Social Media

Facebook Is Still In Denial About Its Biggest Problem

1 October 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

It’s a good time to re-examine our relationship with Facebook Inc.

In the past month, it has been revealed that Facebook hosted a Russian influence operation which may have reached between 3 million and 20 million people on the social network, and that Facebook could be used to micro-target users with hate speech. It took the company more than two weeks to agree to share what it knows with Congress.

Increased scrutiny of Facebook is healthy. What went mainstream as a friendly place for loved ones to swap baby pictures and cat videos has morphed into an opaque and poorly understood metropolis rife with influence peddlers determined to manipulate what we know and how we think. We have barely begun to understand how the massive social network shapes our world.

Unfortunately, Facebook itself seems just as mystified, providing a response to all of this that has left many unsatisfied.

What the company’s leaders seem unable to reckon with is that its troubles are inherent in the design of its flagship social network, which prioritizes thrilling posts and ads over dull ones, and rewards cunning provocateurs over hapless users. No tweak to algorithms or processes can hope to fix a problem that seems enmeshed in the very fabric of Facebook.

. . . .

On a network where article and video posts can be sponsored and distributed like ads, and ads themselves can go as viral as a wedding-fail video, there is hardly a difference between the two. And we now know that if an ad from one of Facebook’s more than five million advertisersgoes viral—by making us feel something, not just joy but also fear or outrage—it will cost less per impression to spread across Facebook.

In one example, described in a recent Wall Street Journal article, a “controversial” ad went viral, leading to a 30% drop in the cost to reach each user. Joe Yakuel, founder and chief executive of Agency Within, which manages $100 million in digital ad purchases, told our reporter, “Even inadvertent controversy can cause a lot of engagement.”

Keeping people sharing and clicking is essential to Facebook’s all-important metric, engagement, which is closely linked to how many ads the network can show us and how many of them we will interact with. Left unchecked, algorithms like Facebook’s News Feed tend toward content that is intended to arouse our passions, regardless of source—or even veracity.

An old newspaper catchphrase was, “If it bleeds, it leads”—that is, if someone got hurt or killed, that’s the top story. In the age when Facebook supplies us with a disproportionate amount of our daily news, a more-appropriate catchphrase would be, “If it’s outrageous, it’s contagious.”

. . . .

“Facebook has become so central to how people communicate, and it has so much market power, that it’s essentially immune to market signals,” Dr. Benkler says. The only thing that will force the company to change, he adds, is the brewing threat to its reputation.

. . . .

Mr. Zuckerberg acknowledged in a recent Facebook post that the majority of advertising purchased on Facebook will continue to be bought “without the advertiser ever speaking to anyone at Facebook.” His argument for this policy: “We don’t check what people say before they say it, and frankly, I don’t think our society should want us to.”

This is false equivalence. Society may not want Facebook to read over everything typed by our friends and family before they share it. But many people would feel it’s reasonable for Facebook to review all of the content it gets paid (tens of billions of dollars) to publish and promote.

“Facebook has embraced the healthy gross margins and influence of a media firm but is allergic to the responsibilities of a media firm,” Mr. Galloway says.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

PG understands the controversy, but disagrees with conventional wisdom about its seriousness.

Complaints about Facebook are similar to earlier complaints about the internet – anybody can say anything they want to say.

Do Facebook users really compare a paid advertisement to a posting and give more credence to an advertisement because someone paid Facebook to distribute it? PG doesn’t think so.

If anything, PG tends to be a bit more suspicious of advertisements in any medium because the ideas contained in the advertisement were presumably not able to rise to a higher level of visibility without someone paying money to cause the publication to give them more visibility.

The idea that people are so stupid that large organizations, whether governments or private companies, are obligated to protect them from bad ideas (whatever that means) is pretty much the ultimate in slippery slopes.

If people don’t like what they see on Facebook, they’ll stop visiting Facebook and go elsewhere. Alternatives are a click away.

If advertisers think their reputations are harmed by their advertisements appearing on Facebook, they will pull the ads. At present, a large number of advertisers think their reputations are just fine on Facebook and are willing to continue to pay Facebook for visibility.

If the experts are correct that Facebook’s reputation is being commercially tarnished by what is appearing on its site, advertising or something else, we’ll see it in the number of visitors and the number of advertisers on Facebook. If visitors and advertisers continue to appear, we’ll know the experts are wrong. Again.

 

Live Blogging a Book Makes You Smarter

29 September 2017

From The Foundation for Economic Education:

There are so many products and services that claim to make you smarter. It’s a huge industry. Get-smart video games and puzzles are everywhere. Websites and apps that promise fast results are booming.

I’m a skeptic of the tools being promoted these days, but not of the overall idea. It makes complete sense. Not everyone is a born genius in every area, but everyone can surely improve the efficiency and functioning of the mind you have.

Heaven knows we think enough about getting our bodies in shape. Maniacal energy goes into pumping up our bodies, losing weight, flattening our bellies and bulking up our chests and arms. Health clubs have remained a boom-time industry, and there’s no end to the diet books, strategies, theories and ambitions.

It’s all terribly superficial compared with a much more important matter of finding ways to strengthen our capacity to think. But as with health clubs and exercise machines for our bodies, we will quickly discover that there are no shortcuts for… hard work.

. . . .

Why so little attention to the mind? We can easily fool ourselves into thinking we are intellectually fit. It’s hard to admit it to ourselves that we aren’t thinking very well, that we are relying too much on our biases, that we aren’t challenging ourselves, that we have a reduced capacity for creativity and absorbing new information.

Step one: Admit there’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

To shape up the body, and overcome our natural tendency to cut ourselves too much slack, people have various strategies. They hire personal trainers to push them further than they think they can go. They go to class so that they can exercise alongside others. They go to month-long camps that monitor eating and compel all-day exercise.

None of this works with intellectual life. It is just you and your brain, and if you lack the discipline to undertake the challenge, improvement is not going to happen. You need some framework to help, like the virtual path on a treadmill or stationary bike, something that keeps you on track and discourages you from cutting corners.

. . . .

The best method I know is something taken from the world of journalism. When people attend live events like concerts or conferences, they tweet or blog the event as it happens. You see this during political debates, too. The journalist listens, reports and responds in real time.

. . . .

What if we treat a book like an event? It is an event, really. A great book can be just as interesting and invigorating–and even more evocative–than a live event in reality. This is obviously true of fiction, but it is also true of nonfiction, provided the book is well written and deals provocatively with a topic you find intriguing.

. . . .

Live blogging a book is different from reviewing a book or writing a book report. The point is to process information and react to it as it comes to you in real time. The live blog doesn’t merely relate the contents. It reacts to the contents of the book and how it interacts with your own prior existing ideas and how it may or may not have changed your understanding.

If while you are reading you finding yourself reflecting on an example or remembering some debate you had with someone on the topic, this is perfect live blog fodder. Put it in there. The point is to make a literary chronicle of how some book has affected your thinking chapter by chapter, and to do so in the most intellectually honest way you can.

Reading this way is a completely different experience. You engage much more closely and attentively. The ideas in the book become the capital goods over which you take ownership in order to produce a new product of your own.

Link to the rest at The Foundation for Economic Education

Author Blogging 102: a Practical Guide to Developing Your Weekly or Monthly Link Post

27 September 2017
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From The Digital Reader:

Content curation (or as I prefer to call it, “link posts”) is a great way for authors to help both their readers and other writers by one, pointing readers articles worth reading, and two, giving other writers public kudos by including their work in a post.

. . . .

I’ve ben doing this so long that I have developed hard and fast rules on what should and should not be included. Here are my guidelines for curating a link post.

  1. Read everything you include in the link post. You don’t want to link to a piece which is nothing more than a snippet with link, or is itself a link post. You should also avoid posts where the blogger got their facts wrong, or where the blogger wandered off-topic (unless the diversion is entertaining).
  2. Do not include your own work – unless you are directly responding or rebutting to one of the other links. Remember, the value of content curation is in helping readers find new content, not your own.
  3. Set a schedule, and keep to it. If you can only commit to once a month or every other week, that’s fine.
  4. Keep it short. No one wants to read a link post with 30 links; readers’ eyes will glaze over by the tenth link, or they will be interrupted, or they’ll simply be overwhelmed. Try to aim for links to six to ten stories.

