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Author:  Sluor [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 4:59 am ]
Post subject:  Skycust

EDIT (by Calvin): Note to self. Since I keep having to dig to find those instructions.

(In which I try and completely fail to be dramatic.)

Ok, now go put that on top of the - ah cr-4p, they're here.

Ok, ok. Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages! The System of the World brings to you...

orchestral surge


Your Handy Dandy Custom Avatar System!

Quick links: If you have Kathy's alpha - it was a beta? if you say so - beta script, then uninstall it first, including associated preferences (there's a checkbox for that).

What is it and Why should I care?

(In which I endeavour to answer that question in a dry and technical manner.)

Skycust is a system that replaces the default avatars of this forum with custom ones. It works with lists of names and images ("providers"), and substitutes in the new avatar for the one provided by if one is suggested. Anyone can create a provider, and users can specify which providers they prefer in a reasonably rich way.


(In which I make much of the ease of use.)

Two steps to set up for firefox users:
    1. Install greasemonkey
    2. Install the skycust script posted above
One simple step for chrome users:
    1. Install the extension posted above
Refrosh, and gaze in wonder at the new avatars! Also at the spiffy little icon on your top-left (end of url bar for chrome users), which you don't touc- I said don't touch. Not yet. We'll get to that.

That's all you need to do to see custom avatars. If you like, you can go home now. Really!

However, there's some additional stuff you can do as well...

Kinda Advanced Usage

(In which I explain local overrides and blacklists, and hint about avatar providers.)

Hm. Sluor's avatar is absolutely horrible. It's just a colour-flipped version of the standard ferret avatar, and it doesn't fit at all.

I wonder who said Sluor should have this image... let's hover the mouse over it to find out. "tSotW Alternate Style Portraits". Eh. Those guys usually provide pretty good images, but this one... I don't want to see this.

Let's do as the tooltip suggests and click on it. Hi new window! What options can you give me?

Well, I haven't set Sluor to something else before, so there's no override to clear. I could go and search for something else for her, ...or I could not. Let's override it with the original art.

Aaah. Much more pleasing. And hey, the tooltip tells me that it's from my overrides. Hey, Eskay, don't you like the new -

- wha

- what do you mean you don't see it? Ooooh, right, because this is a local override. It's for if I don't like any one particular image even after many many providers have thought about it.

It's good to be king^W^W know I always have a veto.

But wait, there's more!

Wait a cotton-pickin' second! Doesn't that mean that if there is another avatar for Sluor available then I'll never get to see it? That's not fun! And there was that last option...

Let's see. Click Sluor, clear override. Ew, ugly image is back. But, now I know what to do - Click Sluor, add to blacklist. There. That means that if anyone wants to use that ugly image, it'll be blocked, and if Sluor switches to another image, I'll see it. Since I hate the image, and don't have any particular interest in forcing Sluor to the normal ferret, everyone wins!

Advanced Usage

(In which I explain just what exactly is an avatar provider anyway.)

Hm. Let's finally click the funny little picture of someone drawing on a walrus. Whoa - this seems to be a place I can see my image providers! Awesome. It looks the script checks "tSotW Skyrates Style Portraits" first, then "tSotW Alternate Style Portraits". So the Skyrates Style has priority, I see. I assume the up and down buttons let me change that priority.

I wonder what happens if I click one of these providers...

AAH! That looks like... code... in that box! Ok, ok, deep breaths. It's not that scary - it just looks like it's saying that it's a spreadsheet, and that weird looking thing must be the code. I wonder what happens if I type in one of the boxes and hit <Enter>... :(. I think I broke it; it apparently changes the selected provider directly. Let's a) not hit Save and b) refresh, then, to get our old list back.

Ok. So I can, theoretically, add providers to this. I wonder what providers are around... oh look! There's a handy list coming right up!

    tSotW Skyrates Style Portraits (default):

    tSotW Alternate Style Portraits (default):

    tSotW Exotic Avatars:

    Unmoderated Avatars*:

*this is not the same as Kathy's earlier spreadsheet, because a) hers reads "Skyrates Avatars", which is stunningly unuseful, b) she's not around to rename it and c) I have OCD :).
To add yourself to, or do anything else with, this unmoderated list, use this spiffy link.

These are all spreadsheets, so to add one, I click the Add button, paste the funky lookin' code into the spreadsheet box, and hit Enter. Oh - look, it finds the name of the spreadsheet. Neat, I can use that to check if I put the right code in.

So I suppose the idea of a provider is that it's a maintained collection of links between people and avatars. The System of the World, say, promises to keep their three providers up to date (including adding avatars to it when people request them), and to keep the content in them accurate and in the style mentioned. So if I didn't like the idea of seeing the Alternate Style images as I browse the fora, I'd remove that provider. If I'm happy with Exotic images, I'd go ahead and add the provider.

The order matters! Because Moros can have, say, both a Skyrates Style avatar and an Alternate Style avatar, the order says which one I'd prefer to see over the other.

