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Tuesday, September 20, 2011


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Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Growth would be good, but not if we gotta look like IMVU bobble-heads.

I get this urge to pull out a chainsaw for each hand whenever I see the IMVU avatars. Bratz Dolls had the same effect...

Whatever the downsides for performance with mesh-enabled SL, which I'm about to try, one of them is not a bobble-head future for me or my pals.


What's the #1 complaint I hear about SL?

"My computer can't handle it."
"My computer can run WoW just fine, but chokes when I try to play Second Life."
"It looks neat, but when I tried it was so slow I couldn't play it and then it crashed."
"I only have an old notebook and I'm not even gonna try to load Second Life on it."

I talk about Second Life a lot at furry conventions, and that's the #1 complaint I hear about SL. These are folks that think they'd like SL - and some might even be a part of it - but they don't have / can't afford a high end machine so they don't even try.

Even myself, a hard-core SL user... I'm looking at buying a new laptop, but I'm kinda upset that in order to get on SL I'm going to have to get a "gamer" laptop and not one that's small and easy to carry. This also doubles the price, but I'm willing to pay it since SL matters a lot to me.

I understand this isn't easy. Content that's made by users isn't always made to run well, unlike, say WoW, where the content is made by trained professionals and is subject to peer review. There's more polygons in my paws in-world than in most sprites in WoW. (And if LL attempts to change the rendering engine to "fix" this, people start shouting "LL is breaking content! LL is breaking content!")

But somehow, somewhere, this is going to have to be dealt with. Not everyone can afford a gamer-class machine for what's largely a social platform.

- Bunny

Justin Bovington

Not often I comment these days, but... Growth will come if they can launch a new world. A new level playing ground for all, a land rush of new areas and green pastures.

New platform: Invigorated by new content and the developers having a fresh new market. Literally, year zero.

Rebranding yes. It's years overdue.

Also, the easy answer is always 'tablet'. The reality, the opportunity is still with the zillions of PC owners who are happier to be active participants.

Linden Lab needs to be acquired and refreshed?

Justin Bovington

John Lopez

Bunny is dead-on regarding the system requirements issue. I have a new Samsung notebook, but I had to carefully select for one with enough video card (read NVidia not Intel integrated) capabilities to run SL on it. We still have a plague of people picking up the $399 special at the local retailer, which of course uses integrated graphics.

I had hoped that the Aero interface for Windows would beef up the bottom line for graphics, but it hasn't done enough.

Meanwhile, if you *do* either reduce the render costs or have enough hardware... you still have all the failure points that those of us who use SL regularly deal with: teleport failure, sim crossings, 40 people sim limits (assuming you like being stationary or lag warping) etc.

I think getting the client on end users machine is one *branch* that needs to be tackled to the general acceptance, but I assure you that I would walk away from any MMO with the other issues outlined. SL gets a pass only on personal history, not capabilities.

Of course, I have seen glimmers of solutions: the IBM viewer project with the "view only" mode to allow massive gatherings, the work I have seen getting texture loads optimized and so on. It isn't a lost cause, but there is a *ton* of work to do.


The loudest most annoying sl bloggers/pundits can't even run viewer 3...google who.

nuff said.

Just make a new tech pyramid.. yeah perfect answer from the red river of FIC. From the last decade.

Maybe one on Mars..eh ..oops wait, not so sunny on Mars.

Orca Flotta

"I don't know what I can do in SL, it keeps crashing and lagging, it's too difficult to use, and I don't get the point anyway."

To ppl with such a warped mindset I can only say "Good night John-Boy." What is their freaking problem?

To answer that guy is in fact so easy. What can you do in SL? The same as in RL but simpler and easier and a lot faster. Get a job or get a hobby or both. Enjoy!

Difficult to use? Boohoo, crybaby ... how long did you have to learn and hone your skills to succeed in RL? 10 - 13 years in school, a few years in university or job training I bet. Now in SL you can get those skills in a few hours.

And what's the point of it? Jeez, what's the point of your RL? Having fun, having a career, making lots of money, succeed in sports or games, make friends, make enemies, discuss matters, make love, go dancing, go sailing, fishing, biking ... have fun! That's the point of it. So where is the problem?

