Get your Blogging Zest Back

Are you still zesty?

get your blogging zest back

When you first start blogging, you are like a kid in a candy store with a million bucks to spend. Ideas flow readily, creative juices are on tap, and the world is yours. Who knows how many shares your next post will get? Maybe you’ll hit the bigtime and huge brands will knock on your door to advertise. Maybe you’ll get a book deal!

Time passes.

Many posts are written.

Daily demands start to distract you from your initial excitement.

You go three weeks with no comments.

No book deal yet.

It’s been a year or so, the magical tipping point, right?

Where are all of my readers? Why doesn’t my Google Analytics page view chart look like the Himalayas instead of a flatlining heart patient?

Stop the shame spiral, and stop torturing yourself.

How to Get Your Blogging Zest Back

Take a short break

Maybe you’re posting too frequently. If you are pushing to crank something, anything out several times a week, and it’s a chore, consider scaling back to once a week, or even every two weeks. If you need to get more drastic, tell your readers you’re taking a sabbatical of one month and stop blogging for a while. I promise the world won’t end.

Go someplace weird

Maybe it’s time to get out of your rut. When is the last time you tried something new, or went to a strange location? Stimulating our senses or intellect with new experiences is a great way to get a jolt. Take a road trip, go skydiving, start the cold shower regimen recommended by Julien Smith…anything that shakes up your world.

Have an at-home retreat

You know those corporate retreats where everyone does the trust exercise? You can do that for yourself. Set aside a weekend, or a couple of work days to focus, and revisit why you started the blog in the first place. What made you say, “I’m going to be a blogger?” Write down your reasons, and keep them handy.

Pretend you shuttered your blog

How would you feel? If it’s relieved, then it might be time to actually do it. Blogging should be joyful and rewarding. If you’re doing it right, it’s an outlet, not a draining slog. In fact, ask yourself if you would keep blogging even if no-one was reading it. That’s where you need to be.

Get an outside opinion

Talk to your friends or colleagues who have read your blog. Ask them why they read it. Do a quick survey of your readers (even if that’s only a small group of people) and find out what they think. You might find out that your writing is inspiring people. A lack of comments doesn’t mean a lack of impact. Read this amazing story about the power of 5 blog readers, if you don’t believe me.

Write for the trash can

Maybe you’re trying to live up to a blogging ideal that’s unrealistic. Take the chains off for a while, and just start typing. Write as if no-one will ever read it (hey, you already think no-one’s reading anyway). Get all of that stuff out of your head and onto the page, and then sort it out later. Sometimes a loss of zest is simply coming from an out-of-control negative voice. Shut that sucker down and get your groove back.

Share something personal

Even if you’re writing a pure business blog, you can let your human side out. Maybe you’re having a hard time because you’re trying to put on a facade of “corporate” when all you want to do is run through the sprinkler. Don’t go TMI, but try adding a personal story into your writing and let your community inside. Perhaps that will encourage your readers to come out of the woodwork and share their own personal stories too.

What do you do when you’re feeling squeezed dry?

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for social strata — a top ten company to work for on the Internet . Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

Photo Credit: Patrick Hoesly via Compfight cc

10 Step Half-Year Blog Checkup – How YOU Doin?

It’s almost the halfway point of 2013–time to take stock and make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. Remember those shiny dreams and goals you came up with in January?

To quote my favorite Friend, Joey, “how YOU doin?”

Let’s find out by running through 10 quick checkpoints. There’s still the whole second half of the year to do a course correction and kick butt.

