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Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Join Fund Club (@FundBetterTech)

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Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Sure, we talk a good game about diversity. We say we want more of it. We complain when we don’t get enough. Talk’s cheap. That’s why I have to tell you about Fund Club, an organization that finds diversity-centered projects, initiatives, events and organizations that are focused on supporting diverse communities.

Fund Club asks for a $100/month pledge which you give directly to the recipient project (i.e. there’s no middle man taking a cut). You don’t pay? You don’t play. This ain’t a club for quitters.

And isn’t that kind of commitment exactly what the diversity and inclusion movement needs? Yes!

Anyone working on projects for diversity and inclusion can apply for community funding from Fund Club. So far, funded projects include everything from increasing diversity in games to teaching communities of color web dev and entrepreneurship skills.

Ashe Dryden, creator of AlterConf, a traveling conference series of marginalized voices from the tech and gaming industries, partnered with Shanley Kane of Model View Culture to launch Fund Club last summer and in a very short period of time, they have already supported 8 organizations.

Check out the 8 projects funded so far:

About ($9400 raised)

So, cypheroftyr created this hashtag, #INeedDiverseGames. she did it because she’s tired of not seeing herself in the games she’s spent many years playing. She’s tired of being the trope, the joke, the one that gets fridged early in the game to fuel manpain for the PLOT.

She’s also tired of the same.fucking.scruffy.ass.dude protag in 9 out of 10 games released in a given year. She’s tired of “hero dude with tragic backstory saves the world, gets the girl plot lines.”

Oh cypheroftyr,  you had me at “the same.fucking.scruffy.ass.dude protag.” As a woman, all I can say is YES. Right? We’re all tired of being the trope, or the sex object. I Need Diverse Games is doing something about it, like hosting the “Amplifying New Voices Bootcamp” to coach people from under-represented backgrounds on improving their presentation skills within the games industry.

POCIT (People of Color in Tech) ($9000 raised)

“To highlight the current achievements of ‘people of color’ within the sphere of technology and startups, and to inspire the next generation.”

Hey, sounds like our newsletter. But these folks do more than a monthly newsletter. Every week they feature interviews by people of color all over the country, across the industry, including founders, engineers, mobile developers – even software engineer interns. I highly recommend this interview with Slack’s Erica Baker for insights like this:

“It’s not usual to see another person of color in most tech jobs. When I was at Google, if I stayed at my building, I could go literally days without seeing another person of color. That’s just like the standard in tech.  How to put it? It’s not this very tangible thing that you can name. It’s just like, eventually, after a while, it would start wearing on you that you’re the only one there.”

Hands Up United ($7800 raised)

“The revolution will be digitized. Computer programming and web development are 21st century skills that can be used to activate ideas, grow small businesses and build grass-roots movements. As a way to counter cyber warfare and address the issues of economic and educational inequality, Hands Up United will lead technical training workshops in the Furguson/Greater St. Louis area.”

With course titles like “JavaScript Justice,” Hands Up United neatly combines social justice with technology teaching and mentorship in underserved communities.

The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project ($7800 raised)

“The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project is a data-visualization, data analysis, and storytelling collective documenting the dispossession of San Francisco Bay Area residents in the wake of the Tech Boom 2.0.”

We know gentrification is a problem, but knowing it and seeing it through quantitative and qualitative data are two different things. That’s where the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project makes so much impact, because you can see the displacement that’s been happening in recent years in the San Francisco Bay area.

Revision Path ($8200 raised)

“Revision Path was created because the stories of Black designers and developers deserve to be shared and told. And since most mainstream tech and design websites and podcasts don’t share or tell these stories, we’re stepping up to the plate and providing a platform for these creative individuals to shine.”

It’s an award-winning weekly interview podcast that shares the stories of some of the best black designers in the tech industry – graphic designers, web designers and web developers.

Prompt ($7400 raised)

“Prompt is an effort to actually try to improve the lives of developers, especially those who are affected in any way by things like depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness.”

