Editing comments causes author avatar to disappear

Filed an Issue pfefferle/wordpress-semantic-linkbacks (GitHub)
wordpress-semantic-linkbacks - More meaningfull linkbacks

On the /wp-admin/comment.php admin page when manually editing a comment to change any of the common fields (author, email, the comment itself) and saving, everything saves as expected except for the avatar within the Semantic Linkbacks portion. If the avatar was changed (or one was added) things are saved properly, but when updating other fields and not changing the avatar itself, the avatar field data seems to be deleted on saving, thus making the author images disappear.

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👓 Reasons for Using Avatar Privacy | Code by Der Mundschenk & Cie.

Read Reasons for Using Avatar Privacy (Code by Der Mundschenk & Cie.)
In what way are avatars a pri­va­cy risk? To dis­play an avatar im­age, you pub­lish an en­crypt­ed ver­sion (MD5) of the e-​mail ad­dress in the gravatar’s im­age URL. Gra​vatar​.com then de­cides if there is an avatar im­age to de­liv­er, oth­er­wise the de­fault im­age is de­liv­ered. The de­fault image’s ad­dress is al­so part of the over­all gra­vatar …
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👓 Avatar Privacy | WordPress.org

Read Avatar Privacy by Peter Putzer, Johannes Freudendahl (WordPress.org)

Avatars from Gravatar.com are great, but they come with certain privacy implications. You as site admin may already know this, but your visitors and users probably don’t. Avatar Privacy can help to improve the privacy situation by making some subtle changes to the way avatars are displayed on your site.

The plugin works without changing your theme files if you use a modern theme, and it does support (simple) multisite installations. It requires at least PHP 5.6 and WordPress 4.9. For the plugin to do anything for you, you need to visit the discussion settings page in the WordPress admin area and save the new settings. Please note that the plugin does not provide an options page of its own, it rather adds to the existing discussion settings page.

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Reads, Listens, Watches, and Editable Webmention Types and Avatars in the IndieWeb WordPress Suite

I’ve been meaning to write regular updates to highlight some of the useful changes in the functionality of the IndieWeb suite of WordPress plugins, but never gotten around to it. There’s been a few really interesting ones lately, so I thought I’d start. Observant watchers who read through either the code or even the scant change logs before they update their code may catch some of these features, but sometimes interesting tidbits can slip by the most vigilant. Here are some interesting recent ones:

Display of Reads, Listens, and Watches in comments sections

David Shanske’s excellent Post Kinds Plugin allows one to post what they’re reading, listening to, or watching in simple IndieWeb fashion. (Examples of these on my site: read posts, listen posts, watch posts.) These posts types automatically include the appropriate microformats classes so the user doesn’t need to bother doing them manually. For a long time when replying to another’s site, bookmarking it, or even mentioning it when also using the Webmentions plugin would send the site a Webmention that would generally cause it to show up as a native comment, bookmark or mention. With an update late last year, from within the Discussion settings in WordPress, one could set toggles so that many of these webmentions could be displayed as facepiles. Other broadly unsupported post types would typically default to a simple mention.

Recently David Shanske and I started a podcast, and he thought it would be useful if his site could accept listen posts and show them visually within his comments section just like these replies, bookmarks, and mentions. Thus over the past month he’s added code to the Semantic Linkbacks Plugin to add the functionality for these types of posts to properly render showing facepiles for listens, reads, and watches.

This is what webmentions of listen posts  look like on his site in his comments section:

User Interface example of how listen posts on David Shanske’s podcast appear on his site

What’s happening

Listen (or scrobble) posts can send webmentions (or notifications) to the original content potentially with the experimental listen-of microformat. In the case of scrobbles of podcasts, these webmentions could be displayed as “Listens” which would provide the canonical copy of the podcast some indicator of its popularity and actual audience. It is tremendously difficult to obtain data on the actual number of listens within most of the podcast community and typically a fraction of the number of downloads must be used as an indicator of the actual reach. Being able to display listens could potentially be a boon to the podcasting market, particularly with respect to advertising as this type of open social web functionality spreads.

Similarly read posts with the read-of microformat and watches with watch-of will be accepted and show up within the comments section. Like the previous types, they can be set to display as facepiles within the user interface.

From the Discussion options settings page (typically at: /wp-admin/options-discussion.php#semantic_linkbacks) one can choose the mention types one wants to have appear as facepiles within their comments section.

