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Opinion Editorials

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

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Throwing Q’s Into the Privet Bush

For the last 18 months, I have thrown Q’s into the privet bush without any concern for young rabbits, foxes or even Ford Prefect for that matter. In fact, this marks the 99th time I’ve set fingers to keyboard here at Agent Genius since Benn and Lani were kind enough to extend an invitation back in 2007. Stopping just shy of the 100 mark seems strangely appropriate.

Odd tangent: Athol Kay said he would retire if I ever joined a multi-author blog. Score that Me 1, Wool Face 0. (And yes, some of us still miss the stupid sock puppet.)

As the real estate blogosphere zigs toward social media and the like, I find myself zagging back toward more simple solutions. Why? Because for all the discussion about Redfin and Trulia and Zillow, and for all Inman’s attempts to posit that agents make too much money, almost nothing has changed about the basic fundamentals of the real estate business the last couple of years. The trappings may be different and the packaging more flashy (pun intended) but it’s largely the same game.

Which means most of the bandwidth I’ve used here has been for naught. Or so it feels sometimes. I apologize for the inconvenience.

The Meaning of Life’s 42

I’ve reached a point where my business is on the verge of the quantum leap I’ve dreamed of for years. There’s nothing I’m doing that I haven’t shared ad nauseum; at this point, I’m tired of talking about it over and over again. Believe or don’t, implement or won’t … too many blank stares … it’s time to unplug. My feed reader overfloweth as it is, given most waking hours are spent building the business and not worrying about the latest internecine debate on the fate of real estate.

At least, time to unplug at AG. AllPhoenixRealEstate.com will roll on, if for no other reason than to give my mother something to read in the morning now that the East Valley Tribune is gone.

And so I say to my gracious hosts, thank you for the soapbox. To those who have commented over the years, one day you’ll realize that I was right all along even if my logic was hidden in Yiddish. And to my loyal readers, thanks to both of you.

So long, friends, and thanks for all the fish.

Jonathan Dalton is a Realtor with RE/MAX Desert Showcase in Peoria, Arizona and is the author of the All Phoenix Real Estate blog as well as a half-dozen neighborhood sites. His partner, Tobey, is a somewhat rotund beagle who sleeps 21 hours a day.

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Bill Lublin

    March 23, 2009 at 2:36 am

    It always ends up with what works for you in real life – But you know you made some real friends in the blogosphere – don’t be forgetting them just because you’re going all Quantum Leap and stuff – stay well and “Don’t Panic”
    😉

  2. Sarah Cooper

    March 23, 2009 at 3:32 am

    This is the coolest goodbye post I’ve ever read. Thank you for all the great posts.

    “You live and learn. At any rate, you live.”

  3. Paula Henry

    March 23, 2009 at 6:06 am

    So long Jonathan – I wish you the best! Thanks for all the wonderful posts!

  4. Ken Brand

    March 23, 2009 at 6:09 am

    Thanks for sharing Jonathan. I’m reminded of the saying, “Nothing ever disappears, it just changes forms.” Perhaps we’ll see you later…I hope so. Cheers and all the best.

  5. Thomas Johnson

    March 23, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Jonathan: I wish you many many cat skins on the wall.

  6. Jason Sandquist

    March 23, 2009 at 7:40 am

    I have put some good things to work, hint hint >>> neighborhood niche sites.

    So long and thanks for the good ramblings, best of luck!

  7. Austin Smith - Goomzee.com

    March 23, 2009 at 9:04 am

    We enjoyed you while you were here Jon. I will miss clicking on your posts in the morning; you are among my few favorites here on AG. Thank you for all your contributions.

    Happy trails to you and Tobey.

  8. Bob

    March 23, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Take care and good luck JD.

  9. Vicki Moore

    March 23, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    I’m disappointed. I enjoy your writing and I like reading your ramblings.

  10. Matt Stigliano

    March 23, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Jonathan – I’m a little behind in my AG reading and just came across this one. I have to say, I’m a little sad to read it. Your posts have always been a good read and you have taught me a lot especially in the believing-what-you-believe-in-and-not-bowing-down-to-those-that-disagree department.

