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I travel a lot, and buy newspapers wherever I happen to be. That would be true online as well, if I could do it. But I can’t, because that’s not an option.

For example, my butt is in California right now, but my nose is in Boston, where I’m reading the Globe. I don’t want a subscription to the Globe, but I would like to pay for today’s paper, or for at least the right to read a few stories from it.

Not easy. Or even possible, after the first one or two. Because, soon enough this paywall thingie comes up:

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 7.13.36 AM

It’ a subscription come-on, modeled after the one the New York Times has been using for years, and I wrote about back in 2012, here. (The switch after the above bait: “$.99*… *That’s less than $1 for 4 full weeks! Then pay the regular low rate of $3.99 per week.”)

I had some advice for the Times at that last link, and I’ve got some for all papers today: create an à la carte option. I know there are lots of reasons not to, all of which arise from system-based considerations on the sell side of the relationship with newspaper buyers.

What I’m saying is that the newsstand option has worked fine for more than a century in the physical world, and should be an option in the networked one as well.

At least think about it. Constructively, as in Let’s see… how can we do that? Not “It’s too hard.” Or “People only want free stuff.” Those are all echoes inside the old box. I want us to think and work outside of that box.

People are willing to pay value for value if it’s easy. So let’s make it easy. The ideas I vetted three years ago are still good, but don’t cover the à la carte option. Let’s just focus on that one, and consider what’s possible.

 

In There Is No More Social Media — Just Advertising, Mike Proulx (@McProulx) begins,

CluetrainFifteen years ago, the provocative musings of Levine, Locke, Searls and Weinberger set the stage for a grand era of social media marketing with the publication of “The Cluetrain Manifesto” and their vigorous declaration of “the end of business as usual.”

For a while, it really felt like brands were beginning to embrace online communities as a way to directly connect with people as human beings. But over the years, that idealistic vision of genuine two-way exchange eroded. Brands got lazy by posting irrelevant content and social networks needed to make money.

Let’s call it what it is: Social media marketing is now advertising. It’s largely a media planning and buying exercise — emphasizing viewed impressions. Brands must pay if they really want their message to be seen. It’s the opposite of connecting or listening — it’s once again broadcasting.

Twitter’s Dick Costello recently said that ads will “make up about one in 20 tweets.” It’s also no secret that Facebook’s organic reach is on life support, at best. And when Snapchat launched Discover, it was quick to point out that “This is not social media.”

The idealistic end to business as usual, as “The Cluetrain Manifesto” envisioned, never happened. We didn’t reach the finish line. We didn’t even come close. After a promising start — a glimmer of hope — we’re back to business as usual. Sure, there have been powerful advances in ad tech. Media is more automated, targeted, instant, shareable and optimized than ever before. But is there anything really social about it? Not below its superficial layer.

First, a big thanks to Mike and @AdAge for such a gracious hat tip toward @Cluetrain. It’s amazing and gratifying to see the old meme still going strong, sixteen years after the original manifesto went up on the Web. (And it’s still there, pretty much unchanged — since 24 March 1999.) If it weren’t for marketing and advertising’s embrace of #Cluetrain, it might have been forgotten by now. So a hat tip to those disciplines as well.

An irony is that Cluetrain wasn’t meant for marketing or advertising. It was meant for everybody, including marketing, advertising and the rest of business. (That’s why @DWeinberger and I recently appended dillo3#NewClues to the original.) Another irony is that Cluetrain gets some degree of credit for helping social media come along. Even if that were true, it wasn’t what we intended. What we were looking for was more independence and agency on the personal side — and for business to adapt.

When that didn’t happen fast enough to satisfy me, I started ProjectVRM in 2006, to help the future along. We are now many people and many development projects strong. (VRM stands for Vendor Relationship Management: the customer-side counterpart of Customer Relationship Management — a $20+ billion business on the sellers’ side.)

Business is starting to notice. To see how well, check out the @Capgemini videos I unpack here. Also see how some companies (e.g. @Mozilla) are hiring VRM folks to help customers and companies shake hands in more respectful and effective ways online.

Monday, at VRM Day (openings still available), Customer Commons (ProjectVRM’s nonprofit spinoff) will be vetting a VRM maturity framework that will help businesses and their advisors (e.g. @Gartner, @Forrester, @idc, @KuppingerCole and @Ctrl-Shift) tune in to the APIs (and other forms of signaling) of customers expressing their intentions through tools and services from VRM developers. (BTW, big thanks to KuppingerCole and Ctrl-Shift for their early and continuing support for VRM and allied work toward customer empowerment.)

The main purpose of VRM Day is prep toward discussions and coding that will follow over the next three days at the XXth Internet Identity Workshop, better known as IIW, organized by @Windley, @IdentityWoman and myself. IIW is an unconference: no panels, no keynotes, no show floor. It’s all breakouts, demos and productive conversation and hackery, with topics chosen by participants. There are tickets left for IIW too. Click here. Both VRM Day and IIW are at the amazing and wonderful Computer History Museum in downtown Silicon Valley.

Mike closes his piece by offering five smart things marketers can do to “make the most of this era of #NotReally social media marketing.” All good advice.

Here’s one more that leverages the competencies of agencies like Mike’s own (@HillHolliday): Double down on old-fashioned Madison Avenue-type brand advertising. It’s the kind of advertising that carries the strongest brand signal. It’s also the most creative, and the least corrupted by tracking and other jive that creeps people out. (That stuff doesn’t come from Madison Avenue, by the way. Its direct ancestor is direct marketing, better known as junk mail. I explain the difference here.) For more on why that’s good, dig what Don Marti has been saying.

(BTW & FWIW, I was also with an ad agency business, as a founder and partner in Hodskins Simone & Searls, which did kick-ass work from 1978 to 1998. More about that here.)

Bottom line: business as usual will end. Just not on any schedule.

 

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210px-Jail_Bars_Icon.svgIn one corner sit me, Don Marti, Phil Windley, Dave Winer, Eben Moglen, John Perry Barlow, Cory DoctorowAral Balkan, Adriana Lukas, Keith Hopper, Walt Whitman, William Ernest Henley, the Indie Web people, the VRM development community, authors of the Declaration of Independence, and the freedom-loving world in general. We hold as self-evident that personal agency and independence matter utterly, that free customers are more valuable than captive ones, that personal data belongs more to persons themselves than to those gathering it, that conscious signaling of intent by individuals is more valuable than the inferential kind that can only be guessed at, that spying on people when they don’t know about it or like it is wrong, and so on.*

In the other corner sits the rest of the world, or what seems like it. Contented with captivity.

