Collective Growth at Bilue

At Bilue we aim to do impactful work. We collaborate with clients, we encourage creativity and we deliver inspired solutions. Recently at our half yearly team day our CEO Cameron Barrie, urged us to pursue personal and collective growth in the year ahead. Cameron said connection is fundamental to the work we do at Bilue, but in order to truly connect and inspire others, strong communication skills are critical at both an individual and company level.

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Only 7% of communication takes place through words. Voice makes up 38% and body language a whopping 55%. It is essential to be aware of your body language and align how you present yourself with what you’re saying, in order to get your point across and inspire others to listen to what you have to say.

To this end Cameron invited leadership developer and coach, James Brett, to facilitate a half day training for the company in body language, connecting and creating rapport. Having worked in technology for 20 years, James is able to appreciate the synchronicity between understanding the problem space as a developer and understanding the problem space as a consultant.

It is our mission at Bilue to empower people through technology. When we present our inspired ideas the physical messages we communicate are potentially more powerful than the words we use. For example if we cover our mouth with our hands or stand with folded arms, our audience may not feel our message is genuine and they may not be convinced by what we say. If we are busy scratching our nose or stroking our chin, clients might think we are untrustworthy and unreliable.

Furthermore, understanding the problem space for our clients involves reading their body language and observing the visual cues they provide. James taught us about four levels of active listening, ranging from simply ‘downloading’ what someone is saying, to taking in content and observing body language ‘factually’, to more ‘empathic’ listening, and finally what he called ‘presence’ and so listening without having any agenda at all. To define the core problem our clients are communicating to us, engaging active listening and empathy helps us develop a deeper understanding of their thoughts and motivations.

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During the second half of our team day we were given the opportunity to put our increased appreciation for the power of body language and active listening into practise. Impro Australia facilitated a highly active session to loosen us up and take us out of our comfort zones. Working together in pairs or groups and individually, we were forced to think laterally and quickly on our feet. Encouraging us to have fun with communication, we were taught how to deliver a message with confidence and to embody excitement and enthusiasm.

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Marina, Annelise, Marcelo and Phill doing the “Arms, Double Figures” game

We were given exercises to challenge and extend boundaries by responding to spontaneous challenges. One of the most powerful games we played was the “Yes, But”, “Yes, And” game. Countering everything our partner had to say with “yes but” was surprisingly easy. Being on the receiving end of this was much more difficult and constantly having to defend decisions and come up with counter offers was draining in the end. When you apply “yes, and” to real life situations people feel heard and supported. When you apply “yes, but” it is deflating and shuts the conversation down. Having a potentially difficult conversation with “yes, and” is much more effective and people feel like they are part of the solution rather than the problem.

With our new perspective on communication and connection we finished the day in true Bilue fashion with an awesome party back at Bilue headquarters. Putting our new found confidence into practise, there was twerking, the cha cha and even some dirty dancing! Come Monday morning we needed just a little refresher on what had transpired the Friday before and then we determined to stay aware of our body language wherever possible. Feel free to point out if we are folding our arms and crossing our feet when we meet you. I’m confident we will get to it before you do and our expression will be open and confident within the blink of an eye.

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Rhys, Marcelo, Phill, Craig, Tom and Gary finsihing the day with a beer

Linkly #6 – Powerful Talks

Linkly is a curated list of interesting products, topics and talking points from the world of design and technology.

It is said that the pen is mightier than the sword. That a person can change opinions and influence people far more effectively with the written word than with brute force and a sword. In the modern day with an endlessly flowing stream of information right at our fingertips the opinions that stand out from the pack are those that are insightful and engaging, that reach into the lives of their audience and elicit a truly emotional response. 

Video does a brilliant job of creating a connection between the viewer and the speaker. It provides a far more human element to the exchange of information that respects the meaning and the value of the speaker’s intentions. This week instead of linking to articles from around the web that will inevitably end up at the bottom of your ‘Read it Later’ pile, take the time to watch these powerful and insightful talks about design and technology. 

Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity?

