My latest blog post over on SFA’s blog:
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I had mixed feelings about what happened in this episode. On one hand, it was fantastic and I was literally shaking at the end. I’m invested in the show and characters so vulnerable to the emotion of it all. But logically, some flaws were noticed. Not so much flaws… Just curiosities really.
How did Walt get tricked so easy? That’s probably a common question.
Keep in mind he is now Walter White, the guy who co-runs a car wash and not the guy in the “Empire Business”. Plus, he has cancer w/ chemo and meds and also…. Jesse aint dumb and the scenario is totally plausible.
And that money, his family’s money… is the whole entire point of the show… of Walt’s adventure. Without it, it was all for fucking nothing. So yeah, that was the best way to beat Walt… and it worked. Well, almost. Their’s that “luckier” aspect that Jesse pointed out.
The real issue I had was with the gang (Meth Demon et all) and how they discarded Walt’s instructions and then proceeded to fire thousands of rounds of ammo basically in his direction as he was in the truck. Yet they want/need Walt to cook/train Meth Demon and here they are gunning him down too. Seemed odd to me. But then again, these guys are ruthless and what happens happens. They would figure shit out one way or another…. or be dead. And not care a whole lot.
Except…. I have a prediction.
Meth Demon, in the next episode, will turn on his gang and take them all down leaving him, jesse and Walt. He will do this because something will wake him up… maybe seeing or hearing Walt command them to stop shooting. Something about Walt makes him respect his decisions more than others…. so he guns down his own gang. Assuming everyone is dead except Jesse, Walt and Meth Demon… Walt emerges from the car, as does Jesse. At which point, Jesse is killed by Meth Demon without hesitation. Walt screams NO! The story continues.
Every so often for as long as I can recall, I enjoy doing some research about Steganography and of particular interest is hidden data transmission via sound. I’ve always been intrigued by these technologies and the use cases that they enable. Though obviously not originally intended for mobile marketing, advertising and consumer applications, we are starting to see experiments that apply these advanced techniques in these areas.
Much like QR Codes, Sound Codes can be used to assist a mobile user interacting with some form of marketing collateral. Unlike QR Codes, these Audio Watermarks can be used on all mediums, not just visual ones. They can be embedded with print, video and audio advertisements whereas QR Codes are used with print and screen-based visual mediums. The two formats can be used together and one does not obsolete the other but Sound Codes are just… cooler. In this post I will attempt to explain why I like this tech and how it is used in the context of consumerism.
What are Sound Codes?
Sound Codes, sometimes referred to as audio watermarks or audio tags, are audio signals of various formats and sometimes intentionally imperceptible to the human ear (ultra-high frequencies). When coupled with advanced sound wave decoding algorithms they are used to transmit small amounts of data that are typically identifiers associated with additional data and content that is most likely stored on the Internet downloaded to users devices. As it relates to mobile marketing or even mobile payments, Sound Codes are the audio equivalent of QR Codes, Bluetooth and NFC. Audio watermarks can actually be more efficient and cost-effective in the long-term because of it’s different and arguably simpler attributes. Microphones and speakers are on every device and that’s important. Leveraging these common electronic components to achieve new forms of communication with the help of some intermediary software is a great example of re-purposing simple technology to create advanced technology. Sound Codes are just another applicable technology that relates to mobile marketing so it’s worth exploring if you like to be ahead of the curve.
Cool vs Clunky
The most fundamental difference in efficiency and ease of use between the two is automation and accuracy. Yes, a mobile device currently would still need to have a special app installed to tap into this technology but once running, the user could literally just stand-by and watch their screen as audio triggered content appears based on where they are, what they are looking at or even what they are listening to and watching on TV. Let’s go over some examples.
I could be walking down a busy street with lots of retail windows or an aisle in a grocery store or even enjoying a stroll through a museum and as long as I decided to enable the app to “listen” I could have a digitally enhanced context-aware experience. A store window could zap over a photo or video with a coupon offer that entices me to enter the store and do some shopping. A food product on the shelf of a grocery store could send me an ingredient list and nutritional data sheet along with price savings details. And my museum experience can be more informative and entertaining as extra supplementary content is sent to me automatically as I appreciate the art and artifacts on display. These examples would use very small hidden sound beacons that emit the audio signals to any enabled device that is nearby. These beacons can be tiny and embedded onto the back of labels or posters. Larger beacons are still small enough to strategically hide. If a beacon is not used, it is common to use the speaker system used in a store or venue and the Audio Watermarks are intermixed with normal audio content (music, radio ads etc).