The last two posts here — Because Freedom Matters and On taking personalized ads personally — are part of the dialog that mostly flows under this post of mine on Facebook.

Many points of view are expressed, but two sobering comments stand out for me: one by Frank Paynter and one by Karel Baloun. Frank writes,

I just don’t feel the need to see ads on Facebook. I have no personal or professional interest, and AdBlock/AdBlock+ has filtered out most for me. Oddly, since commenting on your post, I have seen 3 ads in the side bar. One was for “a small orange” and scored a direct hit! I recently read something by Chris Kovacs (Stavros the Wonder Chicken) praising the small orange hosting service so I was primed. Now, with this targeted ad coinciding with some expirations at BlueHost, GoDaddy and Dreamhost, I’m taking the plunge and consolidating accounts. Score one for Facebook targeted ads! The ads for a CreativeLive “Commercial Beauty Retouching” class and for Gartner Tableau didn’t cut it for me today, but — eh? who knows? On any given Thursday I might click through. But I really need to clean up that sidebar again. Three ads is too many.

In response to Don’s Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful, Karel writes,

I don’t understand views like the one in this semi-endorsed article. Targeted advertising is aiming at the commercial fulfillment of “intention”. These are the agents that will understand what people want.

I do understand the walled garden problem, and the monopoly risk of only one company having all of this intent information. Yet, they are required to protect privacy, and all their credibility rests on that trust.

And that’s not all.

Earlier today I heard back from an old friend who wanted me to comment on his company’s approach to programmatic marketing. I invited Don in to help, and we produced a long and thoughtful set of replies to my friend’s questions (or assumptions) about programmatic (as it’s called, the adjective serving as a noun). I’ll compress and paraphrase my friend’s reply:

  • Automated matching is here to stay. We need to work with it rather than against it.

  • Facebook cares about privacy. Mark Zuckerberg even mentioned privacy in his keynote at the F8 Developer’s Conference in San Francisco.

  • Facebook has always been cautious about intrusive advertising.

  • While many don’t like surveillance and personal targeting, most programmatic marketing is in fact non-personal — it doesn’t use without personally identifiable information (PII). This is actually good for privacy.

  • In Europe, at least, there are laws regarding personally identifiable information and all the ways it cannot be used.

So maybe we freedom-lovers have to take their points. At least for now.

The flywheels of programmatic are huge. While survey after survey says most people have some discomfort with it, those people aren’t leaving Facebook in droves. On the contrary, they continue to flock there, regardless of Facebook’s threat (or promise) to absorb more of everybody’s life online.

In Fast Company, Mark Wilson (@ctrlzee) unpacks Facebook’s 10-Year Plan to Become The Matrix. (His tweeted pointer says “Facebook’s 10-year plan to trap you in The Matrix.”) I think he’s right. After reading that, and doing his usual deep and future-oriented thinking, Dave recorded this 12-minute podcast on empathy, because we’re all going to need it. And yet I am sure Dave’s ‘cast, my posts, and others like it, will leave most people, especially those in the online advertising business, unpersuaded. Life is too cushy on the inside. Never mind that privacy is absent there.

“If the golden rule applied to online advertising, none of it would be based on surveillance,” somebody said. But the ad biz obeys the gelden rule, not the golden one. They believe robotic agents can “understand what people want” better than people can communicate it themselves. And they’re making great money at it. Hey, can’t argue with excess.

And hell, when even Frank Paynter (one of us freedom-loving types) kinda digs Facebook scoring an advertising bulls-eye on his ass, maybe the uncanny valley is just uncanny, period. Which is what Facebook wants. More surveillance, more shots, more scores. Rock on.

So let’s face it: captivity rules — until we can prove that freedom beats it.

If you want to work toward freedom, IIW is a good place to start (or, for veterans, to keep it up). Week after next. See you there.

If not, join the crowd.

[Later…] Frank has a helpful comment below, and Karel has responded with this long piece, which I’ll read ASAP after I get off the road, probably tomorrow (Monday) night, though it might be later. [Still later…] I’ve read it, and it’s very helpful. I’ll respond at more length when I get enough time later this week.

Meanwhile, thanks to both guys, and to everybody on the Facebook thread, for weighing in and taking this thing deeper. Much appreciated.

*[Later again…] Read what Don Marti writes here in response to my opening paragraph above. Excellent, as usual.

IIW XX, IIW_XX_logothe 20th Internet Identity Workshop, comes at a critical inflection point in the history of VRM: Vendor Relationship Management, the only business movement working toward giving you both

  1. independence from the silos and walled gardens of the world; and
  2. better means for engaging with every business in the world — your way, rather than theirs.

If you’re looking for a point of leverage on the future of customer liberation, independence and empowerment, IIW is it.

Wall Street-sized companies around the world are beginning to grok what Main Street ones have always known: customers aren’t just “targets” to be “acquired,” “managed,” “controlled” and “locked in.” In other words, Cluetrain was right when it said this, in 1999:

if you only have time for one clue this year, this is the one to get…

Now it is finally becoming clear that free customers are more valuable than captive ones: to themselves, to the companies they deal with, and to the marketplace.

But how, exactly? That’s what we’ll be working on at IIW, which runs from April 7 to 9 at the Computer History Museum, in the heart of Silicon Valley: the best venue ever created for a get-stuff-done unconference.

Focusing our work is a VRM maturity framework that gives every company, analyst and journalist a list of VRM competencies, and every VRM developer a context in which to show which of those competencies they provide, and how far along they are along the maturity path. This will start paving the paths along which individuals, tool and service providers and corporate systems (e.g. CRM) can finally begin to fit their pieces together. It will also help legitimize VRM as a category. If you have a VRM or related company, now is the time to jump in and participate in the conversation. Literally. Here are some of the VRM topics and technology categories that we’ll be talking about, and placing in context in the VRM maturity framework:

Note: Another version of this post appeared first on the ProjectVRM blog. I’m doing a rare cross-posting here because it that important.

