» Archive for the 'Content Management' Category

In the Briefing Room: Liaise

Thursday, September 24th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira and Cody Burke

Think carefully about the last action item you sent someone.  It was in an e-mail and it’s been several days and there’s been no acknowledgement.  In fact, you are not sure that the recipient is even aware of its existence.  So you send another e-mail and wait.

Your last action item is now with umpteen others that have not seen the light of day.

How many action items and requests fall through the cracks?  Some tasks, due to the nebulous nature of how they are communicated, may not even appear to the recipient as a task at all.  Some tasks are unimportant, busy work that is not critical and should never make it on to a task list.  However, others may be extremely important, yet these may not be recognized for what they are: steps that need to be undertaken as part of a process.

It is simply not possible for knowledge workers to recall on their own everything that has been done and what has not yet been addressed.

In a sense, e-mail is a pit that we tend to throw requests into, hoping that they will resurface, completed.  The problem is that the content of e-mail is static: once sent, it is locked into the e-mail and not linked to other content or systems in any meaningful way.

However, there are some potential solutions looming on the horizon.

One, the eponymously-named Liaise, is a new inbox add-on (currently only available for Outlook) that scans e-mail messages as they are being composed and creates a task list based on any action items it finds in the e-mail.  The underlying technology, called KeyPoint Intelligence, automatically finds, identifies and captures key points in a message.  Over time, the system learns and adapts to a user’s writing style in order to improve performance.

Liaise differentiates between issues (the report is late), and action items (review the report), and compiles all of these into a separate task list.  The tasks are scanned to determine the nature of the task, who is involved, and when it is due.   When an e-mail is sent, any new tasks are automatically added to the user’s list.  If the recipient does not have Liaise, the e-mail is delivered as usual and when it is replied to, the system scans the message and updates the task list accordingly.  If both users have Liaise, then both see the new tasks in their respective the task lists and any changes or progress made is automatically updated without further e-mail being sent around a team.

Additionally, Liaise allows a knowledge worker who is about to go into a meeting to automatically see information such as all e-mail, tasks, and issues associated with the attendees.  This provides context to the knowledge worker and gives a quick overview of where people stand on projects they have been assigned.  Liaise shows the people in the meeting, the level of interaction that they all have, and relevant open matters.

Liaise is an exciting new tool for e-mail and task management that has great potential to reduce Information Overload by cutting down on the overall amount of e-mail in the inbox.  More significantly, Liaise has the potential to illuminate the dark pit that often is the knowledge worker’s inbox by extracting the important tasks, issues, and action items that otherwise would be lost in a sea of noise.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.
Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the Briefing Room: Acquia Drupal

Thursday, September 10th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Open source software comes in a variety of options, from the completely free downloads that require technical expertise to make them useable to commercial open source offerings for which support and implementation services are available from the vendor.  As with many things in life, with open source software the buyer typically gets what he pays for.  If an organization chooses to implement an open source solution on its own, it can expect to either put in a significant amount of time and effort, or hire another company to do the heavy lifting.  Commercial open software vendors such as Alfresco, Hippo, or Nuxeo specialize in a single open source project, and step in to provide support and integration services.  Other commercial open source vendors, such as Bluenog, take multiple open source projects and prepackage them as a platform, in addition to providing the aforementioned support services.

A relatively new entrant in the commercial open source field is Acquia, founded in 2007.   The company released its primary offering, Acquia Drupal, in September 2008.  Essentially, Acquia has taken the well-regarded open source Drupal content management system and positioned itself as a kind of guide for organizations that are looking to or have already deployed the Drupal system.  Acquia offers subscription-based services for support and partners with Drupal developers.

Acquia Drupal provides a convenient starting point for Drupal deployment by prepackaging a group of modules that include blogs, forums, social networking, vote and rating, mashups, and wikis.  The included modules are from Drupal 6, the Drupal development community, and Acquia.  Users can download the modules and quickly set up a Drupal site via a wizard-driven interface.  This relieves users from the heavy lifting that would include finding the key modules themselves and wrestling with integration.

