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More of a business solution response than a technical response but thought it might help. Because the avatars are so front and center with the content we to wanted people to see real faces so we did remove all of the default avatars. As for what images people could load up we put in our community rules it should be a picture that identifies you (not your family, cat, hobbies or baby (no matter how cute)). We did have to have the community manager police that a bit and with a 20,000 user population maybe had roughly 100 over the course of 6-8 months and then it settled down. 99.9% of the people that were called-out quickly changed the picture with no issue. But we did get the same result that you are going for, however it did allow people to use two different images if they wanted. By the way, our profile image had the same rules (must identify you) as the avatar
Thanks Andrew that's good to know. We're basically going to have the same policy as you so maybe we just apply the same rules to the avatar as you've done.
One thing you might want to keep in mind if you are a global company: in Europe there are a lot more rules about requiring employees to load photos of themselves to any website, including internal ones. In Germany it's actually illegal to require this. We encourage people to load real photos of themselves, but, barring that, ask that they load an image that can at least uniquely identify them in the site (i.e., not the gray silhouette that is the default).
That said, does anyone know if this "disable avatar" option available in 4.5.x? And does disabling the avatar automatically convert all existing soccer ball/starfish/etc. default avatars to the person's profile photo?
At McGraw-Hill we allow users to upload any image for use as their Avatar. Some may use a department designation or product logo, but we do not have rules on that other than it cannot be obscene. After all, by definition an Avatar does not have to be an exact depiction of the original.
We do have community rules pertaining to our Profile photos, and that's where a user's Primary Photo must be of the employee only, and clearly identifiable as the employee. (No Darth Vader masks, much to my personal disappointment.) Users may use the other photo slots as they wish.
Given privacy rules, especially those in Europe per Nikki Bussard comment above, we do not require anyone to load any photo. We even discouraged a senior exec from blogging about "why aren't there more photos" on our site.