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This post will draw upon lecture content as well as readings from Week 5. The question to be discussed is as follows: Analyse critically the following statement by Mark Zuckerberg while comparing it to privacy issues raised by online social networking collaborative practices.

“When people have more control over what they share, they are comfortable with sharing more. When people share more, the world becomes more open and connected. And in a more open world, many of the biggest problems we face together will become easier to solve.”



(Source: Extract from Mark Zuckerberg on Making Privacy Controls Simple video)

Firstly, let’s pick apart this little speech. “When people have more control over what they share, they are more comfortable with sharing more.” Really, Mr Zuckerberg? Really? Besides its obviously simplistic view and assumption of people’s actions, this is a contradictory sentence.

When people have more control over what they are sharing, i.e making use of the many, revamped privacy controls Facebook has come up with, there won’t be any conceivable reason as to why they would share more publicly.

Yes, in the simplest sense, they are sharing more, but all this information would be shrouded by privacy settings and thus be invisible to “the world” Zuckerberg mentions. So how then, is there any way the world can becomes open and connected when people are sharing more but hiding information?

It appears that this statement is empty of meaning, and use of words and phrases like “sharing”, “open”, “connected”, “we face together”, and “easier to solve” merely seek to convey lofty world visions which aim to distract from the real fact of the matter. That nothing online, and more specifically in Facebook, is private anymore.

In an article by Yoder (Business Insider), Zuckerberg’s statement can be interpreted to mean that since the societal norm these days is that of an “open and connected world”, everybody should subscribe to this school of thought. Hooray for Facebook spreading its digital archives wide open and spreading your information to every corner of the World Wide Web! Okay, I’m exaggerating but you see what I mean.

One particularly memorable bit of Yoder’s article was when he said “essentially, this means Facebook not only wants to know everything about you, and own that data, but to make it available to everybody” (Yoder, 2010).

In other words, Zuckerberg’s statement about how the world would open up via connections like Facebook and band together to work together on solving problems is just PR speak about how it’s inevitable that private information would get leaked out to numerous sellers of products/services, and I can’t do anything. The whole promotion about better privacy controls then seem to be a stalling mechanism, implemented in hopes that users get diverted from the issue of privacy and get off Facebook’s case.

Just by the sheer fact that this extract is from a video whereby Zuckerberg supposedly responses to users’ needs for privacy is strange. Seeing how the whole point of the main video was to explain how new privacy controls would better safeguard our information, what he says is plain ironic. While promoting stronger privacy controls, he goes on to say that an open world would be better since it allows us to solve more problems. Forgive me for being selfish, but I don’t think my personal information (which allow for bizarre sale pitches like “Weird Celebrity Dolls: It’s Britney, Bitch!”) would really make “many of the biggest problems we face together will become easier to solve”.

While I appreciate that Facebook is doing something, as compared to simply ignoring us, it really does need to work harder at convincing the cynical netizen.

References

Tubechop. 2011, ‘Extract form Mark Zuckerberg on Making Privacy Controls Simple’, Tubechop, viewed 25 April 2011.

Yoder, D. 2010, ’10 Reasons To Delete Your Facebook Account’, Business Insider, viewed 25 April 2011.

theofficialfacebook. 2010, ‘Mark Zuckerberg on Making Privacy Controls Simple’, Youtube, viewed 25 April 2011.

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This post will draw upon lecture content as well as readings from Week 4. The question to be discussed is as follows: Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: “Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.

While it’s true that mainstream media is not the only source of information, I still hold that mainstream media still more effectively informs.

In recent years with easy-to-use blogging tools like WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, and even Tumblr, mainstream media institutions have lost audience, mostly the generation who grew up with technology.

Russell, Ito, Richmond, and Tuters wrote that this occurrence is an unavoidable side-effect of the need for freedom of speech. In a society whereby only mainstream media producers get their views published, the average citizen is sick of this constraint and turns to blogging.

As discussed here and here, anyone with Internet and basic computer and writing skills can set up a blog.

Beside these obvious benefits, the blogger acquires “editorial independence”, through “collaborative structure” and “merit-based popularity”, which serve to inform and educate with information that may be an exposé of mainstream media news or a new news angle (Russell et al., 2008, p. 67).

