Blake Snow

writer-for-hire, content guy, bestselling author

Hi, I'm Blake.

I run this joint. Don’t know where to start? Let me show you around:

As seen on CNN, NBC, ABC, Fox, Wired, Yahoo!, BusinessWeek, Wall Street Journal

Get candy. Get candy. Get candy.

There sure are a lot of good candies and sweets out in the world. Very few are better than the simple goodness that are Tootsie Rolls. I like the usual treats, but as far as shear consumption goes, I could tare through a whole bag of the chocolate chews in one sitting.

I also hear they’re a healthy candy, if that’s even possible. Regardless, keep ’em coming.

Why Most Small Businesses Fail

Now there’s a question that has been answered in a million different ways. Here’s my take:

Most small businesses fail because owners overextend their personal payroll. They pay themselves too much when the first few checks start coming in. Now some may argue that “No, if you don’t have a good product or have poor management skills, that will doom a company.” While this is true, I believe staying conservative in your payroll can buy you time to learn anything, be it improving/changing your product, and learning better management skills.

Robert (my partner) and I don’t pay ourselves as much as we could. We’ll start once we are sure the company has hit the growth stage and we can cover all our expenses over an extended period.

Apple sales increase by 75%

Did you know that not too long ago Microsoft and Dell claimed that Apple Computer would die out? Guess again. The company has been tearing up the computer industry for a solid year now thanks to the beloved iPod. (I love my Mini.)

Guess what happens when people buy iPods? They start buying Macs, thus taking away precious dollars from BillSoft and Dell.

When you deliver a product that just works and is exactly what the public wants, wonders take place. Parabens Apple! Now if we can only get you to design a two-button mouse…

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Toilet Bar

File this one under who knows, but apparently this toilet bar is found in Taiwan. It’s interesting to see the types of restaurants and businesses that actually get started. Any other weird ones you’ve come across in your day?


(Thanks to Chris for sending the image)

Aluminum Anomaly

Have any of you ever seen those SlimFast drinks? While the chocolate shakes sure are delicious, I find the near indestructible cans rather odd. I wonder why they just don’t use standard aluminum ones.

Do they think overweight individuals will inadvertently crush the cans until they loose some weight?

Good Clients

Robert and I are currently working with an excellent company from Salt Lake City. We are putting the finishing touches on a product database for them and are looking forward to providing additional work in the months to come.

I must say, they have been a pleasure to work with over the past several months. They have also helped me realize my appreciation for good clients versus the bad ones. Here’s why (feel free to exchange the word clients with people):

  1. Good clients make your life happy. Thy appreciate what you do and will compensate you for quality workmanship.
  2. Good clients are responsible. They understand that work must be done on both sides to produce a quality product and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
  3. Good clients are trustworthy. They keep their word and will go out of their way to help you.

Surround yourself with good clients. Life’s too short and just not worth it to work with bad ones.

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Frolf

I’ve recently taken a liking to Frisbee Golf, Disc Golf, or as George Castanza calls it; Frolf. Having not played the game since about 11 or 12, it was great to get out again with professional discs. I think I’ll start taking it up again.

For a list of courses, click here.

2001: A Space Odyssey

I just got done watching 2001 for the first time since my youth. Artistic? Yes. Good movie? Not really. Let it be known that I’ve got beef with Kubrick though upon realizing it was he that also created the horrible Clockwork Orange, AI, and other tasteless movies such as Eyes Wide Shut. I think he should have stuck with photography instead of using controversy to fuel his cult Hollywood following.

Either way, the movie has great cinematography, and I enjoyed the classical soundtrack combined with it’s slow pace.

Designer Resources

I came across a great website that helps you find FREE stock photos for any use. Some are good, some are bad, but it sure beats the rather expensive “rights managed” images.

Also for you designers, be sure to check out the classic Lorem Ipsum text generator. It’s been the dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry since the 1500’s.

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Mickey Dee’s & Movies?

McDonalds has just launched an in store DVD rental service call RedBox. For just $1/night, you get access to over 40 new release titles via credit card. Just pop in your card select a movie, and presto! Instant movie.

You can even get one free rental per visa card by selecting the “rent with promo” button on the RedBox kiosk. Just enter in the code “FREE” and you’re good to go.

Lindsey and I have been getting free rentals on all our debit/credit cards and plan on using it as a cheaper and easier alternative to Blockbuster. Try it out at your nearest McDonalds. Very cool.

Bore of the Worlds

Do me a favor. Don’t go see War of the Worlds. Don’t give Spielberg and Cruise your money cause it’s not worth it. Granted, the first hour of the film was very intense and really well done. That last half? Horrible. Boring. Holes fill the story and by the last scene, the entire movie collapses.

