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25 posts from September 2007

What's the best offline blog editor for the Mac? ecto? (and some issues I've had with ecto)

Mac users out there... what's the best offline editor you have found for blogging? I've been using ecto for the past two weeks and started with it primarily only because I was familiar with it from the Windows side (where I'd actually moved to using Windows Live Writer almost exclusively). My trial period for ecto is winding down and so I have to decide whether to buy it or try something else. So I'm curious to ask you all:

If you are on a Mac, what do you use as an offline blog editor?

Are there other programs out there I should consider? I've actually been quite happy with ecto with only three smaller issues:

1. I like to include graphics at the beginning of my posts and like to right-align the images. If I put the image at the very beginning of a paragraph (which I often do with the first paragraph, but also may do so in the body of longer articles), the HTML code is initially like this:

<p><img ...... align="right">....

And this usually works fine if I just write the entry in ecto and then immediately publish it. However, if I save the entry as a draft and then re-open it, or if I open up a published draft to edit it again, ecto automagically changes the HTML code to this:

<p style="text-align:right"><img ...... align="right">....

which, yes, indeed, right-justifies the TEXT of the paragraph. If I click in the paragraph and press the left-align button, it goes back to normal left alignment - until the next time I open it up. I have, however, forgotten to do so several times and wound up with right-aligned text. Clearly a bug and one I'll be reporting to the ecto folks.

2. ecto does not support horizontal lines (<hr>) in its rich text editor and so if I want to use one (for instance, to separate an "UPDATE" piece of text from the main body) I have to switch to the HTML view - and remain in that view - or do the edit in TypePad's web interface.

2007093006593. At least with.typepad blogs, it seems to set the time of the article to when I start writing it. However, when I go to publish the article, ecto does not seem to update the time. If I'm writing and immediately posting an article, the time it took to write the article is not necessarily a big deal, although it certainly could affect the placement of the article in sites like Technorati or other sites that list current articles (i.e. it will show up earlier than it actually was). However, when I work on a draft, save it and then come back to it a day or two later, I've been bitten several times by the fact that it posts with the original date... resulting in my "new" article not appearing at the top of the blog. I now have to remember to click the "Adjust Time" button before I go to post an article, which is something I really shouldn't have to do. There should be some way to have it just automagically post with the current time. (And perhaps there's an option here I've missed.)

Those are the only real issues I've had beyond the normal having to learn a new interface, new keyboard shortcuts, etc. Overall, I'm quite pleased with the editor. It's worked well and unless someone can point me to something better I'll probably pay to continue using it. I would, however, be curious to know:

What do YOU use for posting blog entries from your Mac?

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LinkedIn succumbs to the Facebook effect and adds a profile photo

200709291456-1One of the reasons some people have cited about going over to Facebook is that Facebook allows you to have a photo on your profile. LinkedIn always seemed to resist, with some people mentioning that it was more "professional" in that you weren't getting into seeing how people looked.

Whatever the past rationale, LinkedIn announced on their blog Thursday that users would be able to upload profile photos. The interface is pretty simple. In your "Accounts and Settings" area under "Profile Settings" there is a link for "My Profile Photo":
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Add in a photo and you now have the option to display that photo to your contacts or to display it publicly:

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The LinkedIn blog entry goes into more details. Personally, I'm quite glad to see it primarily because over time I find I've lost track of who some of my LinkedIn contacts are and it would be very nice to have a photo to remind myself of exactly who they are. Also, in a global namespace with people having similar names, it's nice to have the visual confirmation when searching that the profile belongs to the person you know. Now it will be interesting to see how quickly people do or do not upload photos.

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This conference will be photographed and uploaded! (aka life in the always-on(line) world)

200709291047Being at a conference full of bloggers, podcasters, etc., one of the more subtle elements to be aware of is this:

There are a ton of people taking pictures - and uploading them all to Flickr!

