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Archive for January 2011

Dolores Umbridge

"We Must Not Tell Lies!" - Dolores Umbridge

An Open Letter to Ms. B. Lynn Walsh (part of our vBulletin Truth Series)

Dear Ms. Walsh:

My name is Veritas and I am a customer of Internet Brands and committed to finding the truth.

I own a vBulletin license and I must say I find it daring that you would orchestrate a lawsuit against your former employees given the circumstances of your own product lines. More to the point, I find this lawsuit, rather amusing. I must congratulate you on a job well done for expertly catching key details and organizing this ruse. Nothing has slipped by you. Let me explain further.

I took  liberty of doing a quick Google search to see who you are and what your history is. For those reading this open letter, let me share with you what I’ve learned:

Internet Brands Website:
Lynn Walsh is responsible for structuring and negotiating acquisitions and strategic partnerships and oversees all human resource, legal, and regulatory aspects of Internet Brands’ business.

Prior to joining Internet Brands in 2000, Walsh was a partner in the Technology group at Alston & Bird LLP in Atlanta, Georgia, where she specialized in public and private offerings of securities, mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance.

Previously, Walsh was a partner at Hunton & Williams in Atlanta. She received her B.A. from the University of Michigan and her J.D. from Wayne State University Law School.

Forbes.com

Ms. Walsh has served as Executive Vice President of Corporate Development, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary since 2000. From 1998 to 2000, Ms. Walsh was a partner in the Technology group at Alston & Bird LLP in Atlanta, Georgia, where she specialized in public and private offerings of securities, mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance. From 1992 to 1998, Ms. Walsh was a partner in the Corporate and Securities group at Hunton & Williams LLP, in its Atlanta office. Ms. Walsh has a B.A. from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from Wayne State University Law School.

Something I found most interesting is that Alston & Bird LLP in Atlanta is the exact same law firm that filed the vBulletin copyright AND also filed the suit in the United States Central District Court of California. I really have to wonder if we were scratching the back of your former partners…hmm..

Granted a bit weak in the argument department, but let’s look at your wonderful declaration. Just remember your declaration is signed under the penalty of perjury that the above is true. After all, we must not tell lies!

So let’s start with argument 4.

“In Paragraph 21 of Darby’s declaration, he states that almost all of the witnesses in this action live and work in England. My understanding of the facts is different than Darby’s.

I find it extremely convenient that certain names of witness in the UK were left out. People like Darren Gordon, James Edward Limm, and others who worked at the Reading, UK office. Plus I also found it interesting one name was left out: your famous, disgruntled employee Scott MacVicar, who currently works with Facebook.

<sarcasm> I’m sure he’d love to fly down and provide expert testimony.  Oh wait, but of course, Scott wouldn’t testify for you. He’d likely testify against you because of his first hand experience at how you do things at Internet Brands. No wonder you didn’t expect Scott to testify.</sarcasm>

Let’s look at item 5.

Based on my review of the allegations of the FAC (First Amended Complaint) and my knowledge of the employees of plaintiff and Internet Brands, I anticipate that California residents affiliated with defendants and the Xenforo website as their representatives here in California will testify in this action. I understand that Xenforo.com website domain is registered here in Westchester, California, where it maintains a physical presence and that it maintains a technical and administrative contact phone number with the California area code 661. Any witnesses concerning the activities of these technical and administrative representatives of Xenforo in California, would, in my estimation, have to reside here in California. I discuss this further in paragraphs 11 and 12 below.

I’m shocked at your broad statements, claiming that xenforo maintains a physical presence in California. Anyone can simply Google Search to discover what WHOISGUARD is. Even on the WHOISGUARD website it has Namecheap.com written all over it. In fact, even your own Exhibit A clearly says Registration Service is provided by Namecheap.com.

Do you expect me to believe just because I choose a domain registrar located elsewhere that we have a physical presence? Imagine the precedent that would set! Use a registrar like Godaddy (which of course Internet Brands uses) and now Godaddy is considered your registered agent? I think not! I’m sure even Internet Brands would not like that argument. Now you have legal obligations in not just Delaware, and California, but in Arizona too all because you used Godaddy’s Domain’s By Proxy service. But of course, as a lawyer, you’re detailed and meticulous and I’m sure you know what you’re doing. I’m sure you took great care to research what WHOISGUARD is. After all, you do use DomainsByProxy in Arizona.

