PASS Board Meeting Update - by Andy Warren

I’m just back from the March 2010 Board meeting and it went better than usual (for any meeting). Most of arrived Sunday afternoon/evening and after a bit of social time I spent about four hours with Hannes, Craig, and Blythe working on SQLSaturday transition stuff (lots of details next week, but we’ve made good progress!) and then chatting with Rushabh for a while too. Worked right through dinner and by the end I could barely talk, had been fighting a minor cold and all the talking just made it worse.

Expected to get up Monday really sick, but the cold medicine had helped, and we started the meeting on time. We talked through some adjustments to the agenda and then started working. Normally I try to share a lot of the details of the meeting, but this time I’m going to wait for the minutes to come out because we’ve agreed to greatly increase the level of detail. Don’t expect perfection on the first try, but our goal is to show you a really good summary of what we discuss, with bullets of the pros and cons that we saw.

We’ve also agreed to discuss as little as possible in executive session. There are some things not appropriate to disclose; salaries (privacy concerns), things that we discuss under NDA with Microsoft, some details of our Summit strategy that might give a competitor an advantage, etc. I think the Board fully understands that we need to be as transparent as possible and I think we made huge strides in that direction. We still have to execute, but the intent is now there as never before.

This changes things in interesting ways. One is that when we get into brain storming mode we tend to talk all at once, or at least more than one at a time, making it really hard for Blythe from HQ to keep good notes that in turn will generate good minutes. What we plan to do next time is do a quick flip chart summary at the end of each topic, that gives us all a chance to make sure we reflect all the major points and is also a checkpoint to make sure that we haven’t violated any privacy/NDA type concerns. It should also make it a lot easier to get the minutes out faster for review by the members.

It was the most effective PASS meeting I’ve attended. We stuck to our revised agenda and actually finished up a few minutes early. I don’t know that we’ve mastered meetings, but we’re gradually moving to an approach where we hammer out some concepts and send them off for work rather than trying to nail down the finished product. A full meeting is still a bit chaotic when we’re kicking around ideas, but it’s workable. We’ll have another in person meeting in either June or August and if we can repeat it then, we’ll have a formula we can document and maintain.
 

- Andy Warren

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PASS Connector Editorial for Nov. 18 - Summit Highlights

PASS Summit 2009 is now over but still looms large in my thoughts. What a terrific week. Attending the Summit is such an immersive experience: so many people to connect with, unfettered access to Microsoft, non-stop learning opportunities and such a great spirit of camaraderie that surrounds the conference. It makes it hard to get back to life in the office again.

This was, by all accounts, one of the best Summits in recent memory. There are so many highlights to share, but here are a few of the standouts.

We had over 3000 total registrations—2232 attendees and 807 pre/post-con attendees. That’s only a 9% drop from our record year in 2008. Given the economy and how other conferences have experienced 30% to 40% drops, I’m really impressed. Our community obviously sees an incredible amount of value in PASS and the Summit.

The networking opportunities available at Summit were plentiful–and it sounds like lots of people took advantage of them. Over 70 people attended the Don Gabor networking workshop, including myself. I’m hoping most attendees accessed the available Microsoft resources: the CSS and SQLCAT teams were out in full force as well as the “Ask the Experts” folks. Birds-of-a-Feather/WIT/Chapter luncheons, the Exhibit Hall, the receptions, coffee breaks, etc., were also prime opportunities to meet new people.

Social media also took center stage at this year’s event. Representatives at our blogger table worked fast and furious to share their keynote musings through Twitter. Many others tweeted and blogged and shared their pictures of the conference as well—thank you! Not only did attendees get to share their experiences, but it helped non-attendees feel like they were participating in the Summit too.

And if the #sqlpass chatter was any indication, David DeWitt’s keynote on Day 3 was hands down the favorite of the conference. We’ll do our best to bring him back for next year.

With over 160 sessions to choose from, content was king at Summit. In fact, there were so many great sessions that most people had a tough time choosing which ones to go to. That’s why we have the conference DVD available for sale–so you can catch up on the sessions you may have missed. You can also download the session presentations from the LiveSummit site here.