Translation... just remember that whatever shirt you are wearing or however you style your hair - it will be up on the Internet for all to see. Forever. (Or at least as long as sites like Flickr are around.) Or if you are doing something funny with all those bottles of beer.... or dancing on the table... or whatever.

You will be photographed (especially if it's funny). It will be uploaded. There you are. If you don't like that... if you want to keep pictures like that off the Internet... well, you're only real choice is to not attend a conference like this!

This conference will be photographed. Recorded. On audio. On video. And uploaded.

So it goes. You have been warned. Dress appropriately. Assume that anything you do could be online.

Welcome to life in the transparent always-online world.

By the way, if you want to see pictures from this show, the Podcast and New Media Expo, you can look at these links below. The tag the conference has been encouraging people to use is "newmediaexpo2007" but not everyone is using that. Here they are:

The last link is from C.C. Chapman, who is a great photographer among his many other talents. He took the picture I included above, which is of me and Terry Fallis of InsidePR fame.

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Almost to Ontario for the Podcast Expo...

200709280016Almost to Ontario... California, that is. It's been an absolutely exhausting three days here in Phoenix at AstriCon (coverage on my Disruptive Telephony blog), but now it's time to get onboard yet another plane and head over to Ontario, California. As you can see in the picture, I'm now at the Phoenix airport at gate A10 waiting to get on a US Air flight out of here at 9:41pm. We have a plane and a crew, so that's all good. We should start boarding in a few minutes. While it made sense to do these conferences back-to-back, it's definitely a bit on the exhausting side. I am, though, very much looking forward to meeting many friends in the podcasting community. Just one more flight....

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Facebook brings the twin taboos of politics and religion into the workplace

200709240904Some time back I became a Facebook "friend" with someone I had known professionally for several years. I did not work with the person all that much, but had great respect for the person based on the several dealings I had had with them. However, now that we were "friends" I was almost immediately exposed to two pieces of information that they had included in their Facebook profile: political affiliation and religion. As it happened, this particular person's views were pretty much completely opposite to my own and before I could really think about it I experienced a deep knee-jerk reaction of "Oh, you're kidding, he/she is not really one of them?" For a brief moment, until my brain could re-engage, my respect for that person plummeted through the floor. A moment or two later, the rational side of my brain kicked in and reminded me that I had had a great amount of professional respect for the person 10 seconds before and nothing had changed that should have altered that. Still, there was that deep emotional response.

Politics? Religion? In the workplace? With professional colleagues? Huh?

At least here in North America, those are two topics that are generally taboo in the work environment. Verboten. In fact, in most areas you are not legally allowed to ask employees or potential employees about those topics. Within a work place there of course may be lunchroom discussions about recent politics and so you may learn of others viewpoints. Religion might come up, but again probably with people with whom you work closely.

But with customers? Or partners?

Never. At least in my experience.

And why should it come up, really? When you are buying a product/service from someone, or selling it to someone, what do politics or religion matter? (or gender or race?) If you are partnering with someone to deliver a service/product, again, why does it matter? What matters is whether both of you can work together and deliver the product/service - and presumably make some money through the deal.

Religion and politics should not matter in business dealings.

Now, of course, there are "business directories" that many churches offer trying to connect people within the church community, but that's a different matter as it is within that community and trying to help each out. There are also websites out there that can help you steer your business toward companies with similar views as yours. But in general, the political leanings and religious preference of a supplier or customer do not factor into the normal course of business.

Yet here we are in Facebook choosing (or not) to provide all that information to (potential) customers.

I recognize that there are a good number of folks out there who are apathetic about all things related to politics and/or religion. They don't care at all about what someone's religion is or what their politics are. I've met many. Often they say they don't care about religious/spiritual issues, haven't attended a church (or spiritual service) in years (or ever) and haven't voted in any elections. Religion and/or politics mean nothing to them and so they take no offense or don't even notice when someone states their political or religious preference.