Other Acquia services include support for all modules of Drupal 6 through subscriptions to the Acquia Network, a suite of remote site management services that includes search, profile management, spam blocking, site usage statistics, and software update management.

The company also recently demonstrated Drupal Gardens, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) version of Drupal, based on Drupal 7, which is presently in alpha.  The offering is still unreleased at this time, but Drupal Gardens is intended to allow non-technical users to quickly set up Web sites via a browser-based interface.

Acquia is fitting itself into a timely niche in the open source market.  The company is leveraging Drupal, a content management system not known for its simplicity or ease of use, and introducing products that provide users with an entry point to using Drupal as well as delivering on simplicity, the previous lack of which may have held back adoption.  The complexity of open source, in this case Drupal, has translated into a business opportunity for Acquia to both offer entry-level solutions as well as build a business providing support services for the inevitable problems that will crop up.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: Alfresco Share

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 by Cody Burke

Information does not exist in isolation; indeed, most if not all content in an enterprise setting is touched by multiple knowledge workers who have to collaborate in some manner to complete their missions.  Not only that, but as more and more knowledge work is performed by distributed and disparate teams, with members located in different cities and time zones, companies need to factor this in and integrate collaborative processes with content management.  Despite the reality of how work is conducted, there is little to no underlying functionality to achieve this in tools that manage content.

Alfresco Share is one option to address the lack of collaborative features in content management systems.  Alfresco has made a name for itself in the content management space through its commercial open source business model that provides a cost-saving alternative to offerings from traditional content management (CM) vendors.  Not satisfied to rest upon its laurels, the company has introduced Alfresco Share, an interface for its ECM offering that manages team collaboration around documents, projects, and teams.

Alfresco Share sits on top of the company’s document repository alongside its Document Management and Web Content Management solutions as part of Alfresco’s Enterprise Content Management offering and is included in both the Community and Enterprise Editions from Alfresco.  In Alfresco Share, all content, be it in documents, blogs, or wikis, is treated the same and stored in the central document repository.

What Alfresco Share brings to the table is the empowering of knowledge workers to interact with content and colleagues via features they are familiar with from social networking applications that allow them to share content, form virtual teams, and monitor project status and team updates.

Knowledge workers form virtual teams around projects that allow them to collaborate together and create communities where both internal and external users can work around specific content.  Specific sites are created for projects were team members can access content such as blogs, wikis, and documents, find contact information for team members, and keep track of recent activity around the project.  One key omission is the lack of imbedded presence awareness and direct contact options, although it is possible to work around this to some extent, for example by cutting and pasting phone numbers into a soft phone.

One feature that knowledge workers will find particularly useful is the inclusion of activity feeds, which allow the knowledge worker to keep tabs on the actions of coworkers and stay up-to-date on relevant content.  The utility of activity feeds, or streams, is that they provide a personalized single location to present activity that is relevant to the user.

Collaboration is without question the wave of the future for knowledge work, and surely we will see more collaborative functionality from Alfresco and other CM vendors in the future.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

The Content Management Interoperability Standard

Thursday, August 27th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

Editor’s note: The following article was published in conjunction with the release of the Basex report series, The Definitive Guide to Today’s Content Management Systems and Vendors.

For organizations with multi-vendor, multi-repository content management environments, the time and money that must be spent to integrate these systems with other enterprise tools, as well as to get disparate content management platforms to somehow talk to one another, is significant.  Until such integration occurs, a sizable amount of content is accessible only within its original platform.  This means that most organizations have not even come close to unlocking the full value of their content.

As companies move deeper into the knowledge economy, content management is no longer a platform that can evolve separately from other key application platforms in a company’s information infrastructure: it has to be fully integrated.

The future of the knowledge workers’ desktop lies in a fully-integrated Collaborative Business Environment, a workspace that supersedes the traditional desktop metaphor and provides the knowledge worker with access to all forms of information, resources (including people), tools, and applications that support his work.  A true Collaborative Business Environment will include systems that integrate multiple content repositories and provide seamless access to enterprise content.

