Design Canada Trailer

Through the lens of graphic design, Design Canada follows the transformation of a nation from a colonial outpost to a vibrant and multicultural society.

Cast (Designers): Burton Kramer, Rolf Harder, Fritz Gottschalk, Hans Kleefeld, Stuart Ash, Heather Cooper, and more

With Commentary by: Massimo Vignelli, Douglas Coupland, George Stroumboulopoulos, Hannah Sung, and more.

designcanada.com

This looks so great. I’m glad to see Vignelli is in the documentary as well. He (and the infamous Helvetica documentary) were huge inspirations to me in high school. May he forever rest in peace.

I’m also a huge rail-nerd. So seeing Vignelli critique the 1969 CN logo is going to be mind-blowing for me. You can read more about the Allan Fleming re-branding here, and more about CN’s history, here.

On Scrolling

The team at Evil Martians is notorious for writing some of the best, informative posts this side of the River Hypertext. For example, they wrote an absolutely brilliant, easy-to-parse post on React and how the virtual DOM works. They also penned an opinionated post about front-end Rails solutions.

If you write code (for a living or otherwise), add Martian Chronicles to your feed. They're writing some amazing stuff.

Well, they're at it again. Only this time, they wrote about nothing other than… scrolling on the web. Probably the single most overlooked, ubiquitous and neglected piece of any user experience. So much so that, Apple decided we no longer needed one.

The quiet death of a scrollbar was never mourned by Apple folk. Users, grown accustomed to the way scrolling is done on iPhones and iPads, have quickly embraced the change and most of developers and designers have thought “Good riddance!” Accounting for a scrollbar width had always been a chore.

The Martians researched the topic very thoroughly. I was particularly intrigued with this killer smooth-scroll solution:

<!-- HTML -->
<a href="#section">Section</a>

Clicking that link results in a jump to the section, and often UX designers would insist on some sort of animation to make scrolling smooth. There is a plethora of ready-made solutions on GitHubthat use more or less of JavaScript, but the same can be achieved nowadays with just one line of code. Since recently, Element.scrollIntoView() from the DOM API takes an options object with a behavior key, enabling smooth scrolling out of the box:

// Javascript
elem.scrollIntoView({
  behavior: 'smooth'
});

But the browser support for options is still quite limited and it is still a script. And extra scripts should be avoided whenever possible.Luckily, there is a brand new CSS property (still in working draft) that can change the scroll behavior of the whole page with a single line of code:

/* CSS */
html {
  scroll-behavior: smooth;
}

Way more efficient this way. You can do smooth-scrolling with JS or jQuery all by itself, as noted by this much-frequented CSS-Tricks article. But, I much prefer the lightweight solution Evil Martians cooked up. I should add, that the scroll-behavior CSS property is only supported on Chrome and Firefox as of writing. That being said, there is thankfully a polyfill for unsupported browsers, if you're into that sort of thing.

Anyways, you can check out the rest of the article from Evil Martians on their rad blog here.

GT Super

A rad typeface, inspired by the 70’s and 80’s pastiche.

My girlfriend and long-time Stephen King superfan is a collector of vintage horror novels and memorabilia. My favorite past-time while she's rummaging through used bookstores is spotting all the old typography and the incestuous pastiche these book designers employed.

I think this kind of stuff is great.

This stuff is truly iconic — pick up any horror novel from that time, and you're likely to see what I mean.

Well, the Grilli Type Foundry is a fan too. Loads of ad men, book designers, newspaper editors and product designers typeset many a word in this in the 70's, 80's (and beyond). GT Super, was born out of admiration for Trooper Roman, Perpetua, and Times Modern:

We later found out that the typeface used in this advertisement, shown above, was some version of Perpetua Super — which lead us to GT Super’s name. The 1960s & 70s saw many such titling serifs created for the then-new phototype technology, and oftentimes quite different designs were marketed under the same name. Some of our favorite typefaces of that time are all the different versions of PerpetuaTrooper Roman, and Times Modern.

From the Gt Super specimen website
Ibid.
Ibid.

As alluring as the expressiveness of these high-contrast, titling serif typefaces is — these very qualities limit their utility for text usage. Additionally, most typefaces of the genre were designed in only a single weight. Our goal with GT Super was to expand on the unique traits of those designs while building a consistent typographic system. The Display styles, with their fine details, work best when used large, while the Text styles focus on body copy performance.

