Open Source Software is a Social Disinfectant

I’ve created a blog devoted to WordPress and “open source” software projects — see

Today I also posted something relevant to social business — see:

Why the Scientific Method and Open Source are Some of the Best Things Since Sunlight

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The Commodotized Web

A FB friend of mine posted an interesting article recently, which I quoted here — and a big part of the story are websites that “commoditize” work (and therefore they are also a little reminiscent of the “Start Here” post I wrote when starting this website).

There are many websites on the web which treat their so-called “web content” as undifferentiated commodity goods / services, from “Youtube videos” to “Uber drivers”. Since the contents such websites offer are so undifferentiated / such commodities the content is usually plagued in a “race to the bottom” pricing scheme. Unparalleled competition drives margins to zero, and it is a well-known “fact” in economics that ultimately there is no economic profit to be gained from engaging is such markets / marketplaces.

It makes a lot of sense for people to think about how best to identify such colossal wastes of time (also know as “time sucks”). Luckily, I think I have come up with a quick and easy “sucks detector”. It’s actually so simple and so much in line with things I have said before, I am quite amazed that I haven’t stumbled upon it, over it, and been blown away by it yet. Well, like they say: Better late than never! 😀

You may actually find this counter-intuitive, but I feel the single strongest “sucks” indicator is a quantitative ratings system. In these days of bogus data science and quantification, coming up with a scoring algorithm is on par with a free ride to unicorn heaven. Butterflies and rainbows abound in scores and along the scales of unicorn measurement metrics. A perfect 10 is not only a sexy woman from the 70s busting onto the screen like a Bolero riding the waves, washing onto a beach, landing on the sand, inspiring dreams like cloud formations in the sky,… it is also the top position on a leaderboard, the first page of Google hits, a steller trending topic flashing in bright lights. It’s the winner of the talent show, the universal answer, the shooting star standing out from the masses, all poor and huddled.

The long tail of remnants remain lost in space. Oodles of nondescripts permeate the vast stretches of ether. Endless grains of sand amout to little or nothing, when compared to the top result. Stardust is nothing like regular dirt.

So if you come across a score, be very careful. This may very well simply be a trick to fool you into falling for some fake statistic of quality. Quality and quantity are two different ball games: Quality is complicated, quantity is simplistic.

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Personas on Paper

Personas have existed for many millennia, and so has paper – but there is a somewhat more new and less improved special case that seems to have existed for only a couple hundred years: Personas on paper.

That’s not precisely true, but by and large it’s mostly so. Sure, Socrates and Jesus were not only role models for Benjamin Franklin, they also exist for us here and now as personas on paper. Many others, too – but still: nothing like today. Today, you can’t walk out of your front door without becoming a persona on paper. Even inside your very own castle, you become a historical record every time you touch your phone. Any day now, all you’ll have to do is sneeze and some doctor will show up before you even think you are sick. We live in an age in which artificial intelligence has become a completely natural fact of everyday life.

You may think these thoughts quick and clever, yet if you knew how long I sat and thought, you might consider them rather slow, if not even lethargic.

Nonetheless, many people jot down notes, hopefully wishing for them to last forever – but they won’t. They may last forever for mortals – but for mere human mortals, “forever” is just a few centuries (or, if they’re very lucky, a millennium or two). For dinosaur bones, a millennium is just another passing short-lived moment. Paper – especially the kind that carries the newspaper’s front page headlines – turns to dust far faster than that. For the vast majority, the aspiration to become immortal will hardly rise above an ephemeral existence.

Yet perhaps there is something that is actually worth living for in the sense that it will have a sort of immortal influence. I am not actually banking on it, but if I had to go out on a limb and stretch to guess at what that might be, I would probably propose a “meaningful life”. I do not make this venture on my own, but simply from standing on the shoulders of giants.

Our flesh and bones and paper existence will all turn to dust sooner or later, but our actions will still influence the next generation, the one after that, and so on – forever, provided they are significant enough. Our names and our identities may very well at some point be long forgotten, but the repercussions of our actions will probably live on much like evolutionary messages travel far and wide across time.

For example: We could simply blow up a few nuclear bombs (or start a nuclear war) and that would most definitely have a far-reaching impact. We might be hated by very many of our peers, but just think of the possibilities for impressing the Gods, the stars or distant galaxies! It would definitely leave a mark and be eternally significant – or maybe at least until the next big bang.

Even though that might be important, let me nonetheless return to the more mundane daily routine of mere human life. At this stage in the game, we have at least two significant types of personas on paper – the kind linked to human thought and expressions, and also the kind linked to another new-fangled phenomenon called “business”.

Business is something very similar to “action” or “activity”. Around 500 years ago, it became commonplace to give businesses personas. This was rather unproblematical at the time, because at the time no such monstrosities existed. Today, they are all over the place – and it seems like they just won’t go away. They persist as if they were diamonds, but they are not particularly useful. Today, many living people lead lives of slavery to such imaginary organizations written down on pieces of paper. To make matters worse, many humans actually believe there is a law that says these monsters must grow larger, even at the expense of the environments they operate in (which, by the way, includes humans).

In part, this is probably due to an idolatry of something called “code” – which is (as far as I can tell) writing that is considered to be “holy” by many humans. What this means exactly, I am not sure – I think you will have to interview one of the believers of this sectarian religion to find out for yourself.

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The Social Construction of Happiness, Meaning + a Meaningful Life

A little while ago, my fb friend Wendy S. Lea shared an article from “The Atlantic” about the difference between happiness and meaning (“There’s More to Life Than Being Happy“). This article referenced a “recent research” publication (“Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life“)

The latter publication made some rather bold statements — such as:

Meaningfulness may therefore often involve understanding one�s life beyond the here and now, integrating future and past. In contrast, happiness, as a subjective feeling state, exists essentially in the present moment.

Another key difference mentioned is:

Insofar as happiness is about having one�s needs satisfied, interpersonal involvements that benefit the self should improve happiness. In contrast, meaningfulness may come instead from making positive contributions to other people.

Meaning is therefore a socially constructed phenomenon, to wit:

Happiness would mainly be linked to whether the self�s needs are being satisfied. Meaningfulness would be far more broadly related to what activities express and reflect the symbolic self, some of which would involve contributing to the welfare of others (individually or in general) or other culturally valued activities.

I have a hunch that a big part of the reason why happiness is assumed to be a “present state” phenomenon, but meaning is viewed as a phenomenon that occurrs across time, is that socially contructed meaning is not possible in the moment. We must always communicate such meaning to each other, and such communications simply take time.

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Public vs. Private Organization + the Free Market Economics of Information

The distinction between private space and public space must be very elementary to the way humans think.

Take, for example, the Ten Commandments. There are several laws which refer to the private property of people. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not covet. And so on.

Even before Jesus had ever suggested that someone should give to Rome what belongs to Rome, people probably knew deep in their hearts that each and every person has a right breathe in the air, and that no one has a right to rob them of their freedom to breathe. Air is perhaps the quintessential public good — at least for humans and animals which stay alive by breathing it.

I would hope that there is no question whatsoever that the right to life is inalienable, and that machines have no rights at all. I expect this is not merely a Marxist view nor something like a Luddite conviction.

At any rate, modern human experience is clearly divided into both public relations and private relationships. Although some might view this as parallel realities, the distinction is both valid and important. The public reality is unavoidable — it simply cannot be denied, and any attempts to deny such obviousfacts” are doomed to fail miserably. No one “in their right mind” today would reasonbly try to maintain that the Earth is the center of the universe, or that all “heavenly bodies” revolve around it. Such “alternative facts” are obviously ridiculous. Yet let me add some words of caution: on almost any news report including weather statistics, you can expect to read or hear that the sun will rise tomorrow morning, and that it will set tomorrow evening. Ever since we have discovered “pragmatism” (as, for example, William James explained it), we know that such statements need to be interpreted in an adequate manner.

Likewise, hardly anything seems more “natural” than to set our clocks forwards for an hour in the springtime, or to set our clocks backwards in the fall. Who are we to question something so “normal“?

We are indeed responsible for our own interpretations of reality.