Orca Flotta

I forgot to mention the little fact that SL is remarkably similar to RL in so far as you only get out of it what you put in earlier. It is an efford, yes. It's not as easy to operate like a shooting game, it needs some social skills and at least a basic understanding of computers and the internet.
SL and similar virtual worlds (BM, OSG and others) are still in the pioneering phase, so the geekier you are the better you get to terms with it. The question right now is not what these worlds can do for you but what can you do in and for these worlds? And questions like the one mentioned above kinda rule out that guy as a valuable asset on the way to improve those worlds.

Short: If you don't know what to do in SL or how to use SL, then SL doesn't need you. Come back later once you're grown up and mature enough to know what you're doing! Good night John-Boy.

Orca Flotta

Hi, me again ;)
I just can't get over the stupid coment from that guy and it just reminded me on someone complaining about driving a car since 1) he doesn't know why and where he should drive 2) learning to drive a car is too difficult for him and 3) his bicycle isn't up to the job of moving 4-5 persons plus baggage in the minimum recommended speed on a highway.

Shall we help him or should we be glad he opted for staying home?

Hamlet Au

The problem, Orca, is that SL evangelists have been saying what you've been saying for about 4 years, and the user growth has remained flat. The market clearly doesn't accept the idea that they should be excited about spending copious amounts of time trying to learn how to have a second life in the sense you're describing when they're already deeply invested in their first one. Especially when there are dozens of other far easier and accessible interactive entertainments and platforms in which people can "succeed in sports or games, make friends, make enemies, discuss matters, make love, go dancing" and all the other things you're talking about. SL is not unique in those affordances. You can do most of those things on Facebook or the iPhone without a 3 hour learning curve and a $1000 desktop computer with dedicated broadband.

And as I explained in that post last week (please read it), Second Life cannot survive without growth. You're expressing contempt for people who could save SL. I just don't understand why.

Johnny alt

Agreed Secondlife is not a niche product and Secondlife by now should have several million active users.

The number one reason why SL is failing to grow as it it should, is tier cost.

Tier cost is the overwhelming factor preventing and stalling the growth of the Secondlife platform.

650 sims lost last year. That IS a big deal. That represents 650 people who were deeply in to SL and the concept of virtual worlds, driven away and antagonised by absurdly high monthy tier cost.

There is nothing holding SL back apart from tier cost - it's far too expensive for mass acceptance. Even people who love SL and are ready to commit, despite various minor/temporary difficulties such as lag etc, are driven away.

Tier costs are the real issue and SL will continue to struggle to find acceptance with the current tier pricing model.

We could easily have 10 - 20 million active users but not with these tier costs. Human beings are territorial creatures and they need their own land ( islands/sims ) to feel that deep sense of connection to the virtual world

Ananda Sandgrain

"Human beings are territorial creatures and they need their own land ( islands/sims ) to feel that deep sense of connection to the virtual world"

I think this is spot-on, especially about what makes SL unique compared to other "3-D chat services". It's also a large part of what is making Sims Social such an instant success - everyone's got their own place.

While I'd agree that extending SL's compatibility with the sorts of programs people already have on their systems is wise, I really have to concur that we're still suffering the combined effects of the economy and of Linden Lab *raising* their simulator-hosting costs over time rather than figuring out how to lower them.

They could go a long, long way to reversing this trend if they could figure out how to provide people with *private* shareable spaces. If they could figure out how to not have servers running constantly hosting simulators that no one is currently occupying. I feel absurd every time I visit my house in SL and realize that after 1 a.m. I'm the only one sitting there in the 9 sims surrounding my home and that all of them are running flat out just in case I want to pan my camera around. It's a ridiculous over-use of the infrastructure. Surely there's a way to develop a different sort of world out of this platform that makes better use of all those servers, and brings private land into the reach of the middle-class user.

Johnny alt


SL is NOT a chat room, it's a virtual world and to connect to a virtual world people need to own land, need to own their own Homestead sim.

The big project LL should be working on is - How can we make land cheaper so everyone can own a homestead ?


If SL is a chat room... it will disapear. Chat rooms are plenty, you can access it on a phone.

For me SL is a virtual world. Do no forget the pionner who are in it now... and the land owners!

