Wednesday, February 03, 2016

IWSG: Reviewing Friends’ Books

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means hundreds of us will be posting about our insecuritiesIf you're a writer, join in!



First, I have an exciting news announcement. I just signed a deal to write a book with six fellow Simon & Schuster/Aladdin authors. Here's the announcement from yesterday's Publisher's Weekly:



And now, on to today's post...

This blogging group is a pretty tight one. We celebrate each other's book releases with cover reveals, blog parties, and all kinds of this:



Those of us who really believe in supporting our friends read each other's books. And we do the absolute best thing you can do for a writer you like:



In addition to supporting each other in the blogosphere, many of us also eventually follow each other on sites like Twitter and Facebook. So it got a lot of attention last year when news broke that Amazon was prohibiting reviews from people who were "friends."



How do they know you're friends? Amazon isn't saying. But experts pretty much say the site is watching you for certain patterns. Which is just...



Some say the key to keeping Amazon off your case is to never connect your social media sites. This is done in your social settings. Yours should look like this:




It's no guarantee that Amazon won't find some other way to spy on you, but it's a great start.

How far do you think Amazon will go in policing reviews?

83 comments:

  1. I think my author account is connected to Twitter, but that's it. I'd have to go look.
    I'd always heard the best thing is to buy author's books. I'm sure both buying and reviewing are at the top. I'm a slow reader, but I can buy all of my friends' books.
    And big congratulations on that book! That will be really interesting writing about the same setting from different character perspectives.

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    1. I think the logic with "reviewing" being the best is that it ups your visibility on Amazon? I read recently that once you get a certain number of (20, I think?), Amazon starts recommending your book with similar books. I don't know if that's true or not...I'm sure Amazon didn't release that information. Most sites like that are secretive as to how it works, but I do know number of reviews does play into how you show up in their search rankings when you enter vague terms for books.

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  2. Congratulations! You must be so excited! I buy my fellow authors books and try and leave a review afterwards. Writing reviews is still weird for me, though.

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    1. Me, too! I do my "best books of the month" post and the review I post there is the same review I put on Amazon and Goodreads.

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  3. Congrats!! That is awesome!!!

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  4. Congratulations on the book!

    I'm one of those guilty readers. You know, the ones who read a lot and recommended excellent books to people (in person or through my blog) without leaving reviews on sites. I think I tried it... once.

    I wouldn't want my knowledge of the author clouding how I saw the book. Or an author of a book I was negative about trashing my work in retaliation.
    Or my opinion being seen as invalid because the novel's author once left a blog comment on a post of mine three years ago and someone went looking for a connection between us because the review was "unbelievable".

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    1. I can see that...depends on if you care what people think. I don't think most review readers are consistently reading one person's reviews of all the books they've read. Most of the time they're just reading all the reviews on one book and yours is taken into consideration--so if you like an author's work (even if she's your best friend) and you leave a 5-star glowing review, you could end up getting her a sale. And those sales determine whether she gets another book published. So that's how it can help, I suppose! If I don't LOVE a book, I don't review it at all, but I'm no critic. I don't get past chapter two or three if a book isn't good. I just set it aside and read something else.

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  5. So excited for you!! Congratulations!! (I have a Piper and a Morgan in two separate books of mine:)Thanks for the tip about Amazon.

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    1. I found out after I wrote the books that Piper Morgan is the name of some big company somewhere. So when you search for Piper Morgan, that's what comes up first. I think my book has finally made it to the second page of search results for Piper Morgan, but it took a while! Page one, here I come!

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  6. Congratulations on the book deal! Sounds like it will be a lot of fun to write and to read. :)

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    1. Thank you! It's been a blast so far.

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  7. I think I need to join. I started writing more ideas for my possible Prozac/depression bio or fictionalized memoir. And I became a peer mentor at the county mental health department (did the training class a year ago) and began teaching a creative writing class this week. I'm going to try blogging about it this week sometime.

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    1. Busy month. The creative writing class will likely get those wheels turning!

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  8. Stephanie, congrats on your Simon & Schuster upcoming publication. That is totally awesome. And yes, I've run into this problem with Amazon..they wouldn't let me write a review for someone they somehow knew I knew. I have mixed feelings about their policy.

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    1. Thank you! I haven't had that problem yet (knock on wood). I see the point of it, but I have MANY social media "friends" who write books. I don't review them because they live next door to me or anything--we became friends as fellow writers, so it messes with that community that we're building where writers help each other out by reading each other's books and leaving reviews. Writer reviews are often the most insightful you'll read. Non-writers will leave 1-star reviews and post "I loved it." They don't even get how to click the right number of stars!