Leaving the completely apathetic aside, though, most people have some opinion about politics and some view about religion/spirituality. The stronger those views, of course, the more deep the emotional reactions. A hard-core liberal in the US may have (or at least appreciate) a bumper sticker "Friends don't let friends vote Republican". A hard-core conservative may view all liberals as traitors and the source of all the country's problems. A strong "born again" Christian may see that the problems of the world are because people have not accepted Jesus Christ as their lord and savior and need to do so. A strong atheist may see that the problems of the world are because of the very existence of religion and that it is the root of all evil. These are deeply-ingrained views:

Politics and religion are part of our core identity that helps form who we define ourselves to be.


When that part of our identity is confronted by a polar opposite, we naturally react. Conservative Christians will have second thoughts about atheists, and atheists will have second thoughts about conservative Christians. Ultra-liberal Democrats will instinctively distrust ultra-conservative Republicans - and vice-versa. It's just part and parcel of being human and building these beliefs into your identity.

Within the work environment, though, these twin areas of politics and religion have not been part of normal discourse... but yet, if you choose to fill out those fields in Facebook, they are suddenly exposed to all your "friends".

It works the other way, of course. Some time back I added another "friend" whose politics and religion closely aligned with me. Again, without any rational thinking, the thought popped into my brain "Oh, he/she's that. No wonder why we got along so well." In the mass of people out there, we seek out those communities of like-minded people... those affinities that we can use to build stronger connections.

Which is why having fields for politics and religion make so much sense for Facebook's original audience of college students. You are about to land in a campus of 10,000 people, of whom you know basically no one. How do you find new people? How do you find potential friends? Searching on "interests" is one way... but searching on political views or religion is another great way. Odds are that if they claim a similar religious view (or upbringing), they probably have a similar world view to yours. Likewise if they have similar political leanings, you probably have more in common upon which to potentially build a friendship. It makes total sense in that environment. Likewise, if Facebook is just used among your "friends", odds are that they probably already know these views about you. But today we are overloading the term "friend" and so now it encompasses true "friends", family... and business contacts.

So it's one thing to share political/religious info with friends, family and classmates, but in business? I don't know... on the one hand there is the greater "transparency" and the chance to make connections with other people. On the other hand, there is the strong chance of potentially alienating others.

200709240851In any event, the fields are there in your Facebook profile if you choose to fill them out (and many people seem to during the process of signing up). Of course, you are limited to the choices that Facebook provides for politics. They don't offer the "It's Complicated" choice that they have for relationships, which would be quite useful. The "Religious Views" field is free text entry, so you can really write whatever you want there. It seems to me that you really have four choices:

  1. Leave them blank - probably the safest choice, but potentially then losing out on some networking possibilities.
  2. Enter generic choices - you could be safe and choose "Moderate" and write in something vague for a religion.
  3. Fill out only one - you'll see I have a political entry but not a religious entry.
  4. Fill them both out - embrace full transparency and let the world know (or at least your "friends") your affiliations and beliefs.

To me this is just yet another one of those areas where we don't fully understand the full impact of the profiles of Facebook and, in fairness, all the other social networking services. In the rush to join these services, we just fill out all sorts of information, not necessarily taking the time to think about the potential impact exposing that information may have.

What do you think? If you are a Facebook user, have you filled out those two fields? Do you think people should in an effort to be more transparent? Do you think we understand the full ramifications of exposing information like this? (Or do you think the issue I raise here is really not an issue?)

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Facebook brings the twin taboos of politics and religion into the workplace

200709240904Some time back I became a Facebook "friend" with someone I had known professionally for several years. I did not work with the person all that much, but had great respect for the person based on the several dealings I had had with them. However, now that we were "friends" I was almost immediately exposed to two pieces of information that they had included in their Facebook profile: political affiliation and religion. As it happened, this particular person's views were pretty much completely opposite to my own and before I could really think about it I experienced a deep knee-jerk reaction of "Oh, you're kidding, he/she is not really one of them?" For a brief moment, until my brain could re-engage, my respect for that person plummeted through the floor. A moment or two later, the rational side of my brain kicked in and reminded me that I had had a great amount of professional respect for the person 10 seconds before and nothing had changed that should have altered that. Still, there was that deep emotional response.