Diversity isn’t just about ethnicity, which is why Prompt is one of my favorite projects funded. They literally “facilitate the conversation” around mental health in the tech industry  by offering speaking opportunities to those affected by mental health issues, getting mental health speakers for conferences, and helping organizations start talking about an issue that doesn’t get much facetime. We’ve all got our challenges, whether it’s depression, anxiety, OCD, or something entirely different. Often, these challenges are also the fuel that makes us great at what we do; but in order to do our best work, a little help and support managing the mental jungle may be in order.

TransTech Social Enterprises ($7000 raised)

“TransTech is an incubator for LGBTQ Talent with a focus on economically empowering the T, transgender people, in our community. TransTech members provide graphics design, web development, social media management, multimedia production and many more services.”

Empowering, educating, and employing trans and gender non-conforming individuals are what TransTech is all about, and to support their work, all you have to do is hire them to do your work. A very neat and tidy system.

#WoCinTech Chat ($6330 raised)

“We are a community of women and non-binary people of color. Some of us are technologists in the making and some of us are technologists by trade. All of us are here to help each other succeed.”

This group, which isn’t even a year old, has already held a NYCTechWalk, sponsored WOC to attend 6 tech conferences, sponsored a data science workshop, hosted the first Women of Color Stock Photo Shoot, among many, many other projects. As so many of the best things do, this started as a Twitter chat, #WOCinTech, but has expanded to real-world actions that connect women of color and non-binary people of color to new opportunities.

If you’d like to support these causes, go directly to their pages – no middle men! And, if you’d like to find out who next month’s Fund Club pick, join Fund Club here.


Discussion: When Policies Don’t Work, What is the Best Way to be a Diverse Company? by @NikkiElizDeMere


Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

This is the tweet that blew up the Twitterverse last month when Jeffrey Siminoff left his post as head of diversity and inclusion at Apple to become Twitter’s VP of Diversity & Inclusion – replacing a white woman, for the record. Also, let the record show that Siminoff is a middle-aged white male. Cue Twittersplosions of Inglorious Basterds proportions.

But someone felt good about this decision (besides Siminoff).

TechCrunch reported Siminoff’s latest career move in glowing terms: “Siminoff, who starts in January, seems like a great fit for this role.”

Fortune was just as optimistic: “Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has made hiring a diverse workforce a priority.”

One can only imagine that the men sitting around the conference room at Twitter headquarters felt the same way. Their more politically astute users, however, spotted the problem instantly.

How can you say you are making diversity a priority, and acknowledge that you have far too few women in management roles, and replace a white woman with a white man?

And, how can you ignore the fact that the diversity issue is about so much more than the male-to-female ratio. We need more colors of the rainbow in all genders and orientations and abilities. We need, well, actual diversity.

You would think that devoting a VP position to diversity would accomplish something. You would think that drafting diversity policies would be a step in the right direction.

Damned if you do…

Studies are cropping up that show diversity actually suffers from policies and designated positions, such as “VP of diversity.”

The Harvard Business Review put several of these studies into context in the article “Diversity Policies Rarely Make Companies Fairer, and They Feel Threatening to White Men.”

“Many managers are tasked with the complex goal of ‘managing diversity’ – which can mean anything from ensuring equal employment opportunity compliance, to instituting cultural sensitivity training programs, to focusing on the recruitment and retention of minorities and women.

Are all of these efforts working? In terms of increasing demographic diversity, the answer appears to be not really.”

The authors cite a longitudinal study of 700+ U.S. companies that looked at the efficacy of diversity programs based on 30+ years of data. The study found that diversity training and evaluations do nothing to increase the numbers of white women, black women, and black men in management – and they may even decrease representation of black women.

How do good intentions go awry? The answer lies in another study.

In Presumed fair: Ironic effects of organizational diversity structures, researchers found that diversity initiatives, policies and programs within companies caused white-men-in-power (the study calls them “high-status group members”) to feel like they’re in an equal-opportunity environment – even when there is clear evidence to the contrary. Not only that, but they become less sensitive to seeing discrimination, and react more harshly to minorities claiming to have experienced discrimination.

The “Diversity Defense”

People in power feel all warm and fuzzy when there are diversity programs in place – including federal court judges. When Walmart was sued in a 2011 class action case, it used its anti-discrimination policy as a defense against allegations of gender discrimination. The “diversity defense” has been used successfully in several cases, inspiring yet another study.

