Browsing articles from "May, 2010"
May
27

Eyeballs, Numbers or People?


Tasty (Chocolate) Eyeballs

Image by Sifter via Flickr

One of the things that drives me crazy about my fellow marketers is a habit that has turned into part of their daily glossary: referring to viewers or audiences as “eyeballs”. For example, when something gets mass visibility, it is said to have attracted “lots of eyeballs.”

Now I know that this is meant as a funny way to put an image to a number. A way to make something as abstract as a statistic into a concrete image.

But… could we just refer to them as “people”?

There comes a point in which marketers speak in such removed terms, that they risk losing sight of very crucial matters: principles of attraction, emotional triggers, two-way communication opportunities, etc..

After all, eyeballs don’t think, feel, or wish to communicate.

If your message is attractive to others, don’t be a bean-counter. You didn’t earn anything by attracting people, aside from an opportunity to serve and give value.

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May
25

A Word on Forced Adoption

Last week my friend, Alex Rodriguez, wrote a great post about those who resist social media.  He warned of the perils that come with putting up walls.  He revisited the benefits that come with adoption of social media platforms and practices.   This was all good advice.  Indeed, I’m always impressed with the social media IQ Alex has built up as an early adopter.

Early adopter.  That’s a descriptor you hear a lot these days.    Actually, the whole idea of “adopting” social media got me thinking in a slightly different direction.  Don’t get me wrong.  I wholeheartedly support Alex’s thesis.  However, I also feel it’s good to remember that the world of social media really is a forced new reality for many people.   I believe the key word here is empathy.   Let me explain by going back to the adoption concept.

Let’s imagine for just a minute that your life is going along pretty well.  You’ve got a dog, a cat and a parakeet.   Aside from large veterinary bills, life is grand.  THIS is your family.  Now, all of a sudden, you receive a knock on the door.   You find a dark-suited government type at your threshold, carrying a wriggling, swaddled bundle.

“Good day.  My name is Mandy Torrey.” Says the stranger. “I’m with the Global Enforced Adoption Agency.  Congratulations! I’ve got your new baby. Here you go.”

“I don’t want a baby!” You protest as Baby X is shoved into your arms.

“Which part of Enforced don’t you get?  If you don’t take the baby, I can promise you dire consequences.  However, if you accept the baby, imagine the joy you’ll have as you take advantage of all that forced adoption has to offer.  Why, just think of the many new forced-adoptive parents you’ll meet at Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties!  You’ll have a whole new social life!”

True, the new life that’s being thrust upon you could end up being much richer than the one you’ve known.  Unfortunately, because you’re new to the whole adoption thing, your eyes haven’t adjusted to all these awesome possibilities.  Instead of seeing all the wonder, what you see is something like this:

“The funny thing is…” Mandy Torrey says on her way out.  “…some day you’ll thank me!”

Perhaps.  But, for now, neither you, nor the dog, nor the cat, nor the parakeet are very happy.

The point is there are still a tremendous number of people who functioned at very high levels prior to the advent of social media (at least what we currently call social media).  Some of them have also been around long enough to see fads come and go, bubbles rise and pop, and booms go bust.  It’s only natural that they bring a little caution and moderation to issues of adoption, especially forced adoption.

Those of us who eagerly embrace all the possibilities of social media have a great message to share with others.  However, if in sharing that message we fail to heed the concerns of the people we’re serving and collaborating with, then it is we, not they, who might be moving in the wrong direction.

I believe it always comes back to people- their hopes, their concerns, and their goals.  Whether it’s on the client level or in interpersonal communications, social media is a tool that serves us, not the other way around.  I think that, so long as we maintain a sense of empathy, just about anyone can be convinced, not merely of the value of social media, but of their own potential within this evolving flux of new platforms and methods of engagement.   Some people will just need a little more time than others.  After all, good things should never feel forced, especially when it comes to something as important as adoption!

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May
21

Pac-Man Google Doodle

I was going to write a blog post today, but Google’s Pac-man Doodle consumed all my free time this morning.