Furthermore, we both know that ICANN requires us to maintain up to date contact information as part of our domain registrar. However, we also know that the big registrars do offer a privacy service which blocks people from. Essentially we know these registrations become “private” and that the registrar becomes a temporary owner of a domain. The registrar, in good faith, is expected not to seize the domain from you and will release it back into the custody of the original owner upon domain.

But of course, it is common knowledge. And we must not tell lies.

Moving on, item 8.

Based on my review of the allegations of the FAC, and my knowledge of the employees of plaintiff and Internet Brands, I anticipate Ray Morgan, Adrian Harris, Michael Anders and Fabian Schonholz, members of Mr. Rosenblum’s technology team for vBulletin will testify in this action. These Internet Brands employees were present for the meetings in El Segundo at which Darby is alleged to have improperly utilized plaintiff’s proprietary information and also were involved in and monitored the progress of Darby and his team of the development of the vBulletin software, and communicated with the entire vBulletin team about the development and implementation of the software features and improvements. Mr. Morgan is and was the General Manager of the vBulletin business team and so was often intimately involved in the matters giving rise to this dispute. All these gentlemen live and work in Southern California.

WHOA! Excuse me, Ms. Walsh, but isn’t that overreaching? In fact, I would argue you just LIED to the courts. You just committed perjury! Let me explain.

Let’s establish some timelines first.

First Visit by Kier to Internet Brands:  September 3 to September 7, 2008
Second Visit By Kier to Internet Brands: End of September 2008.
Kier’s Resignation:  June 19, 2009

All these dates are based off of Mr. Rosenblum’s declaration, signed under the penalty of perjury.

Adrian Harris, while currently is the business manager for vBulletin, was PREVIOUSLY employed by Internet Brands, but as the community manager managing YOUR AUTOMOTIVE FORUMS. In fact, Adrian did NOT join the vBulletin Team until March 2010. In his blog entry, dated March 26, 2010, he said he was new to the vBulletin team. Let’s also not forget about this thread too. So tell me Ms. Walsh. What is a community manager of Automotive Forums doing in a closed door, vBulletin development meeting, in which technically is considered outside his normal duties? In fact, I’m willing to bet Mr. Harris was not permitted to attend the meeting, but more to the point, was NOT even AT the meeting! Unless Mr. Harris somehow traveled back in time one and a half years prior to attend that meeting somehow.

Let’s look at Fabian Schonholz. He’s currently a vice president of technology according to the vBulletin.com forums, but whoa, stop the presses, we have a problem too. In this post, dated April 14, 2010, Fabian noted that he recently started at Internet Brands and that for the last two weeks, he has been reading the forums and talking to the vBulletin team. So explain to me, Ms. Walsh, how does a Vice President of Technology, who was hired in 2010, attend a meeting in 2008? Again, that mystical Internet Brands time machine must come into play.

I’d like to remind you, Ms. Walsh, that on the 23rd of December, you signed, UNDER THE PENALTY OF PERJURY, under the laws of the United States of America, the the foregoing is true and correct. In fact, looking at item 8, I, an auditor, just impeached you as a witness and have discovered you committed perjury.

In fact, I can’t believe anything you’re saying now. Why? Because you just lied to the courts. But you are a former lawyer with Alston & Bird LLP, obtained a Juris Doctor at Wayne State University Law School. You were taught never to lie and commit perjury. After all, we must not tell lies! We must not tell lies to the courts!

I eagerly await your response Ms. Walsh. Have a wonderful week.

Sincerely,

Veritas.

P.S. Is there a particular reason why you are not registered with the California State Bar? If I’m not mistaken, under the California Rules of Court, Rule 9.46, in-house counsel is required to register with the California State Bar to practice law in California and must renew annually to be legally permitted to practice law in California.

Just a thought.

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In our continuing series of bringing truth to Internet Brands, I want to start this off by showing you a clip Star Wars.

