Nobody's Home(page)
March 24, 2012 9:03 AM   Subscribe

The Gallery of Default Anonymity What being nobody looks like all over the web.
posted by oneswellfoop (27 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
It's missing Something Awful's endearing "Stupid Newbie" avatar.
posted by hellojed at 9:11 AM on March 24, 2012

So, they're very much "Assumed Male Until Proven Otherwise".
posted by barnacles at 9:19 AM on March 24, 2012 [9 favorites]

I find the gendered character of the default avatars fascinating. Note how even anonymous individuals are required to declare a sex on many sites. And where just one image is used for the faceless masses, it usually bears more resemblance to the male icon than the female one from gendered options. In the case of the NYT TimesPeople image, apparently the generic individual is white, male, crewcutted and middle aged. The Twitter o_0 about expresses my take on this.
posted by DrMew at 9:24 AM on March 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm getting too old for this anonymous shit.
posted by xigxag at 10:03 AM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

So, they're very much "Assumed Male Until Proven Otherwise".

Except for The Knot. Which, if there's going to be one exception, that's an awfully irritating exception to have.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:04 AM on March 24, 2012

michaelh: "That's fun. Here's Basecamp Next's arty take on default avatars."

Great stuff! Although I question Fried's feedback that the office surface textures were "too masculine". They're still not questioning their preconceptions enough if they're saying things like that.

All the same, the resulting faces were great! Clever, fun, and I love that they were randomly assigned. That's the way to do things, folks.
posted by barnacles at 10:08 AM on March 24, 2012

....although there are a fair number of sites where the gender-neutral icon is genuinely neutral — no indication of hair or clothing, no other gendered traits, just an oval for a head and a rectangle for shoulders and that's it.

And DailyMotion has a genuinely neutral option in addition to the "marked" male and female icons, which is I guess a decent approach if you're going to push people towards indicating their gender.

I think my personal ideal would be something like the DailyMotion icons, only customizable. "Yes, I feel that my gender identity is best expressed by a green bowtie coming out of my left ear. You figure out what that means." But then I'm probably more of a smartass than they really want to be catering to in their default setup.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:09 AM on March 24, 2012

I have seen both male and female "anonymous" images on Facebook. That gallery only lists one, the male image. Maybe Facebook has recently changed their policy and eliminated the female version, although I'm not sure why that would happen.
posted by cribcage at 10:54 AM on March 24, 2012

I burst out laughing when I got to the one for BerlinerStrassen. This long, long series of deliberately generic people is broken by... this goony-looking walleyed dude, with a crazy grin. That is THE BEST EVER.

Sadly the site seems to be defunct so I will never get to see what that was in the context of.
posted by egypturnash at 10:56 AM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, this is great. I'm fascinated with stuff like this, and it inspired me to compute the average picture all of the anonymous avatars. The median of all the avatars looks like this.

Here's a zip file of these avatars, all scaled to the same dimensions (256x256px) but without regard for the aspect ratio of the original (since most are square).
posted by fake at 10:56 AM on March 24, 2012 [13 favorites]

I should get around to uploading my image here, the default MeFi profile pic is a little silly.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:59 AM on March 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

BerlinerStrassen is great.
posted by kenko at 11:36 AM on March 24, 2012

That median of all the anonymouses would actually make for a great anonymous avatar, fake. It's like an identity just beginning to coalesce.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:47 AM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Exactly! And it also shows how the default approach is "make a circle in the center of a square"...
posted by fake at 11:49 AM on March 24, 2012

I also really liked Cracked's Unabomber Sketch and the one that used Danny Glover.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:49 AM on March 24, 2012

It's pretty clever to make the default photo embarrassing so that your users will feel compelled to replace it.
posted by knave at 11:54 AM on March 24, 2012

The median of all the avatars looks like this.

My god. We all average out to C-3PO in a Tudor ruff.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:05 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Actually, we MeFites look a bit different. Here's The Average MeFite.

Here's how I came to this result:

1. I downloaded all 5066 user profile pictures.
2. I converted them all to 24bit PNGs.
3. I padded them out to 140x140 with transparent pixels.
4. I installed ImageMagick and uttered the following magick words into the terminal:

"convert *.png -average The_Average_Mefite.jpg"

If anyone here is good at face detection, I'd like to remove all the non-face avatars and try this experiment again.
posted by fake at 2:57 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

The median of all the avatars looks like this.

It's a pop-culture Rorschach test. (I see Kenny McCormick.)
posted by kurumi at 3:47 PM on March 24, 2012

That's creepy and right out of one of those White Noise type movies.
posted by Iosephus at 3:48 PM on March 24, 2012

Not so much a "gallery of default anonymity", as a "gallery of selected anonymous profile pics from 2009 (with a bias towards male, even when not forced by the site)"

I loved the twitter 0_o avatar. It fitted the text-only feel so well.

The day they changed it to the poxy bird, or the egg, or whatever the hell it was next niggled me so much, my I stole Rich Burlew's MitD eyes as the next best thing. Take that oppressive icon changing regime! (and sorry Rich).
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 4:05 PM on March 24, 2012

Ha. I took a random sample of 700 MeFite profile pics, and then removed two things:

1. Cats.
2. Cartoons.

Which left me with ~300 images.

The Average Mefite, Minus Cats and Cartoons.
The Average Mefite.

Pretty much done here as I'm off writing a face deleter using SimpleCV.
posted by fake at 4:23 PM on March 24, 2012

I designed the default Gmail avatar. A shocking amount of time went into explorations provoked by the perceived gender of the icon. Even the most basic outlines (nondescript oval with shoulders) may be perceived as gendered due to color and proportion choices. The Gmail icon was done in four colors that were randomly assigned the day the feature launched.

We also explored the idea of building a default icon set based on characters from past homepage doodles (e.g. ice-skating penguins), but once your user population becomes sufficiently large, it is very difficult to introduce character and whimsy into a product in a way that crosses cultural borders.
posted by drklahn at 5:26 PM on March 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

I also really liked Cracked's Unabomber Sketch

He's wearing a hoodie! Shoot him, Geraldo!!!
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:52 PM on March 24, 2012

The Facebook avatar looks like a baby bottle nipple.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 8:31 PM on March 24, 2012

I've gotta say, I love Memrise but their default anon is a bit of a misstep.
posted by obscurator at 7:15 AM on March 26, 2012

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