A particular highlight of the week for me was the tribute to Immediate Past President Kevin Kline, who is leaving the board of directors and received a special Lifetime Achievement PASSion award to a standing ovation. In PASS's 10 years of existence, the organization has never known a time when Kevin Kline wasn't on the board of directors. PASS President Wayne Snyder’s heartfelt dedication of Kevin’s award was moving. Well deserved, Kevin.

Congratulations as well to all our great volunteers who put in long hours before and during Summit to make it a big success.

A special shout out to all our sponsors; PASS Summit would not be possible without the support of Microsoft, DELL, EMC, Expressor, HP, VMWare, Idera, and CA as well as our media partners and over 35  exhibitors. And Microsoft, we’d sure love another Gameworks party again next year—thanks for a fun night.

And last but not least, thanks to all of you in the community who attended and participated in PASS Summit 2009. We look forward to seeing you again next year!
 

Andy Warren

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PASS Logreader Awards Announced!

There’s nothing like a good contest to make things interesting, so we’ve put together the first ever PASS Logreader Awards to recognize the best and most interesting bloggers in our community. Bloggers will have the opportunity to submit their best posts in up to two categories by Oct 15th, and then we’ll announce the winners at the PASS Summit. Here are three different views of the contest, each contains directions on how to participate:

http://www.sqlservercentral.com/blogs/andy_warren/archive/2009/10/06/a-contest-for-bloggers-the-2009-pass-logreader-awards.aspx

http://www.brentozar.com/archive/2009/10/announcing-the-pass-log-reader-awards/

http://facility9.com/2009/10/06/the-first-ever-log-reader-awards

Andy Warrren

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PASS Connector Editorial for August 26- by Andy Warren

In a previous editorial, I wrote about networking with a focus on in-person skills. This time I’d like to move the focus to social networking by sharing some thoughts I have, talking about what PASS is doing in social networking right now, and asking for your ideas on what we can do better!
I talk to a lot of people about networking in general and the responses vary a lot. Many see huge value in social networking, and others see it as a time sink. At times the choices and time investment can seem bewildering. Our options include blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn, Google profiles, and more. Should we do all of them? What’s the return on the time investment? Do I miss out if I don’t participate everywhere? For me, I’ve deciding on blogging and LinkedIn for now, though I may end up using all of them just because I need to see how PASS is doing on each of them. But other than that, I’ve tried to make choices that are right for me.
For PASS, we’ve decided to support the most popular/successful ones, so we’ve got a Facebook page, a Twitter presence, and a LinkedIn Group. Many of the Chapters have LinkedIn group as well, and we have a sub-group for bloggers. Our general approach there is to provide the venue, let the ones who prefer each of those tools interact socially, and really try to not mess up a good thing. We’ll post “big” announcements there at times, but I think we want to make those places the fun places to be a PASS member, the places where we focus on people more than technology, the places where you can find people that share your interests and build new relationships.
That’s my vision, but my choice of solutions probably blinds me to things that we could do that many of you would find useful. What can we add to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn that would make it more valuable to you? Is there another tool or site that we should consider in addition to or instead of? Should we be trying to drive the interactions more, or is providing the gathering place enough? Should we filter posts harder on LinkedIn to reduce the noise?
Send us some ideas and comments by posting it to the PASS blog entry for this editorial, or just emailing me at andy.warren@sqlpass.org. I can’t guarantee we’ll like or be able to execute every idea that comes in, but we’ll look at all of them and try to update our strategy where we see we can sustain it.

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PASS Connector Editorial for July 15 - by Andy Warren

Hello,

As we approach PASS Summit in November, we also approach the time when we’ll be having our annual election and I want to share some information about what’s involved and how you can participate.

The process starts with a nominating committee headed by Immediate Past President Kevin Kline. Kevin will select committee members and together they make a recommendation to the Board of Directors about the officers (President, Vice President of Finance, and Vice President of Marketing) for the next two year term. Officers must be current Board members and the slate is voted on by the Board. The new officers will be announced at the Summit.

The next step is to open nominations for positions on the Board of Directors. We’ll provide full details when that begins, but in the past it has consisted of completing a written application followed by at least one phone interview. The nominating committee then recommends to the Board a slate of candidates for the November election.

