Recent posts in my Politics Category

December 4, 2012

The Communications Data Bill and freedom of the press

The British press don’t seem to be treating the Communications Data Bill as a threat to their freedom. Perhaps they should be.

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November 29, 2012

The user experience of reading the Leveson Inquiry report

The Leveson Inquiry report has been criticised for not addressing the impact of the internet on the press, and the way it was published today was symptomatic of old-fashioned print publishing that doesn’t put user need at the centre.

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November 26, 2012

The existential danger to British newspapers isn’t Leveson

It appears to be compulsory to write about press regulation in the run-up to the Leveson report being published. So here is my tuppence, hopefully before you get bored of the entire business.

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November 8, 2012

The British Nate Silver

Yesterday I glibly tweeted that I had trademarked the term “The British Nate Silver”. Not for myself, you understand, but in recognition of the fact that his data analysis has played such a pivotal role in debate around the US election that it is inevitable that someone will get dubbed with that title in the run-up to the next General Election in the UK.

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July 12, 2012

“This wretched Communications Data Bill” - Duncan Campbell at Hacks/Hackers London

Legendary journalist Duncan Campbell spoke at Hacks/Hackers London about his lifelong crusade against state surveillance techniques, and his concerns about state attempts to monitor and intercept internet traffic in the draft Communications Data Bill. Here are my notes from his talk.

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May 14, 2012

Metro comes out fighting for photographers’ rights

I was genuinely impressed this morning with the Metro’s double-page spread about photographers’ rights. I love to see papers campaigning on issues of civil liberties and freedom, and I was particularly impressed with the fact that Metro produced a simple layman’s terms explanation of photographers rights in a cut-out-and-keep format.

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May 2, 2012

Would you vote for that web design? London Mayoral campaign sites reviewed

We seem to have matured beyond declaring each year that this is “going to be the internet election” to having campaign web sites and social media as an integral part of the political cycle. Here are some notes I’ve made whilst looking at the sites of the candidates for tomorrow’s London Mayoral elections.

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March 9, 2012

The dissolution of the PCC

I’ve not written much on this blog in recent months on media regulation, which used to be one of the recurring themes. It has seemed to me that whilst the Leveson inquiry and various police operations related to newspapers are ongoing, it is safer, on the personal blog of someone who works at a news organisation, to say nothing. I can’t, however, let the dissolution of the PCC pass without comment.

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January 19, 2012

Low numbers + small change = BIG NEWS

Headlines today have suggested that the murder rate has gone up by 5%, or that knifepoint robbery has gone up by 10% in England and Wales. The figures also show that crime overall has dropped by 4%. Reporting crime statistics is a data journalism minefield however, and last year I attended a fascinating set of talks on the subject.

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January 17, 2012

Digital literacy for all - still a long way to go...

I’ve been wholeheartedly behind the Guardian’s digital literacy campaign. But how do we stop looking like nerdy zealots - who who would give up programming contractor rates for a teaching salary?

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November 29, 2011

“Hacking the rendition flights” - Stephen Grey at Hacks/Hackers London

At last week’s Hacks/Hackers London meet-up, Stephen Grey was talking about the journalistic process behind his work to uncover the CIA’s network of rendition flights. Here are my notes from the session.

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November 8, 2011

Poppies are for remembering people, not politics

When I was at school, I can remember some pupils campaigning to be allowed to sell and wear the Peace Pledge Union’s white poppies, as well as the British Legion’s red ones. The school authorities refused, and at the time I thought passionately this was the wrong decision.

I still do.

But over the years, my perspective on the red poppy has changed considerably. Where I once saw them as a symbol of aggressive warmongering by the political classes, I now view them as an opportunity for reflection on the human impact of war.

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April 4, 2011

Guardian Readers' Editor on the role of social media in the Egyptian revolution

Guardian Readers’ Editor Chris Elliott recently gave a lunchtime talk to assorted staff about his recent trip to Egypt, where he was talking to local journalists about journalistic ethics and press regulation. It turned out to be a timely visit, as Chris arrived shortly after the toppling of Hosni Mubarak, with the press in the country facing an uncertain, but presumably freer future. During it, he discussed how Egyptians themselves see the role played by social media in the events.