Content management vendors recognized that a common standard was needed; one that would allow knowledge workers to access disparate repositories and, in 2006, EMC, IBM, and Microsoft began discussions towards that end.  The result was the Content Management Interoperability Standard, or CMIS.  The new standard is a jointly developed specification that uses Web Services to enable application interoperability with disparate content management repositories.   By the time CMIS was announced in September of 2008, the three partners had been joined by Alfresco, BEA (now Oracle), Open Text, and SAP.  At that time, the standard was turned over to OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) for advancement through its standards development process.

The goal for CMIS is to reduce the impact on IT stemming from maintaining multi-vendor, multi-repository content management platforms.  Companies typically incur high costs in order to create and maintain code that integrates different ECM systems within their organizations.  Software vendors have to create platform-specific applications that work with a specific CM platform.  The CMIS specification is designed to support integration between multiple vendors and repositories, making the added expense a thing of the past.

CMIS, which is development platform and language agnostic, is designed to support existing content repositories, meaning that organizations will be able to unlock content they already have built up, in some cases, over several decades.  It will decouple Web services and content from the repository itself, thereby allowing organizations to manage content independently.  It also supports the development of composite applications and mash-ups.

Currently, multiple vendors and platforms support CMIS including Acquia, Alfresco, Day Software, Drupal, Ektron, EMC, Fatwire, IBM, Joomla, Microsoft, Nuxeo, Open Text, Optaros, and Vignette (recently acquired by Open Text) among others.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Information Overload – It Isn’t Just Too Much E-mail

Thursday, August 20th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

One might assume that pinpointing the sources of Information Overload is relatively black and white, i.e. it’s just too much e-mail. In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.

The problem of Information Overload is multifaceted and impacts each and every organization whether top executives and managers are aware of it or not.  In addition to e-mail, Information Overload stems from the proliferation of content, growing use of social networking tools, unnecessary interruptions in the workplace, failed searches, new technologies that compete for the worker’s attention, and improved and ubiquitous connectivity (making workers available anytime regardless of their location).  Information Overload is harmful to employees in a variety of ways as it lowers comprehension and concentration levels and adversely impacts work-life balance.  Since almost no one is immune from the effects of this problem, when one looks at it from an organizational point-of-view, hundreds of thousands of hours are lost at a typical organization, representing as much as 25% of the work day.

So what else besides e-mail overload is at issue here?  Here’s a quick rundown.

- Content
We have created billions of pictures, documents, videos, podcasts, blog posts, and tweets, yet if these remain unmanaged it will be impossible for anyone to make sense out of any of this content because we have no mechanism to separate the important from the mundane.  Going forward, we face a monumental paradox.  On the one hand, we have to ensure that what is important is somehow preserved.  If we don’t preserve it, we are doing a disservice to generations to come; they won’t be able to learn from our mistakes as well as from the great breakthroughs and discoveries that have occurred.  On the other hand, we are creating so much information that may or may not be important, that we routinely keep everything.  If we continue along this path, which we will most certainly do, there is no question that we will require far superior filtering tools to manage that information.

- Social Networking
For better or worse, millions of people use a variety of social networking tools to inform their friends – and the world at large – about their activities, thoughts, and observations, ranging down to the mundane and the absurd.  Not only are people busily engaged in creating such content but each individual’s output may ultimately be received by dozens if not thousands of friends, acquaintances, or curious bystanders.  Just do the math.

- Interruptions
We’ve covered this topic many times (http://www.basexblog.com/?s=unnecessary+interruptions) but our prime target is unnecessary interruptions and the recovery time (the time it takes the worker to get back to where he was) each interruption causes, typically 10-20 times the duration of the interruption itself.  It only takes a few such interruptions for a knowledge worker to lose an hour of his day.

- Searches
50% of all searches fail and we know about the failure.  What isn’t generally recognized is something that comes out of our research, namely that 50% of the searches you think succeeded failed, but the person doing the search didn’t realize it.  As a result, that person uses information that is perhaps out of date or incorrect or just not the right data.  This has a cascading effect that further propagates the incorrect information.