    Thanks, I’m a better agent for having read your posts and I look forward to seeing you down the road somewhere. Of course, I will always remain a fan of Tobey.

    PS Tying this post into one of the greatest series of novels of all time is duly noted and enjoyed. My old picks used to have several numbers on them (8, 42, 47, and 57) – the 42 for obvious reasons.

  11. Missy Caulk

    March 23, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    I will miss you, Jon. You are a great writer and I have learned a lot from you.

    “your business is about to take a quantum leap”

    (((smiles)))

  12. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    March 23, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    I’m definitely sad – but no way I’m saying goodbye – too many cupholders and laughs….so you better not dissapear Mr. or I’ll have to hunt you down (that’s a threat).

    You know how to reach me, and I know how to reach you – so KIT!!

  13. John Lauber

    March 24, 2009 at 3:44 am

    You can’t go! All the plants are gonna die!!

    All kidding aside, I looked forward to your posts Jon. I’ve learned quite a bit from you. Good luck, as you make your Quantum Leap.

    Thank you for your contributions.

  14. Russell Shaw

    March 24, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Jonathan, I am very very happy about the Quantum Leap. However, I don’t go for this leaving crap. 🙂

  15. BawldGuy

    March 24, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    I’m with Russ. Take a long weekend and sack up big guy. 🙂 Also ecstatic to read about your quantum leap. You’ve certainly earned it.

  16. Jay Thompson

    March 24, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Jeepers people, it’s not like he’s dying. He’s still got the second best individual RE blog in Phoenix…

    You and I have laughed, shared, and figuratively jammed our heads through the wall in frustration before, during and after our stints at AG. I know that won’t stop and I look forward to what lies ahead.

  17. Danilo Bogdanovic

    March 25, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Good luck with your Quantum Leap – don’t forget to charge your Flux Capacitator and leave enough road in front of you to get up to speed!

    Thanks for all the great posts! See you around…

  18. Matthew Rathbun

    March 25, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    Good riddance! Nah, just kidding – actually very much kidding.

    You’re one of the first (although not on AG) that I encountered on the ol’ blogsphere and I’m not saying good bye, ’cause you’ll still be floating around.

    It’s been great reading you both when I’ve agreed and on those rare occasions when I have haven’t.

    Read ya around!

  19. teresa boardman

    April 9, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    sorry it took me so long to see this. sad to see you go. I know I can read you in other places and I will.

  20. Jim Gatos

    April 22, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    So, when you hit the “big” time, you figure it’s not worth blogging?

  21. Jonathan Dalton

    April 23, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Not at all, Jim … I’m still blogging daily on my own site.

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Opinion Editorials

Art meets business: Entrepreneurship tips for creative people

(EDITORIAL) Making your creative hobby into a business is an uphill battle, but hey, many other people have done it. This is how they crested that hill.

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creative artist doodle

If the success of platforms like Etsy has proven anything, it’s that creative people can launch successful businesses, even with relatively few tools at their disposal – and for many hobbyists, this is the dream. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though, and what pushes someone from creator to businessperson can be hard to pin down. In one study, the determining factor was encouragement by family and friends. Others make a slower transition from hobby to side hustle to full-time employment in the arts. Whatever the motivating factors, though, artists interested in becoming entrepreneurs need to hone an additional set of skills.

It’s All In The Plan

From one perspective, artists know how to follow a plan. Whether we’re talking about a knitter who can work through a pattern or a novelist outlining a chapter and building characters, creative thinkers also tend to be very methodical. Just because someone can create or follow a plan, that doesn’t mean they know how to develop a business plan. Luckily, there are plenty of guides to starting a business out there that contain all the basic information you’ll need to get started.

Business development guides are full of valuable technical information – what paperwork you’ll need to file, the cost of licenses, and other similar details – but they can also help you answer questions about your goals. Before you can even start writing a business plan, you’ll need to consider what service or product you want to offer, who your clients will be, and what differentiates your product from others out there. This last question is more important than ever before as more people try to break into creative fields.