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March 7, 2011

Abort? Retry? Fail? - Judging the success of the Guardian's MP's expenses app

Last week I attended an event on 'data and news sourcing', and one of the panels was about crowd-sourcing. As is often the case in this context, The Guardian’s MP’s expenses app was mentioned. I got a chance to chime in, and wanted to tell the story of how between the first and second iteration of the app, we’d learnt a little about encouraging participation and in keeping it going.

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December 10, 2010

"Local government and linked data" at Online Information - Part 2

Last week I was at the Online Information conference, and here is the second part of my notes from a session featuring Richard Wallis, Chris Taggart and Noel Hatch, looking at linked data in the context of local government in the UK.

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December 9, 2010

"Local government and linked data" at Online Information - Part 1

Last week I was at the Online Information conference, and here are my notes from a session featuring Richard Wallis, Chris Taggart and Noel Hatch, looking at linked data in the context of local government in the UK.

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November 24, 2010

What open Government data gives us with one hand, closed state data takes away with another

The release of Government spending data gives us a wealth of information about companies earning their living from the state. However, the ability to cross-reference it with data on the companies themselves is limited by the fact that Companies House keeps that state data behind a paywall.

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July 16, 2010

Nic Newman, Emily Bell and Peter Barron discuss "#UKelection2010, mainstream media and the role of the internet"

This week Google in London hosted the launch of a study paper by ex-BBC News strategist and journalist Nic Newman entitled "#UKelection2010, mainstream media and the role of the internet: how social and digital media affected the business of politics and journalism". As well as NIc, the evening featured Emily Bell and Peter Barron discussing the findings of the report.

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July 12, 2010

The 'digital election' and the diminishing role of the 'gatekeeper'

The 2010 General Election did not deliver the 'Internet election' in the way that some pundits predicted. However, the rise of social media tools, particularly those used to counter the more established broadcasting methods of delivering party messages, illustrated again the diminishing power of traditional media 'gatekeepers'.

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May 8, 2010

The only election graphic you need

News organisations have spent a lot of money on flashy election maps, graphics and interactives over the last few days, but I think it is two simple pie charts that illustrate what is wrong with our first past the post election system.

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May 6, 2010

The digital general election: 3 technology trends for next time around

I've been keeping a close eye on the new media elements of this campaign, and thought I'd stick my neck out and predict three digital trends we will see a lot more of next time around.

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May 5, 2010

As TV and radio clam up, polling day will be social media business as usual

Whilst some traditional broadcasters will be applying the standard polling day rules to their social media activities tomorrow, newspapers and political parties will enjoy a much freer hand.

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The digital general election - online design slideshow and video

During the course of the election campaign I've been making a gallery of screenshots of online news coverage, with a particular focus on the design of interactive tools and maps. I've put them together into a Flickr set, and made a short video compilation of them.

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April 30, 2010

The mobile digital general election - official party iPhone app review

As part of their election campaign, the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green parties have all launched official iPhone applications. I've reviewed and compared them.

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April 29, 2010

Brochure or campaigning tool? Contrasting the Labour and Conservative website coverage of the leader's debates

One feature of the digital coverage of the leader's debates in this election campaign has been the contrasting approaches taken Labour and the Conservatives to following what has been happening on their websites. In this post I look at how the Conservatives 'brochure' and the Labour 'extranet' are trying to fulfill different functions.

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April 25, 2010

Labour regrets the copyright error? Not so much.

Labour may have said they 'regret' stealing a blogger's photograph in Walthamstow, but that hasn't stopped them having it on prominent display in Stella Creasy's E17 campaign office.