I’m serious, this is not an excuse. It is a playable Pac-Man game to celebrate Pac-Man’s 30th anniversary and it would hardly be an exageration to say that it made my entire week. So, next week I will be back with riveting tales of my brand new electronic toy that gives me heart palpitations, and the joys and frustrations of learning to use it. Until then, Happy Google Doodling!

(Oh, and I watch CBS Sunday Morning because I’m a cool person (it’s not your grandfather’s CBS!) and coincidentally they recently had a feature on Google Doodles. Your welcome for the link.)

May
20

WebM. Oh man this could be awesome.

Announced yesterday at Google i/O, the goog’s annual developer conference, WebM is the latest installment in google’s ongoing series: ‘Anything you can do, i can do better.’

WebM

Taglined as “an open web media project”, WebM is a multimedia format, and while it’s rumored to function better than the increasingly popular H.264 codec, the core ‘feature’ here is that the format is open-source and thus will be completely free for both development and use.

The format leverages existing technology it acquired and further developed in its purchase of video compression company On2 Technologies, and without going into too many technical details, the claim here is that this codec will offer comparably high-quality picture, with smaller file sizes / bandwidth use, solid performance with older machines, and capable of delivering video with Flash (and arguably more important – without it).

While there is some question as to whether this format will truly hold up to the H.264 in terms of picture quality, I truly hope Google is able to deliver, as I think this would be a massively helpful step towards simplifying video on the web.

Even setting aside the potential here for compliant full-video sites without flash, better real-time video effects, and myriad other creative possibilities, on the simplest level, I just want WebM to let people see multimedia content the way it was built. As a person who’s generating video for the web on almost a daily basis, right now everything centers around compromise.

Mov. Mp4. Wmv. Avi. Flv. Full-res. Half-Res. Bitrate. Dual-Pass. Single-Pass. Data Rate. Okay. Please. Stop. My goal is a clear and simple one. Provide clients with high-quality video they can view in a timely fashion.

But often, this is easier said than done. Lack of codec consistency and support across different systems means I spend a lot of time and effort converting my work into a variety of formats and sizes, with all sorts of fine-tuning to maintain quality and keep those files as consistent as possible.

While the HD offerings of Vimeo and the overhaul of Youtube for HD content have made strides in improving this balancing act, the idea of a streamlined solution for efficient, consistent video delivery on the web gets me more excited that in probably should.

But if this open-sourcing allows the freedom it is claiming, the benefits would be tremendous to a lot of folks. Myself. Our clients. Perhaps even my mom, whose emails requesting to ‘see what i’m up to’ have long been hindered by her refusal to install Quicktime (her first attempt was reportedly quite traumatic.)

And with backing by Adobe Flash and YouTube already in place, I think WebM has a very good chance of shaking things up.

One video with the ability to be plugged into multiple sources? A delivery system to populate multiple sites with one format while simultaneously providing clients with a high-quality copy I’m sure they’ll be able to play? Yes, please.

Please WebM. Please be awesome.

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May
18

Which Are You, Stick or Automatic?

First, pity me.  Mile after harrowing mile, our highschooler is working his way towards an unrestricted license and auto-independence.  If we survive the learner’s permit phase, the payoff will be as follows: My trusty old Saturn sedan will no longer be mine.

By giving my son this woefully unsexy eight-year-old four cylinder, I believe I’ll reduce the Fast and Furious factor by, oh, I don’t know… about one hundred percent.  Not only does this brilliant strategy temper the teen male drive factor, but it also finally frees me up to do what I’ve been dreaming of for years: get back into a car that’s NOT AN AUTOMATIC!

Having been a stick-savvy, manual tranny driver for years, I’m not even sure how I wound up driving an automatic. One morning, I reached down for the stick, and… someone had stolen it!  Ever since, I’ve mourned the feeling of control and precision that comes with a good manual transmission.   Now, I finally get to make things right!

For those of you who’ve been there, you’ll know that once you start considering a car purchase, you can’t help but to look at everything through this prism.   For instance, the other day, I came across this headline from Advertising Age-

On-the-Fly Advertising Swiftly Becoming More Commonplace

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone reading the response threads facilitated by the ever-growing numbers of social media outlets.  These immediate, unfiltered streams of positive-negative response practically demand a heightened flexibility and more nimble approach to long-term campaigns.   Some marketers are embracing this new world and recalibrating on a rapid-fire basis:

…in a growing number of cases even the biggest marketers in the world, such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Unilever, are adjusting creative and media plans on the fly within days, weeks or even hours based on changing events or the shifting tides of social-media feedback.