The movie should have never been made, but they released it anyway to exploit public pockets with a big name director and actor. This stunt makes me loose respect for the both of them as artists. (4/10)

Google Earth

Google’s new software program is really quite nifty. Dubbed Google Earth, it’s the better version of their recently released Google Maps. The program allows the working class access to satellite photos from space. Very nice.

It’s only a matter of time before Google takes over all of our computers…

American in London

American Andy Roddick will play against Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean in the Wimbledon quarterfinals tomorrow. Being the only other competing American besides the 35 year old Agassi, Roddick is all we have on the horizon to keep the states winning in pro tennis. Plus he’s a classy kid.

Here’s to victory Andy! [Update: He won. On to the semis.]

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King Kong Trailer

This just looks silly. Peter Jackson has got to be the most overrated director in Hollywood right now. Whatever happened to directing new and original movies instead of classic remakes? Has this guy ever directed his own film? And don’t get me started on his poor character development.

Watch Trailer

Best of the 90’s

For those who know me, you know I’m a late 90’s techno junkie. I still get a rush listening to trance music of not so long ago. Fortunately for some, I could never convince others of the rhythmic and vocal-less goodness that is electronic music.

Enter Chicane. This English DJ produces beautiful, light, bass-heavy music that is great for any occasion. The best two of his albums are 1997’s Far From Maddening Crowds and 2000’s Behind the Sun. Check them out and see if I can finally convert those close to me. (Doubtful, but I’ll never give up.)

Blogging Madness

In addition to Smooth Harold, my personal, work, and business blog, I run a Nintendo Blog on the side to stay young at heart. Dubbed Infendo for “The Nintendo Informant” the site focuses on news and speculation related to upcoming software and hardware released by the Japanese company.

Last week the blog caught on like wild fire. We received an anonymous tip about a speculative advertisement. Being the first to break the story, gaming sites and blogs couldn’t stop linking back to us. Last Friday alone, we had almost 5,000 visitors up from 46 the previous Friday. The blog has been averaging around 2,000 visitors since then and looks to keep growing.

What’s the take-away from this post? Blogging is about mixing news with opinion and then sharing it with others. With a little luck, some publicity, and good postings, thousands of people can take an interest in what you say. Now if I can only get Smooth Harold a jumping. But alas, how interesting can the rambling of a 25 year old web consultant be…

Why Good to Great Isn’t

Because it’s written for already good companies. A majority of US businesses being run by entrepreneurs have yet to prove themselves. Therefore, I would like to see From Nothing to Good. Then I’ll focus on taking my company the rest of the way.

I only got through half his book, but plan on finishing it once I’m good.

Genworth Financial

I’ve seen lots of Genworth Financial commercials on ESPN as of late. The basic premise of this ads is that GE admits that investing and insurance is complicated. This makes me wonder, is it complicated by nature, or do companies such as AIG, Smith Barney, and GE make it that way to increase profits.

It sure would be nice if someone could come in and renew that archaic dinosaur of an industry. You know I need it.

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Run Away From Flash Sites

If someone comes a knockin’ on your door trying to sell you a Flash site, run as far away as you can and quickly. Adobe wants to own the internet realm the way Microsoft owns the OS market. Flash is sticky, hard on search engines, and it’s ActionScript is just not as scalable as other dynamic languages. Granted, we use Flash elements for nice graphical effects, but even AJAX (think Google maps) is starting to do what Flash has always done.

Flash is good for niche websites and only if in parts on others. Pay closer attention to XML, JSP, and of course, PHP.

Summer Solstice (June 22)

Today is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere while the Sun is farthest north. Consider this a useless tid-bit of information.

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Batman Begins Review

I’m gonna come right out and say it… A-. That’s what I give the recent Warner Bros release based on excellent character development, captivating story, truthfulness to the overall comic genre, and shear entertainment. It must be noted, however, that of all the comics I liked as a kid, Batman was my favorite. He is the only super hero that doesn’t have any super powers. Well, unless you count the earnest desire to combat evil and a plethora of money to build nice toys.

Lessons Learned from Hitch

Hitch was a fun and entertaining movie. However, I liked the insight it shed on the consulting industry even more. In the movie, the main character Hitch, played by Will Smith is a dating consultant. He helps couples successfully get past the third date and fall in love. He does it all covertly as to not ruin the relationship.