So I guess that's what the default list means - "I'd prefer Skyrates style avatars over Alternate style avatars, I don't want to see any other kinds of avatars, and I trust The System of the World to keep this up to date and not full of shock images."

Really Advanced Usage

(In which I lose most of the readers and explain how a provider is born. Also, in which I drop the annoying stream-of-consciousness device.)

So what if you don't like tSotW's taste? Maybe you're ok with a bit of language, or a racy avatar or two, or just think we're unreasonably strict? Or maybe it's the other way around - you think we're too liberal with what we allow. Whatever it may be, you also think other people share the same taste - even if the "other people" are just you at your office.

What do you do? You create a provider!

The system supports two types of providers natively: the so-called "Simple" system and the "Spreadsheet" system.

With a Simple provider, you supply a URL/ to the script. It then requests exactly 'URL/person name'. If this exists (natively, via an HTTP redirect, whatever), it will assume that that is the avatar and link to it. If it doesn't exist (404; any status code in the 400s, etc.), then it'll assume that you don't have it and move on to the next provider.

The Simple type is significantly less tested, so there probably are still some bugs. If you're testing it and don't see this behaviour, it's a bug.

With a Spreadsheet provider, you create a Google Spreadsheet exactly of the form showcased in the Unmoderated provider. You then publish it, and the text between "key=" and the next "&" in the link Google provides is the key you supply to the script. And that's it - it's definitely simpler to make.

If neither of these serve your needs, then there is the Custom box. Basically, you write a javascript function of the form of the functions simple and spreadsheet return. You probably will want to poke at the code to figure out exactly how to that, so I'll just mention here that there's a nifty utility function available to help -
check_existence_of(url, success_continuation, failure_continuation)
You may be able to generate a display name for it as well, and attach it to the name_checkers object, but there probably are some assumptions hiding in the code that don't need to be there that'll break that.


(In which I preemptively absolve myself of all responsibility for everything upto and including the heat death of the universe due to you installing this.)

It's code. It has bugs. We've tested it pretty extensively, but there probably are bugs. If you find a bug, or have a feature request, or something, you can either add it here, or contribute directly by sending a patch, or forking the project, or suchlike.

There are a few security issues, yes. The Chrome extension specifically needs to request permission to be able to access all webpages, (http://*/), because a provider could be anywhere. I use and abuse eval quite a bit, though always in what look like to me safe places. If someone creates a weird looking custom provider, don't install it unless it's been vetted by someone you trust.

Updates. The Chrome extension updates automagically, and simply clicking the Greasemonkey script updates it to the latest version. I'll do my best to not break the build (i.e., you can be assured of a working script when you update). Updates will be documented - I should probably start a Version Log, but as is the commit messages serve that role.

And... that's it. Questions? Comments?

-- brought to you by The System of the World

Author:  Prince Harris [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:45 am ]
Post subject: 

So now you know what skycust is, and how it works! Hooray! Perhaps you have a question though. I can see it in your eyes! You're going to ask about the different providers that The System of the World offers by default! Good thing I've got this post to explain to you what they are.


1. Skyrates Style Avatars (link.) Avatars which fit the visual theme of the standard ones go here.

2. Skyrates Alternate Style Avatars (link.) Avatars which differ from the classic skyrates aesthetic, yet are still portraits, go here.

3. Exotic Style Avatars (link.) Avatars which are animated, or aren't portraits, or just plain wacky, go here.

Author:  Storm [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 3:04 pm ]
Post subject: 

Here's my first attempt at redoing my avatar; I think it's close enough to the dev's style. Mostly just recolorings.

Author:  Shadowflit [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 4:07 pm ]
Post subject: 

Firstly I'll just repeat that I think this is a great idea, and you guys have done an awesome job putting it together.

Some thoughts though:
The preference icon in the top left of the screen doesn't...stick. It goes to the top of the page every time I scroll, but there's a bit of a delay, it bounces, and its jarring. I'm not liking it. As a side note, it also appears a second time in the post writing window (the Topic review to be specific).

I'm not sure what a good solution is here. I don't think(?) javascript lets you say stay the way I'd like, but otherwise that would be great. Maybe put a link to the preferences inside the popup when you click an avatar otherwise? Or maybe I'm the only one bothered and I should just kill it from a local version of the code.

It might be worthwhile to ask for static storage locations (imageshack, for instance) over self hosted solutions, or otherwise create a central repository for the avatars. As it is now, I could replace my avatar with anything at all until a moderator fixed me. You've got personalization and moderation so maybe it will be fine, but trusting people to be good...well.

Author:  Sluor [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 4:31 pm ]
Post subject: 

(2)... yea, the current situation is temporary. We're looking for ways to have static images hosted in one place that won't stab us to death when we have a few hundred images hosted there.

(1) It is a tad annoying, isn't it? Ok, so for the chrome extension, because it's an extension, I can make it look better. For the userscript, though... Would it be alright if it just existed in the upper-left corner of the page - so you'd have to scroll alla way up to see it?