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April 22, 2010

Labour will legislate to protect BPI copyright, but not respect the copyright of a Walthamstow blogger

Despite legislating against digital copyright theft recently in the Digital Economy Act, it seems that The Labour Party is not worried about pilfering their election leaflet images from a local Walthamstow blogger.

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The Guardian's 'National carbon calculator'

Yesterday, The Guardian published an intricate interactive tool which mimcs the UK's carbon economy. You get the chance to be PM, setting the policies that will enable the country to make the required cuts in our carbon output.

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The digital election: 10 things we've learned so far

I've been tracking the timeline of the 'digital election', and, with the second leader's debate taking place tonight, here are ten things about the new media campaign that I think we've learned so far...

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April 9, 2010

Yet another blog post about the Digital Economy Bill

The world probably doesn't need another blog post about the Digital Economy Bill that was rushed through Parliament this week, but here are the 6 bullet points that I thought were important...

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April 6, 2010

A social media and digital General Election timeline

I've been compiling a timeline of digital and social media campaigning by political parties, innovation from news organisations, and interesting election related web content and applications to see whether the 2010 UK General Election really will be a 'digital' or 'social media' election.

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January 18, 2010

Council coverage in local newspapers: Waltham Forest and Romford

Sarah Hartley has been using the 'Help me investigate' crowd-sourced journalism tool to find out how local newspapers cover local councils. I've chipped in with a review of coverage in the Waltham Forest Guardian and the Romford Recorder.

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January 4, 2010

Too much David Tennant on TV? More like too many politicians if you ask me...

In response to claims that David Tennant was on BBC television too much over Christmas, a Conservative MP seems to think he appeared on over 200 channels.

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December 8, 2009

How the global climate change editorial project appeared online

To coincide with the opening of the Copenhagen Climate Change conference, The Guardian worked to get the same editorial opinion column to appear in over 50 newspapers around the globe. Here is how it manifested itself online.

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November 25, 2009

'Winterval' myth still going strong on Catholic Online

This is a bit of a shame. I spotted a story on the Catholic Online website, which opened with the statement: "Birmingham City Council has changed the name of this year's light-switching-on event to the generic 'Winterval'." [My emphasis] I left a comment pointing out that if you visit the Birmingham City Council website - yes, that website - you'll see a massive banner advert for Christmas in the city. In fact, you can even go to for an...
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November 11, 2009

"Waltham Forest is calling for back-up" campaign lays down a welcome mat for criminals

I became a crime statistic last week, when my bike was stolen in Walthamstow.Again.It has prompted me to blog about something that has been irritating me in the Borough for some time. On the day I discovered my bike was missing, I'd been in Selbourne Walk The Mall, where volunteers were out in force trying to get me to sign a council petition. "Waltham Forest is calling for back-up" is a politically motivated council campaign calling for more police in...
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November 10, 2009

PM's private call published by The Sun, but PCC has no interest in a 'public interest' debate

Information trends for 2010
I'm still waiting to hear why publishing the PM's private phone call online isn't a breach of the PCC code on privacy and phone tapping.

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October 27, 2009

Paid search and politics - still some learning for the parties to do

A couple of days ago Peter Moore wrote an interesting post about politics and paid search, pointing out how Channel 4 had used Google AdWords to catch some of the search traffic generated by the BNP appearance on BBC's Question Time. He pointed out that: "Paid search has the potential to make an enormous difference [in an election]...It’s possible to carefully study and collect keywords, to manage and monitor huge campaigns that include short and long tail terms as well...
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October 26, 2009

Live-blogging the BNP on Question Time across the web

Live-blogging the BNP on Question Time
A look at how newspapers and political blogs covered Nick Griffin's BBC appearance online.