And this is precisely why our interpretation of reality as either a public matter or a private matter is so important. Over the past several centuries — perhaps due to the very influential ideas of Adam Smith — we have become accustomed to viewing marketplaces as optional community events rather than as enforced situations (note, however, that there are a breed of “market fanatics” who commonly maintain that the market price is always right). If I were to type a person’s name into a Google or Facebook search box and these search engines returned the information that this person was at some point endorsed by the Pope, I can choose to believe that information or not. Likewise, the choice to use Google and/or Facebook in the first place is entirely up to me. I could just as easily choose to interpret the New York Times or the Washington Post as “fake news” sources. I am completely free to choose my own “alternative facts“.

Yet I am also responsible for which facts I choose to believe. We’re no longer in Kansas, Dorothy.

Information involves many processes — including being listened to and talked to. It also involves data processing, and the degree to which so-called “results” of such processing are a matter of manipulation is open to the interpretation and judgement of the person who needs to make a decision based on that information. There is nothing inherently trustworthy about either public or private corporations (also known as “governments” or “companies”).

However, as the vast majority of most (if not even “any” or “all”) populations still lack the literacy skills required to make such judgements in anything that resembles something like a “reasonable” manner. When these vast masses begin to realize that they have been duped and manipulated by corporations they deeply trusted, these corporations can expect that these vast numbers of people will expect some explanations. Either that, or the trust bubbles will probably deflate into thin air quite rapidly.

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What the Fake News Fiasco Means for Media, the One Percent and the 99% (of the Population, the Popular Vote and the Future of Advertising)

Traditionally – over the past century or so, retard media have used what Noam Chomsky refers to as a “propaganda” model which relies heavily on advertising:

ad-based media receive an advertising subsidy that gives them a price-marketing-quality edge, which allows them to encroach on and further weaken their ad-free (or ad-disadvantaged) rivals.

– Noam Chomsky, “Manufacturing Consent”, 14

Traditionally, advertisers have thereby supported mainstream news sources with a “vote of confidence” which involve both financial support and also brand / image support.

A mass movement without any major media support, and subject to a great deal of active press hostility, suffers a serious disability, and struggles against grave odds.

– ibid., 15-16

This was the media landscape for pretty much the entire 20th Century… and even today when people speak of “the media”, they usually mean such “mass media” or “mainstream media” corporations. For example: recently Robert Reich said in an interview with Amy Goodman (of “Democracy Now”):

The problem for the free press is that the more you have a president who is communicating directly through tweets and rallies, the less able are the press – or is the media – to be able to intermediate.

– (Democracy Now, “Robert Reich: Like a Tyrant, Trump Is Deploying Seven Techniques to Control the Media”, @ ca. 52 min.)

Mr. Reich apparently does not consider (as in the quote above where he refers to “tweets”, he means messages published via that web site) to be a media organization.

In my opinion, is a media organization – yet it is a very unreliable one. Many people refer to such organizations which allow anonymous user accounts to be created, such that people without any reliable identity are enabled to publish messages, as “social media” organizations (since they thereby apparently give all members of society a voice, or at least something like a “publishing platform”). Other companies operating in the “social media” space include most of the largest Silicon Valley “Web 2.0” corporations, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook and many others, too. These companies typically earn most of their revenues by advertising schemes linked to the content the anonymous publishers create… including what has since the final outcome of the 2016 presidential election in the United States been referred to as “Fake News”.

In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election results, the population of the United States was quite obviously shocked that such advertising shenanigans are quite fundamental to the propaganda / media system (as described above and throughout Chomsky’s analysis, which is also surprisingly still relevant today, decades after it was first published).

One thing, however, occurred to me just the other day – and I think it’s an observation that although it seems blatantly obvious to me now, it has not even been considered in any significant way by the wider population. It is this: The financial foundation of the traditional media propagation system – mainstream advertising – is a matter of “the one percent” creating content for the 99 % to consume. The original revolutionary promise of the early internet and world-wide web was the specter of a multitude of publishers taking the reigns away from the closely held mainstream media corporations. The dotcom bubble and subsequent crash wiped that story from the table, and the generation of millennials probably never really caught that “bug”. Instead it was only remembered – if at all – as a traumatic nightmare… much like the Great Depression, it was more easily forgotten than explained, analyzed or even brought up. To engage in politically correct conversation meant to ignore that aberration, to put it off as the work of misguided or lost political activists, to consider as unworthy of polite discussion, to write it off as a fluke or folly, certainly of no consequence whatsoever.