Bloggers generally don’t have to answer to any higher management. An example is A Disgruntled Republican. He criticises the US government openly and is a prime example of how freedom of speech have led to a shared sense of community and merit-based popularity which is evident by this blog’s position on a list of best political blogs.

Another political blog is The Temasek Review. It’s an example which informs publics more effectively than state-run media simply it has editorial independence to publish news that wouldn’t be published in mainstream media i.e. news about Opposition parties, criticisms of the government, analysis of policies, etc. Despite attempts to shut this website down, it’s still continuing due to public donations, and ongoing support from netizens who want “an alternative to SPH” which is pro-government (Tan, 2011).

While such websites are relatively credible, there’re also blogs with inaccurate and untrustworthy information. However, some experts still believe that blogging is best. Andrew Nachison, Director of the Media Center, a US-based think-tank believes “blogs have become independent sources for images and ideas that circumvent traditional sources of news and information” (Belo, 2004).

The correct phrase to use in describing this phenomenon is “transition” (Belo, 2004). While it’s true that mainstream media has lost some potency, impartial reporting, the hallmark of traditional media is still not strong in blogs due to editorial independence. This leads to serious consequences like spreading incorrect information which is made more severe by the Internet’s dissemination speed.

Tthe advent of mainstream media blogs threaten independent blogs. For one, mainstream media blogs are perceived to be more credible. Secondly, teams of newsmakers behind the production of mainstream media blogs (and also in top independent blogs) show that manpower is necessary for the formation of good news (Owyang, 2008). Also, mainstream media blogs are still foremost in producing “deep, multi-source digs into a particular topic” (Sullivan, 2008). Sullivan cites these blogs for their insight:

1. Google and China

2. Google and USA

Thirdly, the lines between mainstream media and netizens blur, “mainstream media rejoins the people”, resulting in a completely different medium (Associated Press, 2006; Owyang, 2008).

As a Pew Research Centre paper found, blogs and mainstream media “embrace different agendas’ (Pew Research Centre, 2010). Blogs were also found to rely heavily on mainstream media information. 90% of blogs use mainstream media sources; 80% of blogs linked stories coming exclusively from major media outlets like BBC, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post (Pew Research Centre, 2010).

Hence the future lies in mainstream media blogs which combine credibility, budget, and freedom. I hold that mainstream media still more effectively inform the masses.

References

A Disgruntled Republican. 2011, viewed 24 April 2011.

Associated Press. 2006, Bloggers Join Mainstream’, Wired, viewed 24 April 2011.

Auletta, K. 2008, ‘The Search Party: Google squares off with its Capitol Hill critics’, New Yorker, viewed 24 April 2011.

Belo, R. 2004, ‘Blogs take on the mainstream’, BBC News, viewed 24 April 2011.

Blog Catalogue. 2010, ‘Politics by Award Winning Independent Political Bloggers in their Blogs’, BlogCatalogue, viewed 24 April 2011.

Owyang, J. 2008, ‘How Popular Blogs and Mainstream Media Appear The Same’, Web Strategist, viewed 24 April 2011.

Pew Research Centre. 2010, ‘New Media, Old Media: How Blogs and Social Media Agendas Relate and Differ from Traditional Press’, Pew Research Centre Publications, viewed 24 April 2011.

Russell, A. Ito, M., Richmond, T., & Tuters, M. 2008, ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’, Networked Publics, ed. K. Varnelis, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, pp. 43 – 76.

Sullivan, D. 2008, ‘Blogs & Mainstream Media: We Can & Do Get Along’, Daggle, viewed 24 April 2011.

Tan, A. 2011, Ex-Singaporean sponsored an additional server for The Temasek Review’, The Temasek Review, viewed 24 April 2011.

The Temasek Review. 2011, viewed 24 April 2011.

Thompson, C. 2006, ‘Google’s China Problem (and China’s Google Problem)’, The New York Times, viewed 24 April 2011.

This post will draw upon lecture content as well as readings from Week 3. The question to be discussed is as follows:

While discussing YouTube, José van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favourites (Reader, page 94). How do ranking tactics impact the formation of online ‘communities’?