10 Step Half-Year Blog Checkup

  1. Go into your Google Analytics and find your most popular post. Use that as a jumping off point for more content. Update the topic, do a “part two,” or simply re-promote it via your social channels. You might be able to get more juice out of it.
  2. Run a poll or send an email to get feedback from your readers about what they need. Use the results to guide your writing for the rest of the year.
  3. Make sure you are up to date with your software and plugins. When’s the last time you updated your WordPress? Are there better plug-ins you could be using? Do you need to renew any licences?
  4. Check current best practices for your sidebar, ads, and extra content. Is it time to delete some of those old conference badges, test removing your social profiles, or add a promo for your new e-book? There’s a great blog/community review video at Live Your Legend.
  5. Do you need to update your logo, tag line, or branding? When is the last time you refreshed your graphics?
  6. Is your editorial calendar set for the rest of the year? You don’t have to have a headline for every day of the week, but it might be good to sit down and come up with broad topic areas for each week or even each month. You’ll be sitting pretty if you feed your stockpile of headline ideas at the same time. How is your blog draft “slush pile?”
  7. Check in with your goals from the beginning of the year. How have you done? Do you need to make any course corrections? Pat yourself on the back if you’ve checked any big goals off the list already. It’s so important to take time to celebrate your wins. If there’s something on the goal list that you haven’t accomplished, think about whether it was a good goal to begin with.
  8. Update your social sharing tools and make sure you’re taking full advantage of new developments. All of the major social networks have undergone major changes since January. There are now verified Pinterest pages for your business, Facebook has changed its cover photo policy to allow more text, and Twitter now has interactive “cards” available to embed in blog posts. Have you looked at yet?
  9. Get up to speed on disclosure regulations. Are you compliant? It might be time to take a moment and read the updated FTC guidelines.
  10. Is your mobile experience optimized? Check your Google Analytics again and note how much of your audience is reading your blog on a mobile device. My guess is that it’s a big chunk! Take time to ensure that your site is mobile-ready.

Let’s use the rest of 2013 to inspire each other to success!

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for social strata — a top ten company to work for on the Internet . Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

Spring Cleaning for the Mind

By Tiffany Matthews

There will come a time when you find yourself unable to write, not just for hours at end, but days and weeks. The worst is when those weeks stretch into months. By then, the screen’s cursor constant blinking would become a taunting reminder that you have yet to type words, not even one word. If you’re suffering from a serious case of writer’s block, simple tips to beat blank page syndrome will no longer suffice. Badly burned out and drained of every last drop of creative juice? It’s time to call in the big guns.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

When a writer friend suddenly announced on Facebook that she was going to unplug and go away for awhile, I was concerned. I wondered what she could possibly be going through. I had my answer when she resurfaced online three long months later. Apparently, she had been dutifully following a 12-week program based on Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. Judging from her relaxed and happier mood, the long break has been helpful in restoring her creativity as well as productivity. The program also helped her get over her major case of writer’s block and gave her more insight on the artistic process.

Some people will not like everything about The Artist’s Way. The long period required to complete the program will not appeal to active writers–who are trying to survive daily life and–who can’t afford to break off from work just for the sake of creativity. There are a couple of things in this book, however, that they can can still do–morning pages and artist dates.

Morning Pages

Every day for the next 12 weeks, you have to pen three handwritten pages, all done first thing in the morning during a stream of consciousness, which means you can’t look back at the previous pages you have written. If you’re not a morning person, you might think twice about waking up early for this exercise. You’ll probably wonder how you can write when you’re still drowsy. Once you get started, however, you’ll be surprised to discover clarity and how easily you can fill up 3 pages. When you write, don’t think, just let the words flow. Ramble if you must. When you read the sheets, you’ll find out that your true thoughts–some repressed–and find a way to resolve some of the issues that have been in your mind for a long time. This practice of morning pages also helps transform writing into more of a daily habit and makes the words flow easier.

Artist Dates

“Artist Dates are assigned play.” Once a week, you must embark on an expedition alone in order to explore what is of interest to you. It doesn’t have to be overly artistic, but it should fire up your imagination. An artist date should be fun and whimsical, something that encourages play. Art is all about the play of ideas, so open yourself to fun things that you want to try. When we experience something new or something that we enjoy, it helps fuel our creativity and build up another reservoir of inspiration that we can draw from. Artist dates replenish our creative juices, adding new ideas and images that bring us closer to our inner artist and craft new masterpieces.