From the day that you’re born, you’re thrust into long, tough and hard years of education. Without consent, every child goes through pre-school, primary school, high school. It is assumed knowledge that school is what is best for kids. Ken Robinson goes down the path less travelled and asks the question, “Do schools kill creativity?” 

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

If there is one talk that you must watch in your life, and that has the potential to make the biggest impact on your work it’s Simon Sinek’s talk. He proposes the simple model for leadership, and the framework around which you can truly give people what they want, by asking ‘Why?’

Ira Glass on Storytelling


Nothing comes easy, especially mastering your craft. In this typographic masterpiece world renowned radio host of the popular podcast, This American Life, explains the 10,000 hours principle. That it takes approximately 10,000 hours of hard work, passion and persistence to become a leader in your field.

Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders

Facebook’s COO delivers a brilliant talk on why less women reach the top of their professions. She offers powerful advice to women aiming to break form and strive to be leaders. A fantastic talk that is well worth taking the time to watch closely and that will open your mind to problems you didn’t know existed.

Jon Ronsen: How One Tweet Can Ruin Your Life

From the man who brought you, The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson takes a look at public shaming, and the role social media plays in the problem. He examines the problem and its effects on society as a whole.

Words are a powerful way to convey meaning and express ideas. Even more expressive, engaging and effective is the human voice. Standing on stage in the spotlight, with hundreds of people hanging on your every word. If you’re inspired by these talks you too can share your thoughts, and present them publicly, and potentially change the way people think about the world around them.

Try! Swift 2016

On Wednesday 2nd March – Friday 4th March, I attended the first Try! Swift developers conference in Tokyo, Japan. As Apple’s new programming language begins to grow and mature it is now receiving a large amount of attention throughout the developer community. This conference was a great opportunity for developers of the iOS, tvOS, watchOS and Mac OS X platforms to present on the ways they are pushing the limits of the language. It has opened up many unique discussions on the ways the language itself can be improved, some of the drawbacks that exist and most importantly the best practices that have revealed themselves already within the community.

Leaving from Terminal 2 at Sydney Airport with a conference ticket I had only received days earlier off the waiting list, I had no idea of the experience I was in for and the great people I was about to meet. I sat contently in my seat somewhat rushed, fearful, nervous yet excited for my first trip to Tokyo.

Sydney Airport

We have already begun using Swift at Bilue with many of our clients and of course on our own internal projects. As a team we have been pushing ourselves forward, learning new things and working extremely hard to bring each other up to scratch on everything that Swift introduces. I’d decided that attending the conference was a great way to extend my learning and to exchange ideas with some of the leading developers from across the world.

It turned out that Tokyo was an amazingly beautiful place that seemed to deeply align with my passions on so many different levels. On the days leading up to the conference I found time to explore a few different areas, most notably my favourite place – Omotesando. I loved the quiet atmosphere and the subtle nature that seemed to somehow augment the buildings and the cityscape. I quickly learned this to be home to some of the finest coffee that Tokyo has to offer, including Blue Bottle Aoyama which was as amazing as its San Fransisco counterpart except without the long lines and hot sun.

Cherry Blossoms
 
 
 
Omotesando

For us Swift augments our design-led approach to building inspired products. It allows us to apply the core idioms of the Swift language into writing safer, more reliable and less error-prone code. Essentially, by writing Swift we can be more certain that our software behaves exactly the way we expect it to. By taking advantage of Swift’s protocol oriented approach to application architecture we end up building products that are far more maintainable for our clients long after we’ve touched them.

At the conference located in Shibuya Mark City, I attended countless talks that were each in their own way both insightful and intriguing. On the first day Syo Ikeda presented a great talk which dived deep into the broad Swift Ecosystem. Syo outlined the most popular frameworks, libraries, resources and tools that any decent Swift developer would need to know about. We also heard Laura Savino explore the intricacies and cross-overs of learning a new language, whether it be a new programming language or a spoken language. Gwendolyn Weston quickly wowed the audience with her well received and incredibly detailed use of Pokemon as an example of Swift Type Erasure.