Which brings me back to cars.   As I read this, I just can’t push all the driving jargon out of my mind.

Watch the RPMs.  Go from zero to sixty. Stop on a dime. Hang a quick right. Put it in high gear.  Gun it!

When I think of speed and handling, I think in terms of shifting: 1st - 5th, not P, R, N, D.    I want to feel the immediate response of an engine shifting gears at the optimum point.  I don’t want to passively sit back and wait as an automatic transmission thinks for me, hesitating and lazily working its way through the gears, robbing me of that extra bit of responsiveness and power I know I’d exact with a clutch and stick.   I want to speed up with full power as needed and I want to downshift without full dependence on the brakes.    This is what I want from a car and, come to think of it, very similar to what I’d demand of a good campaign:  the ability to shift on the fly with precise control and agility.  Mindless adherence to predetermined automatic shift thresholds is not an option.  Complete, immersive engagement is the key and, as with any good stick, I’d want to keep an eye on those dashboard gauges.  There’s tons of good data there!

By the way, if anyone knows of a good low-miles Miata for sale…

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May
17

How To Stumble, Rise and Learn

Acrobats

Image by Rickydavid via Flickr

So my Twitter-friend Jessica Barnett sends me a link to this post, in which the author complains that nobody out there is explaining n00bs how to use Twitter. The short version of the whole story is that there’s this someone who gathered a crazy number of followers through his/her name recognition, and not exactly his/her activity on Twitter. Now that person is not sure how to get into using the tool and begin capitalizing their amazing number of followers for business use. Read the above-linked post for the full profanity-laden lowdown on the author’s cries.

First of all, let’s clear up the big issue brought up: supposedly there are no people online explaining how to use Twitter, which is total garbage. Tutorials a-plenty on the web on how to use Twitter. CommonCraft has put out some excellent videos that serve as a Twitter 101, including this one on the basics,  and this other one on Twitter Search. The good folks from Twibes have an e-book they include with the registration (secret link, shhhh). Mashable has a whole section of their site dedicated to learning how to use it. All these options are free, but if you want to shell out some cash just to feel better about yourself, Lynda.com has an excellent walkthrough (I think it costs around $30). Other than these, there are a bunch of excellent blogs out there that constantly give out updated insights.

I can only assume that this passive “Twilebrity” just hasn’t bothered searching around, and is wishing that the knowledge magically teleports into his/her mind… Which may bring us to the issue that really concerns me about the whole “problem”.

In most learning endeavors in life, the most effective way to gain profound knowledge is not to spend days reading “Doing This or That For Dummies”, but rather just frikkin’ doing it.

I once complained to my dad that he never taught me how to dance, and he responded, “dancing is something you learn, not something you’re taught to do.” Of course there are dance schools out there, but his point was that unless you’re willing to try, your head knowledge and safe practicing won’t get you very far.

When I started teaching myself how to play the piano, I sounded either horrible, boring, or both. I didn’t care, and kept putting myself out there, willingly embarassing myself until I got good.

When I got into motion graphics, I sucked worse than a vacuum cleaner. I didn’t care. I kept acting like my next project would be better than the previous one, and it eventually turned out that way.

Even when I started using Twitter, I begun doing all the wrong things. I had to learn by doing, watching how others more-experienced than I did it, and adjusting accordingly.

In most everything I’ve learned to do, I’ve had to get out there and start shakin’, usually failing along the way, and yes, that “along the way” typically means the very beginning of the road. People are so afraid of failing, that they never even begin trying. Yet most people don’t seem to realize that if you truly want to learn, failing is actually an essential part of the whole process. If you’re so good you never fail, are you really learning?

I suspect the true fear of failure is not failure itself, but rather the cost to be payed. The subject in question probably hates the idea of losing a quarter of their followers, and getting a negative backlash from the other quarter. As I said in a previous post, when you’re true to yourself and to where you are at any point, your influence will be capped. The question to be asked is: so what??