Assess Your System

Once you know what your business goals are and what products you’ll be offering, you need to consider whether you have the ability to scale up that operation to fulfill market demand. There aren’t very many art forms that you can pay the bills with fulfilling commissions one at a time. The ability to scale up the artistic process is what made the famous painter Thomas Kinkade so successful during his lifetime when many others have failed. For the modern artist, this might mean asking whether you can mechanize or outsource any of your activities, or if you’ll be doing only exclusive work for high-paying clients.

Find The Right Supports

Every business needs support to thrive, whether in the form of a startup accelerator, a bank loan, a community of fellow professionals, or some other organization or resource. Artists are no different. If you’re going to develop a successful creative business, you need to research and connect with supports for working artists. They may be able to help you access tools or studio space, get loans, market your business, or connect you with a receptive audience. These groups are expert repositories of information and you don’t have to be in a major city to connect with them.

Find Professional Partners

You’re a talented artist. You have a vision and a plan. That doesn’t mean you have to go it alone – or even that you should. To build a successful creative business, you’ll want to partner with people who have different strengths. Not only will these people be able to lend their expertise to your operation, but they’ll make you a better artist and entrepreneur by lending a critical eye to your approach. Just like a major corporation won’t thrive if it’s composed of yes-men who are just along for the ride, your creative undertaking needs internal critics whose ultimate aim is to support you.

Stay Inspired

It’s easy to get bogged down in business logistics and lose your creative spark. In fact, that’s why many artists are reticent to monetize their work, but you shouldn’t let that fear hold you back. Instead, put in the effort to stay inspired. Read books about art and creativity, keep a journal, or go to museums. Experiment with new forms. Be willing to push your own limits and know that it’s okay to fail. Many businesses that aren’t tied to creative output flounder and struggle to find their way, and there’s no reason your business should be any different. Still, the surest path to failure is stagnation and losing your spark. That’s worse for any artist than a sloppy business plan.

Artists are often told that they aren’t meant to be entrepreneurs – but the most successful businesspeople are creative types, even if they aren’t typical artists. Use that outside-the-box thinking to your advantage and make a splash. If you want to do more with your art, you owe it to yourself to try.

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Opinion Editorials

Minimalism doesn’t have to happen overnight

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Minimalism doesn’t have to mean throwing out everything this instant – you can get similar benefits from starting on smaller spaces.

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Minimal desk with laptop, cup, books, and plant.

Minimalism. This trend has reared its head in many forms, from Instagram-worthy shots of near empty homes to Marie Kondo making a splash on Netflix with Tidying Up with Marie Kondo in 2019. If you’re anything like me, the concept of minimalism is tempting, but the execution seems out of reach. Paring down a closet to fit into a single basket or getting rid of beloved objects can sometimes seem too difficult, and I get it! Luckily, minimalism doesn’t have to be quite so extreme.

#1. Digitally

Not ready to purge your home yet? That’s fine! Start on your digital devices. Chances are, there are plenty of easy ways to clean up the storage space on your computer or phone. When it comes to low stakes minimalism, try clearing out your email inbox or deleting apps you no longer use. It’ll increase your storage space and make upkeep much more manageable on a daily basis.

It’s also worth taking a look through your photos. With our phones so readily available, plenty of us have pictures that we don’t really need. Clearing out the excess and subpar pictures will also have the added bonus of making your good pictures easily accessible!

Now, if this task seems more daunting, consider starting by simply deleting duplicate photos. You know the ones, where someone snaps a dozen pics of the same group pose? Pick your favorite (whittle it down if you have to) and delete the rest! It’s an easy way to get started with minimizing your digital photo collection.

#2. Slowly

Minimalism doesn’t have to happen all at once. If you’re hesitant about taking the plunge, try dipping your toe in the water first. There’s no shame in taking your time with this process. For instance, rather than immediately emptying your wardrobe, start small by just removing articles of clothing that are not wearable anymore. Things that are damaged, for instance, or just don’t fit.

