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Anonymity when posting on food and wine boards


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Particularly in response to Mr. Bear's comments, but also in general, I would certainly make a distinction between argument and opinion.

An argument, as in "X is true and Y is true, therefore Z is true," is not particularly subject to motive. Perhaps one's choice of argument can be influenced by motive, but ultimately I think motive is irrelevant to an argument. Arguments are right or wrong, won or lost, compelling or not compelling on their own strength and the skill with which they're presented.

Steven,

Indeed, like the best meals we've eaten, all arguments start from a place of motive and idea. I would make the case, however, that motive can be very relevant (like death and taxes) to argument, especially as to tenacity, force if not skill of presentation, and, of course, the filthy lucre of reward. If occasionally motive works against lucidity, those so motivated - especially those empowered by conflicted motive - may win the argument, at least in the court of received opinion, and even if they are not 'right'.

Conversely, there's the fallacy of motive, which is a propensity to disbelieve anyone identified with an organization or cause when they espouse an argument, even if the facts presented are thoroughly researched and accurate. Arrayed opposite them will be other people and organizations who are not interested in whether or not their argument is necessarily true or right, but only that their voice is loudest.

We see it every night at 6 o'clock. To wit: Politican A presents a thoroughly researched study (possibly compiled by a third party of veracity and reputation) that demonstrates, using Politician B's (see below) own government's data, that citizens are less well off than they were four years ago.

Pol B, the incumbent, has his operatives/spinners dismiss Pol A, but not with a more convincing, better researched, 'right' or skillfully presented argument. Discounting the argument, they merely say that Pol A "was 'motivated' by political gain." Over and over. So in the case of this argument, 'motive' is trumped by motive. Oh, dear.

For this reason, amongst others, I rarely dine with politicians anymore, much preferring the company of those who have knives and not axes to grind.

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Nor is the phenomenon limited to motive, Jamie. Some people, unfortunately, just can't deal with the reality that other people disagree with them about anything. They believe those who disagree with them -- even on matters that are clearly questions of pure aesthetics! -- are either ignorant, have ulterior motives or are just plain immoral. And they're going to prove it.

We see it all the time here, which is one of the reasons we discourage argumentation ad hominem. Member A believes a restaurant is fabulous, member B believes it's terrible. Either or both members immediately shift into ad hominem mode. And by that I don't mean they start hurling insults. Rather, they believe they're doing anything but. Some typical examples:

- Member A decides member B doesn't like the restaurant because member B must be unqualified to make the judgment

or

- Member B decides member A's dislike of the restaurant represents a moral failing

or

- Member A decides that, since nobody could actually not love the restaurant, member B is motivated by revenge

or

- Member B decides that, since the restaurant is bad as a matter of universal truth, member A must have an undisclosed conflict of interest, or that a disclosed potential conflict, such as "they sent me out an extra dessert," is solely responsible for member A's position regarding the restaurant

Such inanity, if left unchecked by the moderating team, proliferates both vertically and horizontally. Vertically, as the topic expands, more and more members get drawn into the hunt for ulterior motives, the claims of expertise and ignorance, the talk of good and bad faith -- the original subject is lost. Horizontally, the cast of characters has encounters elsewhere, on other topics, each of which is tainted by the original conflict -- it becomes impossible for the participants in the original conflict ever to treat one another with respect.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I basically like for people to say who they are yet sadly enough I can understand and respect why some people want to post anonymously. More than an identity, I want people to be able to back up what they say if it is controversial. Knowing someone's identity may or may not be an aid in assessing their credibility. The time I find it most irritating is when there is a back and forth exchange. At those times it goes agains my grain just on the principle that my parents taught me never to talk to strangers. Don't be a stranger, identify yourself.

I can only speak for myself, but I think many will agree that as you see a person's posts over a period of time (and it usually doesn't take long) you'll have a decent idea about the person who is posting. From reading different people's posts there are many I respect, some that I don't, and a few that I think could best serve the public as poster children for birth control.

While most of us on e-gullet fall into the general population, there are a large number of participants who have strong reputations and are well known within the food and wine industry. Water does seek its own level and in the case of e-g this aids in drawing a higher caliber of poster. The best way to continue this trend and to have more participation from high end food and wine professionals is (imho) by having intelligent and accurate posts. This is not to say there cannot be two sides to things and heated debates, but their does need to be accountability. In this regards I think the moderators do need to be on their toes.