I will be honest with you – I break these rules all the time.

. . . .

Here are some of the tools I use to find stories.They are all free, too.

  • Twitter – Facebook is where people go to hang out, but Twitter is where you will find the news junkies. We not only tweet links that you can find through twitter search, but we also collate lists of sources. I myself have created four lists of Twitter users who share a lot of links, and I follow a half-dozen lists made by others.
  • Google News , Bing News – Just put in your favorite keywords, and these two niche search engines will give you an endless, constantly updated stream of news stories. Based on different algorithms, Google News and Bing News will give you different results, but they do share one deficiency – they’re biased towards a strict definition of “news”, which means they will miss a lot of the more interesting blog posts and other commentary.
  • Feedly – Here’s an old-school solution for you. Way back in the time before people shared lots of links on Twitter (about six years ago) news junkies used to have to subscribe to news sites and blogs, and then periodically check to see if those sites had published new articles. We used services like Feedly to stay on top of all those subscriptions.
  • Google Alerts – do you know what’s even better than looking for news? Having it come to you automatically. Google Alerts lets you follow search results for just about any search term. Whenever a new result is found by Google’s bots, you’ll get an email with the news.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

7 Free Online Tools for Writers and Authors

24 September 2017

From Digital Book World:

“All you need to be a writer is a pen and paper,” is something you might say if you’re one of those smug savants who can just sit down and write an entire novel longhand.

But for the rest of us? Well, we can take all the help we can get. Naturally, there are the everyday low-fi accessories that every writer should already have in their arsenal, like notebooks and a reliable pen. But there are also a bunch of high tech tools that the interwebs can offer us.

In this post, I’d love to share seven of my favorite free online tools for writers. They’ve helped me to manage my time, improve my creative flow, and publish better material. And, most importantly, they haven’t cost me a dime!

  1. Trello

“Trello…? Is it me you’re looking for?”

Trello was designed as a project management tool for small business organizations, which is exactly where I first came across it. Having used it for my day job for an entire year, I was able to adapt it to my writing work pretty quickly.

Trello is pretty much a virtual cork board — but better. I use it to keep track of small tasks (“buy new ink cartridge”) as well as organize my ideas as and when they occur to me. Best of all, Trello’s bulletin-board style interface lets me create “cards” relating to each section of a book, allowing me to move parts of the manuscript around as I’m grappling with the structure.

. . . .

  1. Buffer

As a writer in 2017, I know it’s a part of my job to maintain my public platform, meagre as it is. At the very least, that means regularly posting words of wisdom and sharing funny writing memes on social media.

I tried a handful of tools like HootSuite that allowed me to schedule social activity ahead of time, but I prefer the simplicity (and price point) of Buffer. Now I just spend 30 minutes scheduling posts every Monday — and for the rest of the week, I’m free to write without distraction. Right?

Well, as you’ll discover in the next section, it’s maybe not that simple…

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG doesn’t use Buffer with TPV but he’s a big fan of the tool for other projects involving social media.

Post Less, Boost Top Posts, and More: 14 Ways to Increase Your Facebook Page Engagement

19 September 2017

From Buffer:

Engagement on Facebook Pages has fallen by 70 percent since the start of 2017, according to BuzzSumo who analyzed over 880 million Facebook posts by brands and publishers.

. . . .

But we feel there are ways we can combat this organic reach decline on Facebook and we’d love to share some strategies with you.

In this post, we’ll share 14 straightforward ways to increase your Facebook Page engagement — many of which are proven and have worked for us.

. . . .

Here are the 14 tactics you can try today to increase your Facebook Page engagement:

  1. Post less
  2. Post when your fans are online
  3. Create specifically for Facebook
  4. Try videos
  5. Go live
  6. Share curated content
  7. Ask for opinions
  8. Boost your top posts
  9. Recycle your top posts
  10. Watch other Facebook Pages
  11. Experiment with new content
  12. Reply comments
  13. Host giveaways (occasionally)
  14. Create a linked Facebook Group

Let’s dive in!

1. Post less

Posting less grew our reach and engagement by three times.

. . . .

focus on quality instead of quantity.

We were able to share the best content every day when we post only once or twice a day. When we were posting four to five times a day, we struggled to consistently find so much great content to share.