Firstly, a very brief description of Youtube. Founded in 2005, the video sharing and streaming website has an average of 24 videos uploaded per minute and exceeded two billion views as of May 2010 (Youtube, 2011). Visitors to Youtube only have to search or watch videos of a certain genre before automatically being offered or suggested videos that Youtube’s programming thinks they might like by their second visit. For instance, on my first time surfing Youtube, I searched for and watched videos of Radiohead’s live performance of Creep.



On my subsequent visits, I found under the Recommended For You tab, there was a list of videos relating to Radiohead because Youtube deemed me to be interested in the band along with this message.



As this Recommended For You tab was placed prominently at the top half the Youtube’s homepage, my eyes were drawn to it immediately and this resulted in the higher chance of me clicking on it. Thus, this shows that José van Dijck’s theory that site interface does affect the popularity of videos is proven. Via methods Youtube has utilised like a front and centre Recommended For You tab, promotion of Most Popular videos, suggestions for other videos while watching a particular video, as well as featured videos, site interface is very important.

Communities in this case refer to online communities which exist on Youtube. These groups are set up by netizens who may or may not be produsers in order to devote full attention to a certain interest. Youtube itself is a giant community which serves the needs and pursuits of produsers and passive users who are interested in watching videos, streaming them, commenting on them, contributing them, and disseminating them.

Online communities on Youtube generally are hobby or interest groups. More often than not, these groups are ranked according to popularity, the number of comments they garner, the number of subscribers, or even the amount of advertising fees paid to Youtube in exchange for greater prominence/exposure (Dijck, 2009). With the factoring of money in, online communities now might be formed not purely out of interest, but of financial reasons.

Hence, it also means that the popularity of certain online communities might be boosted by cash injections and not a real indication of its widespread appeal amongst netizens. While this allows a new form of advertising to emerge, it is a blow to amateur netizens and produsers. With eyes and potential votes of ‘confidence’ being steered away from them to the big guns in the industry, exposure will be extremely hard to get.

Should capital continue to be a big, or even deciding factor in the formation of online communities, home users and produsers will be subject to a stifling of creativity and opportunities to present their own material which might be vastly different from mainstream media. As in the case of the remix culture which I highlighted here, amateur producers who are also users and netizens in the World Wide Web (WWW) are important when alternative views are needed to balance out the avalanche of media mainstream media production companies are heaping on consumers.

References

Dijck, JV. 2009, ‘Users like you? Thoerizing agency in user-generated content’, Media, Culture & Society, Vol. 31, No. 1, Sage Publications, Los Angeles, London, Singapore, New Delhi, pp. 41 – 58.

touchmyeggs. 2010, ‘Radiohead – Creep (Live @ Reading Festival 2009)’, Youtube.com, viewed 23 April 2011.

Youtube. 2011, ‘About Youtube’, Youtube.com, viewed 23 April 2011.

Youtube. 2011, ‘Most Popular’, Youtube.com, viewed 23 April 2011.

Youtube. 2011, ‘ Recommended For You’, Youtube.com, viewed 23 April 2011.

Just a post about my experiences with WordPress again. This time i was bored with my past theme and set out to find a spanking new one!

As a person obsessed with straight lines, things fitting without weird, unnecessary spaces, and things being exactly where I want them to be, it really irks me when I don’t get what I expect. For instance, with a WordPress theme, I’d want my sidebars to be on the right column, my posts to be fully justified, aligned in the centre and so on.

Hence, the logical thing to do would be to apply a theme which fits my criteria. And the thing good about WordPress is that it lists out its themes’ features. For example, two sidebars, one footer, fixed widths, and things like that, it’s really nifty I have to say. Settling on one theme I liked, I proceeded to my home page to check how it looks. Lo and behold, things were definitely not good.

My promised “fixed width, right-aligned sidebar 1” was all the way at the bottom of the page. And the sidebar didn’t even have the decency to I don’t know, spread out a little and resemble a footer. Maybe I have unreasonable demands, probably the CSS code isn’t even equipped to handle unexpected problems like that, but it is very irritating nevertheless. Furthermore, previously in my dashboard, I have re-dragged all the widgets I want to have in my sidebar already, and when my sidebar promptly decided to move to the bottom of the page, only two out of my five widgets appeared. This phenomenon is something that irritates me to no end.