Charles a food and wine addict - "Just as magic can be black or white, so can addictions be good, bad or neither. As long as a habit enslaves it makes the grade, it need not be sinful as well." - Victor Mollo

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Some people, unfortunately, just can't deal with the reality that other people disagree with them about anything. They believe those who disagree with them -- even on matters that are clearly questions of pure aesthetics! -- are either ignorant, have ulterior motives or are just plain immoral. And they're going to prove it.

Such inanity, if left unchecked by the moderating team, proliferates both vertically and horizontally.

Your radical relativism doesn't sit well with your job or with a food board. I would have thought the existence of critics, guides, discussion forums and so on was precisely because the participants believe that one can argue about aesthetics to a certain extent.

Of course, ad hominem argument is not desirable, but to doubt someone's testimony on the basis of his having a history of lying does not mean you are hurling insults, but that you have reasonable grounds for doubting his claim. The same goes for ulterior motives, and vested interest. What is relevant may also be ugly.

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hmmmmmmmm .

Very interesting thread

I post with a degree of anonymity.

Reason = i am but a mere cook, with no ulterior motive other than just to converse with like minded people about the topics which are raised on these very forums.

I don`t give out my name / place of work 'willy nilly' as i`m kinda busy when i`m at work and it could get awkward if people ask to see me,( you never know, some one might want to ?) as i`m not the head chef, manager or indeed the proprietor. Also my skill in the schmooze department is considerably lacking in solid training.

I also avoid commenting on, or about, the restaurant where i work.

I also don`t voice my employers opinions, and would hate for any of you good people to judge them because of me.

That`s all.

No sinister conspiracy theory

sleep well

tt
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Ad homonym it is then, Dirk.

And contrarily, I've seen Steven sit quite well -- sometimes for hours on end -- at the food board.

Further, and just for the record, Steven, I come from the school of moral failing - where even a 4.0 is never quite good enough. :biggrin:

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Ad homonym it is then, Dirk.

And contrarily, I've seen Steven sit quite well -- sometimes for hours on end -- at the food board.

Further, and just for the record, Steven, I come from the school of moral failing - where even a 4.0 is never quite good enough.  :biggrin:

This meaning of this entire post, including the pun, is completely lost on me.

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Your radical relativism doesn't sit well with your job or with a food board. I would have thought the existence of critics, guides, discussion forums and so on was precisely because the participants believe that one can argue about aesthetics to a certain extent.

There are choices between what you call "radical relativism" (where no statement about food is more than a personal and private feeling) and the the stance that some posters take on some food boards (where a statement that "Restaurant X is good" is seen as parallel to a statement that "any map can be colored using four colors in such a way that adjacent regions (i.e. those sharing a common boundary segment, not just a point) receive different colors").

For example, people could set out their criteria for what they enjoy, and then evaluate dishes or restaurants against those criteria. This enables a reader to calibrate others' tastes against his own and decide how to interpret their comments. It is highly useful; there are posters whose advice I tend to follow and those whose advice I question; not because I see the former as cleverer or more experienced, but because I have learned that their criteria are a good match with mine. That doesn't mean that the second group is stupid, inexperienced or "wrong", it just means that we're looking for different things.

The behaviours Steven is referring to were once more common here, and condescending remarks, with subsequent fireworks, much more frequent. It was amusing as a kind of self-referential soap opera ("Did you see that John Smith was slagging Sarah Bloggs because she actually admitted she enjoyed dining at La Boulue?") but, ultimately, a waste of time and effort. It's possible to avoid that kind of discourse without descending into relativism, radical or otherwise.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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This meaning of this entire post, including the pun, is completely lost on me.

Perhaps that's one of the better, or at least more interesting, things about message boards. I don''t mean that as a personal comment. The meaning of many posts is completely lost on the rest of us from time to time. Ambiguity, doubt and the abstract concept are all food for thought and sometimes thinking is its own reward.