General Cleaning

Sometimes people dread spring, not because they are not looking forward to warmer weather but because it’s time for spring cleaning. Cleaning your house from top to bottom until you drop can be therapeutic for writers and artists, not to mention productive. Just remember to invest in a good vacuum cleaner. The no-handles type can help you get rid of every speck of dust, even in those hidden corners under beds and furniture that you can’t reach. Who knows, you just might get some great ideas while you’re cleaning. Having a sparkly clean house also feels very rewarding especially after all the hard work you’ve put in. The actual spring cleaning helps relax your mental state and makes you feel refreshed. The more relaxed you are, the more your ideas will flow so you can now get back to work.

Spring cleaning isn’t just for the house. Sometimes, we need to apply it to ourselves so we can recharge and welcome new changes that will help us grow as writers and artists.

Author’s Bio: Based in San Diego, California, Tiffany Matthews writes about travel, fashion and anything under sun at You can find her on Twitter as

Clarify Your Site’s Purpose and Stop the Terminator

The average web page visit lasts less than one minute.

Humans are programmed to sort everything they see into familiar labels, or buckets. Our brains scan the immediate environment to find threats, food, competitors, and potential mates. Like the Terminator searching for John Connor, we make fast assessments and move on.

The same thing is happening with visitors to your blog or website.

You’re doing the same thing right now reading this blog post. You read the headline, decided it was applicable to your situation, and started scanning. Maybe these quick bullets will keep you reading.

Tactics for Building a Useful Web Presence

  • Use your Google Analytics to view landing and exit pages. If certain landing pages lead to an immediate exit, tweak the content. Keep testing what is resonating with your visitors.
  • Have a clear path. People don’t usually land on the home page and click a giant “buy” button immediately. Have a plan for how you want visitors to progress through your information, and where you want them to end up.
  • Use markers like arrows, visual flow, friendly text. Design can’t be an afterthought. In “Terminator” mode, people need simple visual clues about where to click next.
  • Make your “ask” very clear. Is your site supporting a business? What are you selling? Is it a hobby/journal blog? Are you supporting a non-profit? Don’t make your visitors guess.
  • Declutter. Set up a routine review of your blog or website, with the intention of taking out anything that’s not crucial. Old badges, social buttons, ads that aren’t getting clicks, be ruthless, like you are with your closet.
  • Stop sending people away to other sites. You may have noticed that a lot of the big bloggers have started removing their “follow me on…” buttons from the home page (replacing it with email capture instead). Consider whether you really want to send your visitors away like that.
  • Check your mobile experience too. Whip out your smartphone and look at your site. Is it fugly? Do something about it! Here’s a handy post from Shonali Burke if you’re running WordPress.

Why do you have a blog or website? How do you make that clear to your visitors?

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for social strata — a top ten company to work for on the Internet . Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

Have you outgrown your blog subscriptions?

By Rosemary O’Neill

So many blogs, so little time. And our RSS feeds and email in-boxes become a one way tube, vacuuming up new subscriptions every day.

How often do you take a moment to prune out blogs that no longer meet your current needs?

My favorite shirt

That surf shirt from high school was so comfy. The t-shirt material was soft and thin from years of use, and it almost conformed to the shape of my body. I loved it for so long. And then one day I realized that I didn’t have enough room in my drawers to keep it anymore. Further, as a 40-something business owner and mom of three, I had no use for a 30 year old t-shirt. It had to go.

Some of those old blog subscriptions are like faded t-shirts too. Perhaps you needed to learn how to start a Twitter account, or the ABCs of Facebook, at one time, but you’ve grown, your perspective may have shifted. Heck, your entire business model may have shifted.

Get some new input

The great thing about tossing the old clothes (or blog subscriptions) is the ability to add new stuff to the drawer. When was the last time you actively sought out new voices for your subscription stream?

Action items for today

  • Each time you get a new blog post (via email or RSS), evaluate whether it is still relevant to you, where you are today. If not, unsubscribe.
  • If you haven’t read the posts from a blogger in more than 3 weeks, time to unsubscribe.
  • Go to or and browse the subject areas that interest you to find new bloggers to follow.
  • Go to the Twitter profile of someone you admire and look at the people he/she follows. Then use their bios to find their blogs and subscribe.
  • Do a Google search for “blog” and your favorite keyword to find new blogging voices.

Are you ready to update your content wardrobe?