Speaking from my own six months of experience on the Board of Directors it’s a serious commitment. Expect to spend 2-5 hours per week on PASS business, and to attend as many as three in person meetings that will last two full days each. It may change, but many of our meetings are held in Seattle which added two full days of travel for those of us on the East coast.

Start thinking about the election. Maybe you’re ready to increase your participation, or maybe you know someone who would be a good candidate. In an upcoming editorial we’ll talk more about the nominating process and the election process.

Andy Warren

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PASS Update #11 - Networking Seminar at PASS Summit

If you haven’t seen the news yet we’ve got something new on the schedule this year – a 2 hour seminar titled Networking to Build Business Contacts by author and speaker Don Gabor. I thought I’d give you the back story on how this ended up on the schedule and why I think you should attend (and why I’ll be attending).

See how closely you identify with the following:

  • You believe networking is a good idea
  • You’re not (or think you aren’t) very good at networking
  • You attend networking events but usually talk to people you already know
  • You think networking only matters if you’re looking for a job or selling something
  • You’re not good at starting conversations but you like talking to people
  • You’d like to meet some of the well known people in our business
  • You don’t have a plan for networking when you attend big events like the Summit
  • You don’t do a good job at following up with the people you do meet

If you agree with all eight, we’re in the same boat!

How much effort have you invested in learning SQL Server? For me it’s more than 10 years in various ways. Now how much training have you had in networking? I went out and bought some books because I realized I had zero training in networking, and one of them was How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends by Don Gabor. That in turn lead to some coaching sessions from Don and while I still won’t claim to be great, I’m better at it now and more aware of the nuances of networking.

I had long been interested in improving networking at the Summit, and going through this process made me think that others might benefit as well. I brought it up for discussion at the May 2009 board meeting thinking that it would be a hard sell, but it was just the opposite. Everyone liked the idea, the challenge was to figure out when, where, how long, and how much. Lots of work from that point to get the details done, but ultimately we came up with what I think is an elegant plan:

  • Host it in the gap between the end of pre-conference sessions and the opening night reception, which we tweaked to be 2 hours
  • Price it at our cost - $60 and give them a copy of How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends
  • Limit seating to 100, the max that Don believed he could train without assistance for this type of seminar
  • Focus on three networking scenarios; breakfast/lunch, between sessions, and large events like the reception

It’s training for the Summit and you’ll be practicing on 99 other people that want to learn networking too. I’ll be there (I paid my $60 already), my friend Steve Jones will be there, and I bet a good portion of the Board of Directors and some of our staff from PASS HQ, and I’m betting quite a few authors, MVP’s, and bloggers will be too – so you’ll have the chance to meet a few ‘well known’ people as part of the deal. Then when the training is over it’s right into the opening night reception to practice those new skills. Think of how we might change the Summit by injecting a 100 people that want to meet others and have the skills to do it? Every time we meet someone new, we make the event better for them too!

Questions or comments? Post here, or email to me at andy.warren@sqlpass.org.

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PASS Connector Editorial for June 17 - by Andy Warren

Before we launch into the big news of the week I’d like to remind everyone that our schedule for the 2009 Summit has changed from previous years – Monday will be pre-conference sessions, the main conference will be Tuesday through Thursday, and then we will have a day of post conference sessions on Friday.

Last week we announced 23 spotlight sessions, awarded to speakers that have previously presented one more sessions at the Summit and received excellent evaluations. You can click here for the full list, but I thought I’d demonstrate the kind of speakers the Summit attracts by listing their names here – I suspect you’ll recognize many of them!

Itzik Ben-Gan, Grant Fritchey, Klaus Aschenbrenner, Peter DeBetta, Paul Nielsen, Greg Low, Erin Welker, Brian Knight, Erik Veerman, Andy Leonard, Warren Thornthwaite, Joe Yong, Kimberly Tripp, Maciej Pilecki, Paul Randal, Peter Ward, Adam Machanic, Thomas Grohser, Gail Shaw, Kalen Delaney, Andrew Kelly, Joe Webb, and our own President, Wayne Snyder. 