Knowing that this read functionality would be available, this week I helped ColoradoBoulevard.net set up their site to be able to accept and display reads of their articles. Here’s an example from their site:

The display of a read post on ColoradoBoulevard.net

I haven’t yet seen one for watches in the wild yet, but maybe you’ll be either the first  to send or receive one?

The microformats on these posts is generally considered to be experimental, but with the ~500+ users of this suite of tools as well as others who are already using them on other sites, they’ve now taken a dramatic step into the open internet and more widespread use and potential official adoption.

Editable Webmention Types and Avatars

Webmention Types

Just yesterday, I spent a few minutes in the IndieWeb chat helping someone to laboriously delve into their mySQL databaset and find a particular snippet of data so they could manually change a received webmention from being a simple mention to being a reply so that it would display as a native comment on their website. I’ve often done this to take what sometimes seem like simple mentions and change them to replies to reveal the richer content they often contain for the broader conversation. Sadly the process is boring, laborious, and fraught with potential ways to mess things up.

As of this weekend, this process is no longer necessary. One can now go to the admin interface for their comments and webmentions (found at the path /wp-admin/edit-comments.php), click on edit for the particular comment they’re changing and then scroll down to reveal a droplist interface to be able to manually change the webmention type.

Samantic Linkbacks Data metabox within the comment editing interface on WordPress. One can use the dropbox to change the webmention type as well as manually update the commenter’s avatar.

As another example of a use for this functionality, perhaps you’ve received a listen mention on one of your podcast episodes that has a lot of useful notes or commentary germane to your episode? Instead of hiding it as a simple listen, why not change the type to reply to allow a richer conversation around your content? After all, with a reasonable reply it will be implicit that the commenter actually listened to the episode, right?

Avatars

Because there is currently no functionality in WordPress for saving or caching the avatars of commenters via webmention, when users change their profile images on siloed services like Facebook, Twitter, et al. the link to their old avatars quits working and they were displaying blank spaces. This is an unfortunate form of linkrot, but one that can become more visually apparent over time.

Likes and Reposts concatenated on my site now after converting them into facepiles. They still give the social “proof” and indicate the interaction, but don’t interfere in the conversation now–especially when there are hundreds of them.

As one can see in the image for the commenting edit box above, the field for the Avatar is now editable. This means one can update out-of-date or blank avatars. One now also has the ability to moderate/edit or easily remove/switch avatars if users are sending inappropriate photos for one’s site’s audience.​​​​​​​​​

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Give your web presence a more personal identity

Photos on WordPress with Gravatar

Not a day goes by that I don’t run across a fantastic blog built or hosted on WordPress that looks gorgeous–they do an excellent job of making this pretty easy to accomplish.

but

Invariably the blog’s author has a generic avatar (blech!) instead of a nice, warm and humanizing photo of their lovely face.

Or, perhaps, as a user, you’ve always wondered how some people qualified to have their photo included with their comment while you were left as an anonymous looking “mystery person” or a randomized identicon, monster, or even an 8-bit pixelated blob? The secret the others know will be revealed momentarily.

Which would you prefer?

A face on the internet could love
Identicon: A face only the internet could love
Chris Aldrich
Chris:  a face only a mother could love
An example of a fantastic blog covering the publishing space, yet the author doesn't seem to know how to do his own avatar properly.
An example of a fantastic blog covering the publishing space, yet after 11,476 articles, the author can’t get his photo to show up.

Somehow, knowing how to replace that dreadful randomized block with an actual photo is too hard or too complicated. Why? In part, it’s because WordPress separated out this functionality as a decentralized service called Gravatar, which stands for Globally Recognized Avatar. In some sense this is an awesome idea because then people everywhere (and not just on WordPress) can use the Gravatar service to change their photo across thousands of websites at once. Unfortunately it’s not always clear that one needs to add their name, email address, and photo to Gravatar in order for the avatars to be populated properly on WordPress related sites.

(Suggestion for WordPress: Maybe the UI within the user account section could include a line about Gravatars?)

So instead of trying to write out the details for the third time this week, I thought I’d write it once here with a bit more detail and then point people to it for the future.

Another quick example

Can you guess which user is the blog's author? Can you guess which user is the blog’s author in the screencapture?

The correct answer is Anand Sarwate, the second commenter in the list. While Anand’s avatar seems almost custom made for a blog on randomness and information theory, it would be more inviting if he used a photo instead.

How to fix the default avatar problem

What is Gravatar?