Automation and Accuracy is Key to the Experience.
You see, other methods such as scanning QR Codes, SMS texting to a Short Code, going to a website or even searching for branded #hashtags… these are all clunkier experiences when compared to invisible and/or inaudible sound triggers. Our cameras ability to focus, scan and decode together with the necessary user interaction such as typing, tapping and scrolling results in a slower and more cumbersome interaction when compared to Sound Codes which from what I have seen…. just work with minimal user involvement in order to get from action to reward. This is how users want it to work. The Lean back experience is a positive one.
It goes without saying that advanced technology solutions requires more mobile marketing investment. So Audio Watermarking may not be suitable for all businesses and marketers especially as the adoption rate is so low at this time. But I can see this becoming another norm in the future of advertising. It’ll take time just as other formats have had slow adoption rates. After all, the mobile and second screen content market is still in its infancy.
What About Noise Interference?
This has been the most important aspect of the algorithms that have been developed over the years. I won’t go into detail on all the various approaches to solving this issue but suffice it to say that it’s not a big concern. The software used with sound-based data handling has matured and evolved to the point where we will start to see this technology used more often in the real world by marketers, retailers, broadcasters and at live events. Like most similar technologies, a rather close proximity is preferred to get desired results but in the case of using a loud PA and speaker system, an entire large crowd can receive and decode the audio signal successfully and essentially automatically download whatever content was associated with that Sound Code! So Sound Codes are…..
That’s right, listening to the radio or your favorite podcast? Watching TV with your second screen handy? At a concert with your phone raised in the air ready to catch a digital exclusive? In all of these cases and mediums, content can quickly and effortlessly be sent to all of the devices in the crowd within seconds. The power and simplicity of this can be a game-changer. the one-to-many transmission is really exciting and their are some proofs of concept over the past year or so out in the wild that are worth looking into.
Sound is Ubiquitous
Their seems to be a limitless supply of use cases but will it become mainstream and common in the mobile marketing or mobile payments space? I think it’s inevitable that sound-based content triggers will emerge as a goto technology to connect objects with experiences and that can permeate into multiple markets. After all, the software side of it is figured out and the hardware side is standard and inexpensive relatively speaking. It is a simpler more efficient and flexible system as opposed to Bluetooth, NFC and QR Codes (proximity limitations etc). Sound is ubiquitous and so to will be the Sound Code in a world where the Internet of Things and ubiquitous computing is more pervasive than the Internet we know and use today.
Chirp is an app that demonstrates Sound Codes. Here is an intro video:
Check out this experiment using Prezi and Chirp together to demonstrate Audio Watermarks embedded in a Presentation:
A different approach to Audio Watermarks using physical notched identification tags:
Though it can be said that the Marketing Industry has always been templatized to some extent, it is hard to ignore the hyperproduction of methods, strategies and content that occurs today from the many agencies swimming in the “Sea of Sameness”. There is a template for everything – messaging, content themes, publishing schedules, design, opt-in lead-gen pages and so on. Their are benefits to all of this of course. Efficiency is critical to bottom lines. Simplifying and tuning your marketing engine is smart. Leveraging these templates is how modern agencies survive – or at least struggle to remain relevant and be a signal amongst the noise. knowing and understanding what has proven to work is imperative. It’s all good, right? No risk?
Time for a new tone.
My concern is becoming a glorified banner ad. You know… those things we swiftly ignore with our trained senses because we know the likelihood of getting value out of looking at it and clicking it is zero. What happens if all of our marketing components are equated to dismissible noise? That might not be the exact case today but with the flood of f@!king familiar fads flowing around, it makes you wonder when failure becomes the norm.
You hear about this that and the other that has some phenomenal results for x y and z and download the ebook now to work it into your sales funnel strategy. Yadda f’n yadda.
I know… their are genuinely solid concepts that DO work. Today. How long will it take for the usage patterns and human behaviors to change enough for the effectiveness to diminish? How long for the excitement to dull down and the kool-aid to wear off? Then what? WTF will you do NEXT?
