Why are we limited in avatar size?

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willpell
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Why are we limited in avatar size?

Post by willpell » Wed Aug 16, 2017 11:46 pm

Hey Ashtagon, I know we've discussed this before, but why exactly are we so limited on our avatar size? I was going to switch my image, but somehow I started with an image that was under 5KB but over 90x90p, edited it with GIMP to be 90x68, and was left with somehow above 15KB (not to mention in .xcf format, and I didn't know whether it would work for that reason).

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Re: Why are we limited in avatar size?

Post by Tim Baker » Thu Aug 17, 2017 4:36 am

willpell wrote:Hey Ashtagon, I know we've discussed this before, but why exactly are we so limited on our avatar size? I was going to switch my image, but somehow I started with an image that was under 5KB but over 90x90p, edited it with GIMP to be 90x68, and was left with somehow above 15KB (not to mention in .xcf format, and I didn't know whether it would work for that reason).
If you can get your .xcf file to me, I'd be happy to send it back as a .jpg, which will have a smaller file size. An .xcf file won't work for your avatar. Perhaps put the .xcf file on Google Drive or Dropbox and then PM me a link. I'll convert it and send it back.
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Re: Why are we limited in avatar size?

Post by Havard » Sat Aug 19, 2017 12:57 pm

Tim Baker wrote:
willpell wrote:Hey Ashtagon, I know we've discussed this before, but why exactly are we so limited on our avatar size? I was going to switch my image, but somehow I started with an image that was under 5KB but over 90x90p, edited it with GIMP to be 90x68, and was left with somehow above 15KB (not to mention in .xcf format, and I didn't know whether it would work for that reason).
If you can get your .xcf file to me, I'd be happy to send it back as a .jpg, which will have a smaller file size. An .xcf file won't work for your avatar. Perhaps put the .xcf file on Google Drive or Dropbox and then PM me a link. I'll convert it and send it back.
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Re: Why are we limited in avatar size?

Post by Ashtagon » Wed Aug 23, 2017 2:40 pm

willpell wrote:Hey Ashtagon, I know we've discussed this before, but why exactly are we so limited on our avatar size? I was going to switch my image, but somehow I started with an image that was under 5KB but over 90x90p, edited it with GIMP to be 90x68, and was left with somehow above 15KB (not to mention in .xcf format, and I didn't know whether it would work for that reason).

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The technical limits are that it must be in jpg, gif,or png format (this is a limit of the software, which I cannot change), no more than 90x90 pixels, about no more than 8 kb (offhand, I'm not sure if the limit is set at 8192 bytes or 8000 bytes). Within those limits, it is technically possible to have an animated gif avatar (but please consider that this can trigger seizures in some people; one reason i set the bar low was to subtly discourage such avatars).

Additionally, there is an option to have avatars hosted remotely. I disabled this option many years, as it created a security risk in which malicious code could be sent to users; it could also give a false impression of a page failing to load if the remote site was slow or if the URL had been entered incorrectly by the avatar owner.

While it is technically possible to have larger avatars (and indeed, the avatar size here was larger than the standard size allowed on most forums back in the day), I want to keep the focus on the content that users write, rather than on the blinginess of a user avatar. The current avatar size is sufficient to allow for users to identify themselves graphically.

Note that most graphics programs will report the file size as if the file had been saved as a bmp file. The three formats that can be used all allow for data compression and can easily have file sizes far smaller than what a graphics program might report back. When saving a custom avatar from your graphics program, png offers the best image quality, gif offers the best data compression, but is limited to 256 colours, and jpg offers "lossy" data compression (specifically, it results in visible compression artefacts rather than just loss of colour depth). However, the better graphics editors offer an option to set the level of data compression that jpg uses, allowing for smaller but lossier images, or more accurate but larger image files.
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Re: Why are we limited in avatar size?

Post by willpell » Wed Aug 23, 2017 5:48 pm

Ashtagon wrote:The technical limits are that it must be in jpg, gif,or png format (this is a limit of the software, which I cannot change), no more than 90x90 pixels, about no more than 8 kb (offhand, I'm not sure if the limit is set at 8192 bytes or 8000 bytes). Within those limits, it is technically possible to have an animated gif avatar (but please consider that this can trigger seizures in some people; one reason i set the bar low was to subtly discourage such avatars).
It's not animated; 90x90 and 8000 KB are both ridiculously tiny, so the majority of jpeg files, if edited down to small enough pixel size, are still capable of ending up above the kilobyte limit (not to mention being so tiny and lo-res as to look horrid).
While it is technically possible to have larger avatars (and indeed, the avatar size here was larger than the standard size allowed on most forums back in the day)
Would this be a day in, say, 1998 or thereabouts? Computer technology doubles in potency ever 2 years or so. While we hardly need to be cutting-edge in order to host a simple message board, and I certainly don't want to break anything by upgrading to the newest hotness which is still unstable enough to require beta-testing, perhaps you could look into whether it's economically feasible to modernize a *little* bit...maybe 5 years behind the curve instead of 10, or whatever it works out to. (Absolutely no offense or passive-aggressiveness is intended by any of these suggestions; I'm aware that I'm receiving a service for free which you are paying some modest amount to supply, and am hardly *demanding* that you give me even more value for my nonexistent dollar, I'm just wondering if there are options out there which cost almost nothing, and that you just may not have gotten around to checking out.)