Maybe there is some way to prevent this and I being an IT noob just don’t get it, but it does seem that everytime I change my WordPress theme, I have to re-insert all of my widgets into my new sidebar? All my widgets end up in this table at the bottom of the dashboard page, labelled as ‘Inactive Widgets’. Is this supposed to help me? Is this supposed to make my life easier? Although it is not a big problem to scroll all the way down to choose my widgets again, isn’t the point of the Internet to facilitate matters, and make it generally easier to go about things?

One suggestion I would like to make to WordPress is either:
#1. reverse the order of the widgets tables, put my previously used widgets up at the top of the page so that I can re-insert them into my new theme’s sidebar easily and quickly
or
#2. Do not even take my previous widgets out and stick them in a table called inactive widgets at all! Why can’t it just be an automatic process where the widgets I choose are already in the new theme’s sidebar, then should I want to add or delete anything, I’ll do it manually?

Back to my point about flexibility now.. After fiddling for over half an hour and choosing numerous themes to try to solve the issue of the wayward sidebar, I gave up. At that point, I was basically fine with any theme at all, as long as my sidebar got back to where it was supposed to be. Function over form for me I suppose. Not one theme came close to putting my sidebar where it belonged, so out of desperation, I turned to the ever trusty Google.

In a matter of minutes, I discovered the answer. Ironically, in a WordPress forum which then led me to a Help page filed under the WordPress Support section. The problem of a sidebar gone astray is apparently the small issue of html coding. As mentioned, I am a horribly anal-retentive person when it comes to certain things. My downfall was the code I used for justifying my posts. Just because I did not add a closing code to the end of my previous post, everything went haywire. Upon adding that simple function at the end, everything went back to normal.

After heaving a great sigh of relief, I started to ponder about this so-called flexibility options offered. While it is highly useful to those who know more to be able to customise according to personal preferences, for laypeople i.e. noobs like myself, this could be frustrating.

I would really be grateful if someone could add into the WordPress code some action that forces the layout of the theme to remain unchanged unless someone specifically requests to customise it. Additionally, WordPress can also implement options for left, right, centred, or justified alignments. While it might take away true flexibility, this will afford users some measure of customizability.

This article here is chocked full of information. While really pretty lengthy, I feel that the content is quite useful and true. Having used some of the tools as illustrated in the article. I confess that I have never had a hyperlocal blog before, so I cannot tell at this stage if using WordPress enables me to add “power, flexibility, or professionalism” to my curent space. I’m open to comments though!

References

Google. 2011, viewed 23 April 2011.

HyperLocalBlogger. 2009, ‘How Do You Define Hyperlocal?’, HyperLocalBlogger, viewed 23 April 2011.

Online Journalism Blog. 2011, Which blog platform should I use? A blog audit.’, Online Journalism Blog, viewed 23 April 2011.

Urban Dictionary. 2011, ‘Noob’, Urban Dictionary, viewed 23 April 2011.

WordPress.com Forums. 2011, ‘My blog side bar has fallen down, help Pls!!!’, WordPress.com, viewed 23 April 2011.

WordPress.com Support. 2011, ‘Appearance: Theme>>Layout Issues’, WordPress.com, viewed 23 April 2011.

In the lecture this week (Week 5), the topic of online privacy came up. According to the lecture as well as the readings, information is even more easily available to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection than ever (Solove, 2007). The benefits are obvious. As Solove says in his book, “We can communicate and share ideas in unprecedented ways. These developments are revolutionizing our self-expression and freedom” (Solove, 2007). With the Internet, people can quickly search for information regarding for example, a certain company (whether it is credible), a certain person offering a product or service (how do other purchasers rate the product/service), or even look up long-lost friends or family members via various avenues like blogs. One of the most commonly utilised approach is online social networking sites like Facebook.