That’s not a segue to tell you about what is coming next. First I would not attempt to go there because really who wants to admit that they have any clue? Besides, you would have to download my new eBook on Amazon that will look crappy on your kindle to get that kind of value! Kidding aside – WHAT IS MY POINT? -
I don’t want to use the word differentiate. Dammit! How does everything end up here? Think Different. Act Different. Look Different. Be Different. Suddenly, What’ the difference? You cannot be different without first being Great. And if you are Great, you don’t have to be different. You can be different on your own terms and not for difference sake.
This is just a blog post. A bit of a mid-day rant. Guess what? I’ll follow templates that work too. Stock photos. Check. Unoriginal designs. Check. Familiar Messaging. Check. Opt-in Forms. Check. Social Media Automation. Check.
I’ll try to mold and custom-tailor the marketing plans when it makes sense to but yeah, i’m a face in the crowd of marketing zombies too. Just doing my job, sir.
What I think we should all strive for is also obvious. Greatness. Because when you are Great, you don’t have to beg. When you are great, they will opt-in without filling out a form to get an eBook and join a list to get bombarded with a constant flow of c-o-n-t-e-n-t. When you are Great, they will come knocking. Be the Door. The one that stands out. Yeah, d-i-f-f-e-r-e-n-t-i-a-t-e your Greatness. If all we need is a phone number, we are winning. Until then….
Here are 5 methods to being a Great Marketing Agency:
- See method 2
- See method 3
- See method 4
- See method 5
- See method 1
This post is in reply to “Students can run their own servers”
I think everyone should take time to understand the guts of tech. You will be no worse for having this general knowledge. As a journalism student, tech – including how to run a server for private communication and publishing workflows – should be mandatory part of the curriculum. Absolutely.
I used to agree with you regarding techno-journalists running servers in the real world once out of swaddled world of academia but now I am more in the middle. I would not discourage it, but I also recognize that they may not be better journalists for going down this path. They may be spreading themselves to thin…. and risking a lack of focus and dedication to certain aspects of being a traditional journalist.
Instead, maybe we need more of Journalism Startup Culture that consists of a lateral set of roles:
Source Handlers (emphasis on anonymous sources and sensitive data)
Journo-Technologist (more of a generalist who assists all others of a team, news org etc but also has the chops to do basic journalism, web dev, programming, marketing etc)
IT Specialist (traditional techie who is an expert in hardware/software/security systems
To wrap all of the above into a single person, as amazingly awesome as that would be, is not very realistic in practive. Even if one person can handle all of the above, can they do it expeditiously without sacrificing on quality, opportunities and achieving desired goals? Maybe for a time, but eventually, somethings got to give…. as any startup person will tell you.
Just another angle to look at it. Fundamentally, I agree with journalists being tech-savvy.
I have some posts in the works for the day job blog over at SFAMarketing.com. Here is one that was published not too long ago:
When I got the iPad2 (my first iPad), I had the same initial wow response as most. But I knew it would mostly wear off soon and it did. My 8 year old daughter was logging more time on it than me (and she was only allowed to use it for 20-60 minutes a day).
Then I bought the Zagg Folio Keyboard/Case for it. It was suddenly as close as you can get to a traditional laptop and once I downloaded various productivity and writing/coding apps, the thing became incredibly more useful to me and I loved taking it places now… knowing that I could actually TYPE and WORK on it.
I have since bought a MacBook Air since my old MBP was becoming problematic. The Air is probably my favorite computer, ever. But I have constantly speculated that Apple’s next significant product will be… needs to be…. the MacBook AirTouch. I see absolutely no downside to having the Air screen be a Touch screen and being able to toggle iOS and OSX. In fact, I believe thats what Microsoft has done (2 OS on Surface RT). I can see how having a 2 OS admits to an incomplete vision in a way. A perfectionist might cringe at the idea. But realistically, if UIs are tuned to different usage modes then it is an acceptable approach to dealing with Touch and Non-Touch experiences.
The future will lead to a harmonious single OS core that handles a variety of experiences tuned to certain devices and form factors. Apple and Microsoft and Google are heading in that direction. They have to. The only problem will be in how much new restriction is built into this new era of computers…. Post-PCs or whatever. New walled gardens and app ecosystems that allow these companies to better leverage and monetize what is built for what they build. Pros and cons.
