Tag Archives: gravatar

How to Add Address Book Contact Pictures

I seem to know a billion people. Not really, but with over 2,000 contacts in my address book (which undergoes regular pruning)… it might as well be a billion.

Since I’m visual in nature – preferring to wait for the movie over reading the book, unless that book has lots and lots of colorful pictures in it – I also appreciate having avatars / photos for every contact that pores into my inbox and sits inside my address book to boot.

This shouldn’t be a problem, right? Yeah, well – in a perfect universe, we’d all be able to poop chocolate. And, I suppose, in many ways, it’s easier to poop chocolate than it is to get your address book in order in any environment that extends past one piece of software.

Chris Conveys an Emotion
This is how I feel.

Here’s my scene, if you can dig it: I use a managed Exchange 2007 server to host my contacts, but I’m also a Mac user who has come to discover that every single PIM that Microsoft has produced for OS X is absolute poop. This includes the sluggish Outlook for Mac, which I wouldn’t recommend to anybody. Not that I ever loved Entourage (absolutely NOBODY did).

So, I use Mail.app, Address Book, and iCal – and was quite happy when Exchange was finally supported on the Mac desktop. Kinda. It doesn’t really work all as well as Apple would lead you to believe. I don’t want to manage two [same] contact lists on one computer, so the only way to effectively sync the Address Book to Exchange without duplicating local contacts is by using a hack known as Plaxo. I call it a hack because they’ve not done much with fixing outstanding bugs in, say, since the last time I took a chocolate poop.

So, I have Plaxo syncing the Mac data (Calendar, Contacts) to the cloud, and I have a VM of Windows 7 running Outlook 2010 on another Mac do pull data from Plaxo into it. Yes, as much as it pains me to admit: Plaxo (Comcast) has been the best glue I can find.

And let me just say that the MobileMe contact sync has been an absolute nightmare to deal with. I couldn’t figure out how some of my contact fields were disappearing. I was ready to blame Exchange or Plaxo but, as it turns out, MobileMe eats contact fields for breakfast. Only after I turned off this sync point did things get better.

But, back to the contact picture / avatar dilemma. Neither Outlook nor the Mac Address Book are very intelligent. They’re downright stupid, actually – and I’ve had to rely on several pieces to put together a complete picture. So to speak.

Many people in my address book are also on Facebook, so this utility will automatically sync their birthdays and profile imagery. If you’re thinking that the Facebook iPhone app has a contact sync, you’re right – and I’ll come back to that in a bit.

I’d hope to see the following features in AddressBookSync at some point: the inclusion of other possible vCard metadata, the ability to add Facebook friends who aren’t already in your contact list, the auto-categorization of Facebook Friends Groups into local Groups, etc.

Apparently, there are tons of people in my address book who aren’t on Facebook (or, at least, I can’t or don’t want to connect with them in any social network). They remained avatarless for a few moments, until I got the bright idea of searching for a Gravatar conduit.

Everybody. Needs. To. Set. Up. A. Gravatar. Right. Now. You essentially associate all of your email addresses with an image which is used by a growing number of services (like LockerGnome.net for the moment). It’s a globally-accessable avatar.

Indeed, I discovered something called Picture Finder. While it’s extremely powerful, insofar as its ability to display a person’s Gravatar, Wavatar, QR Code, etc. – it’s also not great for managing contact lists over 99 people. Still, it was better than nothing – and I was able to generate some fun little avatars for people who didn’t have any photo currently associated with themselves in my address book.

I’d hope to see the following features in Picture Finder at some point: the ability to auto-populate contacts without gravatars with a gravatar type of your choosing en masse, and… yeah, that’s about it.

You see, despite its functionality, I gave up after manually processing ~100 contacts. I needed to find a better way to cull gravatars for people who have registered them. AppleScript to the rescue! The aptly-titled Gravatar to Address Book Pictures worked wonders… until it got to a point when it crashed. I have no idea why it crashed – do I look like a developer to you?

For on-demand Gravatar pulls from within the address book, by the way, the Address Book “Gravatar bundle” is also available for download.

I still have too many people in my address book that are iconless – and that’s (really) driving me bonkers. If I was an AppleScript wizard, I could likely fix the problem in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

Are you ready for the insult? Plaxo somehow eats the images before it syncs to Outlook / Exchange! So, all of my hard work on the desktop is pointless when it comes to viewing the same contacts on my iPhone. I don’t sync via the Address Book, remember – I use Exchange for that. One contact list is all I’m trying to maintain!

So, since my contact information pipeline is disgustingly busted, I had to resort to using the Facebook iPhone app to sync photos to contacts in my address book on the iPhone (which, again, is the same contact list sitting in my Exchange account). That worked well enough – for now.

Since I need to keep Outlook open anyway [*grumble*], I tried the new Outlook Social Connector extension – which, for what it is, works quite well but falls short of being insanely useful. Typical Microsoft. You can’t configure settings to keep it from spilling insane amounts of crap into new folders, you can’t sync contact pictures from the social network providers to your address book contacts, you can’t automatically sync contact lists with Facebook, and… MySpace? Who the f*ck wants to correspond with anybody who still posts updates there?! Judging from the lack of updates from that idea, I’d say it’s dead.

I did find a handful of interesting duds Windows utilities, but each one of ’em crashed before I could do anything. If you’re interested, I wielded OutSync and Synrc.