- New technologies
We crave shiny new technology toys, those devices that beep and flash for our attention, as well as shiny new software.  Each noise they emit takes us away from other work and propels us further down Distraction Road.  It’s a wonder we get any work done at all.  Even tools that have become part of the knowledge workers’ standard toolkit can be misused.  Examples here include e-mail (overuse of the reply-to-all function, gratuitous thank you notes, etc.) and instant messaging (sending an instant message to someone to see if he has received an e-mail).

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: Yakabod’s Yakabox

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 by Cody Burke

When one strips away all the marketing hype, technical terminology, and buzzwords from knowledge sharing and collaboration products, the real measure of a tool is simple: does it help get work done?  The future of the knowledge workers’ workspace is the Collaborative Business Environment (CBE) but, until our vision is addressed and realized by vendors in this space, it is incumbent upon companies to find tools that support the CBE’s basic principles, namely to provide a single work environment for knowledge workers, reduce friction in knowledge sharing, and embed community into the workspace.

It is easy to lose sight of the fundamental question an organization should be asking when deploying a knowledge sharing and collaboration tool, that is: “how will this tool help my company get work done?”  This often happens because products and tools are segmented into arbitrary and confusing market segments (just look at the variation in TLAs in the content management market, you have CM, ECM, WCM, DM, among others).

A breath of fresh air in this space is Yakabod; the company offers a product, the Yakabox, that promises to be an end-to-end platform that gets work done.  This offering is a hardware appliance incorporating enterprise search, content management, collaboration, and social networking functionality.  A hosted version is also available.  Yakabod’s value proposition is to keep things simple by placing those four applications in one place, aiding in knowledge sharing, collaboration, and the ability to find what one is looking for.

The user interface is very clean and straightforward, and features an activity feed-like stream of items that are relevant to the user, as well as user profiles and favorites that are content-based, such as documents, teams, blogs, or any other item in the system.  What is presented in the activity feed can be fine tuned via a “Matter Meter”, which can be adjusted to show items of varying degrees of importance.  A busy knowledge worker, for example, could set the meter to only show items of high priority.  Yakabod’s enterprise search works in a similar way: the system learns a user’s preferences and adjusts search results accordingly based on relevance to the user.  The results are drawn from structured and unstructured data sources, including online repositories, wikis, social tools, and existing legacy systems.

To make deployment easier, the Yakabox integrates with existing sources such as Microsoft SharePoint and Office, shared drives, and electronic repositories.

Security is a strong point for the Yakabox.  The company has its roots in providing collaboration and knowledge sharing tools to the U.S. Intelligence Community, and the Yakabox meets Department of Defense PL3 security standards.

One promising aspect about Yakabod’s philosophy as a company is the recognition that knowledge sharing and collaboration applications such as enterprise search, content management, collaboration, and social networking are interconnected and interdependent.  Put simply, when these normally disparate elements are combined, the sum is greater than the parts.  The Yakabox may be in some respects closer to the Collaborative Business Environment than many other offerings currently on the market: it provides a single, overarching environment for knowledge workers, reduces friction in knowledge sharing through tight integration, and embeds collaboration tools into all areas of knowledge work via social networking functionality.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: FatWire TeamUp

Thursday, August 6th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Expectations for the work environment have changed dramatically over the years as knowledge workers became familiar with tools in the consumer market that are still in their infancy in the workplace.  The change has been driven largely by the rise of participatory online activity; simply put, knowledge work has evolved to become less focused on a one-size fits all presentation of information to a model that requires dynamic, interactive, social, and customizable content.

There are many benefits to adding a social layer to content.  The addition of profiles, status feeds, wikis, and blogs adds context to information, giving the knowledge worker helpful and often critical background information and a deeper understanding of where the information sits and what it relates to.  Additionally, social tools embed community into content, allowing users to make the jump from a piece of content directly to the author without leaving the environment.

The need for this kind of contextual and social experience has been recognized by FatWire, a content management company.  It recently updated FatWire TeamUp, a collaboration and community platform that allows the creation of social networks deployable as internal collaboration spaces for knowledge workers or as customer facing applications to engage site visitors and create communities.  TeamUp includes blogs, wikis, and profiles, as well as the ability to create team workspaces.  Additionally, it integrates fully with FatWire’s other offerings, such as the FatWire Content Server, as well as EMC Documentum, Microsoft SharePoint, and Windows- and Unix-based file systems via the FatWire Content Integration Platform, which uses peer-to-peer architecture to enable access to content stored in repositories.