Admiral Ackbar’s famous words “It’s a Trap” has spawned a series of parodies over the years. But it also serves as a great launching point for this discussion: Have you fallen into Internet Brands’ Trap?

I refer you to Mr. Joseph Rosenblum’s Declaration, item 9 and 15:

Item 9:

At one of these meetings at Interet Brands’ corporate office in El Segundo, CA on September 4, 2008, Darby and employees of Jelsoft and Internet Brands discussed the development of new features and functions for vBulletin Software. During this meeting, Internet Brands’ Chief Executive Officer Robert “Bob” Brisco, Darby and several Jelsoft employees and I developed off page, on page, and other ideas for a search engine optimization feature for vBulletin. A “road map” for these ideas was discussed at length by the participatns at the meeting. Darby was an active participant in that meeting. During same:

  1. The purpose of the meeting was to purpose all functions and features that should be in future versions of vBulletin software
  2. The “road map” for search engine optimization be written on a white board;
  3. Darby took and retained a picture of the white board with vBulletin “road map” written upon it; and
  4. Using his laptop computer, Darby took notes regarding the matters discussed.

After the meeting, Darby sent an email to Internet Brands team members who attended the meeting, which contained the photo that he took of the “road map” on the white board. A true and accurate copy of the same is attached as Exhibit “A” hereto. Exhibit A recites two dozen forward-looking ideas for vBulletin search engine optimization

Item 15:

Thereafter, I reviewed the xenforo.com website, information, software code, videos and forum posts thereon, as well as third-party websites mentioned xenforo. Portions of the software code on the Xenforo.com website were readily accessible through the website. Moreover relevant videos, forum posts, and third-party websites were readily accessible by clicking public links on the xenforo.com website. At least six of the ideas, concepts and architecture for search engine optimization that were set forth on the “road map” on Exhibit A are currently being utilized in the xenForo bulletin board software


How many of you have actually questioned what these ideas, concepts and architecture that Mr. Rosenblum claims? Or even taken time to even research what those so-called trade secrets are?

My fear is that too many have fallen for the con artist trick, where they quickly flash a badge at you saying they are law enforcement, and not giving a chance to inspect the badge. Upon closer inspection, you realize the badge is nothing more than a shiny shield painted in gold paint.

Are we challenging Internet Brands’ claims? We certainly are. Let’s find the truth.

Let’s go look at them. Let’s scrutinize them. Let’s put Internet Brands in the hot seat, and their trade secrets under a microscope.

Opening Mr. Rosenblum’s declaration, looking at Exhibit “A”, and blowing up that horribly cropped image to 350% magnification, I can read roughly 80-85% of the text. Let’s look at these “so called trade secrets” and “intellectual property” that was written on the white board.

Off Page:

  • Social Bookmark Widgets
  • URL/Permalinks
  • Sitemap
  • Trackbacks/linkbacks
  • Duplicate Content Management
  • Intelligent Defaults/Installation
  • Google Analytics
  • Gmail? Report
  • robots.txt

On Page:

  • Semantic Markup
  • Meta/HTTP headers
    • keywords
    • descriptions
  • title tags
  • keyword density
  • title attributes (img, a)
  • nofollow

?

  • What is Configurable
  • link baiting?
  • list maker
  • polls?
  • wizard

The last column is guidelines, where there are six items listed but they are not legible. (Anyone want to give a shot reading it? All I am able to make out are URL, Callback, Minimize configuration, and Keywords.)

In other words, Internet Brands’ attempted to pull a fast one on the public. The noticeable absence of specifying the contents out on the board in the declaration itself should have raised eyebrows. The fact no care was put into detailing the contents of the whiteboard draws scrutiny from me as the picture should only validate the claim, not be the claim itself.

Don’t take my word for it. Download the PDF yourself and open it up in Adobe PDF. Zoom in with 350x magnification and read it with your own eyes.

I believe it to be a tactical move on the part of Internet Brands as I wonder if anyone intends on reading the contents of the board. I see this to be a move on the part of Internet Brands’ as  ”see we have these ideas and they are on a whiteboard. I have a picture too! It’s proof Mr. Darby stole from us!!!!” when in reality and upon closer inspection, those ideas are common knowledge and readily available to anyone who has access to a Google search.

