07th Mar2009

The “Difference” Factor – Why it matters…and why it does not

by Dorothy

Here, Guy Kawasaki talks about the Harvard’s admission process, an alternative take on an educational institution that one normally assumes does not have to pro actively reach out to get applicants.

Full disclaimer: I am currently schooling in a tertiary institution in Singapore.

Having said that, I am not going to engage in one of those comparison posts. I do not want to compare, because one cannot do so if one has not been in any of the other major universities in Singapore. What you hear about the various institutions is probably true, but remember that perception largely depends on who is perceiving it. It would be prudent to see if the source of an opinion is of a similar personality to yourself, or is similar enough for you to think that a similar experience would result if you attended X institution. Just because your best friend’s niece loved a certain school and excelled while being in it, does not guarantee the same for yourself. But then again, what do you know when you’re around 18 to 20 years of age? 🙂

The institutional salience filter: Labeling Theory

Obviously, labels make a difference. I suppose, to a certain extent, all these labeling issues will always be around. Here’s a take from the article on Harvard.

“What we aim to do is to get the very best faculty together with the very best students,” he says. “Our hope is that these synergies will develop the talents of these students to a much greater degree and that they will then give back a lot more to America and the world.”

That is their promise, and that is the edge that Harvard students get in their first impressions. I suppose the general rule of thumb is, never, ever in a situation to introduce yourself as being from a certain institution and stop there, expecting that that alone will entitle you to anything. Where you are from at most gives you an edge, it is not a reason for anyone to hire you.

Another thing, it is not just the student cohort that makes any institution different. It is also the gatekeepers, the ones selecting who gets to be in the institution, both at an administrative, faculty and student level. It is the industry, the ones who come into contact with those associated with an institution that will perpetuate the external brand image of the typical character found in that institution. It is the school “culture”.

Why I am loving where I am/have been
Totally awesome modules like the Business Study Mission (I’m New York Dec’07), Digital Media Across Asia (here’s what we’re building for the community), opportunities for Student Exchange Programs (GO HOOS! UVA) are amongst the things that I will cherish in my undergraduate life.

A whole multitude of other opportunities are out there when potential students come in, for anyone keen to take them up. These come in the forms of the various CCA clubs, Case Competitions, Overseas Community projects, bond free scholarships. And most of all, the hunger and drive that is in the student cohorts. So there are many chances for you to learn, and also to give back. There are many chances for you to step out of your comfort zone and grow.

Of course, you could choose not to participate in any of these, and just exist as a normal undergraduate.

What I am advocating
Take a more proactive stance in your education. The pedagogy is not entrenched in stone, neither is the syllabus, neither is your educational route. The opportunities are out there, it is up to you to find those that have the best fit with who you want to become. There is also nothing wrong with stumbling into something that you find you are good at.

Open House
I have to say I am loving the experiment into Web 2.0 elements in this year’s Open House Campaign with blogs and the like, but there are just too many things going on in the front landing page of the website, completely overwhelming the viewer. Where do I start?

Their Photoshopped signages in the advertorial campaigns need much more work. Take the cue from Industrial Light Magic when they created Star Wars, and realized that a bit of dirt on their shiny spaceships made it seem that much more realistic. The signs are too clean, too glossy, too distant. On a random note, the signs are also mostly significant only to those already in the institution, who outside would know that they are part of the school architecture? Then again, maybe that was a good way for the campaign to build up the rapport from within the school and not just be outward orientated.

To those contemplating admission…
I guess to sum up, I hope that if you are “different” in terms of what you have to offer to your future counterparts in school, you will come. Don’t expect mere admission into an institution to give you that differential edge. The sooner you realize that the world does not owe you anything, the sooner you can change your strategies towards getting what you aspire towards in life. And the good thing about it is, there are now multiple channels open to you (that are also less socially stigmatized).

To the graduated/graduating…
It is myopic to say that this issue does not concern you, just because you are graduating. In some ways, you are affected by the current cohort in school. You should be very concerned about the kind of people that your alma mater is accepting. It’s heartening to see the Student Association asking if seniors should be invovled in the admission process. This concept has was what they envisioned for the LCKSP program, I wonder if it would be possible school-wide.