At the end of the movie, his cover gets blown and people start coming down on him. In one scene, one of his client’s girlfriends is expressing her frustrations on him. She can’t believe he trained her boyfriend to accidentally spill mustard on his shirt and dance crazy. In other words the things she loved about him. Hitch replied that he hadn’t nothing to do with those things and didn’t endorse them at all. She then proceeds to ask him, what exactly did he do, to which he replies, “I guess nothing.”

I am an IT consultant. Sure I help clients with technical issues the same way Hitch helped his clients work on their smoothness, but in the end, we really don’t do much. The true value of the consultant is derived by his/her solely being there for the paying organization. A teacher. A coach. A support group. A friend. We assist and help in areas where the company may struggle, but the success is really all the client’s.

Consulting (or professional assistance) is to business as weights are to a weight lifter. Both are necessary if the client wants to progress rather than plateau-ing. But it is the weight lifter that is the true winner.

Best of Seattle

Lindsey and I had a great trip to Seattle. Some of my favs include lunch at the Space Needle, Snoqualmie Falls, Lake Sawyer, the ferry ride, Discovery Park, and of course the Mariners’ game. It’s an excellent get away and we look forward to going back soon.

Click here to view my Flickr slide show.

“I learned to climb trees in the Pacific Northwest.” – Newman

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Smart Folders

Smart Folders, developed by Blinkx, offers a user-friendly way for people to do what the more technically minded among us have already done with RSS feeds. SmartFolders work like a regular folder on your desktop, only that a web survey pushes information and media directly to your folder. Pretty nifty. Now for those of you who aren’t already working with RSS, do it now! You will love it. (I recommend SharpReader. It’s link is to your right.)

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All Marketers Are Liars

The latest issue of CMO Magazine has a great book excerpt from All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin. The premise of Mr. Godin’s book is that marketers don’t sell a product or service, they sell a story. What matters is what the consumer believes, not if it’s factual or not. He goes on to say that Marketers profit because consumers buy what they want, not what they need. You tell the consumer a story, and the consumer buys the story, not the product.

He gives an example of how a young lady purchases a pair of high end Puma shoes for $125. She didn’t care about support or the durability of the uppers. She was imagining how she’d look when she put them on and how her appearance would dramatically improve her life once other people saw how cool she was. The way Stephanie felt when she bought the Pumas was the product. Not the sneakers made for $3 in China.

He ends by saying that marketers have great power, but that doesn’t mean we have to lie to successfully sell products. He claims a story that works, combined with authenticity builds a brand and a business for the ages.

Best line from the book: Average people are good at ignoring you. Average people have too many different points of view about life, and average people are by and large satisfied. If you need to water down your story to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one.

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An Open Alternative to eBay

Ebay is good, but I’d be interested in knowing if there is any open source version in development. Or maybe, a company that just charges a listing fee of like $.50 regardless of the product. Could this work?

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Push(y) E-Mail

Are you addicted to email? I am. I have a problem. Since I work from a home office, I’m always popping by my desk to see if I have a little surprise in the inbox. Is there any way to combat this?

Perspective Research

There is a new research philosophy aiming to replace satisfaction surveys. It’s called perspective research and it’s all about exposing a customer’s unmet needs. It can not only help retain current clients but attract new ones through the use of an online survey. (Griffio can help you build the latter!)

Unlike satisfaction surveys, perspective research focuses on what companies want to become rather than how well you worked for them. The basic premise is to ask questions that incite genuine responses. For example: “If your firm could be a famous personality, who would it be? Who would you want to be?” By asking that, you find out what they want to become and what you can provide to help them get there.

We have found this technique to be very effective. An example of this would be one of our first clients. While working for them, we found that they wanted to be the technology leader in their industry. By knowing that, we were able to upsell a custom database valued at over six times what they were already paying per year. Revenue we hadn’t even seen the first time we worked for them.

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Flickr

Flickr is quickly becoming the “Google” of images. By far the most resourceful image database out there. If you haven’t already checked out Flickr Tags, it’s an excellent way to search for any photo you might be looking for, and it’s way better than Google images. Start you account and get FREE web space for hosting your images.

Maybe someday the company will replace stock photography altogether.

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New Griffio Ad Campaigns

We’ve got two new ad campaigns running on our homepage. They are random images so just refresh the page to cycle through all 7 ad images. The new campaigns represent the following:

  1. I am open source. The idea behind this ad is that businesses are better off implementing proven open source technologies such as PHP/MySQL than using proprietary systems. It’s faster, cheaper, and more scalable.
  2. Lowered operational costs. Griffio doesn’t sell databases and websites. We sell efficiency. We help companies raise their profits by lowering their costs. We can help by upwards of 40% based of existing client feedback.