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  9. Woohoo congrats on the deal! Do we get tons of monies? :) I mean like we do in the publishing industry LOLz.... /imbeingironical/

    I do suspect that tons of reviews on Amazon and GoodReads are written by authors' mothers, sisters, brothers and lovers :) Too many nasty things have five stars over there.

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    1. That made me laugh! Oh yes, I'm rolling in dough now. I have resigned myself to the fact that I'll be making a living writing blog posts and articles for the rest of my life. That's okay--just wish fiction novelists could make enough to live on.

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  10. Congrats!! It looks like my Amazon account is connected to social media. I better fix that!

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    1. Definitely! Although as someone pointed out below, they can use the cookies in your web browser to learn more about you, too...

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  11. Congratulations!!! And Amazon is creepy. One day they will have an army of cyborg reviewers who are the only ones allowed to do reviews.

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  12. I think Amazon is getting way to big, but only because of convenience. I don't agree with how they police with reviews. Anyone should be able to give a review. How about family and friends who don't use social media? Don't the authors in their lives have an advantage over those who keep up with families from afar? It's complete and utter BS.

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    1. I honestly would say I'm more likely to review a Facebook friend's book than a real-life friend's book. My FB friends are my peers...like any other business, writers network through social media now. Twitter, FB, blogs--we all may be friends but in any other industry, we'd be considered colleagues.

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  13. Oh the spying. It amazes me how we are spied on every single minute of every single day.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. People don't even realize how much we're being tracked. It's mostly aggregate data. They don't care about me...they just care about gathering information on my age, my browsing habits, etc.

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  14. Perhaps they have some kind of software that connects the author of a book to their blog to the comments left on the blog? Just a thought. I really, really, really wish I had more free time for reading. It's certainly something I would want to get involved in.
    I love, love, love the concept of the book you are participating in. I'll be looking for additional information on it, with great enthusiasm. I'll certainly make time to read it.

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    1. It's all about data analytics and those cookies they place on your computer. They're watching where you go when you leave their site. They may even be watching the personal emails you send. I've heard people talk about being retargeted with ads based on something they mentioned in Gmail!!!

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  15. What a neat idea for a book. Congratulations on writing a part of it.
    Maybe if we stopped purchasing books from Amazon, they'd lighten up.

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    1. Thank you! Yeah, people are too dependent on Amazon, I guess. Maybe if they realize most of their book reviews come from authors who are book addicts and support our fellow writers, they'll rethink their policy. I know I, for one, befriend a lot of authors I respect on Twitter and Facebook.

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  16. Congratulations!!!!

    Amazon is a creepy stalker. The only thing I believe I've linked to Amazon is my blog. I think...let me go check. ;)

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    1. I hope they don't assume people who comment on our blogs are personal friends. None of my real-life friends and family even read my blog except maybe my mom! My husband scans it but never comments.

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  17. Congrats Stephanie. Fantastic news to start February with! Thank you for sharing. With today's technology, I think we are spied on from all over. It's really quite scary. I'd love to be a techno geek so I could continually keep my data private. Have a great month!!

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    1. I think you can put an ad blocker on and it helps with some of it...try it! That does make some sites inaccessible, though.

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  18. Hhhmm... I don't think there should be a problem with friends reviewing friends' books. I've reviewed friends' books and vice versa. Maybe, Amazon is thinking a friend's review won't be objective, but I wouldn't give a glowing review of something I could not support. Very strange. I don't know how they would police that or how much spying that would require them to do.

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    1. I agree. And the term "friend" can be very loose when you're a writer. Most of us have friends who are fellow writers--that doesn't mean we hang out on Friday nights or we grew up together or anything (in most cases). When you're a novelist, your fellow novelists are "friends." If you're an attorney, your fellow attorneys are "colleagues" and if you interact online it's called networking!

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  19. Wonderful news about your next publication.
    Amazon makes its own rules. Which often don't make a lot of sense.

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    1. Thank you...and yes, many of their rules are invisible to us.

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  20. Congratulations on your deal!! The book sounds amazing :). I don't like how the internet seems to stalk everything you do...like how if I visit a random site, adverts for it will start popping up everywhere. But I don't think it's a problem if people review their friend's books - IRL, businesses grow through family and friend's word of mouth, so why should book publishing be any different?