Blue Bottle Coffee
Tokyo Dome Baseball
Tokyo Sunset

One of the biggest highlights of my trip to Tokyo was being able to find and attend a Yomiuri Giants exhibition game played at Tokyo Dome. Despite all of the hilariously cruel difficulty I went through to get my ticket printed at the convenience store, I managed to get in. I played baseball when I was younger, and I’ve seen a game in San Fransisco, but now I know that baseball in Tokyo is like none other. Another memorable moment took place on the Tuesday evening before the conference, many of the speakers and attendees organised a visit to Roppongi Hills. At the top of the Tokyo City View we watched as the sun set over the skyline and this view was nothing short of breathtaking.

On the second day Adam Bell from Facebook asked a really great question, “When was the last time you used an app that felt surreal, or broke the laws of physics?” He presented his doubts about the plain, flat and lifeless modern iOS application and then discussed the ways prototyping can be used to implement rich, interactive and immersive animations using Swift.

Daniel Eggert explored how Swift allows developers to breathe an entirely new life into old and rigid but still tried and tested Cocoa APIs such as Core Data. Later that day Chris Eidhof similarly presented a more Swift-y approach to UITableViewControllers and demoed a really fun and unique keyboard shortcut animation technique.

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Shrine

Ridiculously early (at about 5:00am) on Thursday morning a friend and I woke up and made the trek down to the Tsukiji fish market. I’d been told that this well known fish market will be relocated really soon, so I was really glad that I took the chance to go while I could. It was a fast and intense experience with motor scooters carrying fish barrels zooming past us, it was really obvious that we had no idea where we were or what to do. Nonetheless I managed to take some really nice photos that made the early morning well worth it.

A standout talk on the final day of the conference was the excellent talk presented by Jesse Squires from Instagram on contributing to Open Source Swift. Jesse gave a really in-depth and well thought out, yet clear and simple understanding of the Swift project structure. He told us exactly how the Swift code we write in Xcode is compiled into a binary for release to the App Store. He provided a perfect guide and recommendation on contributing to the underlying Swift library at any experience level and with any skill set. Most importantly he outlined the importance of making Swift into a language that the community as a whole can enjoy and use productively.

Swift is more than a programming language. Swift is a community!

Another great talk was Ash Furrow’s overview of the Artsy approach to testing. Ash breaks down the different approaches to each of their apps based on which approach (or lack of!) they took and how it affected the team and the product itself. I really appreciated seeing Ash give this talk and outlining the balance that is required when implementing BDD (Behaviour Driven Development) or TDD (Test Driven Development) with tight deadlines and uncontrollable circumstances. He mentioned the Snapshot approach to testing, which is definitely something that I will be taking a look into and experimenting with.

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Wine Salesmen
Chris and Phill
Lee and Phill

There is no other way to say it than this – I met so many amazing developers and people at Try! Swift that I just know I’m going to be really great friends with for the rest of my life. It underlines exactly why I chose to become a software developer, and exactly why I believe software creates opportunities that make the world a much better place to be.

A takeaway for me from the conference was that for the foreseeable future Swift is at the bleeding edge of the Apple Developer Community. And as has come to be expected, Swift is taking shape in the form of a strong, powerful and great community. There are so many developers learning Swift together right now, each and every one pushing the boundaries of the language making it a greater language to build amazing things with over time. Swift has the potential to greatly improve our development experiences at Bilue as well as to ensure that the inspired products that we create truly fulfil their purpose for the people that use them.

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Meditation

We intend to continue working hard on writing Swift and will post some of our thoughts, experiences and code here as we go. Thank you to everyone who organised Try! Swift, which turned out to be an amazing conference in a beautiful city bringing together some of the smartest minds from around the world.

 

ありがとうございました

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Awareness

Independent of where you work or live, every individual can benefit from self-awareness and understanding how they interact with others. Here at Bilue we’ve been discussing the topic of strengths and how people’s strengths relate to each other within a team environment.

Being aware of others means more than simply being polite and respectful around an office. Awareness is about spending the time to understand the individuals around you, their motivations, their desires and their strengths. Knowing this will inform the way you communicate and express ideas, opinions and thoughts amongst your team. In this way being aware can mean the difference between an open-minded, successful team with the freedom to explore ideas and a scared, narrow-minded team unable to break down the communication barrier.