But case in point, how many of the above is actually “trade secrets”? Correct me if I’m wrong, but 90-95% of the above items can be found in vBSEO! GASP! Another dozen or so of these items can be found on hundreds of websites dedicated to SEO! HECK! EVEN A BUNCH OF THESE ITEMS CAN BE FOUND ON GOOGLE’S OWN BLOG REGARDING SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION.

So my question at the end of the day:  WHAT IS MR. ROSENBLUM BLOWING HOT AIR ABOUT? I SEE NO TRADE SECRETS, OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY.

Do you?

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Kaizen – It is at the heart of Toyota’s corporation. Certainly we’ve heard Bob Brisco of Internet Brands tout it, but have we seen him actually spearhead and lead Internet Brands into doing things more effectively and efficiently? Kaizen is about finding ways of doing things faster, smarter, cutting down waste, cutting down costs, all the while maintaining, or improving quality. It has been one of the  reasons for Toyota’s rapid growth in recent years.

It works well when it is done correctly, but when it is done incorrectly, we see shortcomings, such as the Toyota recalls. However, this article is not about Toyota, it is about Internet Brands.
Let me illustrate. An engineering friend of mine sent this YouTube video to me the other week.  My question to you: How long does it take to build a 15 (fifteen) story hotel? Maybe a month? Well, take a look before you continue reading this article.

I sat there in disbelief. The Chinese built a brand new hotel exterior in two days, and completed the exterior four days later! In six days, the Chinese built a brand new, sustainable, fifteen story hotel, with minimal waste, all the while maximizing efficiency in both energy and construction. How? Through using brand new construction techniques and modular, prefabricated designed parts.

Certainly we can make all kinds of implications such as:

  • We should be including time spend fabricating those parts into the total time lapse
  • They had far more human capital available to help do the construction

Truth be told, we would be rationalizing and letting our pride interfere. What matters is the Chinese found a way to construct a brand new hotel with new methodologies that worked and it worked well.

So let me move on here, and please keep this in the back of your mind. I promise it serves a purpose. First of all, my arguments will be basically in response to Mr. Joseph Rosenblum’s Declaration.

Looking at item one, I see Mr. Rosenblum has conveniently left out his education information. Oh it’s true that it says he has a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters Degree from Stanford, but let me ask you this question. What is his degree in? Psychology? History? Computer Science? Management Information Systems?

After much digging, his LinkedIn Profile provided the information we needed. Mr. Rosenblum graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Modern Thought and Literature. His Masters degree is also in Modern Thought and Literature.

Just what is Modern Thought and Literature? According to the Stanford website:

Modern Thought and Literature (MTL) is an interdisciplinary graduate program advancing the study of critical issues in the modern world. Since 1971, MTL students have helped to redefine the cutting edge of many interdisciplinary fields and to reshape the ways in which disciplinary scholarship is understood and practiced. MTL graduates are leaders in such fields as American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Film Studies, Social and Cultural Studies, and Women’s Studies, as well as disciplines such as English, Cultural Anthropology, and Comparative Literature.

The Program trains students to understand the histories and methods of disciplines and to test their assumptions. We consider how disciplines shape knowledge and, most importantly, how interdisciplinary methods reshape their objects of study. MTL students produce innovative analyses of diverse texts, forms, and practices, including those of literature, history, philosophy, anthropology, law, and science; film, visual arts, popular culture, and performance; and material culture and technology.

Each student constructs a unique and rigorous program of study suited to his or her research. Students have focused on such areas as gender and sexuality; race and ethnicity; science, technology, and medicine; media and performance; legal studies; and critical and social theory. Our faculty is drawn from a range of fields in the humanities and social sciences, as well as from education, law, and medicine. As serious interdisciplinary study is impossible without a firm understanding of the disciplines under consideration, each student is expected to master the methods of one discipline and to gain a firm foundation in a second field.

Translation: It’s just a design your own major type program that allows you to focus on certain areas, and in likely case for Mr. Rosenblum’s, technology. However note where Stanford’s strengths lie in this program: American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Film Studies, Social and Cultural Studies, English, Anthropology, Literature, and Woman’s Studies. These are all humanities type courses. They are not designed to be heavy in the technical area. We of course, do not know what classes or courses Mr. Rosenblum took, however we can infer that while some technical courses may have been taken, there were not the emphasis.

