Nearly always, the "twirlybird" that you see is nothing more than an animated GIF, revealed by the button-handler and hidden by the AJAX responder. There are thousands of these available online and some of them are quite elaborate.
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Posts may use any of the Perl Monks Approved HTML tags. Currently these include the following:
<code> <a> <b> <big>
<blockquote> <br /> <dd>
<dl> <dt> <em> <font>
<h1> <h2> <h3> <h4>
<h5> <h6> <hr /> <i>
<li> <nbsp> <ol> <p>
<small> <strike> <strong>
<sub> <sup> <table>
<td> <th> <tr> <tt>
Snippets of code should be wrapped in
<code> tags not
<pre> tags. In fact, <pre>
tags should generally be avoided. If they must
be used, extreme care should be
taken to ensure that their contents do not
have long lines (<70 chars), in order to prevent
horizontal scrolling (and possible janitor
Want more info? How to link or
or How to display code and escape characters
are good places to start.