We’ve also announced the pre-conference and post-conference sessions as well as a special 2 hour networking (as in people) class on Monday by author Don Gabor.

So click on the links and start thinking about attending! As always, if you have any questions about PASS, please email me at andy.warren@sqlpass.org.

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PASS Update #10

It's been a slower pace since the last update. Grant and I are working on the publication process for content on sqlpass.org, and Tim Mitchell is still queued waiting to deploy some code that will let us provide a filtered feed of all the bloggers in the blog directory. Probably the biggest thing that I've done is attend the board meeting last week in Seattle and I want to share some of that with you, and we'll get the minutes published as soon as we can.

I flew out on Tues about 8 am via Alaska Airlines, they have a direct flight to Seattle from Orlando, though it's a long 6.5 hours. Waited at the airport for Pat Wright to arrive so we could ride together up to our hotel in Bellevue. We arrived about 1:30, checked in, then split up to walk and explore a bit. We were downtown Bellevue this time (for proximity to MS) and it was a nice location, plenty of stuff nearby that didn't require a car/taxi. About 3:30 I met up with Blythe, Kate, and Craig from PASS HQ and sat with them at Red Robin while they had a very late lunch, then back to the hotel to work a little in the lobby and just sit and talk some. Everyone that had arrived met up for dinner at 7 pm for fajitas and etc, talked work a little but it was mostly relaxing.

Wed our biggest item of discussion was the budget for FY 2010 which begins Jul 1. This quickly became complicated for a couple reasons. One is that given an uncertain economic climate, what projection should we make for the Summit? We had a really great year last year and overall things seem to be progressing nicely, but would it be responsible to project an increase in an economic downturn? Same as last year? Down slightly? While that might seem like a guess (and it is go an extent), it's a critical guess as the Summit represents the bulk of our FY 2010 funding. That puts us in the position of having to build a budget around what we expect to generate, then we have to adjust our budget once we know the final number. As a fiscal conservative I'd much rather be in the happy position of having more money to use for good things than having to cut appropriations because we didn't hit our revenue projection. Lot's of discussion and we didn't quite finish, but we did end up with a road map of how we'll arrive at the final budget and that works.

It's also fair to say from my perspective that the Wed meeting seemed like it would never end. I try hard to remember that meetings are not pretty things, they can only be organized so much and with a dozen people in the room, any topic will generate 10 minutes of discussion. Yes we had an agenda and a sort of moderator, but in the case of the budget I think we can learn a lesson - just having an agenda is not enough. What we really needed was more work in advance to make it more of a decision making process, something like this:

  • At least 7 days prior to the meeting email board members good, better, best case budgets based on various revenue projections. Potentially the discussion around revenue expectations would have to be done via email prior to that, but I think having three variations would work just as well. In each case the revenue would be adjusted on a pure percentage basis across line items.
  • At the meeting provide a summary of the 3 budget options and how the forecast for each was derived, and try to reduce the conversation to a vote on the forecast first, and then a quick review of proposed spend by department. In practice I think we need goals outlined at the same time as the budget to see if spend aligns and supports the goals for the board member, but I can also see that it might be more effective to have the VP of Finance and team do that review and take the board through the uncertain areas.

It's not that the budget isn't important or worth my time, but it's only worth so much of my time, and only so long as I'm getting/providing value. It's also important to decide if any part of the meeting is one that needs the long discussion in order to figure out a course or make it easier to accept a hard decision, or if should be more of a decision. Both are fair approaches, but would be very important not to appear to be removing the attendees from the discussion without their approval, so that does require a quick discussion in advance.

Discussed a few other things (a blur!) and ended the day sometime after 7 pm, meeting up for dinner at 8. It was labeled a working dinner, but the restaurant was just a little noisy and everyone was tired, so it more dinner and small talk than work.

On Thursday we went back to the budget for the first few minutes as some details had been finalized, and then we talked about changes to our by-laws. Many of these are to clean up our existing by-laws where they don't handle exceptions very well, but we're also in the middle of revamping our definitions of members. As you may recall PASS used to have two categories of members; paid and free, and the paid members could vote. Now that we've changed our membership to all being free, we need to adjust how we determine who can vote. I'm going to way on the by-laws to be published to discuss that (next 30-60 days), but I will say that the Board is trying very hard to encourage and allow members to vote.