GT Super includes a text family and a display family, so it's use is pretty versatile. Between the alternates for descender characters and troublesome characters — this is a beautiful serif to play with.

GT Super Text
GT Super Display

I love the alternate descenders. The g's look like they're drawn straight from a quill nib. Very lovely. I prefer the italics in the display family over the text, but overall I think they're really neat.

From Grilli Type

Further Reading:

Soviet-Era Industrial Design

Link: The Overlooked Wonders of Soviet-Era Industrial Design

 

Phaidon has an incredible collection of design books, and they run a wonderful blog too. Atlas Obscura got their hands on a copy of Phaidon's newest design reference, Designed in the USSR: 1950-1989. This is a pretty sweet book. I'd love to see all the space-race inspired gadgetry and appliances. My favorite is this macaroni box:

 

From Atlas Obscura

 

Anika Burgess writes:

“There were ‘sample product rooms,’ where Western examples of industrial products were displayed, often serving as prototypes for their Soviet equivalents,” writes Alexandra Sankova in the book’s introduction. Sankova is the director of the Moscow Design Museum, which first displayed these items in an exhibition in 2012. For her, the Soviet era from the 1950s onwards was an important period of design history, “when function and utility were the driving forces behind ideas but remarkable examples of innovation and creativity still flourished.”

Oddly enough, Anika previously reviewed more Soviet ephemera at the Obscura: The Artful Propaganda of Soviet Children’s Literature — fascinating relics.

You can pick up the Designed in the USSR, from Phaidon directly for $39.95.

Let’s Talk Blocks

If you haven't been following, WordPress is undertaking a potentially calamitous (okay that's a bit dramatic) update to the TinyMCE composer. It's been relatively untouched since nearly a decade ago, and oddly enough — the composer is pretty much at the core of web publishing. So some people are going to have some opinions. Go figure.

Tammie Lister of Automattic authored a comprehensive guide on the basic design principles of the blocks of Gutenberg. In her introduction:

Have you ever wondered what something is called within Gutenberg? This guide is meant to help by giving the names and the expected behaviour of some of the basic design elements. If you want to build blocks and extend Gutenberg, knowing what to use or not is important. This is meant as a starting point, not a full description of all design elements.

Tammie is super cool. She has some slides from the London Wordcamp up on Github, along with some other neat resources. I particularly enjoyed some of the potential ideas for Gutenberg (collaborative editing, apps in the sidebar such as WoldframAlpha or Spellcheck). Which would make sense. Gutenberg is for managing content and Customizer will (soon) be for managing design.

Mark my words. The days of drag-and-drop, shortcode, bloat-inducing layout builder plugins will be coming to an end.

Layout builders and their silly shortcodes

Layout builders (such as Divi or Elementor) originally cropped up in response to WordPress plainly lacking proper layout solutions for the common laymen (imagine tools like Wix or SquareSpace).

Many of them have unique and effective layout/templating solutions. But, boy do they produce bloat. WordPress users that use these tools inherit so much technical debt. I don't think the updates coming to Gutenberg (and Customizer for that matter) will solve all of the issues users have, but I certainly believe it will address a lot of them. I for one, am excited to see what comes out of this.

Further Reading:

Trailmix Ventures

Every now and then I come across little organizations doing big things

Trailmix Ventures seemingly runs a tight ship. What looks like 5 managing partners, and a board of 4 advisors that's pretty impressive:

  • Sheila Marcelo, Founder and CEO of Care.com
  • Adam Grant, Wharton professor, author of Give and Take 
  • Neil Blumenthal, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Warby Parker
  • Helene Hahn Lloyd, Co-Founder and former COO of DreamWorks

For comparison, the indispensable Y Combinator has at least 100 on staff in total. Size of staff doesn't matter for VC's — at least not anymore. But I think Trailmix's manifesto says it all:

We are in the middle of a profound cultural sea change. In 2017, eighty percent of consumers participated in the sharing economy; by 2020 nearly half of the American workforce will work independently. Increasingly free of institutions, these consumers are seeking new and innovative ways to care for themselves and others; work and cultivate talent; and infuse their lives with beautiful design and wellness.

