A gem for interfacing with the entire Gravatar API: not just images, but the XML-RPC API too!
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The Ultimate Gravatar Gem!

This gem is used to interface with the entire Gravatar API: it's not just for generating image URLs, but for connecting to and communicating with the XML-RPC API too! Additionally, it can be used to download the Gravatar image data itself, rather than just a URL to that data. This saves you the extra step of having to do so.


gem install gravatar-ultimate

Activate the gem…

As with any gem, you have to type a few lines to tell Ruby to actually use it. Here's how to do that…

…in Ruby on Rails (v3.x)

  • Edit your Gemfile

  • Add this line: gem 'gravatar-ultimate'

…in Ruby on Rails (v2.x)

  • Edit your config/environment.rb file

  • Add this line beneath “Rails::Initializer.run do |config|”:

    config.gem 'gravatar-ultimate'

…in vanilla Ruby

require 'rubygems'
gem 'gravatar-ultimate'
require 'gravatar-ultimate'


Using the gem is actually pretty simple. Let's say you want the Gravatar image URL for “generic@example.com”:

url = Gravatar.new("generic@example.com").image_url

Cool, huh? Let's take it a step further and grab the actual image data so that we can render it on the screen:

data = Gravatar.new("generic@example.com").image_data

Fine, but how about the rest of the API as advertised at en.gravatar.com/site/implement/xmlrpc? Well, for that you need either the user's Gravatar password, or their API key:

api = Gravatar.new("generic@example.com", :password => "helloworld")
api = Gravatar.new("generic@example.com", :api_key => "AbCdEfG1234")

After you have that, things get a lot easier:

api.exists?                                   #=> true or false, depending on whether this user has an account.
api.addresses                                 #=> a list of email addresses and their corresponding images
api.save_data!(rating, image_data)            #=> saves an image to this user's account and returns a handle to it
api.use_user_image!(handle, an_email_address) #=> uses the specified image handle for the specified email address(es)
api.exists?("another@example.com")            #=> true or false, depending on whether the specified email exists.


As you can see this is quite powerful. But it gets better. Gravatar Ultimate even manages caching of API responses for you! That way, if an error occurs, (such as the Gravatar site being offline), your code won't break. It'll instead gracefully fall back to the cached copy! By default, if you are using Rails, it'll use the Rails cache. Otherwise, it'll use whatever cache you're using with Gravatar (by default an instance of ActiveSupport::Cache::FileStore).

This has obvious benefits when used for the API calls that do not result in changing the user's profile, but what you might not have thought of yet is that it also caches #image_data, so you can hook your application up to that method without fear of what might happen to all those Gravatar images if the Gravatar server should be unavailable!

To customize exactly which cache is used, see the next section…


To see settings and options you can give for a particular Gravatar instance, check out the Gravatar class documentation. There are a few things you can set for Gravatar on a system-wide basis, and that's what we'll go over next.

For a non-Rails project, simply set these options before you start using Gravatar. For a Rails project, you should set them within an Initializer in config/initializers/any_filename.rb in order to ensure that the settings are applied (A) after Gravatar has been included into the project, and (B) before it is actually used by Rails.

# You can set the default cache for Gravatar to use:
Gravatar.cache = ActiveSupport::Cache::SynchronizedMemoryStore.new

# You can also set the length of time an item in the Gravatar cache is valid. Default is 24.hours
Gravatar.duration = 20.minutes

# You can also change the logger used by default. It's worth mentioning that, once again, Gravatar will use
# the Rails logger if it's available. Otherwise, the default is $stdout.
grav_log = ""
Gravatar.logger = StringIO.new(grav_log) # logs Gravatar output to a String

Note on Patches/Pull Requests

  • Fork the project.

  • Make your feature addition or bug fix.

  • Add tests for it. This is important so I don't break it in a future version unintentionally.

  • Commit, do not mess with rakefile, version, or history. (if you want to have your own version, that is fine but bump version in a commit by itself I can ignore when I pull)

  • Send me a pull request. Bonus points for topic branches.


Copyright © 2010 Colin MacKenzie IV. See LICENSE for details.


Ben Tillman - github.com/crossroads