One of the three tenets of the Collaborative Business Environment is Embedded Community, which implies deploying community and collaboration tools, such as e-mail, instant messaging, presence and awareness into environments where knowledge workers perform their tasks, linking knowledge work and collaboration, and knowledge workers with each other.  The use of such functionality increases the knowledge workers’ ability to effectively do their jobs by making it easier for them to find content and resources for their work.  FatWire TeamUp does this by adding a layer of social networking to its WCM platform and is worthy of consideration by organizations looking to add context to information and connect knowledge workers with each other.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: SAS Content Categorization

Thursday, July 30th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

Looking for something?  If it’s enterprise content, you probably won’t find it.

Locating content and information in the enterprise is a considerable challenge, one that not only hampers organizational productivity but also throttles individual knowledge worker efficiency and effectiveness.  Workers typically use search tools to find content and this is where their struggle begins.

There are two key problems with search technology today: 1.) such systems provide “results,” not answers, and 2.) they do not support natural language queries.  In addition, typical search tools do not always understand relationships and context: Java could refer to a type of coffee, an island in Indonesia, or a programming language.  Typing “Java” into the Google search engine returned results only relating to Java as a programming language for the first three pages.

Thanks to the various flaws common to most search tools, 50% of all searches fail.  The good news is that those failures are obvious and recognized by the person doing the search.  The bad news is that 50% of the searches people believe succeeded actually failed in some way, but this was not readily apparent to the person doing the search.  As a result, that person uses information that may be out of date, not the best response for what he was looking for, or is simply incorrect.  (We call this the 50/50 Rule of Search.)

The problems with search contribute greatly to the problems of Information Overload in the enterprise.

According to research conducted by Basex in 2006 and 2007, knowledge workers spend 15% of the work day searching for content.  This figure is far higher than it needs to be, and represents the time knowledge workers waste as a result of poor search tools, bad search techniques on the part of knowledge workers, and a lack of effective taxonomies.

In an age of Information Overload, where we create more content in a day than the entire population of the planet could consume in a month, more effective tools are needed.  One approach towards improving search is better and more effective categorization.  We recently had a look at SAS Content Categorization, one promising product in this space.  Content Categorization helps to categorize information so that search engines can present relevant results faster by having the user navigate through topics/facets related to the user’s query.

SAS acquired Teragram, a natural language processing and advanced linguistic technology company, in March 2008.  After integrating Teragram as a division, SAS launched Content Categorization in February 2009.

The offering enables the creation of taxonomies and category rules to parse and analyze content and create metadata that can trigger business processes.  Taxonomies and category rules are created via the TK240, a desktop tool for administration and taxonomy management that is a component of SAS Content Categorization.  Once a taxonomy is created, high level categories are selected, followed by narrower ones.  There is no limit as to how granular the categories can go, allowing for users to drill down on topics.  The system also includes prebuilt taxonomies for specific industries such as news organizations, publishers, and libraries.

Whoever is doing the setup – and SAS Content Categorization is designed for use by non-technical users – can develop category rules from within the TK240 as well.  The rules may consist of multiple keywords, based on the percentage appearing in a document, as well as weighted keywords that give more value to certain words than others.  Additionally, it is possible to apply Boolean operators, so, for example, to meet the rule Java and programming must appear in the same sentence, while Java and coffee appearing in the same sentence would not meet the rule.  Rules can be created for extremely specific situations, such as the presence of URLs, grammatical instances, or the presence of suffixes (Inc., Corp., AG., etc.).

The system is also equipped with options for setting role-based permissions to allow users to read/write, and enable multiple users to collaborate on developing taxonomies.  This allows multiple taxonomists to have secure access to projects, with individual levels of read/write access to category rules and concept definitions.

SAS Content Categorization can be an effective weapon against Information Overload by allowing the creation of complex automated systems to categorize content, increasing the likelihood of the knowledge workers being able to find what they are looking for in a timely manner.  In addition, increasing the relevance of search results by using taxonomies to provide context raises the value of content that is found, decreasing the likelihood of knowledge workers moving forward with second-best or faulty information.