    Rachel Pattinson
    February IWSG Co-host
    rachelpattinson.com

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    1. SO true! Reviews are just word-of-mouth marketing and of course you're going to tell other people about the great book your friend wrote!

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  21. There are thousands of ways Amazon can track your "friends" without even linking your accounts. They can scan your browsing habits, cache, cookies, temporary files, etc to determine who you are and what you're up to (that's how they're able to recommend things you might like). It's what information they use and how they link it to other people that makes you wonder how much they're breaching your privacy. I guarantee you they, like the government and every other major corporation are breaching your privacy. It's just a matter of how much.

    Congratulations on the new book! It sounds like an awesome idea!

    IWSG February

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    1. ^^^That! People above need to read what you wrote because that's exactly it. We're all being tracked now and it's all to "make your browsing experience better." Only when it doesn't, as in the case of Amazon censoring reviews, people start to protest being watched like that.

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  22. I think it's a little bit ridiculous. I go to goodreads for my reviews, anyway.

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    1. You'll definitely get honesty on Goodreads. TBH, I never read reviews before I read a book. I like to form my own opinions. I've found if I read reviews first, it influences what I think of it.

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  23. Wow! What fantastic news, Stephanie! Yay you!
    On the other news - gads! How in the world would they know a friend from someone who simply likes a page or post? Either way, it's invasive, though good to know.

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    1. Thank you, Deidre! The comment two above yours explains it better than I could! Your cookies carry a lot of information about you. I'm not sure if ad blockers keep you private or not. I know with Google Chrome, you can do incognito mode but I don't know if you'd want to search that way all the time.

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  24. Woohoo! Sending you blasts of glitter and confetti virtually. That is fantastic news. I can't wait to hear more about it.

    As for the Amazon FB spying....that is just creepy. I'm glad you highlighted that because now I will definitely keep an eye out for it.

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    1. Thank you! I think Amazon is probably spying on you everywhere you go. You can now retarget your customers on Facebook with ads if you're a customer. I think much of it is done through cookies that are placed on your computer every time you visit a site. That's how sites remember your passwords and such so you don't have to enter them each time, but it's also how they monitor you after you leave their site...

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  25. Congratulations on the book deal!!
    I've heard this about Amazon. Are they afraid a book will be unfairly promoted with a positive review? The assumption is the review is dishonest, which I hope none are. On the other hand, writers are told to be active marketers of their work. This feels like 'big brother' holding the keys to the gate again. I need to check Facebook. (What about Google?) Also checked a review I did for a blogger on Amazon and it was still there. It said my purchase was 'verified' ...made me wonder why...not all said this. After reading your post, I think I need to do more reviews. Thanks, Stephanie!

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    1. I think so... I guess it's similar to businesses having their friends and family members review their products on there? But I give detailed reviews of WHY I liked the book and let other customers make their own decisions.

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  26. congrats on the new book deal Stephanie! Interesting about the 'friends' reviews.

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  27. Congratulations on the book deal! That's awesome.

    Thanks for the tip about Amazon. It turns out my social media was disconnected, but it was definitely worth a check.

    I can understand that sometimes authors' friends and family flood Amazon with false positives, but I know I've become friends with many reviewers AFTER they reviewed my book, and I'm sure I'm not alone. I'd hate to be penalized for that.

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    1. Mine was disconnected, as well, so at least "connected" isn't the default. We probably should watch to make sure that don't suddenly connect us without our permission. Or maybe that's just something Microsoft and Facebook do! I'm with you on the friendship thing--I've followed people on FB/Twitter and they've followed me after a review. Not deliberately--but sometimes a friendship can develop from a review.

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  28. Stephanie, Congratulations on your book deal!!!!!!! I've actually met Dee Romito at a writers conference in Williamsville, a suburb of Buffalo. She lives only 20 minutes from me. She's way above me as far as writing goes, and she'd never remember me, but I remember her. She's very nice.

    I actually lost 2 reviews on Amazon last week and I still can't guess why! Authors support authors, especially with reviews. It's kind of silly what they're doing.

    Have a nice week.

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    1. Awww, so cool! I haven't met her in person--just video chatting. She's awesome. I can't wait to read her book. And what do you mean she's above you? We're all just trying to figure this crazy world of writing out! We're all peers...with different publishers.

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  29. Congrats on the new book deal!!!

    I've heard that thing about Amazon watching our friends lists, too. I have never had my social media connected to my Amazon account. Others say their reviews have been taken down. I do think it is best to use the word 'book' and not 'ARC' and to do the disclaimer if the book was gifted for a review, but other than that, I think people will be okay reviewing an acquaintance's book.

