matter how hard I tried not to and (b) I didn't have context for their real name like I did for their username anyway.

This. This. Thisthisthisthisthis. Holy shit, THIS. Can we have some sort of recommendation for the kindness of all Mefites that at meetups, you START with your Metafilter name so that we don't have to awkwardly extend all intros with, "uh, so, what's your, y'know, Othername?" (subtext: ohhhkay, so who the fuck are you in my world?)
posted by desuetude at 6:14 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, it was that facials AskMe that made me turn off the show pics script. It was like, hey, I like y'all, I don't mind knowing who likes to get a little come on, but my mind needs to have at least a little distance otherwise I'm gonna see everyone's pics with bukkake mask for the rest of the day.
posted by klangklangston at 6:15 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Given the profusion of gag pictures on this site, I think this script would lead to a ridiculous and distracting experience.

(not that I'm one to talk, mind you)
posted by Afroblanco at 1:51 AM on February 12, 2010


I just discovered that grumblebee's script apparently breaks the pop-up YouTube player. At least in Safari on my Mac (using GreaseKit).
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:20 AM on February 12, 2010


Do I have to feel guilty because I love this script?

I totally feel guilty now. Argh. But I'm going to keep using it anyway, because reading mefi without little user pictures and comment dividers hurts my brain. I can't process all that blue at once!

Particularly that blue.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:47 AM on February 12, 2010


I admittedly use the script here on the grey, but only here on the grey. It's got its imperfections, but it's sort of almost useful in a way.

Interesting factoid: Deleted users' userpics still show up with grumblebee's script. I'm assuming it's because all the profile stuff is retained in case some asshole jerkface decides to come crawling back, which I guess is useful, but it's kinda weird to see some flamey mcflameout's avatar smiling at me from old threads, y'know?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:22 PM on February 12, 2010


anything that makes metafilter more like a vbulletin site is a net positive, as far as I'm concerned

yeha good idea
__________________________________________________________________________
***SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND***
'A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.'
                                -- Ghandi
MY FLICKR
MY LAST.FM
joined May 24, 2006
posted by shakespeherian at 2:52 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's the second time I've seen 'Shine on you Crazy Diamond" referenced this week. Strange.

_________________________________________________________________

"Oh, a sarcasm detector. That's a REAL useful invention"
- Comic Book Guy

Animated GIF
posted by Think_Long at 3:05 PM on February 12, 2010


Does anybody read the posts down here?
__________________________________________________________________________

"Well what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one today!"
- Groundhog Day

@}-,-`----- Joined Oct 8, 2009 -----`-.-{@
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:13 PM on February 12, 2010

anything that makes metafilter more like a vbulletin site is a net positive, as far as I'm concerned

yeha good idea
__________________________________________________________________________
***SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND***
'A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.'
                                -- Ghandi
MY FLICKR
MY LAST.FM

joined May 24, 2006
Heh.

_________________________________________________________________

\,,/,

"History proves that all dictatorships, all authoritarian forms of government are transient. Only democratic systems are not transient. Whatever the shortcomings, mankind has not devised anything superior."
--Vladimir Putin

"There are many qualities that make a great leader. But having strong beliefs, being able to stick with them through popular and unpopular times, is the most important characteristic of a great leader."
--Rudy Giuliani

[that gif with the bouncing boobies]
posted by Sys Rq at 3:15 PM on February 12, 2010


Sys Rq, I like how your bulletin alter ego is some sort of virtual-fascist. My character isn't so developed just yet.

______________________________________________________

"Easy come, Easy go"

- Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody

"ah, what am I suppose to say to an atheist when he sneezes, ah, when you die nothing happens?"

- Dane Cook
posted by Think_Long at 3:19 PM on February 12, 2010


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