In any case, I've tweaked it so it should be smoother and less jarring.

For the displaying on multiple windows thing - it's an iframe, so I can't really do anything about that. Unless...


Arright, I've set it so it doesn't appear if there are no replaceable images on the current page. This removes it from the main forum browsing pages as well, but you probably didn't want them there anyway?

Gimme a bit to finish the chrome change...

Author:  Deyo [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 4:48 pm ]
Post subject: 

Pasted from IRC, because I am lazy and my brain hurts:

I also agree with Shadowflit that the "manage" icon could be better placed, or replaced with a Greasemonkey menu.
Under "User script commands"
But there's really no place where it fits. :)
oooh, bug and a half...
Sluor, if someone's avatar image is 404, there's no way to revert it to forum default, because there's nothing to click on. :)
Also, if you click on the walrus again to dismiss the control panel, it seems to save your changes.

Woo, I was able to override Sadi's 404'd image!
If you click on it before Greasemonkey replaces it, you can still get the menu. :)


Author:  Sluor [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 6:31 pm ]
Post subject: 

Deyo wrote:
if someone's avatar image is 404, there's no way to revert it to forum default, because there's nothing to click on. :)
Also, if you click on the walrus again to dismiss the control panel, it seems to save your changes.

Can anyone reproduce these two bugs? Because I sure can't.

Author:  Sluor [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:51 pm ]
Post subject: 

Arright, the chrome extension has been updated to use a page action instead of the top-left div thing. Looks pretty spiffy, if I do say so myself.

Look for the icon at the end of your address bar.

Author:  Floater [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 9:32 pm ]
Post subject: 

Very spiffy looking in Chrome.

Author:  Sluor [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 10:05 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hehhehhe... You, uh, may want to manually update your chrome extensions until Skycust is at . There's a few embarrassing bugs otherwise...

Also, github is "migrating my repositories", so until that's done, the greasemonkey script can be found here

Author:  Shadowflit [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:51 pm ]
Post subject: 

Sluor wrote:
Can anyone reproduce these two bugs? Because I sure can't.

Nope, works fine here.

The default image appears for me already (for Sadi's 404). I actually skimmed the code earlier looking for exactly this because I thought it should be the behavior, and was curious to see if that's what was written. I got the impression it was.

oh, and yes, I cast my vote for a top-of-page customization button.

Author:  Calvin [ Tue Dec 15, 2009 10:48 am ]
Post subject: 

As Sluor mentioned elsewhere, the Skybrary is not an image repository. Images not in use by pages on the Skybrary will be flagged for deletion.

Author:  Deyo [ Tue Dec 15, 2009 11:21 am ]
Post subject: 

Calvin wrote:
As Sluor mentioned elsewhere, the Skybrary is not an image repository. Images not in use by pages on the Skybrary will be flagged for deletion.

What if the same avatar is used on a character's bio page? Will the Skybrarians have any objection to the dual use?


Author:  Prince Harris [ Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:23 pm ]
Post subject: 

Deyo wrote:
Calvin wrote:
As Sluor mentioned elsewhere, the Skybrary is not an image repository. Images not in use by pages on the Skybrary will be flagged for deletion.

What if the same avatar is used on a character's bio page? Will the Skybrarians have any objection to the dual use?


We're working on a permanent storage solution, so this shouldn't be an issue for too much longer.

Author:  Deyo [ Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:25 pm ]
Post subject: 

Shadowflit wrote:
Sluor wrote:
Can anyone reproduce these two bugs? Because I sure can't.

Nope, works fine here.

These two issues are not appearing since I installed Sluor's latest version from


Author:  Aeauna [ Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:29 pm ]
Post subject: 

I've installed the script and I can see the icon in the top left corner, but no custom icons are showing up. Any idea what I'm doing wrong? (Also, I am completely unfamiliar with any coding or greasemonkey know-how, so please use small words.)

Edit: found the problem! Needs FF 3.1 or greater.

Author:  Kyra [ Tue Dec 15, 2009 5:22 pm ]
Post subject: 

Eeee! *flails and falls over*

*is very happy to see hers in there*

*cough* I mean...

*goes back to hiding* (I may be coming back over Christmas to do some more. No promises, though. But I have some I really want to finish... and this seems way easier than poking Henri to add them, which makes for more incentive.)

Author:  Sluor [ Tue Dec 15, 2009 5:34 pm ]
Post subject: 

Oh - and for the greasemonkey script, pick one source ( or github) and stick with it. Otherwise your preferences (server list, local overrides) will do weird things.

Author:  Jack O'Neill [ Tue Dec 15, 2009 11:16 pm ]
Post subject:

Author:  Sluor [ Tue Dec 15, 2009 11:49 pm ]
Post subject: 

Jack O'Neill wrote:

You misspelled my name :(

Also, this quote:
Also, the name Unmoderated Avatars is misleading, as members of the Skycust project will remove offensive images from this provider as necessary.

is Not True. Or, at least, we can't guarantee anything. I've removed it.

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