I don't work for oDesk and I don't know for certain, but I'm thinking that the avatars you see were "grandfathered in", and come from a time when oDesk wasn't really worrying about the profile photos that people were using.
Nowadays, new contractors are blocked from having their profiles fully functional (their job application quota remains at zero) until their profiles are approved, and part of the current approval is a requirement that they use a real photo of themselves, and it has to be a good photo showing their face. Until they do that: no dice.
If you see photos ("avatars") here in the Community Forum, then I think it belongs to one of the following:
1) a longer-term contractor who joined before more stringent rules and has not yet had account reviewed
2) a new contractor whose profile is not yet approved (perhaps because their photo is not oDesk-approved)
3) a client, perhaps for whom the more stringent photo requirements were not applied.
Okay, that explains it. I was just confused with all the comments before and oDesk action on contractor not meeting the necessary picture requirement. I just thought they eased a little bit on the forum. Thank you for explaining things to me. God bless.
If you look in the help section for the Community Forum, you can see that there are references to changing or choosing one's avatar.
It would be under "My Settings > Avatars"
But as far as I can tell, that feature has now been blocked from the implementation of the community forum on oDesk.
I believe oDesk brought the forum in from a third-party source (and did not develop it entirely in house from scratch) and then disabled the "Avatars" feature at some point because they preferred to see people use their real identities both in their work profiles and in the community forum.
Not every job type is the same, I realize that. So this may not apply to everybody. But the people who hire folks in my line of work want somebody who is serious, not "fun." It is technical, demanding work that lies at the core of information systems, and for that type of work, nobody wants to hire the "wacky creative with the crazy avatar." So I wouldn't change my picture to a flying pink pig or a tree, even if I could.
You may add a profile picture to your oDesk account by going to the Settings>My Info and it will be displayed next to your posts in the Community. If there is no oDesk profile picture, users are assigned random pictures in the Community. We agree it would be much better to see your real smiling face instead of a vampire.