Consider the example of China which had 457 million Internet users at the end of 2010, compared to only 308 million in USA (Bryan, 2011). This number according to a 2009 report by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) is only 29% of the total Chinese population, which means that numbers of Internet users will be expected to steadily rise at an exponential rate (CNNIC, 2009). According to Shankar, the Internet in China has helped 46 million people with their education, 35 million with security purposes, 15 million with job hunting and 14 million with travel plans (Shankar, 2010). The Internet has also resulted in the birth of informant websites set up by the governement for citizens to report corruption (Shankar, 2010).

This has also facilitated the rise of citizen watchdogs, or ‘flesh searches’. Netizens on popular BBS forums (Bulletin Board Systems) and social networking websites have all conducted searches for people (and their personal details) who have become popular on the Internet for whatever reasons. Examples range from corrupt/badly behaving government officials who are not punished for their misdeeds, mysterious people acting strangely in public, controversial blog posts, and so on. Upon finding the person’s personal details which include full name, address, and contact numbers, depending on the person’s behaviour, netizens in the area would proceed to either praise or harass the person in the spotlight. While this practice has had good results (e.g. the government pressured into taking appropriate actions against its offending staff member), netizens who reveal the wrong information i.e. personal details of an innocent person can cause much trouble for the person targeted.

However, as illustrated in the examples above, there are downfalls to this ease of information gathering. For one, a great amount of digital paper trail is generated. Personal information, generated information, and even false information will be preserved forever on the Internet, and is easily accessed at the click of a mouse.

This brings us to the relatively new phenomenon of employers Googling prospective job applicants. The practice of making use of the Internet to screen potential employees ensure the company that the person they are considering is suitable for the job and the corporate image portrayed by the firm. Conversely, many job hunters also make use of the Internet to find out more about a firm with 60% using social media to find out the company culture. As the two articles attached show, the vast amount of information out there can be a double-edged sword.

Employees using Social Media from TODAYOnline:

SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE ROLE IT PLAYS WHEN LOOKING FOR A JOB

———————————————————

SINGAPORE – A survey by recruitment firm, Randstad, has found that social media plays an influential role in the workplace and job search environment.

According to the Randstad Workmonitor, when preparing for an interview, 56 per cent of employees would use social media to find out more about an employer.

Some 60 per cent would use social media to find out more about a potential employer’s working culture from comments made by employees, and more than half (60 per cent) would not apply to an organisation if negative things were being said about the employer on social media.

When asked if employees take into account that their personal profiles can be viewed by their employers, 67 per cent said yes.

About half (48 per cent) said their employers provided guidelines for using social media representation with regard to work-related content and engagement.

Randstad regional director, Singapore and Malaysia, Ms Karin Clarke, said it is not surprising that employers are proactively providing their staff with social media guidelines, as social media is a double-edged sword for organisations.

While it provides an opportunity to attract quality candidates, sensitive and negative content can go viral very quickly and out of an organisation’s control, potentially causing serious harm to a company’s reputation.

The Randstad Global Workmonitor also revealed that Singapore was in the bottom three of Asia-Pacific countries surveyed when it came to employee satisfaction.

Employees in China and Japan are the least satisfied. The most satisfied employees in Asia Pacific are in India, (80 per cent), New Zealand (68 per cent) and Australia (67 per cent).

Employers using Social Media: 2011 article on the San Diego Union-Tribune

Schools are now also adopting this practice of checking up on hopeful candidates for acceptance. While the reason for rejecting some applicants is due to their Facebook accounts, schools are saying that the lack of knowledge about privacy settings, not so much the unbefitting behaviour and lives of these applicants is the real rationale for the students’ rejection. In the case of one American student, his Facebook profile was open to the public which led to discovery of a note he posted with threatening overtones. This mistake cost him his graduation, from which he was only a month away from.

Pam Procter a college admissions expert advises, “”Get rid of any photos, messages, pagers or ‘Likes’ that may reflect badly on you,”.

As quoted in the article, students hoping to enter disciplines such as business, law or medicine need to make sure that their online social profiles are presented in the best possible light. “According to Schools.com, 9 percent of business schools, 15 percent of law schools and 14 percent of medical schools admission officers reported looking at applicants’ social media profiles during the application process” (Lenz, 2011).

