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text 2018-01-27 19:50
Hoping to start a discussion: Correct me if I'm wrong. . . . . .

I'm back on the couch with the heating pad, having messed up my back again.  It's not nearly as bad this time as in the past, but I'm going to take it easy for at least a few hours.

 

Some comments on Twitter this morning got me to thinking about the whole issue of negative book reviews, and I'm not sure if I'm coming at this from the right direction.  I almost dismissed my concerns until I went back and reread Debbie's comment on my earlier review here.

 

She wrote:

 

Lots of publicity enterprises making money generating positive reviews that illegally (on U.S. sites) don't disclose were reviewing for the publicity firm, for the author, for the publisher or as an exchange of reviews between authors or group of authors (FTC considers that a service received, I.e., payment the same as a cash fee). Always suspicious when a flurry of 4-5 star reviews are around release dates, promotions, blog tours or other events (or release date of still yet another new edition.

 

Yes, there are bloggers and semi-professional (getting free books) reviewers who only post positive reviews.  We've been through this before.  There are also the genuine consumers who leave reviews, sometimes honest, sometimes dishonest but kind.  Authors, including Roger Hayden who wrote The Haunting of Saxton Mansion, often leave requests for reviews in the digital books themselves:

 

As an indie author, Amazon reviews can have a huge impact on my livelihood. So if you enjoyed the story please leave a review letting me and the rest of the digital world know. And if there was anything you found troubling, please email me. Your feedback helps improve my work, and allows me to continue writing stories that will promise to thrill and excite in the future. But be sure to exclude any spoilers.

 

I would love if you could take a second to leave a review: Click here to leave a review on Amazon!

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 8053-8059). Kindle Edition.

 

(I won't comment on the dangling modifier in the opening sentence of the above snippet.  Oh, I guess I just did.  My bad.)

 

Because of Amazon's policies regarding reviews by other authors -- which are actually in line with FTC restrictions, too -- some of the more knowledgeable people about the quality of the writing are not permitted to express their opinions when the quality falls short. Negative reviews all too often attract reprisals and/or retribution, and thus honesty is discouraged.  A culture has developed of "If you can't leave a positive review, don't leave any at all."

 

In some cases, it's justified/rationalized/excused by respect for the author's effort.  "Even a badly written book required the writer's time and effort.  I have to respect that."

 

My question, however, is this:  What obligation does any reader have to refrain from expressing a negative opinion?  And to whom is that obligation owed?

 

Years ago, I noticed what appeared to be a pattern of bad behavior by one of my son's teachers.  When I spoke to other parents, they agreed that her actions were problematic, but they weren't willing to make a formal complaint. They didn't want to rock the boat or risk retaliation against their children.  The teacher's behavior worsened, to the point that I finally took my concerns to the principal.  I presented evidence of the teacher's blatant favoritism and her constant belittling and harassment of the students who weren't her favorites.  The situation reached a crisis point with the principal (of a K-5 school!) calling me a lying bitch in front of a dozen students, and the teacher exploding in a temper tantrum at me in front of her entire class and most of the students' parents.  Only later did I get an acknowledgement from the principal that yes, I was right and the teacher had shown grossly unfair favoritism.  The problem was going to be addressed, but it was too late for too many students.

 

Is there some kind of equivalency between poor teaching techniques and poor writing?  Probably not.  So let me take it another notch higher.

 

Of the more than 150 young women who were sexually abused by Larry Nassar, many reported his behavior over the decades of his abuse.  Decades.  Those young women, some of them really only girls, were either ignored, or not believed, or dismissed.  Many others didn't even know that what he was doing to them was wrong, because no one told them.  Many others said nothing because they knew they wouldn't be believed.  Some even kept silent because they thought they themselves were somehow to blame!  University officials knew, but for their own reasons they, too, chose silence.  The governing body of the gymnastics sport also maintained silence.  We don't yet know who else protected themselves and their own interests through silence, while hundreds of young people suffered.

 

Is there some kind of equivalency between sexual abuse of children and writing a lousy book?  No, of course not.  But is there some kind of equivalency between the silence with which many people treat the wrongdoing that they see in front of them?