[q]I want to keep the focus on the content that users write, rather than on the blinginess of a user avatar. The current avatar size is sufficient to allow for users to identify themselves graphically.[/quote]

Fair enough. Both my current avatar and the one I wanted to switch to are references to movies that have been very impactful to me; the Apocalypse one is a trifle out of date, and I was hoping to use a movie which I have since come to regard as being better (and specifically replacing the first film's main villain with a more minor character in the second, who I happen to have taken a shine to the actor of).
Note that most graphics programs will report the file size as if the file had been saved as a bmp file. The three formats that can be used all allow for data compression and can easily have file sizes far smaller than what a graphics program might report back. When saving a custom avatar from your graphics program, png offers the best image quality, gif offers the best data compression, but is limited to 256 colours, and jpg offers "lossy" data compression (specifically, it results in visible compression artefacts rather than just loss of colour depth). However, the better graphics editors offer an option to set the level of data compression that jpg uses, allowing for smaller but lossier images, or more accurate but larger image files.
All of this is thoroughly beyond my comprehension. My relationship with computers is best likened to the relationship between the monolith in "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the proto-hominid apes that cluster around it; they are mysterious and powerful objects whose workings I need not even remotely understand, even as I benefit from them.

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Re: Why are we limited in avatar size?

Post by Big Mac » Wed Aug 23, 2017 7:44 pm

willpell wrote:
Ashtagon wrote:While it is technically possible to have larger avatars (and indeed, the avatar size here was larger than the standard size allowed on most forums back in the day)
Would this be a day in, say, 1998 or thereabouts?
No it would be Thursday May 22nd in 2008 at 4.45pm or thereabouts. :)
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Re: Why are we limited in avatar size?

Post by agathokles » Wed Aug 23, 2017 9:02 pm

willpell wrote: [...] 90x90 and 8000 KB are both ridiculously tiny, [...]

[...] maybe 5 years behind the curve instead of 10, or whatever it works out to. [...]

[...] All of this is thoroughly beyond my comprehension. My relationship with computers is best likened to the relationship between the monolith in "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the proto-hominid apes that cluster around it; they are mysterious and powerful objects whose workings I need not even remotely understand, even as I benefit from them.
Well, you may not need to understand computers to use them, but you should at least try to understand them before commenting on how a service is set up. Just a few pointers:
  • 8 kilobytes (not 8000) is almost exactly the size necessary to hold an uncompressed 90x90 image, at 1 byte per pixel (i.e., with the ability to choose among 256 colors).
  • Obviously, all formats allowed include some degree of compression, which allows to trade off between the number of colors, file size, and other parameters, so the actual quality is much higher than 256 colors, and quite near to the maximum (consider that 3 bytes per pixel in uncompressed images is about as much as it is reasonable to have -- this parameter is not technology related, as it depends mostly on the ability of the eye to distinguish colors, which is limited to slightly less than that for most people).
  • While 90x90 may seem small, there's no point in making avatars larger -- they are not the main information conveyed by The Piazza, and may actually be a problem on small screens (e.g., cell phones). Keeping them small minimizes the bandwidth occupied for transferring what is essentially not-so-useful information, which makes the website more useable, and possibly less costly (8 kilobytes of text equate to circa 3 pages of text, so in the end avatars may well occupy much more space than the useful information).
  • Finally, the cost of making avatars larger is higher than it may appear. To double the size of the avatar, from 90x90 to 180x180, would cause a growth of the (uncompressed) image size by a factor of 4.
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Re: Why are we limited in avatar size?

Post by willpell » Wed Aug 23, 2017 11:23 pm

Big Mac wrote:
willpell wrote:
Ashtagon wrote:While it is technically possible to have larger avatars (and indeed, the avatar size here was larger than the standard size allowed on most forums back in the day)
Would this be a day in, say, 1998 or thereabouts?
No it would be Thursday May 22nd in 2008 at 4.45pm or thereabouts. :)
Okay, so just under *one* full decade, rather than two...I feel much better now. :roll:

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Re: Why are we limited in avatar size?

Post by Ashtagon » Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:10 pm

Update: The avatar size limit is now 90x90 pixels (same as before), limited to jpg, png, or gif format (same as before), but the file size limit is now 32 kb instead of 8 kb. While this may seem like a trivial change, it does (or should) now mean that a 90x90 pixel png file should now be possible, and so there should be no need to resort to jpg compression to get the full potential of that avatar size.

Really, this is a minor change, which is why we didn't make a song and dance about it.
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