Once at the circus, I saw a very talented acrobat performing some amazing stunts. This guy was a true pro. People obviously applauded every move he made. Suddenly, he made a mistake and fell. He made the best of the moment, got right back up, tried again and succeeded. If you think the audience booed him, you’re very wrong. They applauded his effort even more feverishly than before. The guy was doing something, he failed but tried again, and people appreciated seeing that. He was inspiring people, letting them know that he is as real as they are, only he just kept trying.

If you try and fail, you can admit making the mistake and just keep moving. As long as you’re honest, most people will be forgiving, and the rest that are not were just not meant to be your followers at this point in time. Either way, you don’t lose credibility by trying and failing, you lose it by faking and being discovered. But if you’re never willing to try, there’s nothing to lose that is not gained first. (If this last sentence is a quote from someone I can’t remember, so please let me know! It sounds too wise to come from lil’ ol’ me. :P)

My attitude in life is that when I win, I celebrate my victory; but when I lose, I count my losses as victories because I consciously decide to learn from it, so I also celebrate. I rejoice in the victory of gained knowledge in the present, no matter how it’s packaged, and along with it I celebrate my ensured victories in the future.

All this to simply say: DO IT. Take the first step and learn along the way. If you want to read the manuals while walking, that’s fine too; just don’t stop to read the manuals completely before you decide to walk.

May
11

You Know You’re Desperate When…

As a digital media producer, a huge part of the job centers on making problems go away.  Ideally, most of this happens in pre-production, with a prescient consideration of the myriad things that might derail a project.     Good producers (and all creatives) mitigate in advance.  Doing so fosters a relatively harmonious and enjoyable experience during the actual production phase.

But let’s get real for just a second.

Things don’t always go as planned.   A wise green muppet (now CG-thingy) once said, “Always in motion is the future”.    Ah, never have truer words been spoken in an inverted sentence.   So, in deference to Master Yoda, and in acknowledgement of the vicious nature of Murphy’s Law, I embrace the fact that you can’t control everything all the time.  For instance, if I’d accidentally typed “viscous” instead of “vicious”, my Murphy’s Law sentence would have a new and utterly bizarre meaning (and I’m pretty sure the spell check tool would have been snickering at my expense).

The point is that producers must control what they can in advance, but also anticipate unforeseeable paths of failure.  One must have a large enough arsenal of resources and options ready in the event that those two goons, Entropy and Chaos, show up looking for a rumble.

I write all of this because, as a producer, I cannot come to terms with what is currently happening out in the Gulf of Mexico.    Personally, my comfort level requires a viable Plan A, B, C and D prior to production.  So how is it that BP, a giant PRODUCER in a decidedly higher-stakes game, seems to be in such a helpless scramble mode in the midst of an unfolding environmental crisis of their own making?  Honestly, I’d been giving them the benefit of the doubt and some empathetic slack until I read yesterday’s headlines:

BP may turn to golf balls and old tires to plug leaking well (St. Petersburg Times)

Okay, BP, I get it.  Your primary safety/containment systems failed due to the oilrig explosion (Plan A).   Your deepwater robots couldn’t shut off all of the valves at a depth of 5,000 feet (Plan B).   Your 4-story containment dome froze up (Plan C).   And now, Plan D…   golf balls.

Yes, one of the worst manmade environmental catastrophes in U.S history is following the script of a schlock 50’s B-movie: “Why, that golf ball plan is crazy.  So crazy it just might work!”

I pray it does work.  Too much is at stake.   I live close to the Gulf and much of my recreational time is spent out on the water.  I cross Tampa Bay every day and can’t abide the idea of that expanse fouled by an oily sheen and globs of tar.  No one on the Gulf Coast should have to deal with this.

Having said that, please rest assured, this isn’t some hotheaded polemic on offshore drilling and environmental impact.  Res ipsa loquitur.

No, this is simply an exhortation (and a cautionary reminder to myself) on the importance of being good, responsible, foresighted producers, no matter our industries or fields of endeavor.   For instance, I’ll know I’ve hit rock bottom as a producer if I ever find myself asking this on a shoot:  “Anyone got any golf balls?”

