Some of you may have heard me talking about geek2geek communications lately. One of the biggest issues is the problem of empathy in electronic communications. It's really easy to be an ass to a piece of ASCII and forget there's a human whom you're writing to.
One way to solve this problem is to attach a face to the text, either in your head or in reality. Unfortunately, we can't meet everyone face to face in real life. Fortunately there's already technology to do this and its really simple. Gravatars.
Gravatars are simply small pictures (80 x 80 max) associated with an email address. Using a specially written URL you ask the Gravatar server to give you the picture for a given email address. Done! For example, here's my gravatar for my CPAN address. How do you make that magic URL? Why with Gravatar::URL of course.
You'll notice I used my CPAN address. Wouldn't it be neat if other CPAN authors did the same? Then wouldn't it be even neater if CPAN sites displayed an author's gravatar when you looked at their module? Then you'd have a face to associate with code, rather than just a name, and maybe be a little be politer when you're about to bitch out the author for their totally obvious and moronic bug.
Another handy application is to register a Gravatar for your normal email address, then other people can configure their mail reader to display it. There's a Thunderbird plugin called MessageFaces which displays Gravatars and other face formats when you read a message.
Get out there and increase empathy!
Update: Graham is down with it for search.cpan.org, except gravatar.com's connectivity is poor. We're working out a caching scheme.