Monday, October 31, 2005
My latest activity: Advisory Board member of the Society for New Communications Research
The Mission: " To investigate, develop, share and transfer in-depth and forward-facing insights resulting from our deep ongoing study, learning, and continuous mastery of new communications tools and technologies with the academic community and industry for the promotion of best practices."
I was honored when Jen asked me to serve on her advisory board, especially considering the fine team of professionals and academics she has pulled together to serve.
Initially I will sit on the Best Practices/Standards/Awards Commitee and serve as the Chair of the Events Committee. (Because planning BlogHer isn't enough for me.)
If you review the launch Press Release, you'll see an ambitious and intriguing list of issues and areas that the SNCR wants to investigate. Close to my heart is the question: do all of these new communications tool really foster our sense of being part of a community, albeit a virtual one, or does it degrade it by reducing how much we interact with the physical world around us? Can virtual "social capital" replace the more traditional definition?
Anyway, congratulations to Jen for having a vision and making it happen. I'm happy to be on board to help.
Carnival of the Capitalists is up at Triple Pundit
My post about "The Myth of "Customer-Friendly" is included.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Should I Change My Name?
Sounds great. I do focus on small to medium organizations, no surprise she found me. (Guess my site's content is doing the right SEO job for me.)
But here's the thing: it became clear during our conversation that when she says "buzz marketing" she is thinking of BzzAgent-type activities. Paying or rewarding people to try products or services and spread it around. She explicitly said she wasn't talking about blogging...that that had "been done."
Back when I named my company, chose the tagline and put my site online, BzzAgent (and the controversy around their tactics) had yet to break. "Viral" or "buzz" marketing were both known terms, but I just don't think they had immediate associations like they do now. And term like "social media" were definitely still yet to arise. (OK, I know I make this sound like an ice age ago, and it was less than 3 years ago, but in this industry...that's a significant amount of time!)
I read books like The Anatomy of Buzz and The Tipping Point, which talked about buzz in much more broad and creative terms. There were many ways to create buzz; there were many ways to spread buzz; there were many ways to measure and observe buzz.
I spoke to so many people who weren't marketing people who thought "viral" had really negative connotations. Since my initial target was going to be to help arts organizations, non-profits, small businesses etc. I figured many of those folks would not be marketing mavens and that they would share this reaction of distaste. Meanwhile given my company name, Worker Bees, "buzz" marketing was a cute little play on words.
This WSJ reporter is not the first person to assume that if I do "buzz marketing" I must be signing up legions of people (usually young people) to try products and offering them prizes and incentives to spread the word.
And frankly, I don't want to be thought of as being in that business. It's not what I do. It's not what I want to do. I want to create online relationships via blogs, online groups and online communities. I want my clients' brands and identities to become associated with quality content and (buzz word alert!) authentic transparency to their online customers.
So, the question is: has the definition of the term "buzz marketing" been distilled now to mean something very specific? Should I change or just remove my little tagline: "Buzz Marketing & More"?
Is the cute association with my Worker Bees brand, and the memory of when "buzz marketing" meant something a little more open-ended not worth the time I sometimes spend clarifying that I don't run BzzAgent-type incentive programs?
Or am I just letting this blow way out of proportion in my mind...and letting the mind-set of one WSJ reporter represent an entire population in a way that's not warranted?
Thursday, October 27, 2005
OMG. People need to get over themselves. Right. Now.
Their tribute includes posting an existing ad from their "Think Different" campaign in the 90s that featured Rosa Parks. And the link behind the picture takes you to biographical information on Parks.
Scoble attributes their terrific market branding position to decisions like the one to change their site in such a way.
Now if you want to get annoyed, just start reading the comments.
First there are the people who, without any information or the least little bit of checking, declare that Apple has somehow stolen Parks' image and slapped their logo on it for marketing purposes. No, jackasses...like I said...existing ad.
Then there are the people who can't understand why everybody was eulogizing Parks all over the web for the last few days to begin with. Because, jerks, it's sad but true that often people have to die before the rest of us are compelled to think about what they did and how what they did made us feel. Welcome to reality. And welcome to the bogosphere that we all get to express how we feel very publicly and in an easily distributed fashion.