Your average white male, however, doesn’t get the warm-fuzzies when diversity values are mentioned – he feels threatened: “Two initial studies (N = 322) demonstrate that when imagining applying for a job, whites – and not ethnic/racial minorities – expressed more concerns about being treated unfairly and about anti-white discrimination when the company mentioned (vs. did not mention) its pro-diversity values.”

In a nutshell: White men in power love diversity programs – even though they don’t do any good for minorities and make white male job applicants feel like Julia Roberts trying to shop on Rodeo Drive in Pretty Woman (the first time).

It turns out, the most dangerous place to be a minority or woman is in a company that has a diversity program.

Case in point: The Dreamforce panel “Building an Inclusive Workplace” in which salesforce founder Parker Harris responded to Kara Swisher’s question on diversity beyond women:

Parker: Well, right now I’m focused on women, you know, and it’s back to Marc’s focus on priorities. I have employees, that are, you know, other types of diversity coming to me and saying well why aren’t we focused on these other areas as well, and I said yes we should focus them but, you know, the phrase we use internally is “If everything is important, then nothing is important.” And we repeat that over and over again. And, we’re trying to figure out how can we move this one thing forward, and you know we don’t have all the answers, so I can’t sit up here and say I’ve got it figured out.

Read: Their big effort is to increase the number of white women. And they feel pretty good about their efforts, too. Erica Joy said it best in #FFFFFF Diversity: “Get in line people of color. Wait for (white) women to get theirs, then we’ll get to you.”

But it’s all okay, because there’s a diversity policy… (that’s sarcasm, if you can’t tell)

Maybe if we phrased it in language the tech industry under$tands…

Rand Fishkin gives the most eloquent statement of why pursuing diversity isn’t just about being a good citizen of the world – it’s good business. In Why I believe in Intentional Efforts to Increase Diversity, he lists out significant improvements to Moz products and Moz as a company that were purely due to having input from a diverse workforce.

“In all of these cases, diversity improved our empathy internally and externally. The variety of people in leadership and decision-making roles, as well as on individual teams helped us make a better, more accessible company and product. I believe diversity isn’t just the right thing to do for the world; it’s also the optimal thing to do for the long-term success of an organization (and there’s plenty others with great data to back that up).”

Important to note is Fishkin’s acknowledgement that diversity isn’t just about gender or ethnic background – he cites improvements made to fonts, kerning, and colors thanks to employees who were color blind or older.

“I recall a design review of the first version of Moz Analytics, one of our software tools. . . . David Mihm (who’s partially colorblind) helped identify a few contrast variations that he literally couldn’t see. Martin York, one of our senior engineers who has dyslexia, commented on form inputs missing auto-corrections for spelling/mistypings. One of the older members of our team noted that she had difficulty in parsing the text because the lines were too close together (aka overly-tight leading).”

While few people are having the ethnic diversity conversation in tech industries, it’s the exceptional founder who addresses age or impairments.

Moz is actually an ideal case study for diversity done thoughtfully. Its initiatives aren’t a separate department, or a veneer laid over existing diversity problems to try to hide the divots. Diversity was a goal from the beginning, and perhaps even more importantly, it was a value promoted and actively pursued by the company’s founder.

Moz isn’t alone – though it’s in the minority (no pun intended).

Wil Reynolds, founder of Seer, “unintentionally” built an online marketing company that’s over 60% women, which he says he didn’t set out to do, “I just set out to hire the people I thought were the best for our team and our clients.” Check out Wil Reynolds and Rand Fishkin discussing their different takes on diversity here.

Pandora, the Oakland-based music company, not only has a nearly 50/50 male-female workforce, they are actively supporting their underrepresented employees with company “communities” like Pandora Women, Pandora PRIDE, and Pandora Mixtape, and with mentorship programs that connect women in different stages of their careers. Like Moz and Seer, they recognize that working to fix their company ratios can only happen when they also contribute to strengthening the “pipeline.” Pandora partners with programs like Little Kids Rock, NYC Ladders for Leaders, The Ally Coalition, Management Leadership for Tomorrow and CODE2040 to contribute to STEM career prep and recruitment outreach.

But aren’t these just more policies? And didn’t we just say policies don’t work?