Speaking of ad hominem posts, my pet peeve is the post that mocks another member's attempt to communicate on the boards. I'm speaking of the comment that goes well beyond sarcasm as it applies to comments made in the post to which the taunt replies. I think you know it when you see it and examples need not be posted by me, or others following in the thread. Such attention to one party would be unfair and unreasonable as well as take this thread away from its useful discussion on the subject of anonymity, etiquette and honorable posting in the forums. The mocking tone is rare here, and that's one of the Society's blessings and rewards, but it's not unknown. When it's made by an anonymous poster, it reinforces the impression that anonymity is being used to screen behavior, and perhaps opinions, that would embarrass the poster in public. Then again, as I've seen it here, but more often on other sites, with real names attached, we should understand that some people have no shame. Few of us manage to always earn the respect of those with whom we disagree in the forums, or even those watching a debate from the sidelines, but I think that's a more reasonable goal than simply winning the argument. It's quite possibly a harder goal to attain at times.

Previewing my post before I hit "add reply," I see that Jonathan added that "condescending remarks" are on the decline here. I agree and for that reason they stand out more. The general tone of the forums makes such posts all the more noticeable, and I trust offensive to the membership.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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This meaning of this entire post, including the pun, is completely lost on me.

Perhaps that's one of the better, or at least more interesting, things about message boards. I don''t mean that as a personal comment. The meaning of many posts is completely lost on the rest of us from time to time. Ambiguity, doubt and the abstract concept are all food for thought and sometimes thinking is its own reward.

Speaking of ad hominem posts, my pet peeve is the post that mocks another member's attempt to communicate on the boards. I'm speaking of the comment that goes well beyond sarcasm as it applies to comments made in the post to which the taunt replies. I think you know it when you see it and examples need not be posted by me, or others following in the thread. Such attention to one party would be unfair and unreasonable as well as take this thread away from its useful discussion on the subject of anonymity, etiquette and honorable posting in the forums. The mocking tone is rare here, and that's one of the Society's blessings and rewards, but it's not unknown. When it's made by an anonymous poster, it reinforces the impression that anonymity is being used to screen behavior, and perhaps opinions, that would embarrass the poster in public. Then again, as I've seen it here, but more often on other sites, with real names attached, we should understand that some people have no shame. Few of us manage to always earn the respect of those with whom we disagree in the forums, or even those watching a debate from the sidelines, but I think that's a more reasonable goal than simply winning the argument. It's quite possibly a harder goal to attain at times.

Previewing my post before I hit "add reply," I see that Jonathan added that "condescending remarks" are on the decline here. I agree and for that reason they stand out more. The general tone of the forums makes such posts all the more noticeable, and I trust offensive to the membership.

Bux,

I don't get your post.

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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I think anonymity is important on these boards.. What my last name is or what apartment building I live in is irrelevant.. Unless you are famous you really dont have a reputation to begin with.. A persons reputation on E-gullet is slowly built.. Each member is assigned a permanent screen name and E-gullet saves each users posts. It is rather easy to go back and review a persons history.. You are no longer anonymous, your opinions and actions are in plain sight for the Internet to see.. Some random person cant start posting and have there word taken for gospel..

This system works really well. And sure there willbe shills and people abusing any system.. I feel its the responsibility of management to work that out through the membership process.. And I have total confidence in them.. Sure as a member, I can point out something that might have gotten under the fence, but it will be in private..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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Not sure if this violates the request not to bring up the matters in the original posting by Ruhlman-- this is not the specific incident, but rather a more general question which is present in his original posting.

Do the owners/moderators wish this site to be known and respected as a place for professional discussion? If so, is it then necessary to require real names for posting (or create a "professionals" board) so that eGullet maintains a high status in the professional community? Being much more familiar with the academic world than the food world, I know that any professional level discussion always includes disclosure of real names and affiliations.

I am not necessarily advocating this. I quite enjoy being an interested amateur able to read and participate in discussions with all kinds of people interested in food, but I do certainly appreciate that professionals bring an important voice to the board.

It seems to me that if eGullet wishes to become a professionals-only site (by that, I mean chefs, critics, food writers, industry members, etc.), then the request for real names needs to be taken seriously-- but that also would seem to indicate that access to the boards needs to be restricted. If eGullet wishes to remain as it is, then anonymity should certainly be repected, for all of the reasons already posted.

I for one like the current format which seems, as it is, to have a remarkably civilized level of discourse compared to so many fora out there (not only civilized, but largely written in generally correct and comprehensible English). However, I do understand Ruhlman's point about accountability if eGullet wishes to become a top site for professionals. I know he didn't say it in that way exactly, but I think that's one of the things implied in the original post.