Finally there are the people who see only cynicism and exploitation. And who feel that if a company does something it must be for base, capitalistic purposes and couldn't possibly be to send a message about their values as a company.
But where do you draw theline folks? I wrote about Rosa Parks the other day on the hip & zen pen, a blog I write for a client who runs an online store.
Was I exploiting Rosa Parks? No? That's OK because I'm speaking with my voice on a blog? OK, so it's only big companies that can't communicate their corporate values in this way?
Apple consistently behaves in this way, whether after natural disasters or the passing of significant icons.
And as an Apple customer, as Robert rightly points out, it makes me feel good about the company, their values, the brand, and my purchase of their products.
Blogvangelists plug blogs as a way to humanize companies. That makes them a marketing/branding tool too. And morally no better or worse than paying tribute to an American icon upon her passing.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Report from BlogOn 2005: The Myth of Customer-Friendly
In the blogger universe, apparently.
I read with some amusment Mark Pincus' post defending the charge that Silicon Valley is full of "tech-heads who don't listen." The examples he uses to support the contention that there are people listening hard: Google and Apple. I am amused because Google and Apple both came under fire repeatedly at the recent BlogOn 2005 conference for being "customer-unfriendly."
You know, blogging has come a long way in the year since last year's BlogOn event. The hype is ever-present, both positive and negative. The numbers are staggering. But the last thing we, as an industry, should do, is let this go to our heads, making us insular and arrogant. You could hear the self-satisfaction permeate otherwise rational discussions. Everything from claims that the blogging "tipping point" had already occurred (which I have already blogged about disagreeing with to sweeping declarations made about how a company's success or failure would be predictable based on the quality (or existence) of their blog.
One panel where this was apparent was in the panel on "Markets are conversations" moderated by Steve Rubel. At one point I even felt compelled to rise to the defense of two companies that probably don't need my assistance. Shel Israel made the grand statement that Apple and Google don't respond to customers, and that it "will hurt them."
How does he support that statement? Well, he doesn't, or he didn't get a chance to. And I could not help myself from commenting as follows:
We cannot be so insular as to think blogs are the only ways to support customers. As an Apple customer, when I have a problem I go to their web site and am directed to moderated forums where I inevitably find assistance. I don't need a blog to resolve my issue. Believe me, cranky anti-computer moments aside, I'm perfectly satisfied. Those forums are customer-friendly. (Not to mention that an earlier panel had documented how Apple had gone from a state of reluctant responsiveness on the iPod batetry issue to one of immediate responsiveness on the Nano screen issue...if that's not listening, learning and adapting to the online and blogging cultre, then what is?)
As for Google, perhaps my view is unusual, but I see Google as a company that's constantly creating and releasing various little applications and tools to its users. Tease them all you like (and I do) about being the eternal beta-release company, it doesn't strike me that most of these options are big money-making machines for Google. Rather Google wants to be a one-stop-shop for online denizens...and releases various niche features that we talk about being cool and/or fun. I think their product development ethos is customer-friendly.
The fun continued the next day, starting with David Weinberger's keynote on what blogs aren't. I really like David and his perspective. He's one of the few guys who can write about gender issues and seem completely self-aware and open-minded. He's one of the few speakers, male or female, who uses feminine pronouns ergularly without sounding deliberate or contrived. And his advice on what a blog is not is solid. But to spend as much time as he did attacking the JuicyFruit blog was a waste of time he could have better spent in other ways.Nowhere in his very energetic thrashing of JuicyFruit was there the slightest hint that Dave thought perhaps it was simply a failed (in his case) attempt at humor, not an egregious and immoral exploitation of the blogosphere! I mean really, does he seriously think the people at JuicyFruit take their Click & Hold game seriously themselves? Does he not, perhaps, see the humor in the "top scores" indicating someone has played for 99 days? Has he not seen the ads that their "blog" is riffing on? The ads are kinda funny, actually. Sure, I won't be visiting this blog and hanging out there, but it's not evil personified, dude!
Frankly, by the end of the two days at BlogOn I felt a simmering resentment rising to the top, as corporate and agency traditional PR-types got tired of being spoken about derisively, dismissively and derogatorily. I agree with the PR person who said they were there to learn, but that it wasn't really very instructive to simply engage in bashing the attempts of companies to dip their toes in the blogging water.