There you go. I couldn’t be there physically to help out, but at the end of the day, I am thankful for my institution for shaping me into who I have become today.

Be Great.
So yes to being different, even though I still cringe slightly when people talk about it.

But even more so to being great. Some of the most amazing people around still haven’t got a clue about what they would be doing in 5 years time, but they are great at what they do currently and they continue to strive for this.

Focus not so much on being different (it is possible to be different in a wrong way), just take the time to find out what you excel in, and simply, be great at doing that.

Live or merely exist; the choice is yours.

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04th Mar2009

Media Economics ….& Piracy

by Dorothy

Here is an article that I came across some time ago.

The Problem of Media Economics: Value Equations Have Radically Changed

“It seems that most media companies still haven’t figured out how to adapt to or even understand the changes to the fundamental exchange of value in media.

Some of that stems from a failure to understand legacy media economics.

People ask why no one wants to pay for news anymore, referencing the decline in newspaper circulation, when in fact that misrepresents the value equation. People were paying for newsPAPERS, which contained a lot more than news, and they were also paying for newspaper delivery, which is a service.

….It’s not that no one wants to pay for music or movies, it’s that increasingly we want to pay for content when, where, and however we want. We’re willing to pay for the convenience of video on demand, but the service isn’t always being offered. Digital technology has put content producers in the services business, but they don’t yet fully understand that value exchange.

New business models for media require entirely new exchanges of value — it’s not about finding new ways to balance the old equation.”

It’s interesting to read the author’s take on this issue, because people have focused largely on the death of traditional media, when perhaps they should be focusing on the dearth of companies that should be working to deliver content on demand in the most cost effective and efficient way.

The Craigslist example where the author had been looking for someone to rent their room out to, and was “able to achieve for free on Craigslist what they couldn’t achieve by spending money in the newspaper” is also rather telling. The question is, Is the Freemium model, or even, Free, model sustainable in the long run? Then again, content has always been used as bait for eyeballs in advertising.

The internet has changed a lot of the ways that processes and services can be monetized. For benefits that accrue to end users, think about postage. Telegrams, airmail, shipping costs all used to come into play before the arrival of the web and suddenly, email made communication (almost) free, easy, and much faster to boot. Of course, the illegal side of free (aka piracy) has the the people in the software and music industry tossing in their sleep, but that is another issue altogether.


On that note, I blogged about the Pirate’s Dilemma book last year, and you should check it out if you haven’t. Youth culture, trends, innovation and “piracy as a business model”, that’s what this book promises. The author also informs you why the book is relevant to people from all walks of life(and not just the suits from Hollywood and the music labels). Other stuff also ties in nicely with the economic thread running through this post- the author weaves his own background and training in the said field and you can read snippets about his thoughts on the book here.


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14th Feb2009

On the Principles for a New Media Literacy: My thoughts

by Dorothy

I was pretty interested in this thread on literacy in new media that has been started in our Digital Media Across Asia class, so here are some of my thoughts on the matter. It is a topic close to home, and also adds on nicely to my earlier posts on Journalism 2.0.

The original article by Gillmor can be found in it’s entirety here. Questions posed from our prof!

Question: What is a literacy? What is Gillmor talking about?

From my interpretation, I take the meaning of literacy as being able to understand a certain subject, to be well versed to communicate about it.

Wikipedia cites literacy as “the ability to read and write, or the ability to use language to read, write, listen, and speak. In modern contexts, the word refers to reading and writing at a level adequate for communication, or at a level that lets one understand and communicate ideas in a literate society, so as to take part in that society.”

Wikipedia also portrays the problem of illiteracy as “a social problem to be solved through education.”

How this links back to Gillmor:
All of these elements are highlighted in Gillmor’s article in

  • His principles of media consumption (“reading”), Principles of media creation (“writing”)
  • Taking part (“Participation”)
  • Right at the end, Gillmor states that “If we really believe that democracy requires an educated populace, we’re starting from a deficit. Are we ready to take the risk of being activist media users, for the right reasons?” (education)

I feel that he is advocating the ‘education’ of the crowd in not just media consumption (as would have been important in the past, since all we did was largely consume our media), but additionally, media creation, now that the tools are widely accessible to all. People have to learn how to digest and make sense of all the information that is presented to them from various sources, and also to use and disseminate that information responsibly. This education is not complete nor thorough, since a large number of web2.0 users are still illiterate about how best to handle the changing media landscape and channels. Some people have yet to even jump on the Web2.0 bandwagon.