 

Have we all developed a habit of self-preservation through silence?

 

"First they came for the _______________, but I said nothing because I was not a _______________."

 

When a book is badly written, when it has numerous typographical errors and misspellings and grammatical mistakes and factual inaccuracies, when it has gaping plot holes and character inconsistencies and logical impossibilities, what do we accomplish with our silence?  Have we given that author an "A for Effort" trophy without even knowing if she/he made a sincere effort rather than just slapping something together and putting a 99-cent price tag on it?  Are we just giving ourselves the protection of not having to say something bad about someone who has, essentially, done a bad thing?

 

If you've read through all this so far, I have something to add regarding the book that started it, The Haunting of Saxton Mansion as assembled in the collection Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset. 

 

I had no intention of reading any more of either Roger Hayden's contribution or any of the other three stories in the set, but I did want to see if Hayden had included a request for reviews at the end of his section.  As I skimmed through the Kindle pages, a few odd words caught my eye here and there, enough that curiosity prompted me to stop and read.

 

The Haunting of Saxton Mansion is composed of three "books."  As I posted in my review of Book 0, the setting of the mansion itself is not logical and there are errors of fact (the Dom Perignon stuff), along with a lot of generic writing flubs.

 

But Book 0 opens with Gerald Saxton arriving home; Book 1 opens similarly, but some of the details have changed!

 

Cypress Creek, Florida

December 22, 1982

The fireplace crackled, casting dancing shadows on the wall. The tree in the corner filled the living room with a scent of fresh pine. Lights of green, red, blue, and orange were wrapped from its top to the base, along with silver tinsel and ornaments hanging from the branches. Christmas music played lightly from the stereo. An open bottle of red wine rested atop the coffee table near the black leather sofa where Gerald Saxton and his wife, Annette, sat, glasses in hand.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 2291-2296). Kindle Edition.

Same date as Book 0, same location, same characters.  Okay, so the details regarding the Dom Perignon aren't there, and we've got a more generic red wine, but something didn't feel right as I skimmed across the Kindle pages.

 

Gerald had purchased their two-story three-bedroom, two-bath Victorian dream house from his father four years prior.

 

The gated property had a courtyard and fountain, a two-car garage, a large front deck, and even a tennis court. There wasn't a house quite like it for miles--and it was the only home on the narrow dead-end road known as Pennington Drive. Gerald and Annette loved their house and had spared no expense on renovations. The upkeep was, and would always be, a challenge, but that was to be expected with a house over twenty years old.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 2299-2303). Kindle Edition.

What the hell?  The details are different!  Now the house is over twenty years old, not twelve!  Is Book 1 a revision of Book 0, or what?

 

Out of a curiosity that was now spiked with anger, I skipped ahead to Book 2.

 

Cypress Creek, Florida

December 23, 1982

 

It was past midnight. The lights were on in the Saxton mansion, an isolated estate at the end of a dead-end street. Shadowed flames from the fireplace danced against the living room wall. Outside, a black BMW sat parked next to the courtyard fountain, where water calmly flowed. A tennis court lay on the left side of the house under heavy shadow, its iron fence barely visible. A two-car garage sat housed on the other side, connected to a long driveway that ran down through the gated entrance.

There was no home quite like the Saxton mansion in the entire neighborhood. Isolated as it was, few ever ventured down Pennington Drive to see it. That night, danger was brewing inside, though nothing looked unusual from outside the gate. It was just another quiet evening in the small town of Cypress Creek, where an evil had descended upon the Saxton family.

The mansion’s elaborate Victorian architectural style included a wood exterior, arched roofs on both sides, and a tiny attic window in the center. The front porch had Christmas lights running along the railing and up the tall white columns that reached to the ceiling. The expansive front yard seemed limitless in its space, while the surrounding forest provided a sense of privacy and tranquility, shielding the mansion from view of the nearby homes that made up the neighborhood. For this reason alone, its seclusion, no one was aware of what was happening until it was too late.

That evening, the Saxtons had received two unexpected visitors. Gerald and Annette Saxton were enjoying the evening together in the living room as their children slept upstairs.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 4679-4692). Kindle Edition.