It’s important that awareness focuses on strengths and abilities of peers, instead of on weaknesses. Finding ways that your strengths can integrate with the strengths of others will form stronger team relationships and team members will feel more valued within a team culture. Learning new skills from those around you will start to come naturally, and others will start to learn new skills from you.

Imagine a chef that knows how to cook divine gourmet meals and yet struggles to make enjoyable desserts. The chef decides to ask his assistant, who is known for cooking amazing desserts but makes awful meals. Both the chef and his assistant stand to learn something valuable from each other.

This concept can be applied throughout your daily approach to interacting with others. Consider treating interactions as an exchange of information, a seemingly unspoken two-way transmission as opposed to a one-way delegation. Instead of projecting your own perspective on others, take the opportunity to understand the perspective of your peers and let that inform and shape your own personal knowledge.

I believe every individual should be mindful of the people they’re collaborating with on a daily basis, and the ways they can build stronger relationships, challenging others to be better and being challenged to improve themselves. No matter how you do it, you’ll grow as a person and form more effective bonds with people around you.

Driving Forward

Being a company focused on culture, design-led thinking and relentless improvement, Bilue is always looking for ways to tighten the ship and be better. Not just growth in terms of personnel or physical space but in terms of friendships, teamwork, encouragement, exploration, learning, setting goals and achieving them. Yesterday everyone at Bilue woke slightly earlier than usual and boarded a bus headed out west for an excitement-fuelled day of go-karting.

We sat together as a team and asked ourselves a few really important questions – Why does Bilue exist? What have we achieved? What have we failed at? What do we want? And how do we get there. There were some crucial discussions throughout the morning that will no doubt help correct ourselves and steer us forward in the right direction.

In the coming months and with the new year a mere month ahead of us, we are all really looking forward to putting the creative thinking we accomplished yesterday into action. We want to force ourselves to do better in ways we didn’t know we could. We want to continue to be a place where everyone, not just me, is excited to work every single day.

There was also some go-karting that happened.

Fresh off the tail of a full stomach, everyone was split into two groups. Each group completed a 5-minute warm up, and then 2 heats of 8 laps each. Those who put the pedal to the metal and did well were selected to compete in the finals – if they weren’t already suffering from heat stroke in the 35 degree weather.

There were plenty of ridiculously hilarious crashes and spin outs, and much fun had by all. I couldn’t feel my hands at one point, and was seconds from collapsing.

From the dust of the final lap the victors emerged:

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First
Cameron

Second
Sye

Third
Luke D

Tired and fighting our own internal battles with the heat, we boarded the bus again to head back to the office – only to see that our space had undergone a bit of an improvement. What was once a concrete jungle that we begrudgingly convinced ourselves and our clients was a balcony, is now an amazingly vibrant, unique and relaxing break from all the intensity of indoors.

NSCamp 2015

You can only move fast and break things for so long. At some point you need to slow down, step away and gather a little bit of perspective. Last weekend the Bilue team helped organise and attended NSCamp up in Brooklyn, New South Wales. For the entire weekend we accompanied a group of talented developers, designers and creatives from as far as Perth and Melbourne to spend some time away from the regular routine of life and instead challenge ourselves with focus, growth and passion for the work we truly care about.

Part social getaway, part hack weekend, NSCamp created the perfect environment to nuture and encourage attendees to work on side projects, as well as meet and collaborate with like-minded creatives. There were small impromptu talks around the island on a range of different topics including ‘Designing iOS apps in Storyboards without Code’, ‘Pirate Metrics’, ‘Building apps with tvOS’ and even ‘Brewing Coffee’ by a professional Barista.

Internet was a scarce commodity, instead of Google and Stack Overflow attendees were encouraged to apply elbow grease, knuckle down deep into documentation and raise a hand to direct any questions at peers. Writing code was by far not a requirement of camp. A big focus for me throughout the weekend were three things – People, Reflection and Inspiration.