The solution? For Plaxo to stop eating contact pictures, support Facebook and Gravatar for contacts outright, for it to support Exchange without needing to go through Outlook (a complaint that has resulted in a combined two-star rating in the iPhone app store), and to update their software more frequently. I’m a Premium member, not looking for a free ride. Seriously – they’re the best game in town for what I’ve been trying to do.

And while I’m on the subject, WTF is up with the Mac Address Book still not being able to export or import a simple CSV (or tab-delimited) file?! If that’s what you need, Mail Scripts works wonders. There’s also Hubi’s Address Book Scripts, although I wish he’d make one that would help eliminate duplicate data even if they happen to sit in different fields.

Maybe an enterprising Windows / Outlook developer will help that side of the equation?

Don’t even get me started on how to eliminate address book duplicates. That’s a different matter entirely (for a completely different post, once I find the best solution for the problem).

Share Your Gravatar Public Profile

We’ve been allowing the use of Gravatars here on the blog for quite awhile now. As the little avatars have grown in popularity, so have the services behind them. Back in March, the team at Gravatar announced that we would soon be able to publicly share our aggregated profiles. Today, those public profiles are ready to show off.

As you can see on my Gravatar page, there is a wealth of information you can fill out. Add your contact information and verify your social network accounts. You can even add links to websites that you own or pages that show off your work. The service will then attempt to pull in a thumbnail from that URL. However, this part seems to be a bit sketchy still. I’ve noticed several people’s pages that have broken images where their sites are shown. I have a feeling that will be resolved fairly quickly.

The best part of this service is the fact that you can easily and quickly share as much (or as little) of your information as you wish. If you don’t want everyone and their brother to know your instant messenger IDs, don’t place them there. If you want the Internet to see where to locate you on Twitter but not on Facebook, then only fill in the Twitter area. You can change these at any time with just a couple of clicks in your “Edit Profile” settings.

With the ability to share where you are online, write a short biography and personalize your background, the new public Gravatar pages are sure to be a big hit.

How to Make an iPhone Web Site and Icon

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Yes, I have an iPhone. If you look closely, you can see my little Chris icon on there. It’s also on my home screen. When I tap it, it opens my blog. When you open my blog on your iPhone, it’s going to look a lot different than it would on a browser. That’s due to a plugin I am running in WordPress.

WP Touch is a plugin that was designed specifically for your iPhone or iPod Touch. What it does it to automagically reformat my blog (or any WP blog), and optimizes it specifically for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It gives it a whole new layout, even, that is designed to just render better on your Apple mobile device. There’s no better way of giving you a better experience than to use WP Touch on a blog that is running WordPress.

As I drill down into the actual content on the home page, I can cascade out and read brief previews. Or, I can dive deeper and go so far as to leave a comment. It loads fast, and it’s clean. It’s a great way of getting content specifically optimized. It even uses Gravatars! There’s even a little search button at the top. Simply tap that, and you’ll be able to run a search through my blog.

How did I get the little Chris icon, you ask? If someone is viewing your website and they press the little plus (+) icon at the bottom in their Safari browser, they can select “add to home screen”. When they do that, the little graphic that is on my web server (or yours) is automatically pulled in when it’s added to their home screen. Even if you don’t have the iPhone or the iPod Touch, you still want to do this. You don’t know who out there in your audience does have one. You want to give them an amazing experience. Just open up your favorite photo editor. You’ll need to create a .png file. The size can vary up to 60×60 pixels. I uploaded mine to my root directory. It’s very important to name it properly: apple-touch-icon.png. That has to be the name, and it has to be in the root directory. This way, the plugin will be able to pull in this icon.

Think of it: you’re doing something simple and free for your audience. If you’re like me, you want to do everything you possibly can in order to keep people coming back for more.

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Is your Avatar a Gravatar?

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I know a few of you use forums. Some of you have blogs and other social accounts. Most of these places allow you to set up an avatar. The hope is that one day, you only have to upload an avatar once and have it populate to all places you are on the Web. There is something that may be used throughout any blog that uses WordPress, and that has this feature enabled. For years, the Gravatars have been a plugin for WordPress. Now, the new version of WordPress has support for these Gravatars.

If you’ve commented in my blog in the past, you’ve used an Email address. This is what will allow you to have a Gravatar that follows you around once you register. Your Gravatar will automatically be posted with your comments on any blog you visit, as long as you comment using your normal email address. You don’t have to sign up with my blog, or anything!

Of course, you will need to sign up for free with Gravatar. 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? Setting up gravatars on your weblog is easy, you don’t even need an account! Plugins are available for leading weblog software, and our tutorials will have you running gravatars in no time. To request a gravatar from our servers, you simply add an image to your comments area with an “src” attribute that points to our gravatar image generator and includes an MD5 hash of the commenter’s email address. Since all gravatars are rated with an MPAA style rating, you can restrict your site to show only gravatars whose content you are comfortable with.

You may have more than one email address or more than one avatar that you want to manage. That’s fine, you can do that! You can upload your image, and it helps you crop it down so it fits into an avatar size! It’s super easy, even if you aren’t good with photo editing software.

The challenge now to you is to go sign up for Gravatar, then leave a comment in my blog so that we can all check out your avatar!

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