SL is dicouraging them, because landowners are bearing the financial cost of all the infrastructure... and now, they have enough, and can see other alternatives in opensims.

webspelunker Ghostraven

Your recommendations are spot on! However, I believe that without content creators like Bloodlines,SL will have difficulty attracting a mass market audience. It's open ended potential is only appealing to a certain type of technophile.

Adromaw Lupindo

Stability and End User experience are key issues, putting aside keeping them entertained or engaged for now (Orca’s not interesting enough for 300K signups to stay). Given that people "get it" all too often and rather dismiss it sooner.

It's been years longer since I've used IMVU, came across it first. From what I recall its simplicity and no nonsense was a strength SL didn't appear to have years after.

The concept of SL is mostly fine but the delivery could use something (putting aside the weakest link – relying on user content). Most chat consumer users (to pick on the hotspot traffic) don't need the glut of developer consoles and other mass of moving parts.

They could use moving parts in where it counts though. Have greater control over the apps priorities (such as the connection use for critical functional areas compared to content loading) and more independent and finer graphical control.

It could even use a system placeholder graphic scheme to describe incoming data - stuff that game editors and tools have had for we've lost count how long.

It’s a pity that after a couple of years I can still sum up all the experiences into a little 10-30 minute bundle or even less. You either devote yourself to a niche in the niche or you tend to drift away.

My biggest beef with the application design has always been closing the application. Closing it when something doesn’t go right, closing it to disconnect wilfully, closing it when timing out.

It’s really bad to be encouraged to *close the application* (except for health warnings and advice). The application should be able to recover the primary need gracefully whenever possible. The window should *not be closed* unless I wilfully desire to close it and take personal action. It should make it clear that the connection was lost and give the ability to reconnect or login in again without *waiting* to *start* the application again.

That alone is enough to keep some of the signups away from simple hassle in the user experience. Punished users eventually stop caring. Different users have different thresholds as you’ve all worked out with the signups that aren’t staying that long.

Orca Flotta

Hamlet wrote: "You can do most of those things on Facebook or the iPhone without a 3 hour learning curve and a $1000 desktop computer with dedicated broadband."

Oh. I didn't know I can move my fancy dressed avatar in facebook, wouldn't know how to get the graphics and computing power to go sailing on a iPhone, have no idea how to find shops and clubs and beautiful sims to visit and hang out in facebook. I wonder how facebook will ever give me that exploring, immersive effect SL has. I decided for myself that facebook isn't for me and am probaly the last person on earth without a facebook account ... and, oh, I don't even have a cellphone neither. Nobody's trying to lure me into the wonderful world of social networks, why are we doing it with people who decided the same about SL? I onve showed SL to afriend and she was like "This is not for me." So I left her alone without feeling bad for LL or the future of SL. Why should I, why should anyone feel bad for them?

And the steep learning curve? Puh-leez! It's not a game, it is a world! It is complex. Of course you need some skills to survive and suceed in it. But for starters all you need are the up, down, left, right arrow keys to move your avie around. And it would behoof you if you're able to type some words on the keyboard as well. The rest will come all by itself.

I'm well over 4 years in SL, not a geek at all, and terribly clumsy with 'putahs. Also I'm on the worst connection imaginablke, slow and high pinged, and often can hardly cope. Anyway, over 4 years in SL and still learning new tricks every day. Isn't that great?

Arcadia Codesmith

I cut SL a lot of slack in terms of performance because I understand the constraints it's operating under.

Most users don't and won't.

If you want to push SL into the mass market, it's got to perform at least as well "out of the box" as World of Warcraft. That means not waiting 2-5 minutes for another resident to slowly evolve from a floating egg to a gray clay barbie to blurry mess to a fully-rendered figure.

And character creation is going to have to be just as easy as the "best practice" MMO interfaces out there. Shape makers should go into bankruptcy because the built-in interface is so easy and fun to play with.

That ties into wardrobe and inventory management that makes intuitive sense. What we've got isn't bad once you learn the tricks, but we shouldn't need tricks -- the interface ought to make perfect sense to someone who's never seen it before. You ought to be able, for example, to quicly cycle through every skin and hairstyle you own in a single graphic interface, without ever touching the file-based inventory system beneath.

I don't think rebranding is a good idea, because I think Second Life's community is its strongest asset. We can talk sub-branding for new continents, but maintain continuity.