So, whither eGullet? Or has this already been hashed to death?

Rinsewind, aka Theresa Vaughan

"An' I expect you don't even know that we happen to produce some partic'ly fine wines, our Chardonnays bein' 'specially worthy of attention and compet'tively priced, not to mention the rich, firmly structur'd Rusted Dunny Valley Semillons, which are a tangily refreshin' discovery for the connesewer ...yew bastard?"

"Jolly good, I'll have a pint of Chardonnay, please."

Rincewind and Bartender, The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett

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I think anonymity is important on these boards.. What my last name is or what apartment building I live in is irrelevant.. Unless you are famous you really dont have a reputation to begin with.. A persons reputation on E-gullet is slowly built..  Each member is assigned a permanent screen name and E-gullet saves each users posts. It is rather easy to go back and review a persons history.. You are no longer anonymous, your opinions and actions are in plain sight for the Internet to see.. Some random person cant start posting and have there word taken for gospel.. 

This system works really well. And sure there willbe shills and people abusing any system..  I feel its the responsibility of management to work that out through the membership process.. And I have total confidence in them.. Sure as a member, I can point out something that might have gotten under the fence, but it will be in private..

Well said.

I believe that anonymity is beneficial and that anyone who is dishonest or fraudulent will likelybe "outed or exposed" by other posters. (in extreme cases I trust management of eGullet to handle things). I can't recall seeing many threads where only one point of view was/is expressed. Or someone was "allowed" to state something egregious without a quick rebiuttal. To the contrary I have seen many innocuous statements lead off into a large scaled debate!

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We do not seek a professionals-only or professionals-dominated membership. As we explain in the eGullet Society's statement of purpose:

"Professional cooks and passionate amateur cooks, professional producers and hobbyists of food and drink, professional food and beverage writers and passionate amateur writers each have something special to bring to the table. The conversation is richer and more interesting when the worlds of the professional and the amateur are brought together."

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=53063

I promise this will be the last time I say we try to strike a balance. We have numerous constituencies here and every individual member has a different experience, a different interpretation of what we are. We're doing out best not to let any one constituency drown out the others or set rules that favor certain preferences. We're trying to be as ecumenical as possible without collapsing under our own weight. The ways in which we approach pseudonyms and disclosure are designed to protect many different, often conflicting interests.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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We do not seek a professionals-only or professionals-dominated membership. As we explain in the eGullet Society's statement of purpose:

*snip*

I promise this will be the last time I say we try to strike a balance. We have numerous constituencies here and every individual member has a different experience, a different interpretation of what we are. We're doing out best not to let any one constituency drown out the others or set rules that favor certain preferences. We're trying to be as ecumenical as possible without collapsing under our own weight. The ways in which we approach pseudonyms and disclosure are designed to protect many different, often conflicting interests.

Ok, hashed to death it is. Sorry! :unsure: I do greatly appreciate your balanced approach and am glad you are sticking to your original statement of purpose.

"An' I expect you don't even know that we happen to produce some partic'ly fine wines, our Chardonnays bein' 'specially worthy of attention and compet'tively priced, not to mention the rich, firmly structur'd Rusted Dunny Valley Semillons, which are a tangily refreshin' discovery for the connesewer ...yew bastard?"

"Jolly good, I'll have a pint of Chardonnay, please."

Rincewind and Bartender, The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett

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This meaning of this entire post, including the pun, is completely lost on me.

Perhaps that's one of the better, or at least more interesting, things about message boards. I don''t mean that as a personal comment. The meaning of many posts is completely lost on the rest of us from time to time. Ambiguity, doubt and the abstract concept are all food for thought and sometimes thinking is its own reward.

Speaking of ad hominem posts, my pet peeve is the post that mocks another member's attempt to communicate on the boards. I'm speaking of the comment that goes well beyond sarcasm as it applies to comments made in the post to which the taunt replies. I think you know it when you see it and examples need not be posted by me, or others following in the thread. Such attention to one party would be unfair and unreasonable as well as take this thread away from its useful discussion on the subject of anonymity, etiquette and honorable posting in the forums. The mocking tone is rare here, and that's one of the Society's blessings and rewards, but it's not unknown. When it's made by an anonymous poster, it reinforces the impression that anonymity is being used to screen behavior, and perhaps opinions, that would embarrass the poster in public. Then again, as I've seen it here, but more often on other sites, with real names attached, we should understand that some people have no shame. Few of us manage to always earn the respect of those with whom we disagree in the forums, or even those watching a debate from the sidelines, but I think that's a more reasonable goal than simply winning the argument. It's quite possibly a harder goal to attain at times.