Seer, very intentionally, does not have a diversity policy. Moz and Pandora have policies, and Pandora has an official “diversity program manager” position (filled by Asian-American Lisa Lee), but in each of these cases, their practices seem to stem from their very DNA as companies. And, it should be noted that while these companies are far ahead of the Silicon Valley pack, they all have a ways to go. But here is what I see them doing well:

Diversity doesn’t start once you enter the building: these companies go out into their communities to create opportunities for underrepresented groups – by ensuring 50% of conference speakers are anything other than white male (MozCon), or working with organizations to help minority students pursue STEM careers. And, supporting diversity doesn’t end once you enter the building either – these companies are making changes to retain their female talent with family-friendly policies.

I guess what I’m trying to say is – diversity policies don’t work when they’re Band-Aids. But when diversity becomes a mission, pursued with passion from the top down, we can move the needle.

What do you think?

Do you feel supported by policies – or do you see them as lip-service (or worse, a convenient legal defense)? Should there be “VPs of diversity” – and if so, should those roles be filled by people of color? How would you like to see companies move the needle towards cultivating more diverse workforces?


The Problem with Ally Panels, and Why We Still Need Them ft. @catehstn

Ally Panels

In 1913, a 7-year-old girl dismantled every alarm clock in her house to see how they worked. When her mother found out, she limited the girl’s exploration to just one clock – a fair compromise. That little girl was Grace Brewster Murray – also known as Rear Admiral Grace Hopper – who became one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer in 1944 and continued on to have a 42-year long career developing computer programming for the Navy.

Today, 56% of women in STEM careers leave tech within 10 years, more than twice the dropout rate of men.

From the 1940s to 1980s, women went into programming in much higher numbers than they do today. In fact, the “golden age” of women in Computer Science is considered to be the mid-eighties (37% of CS degrees in America were given to women in 1985). But then, except for a brief spike during the Dot-Com Boom, those numbers dropped.

Why? Essentially, those in power changed the rules of the game. According to Elizabeth Patitsas, a PhD student at the University of Toronto studying diversity in CS, academic institutions were having trouble hiring enough qualified faculty to meet the demand for CS classes and took steps to limit CS enrollment – which disproportionately hit women, minorities, and other non-traditional students:

Steps included adding new GPA requirements for entering CS programmes, requiring more prerequisites, and retooling first-year CS as a weeder course. These actions disproportionately hurt not only female participation in the field, but participation of racial minorities as well. These ‘non-traditional’’ students had disproportionately come to CS via non-traditional paths (such as via psychology or linguistics) and disproportionately lacked the prerequisites as a result. The retooling of first-year CS as a weeder course also resulted in a competitive atmosphere that deterred many women…

Overall, a pattern of cyclical enrolment emerges. Boom times lead to more students, then more enrolment controls; bust times lead to more outreach. Bust times also result in disproportionately many women leaving the field, or not going in at all [6] — indeed, as of 2011, 18% of CS students are female [5].

Clearly, the problem of too few women in computer science and other STEM careers is a candle burning at both ends – there’s the “pipeline” issue of fewer women entering those careers, and a retainment issue of women leaving after a decade.

I’ve written about those issues here, but I’d like to take a closer look into one of the “solutions” currently being proffered:

The ally panel.

An ally panel is a group of people who are in the “majority” – men, Caucasians, able-bodied – speaking about challenges faced by minority groups and, ideally, presenting ideas for how to be more inclusive, diverse, and fair. If you’re seeing inherent problems with this setup, you’re not alone.

Cate Huston, the brilliant blogger behind Accidentally In Code, attended the 2014 Grace Hopper Conference (yes, named after that Grace Hopper) and saw its Male Allies Plenary Panel in action. Here’s the official description of the ally panel:

In any social change movement, the appropriate partnership between the minority group advocating for change, and the majority group holding power and privilege, is crucial. In pursuing our mission to ensure that women are fully present at the innovation table, the role of male allies in our change efforts is key. In this panel, we will hear from men who have been advocates for women technologists, who have been on the front-lines of culture change in technology-based companies. They will share what they have learned as they have leaned in to the challenge of creating workplaces that are fair and equitable.