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for social strata — a top ten company to work for on the Internet . Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

Thank you, Rosemary!

You’re irresistible!

ME “Liz” Strauss

How to monitor the health of your online business

by Rosemary O’Neill

These days, everything around us has a built-in indicator to tell us when something’s wrong. My car has been telling me I need “Service A4” for about a month now. Our iPhones have battery life indicators. Even my kids’ school lunch account pings me when it’s low.

But there’s no handy-dandy centralized indicator to tell you when your online business needs maintenance.

Key indicators for your business
Keep an eye on your key indicators

There are so many things to keep an eye on when you’re a small business owner or an entrepreneur.  
Industry developments, customer challenges, payroll, legal requirements, and (if you can squeeze it in) planning for the future, all must be monitored. Toss social media tracking and reputation management in the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for stress.

Let’s set up a manageable system that tracks only the most important indicators. Pull out your business plan and/or marketing and sales plan. What are your key milestones for success? What is your “red line” you can’t go below as far as sales pipeline or conversions?

Bearing in mind your goals and critical areas, here are some of the items you might want to add to your weekly checkup. I use simple spreadsheets.

Brand awareness indicators

Set up Google alerts on your company name and your own name, as well as your product name(s).
Visit for mentions on the web and on social networks (you can set up alerts or periodically check in). For the spreadsheet, you could track number of mentions over time to see if you’re on an upward trend.
Another indicator of increasing awareness is branded searches. In your Google Analytics, click Traffic Sources Overview. The keyword list will show you whether people coming to your site are typing in your brand name to get there. You could tally up the number of branded searches each week and track that trend as well.

Marketing and Sales Indicators

Again in your Google Analytics, track the number of new visitors over time. That’s a good indicator of increasing interest, and possibly marketing success.

Track true conversions over time. You can set up conversion paths within Google Analytics just by telling Google which action on your site represents a “conversion,” for example, subscribing to a newsletter or clicking the “buy” button. Conversions can also be tracked by dividing raw unique visitors by number of sales over a given time frame.
If you’re using Hootsuite Pro, you can get reports of activity across all of your connected accounts. This is a good way to keep your finger on the pulse of your social networks. Are your Twitter followers increasing? Is your content getting shared? Your dashboard should include some idea of whether your overall network is increasing.

One other statistic to track is the number of new incoming sales inquiries. Most CRM systems make it easy to keep track of new leads, but it can be as simple as tallying the number of new email inquiries from a form on your website. That’s the top of your sales pipeline, so you want this number to stay healthy.

Revenue, of course, must be on your dashboard as well. Be detailed enough that you can see which lines of business are doing well and which might be struggling. That might mean breaking out products vs services.

Planning for the future

Just as you get periodic checkups from your doctor, you should re-evaluate your plan and dashboard indicators routinely.

Weekly updates on the spreadsheets plus a quarterly plan review will keep you on track and allow time for course correction if necessary.

What are your key indicators for the health of your business?

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for social strata — a top ten company to work for on the Internet . Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

Thank you, Rosemary!

You’re irresistible!

ME “Liz” Strauss

Blogging Tools of Engagement that Attract Attention

How to blog series

Grace Nasri

6 Tools of Engagement

There are currently billions of webpages indexed across the world today; as the number grows, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate one blog from another. The six sites below have created tools to help bloggers increase engagement, attract attention, and differentiate their blog from the rest.

1. FindTheBest’s Interactive Widgets: Adding interactive widgets to blog posts is one of the best ways to drive user engagement and increase time spent on your site. FindTheBest () a data-driven comparison engine, offers hundreds of product and service widgets to enhance posts and reviews. The interactive and customizable widgets ( have an added bonus of being monetizable—bloggers receive 100 percent of all affiliate revenue.

2.’s Infographics: Infographics have grown in popularity over the past year, partially because it’s easier for most people to consume and retain information presented in the form of an image or graphic rather that pure data or text. allows bloggers to create customized infographics for their blogs. Other sites like Stat Planet, Tableau and ManyEyes are starting to pop up that make it easy to build customized infographics.