If you are a solo social media manager or a small business owner who handles your own social media, you might have experienced this before. Finding great content takes time, and you don’t always have the time to do that.

. . . .

5. Go live

Facebook has also been pushing their Live videos a lot in this past year.

They tweaked their algorithm to rank live videos higher when they are live than when they are no longer live. Facebook reported that “People spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that’s no longer live” and “people comment more than 10 times more on Facebook Live videos than on regular videos”.

Link to the rest at Buffer

You Are the Product

13 September 2017

From The London Review of Books:

At the end of June, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook had hit a new level: two billion monthly active users. That number, the company’s preferred ‘metric’ when measuring its own size, means two billion different people used Facebook in the preceding month. It is hard to grasp just how extraordinary that is. Bear in mind that thefacebook – its original name – was launched exclusively for Harvard students in 2004. No human enterprise, no new technology or utility or service, has ever been adopted so widely so quickly. The speed of uptake far exceeds that of the internet itself, let alone ancient technologies such as television or cinema or radio.

Also amazing: as Facebook has grown, its users’ reliance on it has also grown. The increase in numbers is not, as one might expect, accompanied by a lower level of engagement. More does not mean worse – or worse, at least, from Facebook’s point of view. On the contrary. In the far distant days of October 2012, when Facebook hit one billion users, 55 per cent of them were using it every day. At two billion, 66 per cent are. Its user base is growing at 18 per cent a year – which you’d have thought impossible for a business already so enormous. Facebook’s biggest rival for logged-in users is YouTube, owned by its deadly rival Alphabet (the company formerly known as Google), in second place with 1.5 billion monthly users. Three of the next four biggest apps, or services, or whatever one wants to call them, are WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, with 1.2 billion, 1.2 billion, and 700 million users respectively (the Chinese app WeChat is the other one, with 889 million). Those three entities have something in common: they are all owned by Facebook. No wonder the company is the fifth most valuable in the world, with a market capitalisation of $445 billion.

Zuckerberg’s news about Facebook’s size came with an announcement which may or may not prove to be significant. He said that the company was changing its ‘mission statement’, its version of the canting pieties beloved of corporate America. Facebook’s mission used to be ‘making the world more open and connected’. A non-Facebooker reading that is likely to ask: why? Connection is presented as an end in itself, an inherently and automatically good thing. Is it, though? Flaubert was sceptical about trains because he thought (in Julian Barnes’s paraphrase) that ‘the railway would merely permit more people to move about, meet and be stupid.’ You don’t have to be as misanthropic as Flaubert to wonder if something similar isn’t true about connecting people on Facebook. For instance, Facebook is generally agreed to have played a big, perhaps even a crucial, role in the election of Donald Trump. The benefit to humanity is not clear. This thought, or something like it, seems to have occurred to Zuckerberg, because the new mission statement spells out a reason for all this connectedness. It says that the new mission is to ‘give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together’.

Hmm. Alphabet’s mission statement, ‘to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’, came accompanied by the maxim ‘Don’t be evil,’ which has been the source of a lot of ridicule.

. . . .

Internet companies are working in a field that is poorly understood (if understood at all) by customers and regulators. The stuff they’re doing, if they’re any good at all, is by definition new. In that overlapping area of novelty and ignorance and unregulation, it’s well worth reminding employees not to be evil, because if the company succeeds and grows, plenty of chances to be evil are going to come along.

Google and Facebook have both been walking this line from the beginning. Their styles of doing so are different. An internet entrepreneur I know has had dealings with both companies. ‘YouTube knows they have lots of dirty things going on and are keen to try and do some good to alleviate it,’ he told me. I asked what he meant by ‘dirty’. ‘Terrorist and extremist content, stolen content, copyright violations. That kind of thing. But Google in my experience knows that there are ambiguities, moral doubts, around some of what they do, and at least they try to think about it. Facebook just doesn’t care. When you’re in a room with them you can tell. They’re’ – he took a moment to find the right word – ‘scuzzy’.

. . . .