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    1. Someone said she lost two reviews over the weekend, so I'm assuming they just drop reviews without letting you know? Could be, too, that maybe reviews disappear after so many months? I hope not!

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  30. Congratulations on selling your story... I think Amazon as big brother is to be feared!

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    1. Thank you and yes, all the big sites. I think Facebook and Google are probably even worse. I've typed things in Gmail and seen them in ads later on other sites...

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  31. Yes, I also read that Amazon checks what you search for on Amazon, that they look at your social links, etc. But they must have a whole team devoted to just that if they're really cracking down. I mean, that's A LOT of data to mine. And really, I think they're punishing the wrong people. Why shouldn't friends and fellow authors be allowed to review books? If you want only impartial reviews, stick to the major outlets: Kirkus, PW, etc.

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    1. Big Data has become such a "thing" in business now, there are entire careers devoted to "data analytics." The team does mine data...but they have tools that extract the important stuff and make the necessary connections. This stuff is getting SO sophisticated, it's possible they actually WILL someday know who you had lunch with last week and be able to base what they do to your account on it.

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  32. It's amazing what Amazon does. sigh. But then it's amazing what some authors do, too!

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    1. LOL, I agree. People pay for reviews. I don't get why that would even be gratifying at all.

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  33. I pretty much gave myself away when I set up my author's page. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  34. I'm just really excited for your new book deal and collaboration. That is really, really exciting! I can't wait to read!

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  35. Interesting. How would Amazon know? Social media sites encourage us to share so much out there. We should be careful generally.

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  36. Congrats on the book deal! It's sad that Amazon is policing reviews. Most readers don't take reviews into account but leaving a review (whether from a friend, acquaintance or stranger) is a good way to support an author and gain more readers.

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  37. Congratulations on your book deal! It is sad that Amazon feels the need to go that far in preventing reviews from friends.

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  38. Congratulations on your book deal with S & S/ Aladdin, Stephanie! That's really good news and I look forward to hearing more about how the collaboration process works for you,

    I think all companies should be transparent and open about the methods they use to collect information about their users.

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  39. Great post. Excuse me while I go check my settings...

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  40. It is crazy considering some "friends" and even family, actually enjoy the book. I guess this is the world we live in lol.

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  41. I heard that about Amazon and it's INSANE. And omg HUGE congrats on your deal!! What an amazing project! <3

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  42. Totally anecdotal, but here's what I do. I am an Amazon Prime member and I order from Amazon a lot, so I review all sorts of things- books, flip flops, light bulbs- whatever. So far, none of my reviews have been flagged.

    But I will be checking my facebook setting.

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    1. And CONGRATULATIONS!!!! That's awesome news :)

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  43. Woo Hoo, Steph! I'm so happy for you and so proud. You go, girl!
    That is so frustrating about Amazon. So because someone is a friend, they aren't to read your book or have an opinion on it. Sounds a little prejudicial to me.

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  44. First of all, congrats!

    I think Amazon is going to end up with a huge backlash at this rate. There's no way for them to truly determine who is a friend what what level of friendship these people have. Not to mention a lot of people start out with friends and family as their first reviewers.

    I think I'll be checking my FB settings also.

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  45. I've reviewed friends' books with no problem. I don't use Facebook, but I've used Twitter via Amazon.

    Congrats on this amazing news.

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  46. This is really interesting info, and I had no clue. Looks like Social Media is everywhere and can hinder or help. Hugs...

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  47. I wonder if they are still not allowing friends to review friend's books. I am a fan and connect with many authors I like (but don't know personally) and have reviewed their books. I still give my honest opinion. I love meeting bloggers and other authors. When I hear about their books I try to read and review as many of them as I can. That just doesn't seem like a fair policy to me.

    Loved your news! So exciting! Congrats!

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  48. Congratulations on your book deal! *throws confetti*
    I'd love to know how the concept for that book came about. (Wouldn't it be great to get together for a drink and just dish about how ideas like that develop and come to fruition?)

    As for Amazon deciding who I'm friends with and which of my reviews don't count because of it ... yeah, a little bit creepy. If I was a CP or beta reader on a project I disclose it when I write the review. I haven't checked to see if any of those reviews have been deleted. Maybe I should.

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  49. Best wishes on that book! That is awesome bookish news! I have started to read more MG books lately...when I taught it was always " youngish" books and I never had time for Middle Grade books. I tend to like fantasy, though!

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