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I just ran across a post (below) on my old blog from Tuesday, July 12, 2005: a few months less than ten years ago. It was at the tail end of what Tantek Çelik calls the Independent Web. He gives the time frame for that as roughly 2001-2005, peaking in 2003 or so. “We took it as an assumption that if you were creating, you were putting yourself on the Web, on your own site… We all assumed that it was sort of our inevitable destiny that the Web was open, the Net was open, everyone had their own identity — to the point where everyone knew each other not by our names but by our URLs, our domain names, because everyone owned their domain and had control over it.”

What happened, he adds, was silos. Twitter popularized simplicity. Then Facebook built a big new ecosystem “that has nothing to do with the open Web.” They also made lots of stuff, such as identity, highly convenient. Log in anywhere with Facebook Connect (and don’t look at what’s happening behind the curtain).

And now most of our experiences on the Web are inside and between giant silos that add up to a system Bruce Schneier calls feudal. It’s got some nice stuff in it, but it’s not ours. It’s theirs.

So, while we wait for emancipation, it’s interesting to look back on what life was like on the Web when it was still ours.

Note that what I wrote on the old blog was outlines. Every new post was a top level item, and subordinate ones came under it. Today Dave Winer gives us a similar tool with Liveblog.

Anyway, here ya go:::

+

I’ve always wanted MORE back. This looks really promising.

Virtualities

I’m at this meeting, through Phil Windley‘s laptop’s audio.

Anals of Customer Service, Part 235, 673,458,31 

John Paczkowski: The Cluetrain don’t stop in Round Rock no more. It starts with this fine fodder:

Begin by turning off all the LEDs on your keyboard. 

My keyboard doesn’t have any LEDs.

You must turn off the LEDs on your keyboard.

My keyboard doesn’t have any LEDs.

I can’t help you if you don’t turn off the LEDs.

– Excerpt from a Dell customer service call

Essentials

Mitch responds to the “connections” item below with,

I’m a little surprised that Doc’s take on the information is that people have “jumped to conclusions based on what one guy said,” since that is the very essence of blogging: A single correspondent reported something that would have otherwise been ignored. A lot of people are very interested in how Technorati might make money and, more to the point, help them make money.

It’s one thing to point to something one person said, and another to jump to conclusions based on it. To me the latter is not “the essence of blogging.” In fact, it’s what too many big-J journalists do, and what too many of those journalists also accuse bloggers of doing.

I like Mitch’s other points about Technorati’s business model(s). I think when this is over we’ll see a lot more transparency from everybody whose business lives in the blogosphere.

Jeremy Wright busts Technorati for its performance:

Technorati¹s index is slow. If it¹s taking Technorati 5-20 hours to bring a post in (if it does at all), that is 4-19 hours slower than Bloglines. It¹s inaccurate. It¹s lucky if it shows 10% of the results that PubSub, Bloglines and Blogpulse show. It¹s also a SLOW site. Response times of 1 minute aren¹t uncommon, and even then results sometimes simply aren¹t shown.

I stuck up for Technorati for quite a while (and they¹re featured prominently in the book, which I now regretŠ hopefully I won¹t by the time the book comes out). But, Technorati has had 2 years to fix it¹s problems. Doc wants us to cut them some more slack, but I¹ve just about run out of slack. There are other services that are faster, more detailed, more comprehensive and actually listen to bloggers¹ concerns instead of making excuses.

Andy Lark adds,

Good on Jeremy. Frankly, Technorati is a joke in terms of indexing speed and accuracy. I can tag posts and not see them, well, ever. The fact you get listed at all is a miracle. He is right. As a user, they have let the blogosphere down. Doc Searls has a longer post on this. Doc, it’s great you are all chums but for us mere minions it just ain’t working and what doesn’t work, doesn’t get used. Simple as that.

For what it’s worth, I have a pile of Technorati and PubSub subscriptions. And for a long time, PubSub kicked ass. (And I often let Technorati’s techies know about it.) Lately Technorati seems to be doing better. But hey, your mileage may vary. For what it’s worth, I found both Jeremy’s and Andy’s posts in a Technorati search.

That said, Technorati’s failings have done a lot to cost some users faith in the service. There are still outages and breakdowns. There are on any service that’s scaling at the same rate. How often have you seen Flickr down for a “massage”?

What matters is that they keep working on it and improving it. Looks to me like they’re doing that.

Okay, more stuff…

Stowe Boyd weighs in:

I suspect that one of the issues here is the lack of cluefulness of Technorati, however, who have seemed to surprise everyone with their intention to make money — and lots of it — from its activities and services. Here’ is a great opportunity for Dave Sifry and company to leverage what they know about blog dynamics to head off a potential big stink. Remember the “Founding Fathers” flap from the Always On/Technorati Open Media 100 announcement?…

Technorati will inevitably — to the degree that it is successful — influence the behavior of those who would like to benefit from the power thet comes from a high Technorati ranking, just like the lengths that people will go to in order to get a high Google ranking. As a result, Technorati will need to have very scrupulous business practices in its dealings with those to whom it sells its services.

This is likely to flare up into a big imbloglio, with many perspectives swirling around, and a lot of hand waving and finger pointing. But I think it is a tempest in a teapot. The implicit social connections that blog linking imply are public: they are there for anyone to see, and the individuals involved actively create those links with that in mind. This is not some sort of surreptitious surveillance, like video cameras on street lights, or someone tapping our phone calls. And more importantly, as Doc suggests, the world is a better place if big corporations begin to take advantage of this information to figure out what people think is important, whose thoughts and observations matter, and how to better understand what is going on in the world. What is the alternative? We — the Blogosphere — are going to a lot of trouble to read and link to one others’ writing out here; do we want the rest of the world to ignore it? We are trying hard to make sense of the world; it’s stupid to think we would be better off if the world doesn’t pay attention, and adapt to the feedback system we have become. The value of that feedback is enormous, and people should be free to make money from turning it into bite-sized chunks for companies that want to do better: build better products, provide better service, and innovate more quickly.

The Blogosphere is not some private club for those most actively engaged it in: its a global asset, a new means of understanding the world, and perhaps the best hope we have for making a better world.

Rex Hammock has a brief post.