A great community of smart, talented and creative people attended camp which for me was a fantastic opportunity to discuss ideas and learn from people whom I rarely get to see face-to-face. We shared beers, ciders and whiskey over a campfire on the beach, strengthening friendships and forming new friendships all around. Designers helped developers add the sparkle their apps desperately needed, developers shrugged beside designers as they considered ways of making their ideas into reality and many creative thinkers discussed ways of improving their apps beyond just interface and code.

One of the most compelling aspects of camp was the lack of schedule and all around do-what-you-want attitude. There was nothing but time to think, and I loved it. I found myself an amazing spot hidden out on the rocks near the water, where I hid myself from the rest of camp a few times. It felt great to escape where no one could find me and just introspect about where I am, where I want to be, how I want to get there and where technology fits in with my broader life goals. Something that we as fast moving developers, designers and creative people rarely find time to stop, step away and do.

We look at code, at interfaces, at urgent problems every single day. It doesn’t take long for the pressure to build up and scar our creative side. We tend to fizzle out, feel un-inspired and corner ourselves.

At camp we had a rare chance to leave our outer shell at the wharf and to forget all expectations. There were plenty of challenges – the slackline challenge, the coffee machine, the blazingly hot showers, the lack of dry firewood and the scarcity of internet. All of these challenges enforced new and unexpected restrictions on us that forced us to open our minds, change our perspective and think of new ways to solve the problems we were faced with.

Through dedication many attendees were inspired to overcome the slackline, help build an amazing beach fire and embraced the lack of internet settling disagreements the old fashioned way – an alcohol infused argument and hefty bets on either side.

A highlight of the weekend had to be the absolutely amazing job that our own Duncan Campbell and Cameron Barrie did in preparing a feast of Ribs, Pulled pork and Lamb Shoulder rivalled by none other. It was also the fantastic coffee, the endless supply of beer and wine, the insanely great location and tear jerking game of Cards Against Humanity.

Thanks to all who were involved in making NSCamp 2015 possible, we look forward to an even better camp next year!

Speaking at DevWorld

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Yesterday, I gave a presentation at DevWorld Australia on the design and development process of Apple Watch apps with WatchKit, called ‘Intimate Interactions on Apple Watch’.

Last year I attended the conference as a student, and attendee. At the time I was desperately tearing my hair out trying to find my ‘groove’ as a developer. I attended a lot of really inspiring, interesting and informative talks from people that I’ve since become great friends with. At one point I sat down in a corner, pulled out my iPhone and opened my to-do list.

‘Write a talk for DevWorld 2015’

I gave myself the task of writing something for the next year, and it seemed so far fetched that there was no way I’d accomplish it, but I’d at least give it a try.

I put that to-do task out of my mind until earlier this year when I’d hit ‘Submit’ on an application to give a talk at DevWorld 2015. Despite all the added stress of trying to piece together something remotely legible and worthwhile for an audience, this was a great opportunity for me to work on a very specific tool in my development tool chain – my confidence.

There are a lot of people I know that would love nothing more than the opportunity to stand on a stage, be given a microphone and enough time to talk uninterrupted to an audience. I’m not typically an outrageously confident person in comparison with my peers. My lack of formal education in software development constantly irks me into what I consciously know is an unwarranted sense of imposter syndrome.

I decided not to let fear and confidence overrule my life and instead to over come it. Whether I failed or not didn’t quite matter, just that I pushed through the barrier and ended up a better developer on the other side.

So I spent a few weeks thinking about my talk, writing it, iterating it and working with a designer to make it look less like a colourblind developer had spilled a bucket of paint over some scribbled words.

Throughout this process I found myself learning quite a lot about myself as a developer, and the extent of what I actually do know about things that I didn’t think I actually knew. Which is really encouraging. Surprisingly, I found myself learning a lot even just simply by going through the motions of teaching others what I know and have learned.

Yesterday I ticked off my to-do list task, and accomplished another milestone. With my goals and milestones as a metric I’ve found that I am improving as a developer a lot faster now than I once was, and yet there is still a long way to go.