As always, your feedback is appreciated.

PHP 10th Anniversary

Forget Linux, when you think of the most resourceful and useful open source technology, it’s got to be PHP/Apache. Granted, Linux has provided a lot to the open source community if not started it, but PHP’s success just proves it as the most useful of open source technology.

Here’s to 10 more great years…

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Don’t call too soon.

I just sent off an email today to a gentleman inquiring about his capital funding service. I got a call literally a minute after sending the email and noticed the caller ID as the company I just sent an email to. Surprised, I decided to let him leave a message, which he didn’t. Funny that I didn’t include my phone number on purpose yet he went right to my website to get it and called without thinking I might not have wanted him to. Nothing says small business more than jumping on a lead within seconds. Always let it simmer a little and give the potential buyer some time to think about your services.

It just goes to show that you do want the people you buy from to at least be semi-busy. (You wouldn’t want to go to a doctor that doesn’t have any existing patients would you?)

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Music Industry [Poor Business Model]

The music industry is a really poor business model. Squeeze as much as you can out of your suppliers (musicians) and skimp on what you give to your customers. Case in point: iTunes downloads. I just downloaded the delicious “Third Wish” off the In America soundtrack in 128kbps quality. That’s the equivalent of a little less than CD quality. The idea (I have read) is that the music industry wants you to buy songs twice: once digitally, and another for higher quality down the road. They are not satisfied with us buying from them just once.

Any wonder why so many people keep stealing music from them? It would be easy to see yourself as the digital Robin Hood of music with the way they keep acting. Someone could make a lot of money becoming the Dell direct of music with most of the profits going to the artists. Hopefully that will come sooner than later.

Craigslist.com

If you haven’t already used Craigslist, you should. This site is an excellent resource for EVERYONE. Whether you’re looking for a job, looking for contract work, looking for new business, looking to advertise, looking to hire freelance or fulltime employees, or even looking for a date, this is the place.

I have been using it in anyway I can to network and find new business nationwide. I’m on direct RSS feeds for web work so the minute any new posting pops up, I get it right away. Watch out, ’cause this badboy is the new Ebay. Only better though because it’s FREE.

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State of Grace

[What I’m listening to]

I just got done watching another brilliant Häagen-Dazs commercial. It’s the one about their new light ice cream. Very good advertising indeed and the music is incredible. One of the prettiest songs I’ve ever heard. It was commercially produced by Largoland out of Germany exclusively for the commercial and can be downloaded legally and FREE by clicking here. (right click to save)

The gracefulness of the campaign is unmatched. Do yourself a favor and watch the commercial if you already haven’t done so.

Have a nice weekend.

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Is there any question?

What web server and scripting technology should I use for my website? Other than the fact that it’s the most stable, most resourceful, and FREE, the LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL PHP) configuration is the only way to go for you online needs. Just look at the server market trends since ’95. Apache is the only one that’s growing. Almost 70% of the total server market. Products that grow do so for a reason.

If you are considering a new website or database, I cannot honestly think of a situation where LAMP would not be ideal for small, medium, even many large companies.

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Working hard or hardly working?

I would like to comment on how great of a day I’m having today (if yours is not so hot, I apologize in advance). I really enjoy when you get so deeply enthralled in your work, that it’s just you, your tasks, and the tools you use to finish the job. It’s a wonderful and very productive feeling. In my case, it’s a computer, call-backs, emails, customer service issues, invoicing, proposals, site design, and prospecting. Our sales pipeline is the best it’s been in months so hopefully we can show our clients the value in the work we provide and close them out.

When it gets this enjoyable, the hard work and hardly working lines get extremely blurred. It’s like you’re doing what you were just meant to be doing.

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Website Creation Strategy

Griffio has just released a new website creation strategy file. It’s purpose is to help considering companies, individuals, and organizations think through their online goals and web strategies for a prospective website. Whether you already have an existing site, or are planning for a new one, this easy-to-use PDF will help ensure internet success.

Download Now!

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Chief Blogging Officer (CBO)

Slashdot is reporting that companies are now hiring professional bloggers. The work descriptions include writing for corporate websites and the ability to promote through the use of blogs and the internet. Apparently the positions pay anywhere from $40,000 to $70,000. Not too shabby for thoughtless commenting.

Outsourced blogging may have a niche…

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Good Salesman

Small business employees have the opportunity to wear many hats. My main “hat” for example says Project Manager, which is a fancy way of saying I take care of and manage all client projects and make sure they’re done on time. I’m also an HTML designer, proposal writer, secretary, general manager and even a salesman from time to time.