As Tim Wu explains in his energetic and original new book The Attention Merchants, a ‘facebook’ in the sense Zuckerberg uses it here ‘traditionally referred to a physical booklet produced at American universities to promote socialisation in the way that “Hi, My Name Is” stickers do at events; the pages consisted of rows upon rows of head shots with the corresponding name’. Harvard was already working on an electronic version of its various dormitory facebooks. The leading social network, Friendster, already had three million users. The idea of putting these two things together was not entirely novel, but as Zuckerberg said at the time, ‘I think it’s kind of silly that it would take the University a couple of years to get around to it. I can do it better than they can, and I can do it in a week.’

Wu argues that capturing and reselling attention has been the basic model for a large number of modern businesses, from posters in late 19th-century Paris, through the invention of mass-market newspapers that made their money not through circulation but through ad sales, to the modern industries of advertising and ad-funded TV. Facebook is in a long line of such enterprises, though it might be the purest ever example of a company whose business is the capture and sale of attention. Very little new thinking was involved in its creation. As Wu observes, Facebook is ‘a business with an exceedingly low ratio of invention to success’.

. . . .

The fact is that fraudulent content, and stolen content, are rife on Facebook, and the company doesn’t really mind, because it isn’t in its interest to mind. Much of the video content on the site is stolen from the people who created it. An illuminating YouTube video from Kurzgesagt, a German outfit that makes high-quality short explanatory films, notes that in 2015, 725 of Facebook’s top one thousand most viewed videos were stolen. This is another area where Facebook’s interests contradict society’s. We may collectively have an interest in sustaining creative and imaginative work in many different forms and on many platforms. Facebook doesn’t. It has two priorities, as Martínez explains in Chaos Monkeys: growth and monetisation. It simply doesn’t care where the content comes from. It is only now starting to care about the perception that much of the content is fraudulent, because if that perception were to become general, it might affect the amount of trust and therefore the amount of time people give to the site.

Link to the rest at The London Review of Books

What to Post on Each Social Media Platform: The Complete Guide to Optimizing Your Social Content

7 September 2017

From Buffer:

Not all content needs to be shared everywhere. And not all content is suitable for every social media platforms.

It’s all right to post entirely different things on different platforms. In fact, it might even help you to boost your engagement.

For example, if you take a look at our Twitter and Instagram accounts, you’ll notice that we post entirely different things on each platform.

. . . .

What to post on each social media platform

Every platform has its own audience. And each audience has their own expectations for the things they want to see on the platform – that can affect how well your social media posts perform.

Since every platform is different, this guide will cover each of the following six major social media platforms separately.

Here are the general guidelines:

Facebook: Videos and curated content

Instagram: High-res photos, quotes, Stories

Twitter: News, blog posts, and GIFs

LinkedIn: Jobs, company news, and professional content

Pinterest: Infographics and step-by-step photo guides

Google+: Blog posts that you want to rank on Google

. . . .

What to post on Facebook

Videos and live videos

Our goal on Facebook has been to build our brand and engage our fans.

Recently, videos and live videos have proven to be the best types of content for our Facebook Page.

Our video posts generated the highest average reach among all post types. The average engagement on our video posts is almost on par with that on our photo posts, which have the highest average engagement.

. . . .

Buzzsumo analyzed 68 million Facebook posts and found that a similar trend: videos have higher average engagement than images and links.

We focus on creating educational videos for our Facebook Page:

How-to guides: These are videos where Brian Peters, our Digital Marketing Strategist, share social media tips and tricks.

Blog post summaries: For these videos, we summarize the key ideas from our blog posts and turn them into short video clips using Animoto.

Link to the rest at Buffer

PG’s social media strategy could be called many things (mostly derogatory), but never cutting edge.

However, he has used Buffer for a long time to assist his various online personas in making regular posts to various social media services.

Buffer has a free service that includes some rudimentary statistics to show you what sort of visibility your tweets, posts, etc., are experiencing.

Since PG doesn’t feel a strong urge to social mediaize every day, what first attracted him to Buffer is the ability to schedule posts. That way, he can shift his mind into social media mode (it’s not a pretty sight), create messages for several days, then have Buffer post one per day at a particular time (Buffer can tell you the best time of day to schedule your posts).