Another way to start slow is to set a number. Take a look at your bookshelf and resolve to get rid of just two books. This way, you can hold yourself accountable for minimizing while not pushing too far. Besides, chances are, you do have two books on your shelf that are just collecting dust.

Finally, it’s also possible to take things slow by doing them over time. Observe your closet over the course of six months, for instance, to see if there are articles of clothing that remain unworn. Keep an eye on your kitchen supplies to get a feel for what you’re using and what you’re not. Sure, that egg separator you got for your wedding looks useful, but if you haven’t picked it up, it probably has to go.

#3. Somewhat

Sometimes, minimalism is pitched as all or nothing (pun intended), but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just because I want to purge my closet doesn’t mean I’m beholden to purging my kitchen too. And that’s okay!

Instead of getting overwhelmed by everything that needs to be reduced, just pick one aspect of your life to declutter. Clear out your wardrobe and hang onto your books. Cut down on decorations but keep your clothes. Maybe even minimize a few aspects of your life while holding onto one or two.

Or, don’t go too extreme in any direction and work to cut down on the stuff in your life in general. Minimizing doesn’t have to mean getting rid of everything – it can mean simply stepping back. For instance, you can minimize just by avoiding buying more things. Or maybe you set a maximum number of clothes you want, which means purchasing a new shirt might mean getting rid of an old one.

The point is, there are plenty of ways to start on the minimalist lifestyle without pushing yourself too far outside your comfort zone. So, what are you waiting for? Try decluttering your life soon!

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Opinion Editorials

Why tech talent is in the process of abandoning Austin

(AUSTIN TECH) There is no single reason Austin tech talent is packing their bags, but a handful of factors have collided to create a tenuous situation.

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austin tech talent leaving

“Nothing’s keeping me here” is a phrase we keep hearing around town. Being in the center of the tech space, we’ve been able to keep my finger on the pulse, and what we thought was primarily housing that is driving folks out of town turns out to be far more insurmountable than we could have ever imagined.

A perfect storm is brewing as the housing market collides with a dramatically transformed workforce that has become accustomed to working remotely and shifted priorities.

Last time Austin was bleeding talent, the year was 2011 and most investments were focused on early stage startups and there weren’t enough open roles that were senior level, so we started losing people to competitive markets. In response, we built a massive employment hub (the Austin Digital Jobs Group (ADJ)) and volunteered hundreds of hours to help make Austin a magnet for high quality employers.

This time around, we expressed to the Group of over 55K members that we were frustrated that people were confiding in us that they were leaving (or considering it). Some are even people that we all imagined to be part of the very fabric of Austin tech. We feel helpless this time.

Many of these talented people said that the soaring housing prices in Austin had them eyeballing smaller towns in Texas, or worse, their hometowns outside of the state. There are only so many times you can try to buy a house, get rejected, or get outbid on 22 homes before you start looking at other places. Only so many people will accept a billion percent rent increase at renewal time before thinking that going back home to Louisiana’s lookin’ pretty good.

This week, Austin CultureMap reported that Austin now ranks number two among the most overvalued home markets in America.

Tesla is getting ready to open their Gigafactory, Oracle is moving their headquarters to Austin, and Samsung is currently trying to get buy-in from city officials in Taylor so they can build their mega plant near Austin. Home investors and firms from all over are salivating.

It all feels both exciting, yet overwhelming when you’re going to buy a house here, only to get outbid by $150K over asking price from an investor in California. It’s been demoralizing for so many.

Because we also own a massive real estate publication, we’re firmly in touch with that sector, and brokers in Austin are telling us that the summer was out of control and overheated, but they’re already seeing that hyper-activity slow a bit.

Housing alone isn’t enough of a reason for an entire sector to be packing up or dreaming of leaving. So what gives?

At last count, a thread in ADJ on this topic is at 806 comments, and I personally received several hundred more via direct message with people in tech explaining why they’re leaving or considering leaving.

There are challenges within the city limits of Austin that have bubbled over like crime and separately, the contentious issue of houselessness – it’s an ongoing and very serious issue that has people leaving downtown, but not necessarily leaving the surrounding areas.