2. Why would digital media be important in SG society?

Some important points for me, with regards to the situation in SG:
#1 New media tools are pulling down some walls and helping to create the possibility of deeper nonlegal accountability.
This gives every citizen a choice, and a voice. Whereas previously, complaints and grievances might have been screened by the editors of newspapers before they could make it to print, nowadays, blogs and forums give one instant broadcasting rights to air your opinions.

I like the idea of nonlegal accountability because it suggests self governance, and also implies a more mature process of communication in which we do not have to rely on laws to trust that people will say/do the right thing.

With great power, comes great responsibility (think Spiderman!)
At the same time, we have to learn to be responsible. Emotional rants online about sensitive topics are no more appropriate than discussing the same offline. Do not hide behind the computer screen and feel like this removes you from all accountability for your words. The way I see it, don’t say online what you would not feel comfortable saying in person, in public.

The conversational style that blogs adopt means that more emotions get filtered through. Read, re-read your posts to make sure that your tone of language is not overly harsh/critical/emotional. The easiest solution I can think of is when truly in doubt, get someone else to read what you’ve written and see if it elicits any warning bells.

#2 The tools of creation are increasingly in everyone’s hands + #3 We can make what we create widely accessible
Power comes from being able to control the tools of production. Singaporeans can now take their opinions online and have a worldwide audience, not just local.
This is important for us because other people around the world get access to our thoughts, and can contribute experiences of their own. We are a very young country and can learn a lot from citizens where a more mature system of democracy, or “liberal traditions” are in place. We have to be willing to admit that sometimes, what we feel and think might be myopic in the grander scale of things. Opinions from sources overseas who are distanced from any vested interests are great for getting a sense of balance.

#4 The Concept of being Collaborators
We effectively become collaborators, with anyone in the world. We can find like minded people (not just in a local context), but also off our shores. This sets up a great foundation for brainstorming, and the “education” that Gillmor advocates can finally take place.

#5 Being Skeptical + #6 Going outside the Comfort Zone
Citizens need to become aware of something other than what’s happening locally. Once there is this awareness, perspectives change. It may lead to perhaps more demands on accountability and transparancy, more freedom of press. It could manifest in many other different ways.

If we are to move from an economy driven by mere efficiency to innovation, we need this increased sense of awareness of what is truly happening in the world. To learn how to be discerning about what we read, to understand that it is not enough to just depend on a single source for our “news”, and that combining this knowledge with other credible global sources helps to give a more balanced viewpoints, upon which we can make better decisions on.

I see digital media as a great catalyst where conversations and learning can take place for Singaporean citizens. It has always been a tricky situation whenever a “closed” or “sheltered” society opens up, because it is difficult to control how people will react to this new found freedom, and hard to trust that they are mature enough to use the power responsibly. But these are necessary risks that the government will probably have to monitor, if we are to remain viable. We are (arguably) still very comfortable with a government that we naturally turn to in times of crisis. But is it fair to ask that the government solve our problems all the time, or should we take more initiative ourselves?

Singapore simply cannot exist as a closed society, unlike some other economies of the world, because our sole resources are our people. If we want to have business dealings with our global counterparts, we need to understand more about them, and all the underlying intricacies of cross cultural communication.

Here is where digital media is great ….because (pardon the cliché) the world then is truly your oyster. No one dictates what you will “learn” from this channel, nor is there a fixed set of rules that you follow. You make up the rules. You learn as much as you want to, and along the way, information is constantly added and changing, and you learn about how best to deal with all this.

This flexibility of mind, discernment, coupled with the fact that there will be increased diversity in thinking (rather than producing a whole cohort of people who think and react the same way), I believe, is one step in the right direction in the education of Singaporeans to become more competitive in this fast changing day and age.

It may not be something that we consciously want, but it is something we need.