Jason Dowdell writes,

I personally know Tom Foremski and would not have based my piece on his story if I didn’t know him as an actual journalist. Tom would not put up data if it weren’t true, no matter how exciting it might be. Regardless, Technorati has issues it needs to deal with or it’s going to face continued scrutiny on it’s performance issues and lack of completeness. David Sifry and team have made a ton of progress in recent months regarding the user interface and features and have squashed a ton of bugs on the way… but if the performance doesn’t get fixed then it’s going to be a major issue.

He says a lot more. Worth reading.

Steve Gillmor goes up a level:

Certainly the tone has shifted in the blogosphere. Finding and maintaining friendships will be sorely tested in the coming weeks and months. Great care must be taken to avoid misunderstandings, and sometimes, understanding all too well. It’s a time for leadership, not brinkmanship.

It’s always nice when we can fly under the radar, avoidng the messy details of who gets the money and how. I’ve been doing this with attention, building coalitions, evangelizing the obvious, wheeling and dealing. Recently I’ve stopped all that, partly because others have picked up the banner and mostly because I’m sick and tired of it. I’ve tried to explain why I’m no evangelist, only to come off sounding like I’m evangelizing the idea.

And Alan8373 says Conversation are Markets.

Eye on the ‘sphere

National Journal has launched Blogometer, “a daily report from The Hotline taking the temperature of the political blogosphere.”

The war on war

Britt Blaser…we Americans admire the terrorism problem too much as mass entertainment…

A small part of a big piece. Read the whole thing.

Department of Connections

It’s interesting to see the ripple effect of The selling of the Blogosphere—Technorati’s big push into monetizing its treasure trove of data collected about millions of blogs, by Tom Foremski at SiliconValleyWatcher. The item is still the top story on his site. There it’s titled “The Selling of the Blogosphere.” The subtext:

How Technorati hopes to market its treasure trove of data it collects on millions of blogs to corporations, exposing the relaxed intimacy of online conversations. It’s all part of a growing ecosystem of companies hoping to profit handsomely from the work of bloggers [Read].

Right now, according to Technorati, the item has been blogged about sixteen times. The top response (in reverse chronological order, from the search), posted twenty minutes ago by DeepLinking, says,

I gotta know how much Technorati is charging for the blog-clipping service SiliconValleyWatcher is talking about [via Jason Calacanis]. However, SVW’s shocked tone about the whole thing is silly and naive. If you’re not aware that the corporate world is freaked out about blogs and very much interested in understanding their impact, you need to hang out in the corporate world a little more.

Jason Calcanis is concerned about “repurposed content,” then adds,

I highly doubt that this service — if it even exists — would repurpose blog content. Technorati has been very good about taking only a snip of people¹s content. I don¹t see Dave taking liberties with people¹s content… Dave’s a good man.

A number of bloggers, including Mike SandersDave WinerJeremy Zawodnyand Disruptive Media Technologies, quoted this line from Tom Foremski’s piece:

What surprised me was how aggressively Mr Hirshberg was pitching Technorati’s expensive blog tracking services to this audience of agency and corporate communications professionals. Mr Whitmore barely mentioned his company, and I didn’t pitch anything, maybe I should have :-)

Of those four, only Mike had something positive to say:

Of course legally and ethically there is nothing wrong with a company using public information to make millions. And I am pretty sure that Technorati advisors and Cluetrain authors Doc Searls and David Weinberger have thought about how this benefits the little guy, furthers the emergence of voice, and is additional proof that markets are conversations.

Jeremy Wright quoted the same section, and more, adding,

Not only is Technorati lagging behind in blog tracking, which is sad enough, but they¹re trying to sell their blog tracking services to corporations!

According to SiliconValley Watcher, they even made arses of themselves at a recent panel by “pitching” during the panel (a huge no-no)

Technorati tells me Jeremy posted that item 9 hours ago. Let’s see, it’s 10:45pm Pacific Time. Jeremy’s blog says he posted it at 4:45pm. Not sure what time zone he’s in. Still, I gotta say, what lag?

This piece was kinda snarky too.

Going down through the list here…

Naill Kennedy (who works for Technorati) was next.

Then comes Geek News Central, wondering out loud about how the service works.

Marc Canter writes,

$$$$$$Billions and billions$$$$$$ of dollars are spent every year on bullshit. On pure crap that is shoveled down our throats, trying to make us believe what they want us to buy.

But what happens when one, two, five ad agencies figure out how to REALLY track what people are thinking about?

What happens when some brand finds a way to put a warm and fuzzy spot in our hearts? Almost as if my magic.

All this is happening because someone named Peter Hirshberg decided to move back to SF. Peter is one of those Silicon Valley guys who’s watched our industry become one of the leading industry’s throughout the world today. All culture, commerce and emotions lead through our industry.

What is known as entertainment, marketing, influence and psychology is driven by technology today. Everything that we know – is ‘swatched’ in the veneer of technology. We wouldn’t be sitting here today, reading this post – if it wasn’t for technology. Almost nothing ‘happens’ without technology. That’s how big we are.

And at the forefront of technology is blogging and social software.

It’s about us, people, and once we get our hands on the wheel of our own destiny – look out world!

Our own realization of what our own power is – is what it’s all about.

Mitch Ratcliffe says,

Along with MarcDave and others, I’m increasingly confused by the messages coming out of Technorati. They are grasping in so many directions — as a consumer service and species of publisher with Technorati.com, as an enabling technology provider with tags and attention.xml, as a business intelligence service. Dave Sifry is a great entrepreneur, but it is impossible to do everything well.

He adds,

The concern raised by SiliconValleyWatcher, that Technorati is monetizing bloggers’ creativity without sharing the wealth is misplaced, I think. Technorati has avoided pirating bloggers’ work by making it important to clickthrough to read full postings. It makes it easier to find the source data of the conversation. Were it to start taking full feeds of data and republishing them for corporate customers, it would be violating the rights of authors who have non-commercial share-and-share-alike Creative Commons licenses, but the folks at Technorati are too smart to make that mistake.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to realize that the “algorithms” of participation and influence — the market metrics for the conversational market — can’t be delivered by an enabler of the conversation that simultaneously shapes the conversation with a proprietary tagging scheme.

Mitch, whose company is Persuadio, goes on,

Persuadio analysis consistently finds that Technorati tags are changing the flow of data, meaning that any attempt to measure Technorati’s influence has to be conducted by a third party in order to be fair and unbiased.