 

How much of each "Book" is a reiteration of the others?  Is the opening just a summary of what happened in the previous books?  If so, then why are the details different?  How much is a recap, and how much is new material?  Does the reader need to buy/read Book 0 and Book 1, or is the whole story contained complete in Book 2?  I'm not inclined to read any further to find out.  How many of the "reviews" on Amazon of each book are just empty but positive blathering about a product?  I don't know.  (Book 2 has far fewer reviews, but it was only released earlier this month.)

 

As a writer who truly does put effort into each of my works, I'm appalled that reviewers hold back on bad books.  As a reader in search of good material, I'm frankly disgusted by those who spew out only positives for their own benefit and thereby prove their own indifference to their audience.

 

The gymnasts deserved a whole lot better.  Don't reviewers owe readers honesty, at a bare minimum?

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text 2017-10-25 02:45
Over priced at $0.00
The Westward Bride - Catherine Scott
Disclosure:  I obtained the Kindle edition of this book when it was offered free on Amazon on 23 October 2017.  I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with her about this book or any other matter.  I am an author of adult romance fiction and general-interest non-fiction.
 
This book was published on 17 October 2017, six days ago.  It currently has no reviews on Amazon.  It ranks quite high on Kindle free downloads.
 
 
No actual publisher is listed in the limited amount of front matter on the book.  There are links to a website aweber dot com that may (or may not) be a publisher of some sort.
 
Only 14% of this "book" actually consists of the title story The Westward Bride.  The balance is other "more hot romance stories."
 
The Westward Bride is immediately recognizable as unprofessionally prepared because of the lack of publishing information, but also because it is poorly formatted.
 
 
Now we get to the writing.  There are the obvious punctuation errors.  There are the frequent changes of tense.  By the second page, many more errors come to light.
 
 
American usage limits "dry goods" traditionally to fabrics, notions, and similar merchandise, distinct from groceries, even dry commodities such as flour.  Molasses is not even close.
 
The word "disinterested" is misused; the word wanted here is "uninterested."
 
The story will soon be seen to be set sometime after the death of Joseph Wilson in 1879.  The Panama Canal was not started until 1881, by France.  After France abandoned the project, the United States picked it up in 1904 and spent the next ten years completing it.
 
All of that information is readily available, and there is no excuse whatsoever for any author to have got it wrong.  Not in late 2017.  Not in the first two pages.
 
Is this the kind of work Anne Rice would insist readers give four or five stars?  Why?  To support a small, struggling, indie writer?  How do we even know that's the kind of person who wrote it?  It's bad writing.  It's bad publishing.  Even if Rice's objective is to support writers and publishers and the hell with the readers, how would support of this kind of garbage help anyone?
 
As a writer of romances, I can't give this book a negative review on Amazon, per both Amazon's guidelines and Federal Trade Commission regulations. Even if I were to identify myself as a romance writer, it's still against the rules for me to post a negative review of my competition on a commercial site.
 
Now, you may be wondering what's in it for the author of this drivel, if the book is free.  Here's the listing the day after I downloaded it.
 
 
The price is now $3.99, and maybe some people will pay that much for it, netting the author somewhere around $2.50 for each copy sold.  It's much more likely, however, that sales will come through Kindle Unlimited, where the author gets paid by the number of pages read.  Whether it's one page or 200, the author gets paid for each one on KU.
 
And there are dozens of these crappy books out there.  Some feature a Highlander main story, or a Regency, or a medieval, but the format is the same.  All poorly written, all poorly formatted.
 
Anne Rice would have us say nothing.
 
I guess she wants to raise up generations of readers who have no appreciation for good writing, who can't tell the difference between what a "real" book looks like and garbage.
 
But, hey, Anne, just keep calling me a thug reviewer.  I'll wear the title as a badge of honor.
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text 2017-10-19 17:27
How Harvey Weinstein got away with it, and #metoo

This is not the Booklikes blog post I planned to write this morning, and yet it is.