Did you gasp when you read that line too? I know I did, and had to confirm. In reality, 40% of the American workforce will be independent workers by 2020 — but still Trailmix is onto something here:

What about work? The vast majority of millennials overwork, and yet they care so little about their jobs that most would quit in a hot second if something better came along. Life shouldn’t be this way. We see more than a chance for change. We see an imperative.

Our terrain:

We invest in companies focused on sustainable well-being

We invest in companies that help both workers and entrepreneurs cultivate talent

We invest in companies that help people design more fulfilling and ecstatic realities 

We invest in brands focused on consumers identifying with passions and purpose

We look for the experiences that bind us together and the tastes that set us apart

This trail, of passion and purpose, is one we are proud to walk.

What an incredibly healthy refrain from the hyper-growth expectations many VC's have. And, talk about giving a shit. Trailmix's current investment batch includes some really interesting startups:

  • Sphynx (3-in-1 Razor, female beauty products)
  • SupChina (China focused media company, fucking rad)
  • SVRF (A You’veTube for VR of sorts)
  • Herb (Weed focused media company and online retailer)
  • Nautilus Labs (Maritime vessel analytics and data reporter)

Definitely keeping an eye on Trailmix in the coming years.

For Good Vibes, Be Empathetic

Meg Lewis, an amazing entrepreneur, designer, consultant and all-around-amazing human — recently published a wonderful post on dealing with personal mental health in public:

Excited to share my all-time favorite thing to do on the subway, or other public transportation. It’s also one of the best empathy exercises I’ve thought of and really helps to remind me to feel the moments of love and pain we all go through. It’s a really great way to remember how much we all deserve happy, whole, peaceful lives. If you’re not a public transportation rider, I’d recommend this exercise in any public area (coffee shops and airports are great!).

She goes on to describe her 4-step meditation process in full here. It's absolutely brilliant — thoughtful and effective. From time to time, when life gets you down, or your anxiety is throttling your life-force, you're forced to just wait it out in agony. These sorts of episodes always happen at the worse times too don't they? Right before a meeting, on your commute to work, in a busy store, or a crowded subway car.

They're frustrating to deal with to say the least. While public meditation can be a difficult discipline to master, it seems Meg has discovered a great meditation technique that has certainly helped me, and I hope it helps you too. Bonus, it will help you empathize with those around you, and it feels like we need that more than ever.

Sidenote: Meg hosts branding and logo design workshops, and I think they're totally worth the coin. Check them out here.

Links: April 2018

Time for another roundup of links! This month we have sinkholes in West Texas, a misinformation satire site called Scarfolk, a Tetris game that berates you, cool stuff from IBM and a few other goodies.

Time for another roundup of links!

Don’t Fix Facebook. Replace It.

It turns out that the data leak from Cambridge Analytica isn’t 5 million, it isn’t 87 million, but affects a whopping 2 billion users. Major bummer. This quote about sums up how I feel about it:

What the journalist Walter Lippmann said in 1959 of “free” TV is also true of “free” social media: It is ultimately “the creature, the servant and indeed the prostitute of merchandizing.” But social media itself isn’t going away. It has worked its way into our lives and has come to help satistify the basic human need to connect and catch up. Facebook, in fact, claims lofty goals, saying it seeks to “bring us closer together” and “build a global community.” Those are indeed noble purposes that social media can serve. But if they were Facebook’s true goals, we would not be here.

Advertising makes the world go round. No doubt about it. But let’s not beat around the bush, Facebook makes money. Connecting people is secondary to their primary goal — leveraging user data for advertisers.

A Better Way to Put Words on Paper, IBM Selectric Ad

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuOxOVDKJh4

A classic. You just don’t see ads like this anymore. It’s beautiful. Reminds me of the early Macintosh ads.

IBM Plex C-Handle Mug 11oz

Another IBM related link. In celebration of IBM’s new typeface, Plex they made this super cool mug. 10/10, would buy.

Wesleyan Tetris

https://youtu.be/6bfWM1T2ZCM

This is a fun one. From Macintosh Garden:

A Mac-exclusive bid to create the most vexing Tetris possible. It will lie, cheat, taunt you about your play (“Nice slide!”), give you preposterously unusable pieces, and find a creative “new way to screw you” on every level. While it never saw its intended commercial publication, a leaked development copy became an underground sensation.

This version only refers to itself as Tetris by Randall Cook, but it picked up many other names as it spread: New Tetris, Obnoxious Tetris, Attitude Problem Tetris, Wise-Ass Tetris, Asshole Tetris and most famously Wesleyan Tetrisafter the author’s university. Recently, Cook announced plans to release the source code under the name Original Supertris.

Scarfolk Council

I discovered this one from Josh and Chuck at Stuff You Should Know. They’re a goofy bunch and easily my favorite podcast. Scarfolk is a misinformation-satire, specifically occupying the graphic design aesthetic of 1970’s PSA campaigns. From the Scarfolk masthead:

Scarfolk is a town in North West England that did not progress beyond 1979. Instead, the entire decade of the 1970s loops ad infinitum. Here in Scarfolk, pagan rituals blend seamlessly with science; hauntology is a compulsory subject at school, and everyone must be in bed by 8pm because they are perpetually running a slight fever. “Visit Scarfolk today. Our number one priority is keeping rabies at bay.” For more information please reread.

From Scarfolk

You can watch the SYSK’s Internet Roundup episode here. The origins and inspirations of Scarfolk starts at around 7:30. Good stuff.

The 1Password 7 Beta for Mac Is Lit and You Can Be, Too

It’s here! Finally. The 1Password 7 Beta is out for macOS users. I’ve played around with it for a week now and it’s pretty nice. Very refreshing UI update. 

More Sinkholes for West Texas?

From Texas Monthly:

A new study from two SMU scientists finds that oil and gas activity has made the ground unstable over a 4,000-square-mile swath of West Texas.

Growing up in Texas, I can tell you — earthquakes are not common at all. Most of Texas sits upon several massive shale structures. As this oil and gas activity continues, there could be dire consequences.

From the EIA

SMU geophysics and researcher Jin-Woo Kim later says:

If these shifts continue, they could lead to increased seismic activity in the area as well as the formation of new sinkholes, which would pose a danger to “residents, roads, railroads, levees, dams, and oil and gas pipelines,” according to Lu. Pipelines in particular are vulnerable to these shifts, and there are many of them in the area. “West Texas has one of the densest networks of oil and gas pipelines in the U.S.,” the scientists noted. Ground water could also be polluted as a result.

Gothamist is Back!

Hooray! WAMU gets DCist, and KPCC gets LAist! A great victory for the web and journalism. There’s a Kickstarter to help raise cash for WNYC + Gothamist. Fuck yeah.

The Key Wrangler from CW&T

From CW&T

I came across CW&T (Che-Wei Wang & Taylor Levy) after HAWRAF (a design and tech studio in Flatiron) shared the photo on Instagram. CW&T is maker studio, seemingly focusing on solving unique problems at the intersection of art and design. The Key Wrangler is a rugged, solid piece of CNC’d titanium (or brass). I love the passion and grit CW&T puts into their work.

They’ve also done some cool projects in the past too. Such as this rad music project, 365 Days of OP-1. Very impressive. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything 365 days in a row except for maybe eating. 😬

Learn Enough (JS) to be Dangerous

Micheal Hartl has some of the most comprehensive tutorials I've ever read. I've purchased his Rails tutorial ebooks in the past and really enjoyed getting a basic grasp on how the nuts and bolts work in Rails. He has a wonderful writing style, that won't make you feel stupid — he challenges you to question methods and offers a breadth of approaches to solving the same problem. Briefly looking over his Javascript course — I can tell this one is going to be a hit too.

Image from: learnenough.com

Ruby and Javascript obviously differ. But because Javascript continues to grow in scope and evolve at an alarmingly-fast rate, many entry level developers are struggling to keep pace. The far-reaching uses of Javascript seem to be boundless today, as evident by inventions such as (in no particular order), jQuery, Electron Apps, React, and of course Node.

From the introduction:

Unlike most JavaScript tutorials, we’ll be treating JavaScript as a general-purpose programming language right from the start, so our examples won’t be confined to the browser. The result is a practical narrative introduction to JavaScript—a perfect complement to both in-browser coding tutorials and the voluminous but hard-to-navigate JavaScript reference material on the Web.