What’s next?  Duct tape?

A roll of glossy, grey duct tape.
Image via Wikipedia
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May
11

3 Reasons Why Neglecting Social Media is Neglecting Opportunity

Free Child Holding A Bunch of Yummy Colorful C...

Image by Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr

So we met the other day with a past client, and talked to them about a few specific steps they could take to step up their participation and presence in social media spaces. After what I thought was a fresh overview on our part, one of the folks in the room expressed that he hated everything about social media and did not understand the return it could deliver on his budget allocation.

We of course responded with a few ways you can objectively track success in social media participation, along with a couple of case studies. Still, the gentleman was not convinced. It boiled down to his not being impressed with the medium itself. He did not like broadcasting his life over the internet, therefore he casted doubt on how useful this could be for a business… Which if you think about it, the conclusion does not follow the premises at all.

I will agree ahead of time with most of you reading, that this is such a basic foundational topic that we should move on already from. However, the fact that people in positions of critical decision are still raising doubtful questions merits the re-emphasizing. To them, heere are three reasons why businesses who neglect utilizing social media are only doing harm to their own potential for growth.

1 – Social Media is your most efficient way to gauge your audience’s reaction to your brand.

Sure, not everybody is participating in social media in the same degree. You’re likely to sample only a small portion of your audience. But guess what? Neither can you fit a whole town in one of those focus group rooms.

And if focus groups were traditionally good for marketers for years and years, doesn’t a real-time, immediate reaction, scarcely-biased way to tap in to your audience’s reactions carry value for your business?

Not to say, social media gives you the opportunity to directly reward loyal customers and address audience concerns.

2 – Social Media gives you the ability to listen and speak to your audience.

It’s not so much about where YOU decide to mingle anymore, but rather where your audience is at. People are already talking about you (your brand), without you in the room. And probably with your competition circling close by. Can you figure out what will happen as soon as someone has an issue with your product or service?

The benefits of participating in Social Media are innumerable. That is, if you’re interested in listening to people in the first place. If you’re not into listening, that’s your choice, but be warned. Consumer‘s tolerance for businesses that don’t listen to their customers is practically disappearing, and an open ear to customer’s concerns and feedback will no longer be optional. Which brings me to…

3- Social Media will ensure your future existence.

Here’s Socialnomics’ most recent video, Social Media Revolution 2 (Refresh), which completely speaks for itself.

Out of all of the mind-boggling stats included, the one that jumped out the most to me was one that responds to the main concern of people stuck in the old marketing framework, which even the gentleman at this meeting brought up:

The ROI of #SocialMedia is: your business will still exist in 5 years.

That’s right folks, the scene changed about 15 years ago. I’ve been a participant in online social media since about a decade and a half ago, but never before has it reached the current level of audience participation and relevancy in daily life decision-making. To think it’s only on the rise from here should send chills down the spines of still-reluctant marketers.

Your business’ absence from these spaces will consistently become an absence from your consumer’s minds. Your absence in people’s minds will result in complete emptiness of your brand’s value, given that “brand” only means your audience’s perception of your product/service (and not your logo, website or advertising, as is commonly understood).

Anything here you’d like to add or challenge? Hit me up on the comments, would love to hear from you.

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May
7

Facebook Thumbs Down

I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation out there. I’m almost certain someone else has asked this question. But why doesn’t facebook have a thumbs down option as the natural and opposing response to their thumbs up “like” option? I mean, isn’t one of the laws of physics, what goes up must come down? Wasn’t the best part of Showtime at the Apollo, booing and the Sandman? So with all this talk about thousands more “like” buttons, why-oh-why can’t I “dislike” things on facebook?

It all started with the ability to “like” my friend’s status updates. But here’s the thing about that, I may like my friends…but I don’t always “like” their status updates. I don’t like the faux motivational ones, or the mysterious passive-aggressive ones, and I really don’t like the song lyrics. I have a friend who was rooting for a politician I didn’t approve of and I didn’t want to get into a huge political debate via his comments but I wanted to quickly and succinctly express the fact that I did not agree. Alas, there was no “thumbs down” option. My solution: I liked…and then I UN-liked. Burn! But this can’t be my only recourse, can it? Liking and un-liking updates and photos, or starting “anti- ” groups and hoping the thumbs up for my group outweighs the thumbs-up of the other group?