Yes the great people I work with are helping with that, but what has helped me the most is forcing myself into situations that make me scared, take me out of my comfort zone and force me to do something I usually wouldn’t. Like writing a talk about building software and then presenting it to a room full of developers most likely a lot smarter than I am.

It turned out really great, as you would expect from the really encouraging and positive community at DevWorld. Since my talk I’ve spoken to a lot of interesting developers building new and exciting things with WatchKit and I’ve been asked a few intriguing questions.

If you’re like me and constantly trying to push yourself and your development to the next level, I recommend finding a really great community that you can contribute to and converse with. Present a talk on something you’re passionate about, talk to people that are just as passionate and you’ll be surprised at the outcome.

A podcast a day

You sit back in the cold, sticky, plastic, blue train seat sniffle on the morning train into the office. Beside you is the last person you want to be seated next to. Sniffle Scrolling aimlessly through your Facebook news feed you can’t help but keep hearing it.

sniffle What is that? sniffle sniffle It hits you.

The frustrating, relentless and insufferable sniffle of a cold-ridden commuter from hell. You look around and notice all the carriage seats are full. You ain’t going no where. Aside from imagining yourself inflicting some form of mass violence upon everyone around you, like something out of Kill Bill or The Purge, what would you do?

I asked everyone at Bilue what they would do and they had this to say

“What a stupid question Phill, what rock are you living under? What else is there to do except whip out a pair of swanky headphones and block it all out with some podcasts!”

So these are the podcasts that we’ve been listening to lately –

Scott

Serial

From the same guys who bring you This American Life, bring an even better Story about a high school murder, the people involved, and the guy who got convicted. Is he innocent or guilty?

Stuff you should know

In life there’s things to keep in your memory banks and things to be discarded like last weeks Beef Stroganoff. Josh and Chuck bring you only the choicest cuts from the cow of knowledge.

Sye

99% Insvisible

I care about the stories behind how ‘things’ came to be. The trials & tribulations of the person behind the decisions, the environment under which those decisions came about.

 

Amy

This American Life

I have a weird interest in American culture. It fascinates me. They share stories on a particular theme with real people in real situations. I love it!

 

Criminal

‘Serial’ and ‘Criminal’ are also great if you have a sick obsession with crime cases like me!

 

Tom

StartUp

The first season of StartUp follows Alex Blumberg as he documents his own journey seeking funding for his podcast network. It’s especially interesting to hear all of the tense, emotional conversations that take place.

Exponent

I’m really interested in the business side of technology companies and in my opinion Ben Thompson and James Allworth give a great insight into the industry.

 

Annelise

Spark

If you’re anything like me you love hearing about media, technology and culture combined. Josh Topolsky talks to a slew of guests about what is and will be happening tomorrow.

 

Design Details

A good chat between designers or developers in the product design space. It doesn’t tell you what to do or how to design, it’s just a persons thoughts and experiences in the industry.

Jake

Shop Talk Show

The quirky sound board and the rapid fire shows make this a standout for me. A must subscribe if you are a passionate web developer.

 

TTL

A relatively new podcast hosted by Rebecca Murphey that focuses on finding out the many responsibilities of a front-end operations engineer.

 

Lisa

Around the Bloc

A group of soccer fans discussing their love of football/soccer, The Simpsons, South Park, music, all foods and everything in between.

 

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy

Another must listen!

 

 

Billy

No Such Thing As A Fish

Some times I wish I have a bit of commute time so that I can consume my podcasts faster.

 

Nerdist Writer’s Panel

My podcast client says I’m subscribed to 58 channels. Geez.

 

Duncan

Reconcilable Differences

Oh, Reconcilable Differences.

 

 

Phill

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Tomorrow

If you’re anything like me you love hearing about media, technology and culture combined. Josh Topolsky talks to a slew of guests about what is and will be happening tomorrow.

 

My Brother, my brother and me

I’ve only just subscribed but already love it! Three brothers geeking out, laughing and pretending to give good advice.

 

Luke

Wilosophy

Some people don’t like him, he can get a little chatty but the chats with Todd Sampson and Pinky Beecroft are good.

 

WTF with Marc Maron

Definitely check out the Obama interview.

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