Huston then wrote one of my favorite articles ever to appear in The Daily Beast: Tech’s Male ‘Feminists” Aren’t Helping – in which she notes the disparity between what ally panelists claimed as values, and their actual numbers, actions, and words.

Women at the conference were disappointed by the content of the panel, where unconscious bias training was lauded despite there being no evidence demonstrating efficacy. Women were told to “just work harder” because they could “make a big difference. . . . At the same conference, women were outraged by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who advocated that women shouldn’t ask for raises but trust in karma.

This is an example of how an “ally” panel goes wrong:

  • When, “allies” are really people who have never faced your challenges tell you how to act, think, or feel.
  • When “allies” are there to pat themselves on the back for minor improvements (GoDaddy bragged about a 1% increase in women in tech, which is statistically insignificant).
  • When “allies” talk about one side of the issue, while completely ignoring the side of the issue they may be complicit in. (ie. Talking about the pipeline and forgetting about what happens once women are in the pipeline).

But, this ally panel, and the reaction to it by Cate Huston and others, spurred a much better idea. Alan Eustace, a senior Vice President at Google, suggested a reverse ally panel.

Alan Eustace‏ @alan_eustace #ghcmanwatch. Let’s reverse the male allies panel. You talk. I listen. Telle gave me West 201 board room at 2pm today at GHC.

This is how an ally panel goes right.

When the people in power not only listen to, but seek to understand and then take real, measurable, statistically significant action – that is an ally panel.

But Huston has a few other improvements she’d like to make, as she told me:

The problem with the ally panel is: Where is it and what are they saying? Where does it take place? The value of a group of men talking about women in tech to a women’s conference isn’t that high; they’re preaching to the choir and taking the place of a woman speaker.

Effective ally panels should listen to those with whom they are allies, but they should also talk to those who aren’t. These panels need to take place where the message of equality and the reinforcement of diverse culture is most needed.

None of us are saying ally panels are bad. After all, if women and minorities were going to fix the diversity problem, we already would have. We do need allies who are in power and who are willing to make changes, set priorities, and invest in creating inclusive work cultures.

Most importantly, we need allies to lead the way for those who don’t even yet realize there’s a problem.

Many thanks to Cate Huston for her help with this article. You can read more of her work on and follow her on Twitter @catehstn.

You can read more about the first women of American programming in books like:

Pioneer Programmer: Jean Jennings Bartik and the Computer that Changed the World


Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age


#ILookLikeAnEngineer and Ashe Dryden’s (@AsheDryden) Programming Diversity


Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

What does an engineer look like? Isis Wenger, an engineer at OneLogin, sadly had to supply some visual aids to a few people online recently. She was featured in a recruiting ad wearing some truly stunning glasses and a OneLogin Engineering t-shirt, which somehow inspired comments like:

“This is some weird haphazard branding. I think they want to appeal to women, but are probably just appealing to dudes. Perhaps that’s the intention all along. But I’m curious people with brains find this quote remotely plausible and if women in particular buy this image of what a female software engineer looks like. Idk. Weird.”

I need to take a deep breath here, because what I’d really like to write is a string of very strong words, none of which are pertinent to my point.

Wenger’s response (a far better one than mine) was to start a campaign that brought together anyone and everyone who didn’t fit the white-boy-with-glasses mold of an engineer:


Prepare yourself to see some really awesome ladies before you hit “Play.”

I think this is a timely moment to share with you one of my favorite presentations: Ashe Dryden’s Programming Diversity.

Ashe Dryden is a programmer, consultant and speaker about diversity and inclusivity in tech. What I love about her speech how she builds a foundation of definitions, moves into statistics that make you wonder what the heck happened, and finishes by acknowledging attrition as a central reason why there aren’t more women in tech.

Here are some highlights of her 34 minute talk.

Diversity isn’t a code word for “Where are the women;” it’s a much larger issue than that, including factors like ability, language, physical and mental health, sexuality, age, gender, immigration status, socioeconomic status, race and education.

Intersectionality, definition: How the interactions of biological, social and cultural traits define your experience as a human being on the planet. Ie. Women earn about 80.9% of what men do in the U.S., but Latina women earn 59% of what white men do. You can see how much adding just one more factor drastically changes the percentage.