Politics? Religion? In the workplace? With professional colleagues? Huh?

At least here in North America, those are two topics that are generally taboo in the work environment. Verboten. In fact, in most areas you are not legally allowed to ask employees or potential employees about those topics. Within a work place there of course may be lunchroom discussions about recent politics and so you may learn of others viewpoints. Religion might come up, but again probably with people with whom you work closely.

But with customers? Or partners?

Never. At least in my experience.

And why should it come up, really? When you are buying a product/service from someone, or selling it to someone, what do politics or religion matter? (or gender or race?) If you are partnering with someone to deliver a service/product, again, why does it matter? What matters is whether both of you can work together and deliver the product/service - and presumably make some money through the deal.

Religion and politics should not matter in business dealings.

Now, of course, there are "business directories" that many churches offer trying to connect people within the church community, but that's a different matter as it is within that community and trying to help each out. There are also websites out there that can help you steer your business toward companies with similar views as yours. But in general, the political leanings and religious preference of a supplier or customer do not factor into the normal course of business.

Yet here we are in Facebook choosing (or not) to provide all that information to (potential) customers.

I recognize that there are a good number of folks out there who are apathetic about all things related to politics and/or religion. They don't care at all about what someone's religion is or what their politics are. I've met many. Often they say they don't care about religious/spiritual issues, haven't attended a church (or spiritual service) in years (or ever) and haven't voted in any elections. Religion and/or politics mean nothing to them and so they take no offense or don't even notice when someone states their political or religious preference.

Leaving the completely apathetic aside, though, most people have some opinion about politics and some view about religion/spirituality. The stronger those views, of course, the more deep the emotional reactions. A hard-core liberal in the US may have (or at least appreciate) a bumper sticker "Friends don't let friends vote Republican". A hard-core conservative may view all liberals as traitors and the source of all the country's problems. A strong "born again" Christian may see that the problems of the world are because people have not accepted Jesus Christ as their lord and savior and need to do so. A strong atheist may see that the problems of the world are because of the very existence of religion and that it is the root of all evil. These are deeply-ingrained views:

Politics and religion are part of our core identity that helps form who we define ourselves to be.

When that part of our identity is confronted by a polar opposite, we naturally react. Conservative Christians will have second thoughts about atheists, and atheists will have second thoughts about conservative Christians. Ultra-liberal Democrats will instinctively distrust ultra-conservative Republicans - and vice-versa. It's just part and parcel of being human and building these beliefs into your identity.

Within the work environment, though, these twin areas of politics and religion have not been part of normal discourse... but yet, if you choose to fill out those fields in Facebook, they are suddenly exposed to all your "friends".

It works the other way, of course. Some time back I added another "friend" whose politics and religion closely aligned with me. Again, without any rational thinking, the thought popped into my brain "Oh, he/she's that. No wonder why we got along so well." In the mass of people out there, we seek out those communities of like-minded people... those affinities that we can use to build stronger connections.

Which is why having fields for politics and religion make so much sense for Facebook's original audience of college students. You are about to land in a campus of 10,000 people, of whom you know basically no one. How do you find new people? How do you find potential friends? Searching on "interests" is one way... but searching on political views or religion is another great way. Odds are that if they claim a similar religious view (or upbringing), they probably have a similar world view to yours. Likewise if they have similar political leanings, you probably have more in common upon which to potentially build a friendship. It makes total sense in that environment. Likewise, if Facebook is just used among your "friends", odds are that they probably already know these views about you. But today we are overloading the term "friend" and so now it encompasses true "friends", family... and business contacts.

So it's one thing to share political/religious info with friends, family and classmates, but in business? I don't know... on the one hand there is the greater "transparency" and the chance to make connections with other people. On the other hand, there is the strong chance of potentially alienating others.

