Disabling banners and/or avatars?

In light of the

Please remove the steak

infamous request floating around social media (which derailed a lot of useful moderation commentary), I have to wonder what the value of having these banner images even is? I understand the moderation request as that photo doesn’t really make sense in a software-community-focused forum like the NixOS Discourse, but if that is a feature that can cause issue, then why not disable it? Same would apply to avatars as well. It would save me bandwidth & forums like Hacker News get on just fine without the need to spice up the place with social media features. Less things to moderate would make moderation easier, no?

Note: I have no idea how easy/feasible this would be to tweak using off-the-shelf Discourse


i will start by saying i really don’t like the idea of disabling avatars citing NixCon as my reasoning: when i went i knew who some people were and could then easily walk up and meet them IRL because i knew who they were and had interacted with them online before - likewise several people walked up to me and introduced themselves to me because i was easy to recognize from my avatar

into logistics… are you proposing we tell users to remove their avatar from github as well to be consistent? and matrix? what if someone has a company/other policy to have their avatar on their github account? and matrix? some people use github or matrix for more then just our community

disabling avatars seems harmful to me and i don’t understand what problem it would solve that outweighs the benefits it introduced

banners on the other hand … those seem to be to solely be for personal expression unrelated to our community and i believe a number of users expressed interest in keeping this community on topic so i don’t think (m)any people would complain about that feature being disabled :heavy_check_mark:


I don’t use banners. So I wouldn’t mind them gone if this helps.

However I did not understand what the problem with the steak was to begin with.

I should also mention that the restriction of personal self-expression can be a slippery slope. So there’s that side as well. You mentioned avatars. I think they make users more recognizable and serve a more useful function than banners. You quickly see who wrote what when you see a picture. I haven’t put one either so far, but I was thinking about doing that at least.

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There are a lot of inappropriate images you can put in the 45×45 space & all users will see them when posted so it can be abused. Hopefully a “please change” request is all that’s needed to fix the issue. Name tag stickers with your community ID/hack3r name can solve the same oh-I-know-you moments at an event, & luckily we are not pressured into use a ‘real’ image of ourselves for anonymity/privacy concerns in this particular space.

My own anecdote is when a platform borrows design cues from social media platforms–like the Reddits & Twitters–a similar communication vibe happens in that space which can include ‘bad’ habits.

into logistics… are you proposing we tell users to remove their avatar from github as well to be consistent? and matrix? what if someone has a company/other policy to have their avatar on their github account? and matrix? some people use github or matrix for more then just our community

Logistically, NixOS’s org does not control those listed platforms & outside of very extreme exceptions have no business enforcing any rules on platforms they do not control since folks have different needs outside of Nix–if they want that control then they should be self-hosting a those platforms & disallow decentralized access. I could agree with enforcement on accounts that are created with the @user:nixos.org monicker, but outside its own server, the rules should be much looser. Similar would apply to the Git forge/social media site, Microsoft GitHub, where maybe there could be stricter rules related to those members of the “organization” but should largely be loose (tho I would strongly support any move to community-hosted forge).

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but anyone can draw inappropriate ascii art or link to inappropriate urls in any forum post at any time… i don’t understand your argument and thought this is what the moderation team is for
i’m interpreting what you’re saying here is that it is acceptable to ask the moderation team to moderate posts because they provide value… but you don’t want to ask them to provide moderation services to avatars because they do not provide value - i have already explained why i think avatars provide much value

not nearly as effectively - people who have avatars of themselves are immediately recognizable at community events, as opposed to other people who i now need to awkwardly walk around trying to stare at the name tag of everyone at the conference, half of which i don’t know. i work in IT so i’m socially awkward enough, please don’t increase the burden on me here :rofl:

i believe you can agree with this statement, though correct me if i’m wrong: our moderators need to moderate user avatars (on github and matrix) even if we disable avatars on discourse - if someone has a wildly offensive avatar on github and is part of this community making PRs to nixpkgs i feel like action will be taken…
… if so, then we really aren’t adding an additional load of work on moderators because they are already taking these actions

i don’t mean to be problematic with my stance here… i just really get value out of user avatars and i don’t want anyone to take that away… it would make the community less accessible to me


Disabling avatar + banners can be two separate topics, & just a suggestion since you could disable them, but you can’t disable posting text in general or the platform doesn’t work at all. Avatars/banners are visual enhancement/personal customization that aren’t strictly necessary for a forum to operate (not a shining example of quality or something to copy, but even 4chan can operate as a forum without avatars, banners, & even usernames). And less things to look at for moderation means less moderation.

RE: avatar moderation; I think should be tiers to this moderation depending on how much of the platform the NixOS community actually controls said platform. Having stricter rules here on the discourse.nixos.org makes more sense than some other examples–especially when decentralized. Veering a bit off topic but still related to the aforementioned food/diet banners was a request to change links in a Microsoft GitHub profile page which I do think is out of line since NixOS does not control its forge platform, but making the request for the Discourse makes sense since one does not use their NixOS Discourse account to interact with other communities & the server is controlled by its community.

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Disabling avatars sitewide because of one image of food is a severe overreaction.


I wasn’t looking at it with the perspective of disabling something valuable but removing unnecessary things if they don’t provide much community value especially if there’s a cost for it being something that now requires diligence. If you & everyone else finds avatars valuable, then that’s alright (meanwhile, I’m happy Lobsters allows users to disable them as a user setting as it helps me).


Right, I’d never even considered that. Guess I’ll at least print a badge with my avatar for when I finally make it to a nixcon!

I think they’re quite essential to discourse’s design language for this exact purpose.

When I browse #learn I can pretty quickly tell if someone’s being helped simply by the avatar that pops up to the right of the title - if it’s one of a handful of very active community members I can be pretty sure that they’ve had a good response from someone.

As another example, when reading replies in a long thread it’s easy to see which quote replies to who, without ever expending mental effort on reading any of your exact usernames - such as in this very reply!

Brains are just undeniably good at parsing images. I can imagine there being a lot of other little such design points where the presence of avatars was considered, just completely removing them (I imagine it could be done fairly easy with a patch to its CSS) would probably not be a good idea.

I really don’t buy that avatars are what causes people to share their irrelevant political opinions on tech forums - that also happened long before Facebook came along.

Not to say I don’t appreciate wanting to stay as far away from social media as possible, and that does indeed bleed into not wanting things to be aesthetically similar (at least for me). I just don’t think that’s an actual rational argument - having similar aesthetics is just more inclusive, which allows people who haven’t yet sufficiently grown their unix beards to contribute.

More people working on/with/around nix is better, even if this results in a proportional increase in moderation incidents.