3. Flickr’s Photos: Posts with photos, graphics or other illustrations not only look more enticing, but they can also drive traffic from image searches; when photos are saved with relevant keyword tags, they will show up in an image search and when a user clicks on the image, they will be taken to the affiliated blog. In addition to Flickr, sites like WikiMedia’s commons and Google’s image search are also great sites to find relevant images and graphics, but be sure that the licensing allows for republishing.

4. Pixlr’s Photo Editing Software: For bloggers who don’t have Photoshop but want tools to be able to edit their photos before posting to their blog, Pixlr’s Editor provides online photo editing tools for free.

5. Vimeo’s Videos: People consume and digest data through different formats and channels, while some are more drawn to text and data, others find video content more engaging. Sites like Vimeo make it easy to upload, share and post videos. But Vimeo isn’t the only video sharing site. Site like Blinkx, Vimeo, UStream and YouTube are some other great places to find engaging videos relevant to your blog post.

6. SpeakerText’s Video Transcription Service: Video content, while highly engaging, is not easily searchable by search engines. Video transcription services like SpeakerText specialize in transcribing the content on your video, which helps search engines index your content.

Maybe you’re using one or more of these already. Try the rest. Keep alert for tools that will raise the engagement on your blog.

What tools of engagement fuel your blog?

Author’s Bio:
Grace Nasri is the managing editor at FindTheBest, a data-driven comparison engine. Her articles have been published in The Huffington Post, Reuters, VentureBeat, The Street, Technorati, Asia Times and more. You can see a full list of her articles at and can find her on Twitter as @GraceNasri


5 Simple Ways to Deliver Irresistible Content and Lower Your Bounce Rate

Be Irresisible!


If you’ve been developing a business online in the last few years, you’ve probably heard statics regarding the brief amount of time we have to get and keep the attention of first-time visitors. What was almost 20 seconds in 2005 now is being described as something between 8 seconds and 10.

Getting folks to arrive is the first step, of course. In that, an attention-grabbing, killer headline is everything.

Click image to access complete podcast at The Onion.

Whether it is something completely original and novel, ultra-specific and geared towards a niche, or just incredibly compelling, good headlines on the Web always win.

They always win, except when they don’t.

If a headline delivers traffic, but the traffic immediately bounces away, can you say the headline wins?

A killer headline will get traffic, but what keeps folks reading?
We have to deliver great content to give that headline legs or that traffic will bounce away.

5 Ways to Deliver Irresistible Content and Lower Your Bounce Rate

Strong businesses are built on strong relationships. What transforms a headline clicker into someone who hangs around? What turns first-time visitors into people who want to stick around? What makes them stay and already thinking about their return? Here are five things you can do to make it more likely they get what they came for.

Five Ways to Deliver to the Clickers Who Follow a Headline to Your Blog …

  1. Deliver content that your headline promises.
  2. Deliver content in short paragraphs using subheads surrounded by lots of white space so that people have room to think and breathe. Add a picture that supports the text and illustrates the content. First impressions count.
  3. Deliver it without making folks jump over ads or through hoops to get to the prize that the headline promises. Decide whether you want me to stay … there are other ways to get me to buy.
  4. Deliver it by responding to the people who take time to comment.
  5. Deliver it by making it easy to find more of what brought people to your site.

It’s not the visitor who never came that’s a loss. It’s the visitor who comes to find that we’re not what he or she thought. A great headline followed by something less doesn’t win. It doesn’t even finish.

The most important thing is deliver — do what we say we’re going to do.

Click image to see complete article from The Onion.

If the content you deliver is easy to access, faster to enjoy or employ, and adds value and meaning to a visitor’s life, you can bet that visitors will be glad they came and ready to come back. Easier, faster, more meaningful is irresistible. That’s a fact.

Great headline, lame blog post — who wants to deal with that? You’ve been there. What’s your response when you end up on one of those?

Be irresistible.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!

Take Readers on Your Travels

You love to travel and want to put pen to words, be it before summer ends or down the road.

If you’ve thought of creating a travel blog, it is probably easier than making your travel plans, packing up the suitcase, and making sure you have a good time.

In order to craft a good travel blog to draw in readership on a regular basis, have a few basics in place.