For companies who engage in social media to connect with their consumers, perhaps a thumbs down option would be valuable feedback. For instance, if facebook or youtube posted an update about the fact that they had changed their interface every other month, I would thumbs down that with the righteous fury of a thousand angry gods…or just click the button in a less dramatic fashion.

I know John Gabriel’s “Greater IFT” and the negativity that seems to proliferate on the internet and in internet forums, I know that some nay-sayers will complain that too much power given to the masses is a very, very bad thing. But let’s discuss that, let’s discuss why the Internet seems to breed such hostility, but don’t just omit my option to dislike things even when I promise to use it judiciously. To that, I have no choice but to give a very emphatic thumbs down.

May
6

Influencers: Ami James

MindoMondo is pleased to present a new ongoing interview series called “influencers”. Influencers will focus on people across all industries that have a unique voice in their areas of expertise, and have organically created and continually nurture a healthy fan following. From business leaders to entertainers, this series will seek to shed light on how these personalities connect with their audiences.

Recently we virtually cruised down from Central to South Florida to talk to Ami James and discuss how he has reached out to his fan community. Ami is best known for his hit TLC series “Miami Ink”. In addition, Ami has built a successful enterprise, extending his personal brand to include tattoo shopsnightclubs and retail lines.

Mindomondo (MM): Most people know you from the hit TLC series Miami Ink, and are aware that your popularity exploded right after the first season. When and how did you notice that you had a voice & talent that others were interested in talking about?

Ami James (AJ): I didn’t realize tattoo would become so mainstream, but being on a major network really opened peoples eyes and minds to the art.

(MM): You’re clearly one of the very few personalities in your field that are taking advantage of direct communication with your fans through social media, which leads me to think you’re very comfortable having dialog through these means. Why do you think others are hesitant to take on this mindset?

(AJ): Social media is cool because it brings me closer to my fans than I’ve ever been. When Miami Ink first aired social media wasn’t very big. Yeah, MySpace was around but it wasn’t too interactive back then. Now interactive platforms like twitter and facebook allows me to really get to know my fans… and they really get to know me (the uncensored me).

(MM): What benefits have you reaped from making yourself more accessible to your fans?

(AJ): Making myself more accessible to my fans via social networking allows me to get instant feedback, which is priceless. With a click of the mouse I can reach all corners of the globe. One more click and all corners of the globe can reach me.

(MM): Much has been said about being authentic versus faking it to fool people into following you. You certainly belong in the first group, but what do you do to keep things real, regardless of what means you’re using to communicate?

(AJ): I simply try to be myself in all aspects of life. Whether I’m in the tattoo shop talking with clients or online chatting with fans – I speak what’s on my mind and I think people truly appreciate that about me whether they like what I’m saying or not.

(MM): How do you handle negative feedback? Do you usually ignore it, or do you think it’s better to openly respond to it?

(AJ):I know I can’t please everyone. When I get negative feedback, as long as it’s not offensive, I respond to it openly. It’s all part of being in the public eye.

(MM): Some people have no problem in putting their influence up “for rent”, meaning they will accept payment for spreading a message, even if it’s not something they’re 100% behind. What’s your position on this, and where do you draw the line?

(AJ): I will never put my name on or endorse a product if I don’t stand behind it. Doing so would completely destroy my credibility and my fans would see right through it.

(MM): When you create something for a mass retail purpose versus a personal tattoo for a client, is there a different creative approach?

(AJ): When my creative juices get flowing, whether it’s a tattoo or a design for retail purpose, I go into a zone and that’s where I’m comfortable. I don’t think much about the client or the final destination of the artwork.

(MM): What’s your next business venture and do you see social media playing a role in it or not?

(AJ): I recently launched the Ami James website and it’s already getting lots of traffic. Thanks to social media I’ve been able to get a decent following in a short period of time. I’m also working on a short film which has been a lot of fun making. Social media will definitely play a big role in keeping my fans tuned in.

(MM): All right Ami, enough for today. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us.

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