Wall Street responded decisively and swept in with immediate and unrelenting action. Google was turned into a shareholder machine, and from that point on increasingly became Madison Avenue’s bitch. In order to make this acquisition go down like butter, there was no doubt some involvement on K Street, too – just as the DoubleClick acquisition seems to have also floated through without any reservations whatsoever. Today the manufacturing of Fake News is a process usually involving only a handful of companies, all of which are managed by the kinds of mechanics the publishing industry has dominated for well over a century. The owners have regained ownership of all of these crucial instruments. The new song is the same as the old song.

The 99% were simply left out in the cold. Many are illiterate, most lack other resources, and quite a few were simply locked up. Thanks, Obama!

America’s leading, Nobel-Prize winning economist dubbed this “The Great Recession”, noting that the “D-Word” was not allowed (I guess meaning something like: saying the D-word is impolite and might even have adverse consequences for an otherwise stellar career).

99% of the population were dumbfounded. What is more: Increasing numbers were transitioning to careers without jobs, like driving a car without any wage or salary to speak of. Many people began to see the world as “life without benefits”.

At some point, opium for the masses becomes a no-longer functional game plan. At some point, media is no longer the sacrosanct “intermediation” speaking “truth to power” (as Robert Reich says in the video linked to above). At some point, media becomes the enemy (or similar epithets Donald Trump often made use of).

Yet note again that Mr. Reich and Mr. Trump actually seem to agree as to what “the media” are (and aren’t). They are the retard media based on brand names and advertising, they are not the social media based on pipe dreams, Silicon Valley and the future. Whether new media are good or bad, there is nonetheless little doubt that old media have become disenfranchised.

Millennials will openly pull out their smartphones and manipulate them in public. Living in a fantasy world is a very neato thing to do when the real world is by comparison rather intolerable. They seem rather easily excited at the prospect of Steve Jobs, up there in heaven, being able to see their very own fingerprint. They have a hard on for allowing their hardware devices to transport them into the money. But of course it won’t.

The only place such a hardware device will transport a believing millennial is right into the lap of the 1%, who are ready, willing and perhaps thereby enabled to drain their bank account, to turn them off just as easily as to turn them on, and most of all to manipulate their belief system with Fake News. They asked for it. They signed up, and they got it. They have become card-carrying members of the opium-den machinery club, and they even worship it with complete steampunk fascination.

You know how this story ends. Our savior, Donald Trump, says he will Make America Great Again. Well you know what? In case he reads this, here is my message to the Donald: Help build the Underwriting Majority!

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Fuck Corporate Social Responsibility – Practice Human Responsibility!

Do you know what responsibility is all about – do you even know what it means?

It means being the person who is in a position to answer a question – being the human who would respond (who would give a response) if / when someone (presumably another human) were to ask.

It doesn’t mean belittling someone who asks a question.

It means participating – at the very least offering to help find an answer.

It doesn’t mean knowing the answer.

No-one expects anyone to know any answers… – guessing is fine.

What is less fine is acting like you aren’t responsible when you should be.

If you pretend to care about something, then you need to do something about it, and a very good first step would be to become aware that you might be responsible for it.

Let me give you an example. If someone does something that you consider wrong, then what should you do? Should you simply turn your head, look the other way and pretend it never happened? Or should you respond in some way?

Another example: Let’s say you consider something someone does to be somehow beautiful. Should you just look and remain absolutely quiet? Or should you, could you, perhaps do something like, maybe, say „thank you“?

As an exercise, I invite you to think of another example you could, hypothetically, consider actually doing sometime… such as to participate and / or engage in an act of social expression.