But we do need to rethink the user experience from the ground up, even if some sacred cows are left dead and bleeding in the ditch along the way.

(And that's in addition to instancing and slashing or eliminating tier).


But SL is a niche. Most people simply are not interested. Of those that are interested only a percentage have the computing power and Internet speed to enjoy SL.

I feel the minute LL grasps that SL is a niche product and starts concentrating on the loyal customers again is the moment SL will take off again.

That said, VR may one day be part of the mainstream. But I think for that to happen it will need to be built into everyone's OS. Imagine your desktop as a sim that the world can visit. =)

Hamlet Au

Well said, Arcadia! I do think SL can be re-branded to the outside world while *also* leveraging the power of the existing community, it's not an either-or deal.

"But SL is a niche. Most people simply are not interested."

Again, around 15 million people were interested enough to try it at least once.

"And the steep learning curve? Puh-leez! It's not a game, it is a world!"

Orca, if that's the case, why do so many people already in SL play SL as a game -- i.e. for social chat/flirting/Barbie doll dress-up, or as an MMO?

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Fascinating to follow this thread on the day I finally buckle down and dl the mesh-beta version of Firestorm. So far...on my Macbook Pro laptop with its graphics limitations...fine.

There are two camps here: keep SL small and recapture the promise of 2006, or let in the masses with an easier to use and run client/world. At least everyone agrees that the masses don't know/won't swap graphics cards out or even buy desktops in a few years.

Academic me will write about this one day, but who knows where the music will come out in the end?

Orca Flotta

"And the steep learning curve? Puh-leez! It's not a game, it is a world!"

Orca, if that's the case, why do so many people already in SL play SL as a game -- i.e. for social chat/flirting/Barbie doll dress-up, or as an MMO?

I don't know why anybody does anything, but the fact alone that people are able to do all the different things and find their own niche/game/RL substitute just shows how valid my point is. If SL was jsut a game we'd be all following the same boring path. But we don't, we all live our lifes following our own path ... just like in RL.
I wouldn't want it any other way.

I totally agree with Alisha: SL is a niche product, it's not for everybody. And much more important: not everybody is right for SL.

To the 15 million people who tried it and left again, I wish you a fond farewell. Sorry that SL was not right for you or you were not right for SL. However, have fun in other games or social networks or whatever makes your kite fly.


I'm not a gamer and social networks really don't interest me. Second Life was something that I 'got' intuitively as soon as I found out about it in 2004. I had to wait a year until I got a broadband connection before I could join. It was everything I knew it could be and much, much more.

The only disappointments were other people. That's not to say I've met some good folks and made strong friendships in SL... I have. But over the years, I've found that most of the problems I've had in SL have been down to other people and not SL itself.

Orca Flotta

why do so many people already in SL play SL as a game -- i.e. for social chat/flirting/Barbie doll dress-up, or as an MMO?

I forgot to get to that specific part of your post: Ask your co-author Ophelia if she sees her honest interest in virtual fashion as "game", ask all the chatterboxes if they deem their social interactions as "game".
BTW, the definition of game is always a wobbly thing, most define it by stating a game has a strict set of rules and a goal to achieve, you gotta be the winner. I don't see that in fashion or socialising, sorry. So it's more like ... well, like a LIFE.


Alisha: "That said, VR may one day be part of the mainstream. But I think for that to happen it will need to be built into everyone's OS. Imagine your desktop as a sim that the world can visit. =)"

Yes!!! Now that's something I could definitely relate to. I remember at the time thinking of SL as a 3D Geocities. I was an early adopter and set up my Goecities site in 1995. Geocities gave rise to a bevvy of clones, Fortune City, Xoom, etc. All of which are now gone having been replaced by the likes of MySpace, Facebook, etc.

What I've noticed is a relentless trend to move the user away from being able to create or input anything unique or original towards thinly-disguised consumerism and data-scraping.

At least in SL it is still possible to create ones' own content from scratch and present it in whatever manner one sees fit. And that's something I appreciate.

Hamlet Au

Actually, Orca, I've talked to a lot of fashionistas and socializers who do describe SL as a game.

"I don't see that in fashion or socialising, sorry. So it's more like ... well, like a LIFE."

