Hack #64. Create a Yahoo! Avatar

Make a custom caricature of yourself and watch it smile or cry along with you as you chat through Yahoo! Instant Messenger.

Having an instant messaging conversation on the computer is a bit like having a conversation with a blindfold on. You can "hear" what the other person is saying clearly by reading what he types, but other cues, such as facial expressions, are completely absent. Without seeing and hearing the person you're chatting with, it's hard to pick up on emotional overtones such as humor, sadness, or sarcasm. This is exactly why we've developed text shortcuts to convey emotions over the Internet—for example, using an emoticon to indicate smiling, or using an abbreviation such as LOL to indicate that you're laughing out loud.

Yahoo! has taken this idea of conveying emotion a step beyond such text shortcuts by creating cartoon-like characters called avatars to stand in for some of these emotional cues during Yahoo! Instant Messenger conversations. With a little work, you can create your own avatar that's unique to your personality and let it stand in for you as you chat with people online.

Your Digital Double

To create the Internet representation of you, browse to the Yahoo! Avatars site (http://avatars.yahoo.com). (You'll need to be at a Windows computer and have the Flash plug-in installed for your browser.) Once you're there, log in and choose the gender of your avatar (male or female); all other options will flow from this choice. You ...

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