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Tag: Gravatar

Writing a MediaWiki Gravatars template

This is a tutorial for MediaWiki users who want to learn how to create and use templates.

One day, I was looking for a MediaWiki extension to include a Gravatar (globally recognized avatar) in my user page on one of my MediaWiki installations. I did find an extension, but I thought it to be no better than writing a template myself.

A MediaWiki template

In a MediaWiki installation, if you find yourself repeating yourself in a lot of pages, you can turn the repetitive content into a template. This template can then be included in any page where you’d otherwise duplicate the content. In fact, you can include any page, but most templates will live in a separate namespace: Template.

To include a template, put the template name inside double curly braces, like this: {{My template}}. For templates inside the Template namespace (most templates), you can omit the namespace part. This means that if your template page name is Template:My template, you will call your template as in the previous example ({{My template}}).

Template parameters

Parameterization is a fancy word for what programmers do when they don’t want a function to return the same value on each invocation. They add parameters to the function. MediaWiki templates support parameters.

If you have a template called Template:My template which contains “I say this very often, but not {{{1}}}.“, you can invoke it with “{{My template|quite often enough}}“, you’ll get the text “I say this very often but not quite often enough“.

Template parameters are preceded by a pipe symbol (“|”). If you add more parameters, each in turn has to be preceded by the same symbol. Whitespace (even newlines) may be used before or after the pipe to increase readability.

To indicate where in the template you want the parameter value to appear, triple curly braces are used with the number of the parameter inside.

Named parameters

When your template accepts a lot of parameters, you might find it convenient to name the parameters instead of numbering them. Named and numbered parameters can be mixed (but the numbered parameters must come first):


Referencing the named parameter in the template is as easy as referencing a numbered parameter:

When I need vitamins, I can eat an {{{1}}}. This fruit is {{{color}}}.

Default parameter values

Parameters can be made optional, by adding a default value:

When I need vitamins, I can eat an {{{1|orange}}}. This fruit is {{{color|orange}}}.

Now, you can call the Fruit template with no arguments if you just want an orange.

Gravatar API

Gravatars are retreived by using a very simple URL API. The URL is constructed using the MD5-sum of your email address:

-n $EMAIL|md5sum

Optional parameters can be given in the URL. For now, I’m only interested in s (for size). This defaults to 80 pixels, but I want a bigger image:

A working Gravatar template

On my Hardwood Investments Wiki, I have made a template that is meant to be used on a user page (such as my own) to display a Gravatar similarly to how captioned images are normally formatted:

This template shows a Gravatar for the given e-mail address belonging to a given MD5 sum.

== Example ==

{{User Gravatar|41165a7e7126d616a0ae0762e00718e2}}

</noinclude><includeonly><div style="margin: 0 0 1em 1em; float: right; border: 1px solid #ccc; background-color: #f9f9f9; padding: 3px;">
<div style="border: 1px solid #ccc;">{{{1}}}?s=200.jpg

This template introduces a two new concepts: the <noinclude> section is only used when viewing the template page and the <includeonly> section is used only when viewing the page that includes the template; {{PAGENAME}} is a magic word that is used to display the username as the image caption.

Now that I’ve demonstrated a practical application of MediaWiki templates, I can finally publish this draft. 🙂

New theme

After upgrading to WordPress 2.5.x, I had to fall back on a stock theme because my old customization of the Sandbox theme no longer worked with the upgrade. But, then, it was time to redo my theme anyway. So here you’re looking at the first version of my new theme. I might have let it stabilize some more before putting it on-line, but who cares? My reader maybe? Let’s just hope he or she doesn’t use IE. 😉

Screencap of my new WP theme Screencap of my new WP theme Screencap of my new WP theme Screencap of my new WP theme Screencap of my new WP theme

Vertical navigation

Ever since the first time that I saw a blog which featured vertical navigation instead of the typical columns, I’ve wanted to implement this for myself. Well, finally…

Site-wide elements use the complete width of the page. The page content is centered in the middle at 87.5%. The identity stuff in the header and the navigation in the footer sits against a back blackground while the content area has the proven black on white for easy reading. I hope that the strong color-contrast as well as the clear difference in with between site-wide elements and page content makes it easy to keep focused on either reading or navigating without distractions.

… and a talkative footer

With this theme, I didn’t want another footer which consist of the odd logo and some loose copyright statements. I wanted a footer which you can actually read, even understand. And who cares if it takes up a little space? It’s at the bottom of the page.

Related posts

I’ve written an (unpublished, unpolished) plug-in which can generate a list of posts that are chronologically related. Traditionally, most blogs have a next/previous post link at the top and bottom of each post. This works very well if you limit your blog to one subject (which is really a very good idea anyway), but if, like mine, your blog is a little bit messy, you could say that someone who stumbled here searching for an article about Subversion is not necessarily interested in the next post if this is a photo of my baby niece.

Hence the chronologically related posts plugin. With this plugin I can say wether I want a link to the first, previous and next post in the blog, within the same category, or matching a given number of tags. (The tag matching isn’t implemented yet, though. Also, matching on meta fields would be a kick-ass ass way to support explicit sequences.)

I put the list generated by this plug-in on top of a blue background besides the various context links of the post.

Issues left

I hope to have the first major revision of my theme ready soon. Here’s a list of some issues that I might address:

  • The CSS renders a bit psychedelically in MSIE 6 (only version I tested) at the moment. Sigh… Let’s just hope that IE 7 will give better results. Then I’ll gladly drop the IE 6 support.
  • When viewing a category, the tag cloud in the navigation panel at the bottom only shows tags for that category. This has to do with the use with me calling the st_tag_cloud() from within the category template.
  • Some of the elements that I just showed to you don’t really look that good and most elements that I didn’t can be said to be … hideously ugly. 😕 Some highlights: the header (should really be a few cool images), the comment form, and the Next/Previous Page links.


I’d almost forget all about the clean, new look of the comment list. And, if you register a Gravatar, your comments will be accompanied by your avatar. Try it. Please!

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