You're entitled to enjoy SL however you like, but I wouldn't presume to tell other people how they should. And in point of fact, the vast majority of users do NOT treat Second Life as an alternate life, but something they do just a few hours a month. Please read:


Only 18% of the userbase is in-world long enough to have a "second life" in any meaningful sense. The trouble is that this 18% often assumes their way of enjoying SL is the only way.


Does is matter for SL to grow if that means it grows into something unrecognizable?

While it might matter to non-existent shareholders, at what point does turning a horse into a spaceship mean there's no longer any point for horsing fans to pay attention?

WHY does it need to grow to the point where its current users no longer desire to use it?

WHY would we ever want that? To have the thing we love become something we hate? What would anyone who enjoys SL gain from losing it this way?

This is like saying "if only my job fired me, the company would be rich."
- Why desire that?

Ajax Manatiso

SL is many things to many people and that's its strength. Lag is its weakness. SL should have put lag reduction as their #1 goal this year, last year, every year -- but mesh was their big goal which actually increased lag grid-wide Did it attract any new people? Ask them and they will say "what's mesh?"

The problem has always been that Linden Labs grabs the bull by the tail and sticks their head where no one in their right mind would. And it will always be that way. Linden Labs is a goofy, mismanaged, doofus of a company that can always be counted on to do the wrong thing at the wrong time, yet it always survives. And so it always will do the wrong thing at the wrong time, and it will never grow. It will never go away, and never go anywhere, but just spin around and around.

Orca Flotta

I've talked to a lot of fashionistas and socializers who do describe SL as a game.

Guess what, I say I go "play" in SL as well ... for a lack of better terminology. Also I often go shopping for clothes, so one could say I'm a fashionista, and I talk to people (actually that's what I do 99% of the time since communication is at the core of SL), so you can assume I'm a socialiser too.
Doesn't change a thing, does it?

When I talk to people it's by no means of definition a game. And when I dress up my avie it's to look better, still no game. So let me assume the people who describe the things they do as a game are wrong. Any german (or in your case, emglish) teacher could tell them exactly where they are wrong and that their description is just sloppy.

The trouble is that this 18% often assumes their way of enjoying SL is the only way.

Hm, maybe I'm one of the 18% then. YAY, being part of an "elite", whoopee! :) Which still doesn't prove the remaining 82% as "right" or worthwile or valuable to have in SL.
Let's instead assume the 18% are correct when assuming their way of enjoying SL is the only way.

How do I get to such a bold assumption? Easy, because I know SL wouldn't be any worse if the other 82% were gone. Because all the content in the world is created by the 18%, because 18% own the most land, because 18% are using SL in the way Philip did once envision it, because 18% are making use of SL's full potential, because 18% are driving the development of SL further, because 18% are giving the necessary input.

That's actually another indicator for the similarity between SL and RL and the difference between SL and a game. Only in RL the driving force is even smaller than in SL, say like 0.05%.

There will always be a hardcore and a fringe, in everything we do. And it's always the hard core who sets the standard, who decides how things should be run, who define the way things should be like.

The 10 min/day users may help the business LL but they don't help SL to become what it could be.

DBDigital Epsilon

I understand your seeing "facebook saves the world" idea, but there is more to it than just making something work in a popular location for it to become popular itself (not even mentioning how facebook does not like pseudonyms). I do agree that making the client easier and expanding it to other locations is a good idea, however there are downsides.

Some factors that will help:
Make the default settings LOW and warn people of this when they log in "your settings have been set low to allow for speed, please open preferences and raise them to see SL at its best". Or something like that. Rather than high as possible and they can hardly move. And another thing turn off Vertex Buffers by default! Most graphics cards run slower NOT faster with this on in my experience. In fact I have yet to find a system that runs well with it ON. And viewers turn them on by default.

Other locations that you mentioned that are competing, well why are they doing so well? Sure their client is lower requirement, but more importantly it is cheap or zero cost to have their own "space" as others had mentioned.

Also keep in mind that when you "dumb down the client" you also have other issues. For example after LL added a "basic mode" I see people over a year old with just the basic newbie avatars. And they switch between them. There is so much freebie stuff on the grid there is no excuse for that (not to mention there are freebie locations in the top level destinations) other than they don't even know there is a advanced mode . Inventory is hidden in basic mode and they don't realize that there even IS a inventory! If they take a LM, they can't access it, or if someone gives them one, they can only use it once before it disappears into the hidden inventory.