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October 13, 2009

'The wisdom of crowds and the folly of lawyers'

I wonder if at The Guardian we still have time to re-print tomorrow's fairytale giveaway?After today's #Trafigura #CarterRuck gagging debacle, maybe we should add the story of the plucky villagers who just wouldn't let the king's courtiers silence the town crier.Or perhaps we could simply change the name of the next booklet in the series to 'The wisdom of crowds and the folly of lawyers'?...
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September 25, 2009

Last chance to object to the church plans for Walthamstow's art deco cinema

Today is the final day to object to a planning application seeking permission to turn Walthamstow's listed art deco cinema into a church. As you may know, the cinema has been closed for some time, and the church owners have allowed it to fall into considerable disrepair. Back in the sixties, the EMD used to have concerts on, including The Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Who. It also has lots of cinematic history, being the cinema where Alfred Hitchcock grew...
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September 14, 2009

English Defence League advertises Muslim dating agency on their forum

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words - one of the best 'When Google Ads go bad' I've seen in a while......
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September 11, 2009

"Breakfast with the Voicebot"

On Tuesday morning I visited Sidekick Studios near London Bridge to have 'Breakfast with the Voicebot'. The robot looked somewhat less human than the illustration on the invite. To be honest, it didn't look like it was capable of wrenching itself free from its base and going on a strangling and mangling rampage, which I always find slightly disappointing when I've been promised a robot. It is the type of machine usually used on car production lines to perform menial...
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September 10, 2009

However much James Murdoch wishes, the World Service made a BBC News website inevitable

James Murdoch's speech in Edinburgh, and a recent survey suggesting that more people favour advertising or subscription as a funding model rather than the Licence Fee, has continued scrutiny of the role of the BBC in the digital media landscape. The ICM poll shows that whilst 43% of people think the Licence Fee is the best way of funding the BBC, 57% do not. Murdoch described the BBC News website as 'dumping free, state-sponsored news on the market', and I...
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September 1, 2009

The BT broadband boxes that have muzzled the Muswell Hill fibre trial

Muswell Hill BT fibre controversy
Pictures of the new BT broadband boxes causing a nuisance on North London streets.

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August 17, 2009

A monkey could also write the annual stories knocking A-Level students

This week is one of my least favourite weeks of the year, as the annual media game begins of knocking the achievements of our children at school. Rather than write another whole rant on the topic, here are links to a few I made earlier. Is Britain’s brightest A-Level student a boy or an anonymous photogenic teenage girl? - August 2007 Do boys even take A-Levels these days? - August 2006 It must be nearly A-Level time again - August...
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August 7, 2009

Birmingham City Council - an inspiration in how not to do web procurement

There was much chortling this week at the discomfort of Birmingham City Council after the details of their hugely over-budget and late new website were released, following a Freedom of Information request by Josh Hart. I have to confess that given a budget that big to spend on delivering 'a website', I'm not quite sure where I'd start over-spending first - gold-plated servers was one suggestion in the office. Maybe it is the expense on the website that has led...
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July 27, 2009

Toby Moores and Mark Jones discussing social media and 'the third voice' at #newsinnovation

"It's not a few people talking a lot, it is a lot of people talking a bit" One of the more interesting panels at the News Innovation conference featured Toby Moores from Sleepy Dog talking about social media, alongside Mark Jones from Reuters. Part of the focus of the talk was how to capture 'the third voice' in the room. Politicians and journalists are used to conversing with each other in the set-piece of an interview of a press conference,...
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July 7, 2009

Activate 09 at The Guardian: Notes and take-away quotes - Part 3

Last week I was lucky enough to go to The Guardian's first Activate summit - a one day conference at Kings Place which brought together politicians, economists and technologists to discuss the future shape of the world. Today I wanted to pick up another thread that ran through the day - data and story-telling. Arianna Huffington described story-telling as "mankind's greatest gift". Personally I reckon fire is probably up there as well, but let's not quibble. She was responding...
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July 3, 2009

Activate 09 at The Guardian: Notes and take-away quotes - Part 2

Wednesday was The Guardian's first Activate summit - a one day conference at Kings Place bring together people to discuss how technology, politics and social sciences could come together to forge the future. Yesterday I published some thoughts about the presentations by Gerry Jackson and Nick Bostrom. One panel, chaired by Emily Bell, focused specifically on politics, featuring former minister Tom Watson, shadow minister for science and innovation Adam Afriyie, and Thomas Gensener from Blue State Digital. Adam Afriyie's...
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June 18, 2009

MPs expenses, The Telegraph, The Guardian, and the 'open' and 'closed' models of 21st century journalism

"MPs Expenses and 'open' and 'closed' journalism"
How the contrasting approaches of The Telegraph and The Guardian to the MPs expenses data demonstrates debates about digital journalism.

