Identicon and Robohash

This post is a dump [for archival purpose] of exchange between Colin Davis, creator of Robohash, and I that took place in context of a Hacker News about Robohash.

Colin:

Identicons are a great idea, I really love them.. They’re a good solution to a gut-check “Something is wrong here..”

Sort of like a SSH-fingerprint.

The problem I’ve had with them is that they’re generate not all that memorable. Was that triangles pointing left, then up, or up then left?

This is my attempt at addressing that problem for my own new project, but I’d love to see what you build! If you want to use these images, feel free. They’re CC-BY, so they’re open to the world now ;)

Don:

Re ‘not all that memorable’, that’s because identicons were originally designed for ‘distinguishing’ and ‘matching’ data, not ‘memorizing’.

Abstract geometric identicons like my original implementation as well as variations used at WordPress and StackOverflow are, while nearly impossible to remember, distinguishable in a pile which comes in handy when distinguishing the ‘voice’ of individuals in a long thread of comments.

To use identicons as permanent identity, one has to ‘identify’ with their identicon. We can identify faces of our friends because we shared memories with them, stories if you will.

So robotic identicons like yours can be made more memorable if users had some ways to create a story they can associate with it like ‘blue viking with left arm missing’, etc.

Colin:

That makes a lot of sense. I wasn’t trying to be disparing. It’s a great idea, and very helpful, I just felt like it could go in a slightly different direction for this specific use-case (Public Keys).

Don:

I think an interesting way to apply identicon to certs is to map each cert attributes to an ‘attribute’ of identicon, visualizing attributes.

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