The Typographic Details Behind Typewolf’s Favorite Sites of August 2017

1 September 2017
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Indie authors are advised not to attempt too creative with their fonts in manuscripts destined to become ebooks. Given the limited font support in the variety of ebook readers, tablets, ebook apps, etc., the results can be unfriendly to a good reading experience.

However, fonts used on ebook covers, websites and in social media promoting an author’s books are a different story. In those media, right or wrong fonts can have a big impact.

From Typewolf:
.

Tom Ross

This site is more type-focused than your typical photographer’s portfolio which helps to set the mood before the visitor actually explores any of the photos. The logo is set in Introspect, a hippie-esque font that was popular in the 1970s—it’s actually the same font used in the Albertsons grocery store logo, but here it’s artificially skewed to the left in a reverse italic style which makes it less recognizable. Extended cuts of fonts have been trending lately, but we usually see neo-grotesques used like Helvetica Neue and Nimbus Sans. So seeing something from the gothic genre, like Trade Gothic used here, is a bit different.

. . . .


.

Linda Huang

Linda Huang has an amazingly good collection of book covers in her portfolio which shows type being used in all kinds of clever and creative ways. The font used on her site, The Stroke Sans, is unique as well. It draws on similar calligraphic influences as Frauen, the font I used for my own personal portfolio, but combines that style with a “computer-generated” pen stroke. Notice the unusual connecting strokes on the letters w and M. It’s definitely a distinctive font, however, the kerning looks to be a little off—notice the gaps in the words graphic and covers in the above screenshot.

Link to the rest at Typewolf

Twitter will render children illiterate in 20 years

30 August 2017

From The Bookseller:

Novelist Howard Jacobson has said children may be illiterate in 20 years’ time, thanks to the rise of smartphones and social media platforms such as Twitter.

The journalist and 2010 Man Booker prize-winner told The Times that childrens’ capacity to concentrate on books was being adversely affected by social media and smartphones, conceding even his own concentration span had been “shot by this bloody screen”.

As a result, in the space of 20 years he predicted “we will have children who can’t read, who don’t want to read”.

“I can’t read any more as much as I used to. My concentration has been shot by this bloody screen. I can’t do it now — I want space, I want white pages, light behind the page,” he said.

. . . .

Some Twitter users have hit back at Jacobson’s views.

Author Nikesh Shukla said Jacobson’s view was “snobby”, “boring” and “wrong”, while trade marketing manager at Bounce Marketing, Graeme Williams, said on the platform: “Awww. I remember when they said this about texting when I was a young’un. Somewhere someone probably said the same about telegrams.”

Meanwhile, also to the contrary, drawing on its research the National Literacy Trust (NLT) said new technologies can play “a hugely important role” in helping to develop children’s literacy skills.

Its research showed e-books positively impact teenage boys’ reading motivation and skills, when a 2015 project saw the percentage of boys who felt reading was “difficult” cut in half from 28.0% to 15.9%, suggesting confidence in their own reading ability also increased as a result of using technology. Another 2016 research project saw six in 10 (59.7%) early years practitioners say they would like to increase the use of touch screens.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

The Hashtag at Ten Years Young

27 August 2017

From Medium:

The hashtag was born on Twitter 10 years ago today, and it has become one of the most recognizable and widely used symbols of our time. Here’s how.

In the summer of 2007, a web marketing specialist and avid user of Twitter, Chris Messina walked into our grungy office at 164 South Park (yes, people would just walk in back then) and made a suggestion to me and a few other Twitter employees who were sitting nearby. We were working frantically to fix a tech issue that had brought Twitter down, as was often the case in those early days.

. . . .

His proposal was simple, useful, and fun — just like Twitter. Because brevity is essential on Twitter, he suggested using the “pound” or “hash” character common on phones (this was pre-iPhone) to create groups of related Tweets. It was an undeniably elegant proposal, but I really needed to get back to work. I turned back to my computer screen to help get Twitter back up and running, hurriedly ending the conversation with a sarcastic, “Sure, we’ll get right on that.”

Thankfully, Chris didn’t take offense to my reaction, he simply started doing what he had proposed. On August 23rd, 2007, the hashtag came into existence with this Tweet and eventually caught on across the platform. We hyperlinked hashtags on Twitter making them easier and better for all.

Link to the rest at Medium

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