The adage "A picture is worth a thousand words" refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single still image. It also aptly characterizes one of the main goals of visualization, namely making it possible to absorb large amounts of data quickly.
The point with regard to my waffling here is that my personal preference is that I like to know who I'm talking to, especially on community-orientated Websites like EETimes. This is why I think it's such a good idea for members to provide at least a small bio telling about their technical experience (or lack thereof: "I'm a student who wants to learn more about X, Y, and Z" is perfectly acceptable, because -- again -- it informs me as to with whom I'm conversing).
Similarly, my personal preference is for people up upload a photograph of themselves to their profile, because it gives me a better picture (pun intended) of the person on the other end of any conversations. For example, consider the following portion of a comment stream from EETimes yesterday:
I don’t know about you, but my eye is immediately drawn to the one person in this stream -- Duane Benson -- who has bothered to upload his picture. Also, I get used to seeing certain people's feedback. If I see David Ashton's smiling face, for example, I'll invariably bounce over to see what he's said. Similarly, if I see the image icon associated with the screen-name Betajet, I know he will have posted something thoughtful for me to consider.
Quite apart from anything else, pictures of members convey a lot of information and allow you to hone in on things much faster. There are nine comments represented in the above image. We know that one is from Duane, but what about the other eight? Are they all from the same person? Are they all from different people? Who knows? The only way for me to find out is to move my mouse cursor over them, which is a bit of a pain.
Now, I do understand that some folks prefer not to upload their photograph to Websites: "To each his (or her) own," as the old saying goes. But in this case, it helps to identity people if they upload a graphic avatar -- just an image that reflects something about their personality.
Quite apart from anything else, I think that having photographs (or non-default images) makes a significant difference with regard to the visual appeal of the site. What do you think? Do you agree with me, or do you think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill and painting an over-grim picture (pun intended)?
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting