Network News: Facebook integrates with washingtonpost.com
Friday, April 23, 2010; 1:00 PM
The Post's Raju Narisetti and Facebook's Bret Taylor were online Friday, April 23 at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the integration of Facebook's social network with Post content, concerns about user privacy and more.
Raju Narisetti: Hi. Thank you for joining me in the chat. We have a guest today--Bret Taylor, Director of Platform--at Facebook who will also be answering your questions from the West Coast.
Since Wednesday afternoon, those coming to washingtonpost.com have see a new module, fairly prominently, that shows what Washington Post content is being shared on Facebook in aggregate terms (as in 5,900 people Liked this article). It is intended to show what WP content is most popular and for those few on Facebook who have agreed to have their profiles be public, it shows specifically who they are. And, if you happen to be logged on to Facebook and washingtonpost.com, only you could then also see what any of your friends have Liked from Washington Post and, if your friends also happen to be logged on in a similar way to washingtonpost.com, they could see your Likes of any Post content.
Given the popularity of Facebook and how much of washingtonpost.com content is shared there, we believe this module is a useful tool that allows you to share/see what you and your friends are doing with our content without leaving washingtonpost.com. Provided you are logged into both at the same time.
This service a new feature that Facebook rolled out on Wednesday and several media (music, television, magazines) companies have implemented under different names since then.
Since launching, our site has been visited by some 4 million plus unique visitors. I have, indirectly and directly, received some 200 plus emails from readers saying they would prefer to have an Opt Out feature rather than needing to log out of Facebook while they are on our site. Some of you have also said that your organization/company has rules about Facebook access and that you are getting messages from your IT department that having the module violates your internal rules. Others are simply upset it rolled out without much of a warning. On the last point, the timing was really a matter of Facebook rolling out its new service and we wanted to make sure you knew about it, which is why I had a prominent note on the homepage and we also built an About feature on the module itself.
But we take your feedback very seriously and have been working since Wednesday on the best way to provide a full Opt Out feature for those who don't want to see, not just their own feeds but told us that they simply don't care to see what is happening with Post content on Facebook. Period.
So, by tonite or Saturday, our tech folks would have rolled out a clear Opt Out button on the module (a big X) that will give you a few choices, including the option to not have the module show at all when you come to washingtonpost.com. Of course if you use multiple log-ins or use different computers, you might have to do it a couple of times.
I still believe that many of our readers, some of whom have said so, like the convenience of this feature and others, who might initially be spooked by the notion that everyone might be seeing their Facebook Likes (only true if you have a public profile on Facebook), will come to find it a useful and convenient way to share Facebook content.
But, much like the CEOs of British Air or Lufthansa who took the first flights into volcanic ash to show they aren't shying away, I figured it would be good to chat some more today and also have our friends at Facebook respond to any larger questions that you have about this.
Falls Church: So, I'm logged into Facebook and when I'm on the Post's site, I don't recognize a single name that shows up in "My Friends' Activity." What's up with that? It doesn't make me want to ever comment, like, or share a Post article, that's for sure. I don't want to appear on some random person's Friend Activity List, too. The privacy implications of this whole thing are very shady. I'm disappointed, Washington Post....
Raju Narisetti: Hi. It shouldn't. The default is Most Popular and in that some will be names (those who have totally public profiles on Facebook) and others is just aggregate. If you are logged on, make sure you click on Friends' Activity. It should be highlighted in blue (and the Most Popular in grey) and then it will only show what your friends may have liked on FB from washingtonpost.com content.
Bret Taylor: This is Bret Taylor from Facebook. I work on the team that created the Social Plugins that power Washington Post's Network News feature. Looking forward to answering your questions today.
Wanted to clarify a couple of things that seem to be common misunderstandings in the questions I have read so far:
First, no data is being transferred from Facebook to the Washington Post for this feature. Network News is a piece of screen real estate washingtonpost.com has reserved for Facebook. Facebook serves the content in that section of the screen directly to you without transferring any information to Washington Post. Think of it as a view of your Facebook News Feed restricted to items from the Washington Post.
Second, stories only show up in Network News if you click "Like". Stories that you read will NOT show up in Network News if you don't explicitly click a Like button.
Baltimore: What are the Washington Post and Facebook getting out of this partnership? Are there going to be targeted ads based on user profiles? Is WaPo.com getting access to user data from member profiles and Facebook networks? You need to be much more transparent about what information you are getting from and giving to Facebook and what it is being used for.
Raju Narisetti: Hi. As I said in my opening note, I do believe there is value to our audiences who also happen to be on Facebook and share a lot of our content in a module like this. I, for one, don't mind "discovering" a terrific WP story that I might have missed if it happens to show up as something a friend (whose views I care about) liked on Facebook.
This allows me to read it quickly without having to move out of wp.com or facebook.com. From a Post perspective, it is about ease of use in sharing our content. Will it result in more people reading more Post content? I hope so. As a free site, we could use more eyeballs on our content. We don't get paid by Facebook or keep Facebook data. That belongs to Facebook.
Arlington, Va.: I'm not sure I really get what the point of this is supposed to be. How would it benefit me? And at what cost?
Raju Narisetti: Hi. I listed the reasons why we did this and continue to think it will be useful. As for costs, nothing given it is free on a free website! But I think I know what you are alluding to--data. We don't keep any of this data. It belongs to Facebook, which keeps all of our data.
New York, NY: I am confused over the new "connections" feature on FB. On the "applications and websites" privacy settings, which is private - checked or unchecked boxes? In short, I don't want to share anything with anyone except my friends. What should my privacy settings be, and how can I be assured that when FB makes any changes, I will know that my privacy is still protected?
Bret Taylor: You can configure whether your friends can see your Likes & Interests on your profile by changing your visibility settings at Facebook | Privacy Settings
ticket 15067-3539: Since this integration has started, I have been forced to use Firefox to view WaPo.com. I generally use IE, but when I do I can't leave the page, I have to close my browser and I get an error message that says "this window is busy. Closing this window might cause some problems. Do you want to close anyway."
If I leave IE open to WaPo.com I eventually get an error message that says "Stop running this script? A script on this page is causing Internet Explorer to run slowly. If it continues to run, your computer might become unresponsive."
I filled out a support ticket and got back some dismissive response with the subject "solution provided." The so-called solution? We're having trouble we hope to fix soon.
I personally do not, nor will I ever, use Facebook, so I am more than a little perturbed that your "integration" has messed up my WaPo.com experience and revealed that the support here is a lot less than adequate. How about we let people go to Facebook.com for facebook and WaPo sticks to being a newspage?
Raju Narisetti: It shouldn't have as most IE browsers do work with this module. Happy to look into this if you email us a screen shot and let us know your browser. you can e-mail me at email@example.com.
New York, NY: Do comments I make on Post stories show up on my Facebook page?
Raju Narisetti: No. Comments you put on Washingtonpost.com under comments section of an article or a blog post only show up on washingtonpost.com
Washington, DC: Thanks for recognizing that original opt-out instructions you posted didn't work for everyone and changing them, and for working on a clear opt-out option, which I hope is one-click and opts out of everything related to social networking. I understand the benefits of making it opt-out rather than opt-in -- lots of people need to be using it before anyone can see the benefits of it. And most people probably don't know they would like this until they experience it.
However, for people like me (I don't know if it's shyness, introversion, or what, but it's not that uncommon a personality trait, even if we're in the minority), the intrusiveness is so very jarring and the feeling of exposure is so distressing, especially when the invasion of privacy was completely outside of your control. And coming on top of the Google Buzz fiasco and Facebook's more recent changes that broadened access to Wall posts by default, this felt like almost the last straw. Please keep in mind that not everyone want to mix all the parts of their lives together into one social web, and make it easy to opt out of this sort of thing in the future rather than requiring hours of investigation and trial and error.
Raju Narisetti: Thanks. As I noted in my opening comments, I agree. Bret, do you want to add anything?
Bret Taylor: I just want to clarify that only the things you "Like" will show up in Network News. If you don't click the Like button on an article, no one in your social network will see your Washington Post activity.
Washington,DC: Why did you need to drop the weather down on the page to put the Facebook box in there? I look for the weather first in the corner. I don't use or care about Facebook, but I do care if it's going to rain.
Raju Narisetti: Fair enough. Actually if you are in Washington, our Local Home page has the weather (which you can actually customize) and our great Weather Gang blog in the nav bar itself. Am hoping we could also introduce that in our national home page too but could be a little while away. On days when we have a larger ad, like today, it does move weather a bit lower on the home page. We constantly evaluate various placements of content/modules on our homepage and are not afraid to move modules around based on feedback from users. We will definitely regroup on this.
Arlington, Va.: 1) Shouldn't the decision be for Opt In rather than Opt Out?
2) Is any money changing hands? Is Facebook paying WP, is WP paying Facebook?
Bret Taylor: No money is changing hands between Facebook and Washington Post for this feature.
The Post and Facebook both think there is a lot of value in adding social context to the News. It is useful to see what stories your friends find interesting in addition to seeing what the Post editors find interesting.
Also, as I mentioned in some of my other responses, no data is being transferred from Facebook to the Post to power this feature. Likewise, sharing is "opt-in" by default: your friends only see the articles on which you click the "Like" button. No other activity is exposed to your social network.
social media: All this means to me is that the Post is doing "more social media," as one of your staffers said in a chat the other day, even as you do less in the printed paper (fewer print ads paying for it?). So why would anyone bother to continue reading the printed product when anything in it will be outdated by all your social media tweets and FB links?
Raju Narisetti: We have a single newsroom that generates content which is then read/seen/heard by readers in print, on the web, via their mobiles and increasingly through Facebook, Twitter and other avenues. We have a very robust, engaged and loyal audience for our print publication in the geographical boundaries of our print circulation, which has declined a bit over the years even if less than for most other major metro papers. And we have a rapidly growing, loyal and large audience online for washington post content. We will continue to serve both audiences--readers and our advertisers alike. I agree that in tough times such as these we have to make good choices with our limited resources but we have a 600+ newsroom that can serve multiple audiences in multiple platforms.
Washington, DC: Is it correct then that if I adjust my facebook setting at Privacy Settings> Profile Information> Likes and Interests to "Only Friends" that no strangers will see my face or name pop up in the Post's Network News box?
(Btw, previous poster is correct about non-Friends showing up in the Friends' Activity box.)
Bret Taylor: If one of your friends visits the Post, they may see your activity if you have clicked a Like button on an article. Information is not transferred between Facebook and the Post to power this feature. The Network News section of the page is served directly by Facebook to you and your friends without any direct contact with the Post.
If you don't click Like on any stories, your friends will not see any activity from you in Network News.
Occasionally, we don't have any recent Likes from your social network, so we show you recent activity from other Facebook users who have set their Likes to be public.
Arlington: I'm seeing the same thing Falls Church is. I'm signed into washingtonpost.com and Facebook and I don't recognize anyone in the Friends list.
Bret Taylor: Occasionally, when Facebook does not have any recent Likes and comments from people in your social network, we show recent Likes from other people who have set their Likes to be public.
Silver Spring, MD: Here are some things that bug me about this: 1. Facebook's privacy rules change all the time and the new default is always to make things less private. 2. Facebook's privacy settings menus are complicated to navigate and, as mentioned above, change all the time. 3. I used to have to be careful about what I did on Facebook. Now I have to be careful about everything I do on the computer because I never know when a Facebook business partner (WPost) unilaterally decides to default me into broadcasting everything I do.
The term is "end of privacy", right?
Bret Taylor: No information is being broadcast to your friends without your explicitly clicking a Facebook Like button.
All Network News activity is generated when your friends click a Facebook Like button on a Washington Post article. If you don't click a Like button, none of your friends will see any activity from you in Network News.
Likewise, as I have clarified in a few other responses, no information is being transferred from Facebook to the Post to power this feature.
St. Louis, MO: The quick launch of the Facebook and Network News feature suggests that this feature was in development at the Post prior to Wednesday. Arguably, there would have been enough time for some intrepid, in-house reporters to cover this change and report on its implications for privacy.
Please explain the rationale for not having the Technology division for the Post cover the Network News launch prior to Wednesday.
Additionally, I'd like to hear more about how the Post is and is planning to use information garnered from Network News.
Raju Narisetti: Hi. Yes it was being worked on for a few weeks but as with all new initiatives that involve multiple parties and a service that Facebook was launching on a certain date, it is not easy for each partner to roll it out on their own. We were working with Facebook's timetable. The good news is that we can change aspects of it, now that it is rolled out publicly (which is why, based on feedback, we are adding the Opt Out button). Post Tech Reporter Rob Pegoraro has reviewed Facebook's new offering independently on our site and will, I am sure, continue to follow this and write on it as he sees fit.
I like it, but...: can there be an option not to push everything to my Facebook wall?
I'd like to say that I 'like' something, participate in what's considered most popular on WP.com and have that in my Network News facebook feed on WP, but not in my newsfeed on my personal Facebook page.
Will there be an option for that?
Bret Taylor: Our News Feed algorithm is pretty selective about including these stories in your friends' News Feeds. We will only show your Washington Post Likes to your Facebook friends if enough people in one group of friends like the same article. So don't worry -- you won't be annoying your friends when you click the "Like" button on articles.
Baltimore: I understand that without knowing the specifics of my company's IT systems, you won't be able to answer this, but I'm hoping you can shed some light on a concern that I have regarding the new Facebook plug-ins on sites like The Washington Post.
My company blocks all social networking, including Facebook, because it is not pertinent to our job functions. Anytime we attempt to visit such websites, we get big red screens warning that it's a blocked website. I'm assuming they have some sort of tracking mechanism that's logging these attempts to access these sites. As a result of the new tie-ins, I get the big warning message in the Facebook sidebars on sites like Washington Post and Slate, etc.
I'm concerned that every time I hit WaPo or Slate, I'm sending a red flag to my company's IT department as if I were trying to access the regular Facebook Web site. Any insight on this?
Raju Narisetti: Hi. As I noted in my opening remarks, we have heard from a few readers about this problem. It is really unfortunate in the sense that this isn't going to Facebook, this is bringing a stream to washingtonpost.com that is relevant, from Facebook. You might want to flag your IT department so they understanding the difference.
Having said that, I surely don't want this to hinder your ability to read and enjoy washingtonpost.com at work. So once the Opt Out button goes live tonite or by Saturday, you can choose to remove the module if you can't get your IT folks to rethink their approach. Sorry about the inconvenience.
Tralfamad, Ore.: I really have a hard time seeing the upside to climbing in bed with Facebook. What remains of WaPo's journalistic integrity will be questioned every time there is coverage of Facebook. How can you claim to unbiasedly cover the myriad privacy issues that Facebook is current practices are raising if you are a business partner of theirs?
Raju Narisetti: In print and online, the Post has several partnerships, some in terms of content-sharing and others that are business transactions. It isn't very different from how we run advertisements in print and online from companies and organizations that our newsroom writes about regularly. We have very firm and strong Chinese walls between business and news departments, and have strong editorial safeguards to protect our journalistic integrity just as the business side has clear rules to protect revenue and business relationships.
We have had partnerships online with many companies--Yahoo, AOL, TechCrunch, to name a few,--and I am very comfortable in our ability to continue to do honest and unbiased journalism on topics that directly or indirectly involve these companies/organizations. We also make it a point to note, where relevant, that Don Graham, our Chairman, is on the board of Facebook.
Washington, D.C.: If comments I make on WaPo don't show up on Facebook, then what does it mean when the Friends' Activity list says, "so-and-so commented on article_name"?
Raju Narisetti: It means that your friend either commented or used the Like feature on Facebook when that article was posted on Facebook. Nothing you comment on washingtonpost.com is reflected in Network News--it only reflects what gets posted on Facebook (including your selection of Like for your Facebook page)
when Facebook does not have any recent Likes and comments from people in your social network: You said our friends could not see our comments, but here you say we can see theirs. Please clarify.
Bret Taylor: Sorry for my lack of clarity. Only Likes power the Network News feature for Washington Post.
Facebook also has a Comments module that some other sites use, but I don't believe Washington Post currently uses it.
Washington, DC: I read WaPo.com from work during my lunch break. Facebook is blocked by the corporate firewall. As a result, I receive these error messages every time I navigate to an article:
initFacebook: ReferenceError: FB is not defined finish: ReferenceError: FB is not defined
Can I do anything about this?
Raju Narisetti: Several people have flagged this to us. It is because your IT department has blocked going to Facebook but this is a service that isn't taking you to Facebook but providing a relevant stream on washingtonpost.com. You might want to let your IT dept know about it since several sites are starting to do this. Obviously you can totally opt out of this feature on wp.com but it will still pop up on other sites as Facebook's service is embraced by more sites.
Washington, DC: I'm very concerned about my FB profile and articles I share being visible for the world to see. This is why we have the option to set privacy as highly as we'd like. I think there needs to be an opt-out button.
Bret Taylor: Only the articles on which you click the Facebook "Like" button will be shared to your Facebook friends. No information is automatically shared with your friends.
Annapolis, Md.: If we choose to use this but only want our friends seeing our activity and what we like, how do we lock that down? I do not want to be part of the aggregate or have anyone else know what I like, other than just my friends.
Raju Narisetti: If you are logged in and your friends also happen to be logged in, you and they are the only ones seeing each other's Likes. No one else is seeing it.
But at an aggregate level, Facebook does add all the Likes up but doesn't give you your/or your friends names (unless any of them made their entire profile public).
Arlington, Va.: What other news sites are using this service? Will my Facebook friends see my Washington Post "likes" on other Web sites?
Raju Narisetti: A few including abcnews.com, pandora.com, foreignpolicy.com that I know of and others that Bret might know. No, what you will see there if you log on to FB and that site is what you Like from that site.
Fairfax, VA: How much security testing have you done with the new "liked it" feature? It seems like too big of a risk to me to extend that across Web sites....
Raju Narisetti: We are very comfortable, so far, with our security and firewalls at washingtonpost.com. Ever so often we can be targeted by someone but have enough precautions to detect and fend off attempts like that.
I like it, but...: continuing from the last response...
I meant my wall and not my friends newsfeeds. I'd like to have the option to have it only push to my WP.com Network News and not my FB Wall. Either on a by 'like' basis, or a global setting to never push it to my wall.
Raju Narisetti: Thanks for clarifying. Will discuss with the team here about this suggestion.
Washington, DC: Is the use of these new plug-ins by the Post and other news sites related to Facebook's new partnership with the three sites Pandora, Yelp, and MS Docs, which entails instant personalization of those sites -- or are these entirely different things governed by different privacy settings? The roll-out of both at once seems designed to confuse.
Raju Narisetti: The pandora and yelp offerings seem similar to the ones that we are offering (along with other news sites such as abcnew.com, foreignpolicy.com) but unrelated to MS Docs initiative from Facebook. They did roll out a bunch of new initiatives on the same day. At the Facebook end, they are governed by the Privacy Policies the site has.
Washington, D.C.: I think it's great that you are doing this. However, when I have an issue with FB that is not in your list of FAQs, I want an easily seen Customer Service way to reach you. I know you get a lot of emails for help, but customer service is a pretty basic function that Web sites and social networking sites should all have.
Each time I have an issue that I want an actual person to respond to, I have to find one of the "report a bugs" under a category that doesn't fit my question at all. Could you add a "Contact Us" that is not an FAQ and allows users to ask questions like they are asking today?
Bret Taylor: We do our best to respond to as many questions as possible from users, but have found that the best way to help people is through the Help Center and user-to-user Q&As.
Arlington, VA: Are you surprised by the negative reactions to this? It seems like people who work in IT and love social networking don't think about the implications to those who value more privacy.
Raju Narisetti: Actually I am not in the sense that among 4 million plus visitors since we rolled out, we have had about 200 plus complaints. But this is a business of making sure we try and retain one reader at a time so I am taking the feedback seriously and trying to make sure we address it without, at the same time, denying a new feature to those who like it. As with all new features--in print and online--there is always an initial period of reacting/adjusting to change, especially when it is so prominent on our site and especially when it does involve concerns about privacy. I also recognize there is some confusion about who sees what and so I thought this was a good way to clear some questions directly.
Annapolis, Md.: Is there a way to make sure that our names are not included in the lists of random Facebookers when someone else is looking at it and does not have enough people in their social network to fill a site? I see the value in it but I need to make sure that ONLY my friends can see my actions on Washpo or I will opt out.
Raju Narisetti: Agree. Bret and I were discussing this feature that Facebook has and based on all the feedback from readers of Washingtonpost.com, he plans to discuss with his team and see if that can't be changed. The idea of aggregate is a good one but I can see how some people, on seeing the names of random people, might think everyone's Likes are being shared. Those random people are simply people who have told Facebook to make their entire profile public.
Annapolis, Md.: Everyone keeps asking the same question and you keep not answering it. If we choose to opt in and "like" or "share" something on the Washington post through the Facebook module, can we limit it so that only our friends see the like, or is it open for anyone to see?
Raju Narisetti: Hi. I have tried to answer this a few times but will try again.
Unless you have made your profile totally public (when you set up your Facebook account), nothing you do is shown to anyone beyond yourself or your friends. So if you are logged on to FB and WP.com and so are your friends, they are the only ones seeing what you like.
Facebook does aggregate all the likes (not just of WP content but of anything any of us does at FB) so it will say, for example, that 6,000 people Liked something. That's it. It won't show your name (again as long as you didn't tell FB your whole profile is public when you signed up for that account). Hope this helps.
Washington, D.C.: I can't figure out the logic behind this move. Are you trying to appeal to the 12-15 year-old demographic?
Raju Narisetti: RN: Facebook has 400 million users and its popularity continues to grow. While I don't have all their demographics, we know that Washington Post stories are shared on Facebook by washingtonpost.com readers and other web readers every day in the hundreds and sometimes thousands. We believe this offering makes it easier for those who want to share our content on Facebook and also those who want to see what washingtonpost.com content that people like and read on Facebook without having to switch from site to site (if they want to log in and do so on our site.)
U Street: I'm all for technology - I work on Internet policy - but I really don't like this addition to the home page. Your instructions tell us how to turn off my sharing for others but I can still see friends' links. Is there a way to disable this feature completely?
Raju Narisetti: It should be available by tonite or by Saturday.
Lovettsville, Va.: I don't do Facebook. I don't care what's the most popular on Facebook. Every time I load a page on your website I get two popup boxes that tell me about a reference error.
Please. Make it stop. Please.
Raju Narisetti: Hi. This is because you probably have a block on accessing Facebook, even though you are not leaving washingtonpost.com. You might want to use the Opt Out feature that will be available by tonite or Saturday so it will remove the module. Sorry about this but each organization/company has different policies and when we have some 30 million unique visitors coming to our site from around the globe, we do sometimes run afoul of their individual company/organization practices.
Annapolis, Md.: I opted out of sharing my information on Facebook, but when I click on network news, it still knows my friends. Is there a way to not have my information shared without having to log in and out of facebook every time I go to Washington Post.
Bret Taylor: It's important to note that none of your data is shared with the Post when you view social plugins on Network News, and the Post cannot access any of the data being displayed to you. These features pull publicly available information directly from Facebook when you're visiting the site and logged into Facebook.
Washington, DC: Re "Washington, DC: Is it correct then that if I adjust my facebook setting..."
Yes, but please answer the question. Will choosing this setting on Facebook prevent all non-Friends from seeing my activities (such as Likes) in the Post's Network News box?
Raju Narisetti: Yes. Again, only you or your friends when they are logged on to fb and wp.com see your likes. No one else does.
But what anyone will see--because Facebook aggregates all Likes--is that x number of people liked something. Not specific names.
Washington, DC: "Unless you have made your profile totally public" is not specific enough, nor, I suspect, accurate. That's why people keep asking how to restrict their info to only their Friends. We want to know about specific settings.
Raju Narisetti: Hi. I will take a crack at this question even if it is about Facebook. Go to Account on your Facebook. Go to Privacy Settings. Go to Likes and Interests. There you have a drop down menu that you either have previously selected or never put your preference. There is you say Only Friends then no one other your friends can see it. Again this applies to everything you do on Facebook. You will also see there that there is an Everyone button. That is what I mean by those who made their profile "public". Hope this helps.
Bret Taylor: Hi all - thanks so much for taking part in this chat. I realize that we didn't have enough time to get to nearly enough questions. We'll work with the Washington Post to get you more answers. Please also check our the Facebook blog post at: New Ways to Personalize Your Online Experience. We will likely give additional updates through the blog about these features and your privacy over coming days. Thanks for using Facebook and for being avid readers of the Washington Post. - Bret
Raju Narisetti: I have been told that we have run out of chat time and I hope most of your questions have been answered, especially the questions about who might or might not see your likes (just you and your logged on friends). For those of you who want to entirely opt out, the Opt Out feature (coming tonite or by Saturday) will help. Again please don't hesitate to write to me directly as well firstname.lastname@example.org if you have more questions. Thank you.
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