The by-laws discussion was another place where it's important to think through how to present it at the meeting. We would end up reviewing a document that contained only the revised paragraphs, but no markup showing the original text or reasons about why each change was being made. Made it hard to review and because by-laws are a legal document, language matters and so does context! We got through it, but it took longer than it feel like was needed.

Thursday night we scattered for various discussions, I had a long dinner/meeting with Wayne, Lynda, Rick H, and Tom. Tom left about 6:45 to watch Star Trek (and I was tempted), but the discussion was good and continued past 9 pm. Lynda heads up the program committee which among other things builds the speaker schedule for the Summit, and it was interesting to hear about the work and challenges involved in that - and it reminded me that we still need to do more to help the board members share details of those efforts with the members.

Friday morning I met Tom Larock for breakfast, and then Bill Graziano, Sonia, and Blythe joined us for a discussion about chapters and marketing, and that moved into a discussion about networking and people, making sure that our marketing message is more than just the technical value, it's also the people value. We've got a few ideas we're working on and we'll see.

Left for the airport about 10:45 with Tom and Bill, they dropped me off and then I ran into Kevin Kline going through security, so we took advantage of the wait time to have lunch and talk some. Then back on the plane for the not quite as long 5.5 hour ride home, getting to Orlando about 10 pm.

People often ask if the meetings are worth the time and expense. I still say yes, because even though they aren't always as productive as I'd like, they are the only time we really collaborate. In my experience collaboration takes time and patience, not something that goes well on a 15 minute phone call. I wish it took less time, the trips to Seattle use up the better part of 2 days for me, and combined with the time zone change it definitely throws me off my game a little.

So that's it for the past couple weeks, in the next update I'll discuss my goals for the next three months.

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PASS Update #9

Time has flown by since my last update, busy time at work and struggling to get that done and find a few hours for PASS too. Here's a short version of what I've been working on lately:

  • Added the Top 10 List page and have some starter lists from Jessica Moss, Grant Fritchey, and Jack Corbett. Can I talk any of you into adding your own list? Interesting way to help people get started on a topic.
  • Added the online communities page as a starting point for trying to show that PASS is only a portion of the online community, and that we celebrate the other communities that contribute so much.
  • We've got the SQL history page almost done, our MS contact Roni K went and took some pictures of the trophy case with all the various SQL boxes so we'd have some artwork for it, and we've got links to some other nice resources too.
  • PASS Blog directory has been updated a few times. Note, one glaring weak spot is we're not checking blogs listed in PASSPort yet.
  • Tim Mitchell has completed the code to let us review and filter all the posts made to all the feeds in the Blog Directory, now we're trying to get it tested and deployed - not a small thing, since our move to DNN last year we don't quite have a testing environment ready. Worst case we'll host externally for a while until that gets resolved.
  • Final drafts of our SQL MVP and certification pages are under review. My fault for them taking longer than they should have, Chuck and John had them in on time and I didn't have a copy editor lined up. Hoping we finish these up sometime this week.
  • We've changed our process a little so that the Connector editorial is also posted to the PASS blog, allowing anyone with comments to easily participate, and I'm also cross posting to my blog. Going forward we'll continue that, and also ask for permission to repost (or at least link) to blog posts by board members/active volunteers that fit into the PASS blog. The intent there is that the PASS blog is about PASS and it's a less formal way to provide news to members.
  • I've checked in several times with big kahuna Wayne Snyder about my progess, and it's always useful to remember - especially in distributed environments - that spending 10-15 minutes just chatting with the boss is pretty valuable on both sides. Wayne expects people to do things and ask for help if needed, but it's always going to be a struggle to keep up with everyone, so pushing information to him is pretty useful
  • We just had our April board meeting via conference call, and the major topic of discussion was budgeting. Budgets (the act of figuring one out and living with it) are always hard, and in our case we'll be meeting in May to set a budget based on income we'll earn in Nov. That's always a guess of sorts, so right now we're adjusting our FY 2009 budget to try to down to a balanced budget. In practice we're within about 2% or so of balanced, and that's not a huge variance. It's quite a discussion to have, debating whether to cut core expenses (which you'll need next FY) or just trim anything close to a nice to have. I was pleased to see all participated in the discussion and while we didn't all exactly agree, no one was against trying to get as close as possible to balanced. Nothing to worry about here, this is typical stuff for any business, and we're actively managing it.
  • You've probably seen the news that MS canceled their 2009 BI conference, and PASS Summit 2009 is one of their recommendations for those that had planned to attend. It happened at a weird time for us, near the end of the call for speakers, so we ended up extending the call for speakers without a good message about why (to give those speakers time to cross over). We'll try to get a more thorough message out sometime this week or next, just had to do the best we could!
  • For my work I'm trying to better utilize our full time staff, especially Sanj (who does the Connector and more for me!) and Blythe (helps with Chapters and SIGs) and the trick is figuring out what to give them and what to ask for help for from volunteers. I've been trying to call in once a week to check on them and get them to give me feedback on my ideas, and I think that helps all around
  • Tom Larock has done some nice posts lately about his PASS involvement, and I hope that continues. More info, more translucency - all good stuff for us in the long run.
  • I'll post more on this separately soon, but I'm working on a Connector editorial about the upcoming elections. Before I write that, I'd appreciate any and all input from those that participated (or chose not) in last years election.
  • We'll be meeting in Seattle in May for an in person board meeting, and I'm looking forward to the meeting (if not the trip). Our main focus will the FY 2010 budget, but we've also gotten to know each other better and how things work, I'm hoping we can really start to work together as a group. Next post I'll have a draft of my Q2 goals up for discussion.