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02nd Feb2009

World Wide Rave: Singapore!

by Dorothy

World Wide Rave: Esplanade Singapore

Here is my interpretation and addition to the World Wide Rave for David Meerman Scott‘s book!

It is like a Where the hell is Matt?, just involving a whole lot more different people (and less potentially embarrassing for those with two left feet). Very sticky idea, very cool.

Welcome to Singapore, folks worldwide!

From the left, the Singapore Flyer, the red mass that is the River Hong Bao 2009, the construction is the imminent Integrated Resort (Marina Bay) , the Central Business District (CBD) of Singapore, and all ravers are standing on the pavement of the Esplanade.

Wee bit of a cloudy day, but the hazy background probably brings out the vibrancy of the poster better, so it’s all good! By sheer coincidence almost everyone holding the poster is wearing colours that match the poster. The idea was to get a whole different bunch of folks from different cultural backgrounds and have them in a single shot..we are a multicultural city, after all!

Thanks to ZW for helping out with the photos! A shout out also to our prof, Micheal Netzley, who heads the Digital Media Across Asia class at the Singapore Management University and finding this cool project for us to work on.

P.S. This is the LAST time in a long time I will attempt to manually stitch a panorama together. I went there without a clue as to how it would happen, armed only with an idea. Okay, actually I had many ideas, but this was the one that won out! 🙂

…Rave on!

Other places where conversations on this are happening:

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05th Dec2008

Education 2.0/3.0 – Permission to think, Sir?

by Dorothy

Another post on education, while I can still write from the perspective of being officially in the system!

Educational Myths?

So, here are several of the educational myths that have been floating around for years. Perhaps myths is not the word that is most apt. Beliefs?

1. Asians are smarter than Westerners.
Asians score better on tests than Westerns. Almost all social psychology texts will milk this example to death. Studies have shown that just telling Westerners that they are going to take a test and be compared to Asians apparently triggers stereotype threat, and causes them to do worse on a test. Interesting.

2. Asians are less creative than Westerners.
And they typically blame it on the rote learning most Asian children are subjected to. Honestly, this is a horrible generalization. Just look at Japan. It is a world of it’s own and anyone who has ever been there and even try to figure out why half the inventions actually made it to market will testify to that. They have amazing things going on there, and they are Asian.

3. Art is only for those who cannot make it into the Science stream.
My personal pet peeve, because I see no reason why people can’t be good at both. May I point skeptics towards this recent article from the Financial Times on what the MBA curriculum looks set to incorporate in the future. Assuming that those who are accepted into an MBA program are supposed to be of a certain caliber, and assuming that those who designed the program are also not merely of average intelligence, all I ask is that the creative/art aspect gets the respect it deserves. It is not to say that one is better than the other, but I honestly believe that all disciplines are complementary, so lets drop the segregation already!

4. And of course, the age old discourse – to memorize or not to memorize, which Daryl and Mark have written on as well. If you ask me, this as a topic is exceedingly close to our hearts to generate all these thoughts amongst other Singaporeans. When I first read the RWW article, it just resonated with me, as a student. Judging from the offline conversations that I’ve had recently and all the other posts floating around in the blogosphere, I don’t think I am alone in this. We sat through a system where basically one hadhas to turn into a sponge, and the more you can get in and regurgitate later, the better, never mind if you truly understood it or not. Why else would our Chinese corrections in high school be instructions to copy the same sentence 10 times over?
(P.s Quick tip: If you tie a couple of pens together, this makes the task faster. I am proud to say I can handle up to 3 pens at one go. Align them properly to fit the lines and you’re good. Blank paper works best because then you don’t have to worry about misalignment. But I digress. 🙂 )


My point is, with the growing knowledge base of information out there, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know everything. Actually, it is not difficult, it is impossible. Yes, there should be a basic “syllabus” that all children ought to go through, but beyond that, is rote learning and memorization all that essential? I would rather be trained in the methods to help me deal with the various kinds of information, and to analyze what is out there. I cannot fathom why academic journals are sometimes written in such complex ways when the entire research finding could (and is) summarized beautifully in the abstract paragraph. I would rather be trained to be able to think and discern between a valid argument and one that is unsound.