Content, Content, Content

First, review different travel portals online to see how others do it, what to avoid, and what niche you may be able to fill that readers could be missing.

Whether your travels take you not too far from home or halfway around the world, the goal of any quality travel blog is to make readers feel like they’re along for the ride with you.

In order to have your blog followed regularly, the first and most important aspect is providing regular content.

While you’re probably not going to be able to afford to travel every month (unless you do it for a profession), a blog that is sparingly updated stands much less of a chance of gaining a regular following.

The next and most obvious factor is having a clean looking blog that is grammatically correct, flows nicely, has attractive pictures, and makes the reader feel like they’re part of the journey.

While your writing tone should be informative and to the point, don’t make it out to be an instruction manual. We travel for the simple purpose of getting away and enjoying new experiences or rekindling old memories, so keep the tone of the blog enjoyable.

It sounds rather obvious, but it is important to maintain a travel journal during your journeys so that you can look back and pinpoint items to a rather exact science. Hopefully your travels involve lots of fun activities, so recording them for posterity will make it easier when you begin to blog.


Adventures in Life

When traveling down the blogging road, be sure to engage your readers in your adventures. If your readers comment or ask questions about your journeys on the blog, be sure to respond in kind.

Another plus to writing a travel blog is that it can lead to new friendships with others who also like to set sail on new adventures. In some instances, you might actually find new travel partners to share journeys with. Sharing blogging information is also a plus, as travel bloggers can promote each other’s sites, therefore leading to more readers.

While travel bloggers should not expect to make a fortune or even any money early on with their sites, there is potential to profit from one’s journeys.

Assuming that your travel expenses are not going to come easily, making some money off of a travel blog can help assist in covering some of those costs.

In closing, a travel blog should be done in order to convey your travels to others and share the good times that traveling can bring.

Update the blog regularly, engage in conversation with readers, and make the experience one that is fun and doesn’t seem like a job.

If you follow those basic rules, your travels and writing about them will be a vacation.

Photo credit:

Dave Thomas is an expert writer on items like call center services and is based in San Diego, California.  He writes extensively for an online resource that provides expert advice on purchasing and outsourcing decisions for small business owners and entrepreneurs at Resource Nation.

Optimal Elements: Two Column Blogs

A Guest Post by Louise Baker


Let’s face it – there’s no aspect about your blog that is more important in the long run than its design. No matter how good your content, no one is going to want to read your blog if they can’t get past the design. As blogging becomes more mainstream and advanced, design elements are becoming more and more flexible, allowing people to do whatever their imagination desires in terms of their blogs’ layout. Unfortunately, this has led many bloggers taking the route of overcrowding their design. Two column blogs are considered to be the most streamlined and clean type of design, and there are many tweaks that can be made in order to optimize this layout.

Designing a two column blog is all about working as clean as possible. Blogs are like periodicals, and the idea behind this realm of design is to make the content as attractive looking and easy as possible to read, so as not to alienate any visitors. Since two column blogs are somewhat minimalist compared to 3 column blogs, you have a much larger area to work with regarding content. This will allow you to mess with font sizes and photo layouts until you come up with what you feel works best. Finalizing a design is all about trial and error, and often comes down to personal opinion. Regardless, it helps to have a few associates or friends critique your layout.

Since two column layouts tend to have less sidebar room than other types of layouts, the framework itself forces you to be minimalist, which is a good thing. Instead of crowding your sidebars with widgets, comments and the like, make an effort to design them to be as clean as possible. There are other areas on your blog that you can sneak in a few widgets, but you should strive to keep your sidebars clean.

Remember that the most important part of your blog is the content, but the design will determine how the content is viewed. Choose fonts, sizes and other variables that really seem to stand out to the reader. The design is not meant to be focused on. In fact, its main goal is to let the content shine while helping out backstage. If your design is clean, your content will pop. Take this into consideration and your next blog will look clean and professional.

Here’s an example of a clean, well-designed two column blog.
Louise Baker ranks online degrees for Zen College Life. She most recently wrote about the best colleges online.

Thanks, Louise. A clear path to information is so important to online learning sites.

–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!

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