But I've digressed a bit from my original point: the Myth of Customer-Friendly behavior in the social media sphere. Blogs are one way to be customer-friendly. A great way. I am a blogger, a professional blogger, a blogvangelist, a huge blog proponent...and yet I will commit heresy right now and remind everyone: blogs are one way. We must be open to accepting that for some companies there are other ways that they can be customer-friendly too.
Big tent, guys, big tent.
Letting a kitten out of the bag: I'll be at SXSW Interactive
And if you check out the left-hand side-bar of their site today you'll see that SXSW Interactive organizer (and total BlogHer booster) Hugh Forrest has excerpted my recent post about comment spam for their SXSW Speakers in the News Blog. Here's the Permalink.
Stay tuned for more info on me, Blogher and SXSW Interactive.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Advice for bloggers who care about their older readers
Today Ronni Bennett has published a post with good advice if you care about your older readers.
Frankly much of it is good advice no matter your readers' ages...I too hate scrolling left to right. I hate really long, endless paragraphs. etc. etc.
So check out her advice.
About the only thing she mentions (and I've seen other people mention) that doesn't bug me is this one:
Unidentified Links: In the past few months, a new link style has erupted that is growing like fungus. It is the practice of posting unidentified links. It usually appears thusly:
“Great story here. Also, don’t miss this and this.”
Oh, yeah? If it’s so great, tell Crabby what it is and why it’s so great.
Well I don't think my browser is the only one that displays the URL when I roll my mouse over a link, is it? Don't get me wrong, I appreciate context as much as the next gal. Tell me why you think the story is great. But I don't need a long citation on source if it's a well-known one. If I roll my mouse and see an NY Times or cnn.com or timegoesby.net URL, I'm game, and I'm clicking.
I think I'm probably in the minority on this one, but I can live with that.
Carnival of the Capitalists is up at the Blawg Review
I submitted my post about comments, and how the necessity to restrict them is impeding the "conversations" that blogging is supposed all about.
Check it out.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
UPDATED: Bloggers getting more and more restrictive with comments...
I recently implemented the word verification tool on this blog after a weekend spam attack (over 400 comment spams within 24 hours.) When I encounter such a tool I consider it to be a minor inconvenience, but a small price to pay for posts free of comment spam.
But twice recently I wanted to leave comments on blogs that had such restrictive policies in place that I couldn't.
The first is a new blog, The R's Project, which wrote a post about client hip & zen. I wanted to thank her, and let her know we're now blogging. She only allows comments from "team members", so no go. Sounds sort of like that exclusive Lifehacker/Gawker invited commenters deal.
Similarly, I wanted to leave a comment at this blog, this time to thank them for mentioning my client, Browster, and again, mention that we're blogging now.
This time the blog requires a wordpress log-in to comment.
I know some people do this who have Typepad blogs too. Since I too use Typepad, I do happen to have a Typekey registration. But I don't feel like registering for wordpress, of whom I'm not a customer, to comment on wordpress blogs.
So spam is destroying, or at least inflicting significant harm on, what most people consider a vital part of what makes a blog, a blog: the conversation. It seems like most spam-fighting tactics focus on creating barriers that impact spammers and non-spammers alike. We all know blocking IP addresses is virutally useless, so the solutions seem to be to requires people to jump through hoops it's assumed the automated comment spam bots can't jump through. I haven't a better idea, but I wish there was a way to go after comment spammers that didn't treat us all the same.
All these great minds musing about Web 2.0 might want to spin some mental cycles on this problem, or Web 2.0 will consist primarily of automated comment spammers commenting on splogs, while the rest of us take our interactive, disintermediated toys and go home!
UPDATED: You should really check out the comments on this post as there are two interesting points there:
#1: Word verification does prevent those with vision impairments from being able to comment. You may see some sites that provide an alternate link for people to click if they can't read the word verification word, but neither Blogger nor Typepad offers this. I'm pretty sure that makes all such blogs non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. (And please note that when I said in the comments that I'm not a government contractor, so it "doesn't matter", I meant that I can't get in trouble for not complying with the Act...not that it doesn't matter that visually impaired people can't participate.)