On the flip side, I have to say that sometimes it is not good to focus too much and gripe about the fact that memorization is needed. Sometimes, it is the discipline that goes on behind it, the rigor and persistence of having to deal with and master all that material – that is the real lesson. So it is not really exactly what you are memorizing, but rather, the process that you are going through that you are supposed to learn from.

Also, not everyone has the same level of that need for cognition. And that is fine, because everyone should know themselves best and what they are comfortable with. There is no need to pressurize students into taking all sorts of creative thinking classes and try to force creativity into (or out of) them. It really does not work that way. Provide the channels, provide the tools, and those who enjoy it will naturally make use of what they have learnt. I’m also rather hesitant to box in or label what creativity does and does not entail because that seems to go against what it intrinsically stands for. Everyone can be creative in their own ways. Problem solving is creative. Producing an art work is creative. Writing a story or poem is creative. There is no one definition.

I think that the phrase, “Use it, or lose it“, pretty much sums up everything. If you are going to memorize it, make sure you use it, or it is just going to be lost. An ideal educational system for me combines the best aspects of both rote learning, and creative thinking, allowing for a fluid flexibility and hopefully creating diverse opinions amongst the student population. It is not inspiring to talk to one student, and find out that all of them think the same way. That’s great if you only want a nation of doers, but we definitely need much more than that, going into the future. It is also a psychological weakness, because you(all) become too predictable.

From the abovementioned FT article –
We do think it is important for pedagogical reasons to do something different. We need to create a little space for people, to really get people to open up and think more reflectively and critically,” says David Bach, academic director of the international MBA programme at IE business school in Madrid, and professor of strategy and economic environment.

If you want a generation of thinkers to emerge and lead the country, please provide them with space to think. Train them to think.
I don’t have to ask that you allow them to think, because, once they know how to, I believe that they are going to engage in it regardless of what anyone says.

..Your thoughts?

My previous posts on education here.

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13th Sep2008

Creativity + Censorship

by Dorothy

With a controversial title like “Daydreaming is important business“, this post combines two seemingly paradoxical worlds.

Almost every other day, I am surrounded by a lot of bland personalities in school. It’s startling, to say the least. I am grateful for the friends who still have an active mind around me. I am shocked by how much can change in a few years, in just half a year. I sense a perceptible shift in the student composition, something that I can’t quite put my finger on, but is most definitely there.

I am a dreamer; and always have been. I am also blatantly using this as an explanation for the times that I seem to be, “staring haplessly into space”, as this other article so aptly describes. Daydreaming, combined with a certain kind of control, I say it’s a powerful force.

“If your mind didn’t wander, then you’d be largely shackled to whatever you are doing right now,” says Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “But instead you can engage in mental time travel and other kinds of simulation. During a daydream, your thoughts are really unbounded.”

Just the other day, I was musing over what a friend had mentioned about creativity. She’d gotten horrendous grades for anything “art” related all her life, and this label stuck. She thought she was absolutely uncreative- that is, until she went overseas, and discovered she was not. That she was, in fact, rather good with craft and making things with her hands. Who gave our elementary school teachers so much liberty to shape a child that way?

Back to the article on daydreaming:

What these studies all demonstrate is that proper daydreaming – the kind of thinking that occurs when the mind is thinking to itself – is a crucial feature of the healthy human brain. It might seem as though our mind is empty, but the mind is never empty: it’s always bubbling over with ideas and connections.

One of the simplest ways to foster creativity, then, may be to take daydreams more seriously. Even the mundane daydreams that occur hundreds of times a day are helping us plan for the future, interact with others, and solidify our own sense of self. And when we are stuck on a particularly difficult problem, a good daydream isn’t just an escape – it may be the most productive thing we can do.

What benefits have exploring unorthodox interests conferred?
Observation, attention to detail, being able to create and visualize links between seemingly unrelated concepts, alternative ways of thinking, a fuller appreciation of the world, and what it means to be human.

The article was interesting if only because most people associate daydreaming with a very idealistic frame of mind, and at the other end of the spectrum where practicality is concerned.

Which brings me to another issue. On the other hand, I am tired of people complaining about censorship. Rants from these people could be anything ranging from complaints that “My movie experience is ruined”, ” My government doesn’t allow this and that”, to ” Why did they have to edit (this) out”. Every single guest speaker that we have who comes from the art or film industry can expect students to question if they are ‘hindered’ by censorship issues.