 

Most people, like the women Harvey Weinstein abused over the years, lead lives of quiet desperation.  We're aware of the inequalities around us, and the injustices, and the inability to do anything about it.  We do our jobs and don't complain about the unfairness of the pay or treatment, because we need the paycheck.  We make ourselves believe that suffering a bit of abuse will ultimately pay off.  Maybe the boss who treats us like shit will suddenly offer us that promotion or raise, or that producer with grabby hands will put us in the role that will make us a star.  It happens just often enough to keep our hopes alive, doesn't it.

 

Those of us who rock the boat, who blow the whistle, who aren't content to put up with the bullshit, we're the ones who pay the price.  And we're held up as examples of what will happen to "you" if you do the same.  It happens just often enough to destroy your hopes and keep you in your place, doesn't it.

 

Sometimes those who dare to rock the boat are very powerful, almost as powerful as the ones who knock them down.  Mostly they aren't very powerful; they're just fed up to the eyeballs with the injustice of it all.

 

It doesn't matter; if you rock the boat too much, you'll get tipped out of it and left to drown.

 

Most of you know the basics of the saga that led to the Great Goodreads Purge of 2013.  A few of us dared to rock the boat regarding the paid-for reviews that boosted crappy books.  We documented the literally thousands of reviews and ratings that were coming from review swap groups and authors' sock puppet accounts and review mills like fiverr dot com.  We dared to out the authors who were buying the reviews.  And we dared to post negative reviews of books we thought were poorly written, especially those books written by authors who mistreated readers and reviewers.  Some of us were authors who paid the price -- in the currency of retaliatory reviews.

 

And some of us got tipped out of the boat to drown -- we were permanently banned from Goodreads.

 

Some of us came here to BookLikes in search of a more welcoming and less hostile environment, where we could review honestly, including pointing out the author behavior that we believed was harmful to the reviewing and reading community.

 

For the past four years or so, we've enjoyed that environment.  We've put up with the sometimes sporadic functionality of the BookLikes site.  We've struggled with the book data base and its limitations.  We've provided content and we've provided librarian services, whether we were official BL Librarians with the little tag or just readers eager to add our own contributions from our personal book collections.

 

Through most of that four years, we've been reasonably safe from attack by the trolls -- most of us know who they were/are so I won't name them.  And we've been spared the spectacles of authors who gamed the system to shove their books down readers' throats and who then went into berserker mode when some honest reviewer panned their book.

 

Maybe our safety has been a function of BookLikes' relatively small footprint in the book community.  I don't know.  What I do know is that as soon as I read about the demise of Amazon's discussion forums a few weeks ago, I worried that authors desperate for a place to promote their works would eventually find BookLikes and disrupt our peaceful community.

 

I don't want to rock the boat.  I like it here at BookLikes.  Despite what certain people may think -- yes, I'm looking at you, Melissa -- I get no pleasure out of reading a badly written book and pointing out its flaws.  I can understand the temptation of reviewers to post only great reviews, because life is often simpler if you just praise everything and criticize nothing.

 

But that's not me.  I don't go out looking for poorly written author-published books so I can rip them to pieces.  Unfortunately, my book-buying budget is very limited, and therefore I seek out the affordable books which are often written by the authors who publish them.  And unfortunately, many of them don't meet my personal standards.

 

Other people seem to love them, or at least they post glowing reviews.  Are they like the fans who flocked to Harvey Weinstein's movies or who watched Bill Cosby's television shows and just didn't know the sordid details of what was going on behind the scenes?  Would they have cared if they had known?  Or would they have said, "I don't care what he does; I like his work and I'm going to continue to support him, because my pleasure and enjoyment are more important than the price people have to pay to bring it to me."

 

Those people, the silent ones who never rock the boat, never see themselves as contributing to the abuse.  Of course not!  Are they free to continue to enjoy the products?  Of course!  But I am just as free to point out the full story.

 

See also Joanna Russ's What are we fighting for?