#2: Ironically, I have a comment that looks like comment spam on this post. But it does link to what looks like a real post by a real person singing the praises of comment spam, and how we should all love to get it. I kinda hate to drive traffic to that post, but I have never seen anyone have the cojones to make that argument before. I found it pretty easy to poke holes in his argument (also in the comments here) but I'm sure some of you could point out even more flaws in the idea.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Guest Blogging at KRON's The Bay Area Is Talking blog tomorrow
Brian has an aggregator full of local bloggers and he spends all day giving the link love to what those bloggers are talking about.
I'm trying to decide whether to spread my posts throughout the day, or just devote a couple of hours in the morning to doing it. KRON doesn't care what time of day or night I post, as long as I post 6-10 times.
Perhaps I'll post at 12:01AM just to kick of the day :)
Nah. I probably won't be up.
So come visit me tomorrow at The Bay Area is Talking.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Carnival of the Capitalists is up at Accidental Verbosity
Actaully they included my post about how we populated a BlogHer panel, even though they weren't sure if it was on-topic or not.
Given that conferences are marketing efforts and expenses, and given that diversity programs are common initiatives for many medium to large companies I think it's definitely a post that's germane to business. But then, obviously I think so, since I submitted it.
There are tons of posts, so take your time and peruse the best of the week's business blogging.
News Flash from BlogOn...
Dick Hardt from Sxip Identity is the Stephen Wright of the tech world.
That's a compliment.
Monday, October 17, 2005
To present advertorials or not to present advertorials?
Here at BlogOn there is a heavy focus on product demonstrations from vendors.Not just in a vendor area, but actually getting up on stage and having what is theoretically supposed to be 10 minutes (but has inevitably become 15-20 minutes) to present new products.
On the one hand I personally may end up using these products, so I certainly find the info has potential for usefulness.
On the other hand, for people who are not interested, it seems like they're paying a lot of $$ to watch commercials. And it seems clear that vendors paid for this opportunity, so rather disingenuous to call then "Innovators" and not sponsors.
How to balance the two reactions...something we have to think more about as BlogHer 06 planning starts in earnest.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Off to BlogOn
Don't know if I'll do much moblogging from the show...but I may give it a whirl. It seems like I should, given that I'll be with all the cool blogging kids.
So come say "hi" if you're at BlogOn. If there's one thing that BlogHer taught me, it's that even we geeky throngs who love to interact online amp it up a notch when we're face-to-face :)
Friday, October 14, 2005
This Week's Site of the Week: The Covers Project
I am also the type of person who will buy and album when I find a single song I like. Even the availability of single song downloads on iTunes hasn't really changed that.
I am also the type of person who can't bear to get rid of CDs...even ones I don't like. I believe I've probably gotten rid of less than a dozen in my life. Which may be why I have about 1200-1400, incuding those I've downloaded.
And I do enjoy a good cover song. Coverville, for example, is the one podcast I listen to regularly. And if someone does a cover album, I'm prone to buying it.
So you can imagine my delight at finding the site CoversProject.com. They aim to compile a list of every cover song ever recorded. And they enjoy creating cover song chains...sort of like playing six degrees of separation but with cover songs.
And you can look up an artist and see both who they have covered, and who has covered them. It's cool.
And as I'm wrapping up this post, Frente's cover of New Order's Bizarre Love Triangle is playing...appropriate.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Ever seen your name in a very unexpected place?
Courtesy of the NewComm Blogzine.
I'd like to thank the academy. Well, really I'd just like to thank Jeremy :)
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
How will 2005 avoid the pitfalls of 1999?
Scott is hoping that this time around we've all learned some of the lessons of the bubble. Sometimes it seems we have, and then sometimes a flurry of acquisution or merger activity hapens, and you gotta wonder.
What's also interesting to me about Scott's post is the way he talks about the next phase of search/online technology being about giving value to capture the customer...and then using anonymous data, or even shared data, to deliver targeted content, targeted advertising, a personalized and customized experience.
Of course he mentions Browster, but also such impending apps as Flock.
And all of this is reminding me a great deal of the "GoogleZon" Epic video that imagined a future of always on, always personalized content, communication and information. And the mixed reactions to the concept.