You won’t learn everything there is to know about JavaScript—that would take thousands of pages and centuries of effort—but you will learn enough JavaScript to be dangerous

Hartl offers a comprehensive primer right from the get-go. If you're a novice in web development, and/or want to broaden your Javascript horizons, this tutorial is for you.

It should be noted, he has no shortage of other courses to choose from as well. CSS, the command line, and HTML are all fine subjects for entry level developers as well. 

Giving a Shit

Since the beginning of this year, I decided I would write more. So far, ditching Facebook and cutting back on Twitter has really helped me achieve that. I don't know if it will be effective for you, but that's my ten centers. I really enjoy logging my links, drafting posts and hitting that publish button. — I gotta say, it feels good to share again.

Recently I befriended a Tom Critchlow (@tomcritchlow), a blogger, podcast host and digital strategy consultant. It turns out he lives in NYC as well. We bonded over art and hypertext on Twitter. Go figure. He wrote a succinct quip on his blog a while back that I want to share:

Why not start by making something you give a shit about?

The ugly truth about much of the content produced online is that it’s being measured on superficial metrics by unmotivated parties. If you’re in the business of making your audience take action then you’re gonna need to make something they give a shit about.

Sound advice if you ask me. Wether you're a blogger, a designer or an engineer. Make something you believe in. We don't need any more cruft in our lives.

Give his blog and his Twitter a follow. You won't regret it.

Link: RSS is Undead

https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/07/rss-is-undead/

Danny Crichton makes some excellent points in this Techcrunch piece. RSS and Podcasts share very similar product design problems. The problems are are two-fold:

  • Discovery is almost always word-of-mouth (the exception however is advertising on Overcast, which is a stellar podcasting experience to say the least).
  • Curating your feed is currently topic-orientated, when it should be people-orientated. That’s the secret-sauce of Twitter Moments and Reddit. Or, to go deeper into the problem engagement is the signal these algorithms look for. Therefor a revival in RSS hinges on a product leveraging those signals, otherwise you’re just subscribing to hundreds — if not thousands of noisy RSS sources to jam up your unread feed.

From Techcrunch:

Next, RSS readers need to get a lot smarter about marketing and on-boarding. They need to actively guide users to find where the best content is, and help them curate their feeds with algorithms (with some settings so that users like me can turn it off). These apps could be written in such a way that the feeds are built using local machine learning models, to maximize privacy.

An excellent point. Apple does this with aplomb for a number of their products. Photos, video collages, and even iMessage emoji suggestions all use machine learning and protect end-user data privacy. It’s a technique called differential privacy. Craig Federighi of Apple talked about this approach in his interview with Wired in 2016:

“Differential privacy is a research topic in the areas of statistics and data analytics that uses hashing, subsampling and noise injection to enable…crowdsourced learning while keeping the data of individual users completely private. Apple has been doing some super-important work in this area to enable differential privacy to be deployed at scale.”

In light of the recent Facebook personal-data implosion — I for one, hope RSS makes a comeback.

Tide NYC

It’s no secret that I love DigitalOcean. I host this site on a DO Droplet. Hell, I host most of my web projects with DigitalOcean. Pretty much ever since 2012. They have a great product, that has never really disappointed me.

Another reason I love DigitalOcean? They host events for all walks of life. They host Hacktoberfest, an annual hack-a-thon. They get everyone amped about closing open issues, unit testing and it’s a nice way to get a bunch of nice people together to support open-source.

On April 24th, DigitalOcean is hosting an afternoon of tech talks. I would say this event is aimed at the backend/founders audience. You’ver software engineers, development team leads, dev-ops, co-founders, and CTOs. If that’s not your jam, hang tight for the summer, or better yet Hacktoberfest!