Your Gravatar is an image that follows you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things like comment or post on a blog. Avatars help identify your posts on blogs and web forums, so why not on any site?

Gravatar.com

Need some additional motivation? Watch this short video:

Step 1: Get a Gravatar Account

If you’ve already got a WordPress.com account, this step is easy. Because the same corporate parent built both WordPress and Gravatar, if you have an account on one, you automattically have an account on the other which uses the same login information. You just need to log into Gravatar.com with your WordPress username and password.

If you don’t have a WordPress.com account or even a blog, but just want your photo to show up when you comment on WordPress and other Gravatar enabled blogs, then just sign up for an account at Gravatar.com. When you comment on a blog, it’ll ask for your email address and it will use that to pull in the photo to which it’s linked.

Step 2: Add an email address

Log into your Gravatar account. Choose an email address you want to modify: you’ll have at least the default you signed up with or you can add additional email addresses.

Step 3: Add a photo to go with that email address

Upload as many photos as you’d like into the account. Then for each of the email addresses you’ve got, associate each one with at least one of your photos.

Example: In the commenters’ avatars shown above, Anand was almost there. He already had a Gravatar account, he just hadn’t added any photos.

Step 4: Fill out the rest of your social profile

Optionally you can additional social details like a short bio, your other social media presences, and even one or more websites or blogs that you own.

Step 5: Repeat

You can add as many emails and photos as you’d like. By linking different photos to different email addresses, you’ll be able to change your photo identity based on the email “key” you plug into sites later.

If you get tired of one photo, just upload another and make it the default photo for the email addresses you want it to change for. All sites using Gravatar will update your avatar for use in the future.

Step 6: Use your email address on your WordPress account

Now, go back to the user profile section on your blog, which is usually located at http://www.YOURSITE.com/wp-admin/users.php.

WordPress screenshot of admin panel for user information.
WordPress screenshot of admin panel for user information.

In the field for the email, input (one of) the email(s) you used in Gravatar that’s linked to a photo.

Don’t worry, the system won’t show your email and it will remain private–WordPress and Gravatar simply use it as a common “key” to serve up the right photo and metadata from Gravatar to the WordPress site.

Once you’ve clicked save, your new avatar should show up in the list of users. More importantly it’ll now show up in all of the WordPress elements (like most author bio blocks and in comments) that appear on your site.

Administrator Caveats

WordPress themes need to be Gravatar enabled to be able to use this functionality, but in practice, most of them do, particularly for comments sections. If yours isn’t, then you can usually add it with some simple code.

In the WordPress admin interface one can go to Settings>>Discussion and enable View people's profiles when you mouse over their Gravatars under the heading “Gravatar Hovercards” to enable people to see more information about you and the commenters on your blog (presuming the comment section of your theme is Gravatar enabled.)

Some WordPress users often have several user accounts that they use to administer their site. One might have a secure administrator account they only use for updates and upgrades, another personal account (author/editor admin level account which uses their name) for authoring posts, and another (author/editor admin level) account for making admin notice posts or commenting as a generic moderator. In these cases, you need to make sure that each of these accounts has an email address with an an associated Gravatar account with the same email and the desired photo linked to it. (One Gravatar account with multiple emails/photos will usually suffice, though they could be different.)

Example: In Nate’s case above, we showed that his photo didn’t show in the author bio box, and it doesn’t show up in some comments, but it does show up in other comments on his blog. This is because he uses at least two different user accounts: one for authoring posts and another for commenting. The user account he uses for some commenting has a linked Gravatar account with email and photo and the other does not.

One account doesn't have a Gravatar with a linked email and photo.
One account doesn’t have a Gravatar with a linked email and photo.

 

comments-yes
Another account does have a linked Gravatar account with linked email and photo.

More tips?

Want more information on how you can better own and manage your online identity? Visit IndieWeb.org: “A people-focused alternative to the ‘corporate web’.

TL;DR

To help beautify your web presence a bit, if you notice that your photo doesn’t show up in the author block or comments in your theme, you can (create and) use your WordPress.com username/password in an account on their sister site Gravatar.com. Uploading your preferred photo on Gravatar and linking it to an email will help to automatically populate your photo in both your site and other WordPress sites (in comments) across the web. To make it work on your site, just go to your user profile in your WordPress install and use the same email address in your user profile as your Gravatar account and the decentralized system will port your picture across automatically. If necessary, you can use multiple photos and multiple linked email addresses in your Gravatar account to vary your photos.

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