In contrast, let’s meet the hypothetical Mr. John Doe, who graduated from a school with Bachelors of Science in Computer Science Degree and has a Masters in Business Administration. Stack Mr. Rosenblum and Mr. Doe for a technical job, and who do you feel is more qualified for technology leadership position?

Personally, at the end of the day, I feel Mr. Doe is more qualified. Why? It’s not because I’m the author of this article, but because Mr. Doe has been through a program with technology in mind and not a program which treats technology as an afterthought. The degree and education Mr. Doe has is far more comprehensive and rigorous  as there is an expectation to understand the theory, concepts and application behind technology.

Yes Mr. Rosenblum has worked twelve years in the computer industry, but that doesn’t mean he’s QUALIFIED to spearhead a project like vBulletin. A person could be working the helpdesk for twelve years and that is still working in the computer industry.

Moving forward to other points, I’m astounded at the broad level of accusations. For example, point ten.

During his two trips to California, I observed Darby involved in several conversations with Internet Brands and Jelsoft employees outside of meetings, and in their offices, discussing the vBulletin software.

The implication here made by the Internet Brands Vice-President of Technology Development is one that is simply astounds me completely. Mr. Darby talking to employees is reason to believe Mr. Darby committed theft of intellectual property? Has Mr. Rosenblum gone mad? Correct me if I’m wrong, but how do you expect anyone to work together to put together a program as complex as vBulletin without talking by verbal or written means? Does Mr. Rosenblum expect telepathy used? TALKING is necessary to communicate, facilitate and execute any given plan. TALKING is part of the job. Paranoid much, Mr. Rosenblum?

Furthermore, on item 13:

On June 19, 2009, Darby quit his job with Jelsoft. Because of Darby’s resignation and his central role with vBulletin software development and implementation, Platniff was NOT able to implement the new features as quickly as it had planned when Darby was on board.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but if that does not sound like a temper tantrum, then frankly I don’t know what is. The accusation here is again astounding. Internet Brands pretty said “it is all Kier’s fault vBulletin 4 isn’t what it is and that new features aren’t done.” Mr. Rosenblum of course, is conveniently leaving out one key fact. On November 2, 2009, Bob Brisco himself noted in this blog post on vBulletin.com that the number of vBulletin developers had DOUBLED. Do I hear double speak? You loose one man, but you double entire vBulletin development staff and yet you feature implementation is still slowed completely? Talk about inefficiency! Yes I can hear the critics saying that Kier was the lead developer, however lead developer means you spearhead and coordinate the efforts as well as project the vision. It doesn’t mean you are a better coder. Plus add to the fact there is more talent in the Internet Brands HR pool, one should easily make up for the void Kier left behind with three to four people. Internet Brands hired MORE than four people, with a significant number of them leaving for other opportunities. So it’s safe to say Internet Brands HR hired talented people and that they made it elsewhere. It’s also definitely to safe to say Internet Brands HR did NOT hire incompetent people. If they did, we need to bring out the “EPIC FAIL” stickers.

Let’s look at item 15:

At least 6 of the ideas, concepts and architecture for search engine optimization that were set forth on the “road map” on Exhibit A are currently being utilized in the xenForo bulletin board software

Excuse me Mr. Rosenblum, but exactly what are those “at least six” ideas, concepts and architectural designs? Would you care to share with the class? Your subsequent claims in number 16 are equally as vague as you’ve not detailed what was taken. As far as I’m concerned, you could have claimed “quick reply” and “lightbox galleries” as part of the vBulletin roadmap, all which have since taken root in different web applications as software.

Last but not least, point 17 is one I love personally.