Technorati, at least according to my old friend Peter Hirshberg’s comments, is talking like it is building Persuadio’s services, but they are not.

The list goes on.

Okay, a few questions.

First, How many witnesses reported on what Peter said on that panel? Answer: One. Another panelist, by the way. How many bloggers jumped to conclusions based on what one guy said?

Next: Are marketers clueless or cluefull about blogging?

If the answer is “clueless,” then don’t we want them to get the clues? Especially if all the raw data is nothing more than what’s been published on the free and open Web, and what’s sold is data about data rather than “repurposed content”?

Next: Do we think they can get all the clues they need from search engines and feeds of blogs and searches about blogs and other stuff that’s already out there?

If the answer is no, then what is wrong with selling those clues to people willing to pay for them?

Some perspective.

Technorati was born as a cool hack David Sifry came up with while he and I were writing this piece for Linux Journal. Later, after Dave made Technorati a company, I became a member of its advisory board.

David and I are friends. Peter is a friend too. I’m one of the advisors who urged David to hire Peter, who’s a brilliant and funny guy.

I’ve watched David and his crew work 24/7/365 scaling a search service that finds everything on the live and syndicated Web — that’s hugely complementary to the engines that search the static Web. They’ve rebuilt their infrastructure more times than I can remember. The whole thing has creaked and fallen a number of times, and kept going, kept improving.

They haven’t always followed my advice (not by a long shot), but they’ve always listened to what bloggers are saying.

Such as now, when I’m on the phone with David and Peter, going over each of these posts, seeing what can be learned from the company’s first experience talking about one of the ways it hopes to serve customers and make their business work for everybody.

Will they make mistakes? Sure. Who won’t?

And really: Was a mistake even made here? How can we be sure?

Will they learn from the public conversation that their own service is exposing to them? From what I’m hearing (and saying) on the phone, I’d say the answer is yes.

Hey, we’re all in new territory here. The big challenge isn’t to bust each other for mistakes. Or to play the Gotcha Game, which is one of the oldest and shittiest traditions in mass market journalism. It’s to help.

From the beginning, that’s what Technorati has been trying to do.

Right now, the helping is going back the other way. Which is a good thing.

[A few minutes later…] I just checked, and this post is already showing up in a Technorati search for “Peter Hirshberg”.

Blog(himand)her

Chris Nolan on Blogher (the not-really all-woman blogging conference):

This gives me a wonderful chance to state the obvious about this conference: IT IS NOT FOR WOMEN ONLY. Not only are men welcome — a statement that it seems absurd to have to make – but some are planning to attend.

She adds,

This gives me the chance to make another observation: If you are a man who like code and software and things that plug in, and is perhaps having trouble finding a girl who likes Java (and knows it’s not just a coffee) and undersands your inner Geek, this might be the PERFECT place for you to spend a summer afternoon.

The ratio at most tech conferences is hugely biased toward men. That will assuredly not be the case here.

The bull’s eye of her entreaties is Kevin Drum (read Chris’s links for the whole story); but all men (and women) are invited.

Blogher is Saturday, July 30, in Santa Clara, CA: the heart of Silicon Valley. Follow that last link for more info and to register.

I’d love to be there, but I have other commitments. Still, I recommend it highly.

Back to the present.

Nice to see that many of the people I volleyed with there are still around. And that some things persist. (For example, Blogher.) But it’s also sad to see how much is gone. Especially Technorati, which drew a huge amount of discussion then. It still exists as a company, but it ain’t what it was. But it’s good that it mattered.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 11.07.22 PMYesterday  and I were guests on screen at a  session in Manchester, hosted by Julian Tait (@Julianlstar) and Ian Forrester (@cubicgarden). We talked for a long time about a lot of stuff (here’s a #cmngrnd search featuring some of it); but what seems to have struck the Chord of Controversy was something I blabbed: “Tracking-based advertising is creepy and wrong… and needs to be wiped out.” Martin Bryant (@MartinSFP) tweeted a video clip and a series of other tweets followed. Here’s a copy/paste, which loses a little between Twitter and WordPress):

  1.  and  favorited a Tweet you were mentioned in Feb 17 People dont realise how much worse our experiences with ads would be if they werent personalised
  2.  favorited a Tweet you were mentioned in

    Feb 17 I prefer personalised advertising, and working for a media startu, it’s better for us. But still, many find it creepy

  3.  Feb 17  targeted ads allow new players to enter the market. W/o it, it’s cost-prohibitive and incumbents can only play.
  4.  favorited a Tweet you were mentioned in

    Feb 17 People dont realise how much worse our experiences with ads would be if they werent personalised

  5.   Feb 17  People dont realise how much worse our experiences with ads would be if they werent personalised
  6.  retweeted some Tweets you were mentioned in

    Feb 17: Tracking-based advertising is “creepy and wrong… and needs to be wiped out,” says

  7.  retweeted a Tweet you were mentioned in

    Feb 17: Tracking-based advertising is “creepy and wrong… and needs to be wiped out,” says

  8.  Feb 17 Manchester, England  I prefer personalised advertising, and working for a media startu, it’s better for us. But still, many find it creepy
  9.  Feb 17  I’d like to debate on this topic. I’ll take the side of the advertiser.
  10.  and  favorited a Tweet you were mentioned in Feb 17: Tracking-based advertising is “creepy and wrong… and needs to be wiped out,” says   
  11.  and 5 others retweeted a photo you were tagged in

    Feb 17: Let’s talk the Cluetrain Manifesto… Here’s and .

     Feb 17Manchester, England Tracking-based advertising is “creepy and wrong… and needs to be wiped out,” says

    1.  favorited a Tweet you were mentioned in
      Feb 17 I’d like to debate on this topic. I’ll take the side of the advertiser.
    2.  favorited your Tweet
      22h Wow, that was quick. Thanks! Meanwhile, and will also help.
    3. ha, I’m happy to being proven wrong! That means I’ve learned something. Will follow up…

    4. will to learn about your perspective before we debate ;)

      Embedded image permalink
    5.  favorited your Tweet
      23h:   Read my book first and see if you still want to argue.

So, while Cyrus awaits his copy of the book, I thought I’d share a few links on the topic, before I hit the sack, jet-lagged, here in London.