Anyway… I seriously would love to own the MacBook AirTouch
Recently, Dave Winer wrote this blog post. I took the time to write a comment, not that Dave cares. In fact, i’m fairly sure i’m one of those commenters he prefers not to see write on “his space”. Their were other long-winded comments from OWSers and others.
Dave later wrote about “Listening“. In his view, if your comment veers away from a precise point, then you are now someone who doesnt know how to listen… or didnt listen in the context of reading that post and replying to that post. I don’t agree. But hey, its his blog and his comment thread so he can do what he wants in reaction to the types of responses his posts get. He has rules and guidelines and they are not simply accessible and obvious but rather mixed in previous writings throughout the years of him blogging. And these rules and guidelines dont always apply. It depends on his mood and on the piece he wrote. So there’s that too.
On one hand, Dave re-opened comments after having turned them off for a while and has even written new features to the OPML server to handle comments as outlines using the OPML Editor. So Dave clearly wants discussions to happen around his content. On the other hand, he gets disgusted with the conversations that often take place. Whether thats because of the aforementioned non-listening symptom or if he is challenged or called out on something… or any number of other reasons that will cause the commenter to get scolded, ridiculed or just plain deleted. And sometimes, the entire thread of comments are just removed as if they never existed. Again, that his his power and his choice.
Dave deleted the discussion on the “Buck-passing bullshit” post.
Before that happened, for some reason I decided to record my comment and turn it into a podcast. I’m thinking about releasing more of my voice memos (taken on my iphone). So this was a way to get started. A test. Anyway, here is my comment as a voice memo slash podcast.
I originally wrot a petition and published it on the WhiteHouse.gov We The People site. I tweeted out a redirect domain (NONEGATIVEADS.COM) on Twitter. No votes. It has since expired. But I made this collage for a sample site I am building with NationBuilder. Figured I would post it up here.
This is in reply to a post on InfoWorld -
“App.net’s crowdfunders: Taken for a ride?”It’s good to discuss the unknown future of app.net. Clearly, their has not been a stance against experimentation in the federated arena. In interviews when this has come up, Dalton has mentioned being open to releasing code (of alpha) and doing more thinking on how to approach federation social messaging. It’s so early that we really cannot be disappointed in any lackings.Business is business so they will need to make sustainable choices, and prob not all of them are going to fully embrace all aspects of open standards and decentralized networking. But the more stable and rock solid app.net becomes, the more likely they are to open up more… which could essentially allow for competitors to enter the market. Hey, i’ll take a strategy of getting a head start if it means a service will exists that is dire to the internet and not smothered with ad-based strategies.Regarding crowdfunders as investors… I’ve written a little about how a second round of crowdfunding that allows for micro-investments in the service would be highly interesting and daring. Some dev rev share is obviously important to get right to the app.net team. Best not to rush into these intricate agreements too early.
I have to say, I was caught off-guard by the awesome reddit Donate project. This is not a complaint or venting frustration… But more like a way to later avoid what could be deemed as a copycat project. The concept and prototype-code has existed for a project that I call Pledgeboard. I’m hoping to spend much more attention on it with the help of my partner/employer at Mark & Phil (markandphil.com). The launch of reddit Donate has caused some anxiety though. It has a lot in common right down to the payment partners, basic presentation and curated NPOs, community participation etc. Pledgeboard has some other ideas and features of course that would differentiate the service and of course some, maybe all, of this is just standard obvious stuff. Regardless, I would have much preferred to have shipped something before reddit Donate. Just being honest.
Truth is, it’s good that fundraising campaigns have so many progressive options these days. I’ve looked at the dinosaurs in this market (even been certified) and have been, to put it mildly, horrified. Disruption needs to happen now. A new breed of services and products have had success and their is room for much more innovation. I hope to be enabled to focus in this space in a significant way in the coming months. I dabbled in all of this stuff as far back as 2006 when I actually coined and defined the term “Crowdfunding” on my project blog and Wikipedia. It became a passion of mine but I ventured into another world with a long long run at a startup company unrelated to this market. But man, i’ve been itching to get back in. I’ve watched Kickstarter and some other companies become phenomenal services enabling hundreds and thousands of projects and giving them a chance to evolve their vision through the generosity of a global crowdfunding culture. I would love to be a part of this again.