The key is the first part of Scott's formula: you better continue to focus on the value you're giving if you want to start controlling more and more of our data. I can hear the protests now: "but the user is in control!" Sure, of the superficial...the look, the feel, the order, the delivery channel.
But Web 2.0 companies are controlling our data. And that's a lot more monetizable (is that a word?) than eyeballs!
And perhaps that's how 2005 will differ from 1999.
A Worker Bees Blog is this month's Biz Blog Profile
Well, this month I am proud to say that 42nd St. Moon has become the first arts organization featured in Toby's monthly Biz Blog Profile series.
Toby did a great job pulling info together from the 42nd St. Moon blog, the 42nd St. Moon web site and emails with me to put the profile together, and I think she captures very well how arts groups can benefit from blogging, and how blogging can be an art!
And she didn't even tease me about using a standard Blogger skin on the blog, so I'm grateful for that :)
Monday, October 10, 2005
A tale of one conference panel
In both cases I left what could be considered a cryptic comment, "Conference organizers get the slate of speakers they think it's important to have", and I thought I'd clarify with a little story.
Lisa, Jory and I went to some lengths to make BlogHer a non-partisan conference and organization. Lisa and I have both written extensively about politics, from the left side of the spectrum, and obviously we couldn't hide that, but we also wanted to make sure that it wasn't the point of BlogHer.
BlogHer had only one panel addressing politics overtly, and it was on my pile to populate that panel. (FYI: Lisa, Jory and I split the panels...taking individual stabs at identifying speakers before discussing as a group.) Even with the one Politics panel, the idea was to discuss the role of political blogging, not the politics within those blogs. Now that people are aware of political bloggers, what should their role be? i.e. do they need to get more like journalists? Should they use their power to become advocates? We knew that even if the point wasn't to debate political positions, we needed to get diversity of political viewpoints onto that panel. And we needed people who weren't knee-jerk partisans on either side of the aisle.
Speaking only for myself (Lisa was probably more up on the conservative blogger scene than I) I didn't feel like I had a slew of great conservative women bloggers to choose from. I used to subscribe to some conservatives to know what "the other side" was saying, but I soon realized that I could still just read the lefty bloggers and find out what the righties were saying...the important stuff bubbles to the top. (And when you subscribe to hundreds of feeds, culling is important!) So I wasn't subscribing to a bunch of those folks anymore, which meant I heard only what the top-tier Powerlines, InstaPundits and Little Green Footballs-types were saying. (Hmmm...proving the original point we were making by starting BlogHer right there, no?)
And of all the people sending us ideas for their favorite bloggers that we should get to speak, or from people proposing themselves as speakers, conservative women bloggers weren't coming out of the woodwork that way either. Because no matter how non-partisan we were trying to be, the word-of-mouth ripples about BlogHer were necessarily hitting our own circle first, then their circle and so on...and yes, we were less likely to hit conservative women bloggers by word of mouth alone.
One name, however, get brought up numerous times, LaShawn Barber. I started reading LaShawn and while I couldn't say I agreed with her politics, I respected her writing and her complexity. There didn't seem to be anything knee-jerk about her. So we invited her, and she accepted. Yay, happy ending.
Until a family conflict arose, and LaShawn had to back out.
Now, I could use the same excuses conference organizers always use: no conservative women submitted ideas. It's self-selection. None of my blog buddies knew any great women conservative bloggers to recommend...doesn't that mean there really aren't any out there? I could find a dozen moderate-to-liberal women bloggers who were certainly qualified to speak on the subject. So why should diversity of perspective matter if they can speak competently on the cold, hard facts?
What to do? Here's what I did: I went back to LaShawn and asked her to help me. I asked her to give me names of conservative women bloggers who weren't knee-jerk partisans who could take her place on the panel. She gave me a few names. I checked them out, invited one and ended up with a blogger I had never even heard of before.
It is not the blogger's failing that I had never heard of her. Nor her failing that she wasn't magically aware of BlogHer and our plans and the opportunities there for her.
It is not even, really, my failing that I had never heard of her...we can't expect to know everyone.
But given that we had already decided that diversity of perspectives was important, it would have been my failing, most definitely, if I had not found her.
I hope this little parable illustrates less cryptically, more plainly, what I mean when I say:
"Conference organizers get the slate of speakers they think it's important to have."