First, a search for my name and advertising. Among those the one that might say the most (in the fewest words) is this post at Wharton’s Future of Advertising site.

Second, dig pretty much everything that Don Marti has been writing about business, starting with Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful. My case — the one people who like personalized advertising might want to argue with — is Don’s. He became my thought leader on the subject back when he was helping me with research for The Intention Economy, and he’s been adding value to his own insights steadily in the years since. (BTW, I’m not a stranger to the business, having been a founder and creative director for Hodskins Simone & Searls, one of Silicon Valley’s leading ad agencies back in the last millennium.)

When I get a chance I’ll write more on the topic, but for now I need some sleep.,

Tags: , , , , , , ,

mutualmusiciansSo I just learned that a Kansas City Jazz station is headed toward existence. If you love any of these musicians, this should be very good news.

The story begins,

By this time next year, Kansas City-style jazz might be bebopping out of a new radio station near you.

The Mutual Musicians Foundation in the 18th and Vine jazz district announced this week it’s been granted a construction permit for a noncommercial, low-power FM radio station. The foundation is hoping the KC jazz station, at 104.7 FM, will be on the air by next January.

It will be called KOJH-LP. LP stands for low power, or what the FCC calls LPFM. Here’s the application for what’s now a granted CP, or Construction Permit.

In fact there is a jazz station called KOJH already — a streaming one in Oklahoma. Though it’s not a licensed radio station, it may have inherited those call letters from one. (I’ve looked, but haven’t been able to tell. Maybe the lazyweb knows.)

Here’s the station’s mission, filed with the FCC.

KOJH will broadcast from the Arts Asylum at Harrison and E. 9th Street. A new tower will go on the building. From there they will radiate a whopping 22 watts at 207 feet above the average terrain, at 104.7fm. It’s a tiny signal that will won’t reach far out of downtown.

Worse, most of Kansas City’s big FM stations have effective radiated powers (what’s concentrated toward the horizon, or populations) of 100,000 watts, and transmit from a collection of towers over 1000 feet tall, just a short distance east of downtown. One of those is KBEQ on 104.3, just two notches down the dial from KOJH. This means you will need a good radio to keep KBEQ from blasting KOJH sideways. Today’s car radios are good enough to keep that from happening. (And will likely get KOJH up to a dozen or more miles away.) Recent-vintage portable and home radios will have a hard time, unless they’re very close to the KOJH transmitter.

(Many manufacturers quit caring decades ago. And now Radio Shack has filed for bankruptcy. Even CEO Can’t Figure Out How RadioShack Still In Business, which ran in The Onion in 2007, has proven prophetic.)

So it is good to know KOJH plans to stream online, because that’s the future of radio.

But there are other stepping stones.

For example, something the Mutual Musicians Foundation might consider doing, while they get underway with KOJH, is buying an AM station that’s dropped out of the ratings. Some possibles, going up the dial:

    • KCCV/760. 6000 watts day, 200 watts night.
    • WHB/810. 50000 watts day, 5000 watts night.
    • KBMZ/980. 5000 watts day and night.
    • KCWJ/1030. 5000 watts day, 500 watts night.
    • KCTO/1160. 5000 watts day, 230 watts night.
    • KYYS/1250. 25000 watts day, 3700 watts night.
    • KDTD/1340. 1000 watts, day and night.
    • KCNW/1380. 2500 watts day, 300 watts night.
    • KKLO/1410. 5000 watts day, 500 watts night.
    • KCZZ/1480. 1000 watts day, 500 watts night.
    • KWOD/1660. 10000 watts day, 1000 watts night.

(Note that wattage is just one variable. Location of the transmitter, efficiency of the towers, directionality of the signal, ground conductivity and frequency all matter too. For example, the lower the station’s frequency, the longer the wavelength, and the better its signal travels along the ground.)

Only three AM stations show up in Kansas City’s latest ratings: KCSP, a sports station at 610am, KCMO, a right-wing talk station at 710am, and KPRT, a gospel music station at 1590am. (With 1000 watts by day and just 50 watts at night, I’m amazed KPRT makes the ratings at all.)

All the un-rated stations listed above put signals across all of KOJH’s coverage area, and then some. Some, such as WHB (a legendary station and signal), may never be for sale. But I’ll bet some others are on the market today, and will only get cheaper.

Music sounds awful on AM, unless the station radiates HD radio encoding. Most engineers I know in broadcasting dislike HD radio and consider it a gimmick. But it does sound quite good on both AM and FM. The difference it makes on AM is amazing.

Loyal listeners of a format will do the work required to get a signal. I’m sure that’s the case with KPRT’s gospel listeners, for example. Now, after stumbling for years, HD radio is picking up with manufacturers. There is a nice list on the HD Radio site. Meanwhile, the market value of AM radio stations, especially ones with no ratings, is crashing to the point where the cost of operating them exceeds their income. (An AM station sucks about twice the wattage off the grid as it radiates from its transmitter.) In coming years many of them will sell for a song.

So those changes — the rise of HD Rado and the decline of also-ran AM station prices — are factors the KOJH folks might want to keep in mind as they fire up their LP signal on FM. Think local, but think big too.

Bonus link.

The blizzard hit coastal New England, not New York City. In fact, it’s still hitting. Wish I was there, because I love snow. Here in New York City we got pffft: about eight inches in Central Park: an average winter snowstorm. No big deal.

I was set up with my GoPro to time-lapse accumulations on the balcony outside our front window. I had two other cameras ready to go, and multiple devices tuned in to streams of news stories, tweets and posts. Instead the story I got was an old and familiar one of misplaced sensationalism. Nothing happening, non-stop. At least here.

The real news was happening in Boston, Providence, Worcester, Montauk, Scituate, the Cape and Islands. But I didn’t have anything useful to add to what thousands of others were showing, posting, tweeting and blogging. Back during Sandy, I had a lot to blog because important stuff wasn’t being said on media major and minor. For example I predicted, correctly, that many radio and TV stations would be knocked off the air by flooding. I also thought, correctly, that New York was under-prepared for the storm.
Not so this time, for any of the places the storm has hit.

With the snow still falling over New England…

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 8.17.02 PM… there’s a good chance that it will break old records (and probably already has in some places). But the cable news system is a still a broken record: endless pronouncements by undersecretaries of the overstate.