200709240851In any event, the fields are there in your Facebook profile if you choose to fill them out (and many people seem to during the process of signing up). Of course, you are limited to the choices that Facebook provides for politics. They don't offer the "It's Complicated" choice that they have for relationships, which would be quite useful. The "Religious Views" field is free text entry, so you can really write whatever you want there. It seems to me that you really have four choices:

  1. Leave them blank - probably the safest choice, but potentially then losing out on some networking possibilities.
  2. Enter generic choices - you could be safe and choose "Moderate" and write in something vague for a religion.
  3. Fill out only one - you'll see I have a political entry but not a religious entry.
  4. Fill them both out - embrace full transparency and let the world know (or at least your "friends") your affiliations and beliefs.

To me this is just yet another one of those areas where we don't fully understand the full impact of the profiles of Facebook and, in fairness, all the other social networking services. In the rush to join these services, we just fill out all sorts of information, not necessarily taking the time to think about the potential impact exposing that information may have.

What do you think? If you are a Facebook user, have you filled out those two fields? Do you think people should in an effort to be more transparent? Do you think we understand the full ramifications of exposing information like this? (Or do you think the issue I raise here is really not an issue?)

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"Hi, my name is Dan. I am a screen shot addict."

200709232007I had to laugh when I saw in my Facebook News Feed that several of my friends had joined a new Facebook group "I am a screen shot addict" (You must be a Facebook member to see the group). I laughed a bit more when I saw Betsy Weber's blog post which in turn pointed me to the creator of the Facebook group, Bryan Eisenberg, and his post "Confessions of a Screen Shot Addict".

You see, I am a screen shot addict. Always have been. Probably largely because I used to write a lot of courseware related to computer programs and so naturally I needed to illustrate those documents with screenshots. Now, I take screenshots galore for these blogs. I just like illustrating my articles with graphics... and screen shots are one of the best ways to do that.

On my Windows laptop, I was using TechSmith's SnagIt and loving it. I was also using TechSmith's Jing Project for quick screen shots that I wanted to reference in, typically, an IM conversation. Now that I'm on the Mac, I've got a wonderful built in utility (I love Shift+Ctrl+Cmd+4) and I'm also checking out Jing for the Mac.

So yes, I love screenshots... if you do, too, and are a Facebook user, feel free to "join the group".

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Do you travel a lot? Joining Dopplr can help connect you to others in the same location...

200709211511Given that I tend to travel a good bit (and expect that to continue with most of the jobs I might take), I often find myself sending messages like the one I sent today to a group of people saying "Will any of you be out at the Podcast Expo next week?" Some of them answered... for others it was just an another annoying email in their inbox.

Wouldn't it be nice to simply know where your friends/colleagues are? (Assuming they shared that information with you?)

One approach is what you see with Facebook Events, where people can RSVP into the Event inside of Facebook. You can then simply look through the list and see who is there. Upcoming.org works in a similar fashion as do probably half a dozen other services.

The challenge is that they are all about events. But what if you are going to be in Boston for one event and a friend/colleague is going to be in Boston for another event? By these event-driven sites, you won't necessarily know that.

Dopplr, on the other hand, is location-driven. When you enter in a trip you are taking, it ties it to a standard geographic location. The advantage to this is that you can then look in the city you are going and see: a) who among your circle of friends lives in the city; and b) who will be traveling to the city (provided they are sharing their trip information with you. From their "About" page:

How does Dopplr work? It lets you share your future travel plans with a group of trusted fellow travellers whom you have chosen. It also reminds you of friends and colleagues who live in the cities you're planning to visit. You can use the service with your personal computer and mobile phone.

It's an interesting idea to me, given how often I'm going places. To be useful, of course, it needs to have a certain mass of people using it. If you do use it, my URL is http://www.dopplr.com/traveller/DanYork If you would like to try it out, drop me a note and I can send you an invite.

P.S. Congrats to the Dopplr team for receiving early stage funding from an impressive group of investors!