Previewing my post before I hit "add reply," I see that Jonathan added that "condescending remarks" are on the decline here. I agree and for that reason they stand out more. The general tone of the forums makes such posts all the more noticeable, and I trust offensive to the membership.

Is this directed at me?

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Four years, add another person fooled. I think the managers do a heck of a job.

I have had two of my posts deleted, one I posted some material that conflicted with the use policy, which was fine with me, I did not intend to violate the rules. The second was removed because the post immediately above it, which it referenced, was deleted and my post no longer made any sense.

As for keeping my anonymity, when I first posted on EG, I was flamed a couple of times and stayed away for a while. I was disgusted with what I thought was immature behavior. It turned out to be the exception and not the norm.

Since then there IMHO has been a vast improvement in the way people deal with one another on EG. I do tend to stay way from the media threads however so maybe I'm missing the more contentious threads.

**************************************************

Ah, it's been way too long since I did a butt. - Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

--------------------

One summers evening drunk to hell, I sat there nearly lifeless…Warren

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I hope Mr. Shaw is right that E-Gullet has no plan to become a place for professionals only. I hope that guys like me, who like to eat, drink, cook, bake and talk about all those things and read things from others about those things can be welcome here.

The many professionals who do post here offer great insight to us plain ol' folk.

I do not use my whole name, not so much out of fear of conatct with weird people, but because I see no purpose in it. I am sure that if someone wanted to track me down there is enough in my posts that would let them find me.

I'm not a famous chef, writer, editor, or anything. If my opinions thus are meaningless to those that are, so be it.

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A timely thread for me personally as I too am in the throes of being stalked by someone from south of the border who objects to my sometimes pithy posts on various Fora.

The phone calls the threatening emails it's a classic case and is about to blow up in the stalker's face I'm told.

Somehow knowledge of my real name has spread to posters on this site who address me by name in PMs-an unsettling situation to put it mildly. :unsure:

I had made up my mind to deal with the stalker/miscreant first before posting here again and at that time I would decide whether or not to 'out myself'.

For the moment I have decided to be a cautious Salmon and remain underwater.

I'd like to Thank everyone for their input on this thread and when in Vancouver if you see someone with a tattoo just like my avatar that's me-feel free to say Hello but Please don't call me @ home. :rolleyes:

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I hope Mr. Shaw is right that E-Gullet has no plan to become a place for professionals only.[...]

If eGullet Management planned on making this a professionals-only site, wouldn't their first step be to fire hosts like me? :raz::laugh:

Feel secure in knowing that your fears won't be realized.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I hope Mr. Shaw is right that E-Gullet has no plan to become a place for professionals only.[...]

If eGullet Management planned on making this a professionals-only site, wouldn't their first step be to fire hosts like me? :raz::laugh:

Feel secure in knowing that your fears won't be realized.

Michael's right: there's enough of us around here that we could have a pretty tidy little coup. What's more, my 6 Qt KitchenAid is easier to swing during a fight than some professional Hobart TankMixer. :wink:

And on the anonymity question: after over a decade of active participation using my real name on listservs and other online fora, I decided to transform my name in a devious manner, producing an eGullet handle that would utterly hide my true moniker to most and reveal it only to those who can figure out the complex two-step code. (Hint: think about capital letters and a single space.)

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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...an eGullet handle that would utterly hide my true moniker to most and reveal it only to those who can figure out the complex two-step code. (Hint: think about capital letters and a single space.)

I originally thought that it was an even more complex three-step code. D'oh! Occam's Razor still rules.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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I have felt from the start that anonymity is a drawback on this site. It would be more fun, more credible, more reassuring and more interesting to know the real names of those we read and respond to.

It would also obviate the kind of mild humiliation I felt when I discovered that I had been having exchanges with an anon e-gulleter who turned out to be my own son! How much sharper than a serpent's tooth is that?

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