So if housing isn’t the exclusive driving force, how has that problem combined with the employment market shifts? How has the job market changed in such a way that talent is ready to hit the eject button on this town? It boils down to a changing talent pool, fractures in the hiring process, a shift in priorities, and a lingering brokenness in the entire process that is exacerbating all other conditions.

Let’s dig into that further.

Because of the global pandemic, remote work has become a staple in the tech industry, teams adjusted and realized the office is more of a luxury than a requirement, and many large brands swear that they’ll never require their employees to come into the office again.

For that reason, tech workers’ expectations have been forever changed. Fully remote options will drive the market for years to come, and hybrid options or flex work hours will also be how large tech firms attract and retain talent – ping pong tables and chill vibes will be less of an appealing sales pitch.

The pandemic has also shifted the talent pool to include everyone in America – if all workers are remote, employers no longer have to look just to the local workforce. This talent pool expansion is a double-edged sword – if an Austin tech company can look to Nebraska for workers, then remote workers can look outside of Austin to other budding tech hubs, potentially shifting the entire environment. That’s the main driver for Austin brands continuing to hire in Austin, lest the entire ecosystem fail.

All that said, a disconnect in the job market in Austin tech remains. Holdouts from attitudes and old systems of the past linger on.

A theme we continue to hear from high quality candidates is that employers have increasingly unrealistic expectations. You already know the stereotype of job listings that say they’re entry level but require a decade of work experience. But as budgets tightened in the face of uncertainty, Austin tech companies are becoming phenomenally great at hiring someone to do three jobs that pay less than one. One of our Group members asserted that employers are looking for turnkey employees. It used to be that employer job descriptions were a realistic wish list and that if you hit over 60% of them, you might get an interview. Now people believe that the requirements are becoming unrealistic and if you meet less than 100% of them, there is zero chance of an interview. Many have complained that hiring managers and recruiters continue to not be aligned, slowing the process repeatedly.

The timing of the acceleration of unrealistic expectations has locals feeling like the pandemic created conditions that allowed for employers to take advantage of job seekers who must be desperate since the world is upside down. I don’t personally believe this has anything to do with the pandemic, rather it is a continuation of an ongoing trend.

If you think this is an exaggeration, just this week a job seeker let me know that a recruiter sent them a job description that required the “ability to code in any language.” WTF. The recruiter was serious. Try telling me this isn’t out of control and I will laugh right in your face, friend.

Another serious point of contention in Austin is that salary levels are not increasing anywhere near the skyrocketing living expenses.

Many believe the salary levels are a decade old and simply can’t keep up with the market conditions in Austin and while we’ll leave the “you are a remote worker, you shouldn’t earn as much since you moved to a less expensive locale” debate to another day, we will firmly assert that this problem will hold back the tech innovation and the overall economy in Austin.

In that massive thread in our Group, one member asked, “So I guess a question is: do we accept the idea that Austin is now only for those making 6 figures??”

What is so disheartening about the salary conditions is that changing this couldn’t possibly be done overnight – it requires time and structural changes, and the bigger a company is, the slower it is to turn the proverbial ship.

Meanwhile, numerous people retired early during the pandemic, or began freelancing or consulting full time. Many of these people aren’t likely to return to the workforce under current conditions, and they feel like they have less roots in Austin – they can live anywhere now. See how remote work has caused a ripple effect?

Do you remember when some tech executives in Austin reluctantly sent employees home as the pandemic hit, flippantly warning that it wouldn’t be a coronacation!? Bad behaviors like this and other employee treatment during the pandemic haven’t and will not be forgotten – the memories will remain as fresh as the time you got shoved by that bully in elementary school. You may have forgiven, but you’ll never forget. Trust has been broken.

Trust was also broken during the pandemic when people lost what they believed to be stable jobs. It has created a certain trepidation in the marketplace.

The pandemic has forever altered all of our lives as individuals. Thousands died from COVID-19, and those of us left behind lost loved ones. We were all sent home with no job security. Many of us became homeschool teachers and somehow also had to keep up with our careers. We were forced to share spaces with our partners, our children, our parents, our family.