There's probably more than that. I had a couple slow weeks with only a few hours, one week where I worked Sun on "real" work so I could Mon on PASS stuff, and that ended up taking most of Tuesday too. I'm trying to move back out of tactical work now that I have a little better idea of how things work, but there's still plenty of work to do.

As always, if you have a question or comment, post it or email it to andy.warren@sqlpass.org and I'll try to get you an answer.

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PASS Connector Editorial for April 8 - by Andy Warren

Hello Everyone,

What does a professional organization do? What should members expect from their professional association? Those are good questions, though not easy to answer. Twenty years ago one of the big reasons to join associations was for the benefits large organizations could negotiate – now there are very few that are large enough to beat the discounts available via various web sites and searches. For those of that use SQL Server we don’t have the same licensing requirements that doctors and attorneys do, so that model doesn’t quite fit us either.

I’ve thought about it a lot and while I don’t have all the answers, here is what I have come up with so far:

  • PASS should focus on career development, networking, and some aspects of professional development
  • PASS should speak out about matters of interest to our members – best practices, features for the next version, bugs that need to be fixed, and more
  • PASS should be the place where we send those considering a career as a SQL Server professional to understand the options and the career path
  • PASS should be more than just DBA’s, we have to include those that work on the BI side of things, and we should encourage developers to participate in some way too
  • PASS should help employers and managers understand the particular needs, demands, and stresses of our profession, how it affects them and how it affects us
  • PASS should continue to host the annual Summit as the premier learning and training opportunity for those of in the SQL Server business
  • PASS should be a equal player in the larger world of SQL communities and events – we’ll seek to be the best we can be at our mission and we’ll let them be the best they can be at theirs, and we’ll embrace any site/event that provides learning opportunities to our members
  • PASS should be keeping our members informed about news and events of interest – you may find it in other places, but we’ll make sure it’s visible here
  • PASS should encourage those that want to take the next step and provide opportunities for volunteers to participate, and to speak at our local chapters, regional events, and the Summit – and provide training and guidance to help them succeed

We would like to hear from you! Do you like that list, have an idea for something that can be added or removed? At the end of the day we want being a member of PASS to be more than just good karma; we want you to be a member because we’re providing value to you. I’ll hope you post to our blog your ideas, but as always you can reach me directly at andy.warren@sqlpass.org.

Andy

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