Examples of students being subjected to disciplinary action, or even expulsion have been as common as employees being fired over careless blog posts or online social media content. With cases like employees being fired because his or her employers saw disparaging comments about the company or management on personal blogs or Facebook accounts, to students being expelled for inappropriate behaviour, the danger of the Internet is that “in this day and age, there’s no privacy” (Solove, 2007).

What struck me about this lecture and all the cases outlined is that I am leaving a trail of information about myself, accessible to anyone, anytime and I can’t do anything about it without being equipped with more than the rudimentary computing skills I possess.

The idea of someone who can commit identity theft, the first case that comes to mind so easily makes me think twice about revealing information, however basic it might be online.

The second worrying thing is that my future schools or employers can pull up information about me in an instant, and the information that they pull up could be from anytime in my life. While searches would most likely turn up the most recent news about me i.e. when I’ve gotten my act together and started being responsible, data that I could have foolishly posted online when I was young and stupid would most likely also come up. The problem I face is being unable to remember every single thing I did on the Internet from a decade ago when I first started using this marvelous, but frightening invention.

Thirdly, the faint (in my case) possibility that someone would make use of my information or wrongly accuse me of some wrongdoing and disseminate my personal information all over the World Wide Web is a daunting thought. What’s been sent out can never be taken back, as some people have found out (mixing private correspondance with corporate ones and sending personal messages out to the whole department, or even the region, in the case of one Singapore Health Promotion Board staffer sending an explicit tweet to all and sundry following the governmental institution’s Twitter feed).

Critics of the Internet have said that it promotes excessive narcissism and frivolous discussions, while supporters argue that freedom of speech allows whoever to do whatever, and if endless self-promotion and adoration is what rocks your boat, so be it. I suppose the lure of posting information about yourself, every moment of your day, personal experiences, rants, and so on is very strong. Having people whom you know as well as don’t know seeing your ‘works’, empathising with you, and commenting on your posts seems to be very attractive, and in a way, increases your importance in the world. However, being a media student (and knowing very well of how fast information can be spread), attending net communications, and also being an all-round paranoid person, I am really more inclined to take the former side. Everything personal will be made private, no matter how barren my blog, Facebook, Twitter, and god knows what else is.

Hence, while the Internet is certainly a boon to everyone who can access it, it remains a bane as well.

References

Bryan, W. 2011, ‘Chinese Internet Use Surges Past 450 Million People In 2010’, National Public Radio, viewed 22 April 2011.

CCNIC. 2009, ‘Translation of The 23rd CNNIC Report – Statistical Survey Report on Internet Development in China’, CCNIC, viewed 22 April 2011.

Chinapet. 2011, ‘. . . . . Xidan girls event. . . . Recent hot hot’, viewed 22 April 2011.

Hopwood, R. 2011, ‘Using online connections to find jobs, workers’, The San Diego Union-Tribune: Technology and Telecom, viewed 22 April 2011.

Lenz, S. 2011, ‘Students applying to college may want to check out their Facebook page first’, Deseret News, viewed 22 April 2011.

Matyszczyk, C. 2011. ‘Facebook placenta pose gets student expelled’, CNET, viewed 22 April 2011.

Netease. 2011, ‘Topic: Men’s 11-year-old girl claiming to be obscene, “the senior officials to Beijing” (video)’, Netease, viewed 22 April 2011.

Sarrio, J. 2010, ‘Tennessee teen expelled for Facebook posting’, USA Today, viewed 22 April 2011.

Shankar, B. 2010, ‘Key facts about China’s internet usage’, International Business Times, viewed 22 April 2011.

Solove, DJ. 2007, ‘How the Free Flow of information Liberates and Constrains Us’, Future of Reputation: Gossips, Rumour, and Privacy on the Internet, New Haven: Yale University Press, New York, USA. pp. 17 – 49.

Tianya. 2011, ‘『End of the World Zatan 』is black on the the” Zhejiang University Women, “rave-known professor of Zhejiang University”‘, viewed 22 April 2011.

The Boston Channel. 2011, ‘Work Talk On Facebook Might Get You Fired: Employees Can Complain About Workplace, Within Limits’, The Boston Channel, viewed 22 April 2011.

TODAYOnline. 2011.

This is the first task for the practical portion of tutorial in Week 6.

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