 

There are reviewers here on BookLikes whose reviews make my brain hurt, and for a lot more reasons than any of you might think.  The grammar and spelling and usage are appalling, to the point that I sometimes wonder if English is not their native language.  I wonder how someone can be an avid reader and not have picked up by osmosis the basics of the language, yet there appear to be many who have.  Some of the books read and enjoyed and given glowing reviews strike me personally as horrible, depressing, worthless, and I can't imagine anyone finding the reading of them pleasurable.  But that's their right, and I may not agree with it, but I respect it.  Some reviewers appear to me -- if not to anyone else -- to have a particular agenda which I find personally abhorrent.  They have as much right to express it as I have to express mine.  I keep my mouth -- or my fingers -- tightly shut.

 

The reason I remained silent was that I firmly believed BookLikes afforded us as readers a level playing field, as free from official interference as possible.  (Obvious cases of bullying or other overtly bad behavior would and should be dealt with accordingly.)  I was as free to express my views on books and book-related issues -- and even on non-book issues -- as anyone else.  The apparent favoritism of Goodreads and Amazon toward those books and authors and reviewers who drove the bottom line was virtually absent from BookLikes.  There were no paid promotions forced into our individual dashboard feed; we didn't have to feel we had to like certain books or authors or risk retaliation from The Powers that Be.

 

A few days ago that all changed.

 

I'm a writer.  I've been a writer almost as long as I've been a reader.  (But not as long as I've been a rock hound!)  I love writing and I love talking about writing.  I made a comment on someone else's blog post about the difficulty of crafting villains in my work, an innocent and non-controversial comment, or so I thought.

 

Not long afterward, I received a private message from another BookLikes member in response to my villain-creating comment.  I thought the message was likewise innocent and non-controversial; I welcomed him as a new member to our community and added him to my Following list.

 

He had only a couple of blog posts here, and they were almost all self-promotional.  He had no books shelved, no reviews posted.  He had only three followers, one of whom was myself.  But, he was new.  I thought he'd learn the ropes and join in.

 

A day or so later, I received another message from him, this time soliciting his newsletter on a subject in which I have never shown any interest.  There was no reason for him to send me this solicitation, so I wrote back that I had no interest in it and I warned him against spamming. 

 

BookLikes does not have a specific policy against spamming, so there was no reason for me to report him.  He wasn't breaking any Terms of Use, though it was very likely that kind of behavior might lead to his becoming less popular. 

 

As events unfolded, I was very glad I hadn't reported him.  He responded unpleasantly to me, which didn't hurt my feelings at all, though I did post a bit of a warning to my personal community of followers here.  The sentiment seemed to be that he had indeed spammed and that behavior wasn't welcome.  It should have dropped off the radar screen right there and then.

 

It didn't.

 

Though he had not been active in terms of shelving books or posting reviews, he had written several BookLikes blog posts about his writing.  I did a tiny bit of follow up because I had a personal interest in the subject of some of his work, and I was disappointed to find hints of potential -- in my opinion -- plagiarism.  But again, I kept most of my thoughts to myself or only shared them with my followers and very quietly.

 

Or at least I did so until the book in question began to be promoted personally by one of the few visible BookLikes employees.

 

Now the balance of power had shifted enormously.  Now I was just another BookLikes user, subject to banning or other disciplinary measures at the whim of those nameless, faceless Powers That Be.  I no longer had a safe voice.

 

My fellow BookLikes friends suggested that well, BookLikes staff had the right to review, and probably the right to reblog as well, which was how this had all come to my attention.  I decided I must just be alarmist, even though I felt very uncomfortable. 

 

I felt even more uncomfortable when I downloaded this author's free book from Amazon.  I found more evidence of potential plagiarism (and perhaps copyright infringement, too) but I felt helpless to do any more than post a review.  Even then, I knew I was taking an enormous risk.  The weight of official BookLikes favor might be behind the promotional post and reblogs, but it might not.

 

Today that changed again.  Now the support is official, with the promotional post coming from BookLikes itself, not just a staff member.  Is this author now protected against negative reviews by the BookLikes support?  Will we ever know?  BookLikes isn't based in the United States, so it may not fall under the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission, which rules paid promotion has to be disclosed.  Was BookLikes paid to support this author?  Do they have a financial interest in promoting this book?  Will other authors be pressured to pay for promotional support?