Companies looking to take decisive measure to lower Information Overload should carefully review their current search tools and, where appropriate, give serious consideration to SAS Content Categorization.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.
Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the Briefing Room: Nuxeo DM 5.2 and DM Cloud Edition

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 by Cody Burke and Matt Siper

Content can be a unwieldy beast to tame in any organization.  With copious amounts of e-mail messages, files, and other documents being created every day, managing content can seem daunting.  With the number of documents that knowledge workers create each day, organizations need to find new and better ways of managing them in order to keep up with the onslaught.

Indeed, there are dozens of vendors who will be happy to offer you their systems to manage all types of content, ranging from large commercial vendors such as IBM, EMC, Open Text, and Autonomy, to completely free open source software options such as Plone or Drupal.  Between these extremes, there is a robust and mature selection of commercial open source offerings, providing the benefits of open source software, namely the elimination of an upfront software purchase and access to the source code.

One company in this space is Nuxeo, which offers Nuxeo DM in both on-premises and cloud editions.  Nuxeo DM is based on Nuxeo EP, the company’s open-source enterprise content management platform.

At log in, users are presented with a dashboard with modules for tasks, workflows, workspaces, recently published documents, and customizable portlets.  Documents can be created with desktop tools such as Word and saved in the system using a plug-in, or knowledge workers can drag and drop documents from the desktop.  Documents can also be created within the system using a built-in Notes function that suffices for shorter documents.  Workflows can be set up by simply selecting a document, choosing individual users, and assigning actions and due dates.  Users are notified through their dashboard portlets of review tasks that await them.

Nuxeo has developed industry-specific solutions for such areas as government and new drug approval management, simplifying what would otherwise be fairly complex processes in those areas.  The company also offers consulting, development and customization, and training.

For companies looking for ways of taming their document management problem, commercial open source offerings, such as those Nuxeo represents, are an attractive option and should be looked into alongside more traditional DM options.  With the amount of Information Overload that is prevalent, knowledge workers today spend far too much time trying to keep track of content and documents and need all the help they can get.

In addition, stay tuned for our upcoming report, Content Management Systems: The New Math for Selecting Your Platform, an in-depth analysis of over 30 offerings in this space.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.   Matt Siper is an analyst at Basex.

Google Apps Twitter Hack Raises Red Flags on Password Security

Thursday, July 16th, 2009 by David Goldes

One might presume that technology companies do a better job with such mundane tasks as password security than the great unwashed masses.  However, time and time again, this turns out not to be correct.  Yesterday, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, posting in the company’s blog, revealed that a hacker had broken into an employee’s personal e-mail account and then gained access to that employee’s Google Apps account, which contained “notes, spreadsheets, ideas, financial details” – well, you get the picture.

Although Stone tries to emphasize that this has nothing to do with any vulnerabilities in Google Apps per se, the very fact that anyone can log into a Google Apps account from any browser if you have the correct user name and password does increase a company’s exposure.  Companies that keep their confidential information behind a corporate firewall in systems such as Lotus Notes or Microsoft SharePoint, are indeed less vulnerable simply because their systems could not be hacked with just a simple user name and password.

Multiple studies have revealed that close to half of computer users tend to use the same password over and over again – typically with the same, easy to remember, user name.  Indeed, TechCrunch, a blog that received Twitter’s confidential documents from the hacker, reported that Twitter uses the password “password” for its servers (presumably, it’s been changed by now).  The same article revealed that Twitter had also used a co-founder’s first name, Jack, as a user name for servers.

Moral of the story: use complex passwords with numbers and symbols interspersed.  Do not use words found in a dictionary.  Even better: use passphrases, i.e. concatenated words such as “thisismypassphrase123″.  Use a different user name/password combination for each account.  If one account is hacked, this will ensure that your other accounts remain safe.  Finally, do not leave passwords visibly written down.  Believe it or not,  I still see Post-It notes with passwords attached to monitors when visiting other companies.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.


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