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That’s not really a Publication

I think a lot about publishing and related topics. Recently, it occurred to me that people quite often use the word “publish” quite liberally – in the sense of “to make public”. Well, that also happens to be the original sense of the term, I guess. But as far as I can tell, the meaning of the term went through a transition over two or three centuries following the invention of the printing press. Apparently, during this time another term was also used: a “publishment”, roughly equivalent to what most people today consider to be a publication.

Today, the term is really almost exclusively the result of what publishers do… and one thing publishers do quite regularly is to expect people to pay for publications. In that case, a publication doesn’t actually make very much public at all.

But then again: What does?

People have to pay money to watch a television or listen to a radio. The internet is not exactly free either. Walking down the street, you might shout out whatever you want to say – but the chance that the message would carry far is probably much smaller than the chance that you might get carried away.

Perhaps leaflets, fliers, billboards and other types of “outdoor advertising” might come closest to true publications. Thrown out of airplanes, such propaganda might even have quite wide circulation, especially if the message “goes viral” (i.e., if it’s widely “shared”, passed on, etc.).

Whereas these types of true publication have something very fundamentally in common with “self-published” publications – namely that pretty much the entire cost of publication is born by the message creator, only self-publishing is commonly singled out as being disreputable. This is probably because usually, to self-publish is interpreted to mean to publish “for profit” – in other words: not to make public per se, but rather (again) to publish only to a limited group… of paying customers.

However, since there is widespread agreement that the cost of many types of publication has become so infinitesimally small (and since the cost of consuming many types of publications has also become negligible), most publications today are indeed approaching true publication in leaps and bounds. Yet self-publication oddly remains plagued with something like the aura of a filthy undertaking. People continue to prefer reading the stuff “established publishers” (like Google or Facebook) publish – even if it is demonstrably “fake news” (in traditional publishing, this was also known as “propaganda”).

I find this very curious. I am not sure it is actually something someone might call a “rational behavior”.

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Information Markets: Messages + Marketing, Anonymity + Authentication

For many, many thousands of years, humans have almost exclusively communicated face-to-face. Some linguists estimate the beginnings of human language to have occurred somewhere around 75 thousand years ago… and if that were so then in my estimation for about the past 74 thousand years or so, we have continued to communicate with each other directly, with only a little bit of thin air to separate us. Facial expressions, intonation, and many other affects would always be part and parcel of human communications.

What is more, humans would usually exchange messages with people they knew. If someone wanted to buy something from someone else, then that someone else would only extremely rarely be a stranger. Usually, it would have been someone they knew very well.

Today, that is no longer the case. Something has changed in the past several hundred years, perhaps within the past millennium. If I were pushed to pick a particular point in time, a particular change, one particular thing, then I would say it was either the invention of the movable type printing press, or Martin Luther’s invention of German as a written language, perhaps both of those together … or at the very latest increasingly widespread literacy. Note that widespread literacy has not existed anywhere for more than about 200 years. It was not until the advent of offset printing took hold in the mid 19th Century that literacy became widespread enough to speak of anything like entire populations being literate, and even today a vast array of literacy levels continue to exist. Recognizing the golden arches as an indicator of the location of a McDonald’s is a vastly different capability than the ability to program a computer.

That said, it would be a great oversight to overlook other very significant changes that have taken place over the past 500 years. First and foremost: the scientific revolution. To some degree, this required increased literacy. Secondly, immense improvements in medicine, health care, and such, leading to expolsive growth in the global population. There are no doubt great volumes written about the repercussions of these changes – and it’s not my aim to rehash these here.

Yet one such change is indeed particularly noteworthy: the growth of markets and marketplaces. Above I suggested that for many tens of thousands of years, human natural languages developed and evolved to satisfy direct face-to-face communication. Within the past several centuries, however, we have become acquainted with and accustomed to an entirely new world – one in which an apparently „invisible hand“ guides many or even most of the exchanges that take place between humans. Whereas for innumerable millennia in the past, natural language was a matter of interpersonal communication, today language is an apparatus that we use to exchange ideas with very little knowledge of our communication partners, their level of literacy, or direct feedback from them regarding their understanding of our messaging. In the extreme case, messages are no longer actually directed at particular human recipients. Instead, they are merely logical expressions submitted to general, generic marketplaces of ideas.