Some would think all of this is a recipe for resentment, but in the majority of cases, what has happened is a serious shift in priorities to favor the family, to appreciate quality time, to find solace in more quiet time and a less full calendar.

People tell us they don’t intend on going out for drinks after work when they’re called back into the office – it turns out we actually like our kids or partners now that we’ve gotten to know them, or that we value our newfound connection to old hobbies. The priorities aren’t fleeting – this pandemic has changed us.

Because of this fundamental change in who we are, ongoing problems in the employment market are now magnified.

“Isms” still plague the hiring process. Ageism continues to be a very serious problem in Austin tech, for example. People tell us that they’re still experiencing sexism, racism, ableism, and every other sort of discrimination. In 2021. It’s unbelievable. You can say all of that is simply perception, but in this scenario, perception truly is reality. And because our priorities have shifted, our giveashitters are pretty low when it comes to tolerating bad actors.

That same shift has also lowered tolerance levels for burnout. One member in the Group pointed out that after the market crash in 2008, resource levels were depleted – and here we are in 2021, they haven’t been restored. People were burned out before the pandemic, and now they’re moving to the country to work remotely and begin healing this burnout that is coming to a head.

It’s difficult to deal with ghosting (be it computer-aided or overworked recruiters) when you’re already burned out and thinking you’re the only one. It’s giving this sector a terrible reputation that is spreading.

Resources aren’t the only factor here that is stuck in 2008. Companies were so used to getting a flood of applications for every single job listing, their ATS (applicant tracking system) filters were implemented accordingly. The volume of applications has dropped, yet the filters remain overly restrictive. They put their ATS on auto-pilot once upon a time, and it remains that way, yet they continue to reach out to us in confusion, asking us where all the applicants are.

In the eyes of tech talent, the hiring process has deteriorated. Simultaneously, in the eyes of companies hiring, the process has been improved. Enhanced.

The disconnect here is not in the unrealistic expectations previously outlined, or the rising opacity in salaries, but in the actual mechanics of the hiring process. Even smaller companies have added additional rounds of interviews and ridiculous red tape in what is an effort in vain to compete with the Googles of the world. There’s a lot of what I would call “playing office” going on, with non-technical hiring managers hiring for technical roles, or unrelated staff being roped into panel interviews to weigh in on whether or not someone is a “culture fit.”

The process has become lengthy and demanding with endless personality tests, whiteboard tests, Zoom calls, questionnaires, more phone and video calls, aptitude tests, and so forth. Most people have come to accept these as hoops to jump through, but the practice of having job seekers do extensive unpaid projects as part of their job application is creating deep resentment and a growing resistance. No one expects to shake a hand and get a job today, but doing a 12 hour assignment that is due in 24 hours is unreasonable, especially unpaid and with no promise of their intellectual property being protected.

It started off as a way to aide candidates into demonstrating their true skills and it was simple. But over time, the practice has “evolved.” It feels to some like every Austin tech recruiter and hiring manager went to some evil underground conference a few years ago and were brainwashed into thinking that if they ALL assign abusive tasks, no one in the sector will notice because they’ll just accept that it’s “how things are done now.” But that’s not happening and the overly complicated process combined with other market factors is driving seriously qualified tech talent out of Austin.

The hiring process has continued to degrade and for no good reason. We actually built ADJ in a way that would directly connect hiring manager and job seeker, promoting the concept of simplifying the hiring process. Yet here we are.

The final nail in the coffin is that candidates and employers are blaming each other for a power imbalance, and thinking that their situation is unique. A feeling of isolation is growing due to peoples’ inability to openly discuss this process – both hiring folks and job seekers.

The bottom line is that numerous market conditions have converged to create a scenario where people are tired and simply won’t settle anymore. Expectations have changed. And we have changed as people.

We will inevitably get hate mail because of this editorial and folks will say that the very publication of this piece will push people out of town, but we would argue that if no one makes an effort to diagnose the growing illness, it will metastasize.

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