business tools

Are you using Gravatar ?

I have been using Gravatar for some time and wanted to write an article highlighting the value of this online service/tool.

This is a short review of the functionalities and advantages of Gravatar.

On first sign-up, Gravatar allows you to associate your email address with an image (typically a photo of yourself). Once you have set up your Gravatar link (email address to image association) and you then go on to sign up to some other website, or forum, that website will interrogate Gravatar, using your email address to pull back an image that you want to use, against your name/email address.

This means that you can change the image you want to use in just one place and then your image (against a given email address) is updated all over the internet (specifically, on any websites which use Gravatar).

If you have a number of different email addresses – which I do – then you can associate a different image with each one.

This is handy in making a distinction between me as a professional person, and me as a social person.

I have been spending more time recently doing some business networking, so being able to quickly share some basic information about me with business contacts is valuable.

There are plenty of other ways of achieving some of what Gravatar does, but I especially like the simplicity and ease of use of Gravatar. It is also (at time of writing – May, 2023) free to use.

Gravatar is a snapshot of the different sides to me. No need to scroll through months of content, or someone’s well-designed business history or biography.

Gravatar started by being a service which associates email addresses with images (‘avatars’). It has, however, expanded slightly, so that you are now able to create a profile which allows you to show some images (pictures and photographs), as well as to link to other associated web resources.

Simon May on Gravatar

“So what?” you may be saying, “Plenty of websites allow me to do that – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to name a few…”

The way that I think of Gravatar is as an online business card, whereas I think of my LinkedIn profile as being more of an online CV/resume/portfolio.

There are certainly times when you want to direct people to your full CV but, equally, there are times when you simply want people to have some basic contact details about you – and perhaps a jumping-off point to find out more about you. Gravatar provides this in an attractive, simple format, which is also widely accepted as a reference service.

Websites which do make use of Gravatar include Tumblr, Twitter, WordPress(.com), and GitHub – to name a few. A number of different forums make use of Gravatar – far too many to name individually.

If you have a WordPress website (hosted in some way), and you have comments enabled so that people can make comments on your posts/blogs, then you are able, very simply, to make use of Gravatar, so that a person’s comments show the image that the person has set up in Gravatar (if they have one).

There are websites which do NOT make use of Gravatar. Sadly, this includes Google, but the advantages of this platform are genuinely worth sharing, nevertheless!

As an aside, if you are someone in the business of creating online services or web apps, it is well worth making use of Gravatar for getting profile info on a person! It is great – the major advantage for your users is that they are able to control their associated images very simply – and in one place.

In conclusion – sign up to Gravatar; associate an image with your email address; and make a profile, too, whilst you are at it.

business tools

(Online) Tools to Use

This month, I am going to write about some of the online tools / resources / services that I make use of.

Tools come and tools go, but the ones in this list have stuck around for some time, and I think are worthy of consideration.

Note that the tools listed here are skewed towards running a business, and / or managing and delivering projects of work, and distributed teams of people.


Let’s start with the basics. Tools which are applicable to any and all businesses, and which underpin many activities. Most of these are ‘unsung heroes’ !


For me, the basics are largely covered by the Google suite of products. This goes from searching, and mapping through the office suite of products – Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, as well as Gmail and Google Drive.

I make extensive use of the Google suite of tools, and I am a big fan. I advocate their use wherever I can. If you are an individual user, then it is a no-brainer; you get some magnificent tools, at zero cost. If you are a small to medium sized business, then it is slightly less cut and dried. It used to be the case that for small business users, Google ran an introductory offer, which covered most of your needs, for zero cost. You now have to pay something for it, and it is monthly/annual and is per user based – so costs can mount. The massive thing which I think counts for lots is the ease with which you can use your domain name as your email address, and have it all managed by Google. This means that you get to use Google’s spam filters, as well as search capability. Even though you now have to pay for this service, I still think it is worth the money.

The alternative to Google’s suite of products – Google Docs, etc – is Microsoft’s suite; the Office365 suite. Again, very good, and arguably more familiar to users. My preference is for the Google suite, but that is not to everyone’s taste.


So ingrained now with all of us, that it is easy to forget that it is an online tool, or repository of knowledge. Fantastic. And this despite early scepticism of its use / usability / accuracy, etc.. I am certain that there are areas of Wikipedia which are not accurate, or which are subject to malicious updates, but overall it is a fantastic tool.

Wikipedia is such a very useful tool; most of us use it as one time or another, but no one considers that it is a really valuable asset. Imagine if we had to go back to a time of using encyclopedias in order to look up some reference point in more detail ! I try to show my appreciation for Wikipedia by making periodic donations to them.

Stepping Up

Now we get into web services / web applications / online tools which go beyond the very basics, but which perform some useful function.


This is a great web service which allows you to set up vote options, and to have people select options.

An example :
Trying to arrange a meet up; there are three dates/times that you can do.
Put the dates/times on a new poll, and invite your friends to vote.
Voila – you can see pretty clearly which date/time is preferable.

The sweet spot of this tool is when you have a decision to make amongst a relatively small, defined group of people, which has a variety of options. This tool allows you to quickly cast the options and poll the participants, thus arriving at consensus.


A simple way of creating a survey to send to people to gather lots of opinions; and then the analysis on the back of the responses. This is a fairly stock tool which many people will be aware of, and is very good at what it does. Note that there is competition in this space from new businesses, as well as from harnessing Google Forms.
The pricing for SurveyMonkey goes from £ 0 upwards depending on what you want to do, and how much analysis you want to apply to the results.


I’m going to close this article here. There are a great many more applications which are available, and which do great things. Some of my favourites are Slack, Trello and Zendesk. I will come back to these other apps in future articles.

In short, there are a great many superb online tools available now to businesses large and small, which in years gone past would have cost massive amounts of money to develop, host, and operate.