I am keeping in mind that more services to cater to NPOs is better than less. They need choices and they need to move forward and away from legacy platforms that are more interested in taking their money rather than making them money for their causes. reddit Donate only justifies what we already know. People do care and do give. Especially when given trustworthy tools and networks.
Congratualtions to (sub)reddit, dwolla, stripe and all the participating organizations. Be on the lookout for Pledgeboard too!
@sull -- not really interested in it. why should I be?— Dave Winer (@davewiner) August 30, 2012
I’m a good listener, Dave. Though I am full of my own original ideas, you are an inspirational source. Your writing is by far my favorite in the tech/media/journalism/hacking space. I don’t mind the politics either. I know that you want to be a good listener too. And of course you like when someone blogs rather than tweets at you. So to continue the conversation that I sparked on Twitter, here’s another blog post on vocal.ly.
I’ll start by addressing the main point that you have already made previously regarding app.net. I agree with you. Another centralized service does not solve everything. Dalton Caldwell and his team had made a very good effort in setting expectations from the start. They never claimed to be the solution for everyone and everything, not now and maybe never. app.net (ADN) today is not another Twitter, though their alpha prototype that demonstrates the API uses the “Twitter Template”, and it’s not another Diaspora either. They are not, at least not initially, trying to proclaim to be the decentralized alternative to Twitter. That’s an important topic and it does bleed into this project but in this early stage, it is not at the forefront of the conversation. The message right now is simply…. Create infrastructure for a real-time communication pipeline that is and always will be ad-free and developer-friendly. The recent blog post over on blog.app.net ends with this reminder:
So remember this: at its core, App.net is an ad-free, subscription-based platform, a backbone, a dialtone.
I hate to come off as spelling this out to you because I know you know. But I have to write something here in reply to your question – “Why should I…” be interested?
One of the most exciting things that was announced by Twitter over the years was the Annotations API. The ability to store namespaced key/value data inside tweets. Shortly after that and other ambitious developer-friendly announcements, Twitter internally decided to shift in the other direction…. towards being a Media Empire. I am ok with this. In fact, I am happy and thankful that it is happening this way. It allows for progression by other entities that are sincere about improving the Internet more so than bettering the advertisement and media industry. That is why app.net exists. It is at the very core and is a promise made by them. Once it is clear that they are failing to keep that promise, it ends. If it does not end, I am sure that at least the team that exists today will depart. Imagine if the core technology team at Twitter were to leave? That would make one hell of a story but I won’t go there
So, the app.net API is looking great. The terms of service are looking great (many contributors to both). The company has enough money to sustain itself for at least 12-24 months based on current finances, not projected finances. Thats a long time to sort things out and become a truly legitimate Internet Utility Company. As a developer, this is all pie in the sky stuff but its here and its real. I for one admire the effort which is why I supported the crowdfunding campaign. This is refreshing, potentially revolutionary in its stance against advertising and selling user data etc etc. Down the road, I could even envision another round of financing, not from VC firms but again from people… the users. It could even leverage the accessibility for micro-investments via the Crowdfunding Bill that congress has voted on. Users as investors. It’s something I know you have written about in the past. Maybe it will happen that way in this case. Why shouldn’t it?
Another thing worth mentioning of course is that app.net will support RSS feeds in and out. I believe some of this will be ready within a week actually. And believe me, that’s important to me as well. I have built an entire platform with RSS at the core of it all. I am a huge supporter and evangelist of RSS (and OPML) and have dared to use it in untraditional ways, trying to push it more into the social realm. I’ve written many times about how a distributed version of Twitter just needs a smart network of RSS feeds with some extra sauce. And we have both written about how subscription handling and reading list management works best with at least some powerful centralized services in the mix. Why can’t app.net be one of these centralized services? Or if not them directly, their infrastructure can enable it. The API can be used to facilitate subscriptions to RSS feeds and storage of OPML reading lists. It is feasible. I plan on working on it.
So, I build with RSS. But I support app.net for all that it is trying to do and all that is currently provides me and what it will provide in the future (hopefully). Dalton has spoken about plans for releasing code to their alpha prototype for example as well as the concept of decentralizing with multiple nodes using the same API structure. We’ll see if and when that happens. I do understand how that could disrupt some aspects of their profitability but at least they do not need to appease investors that inflate preposterous valuations. They don’t need to make billions a year. They seem humble enough to understand that a different kind of success is at stake here. Its a different game. Its not a play to make themselves super-rich. I don’t see it that way at least. The rewards are different. It feels very much like a movement. A rebellion. A revolution…. for geeks at least
Cheers, Dave! Hope you join us some day. Either way, we’ll be interop’n with RSS.