Another aspect I think people are finding it too difficult to even create a unique name and they walk around with this HUGE name (joe343434323) and some people look at them..see 'resident' and say hey newbie...even if they are old and possibly a alt. Of course many of them don't ever change their avatar and that is a good example.

I have found after basic mode and the elimination of last names that SL has changed dramatically. Many people over a year old still look and act like newbies, where as previously they were only that for a month at most. If people don't act like newbies and are say a under a year old, in general they are old users with new accounts. In summary newbies don't seem to "grow up" like they use to. Or at least it is much less than it use to be. No wonder SL is shrinking..... :(

Orca Flotta

at what point does turning a horse into a spaceship mean there's no longer any point for horsing fans to pay attention?

If at least they would give us that spaceship, that would be cool.

But no, it's exactly the other way round, they turned a truck (which had the potential to become a Ferrari) into a horse carriage, they dumbed down a formerly clever product into something suitable for intellectual dwarfs. They are taking away anything that was good about SL and are turning it into some 3D Facebook-ish application.

Well, guess what, if I wanted to have a Facebook I'd be there. But I wanted SL, not Facebook (still not getting the point of Facebook at all). I want a virtual world, not a 2D application, I want to do things, not watching things.

I think it would be good for LL to remember their old principles and give us better tools to create, to build and to organize. It's still our world, our imagination or isn't it? So what is needed are better possibilities to bring our imagination to life, not more ways to consume the products of LL's imagination.

Arcadia Codesmith

Second Life isn't a game, but it is a toy (in the sense that Will Wright describes his designs as "software toys").

You can use a single toy for many types of play, like "My Mutant Ponies", "Barbee77's Day at the Mall", "Erector Blocks Unlimited", "Rock Star Band Hero", "Slaughter House IV: The Prequel", "Virtual Slumlord", or "Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage".

We can argue over who should be allowed to play with the toy, but here's a secret: no matter what happens, those of us who have been playing with this toy for years and know it inside and out are in the best position to teach the new kids the rules of our particular games.

The mainstream might try to bully us, but this is our home field. Linden Lab provided the space, but WE made the world. If we can't survive and thrive in the face of a mass influx, maybe we're not elite after all.

Orca Flotta

Exactly, Arcadia, exactly right.
Please allow me to talk about sailing boats in SL, or other vehicles or bobbies that need some skills to be done. I know in SL sailing there are many people, mainly the racers, who even want stuff to be more complex, more challenging. We have genius developers and builders who'd like to turn SL into a real simulation, like the more game focused sailing simulators on the market.
In these cases LL and SL are already the limiting factors, the handbrakes of technical advancement. And as it looks now they aren't even interested in making stuff to work better but wastingg lots of manpower in their attempt to dumb down SL to a very very low level.

They want us to shop and fuck, nothing else. And by the looks of it they are succeeding :(

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

@Orca, I get FB: my sister posts pictures of her grandkids and I post "cute cute cute." I actually enjoy it, as I also enjoy sparring with cranky old pals from college.

It's not at all like SL, in fact, and good for FB. While I suppose having some portal to SL w/in FB might attract some new users, it wouldn't change what I do with either platform.

Orca Flotta

Yes, Ignatius, FB is a totally different thing from SL. I don't need it. That's why I'm not there. And that's why I'm not having a FB focused website in which I write SL biased articles about the reasons why SL is so much better than FB and treat the FB hardcore community like little shitheads who are too monofocused on an outdated concept, and Mark Zuckerberg must change his basic ideas to gain more users (... haha, ass if)

I personallly couldn't care less about the monetary situation of neither FB nor LL, for I'm just a paying customer, not a shareholder of any of these businesses. When my favourite yoghurt producer comes up with a new flavour I don't like I just don't buy it. I would never write them a letter demanding they take that product off the market. Same with any web based entertainment.

And that's why I'm so cranky about some of Hamlet's articles. If he's really so interested in helping LL then why is he so negative and comes up with a lot of half-baked no good ideas? And those comparisons are often really laughable. "Hey Ford, your cars just stink, why don't you do like Sony and make better video cameras?"

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