As more cords get cut, and more of us inform each other directly, new and better forms of aggregation and intermediation will emerge. To some extent the major media are already adapting, showing videos, tweets and posts from the Long Tail. But I suspect that the next major shift will be to something different than anything we have now.

I suspect the biggest innovations will be around discovery — of each other. Who has the information I want, now? Who or what is being fully useful, rather than just noisy or repetitive? Search from Google and Bing, while good in many ways, seems hidebound and stale to me. Its personalization is mostly about guesswork that’s hard to figure or control, and is jiggered for advertising as well.

For example, right now I’d like to know more about the breached sea wall in Scituate. Here’s a Yahoo (Bing) search. Most of the top results are at boston.com, which says to me — before I even look at any of them — “Oh, boston.com is the Boston Globe, and I’ve already run out the five views it gives me on this browser before it thows up the paywall.” In fact there is no paywall for some of the local stories, but I’ve seen it so many times that I don’t want to go there. The second thing I notice is that they’re all old: from 2014 and 2013. When I look for the same thing at Google News, the top results are the paywalled Globe ones. So I search for Scituate on Twitter, which is more helpful, but not fine-grained enough. What if I want to read only people who live there and are reporting from there?

Try to think outside of the search and social media boxes for a minute. Think all the way outside the Web.

Just think Internet, which is nothing more than a way for anybody or anything to connect to anybody or anything. Let’s find a way to do discovery there. We have some crude beginnings with stuff like this. But we need something much more natural, distributed and outside the control of any company or government — as is the Internet, by nature.

Once we have that, all kinds of amazing stuff will start to open up.

Danese Cooper ‏(@DivaDanese) asks Czech_Wallet-300x225via tweet,

Wallet App (and 1-button pay) as “compelling demo” apparently works equally well 4 BitCoin as 4 PayPal. opinion?

Sounds cool, but I don’t know which wallet app she’s talking about. There are many. In my opinion, however, they all come up short because they aren’t really wallets. Meaning they’re not yours. They belong to the company that makes the app, and that company has its hand in your pocket.

As I explained here,

Nothing you carry is more personal than your wallet, or more essential for interacting with the marketplace. You can change your pants or your purse, but your wallet is a constant. And, while your wallet contains cards and currencies that are issued by companies and governments, your wallet is yours, not theirs. That’s why none of those entities brand your wallet as theirs, nor do you operate your wallet at their grace.

This distinction matters because wallets are becoming a Real Big Topic — partly because a lot of Real Big Companies like having their hands in our pockets, and partly because we really do need digital versions of the wallets we carry in the analog world…

Here’s the key, and my challenge…: they need to be driven by individuals like you and me, and not by Business as Usual, especially what Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and the rest would like to do with their hands in our pockets…

Here’s the thing: if your wallet has a brand, it’s not yours. If it’s for putting companies hands, and not just their instruments of convenience (such as cards, the boundaries of which are mostly clear), in your pockets, it’s not yours.

Let’s give the individual a way to drive here. Just like we did with the PC, the Net, email, web servers, blogging, podcasting, syndication and other instruments created with freedom rather than capture in mind.

Think of Dave Winer‘s “Ask not what the Internet can do for you, ask what you can do for the Internet,” and substitute “individual,” “customer” or “user” for Internet. (They are all the same thing, when you think about it. And Dave was the prime mover between the last three developments listed in the prior paragraph.)

Here are a couple other things I’ve written about wallets:

Those two pieces, and the one quoted above, are all three years old or more. So now I’m wondering if wallets — real wallets, of the personal kind — can be apps at all. Given that apps are basically silos, I’m wondering if wallets should be some other breed of software thing.

Maybe it’s time to think about wallets outside the app box.

Quit fracking our lives to extract data that’s none of your business and that your machines misinterpret. — New Clues, #58

That’s the blunt advice David Weinberger and I give to marketers who still make it hard to talk, sixteen years after many of them started failing to get what we meant by Markets are Conversations.

For a look at modern marketing at its wurst (pun intended), here’s one part of something called The Big Datastillery, by IBM and Aberdeen:

datastillery-conveyor

Those beakers on the conveyor belt are you and me. We’re at the bottom of machinery that’s gigantic (click on the image and see) and complex in the extreme. In this Linux Journal column I explain what the machine is and does:

Copy at the top describes it as “Best-in-Class Strategies to Accelerate the Return on Digital Data” and “a revolutionary new appliance to condense terabyte scale torrents of customer, transactional, campaign, clickstream and social media data down to meaningful and actionable insights that boost response rates, conversions and customer value”.

Below that is a maze of pipes pouring stuff into a hopper of “Best-in-Class companies” that are “2.8 times more likely than Laggards to incorporate unstructured data into analytical models”. The pipes are called:

  • Customer Sentiment
  • E-mail Metrics
  • CRM
  • Clickstream Data
  • PPC (Pay Per Click)
  • SEO Data
  • Social Media
  • Marketing History
  • Ad Impressions
  • Transactional Data

Coming out of the hopper are boxes and tanks, connected to more piping. These are accompanied by blocks of text explaining what’s going on in that part of the “datastillery”. One says “Ability to generate customer behavioral profile based on real-time analytics”. Another says “Ability to optimize marketing offers/Web experience based on buyer’s social profile”. Another says BIC (Best in Class) outfits “merge customer data from CRM with inline behavioral data to optimize digital experience”.

Customers are represented (I’m not kidding) as empty beakers moving down a conveyor belt at the bottom of this whole thing. Into the beakers pipes called “customer interaction optimization” and “marketing optimization” excrete orange and green flows of ones and zeroes. Gas farted upward by customers metabolizing goop fed by the first two pipes is collected by a third pipe called “campaign metrics” and carried to the top of the datastillery, where in liquid form it gets poured back into the hopper. Text over a departing beaker says “137% higher average marketing response rate for Best-in-Class (6.2%) vs. All Others (2.6%)”. (The 137% is expressed in type many times larger than the actual response rates.) The reciprocal numbers for those rates are 93.8% and 97.4%—meaning that nearly all the beakers are not responsive, even to Best-in-Class marketing.

New Clues again:

60 Ads that sound human but come from your marketing department’s irritable bowels, stain the fabric of the Web.
61 When personalizing something is creepy, it’s a pretty good indication that you don’t understand what it means to be a person.
62 Personal is human. Personalized isn’t.
63 The more machines sound human, the more they slide down into the uncanny valley where everything is a creep show.