Based upon my involvement in the computer industry for over 13 years (authors note: he’s now touting over thirteen years when in point one, he touted over twelve years. Reputation inflation?), my knowledge of the vBulletin software since 2006, my extensive background in computer programming for 15-20 years, and my review of the source code used in xenforo software, in my opinion, it would have been impossible for a software company of xenforo’s size to develop xenforo from scratch between June 30, 2009 and July 28, 2010 as stated by Darby in paragraphs 6 and 9 in his declaration in support of his motion. It took Jelsoft and VBSI more than 10 (ten) years to develop vBulletin to this point with Darby working on the project. The fact that Darby was able to program and release a bulletin board software program that included certain more advanced features than vBulletin in a mere thirteen months is a clear indication to me that xenforo and its programmers imply copied vBulletin’s code and spent the last year adding to this product the new features that were planned for subsequent versions of vBulletin.

Can I just say wow for a moment? I’m completely in disbelief at some of the broad claims here. So let’s do some dissection.

  • Extensive Background Knowledge for 15-20 Years in Computer Programming – Call me the skeptic, but could someone please clarify his experience in programming? What is this extensive background knowledge? What does it entail? Does it entail 15 to 20 years of simply reading code? Being able to alter code to add in database information? Plus has Mr. Rosenblum ever heard of frameworks?
  • Review of source code of xenForo – Question. When did you review the source code? How did you review the source code? Note Internet Brands launched a lawsuit far way in advanced before xenForo was ever released.

Last but not least, the fact Mr. Darby was unable to program anything under thirteen months and release it to the public. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but in Item 13, Mr. Rosenblum acknowledged that Kier that he was an excellent programmer and that because of his resignation, work slowed down significantly. We can safely assume here Mr. Rosenblum just admitted to the world that Kier is an excellent programmer. Yet here, Mr. Rosenblum just told the world that despite Kier being an excellent programmer, he can’t release a brand new forum application in thirteen months because Internet Brands can’t do it.

Let me tell you how they did it Mr. Rosenblum. They did it by using existing packages out there on the net that were open for EVERYONE TO USE including yourself. They chose the best stuff adopted by every community, including your own self proclaimed competitor: WordPress.

  • Framework: Maybe 60,70% of the framework is from Zend. Everything in between is filled in.
  • AJAX/UI: All utilizing JQUERY
  • Editor: Tiny MCE
  • Flash Upload: SWFUpload

What xenforo did was the same as the Chinese. Taking existing techniques, finding ways of improving upon existing packages out there and bring them together. Just like this article. The words itself are out there, but it takes someone to assemble them to make anything meaningful. They were being efficient.

Instead of wrestling with reinventing the wheel, designing brand new editors, new frameworks, they utilized what worked out there in the market and integrated the best parts into xenForo. All the while, Internet Brands was reinventing the wheel, while trying to roll the wheel when it isn’t ready.

Here’s why your items are not as sophisticated as xenForo Mr. Rosenblum: You’re wrestling with ten year old code. Rather than doing what all professional coders have said from day one and that’s to start off from a clean slate, you’ve continued to push forward with this agile methodology. Each time something new is introduced, it breaks something else. Your team is constantly spending time squashing bugs and introducing code to make sure existing functionality do not break. They are, to simply put, being completely inefficient with their time because the path you set forth does not work well given the nature of the beast. They are wrestling with something they should not have to. That clean slate was all that’s needed to give xenForo a significant strategic advantage over Internet Brands. Add new methods of doing things, and you have a killer product.

Sorry Mr. Rosenblum, but to me your logic doesn’t add up. You can say a fifteen story hotel can’t be built in a week, but rather it takes a month. The reality is that the Chinese built a brand new hotel in one week instead of a whole month; the reality is that xenForo was able to build a brand new forum in one year instead of ten.

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As many of you have noticed, I’ve refrained from discussing the current lawsuit. I’ve also been noticeably absent given real life has taken priority due to the end of year audits. However, as the end of year has winded down, and my workload has been somewhat lightened, it is time to put the pen to the paper and write once more.

It begged the question what to write, and after considerable deliberation, I now intend to start a series of entries in respons to Internet Brands’s recent motions and filings in the United States Federal Court.

It is my understanding that there has been some responses by both sides, as well as customers and I will be echoing some of those very same arguments. Granted I’ve not read every single argument out there, I will acknowledge that there is a significant number of people who see the equally flawed logic and statements made by Internet Brands and their representatives.

And thus… the series begins.

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Enough said.

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