Here’s the lineup for Tide NYC so far:

  • Ben Uretsky – Co-Founder & CEO, DigitalOcean
  • Shiven Ramji – VP Product, DigitalOcean
  • Anshul Pandey – Co-Founder & CTO, Accern
  • Reynold Harbin – Director, Product Marketing, DigitalOcean
  • Russell Bierschbach – Managing Partner, RouteTrust
  • Yvan De Boeck – VP of Software, Bevi
  • Nic Jackson – Developer Advocate, HashiCorp
  • Bryan Liles – Staff Engineer, Heptio
  • DigitalOcean Hatch Founders
  • Tammy Butow – Principal SRE, Gremlin
  • Ariel Jatib – Founder, StackPointCloud
  • Dan Kohn – Executive Director, Cloud Native Computing Foundation
  • Manju Ramanathpura – Senior Director, Product Management, DigitalOcean
  • Mike Roberts – Partner, Symphonia
  • Shiven Ramji – VP Product, DigitalOcean

This looks really cool. Jam-packed with insights from executives, and co-founders. If you run a web product, you should RSVP. Maybe I’ll see you there 👀

Link: Unsplash for iOS

Download Unsplash for iOS here.

What started as a side-project for some of the good people at Crew (which is now Dribbble), has turned into something of an internet sensation for internet publishers. Unsplash, is a photography platform for sharing photos. This isn’t like Instagram though, Unsplash wrote a very specific license for Unsplashers.

All photos published on Unsplash can be used for free. You can use them for commercial and noncommercial purposes. You do not need to ask permission from or provide credit to the photographer or Unsplash, although it is appreciated when possible

More precisely, Unsplash grants you an irrevocable, nonexclusive copyright license to download, copy, modify, distribute, perform, and use photos from Unsplash for free, including for commercial purposes, without permission from or attributing the photographer or Unsplash. This license does not include the right to compile photos from Unsplash to replicate a similar or competing service.

I 100% believe this is good. Good for publishers, and good for photography. I’m not alone on that opinion either. They’ve raised serious capital in recent months, and continue to integrate their growing database of photography with publishers such as Medium. Photos and text are staples of the web publishing and that will never change.

Well now, they have an iOS app:

https://twitter.com/unsplash/status/981801235417391104

It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Instagram, nor does it have user profiles. It’s pretty dead simple (for now). Sometimes it’s good to move slow. I can tell you one thing, it’s a fun way to find and download some really nice photos for your next project. Wether that’s for your blog, you iOS wallpaper library, or the powerpoint presentation you’re supposed to be working on right now — Unsplash has made an impressive impact on the web. 👏

Link: Apple Hires Google’s AI Chief

Jack Nicas (@jacknicas) and Cade Metz (@CadeMetz) for the New York Times:

Apple has hired Google’s chief of search and artificial intelligence, John Giannandrea, a major coup in its bid to catch up to the artificial intelligence technology of its rivals.

Apple said on Tuesday that Mr. Giannandrea will run Apple’s “machine learning and A.I. strategy,” and become one of 16 executives who report directly to Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook.

The hire is a victory for Apple, which many Silicon Valley executives and analysts view as lagging its peers in artificial intelligence, an increasingly crucial technology for companies that enable computers to handle more complex tasks, like understanding voice commands or identifying people in images.

I’m not surprised at all.

Apple should poach the best AI talent they can find. Siri has clearly been suffering for years. No one on the (former?) Siri team wants to take responsibility for the digital assistant failures of years past. It seems the Homepod barely launched with Siri at all. With all these failures left and right, Apple can’t afford to lose the AI assistant battle in the home. It’s no wonder Homekit doesn’t support Google Home. They’re clearly playing catch-up and this is the first public hire that means serious business.

Link: New York Times – Apple Hires Google’s A.I. Chief

Care by Volvo Vehicle Subscription

Wow. This is really something else. For a base price of $600/month, you can essentially lease a Volvo XC40 — a crossover class. But, this is really a subscription service. You can subscribe through the app on your iPhone with Apple Pay too. It has all sorts of perks:

  • Upgrade to a new vehicle after 12 months
  • Park assist, and other Volvo car features
  • Car insurance
  • Routine maintenance
  • Roadside assistance
  • Zero money down

Not shabby, considering insurance premiums on new vehicles can often break the bank. And let’s not forget how expensive car maintenance can be. 

The xc40. From Volvo

The downsides? Roberto Baldwin (@strngwys) at Endgadget writes:

As always, though, there are caveats. To qualify for Care by Volvo, you have to fit within certain insurance and credit parameters, as determined by Liberty Mutual. So if you have good credit but you have a few points on your driving record that put you outside what an underwriter finds acceptable, you’re out of luck. There’s no $650-per-month option for a bit higher insurance or to cover your bad credit. It’s all or nothing.

Further reading:

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