I also visited this in The Intention Economy. Here’s an early draft of a subchapter that was whittled down to something much tighter for the final version. I want to share it because the Michael Ventura quote was lost in the whittling and is especially important for a point I’ll make shortly:

In The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, Eli Pariser writes,

“You have one identity,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerber told journalist David Kirkpatrick for his book The Facebook Effect. “the days of having a different image for your work friends or coworkers and for the other people you may know are probably coing to an end pretty quickly… Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

Later Zuckerberg discounted the remark as “just a sentence I said;” but to Facebook the only you that matters is the one they know. Not the one you are.

In Shadow Dancing in the USA (1985), Michael Ventura writes what he calls “a poetic description of subselves in a stepfamily.” He begins by asking, “… will we, or will we not, discover all that a man and a woman can be?” Here’s how he unpacks the challenge:

… living in this small apartment, there are, to begin with, three entirely different sets of twos: Michael and Jan, Jan and Brendan, Brendan and Michael. Each set, by itself, is very different from the other, and each is different from Jan-Brendan-Michael together. But go further:

Brendan-Jan-Michael having just gotten up ‘for breakfast is a very different body politic, with different varying tensions, depending on whether it’s a school day or not, from Brendan-Jan-Michael driving home from seeing, say, El Norte, which is different still from driving home from Ghostbusters, and all of them are different from Brendan-Jan-Michael going to examine a possible school for Brendan. The Brendan who gets up at midnight needing to talk to Michael is quite different from the Brendan who, on another night, needs suddenly to talk to Jan, and both are vastly different from the Brendan who often keeps his own counsel. The Michael writing at three in the afternoon or three in the morning, isolated in a room with three desks and two typewriters, is very different from the Michael, exasperated, figuring the bills with Jan, choosing whom not to pay; and he in turn is very different from the half-crazed, shy drunk wondering just who is this “raw-boned Okie girl” moving to Sam Taylor’s fast blues one sweltering night in the Venice of L.A. at the old Taurus Tavern. The Jan making the decision to face her own need to write, so determined and so tentative at once, is very different from the strength-in-tenderness of the Jan who is sensual, or the sure-footed abandon of Jan dancing, or the screeching of the Jan who’s had it up to here.

I can only be reasonably sure of several of these people – the several isolate Michaels, eight or fifteen of them, whom “I” pass from, day to day, night to night, dawn to almost dawn, and who at any moment in this much-too-small apartment might encounter a Jan or a Brendan whom I’ve never seen before, or whom I’ve conjectured about and can sometimes describe but am hard-pressed to know.

So in this apartment where some might see three people living a comparatively quiet life, I see a huge encampment on a firelit hillside, a tribal encampment of selves who must always be unknowable, a mystery to any brief Michael, Jan, or Brendan who happens to be trying to figure it out at any particular moment.

His narrative continues until he arrives at his main purpose behind all this:

…there may be no more important project of our time than displacing the … fiction of monopersonality. This fiction is the notion that each person has a central and unified “I” which determines his or her acts. “I” have been writing this to say that I don’t think people experience life that way. I do think they experience language that way, and hence are doomed to speak about life in structures contrary to their experience.

But what happens now, almost thirty years later, when our experience is one of Facebook chatter and Google searches, when online life and language (“poking,” “friending” and so on) soak up time formerly spent around tables, in bars or in cars, and our environment is  “personalized” through guesswork by companies whose robotic filtering systems constantly customize everything to satisfy a supposedly singular you?

In the closing sentences of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains, Nicholas Carr writes,

In the world of 2001, people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That’s the essence of Kubrick’s dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.[iii]

Even if our own intelligence is not yet artificialized, what’s feeding it surely is.

Eli sums up the absurdity of all this in a subchapter titled “A Bad Theory of You.” After explaining Google’s and Facebook’s very different approaches to personalized “experience” filtration, and the assumptions behind both, he concludes, “Both are pretty poor representations of who we are, in part because there is no one set of data that describes who we are.” He says both companies have dumped us into what animators and robotics engineers call the uncanny valley: “the place where something is lifelike but not convincingly alive, and it gives people the creeps.”

I don’t know about you (nor should I, being a mere writer and not a Google or a Facebook), but I find hope in that. How long can shit this crazy last?

How long it lasts matters less than what makes it crazy.

There are three assumptions by frackers that are certifiably nuts, because they are disconnected from reality, which is the marketplace, which is filled with human beings called customers. You know: us. Those assumptions are—

1) We are always in the market to buy something. We are not. (Are you shopping right now? And are you open to being distracted this very instant by an ad that thinks you are? — one placed by a machine guided by big data guesswork based on knowledge gained by following you around? Didn’t think so.)

2) We don’t mind being fracked. In fact we do, because it violates our privacy. That’s why one stain on the Web looks like this:

concern
Source: TRUSTe 2014 US. Consumer Confidence Survey.

3) Machines can know people well — sometimes better than they know themselves. They can’t, especially when the machines are interested only in selling something.

In fact humans are terribly complex. And they are also not, as Michael Ventura says, monopersonalities. Kim Cameron, an authority on digital identity, is only half-joking when he calls himself “the committee of the whole.”

Sanity requires that we line up many different personalities behind a single first person pronoun: I, me, mine. Also behind multiple identifiers. In my own case, I am Doc to most of those who know me, David to various government agencies (and most of the entities that bill me for stuff), Dave to many (but not all) family members, @dsearls to Twitter, and no name at all to the rest of the world, wherein I remain, like most of us, anonymous (literally, nameless), because that too is a civic grace. (And if you doubt that, ask any person who has lost their anonymity through the Faustian bargain called celebrity.)

So, where do we go with from here?

First we need to continue expanding individual agency through VRM and similar efforts. Here’s a list of developers.

Second, marketing needs to stop excusing the harms caused by personalization of advertising by frack-fed Big Data methods. For guidance from history, read Tim Walsh‘s Big Data: the New Big Tobacco.

Third, advertising needs to return to what it does best: straightforward brand messaging that is targeted at populations, and doesn’t get personal. For help with that, start reading Don Marti and don’t stop until his points sink in. Begin here and continue here.

 

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