Twitter was the first social network that I enjoyed as much as I enjoyed things like mailing lists (groups), irc, forums and rss readers. I never liked Facebook, though I use it for the local family/friend connection thing. I never used things like Friendster or Myspace or Orkut. I’ve certainly tried just about everything that resembled a social network. It’s not that I was not into these things, I was. I just did not like the experience. I much preferred the intimacy of smaller virtual communities. One of my favorite experiences was actually a Yahoo Group called “Videoblogging” back before their was a Youtube.
I observed Twitter for awhile but it didn’t take too long for me to find a rhythm there and enjoy the short-form near-real-time blogging bursts as well as the developer community that formed around the API. It was clear that this was a remarkable evolution of the Internet’s communication value. We now had a global chat room. That was so obvious and needed and awesome.
I have tweeted almost 9000 times since 2007. I have created a half dozen Twitter apps, one of which was the first service to assist in embedding tweets on tumblr and elsewhere on the web via automated screenshots and a bookmarklet (tweetshots.com). I also launched one of the first file sharing services on top of Twitter that leveraged FTP and (mostly private) Twitter accounts (tweetFTP). I deployed Twitter functionality on auxiliary websites for the film Avatar. I had fun with Twitter as a developer and a consuming user. It’s really been a great ride and i’ve done plenty of speculation on Twitter the business and company over the years. A few years ago, in a comment somewhere (RWW I believe) I tweeted the idea that Twitter could charge a small annual fee for usernames just like domain names as a way to add revenue and that it would be justifiable since Twitter handles have been used as often as domain names in print and tv marketing campaigns. I also talked a lot about how Twitter would eventually need to “be more like Facebook” to set itself in proper success trajectories. Not that i’m right or wrong, just that I have enjoyed speculating… Like predicting that Amazon would buy Twitter in 2010. Or that Twitter would eventually disallow RSS feeds in and out. And so on.
I’m also thankful for Twitter’s recent follow-through on it’s warnings to the developer community and partners. The shutting down of APIs, the discouragement of copying core products and experiences, the exclusivity of content “card” partners, the advertisement techniques and everything else that clearly demonstrates which path Twitter has decided to take as a company. A company that we all know has taken hundreds of millions of dollars in investor money resulting in soaring valuations. All of this is fine, and in fact its great. Not great because I think Twitter’s future if bright (it may be, but thats another post) but rather its great because it is setting the tide for what is needed on the Internet right now and that is more focus and efforts on new distributed messaging networks and open protocols/standards that will emerge/evolve now. It’s been going on for some years now but these things tend to dull down and simmer (see Federated Social Web). This is not to say that distributed networks should all be geeks with laptops. It also means new companies/products that are inline with this developer-friendly ad-unfriendly culture should form and hopefully will prosper now that they can clearly stand-out as Twitter embraces itself as a controlling Media Company.
Thank you, Twitter, for making this as clear as you have and giving ample time for the dev culture to adjust and adapt accordingly. It’s fair and as a company you deserve the right to make these critical decisions and any balanced observer can see that your options were few and the one chosen is no less viable than the one left on the table. Its OK that you chose not to be the utility company providing the pipes and monetizing around that structure. It’s OK that you instead want to cater to celebrities, fans and media and news partners. It does make sense. You are following the natural momentum that has occurred mostly on its own (MSM/TV and celeb adoption). To ignore all of the free exposure that you, Twitter, have received and the tone it has set for your brand… would likely be a mistake. Though I do feel that a certain level of high success could have been yours if you focused on being a new progressive Internet Utility Company and could have even chose to try to do both instead of clinging to just one path, i’m sure that you will be around for a decade doing your cute and friendly thing that you do. It’s OK.
Now we all know and things will fall into place nicely. Other efforts, like app.net, will instead move ahead with a fortitude to pave the roads that we need as developers and content creators/consumers.
Onward! Godspeed! Tweet Tweet!
*I choose not to proofread this
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