So what makes a good salesman? Well that question would be like asking, “What makes a good baseball team?” or “What makes a good human being?” for that matter. There are obviously many functions involved in answering the above questions. With that said, however, I do believe one thing is common in all great salesmen.

Continue reading…

It must work

I read an article last night in Business 2.0 (a great mag btw) about the effectiveness of late night infomercials. According to the report, the industry has been adding first time clients at a rate of about 33% per year since the mid 80’s, including fortune 1000 customers. I never thought I would say this, but I guess even infomercials, if done right, can work.

Now I’m not going to start a infomercial campaign or anything, but this article led me to believe that as long as something consistently shows up, it must work. Otherwise, people wouldn’t use it. That alone should provide helpful insight in evaluating alternative marketing options for yourself, your company, or even your job.

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Creativity vs. Standard Layouts

I just read a great article that backs up my Intelligent Design post from earlier this month. It applies more towards web design but the author shares the same theory of good product design.

Sample:

Have you ever said, “I love all these new books being published, but they all look like books.” Or maybe, “That’s a beautiful car, but why does it have 4 round wheels?”

Read Article

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Designer Tips

Need a fresh color palette? Just pixelate. How many times have you sat down to start on a design and gone crazy trying to choose a color palette? What if you could just give photoshop a picture you like and have it pick the color palette for you? Well,you can.

All you have to do is select a picture, photo, or stock image you like. Nevermind what it is, just focus on the tones. Next, fire up PhotoShop and load the picture. Under the Filters menu, select Pixelate > Mosaic. Set the cell size to about 70 and you’re good to go.

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Flippant?

My wife used a rather crafty word this evening: flippant. Know what it means? If so, you’re smarter than me, otherwise, I was going to tell but I thought you might remember it better if you looked it up. Nice word!

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It’s a girl!

It’s official, the wife and I are expecting a girl. She is in good health and were looking forward to meeting her in October. Love you Lindz!

Trump University

Donald Trump decides to cash in on the widely successfully online university model. Due mostly to the success of his show The Apprentice (which I stopped watching after the first season), Trump University will feature short classes on real estate, marketing, and entrepreneurship. No online degrees will be offered, rather, $300 courses that teach practice over theory. I bet this approach will be huge based off his name alone.

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The French Open

Laissez les jeux commencer! Any tennis fans out there? If so, the greatest tennis championship begins today in Paris (yes, it’s even better than Wimbledon). What makes The French Open so unique you may ask? Well, it’s all in the famous red clay. Clay is the slowest of playing surfaces. The ball grips on the sticky clay and bounces high. This slows the ball down and makes for exceptionally long points. The average point is around 17-20 strokes, so it can be very entertaining.

Some of you may like to know how I become a tennis fan. If so, here’s a funny story on how I began watching The French Open, and the game of tennis for that matter.

After graduating from high school, I decided to sleep in ’till noon for a week straight. I never was good at sleeping in, so I altered my plan to staying in bed until noon. The Monday after graduating, I awoke around 10:00AM. I grabbed the remote and flipped on the TV. Immediately I was watching two guys playing tennis on red clay. Now I had never really watched tennis before, so had it not been for my lethargic state I probably would have changed the channel quick like. By the end of the match I was hooked, and one week later a new tennis fan was faithfully watching the final (while still in bed).

2 Step Lead Generation

The below article is a quick and easy read into 2-step marketing (the idea that you give something freely to your target buyer, then follow up with them). The premise is that you let potential clients build trust with you prior to you’re asking them for the sale. Offer them something of value. If they like it, they’ll be more inclined to hear your pitch.

Read article

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Do or do not. There is no try.

I just finished watching Star Wars 3. While it showcases John Lucas’ talent as a movie maker, it still lacks the funny overtones and great acting of the first three films. I was really excited because some critics have said it’s as good as the originals. Sadly, I feel this one was a little over-the-top and really had some dry acting.

It’s an entertaining film though, and sheds new light on the series. The ending is done especially well so you should enjoy that. Overall, I give it a flat B.

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Follow the leader

Websites are a great business tool anyway you look at them. I’ve recently been re-optimizing Griffio’s meta tags and it’s fairly easy with the help of your leading competitors. Whatever it is you sell, Google it, and then see who comes on top. Take the top 5 natural rankings and view their meta data (to do so, click on View, then Source on your browser. The meta tag content should be near the top). See what keywords your competitors are using and apply as needed to your own. This WON’T make your natural ranking leap right up to the top, but it’s a foot in the right direction.

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