Carnival of the Capitalists Turns 2...at BusinessPundit.com
Check out the best of business blogging.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
I'm through with lists
I vow to henceforth not use a single one of the ridiculous lists of "top" blogs ever again. Not the Technorati Top 100 (which I haven't looked at in months anyway) nor the Feedster 500 (which has mysteriously remain unchanged since its introduction in early August, despite theoretically being a monthly feature) and especially not this c|net list.
I seriously wonder whether they actually read these blogs before not only choosing them but allocating them to their Categories.
Let's take the Open Source category. Don't get me wrong: I subscribe to Wil Wheaton; I subscribe to Doc Searls. But have you read their blogs? Do they strike you as the place to go for all things Open Source? Wil talks about poker, and, quite movingly, about his family and animals, and, quite charmingly, about being an actor...but this "Just a Geek" guy hasn't blogged much geekery in months! Doc, on the other hand, talks about all sorts of geeky stuff pretty regularly, interspersed with lots of other stuff. Very nice read. But if you put a blog in the Open Source category, then I want to read about Open Source culture, or developments on Open Source projects or, you know, stuff that's usually Open Source-related. I don't want to go read the blog of a guy who approves of Open Source in general.
Let's take the Law/Politics category. OK, how wussy are these c|net guys that they take one of the most popular blog segments out there, Politics, and a) combine it with Law to begin with, b) choose only 3 blogs (all of which are much more Law than Politics) and studiously avoid choosing any of the dynamic and powerful political blogs out there...on either side of the political fence? Ridiculous category.
I mean this isn't even about diversity (of which there's almost none) or going off the beaten path (which they did not. at. all.) This is actually about the credibility of their categories and their choices and how the twain meet.
OK, with all this kvetching...how do I "blog hunt"?
Shocking to say, but often I start with plain old Google. And now I use Technorati's new Blog Finder tool. And more often than not I start with one or two blogs I already know that are around the topic I'm interested in and start following the bread crumbs that lead from their posts and blog rolls.
What I usually don't do, and have now made a vow not to do is use some asinine "Top" list!
Friday, October 07, 2005
This Week's Site of the Week: TechieDiva
Because I love to show the BlogHers love.
Because chicks dig gadgets too...as my overloaded purse can attest.
Because her cartoon version of herself is soooo adorable.
Check it and see:
Carnival of the Vanities #159 is up at TechnoGypsy
Enjoy the vanity.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
This month's Silicon Veggie column
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
BlogHers Meet-up in NYC
So what better than to have a BlogHer meet-up while we're there?
Monday the 17th is the night, and the details are over at BlogHer.
It was bound to happen
I could have left the post here, but I did the rare thing and deleted it from here, moving it to the 42nd St. Moon blog where it belonged.
Would you have done anything differently?
Monday, October 03, 2005
Carnival of the Capitalists - the 2 year anniversary edition
Check it out. They do an amazing, thorough, well-annotated version. One of the best yet!
(This week's Worker Bees submission is my post wondering about why we have to spend so much time trying to define Wen 2.0.)
Sunday, October 02, 2005
So after receiving about 400 comment spam emails in the last 24 hours I got up this morning, went down to the hotel business center and paid an exorbitant sum to go turn off comments.
Only you can't, as far as I can tell, turn off comments in general on either Blogger or MT, you can only turn them off on *new* comments, not old.
Comment spambots seem to foucs on old comments, so my feature request would be to have a setting that lets you automatically allow comments until a post is 30 days old. Or that would let you go turn off comments on posts over 30 days old.
Am I missing something that already exists?
Since the options didn't really help me instead I just turned on the word verification spam prevention feature. Hopefully that will stem this flood. Doesn't help me delete the 400 spam commentds already sitting there...I wonder if there's a way to do that en masse like on MT?
Can't wait to get home and work on that...not!
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Saturday, October 01, 2005
The one day I'm away...
I get hit with a comment spam attack.
Far as I can tell there are something like 100 comments telling me how fascinating my blog is that I won't be able to get rid of until tomorrow.
I don't know what has changed, Blogger never used to get hit like this (unlike the blog I have on MT, which has always had a comment spam issue.)
Sorry about that. Just ignore the mindless praise :)
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