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Google's "Shared Stuff" lets you share web sites/URLs publicly, or with Facebook, del.icio.us and others (review with screenshots)

Google yesterday quietly rolled out their "Shared Stuff" social bookmarking/sharing service and predictably there were a slew of postings in the blogosphere. Here's my little quick tour for you. First, you add a link on your bookmark bar:

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Now you just click on the bookmark whenever you are on a page you want to share, very much like you do with del.icio.us, Facebook, digg or any of a zillion other services. The result is a popup page that looks like this:

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Once you do any of the optional things like add a comment, change the picture or add tags, you simply hit "Share" and you get a page telling you of your success and giving you the link to your Shared Stuff page:

200709211039
Clicking on the link brings me to my own private version of the "Shared Stuff" page (because I'm logged in with my Google account):
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which looks sort of like the public page you all will see (which I get by clicking the "As everyone sees it") link:
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You'll immediately note that the page everyone sees only has one of my two items on it. I can't explain why... and I've forced a browser refresh multiple times to try to see if it was a browser issue but that seemed to do nothing.

Now I could not for the life of me figure out any way to edit the listing I had on the page, but by simply sharing the same URL again, it seems to have corrected the issue (and I also could change the picture associated with it).

It is somewhat annoying that for the "article preview", it grabs the blog subtitle instead of the first bit of the actual post text - and there seems to be no way to change that, although you can add a comment. However, I have the same problem with Facebook "Shared links" and its preview.

Speaking of Facebook, the Google Email/Share feature has a "More..." link that brings you to a second page where you can share the link on Facebook, Furl, del.icio.us, Social Poster (which I'd not heard of), Reddit and Digg:
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I clicked on "Facebook" and got the standard Facebook sharing screen:
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You also can email a link (and add it at the same time) which is naturally integrated with Gmail:
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The "Shared Stuff" feature does have some other interesting aspects, such as RSS feeds, the ability to see stuff shared by others (based on your Gmail address book) and the ability to search for stuff shared by other users based on domain or tag. However, as I discovered, there is this minor detail that tags must be separated by commas although it doesn't tell you that! Being used to del.icio.us, I put a space between my tags, with the resulting amusement:
200709211108

It is looking here for the most popular stuff tagged "pme podcastexpo podcasting socialmedia" all as one giant tag. Oops. I shared it again and inserted commas, after which it worked fine. However, I did have to change the image again as it defaulted back to the first image (my picture) instead of the one I had chosen.

Given that I am a heavy user of del.icio.us and am already all set up to use that, and that I'm also sharing stuff within the walls of Facebook, I'm not really sure how much I'll use this new Google service. However, given that it's Google and one might expect that some of this information might ultimately show up in search rankings (or at least affect search results), there's a good chance it might be worth at least continuing to experiment with it.

What do you think? Will you use this new service? Or will you stick with the others?

Some other articles:

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Heading out to Podcast and New Media Expo next week...

200709211012I'm delighted to say that I'll now definitely be at the Podcast and New Media Expo at the end of next week (and into the weekend) out in Ontario, California. I was debating whether or not to go because I'll be at AstriCon the previous few days in Phoenix, Arizona. Originally I was intending to just do AstriCon, but I've changed my schedule a bit so that I'll fly from Phoenix to Ontario, CA, on Thursday night so that I can participate in PME events on Friday through Sunday. Taking the good old red-eye home Sunday night.

I went to last year's PME and very much enjoyed spending time with all the various podcasters and bloggers that I've come to know. Should be a good bit of fun this year as well, although my focus will be a wee bit different. One of the various new paths I'm very seriously considering is to head into consulting and may do more with social media work. I've already been advising several companies about podcasts, blogs, etc.... I may turn that into something more formal. So my trip to PME will be much more business-focused than last year... and I'll be looking to talk to a number of folks about potential partnership opportunities. (Are you interested in potentially partnering with me? or engaging my services? Let's talk. ;-)

In any event, most of all it will simply be just plain fun to reconnect face-to-face with so many of the other members of the social media community whom I know now as friends!

If you read this and are going to be out at the PME, please do drop a line as I'm always interested to connect with folks.

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