Come on. Let’s be realistic. How difficult is it to get your hands on the original, unedited version? No one wants to admit it, but the chances are, you know it is relatively effortless. The point also is that our society is just not ready for certain issues either.

We could take another viewpoint. Censorship exists partially to hone your creativity. How best can you achieve what you want, and how can you find a way around the tape that has been designed to “keep you in”? If everything were legal, where would the fun be?

That is why some people have quipped that life is over after 21, because most of the things that were “illegal” because of your age… suddenly becomes mundane. The rules only constrain those that mean to break them. Some day, you’ll wake up realizing there are no boundaries except those that you set for youself. It will be a strange, exhilarating, exuberant moment. You’ll feel scared, you may choose to retreat back into the (now open) cage, or you can choose to venture out. It is an interesting benchmark, to use physical age as a criteria of maturity. It used to work, but with the new complexities of our cultural landscape, I’m not so sure.

At any rate, it’s interesting that songs are censored on radio, certain words are edited out of television shows and movies, whereas absolutely foul language in books seemingly goes undetected. The icing on the cake? I’m also quite taken aback at all the morally dubious themes running on the serials on TV Mobile, just because that is about the only television I will allow myself to be subject to-mostly to due the fact that I can’t quite escape it. So, it is alright to show families broken up, family members screaming hysterically at each other, domestic violence, infidelity, divorce, teenagers on drugs?

Don’t give me all that jazz about how art reflects society. We know it is reflexive as well. You are only perpetuating certain themes in the minds of the very impressionable public that you purport to draw up rules to protect.

In which case, since all this (acceptable but morally dubious) material is so easily accessible already, does censorship really matter then?

As for the general public, I question what you really are asking for then, since you wish to be ‘liberated’ like some of our foreign counterparts. What does true liberation entail to you?

If you are going to fight for the rights to view pieces in their full entirety, what are you going to do with it when you get it? Are you going to take it a step further and engage in debate with others? If you are just going to watch it and take nothing away from the experience, does censorship really matter to you in the end?

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22nd Feb2008

In the end; we are all the same.

by Dorothy


As the world grows increasingly capitalist in nature, I fear for our cultural diversity, or any diversity for that matter. I never ever looked from this perspective until recently. But it is true, isn’t it – Nothing succeeds like success. Replicas of TV shows, replicas of story lines, replicas of popular songs. Why do we not have any more variations in our media products – because The Suits are ultimately dictating that anything too risky and too unpalatable is going to be bad for ratings/popularity, and inadvertently, they act as gatekeepers and filter all the creative content out.

The most horrifying of course is the dawning realization of the role that advertising plays into this. The more people try to inject cultural elements into the advertisements (inter-cultural communication?) into ads, the more all of us are eventually socialized into the same culture of consumerism. It doesn’t matter your race, age, gender, personal preferences. All are schooled into the same way of thinking. Every point of contact with the media tells you that you are imperfect, that you need what they can offer you to conceal those imperfections.

We are taught that buying (-insert product plug here-) will solve all our problems. Purchasing a product equates to happiness eventually because you are that one step closer to a perfect lifestyle- just like on TV!

The production process is eventually relegated to the background. Products are created in toy factories full of glitter and puffballs ( the Coke factory anyone?). Like the elves in Santa’s workshop. Like the oompa loompas in Willy Wonka’s factory. No one really wants to see images of Third World children slaving away in sweatshops in dilapidated conditions, come on!

In Brands We Trust
As the corner store grocer and mom and pop stores all around the world lose the battle against the large chains, all of us eventually turn to brands. There is nothing else that is familiar to us, nothing else we can bank on. So why is it that you only only swear by (insert favourite brand here), when just another product from another brand is just as functional? Is it really delivering that much of a different experience to you?

Is it you that is really controlling what you consume? Or is it something else that has shaped your tastes and preferences? And how would you ever know, or would you even know?

I, personally, have yet to figure that out. Just like how I don’t understand why people go loco over the very ugly Coach bags. But that is another story altogether.

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