In the early days of publishing, these marketplaces were by and large geographically defined – firstly because particular natural languages were limited to particular geographic locations, and secondly because high transportation costs limited trade to relatively small distances. Today, transportation costs are – by comparison – relatively insignificant. Indeed, the transportation costs of messages are now globally negligible. Today, messages are submitted to an ether which appears to transcend all space and time.

Today, our trading partners for messages are by and large unknown. For the past several decades, people everywhere have been complaining about „too much information“ (TMI). Often, they will remark that they are sending their messages „into the void“. 😐

Often, the target audience of such messages are seen as „eyes without a face“. Increasingly, though, the senders of messages are becoming more diligent about identifying and targeting particular „targeted“ audiences (and increasingly, such targeting is transitioning from „demographic“ targets to „psychographic“ targets). Yet so far, very little attention has been paid to the identity and reliability of message sources, and perhaps even less attention has been paid to the validity of the messages themselves.

To date, most of the attention being paid in this regard has been focused on rather whimsical statistics, rankings based on hogwash and recommendations based on brand names. Whether Google or Facebook, the New York Times or the Washington Post, the New England Journal of Medicine or Scientific American, these vacuous brand names need to be called into question. There needs to be an inquisition into whether brands can transmit messages of a particular nature – as valid and reliable sources of particular kinds of information. So far, the evidence leads to little more than thin ice.

Any company with enough money can quite easily pay the price to play the game of advertising: simply manipulate the suckers. Whether the suckers are morons with very limited literacy or academics with advanced college degrees, the advertising-based system of publishing is corrupt to the core.

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Rational Media as Alternative Currency

Perhaps it’s just me, but I feel as though there was a great deal of revolutionary enthusiasm for the notion of alternative currencies a decade ago (even before the financial crisis), but that there is now not even a murmur of interest in this area.

I find this quite odd – especially since there is so much talk about „big data“. How can it be that with so much data in the world, there doesn’t appear to be one iota of significance in it that is comparable to the „almighty dollar“, the bang for the buck, the global standard unit of money?

Well, in fact there is – it’s just that most people don’t know about it… at least not yet.

The reason they don’t know about it is because they are by and large illiterate. The reason they are illiterate is because their teachers hadn’t taught them anything about it. The reason their teachers didn’t teach their children well is that nobody had taught them anything about it either. The reason nobody had taught them was that nobody knew – or at least it seems like nobody thought that far to the conclusion of what would happen if the world they were building actually become the real world… the reality that is just now really coming into existence.

Last week, I wrote about one example of this: the new BLOG.

Today, I would like to widen the scope.

We could argue whether terms like „blog“ (or „app“) are real words or not. Odd as it may seem, I myself am actually quite hesitant to view natural language as something that can be defined and/or controlled by single organizations (such as WordPress or Google). Lest you think this might be some kind of secluded cyber-fantasy, you might do well to consider that thousands of organizations are doing the very same thing, including for example household brand names like Johnson&Johnson (who now own „baby“) or Amazon (who already own many names, including „book“ and „song“), and also many governments such as the City of New York (which owns „nyc“).

Note that ownership is a socially constructed concept – and as such it is quite comparable to the value of the greenback mentioned above. What is or isn’t an app – at least something like „“ – will be for Google to decide, much in the same manner that money is a matter that has traditionally been regulated by governments.

I have written quite a bit about issues related to the meaning of such top-level domains and also whether they should be considered „generic“ or „proprietary“. Today, I want to emphasize (or re-emphasize) that this is basically a choice … of belonging or not belonging to a community. Just as using a monetary unit such as the US dollar is a matter of engaging with the community in the United States (and/or as using Chinese money is a matter of engaging with the community in China), so too is choosing to use „app“ or „blog“ or „book“ or „song“ a matter of engaging with the corresponding corporations and corporate governance, rules, regulations, etc. Some organizations will be more open (and „generic“), other organizations will be more closed (and „proprietary“), but in any case choosing to engage is always going to be a matter of community engagement.

In that sense, exchanging or trading in „app“ or „book is very similar to trading in euros or dollars … and in that vein, these top-level domains will function very much like trading or exchanging in alternative currencies.

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