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June 5, 2009

"It's SunTalk Wot Won It"

During the recent election campaign, the BBC's community areas will have been operating under 'special election rules'. Moderation will have been much tighter than usual when people were talking about politics. Actually, this system has got more relaxed over the years. I remember that one of the most disrupting elements of h2g2 being assimilated by the BBC was during the 2001 election campaign. Then, the community were told that if they wanted to discuss politics, they'd have to leave the...
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June 4, 2009

European Elections - do the right thing...

So with the Government seemingly imploding and The Guardian withdrawing support from Gordon Brown, politics would be the obvious thing to blog about today. On currybetdotnet I've already produced an unofficial guide to the London European Election candidates, looked at how the parties appear in Google and pointed out some of the things that caught my in the election literature delivered to me. I seem to dimly recall that there are restrictions on what you can publish in the...
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June 2, 2009

A Google-eye view of the European Elections

A lot of people do their primary research these days using Google as their only gateway to the Internet, and I wondered what they would be finding if they were looking for information on the parties standing for Thursday's European Elections in London. The mainstream parties All of the mainstream party listings in Google are pretty similar. The initial homepage metadata in all cases stresses the name of the party leader. Who says personality politics is dead? The second...
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June 1, 2009

My 'undecided' view of European Election literature in London

So, for the first time that I can recall, if you polled me a couple of days before an election, I'd have to honestly say I was 'Undecided'. I'm seriously thinking of voting for a smaller party or an independent candidate, and so last week I did some research and put together a brief list of all of the candidates for the London European Election. As I'm unsure who to vote for, I've also been paying closer attention than...
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May 27, 2009

'Local newspaper week' - The local council publicity machine

During 'Local newspaper week', I wrote about the impact of local council newspapers on the commercial press. This led to some really interesting comments, and as a result I surveyed the publications produced by London's Boroughs. A quarter of them are at least fortnightly, and over 70% of them take commercial advertising, including giving away free classified listings in one instance, and yet the LGA insists that they do not compete. Another reason that I struggle to buy the necessity...
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May 26, 2009

'Local newspaper week' - Council newspapers in London

"H&F News is Hammersmith & Fulham's leading newspaper, with more readers, more news and more influence than any other paper. If you are looking for a way to reach homes across Fulham, Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush which is cost effective and reliable, then look no further. 87,000 copies of H&F News are delivered monthly to homes across the borough - more than any other local media." That must sound pretty attractive to an advertiser trying to target the local area....
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May 23, 2009

A quick online guide to the minor party and independent London European Election Candidates

"London European Election Guide"
A brief outline of the independent candidates and smaller parties standing for European Election in London

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May 14, 2009

'Local Newspaper Week' - Council newspapers

Between the 11th and 17th May, the Newspaper Society has been promoting 'Local Newspaper Week'. To coincide with this, I've been blogging about some of the things I've noticed about my local newspapers since moving into Muswell Hill last October. So far I've looked at advertising, and at some of the issues around local democracy. Local council newspapers The business model of the regional press is under severe strain. Not only is the economic situation affecting display advertising, but the...
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May 13, 2009

'Local Newspaper Week' - Democracy

For 'Local Newspaper Week' I've been looking at some of the things I've noticed about my local press in Muswell Hill since I moved there back in October. Yesterday I was looking at some issues around advertising. Today I wanted to look at local democracy. One of the principle reasons for ensuring that our regional media survives the current economic climate is because of the diligent role they play in attending council meetings, court proceedings, and holding local organisations like...
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