Privilege, definition: Unearned advantages you get due to who you are and where you’re from. Privilege can mean access to better education, access to technology at younger ages, higher pay, assumed competency, and, most importantly, being seen as a skill set instead of a set of uncontrollable factors. Essentially, privilege means you are judged based on what you can do and have done, rather than what what you look like, where you’ve come from, or assumptions people make about you.

Stereotype threat, defintion: Most people know what a stereotype is, but a stereotype threat is a bit different. It’s the fear a person has that they will confirm a negative stereotype about their social group.

Imposter syndrome, definition: When you’re unable to internalize your accomplishments, as in feeling like you don’t deserve your accolades and successes and fearing you’ll be “found out.” This is especially evident in groups that have a negative stereotype. They’re less likely to attend a conference, much less speak at a conference, and they’re less likely to apply for jobs that require proof of competency.

Marginalized, definition: A minority or sub-group being excluded, their needs or desires ignored.

Then she moves into some statistics that fascinated me:

  • 8% of computer science graduates are women in India.
  • 17% of CS grads are women in the U.S.
  • 2% of CS grads are women in the U.K.
  • 20% of CS grads are women in Brazil and South Africa.
  • 73% of CS grads are women in Bulgaria.

One of these is not like the other!

I’d actually like to take a detour here from Ashe Dryden’s talk to look a little closer at Bulgaria. What is going on there that is so different from what happened here and in many other places around the world?

It turns out, the difference isn’t pink or blue – it’s red. In 1982, under the communist dictatorship of Todor Zhivkov, Bulgaria’s computer industry boomed, leaving the Soviet Union, Germany, and other Western countries in the dust. They reverse-engineered the Apple II and created cheap, mass-produced personal computers giving access to technology to just about everyone. Bulgaria also began a high school education program in programming languages. It also doesn’t hurt that most teachers at an undergraduate level are women. And, as a society, there is a strong push for children of both genders to go into the sciences. Access + society + female role models = women computer science graduates.

Who knew?

(We all did)

Then Ashe Dryden goes on to explain all of the positive outcomes of diverse teams (innovation, more creativity, better decision making, more profit), and the sources of the diversity problem:

  • The pipeline (In the context of how minorities are treated while in the pipeline.)
  • Lack of role-models (For a very interesting 7-minute story on Forgotten Female Programmers, check out the NPR story here.)
  • Different access to technology at young ages and in different socio-economic groups
  • Stigma of “geekiness”
  • And, my favorite, Attrition. Ashe actually addresses what I see as one of the biggest, and least discussed issues about diversity, which is the attrition rate of women in tech. Fifty-six percent of women leave tech within 10 years (that’s twice the attrition rate of men, and that number accounts for those women who leave to have kids). I wrote an entire post about my take on this phenomenon here.

She ends her speech with some very solid advice for how to improve diversity and promote inclusive culture, which is well worth the listen. But for me, #ILookLikeAnEngineer pretty much sums it up.

Follow Ashe Dryden @ashedryden

Support Ashe Dryden’s Diversity Work here;

Follow Isis Wenger @isisAnchalee and follow the #ILookLikeAnEngineer conversation here.


Ladies and Gents, The Pipeline is Not The Problem (#WomenInTech) by @NikkiElizDeMere

The Pipeline is Not The Problem

There is a pervasive myth that women aren’t drawn to tech-industry jobs because of inadequate encouragement in math and science classes in school. Within this dominant paradigm, it’s assumed that when more women enter science and engineering programs, the diversity problem will fix itself.

No, it won’t. At least not while we’re convincing ourselves that the pipeline is the problem. The pipeline – the track from STEM studies in academia to career – is actually doing fairly well, at least in most developed countries.

Recent studies show that high school girls in the U.S. participate in equal numbers in science, technology, engineering and math (ie. STEM) electives, and Stanford and Berkeley both report that 50 percent of their introductory computer science students are women. We’re here and our numbers are growing, at least in the beginning of the pipeline. However, just two years ago the U.S. Census Bureau reported that men are employed in STEM occupations at twice the rate of women with comparable qualifications.

Read more on SEMrush

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