 

Will other authors be prevented from posting negative reviews?  Technically, under those FTC regulations, authors are not supposed to post negative reviews of their direct competition.  That's the rule that kept me from posting reviews on Amazon; it's in their guidelines and is based on those FTC regulations which have the force of law in the US.  (I'm old enough to remember the Payola scandals of the 1950s, which led to some of those FTC regulations.)

 

BookLikes has always had this power, to promote or to silence.  As far as I know, they've never used it or threatened to use it, and from that has come this feeling of safety I've enjoyed -- and perhaps you have, too -- for the past four years.

 

I'm here at BookLikes as a reader, as reviewer, as an artist, and only lastly as an author in search of readers.  I value my friendships here on BookLikes -- yes, even with those reviewers whose spelling makes my eyeballs ache and whose reading choices make my stomach queasy -- as friendships, and not as potential sources of income.  Once in a while I make reference to my own books, but I have never solicited and will never solicit sales or reviews.

 

Nor have I seen other authors do so, at least not within my limited circle of friends on the site.  We may make announcements, yes, and comment on our writing progress.  I confess, I'm now extremely uncomfortable even posting about my writing projects still in progress.  Will I be required to pay BookLikes even for that kind of promotion?  Is it considered spam?  Are my followers uncomfortable with it?

 

Do I have to worry now that if I write a negative review, I will be punished by BookLikes, even to the point of being banned from the site?  Will I, or other writers, or other reviewers, feel pressured to post only positive reviews?  Will I, or other writers, or other reviewers, feel pressured to post only positive reviews of books and/or authors openly and officially promoted by BookLikes?

 

BookLikes has flexed its muscles.  It has reminded all of us that it holds enormous power.  Does it have as much power as Amazon or Goodreads?  Perhaps not, but it has the power to silence.

 

It's very possible that BookLikes did what they did in the belief that they were only helping someone who deserved it.  The problem is that they have the power -- which they have now used -- to determine who "deserves" promotion and who doesn't.  Does that mean the deserving are those who pay?  And in what currency?

 

I've been a victim of #metoo abuse, in ways that I'm not at liberty to divulge right now.  Maybe that's why I'm more inclined to speak out than many others.  But there have always been those who threw caution to the winds, who put justice above their careers, and did the right thing.

 

I've spent the past week or so giving some serious thought to what I want to do with the rest of my life.  I turned 69 last Friday, so I'm sure there are a lot of people who think I'm a little late in getting around to that.  But when I woke up this morning at 3:00 a.m., I knew that I had come to a more or less solid decision to focus more of my time and energy on my writing.  I love the rocks and gems, I love the other creative endeavors I'm engaged in, but the writing is my first love, and over the past couple of years it has proven to be the most remunerative as well. 

 

When I logged onto BookLikes and saw the official post promoting one author, my heart sank.  I'm not morally capable of the kind of kissing up that's required to gain the favor of the powerful.  And I'm not financially capable of the kind of promotional expenditure that others are.  I've always had to rely on the quality of my work to speak for itself.

 

Now I know that on BookLikes, that's no longer enough.  The playing field is no longer level and now it's all about power.

 

I have none.

 

 

 

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url 2016-07-30 22:10
Post on "Bad Advice for Writers"

Funny article that includes such gems of bad advice as:

"There are only two types of reviews: the positive kind, and the kind where the reviewer didn’t understand the book. A bad review of your book is actually a cry for help!

 

Whenever you see a negative review that makes you say to yourself, “I should reach out to this person, perhaps in a borderline illegal fashion,” by all means do so. Find out where they live if you want! Show up on their doorstep and offer to politely explain how they simply failed to understand your novel. Make it clear that this is something they need to resolve within themselves and not a reflection on your work, and also that there’s no need whatsoever to call the police, so please put down the phone and stop crying."

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com/g-doucette/bad-advice-for-writers-na_b_6056388.html?fb_action_ids=901533933198035&fb_action_types=og.comments
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text 2015-04-19 23:28
Anne Rice wants to dox you!

Some of her followers are pretty scary.

Source: 38caliberreviews.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/anne-rice-wants-to-dox-you
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