Pajamarama

by Kieran Healy on November 15, 2005

When I read a while ago that Judith Miller was set to give the keynote speech at the launch party of Pajamas Media, I honestly thought it was a joke. (Pajamas Media is soon to be renamed, is set to launch tomorrow, and is kind of holding company for a large and somewhat varied collection of mostly conservative bloggers.) But now one of their recruits, Dan Drezner, confirms that it’s true. He seems a little queasy about it, and I don’t blame him. I’m not sure what Pajamas Media is supposed to be all about (and I’m not the only one). It might be meant as a conservative Huffington Post, binding its generally conservative contributors into a common online outlet. Or it might be a looser association of independent sites—some sort of syndication network meant to generate advertising revenue. In either case, I don’t quite see where the money is going to be raked in from an initiative like this, but what do I know? I have to say, though, that if I were in Dan’s shoes I think I’d have said no to the invitation, and certainly have hit the eject button by now. They have some smart people on board (like Dan himself), but seeing as Charles Johnson (of Little Green Footballs) is running the show and the likes of Michelle Malkin have joined the “Editorial Board,” the whole thing reminds me of an apparently lavish buffet at a dodgy restaurant: there’s plenty on offer, and maybe some of it looks good, but there’s also a rancid smell in the air that won’t go away.

{ 54 comments }

1

Louis Proyect 11.15.05 at 1:36 pm

James Wolcott, “Pajama Bottoms 1″
http://jameswolcott.com/archives/2005/10/index.php

James Wolcott, “Pajama Bottoms 2″
http://jameswolcott.com/archives/2005/11/index.php

Dennis Perrin, “Tits = psychos?”
http://redstateson.blogspot.com/2005/11/tits-psychos.html

2

Grand Moff Texan 11.15.05 at 1:42 pm

I guess after centralized sites like Red State and Powerline didn’t get ‘r done, we should have expected a sort of quasi-astroturf move like this.
.

3

Chris Bertram 11.15.05 at 1:44 pm

Is a person’s propensity for sound judgement a factor in tenure decisions at US universities?

4

Brendan 11.15.05 at 2:12 pm

What an absolutely bizarre claim from head pajama man Michael Ledeen. ‘The exciting thing about Pajamas is that the blogosphere will, for the first time, come pre-filtered. Blogs will come to people, and they’ll have a high degree of reliability. ‘ Er…actually, Michael, the great thing about the blogosphere is that it is NOT pre-filtered and that you might always stumble upon a link or a page that might actually CHALLENGE your world view, not confirm it.

Nice use of the word ‘reliability’ though.

5

Barry 11.15.05 at 2:24 pm

Especially given that that statement came from Michael (AEI/Iran Contra/Bizarre Involvement with Iran) Ledeen.

6

Slocum 11.15.05 at 2:36 pm

Is a person’s propensity for sound judgement a factor in tenure decisions at US universities?

All of this reaction to Drezner and Corn’s suspect associations reads to me like an implied threat. Phase 1 — You’re a right-thinking person (or so we always thought but we’re beginning to have doubts), are you aware of the people you’re associating with? Phase 2 — You’ve continued to sin against our better judgement by not breaking ties with ‘those people’? It was nice knowing you before you went over to the dark side.

This tendency toward excommunication in not unknown on the right but it does seem to me to be more common to the left. So Glenn Reynolds is so far beyond the pale that linking–even in areas of agreement like campaign-finance restrictions on blogging–is unthinkable. Althouse and Geras, for example, are pretty much considered ‘wingnuts’, too, and I think it’s probably only a matter of time before the left half of the blogosphere is no longer on speaking or linking terms with, say, Tyler Cowen.

The ‘moonbatsphere’ seeks to enforce conformity through shunning whereas the ‘wingnutsphere’ seems quite happy to welcome those expelled as apostates by the other side. Which is the smarter strategy?

7

fyreflye 11.15.05 at 2:45 pm

Apparently Judy no longer feels it necessary to pose as unbiased. Who wants to bet that she’ll soon be popping up as a talking head on tv?

8

Chris Bertram 11.15.05 at 2:47 pm

Data point for Slocum: Geras recently removed CT from his blogroll, we continue to link to him from our academic blogroll. Personally, I’m a big fan of Tyler Cowen’s site.

9

Kieran Healy 11.15.05 at 2:59 pm

So Glenn Reynolds is so far beyond the pale that linking—even in areas of agreement like campaign-finance restrictions on blogging—is unthinkable.

A second data point: by my rough count, CT has linked to posts by Glenn Reynolds about 25 separate times in 2005 so far.

10

Gary Farber 11.15.05 at 3:00 pm

“…I were in Dan’s shoes I think I’d have said no to the invitation….”

That’s what I did when Roger Simon invited me. Solely because I couldn’t see associating my name with anything associated with Little Green Footballs; I didn’t receive any reply when I responded with that information, but, then, there’s probably not much to say.

I’ve not posted a word about PM, because why should I (hey, good luck to all, and why not?), but this former founding partner of the endeavor has sure had plenty to say over the past year.

11

Slocum 11.15.05 at 3:03 pm

Data point for Slocum: Geras recently removed CT from his blogroll, we continue to link to him from our academic blogroll. Personally, I’m a big fan of Tyler Cowen’s site.

Fair enough. It’s just that the reaction to Corn and Drezner joining the pajamas thingie could be something on the order of — well, ok, best of luck guys, but I’m guessing you’re not going to like it there, and when you see how it turns out, I don’t think you’ll end up hanging around too long.

12

Saheli 11.15.05 at 3:17 pm

I have to say, it would be nice to have a really admirably conservative crowd to lock horns with. I just don’t see this becoming that. I think pretty much any writer who consistently baits on issues of immigration and cultural diversity doesn’t pass my respectable opponnent smell test.

13

Matt Weiner 11.15.05 at 3:23 pm

Slocum, if Drezner and Corn had joined a blogging co-op led by Tom Maguire or Andrew Sullivan or Tacitus or even Glenn Reynolds my reaction would be “come back when you’ve had enough,” but Charles Johnson is in my opinion considerably more pernicious. He sponsors and regulates a comment section that has not infrequently devolved into genocidal rhetoric, and when someone in the blogosphere incurs his displeasure he has been known to encourage his commentors to invade their comment section–Yglesias had to shut down comments temporarily for this reason. He also disables incoming links from disapproved sites; the links have now been restored but at the time links from Tacitus were redirected to the IDF. None of this seems to be in the spirit of the openness that supposedly this enterprise is meant to promote.

(About the comments: If you want to compare them to other comment sections, the criteria are that there must be genocidal rhetoric and that the comments must be policed–CJ patrols for anti-Semitism and other posting sins, but seems to leave these remarks up.)

I took 3 as a joke but I do find it a bit disturbing–I hope that academic freedom covers the right to co-blog with even hateful people like Johnson.

14

neil 11.15.05 at 3:33 pm

This tendency toward excommunication in not unknown on the right but it does seem to me to be more common to the left.

I couldn’t disagree more, Slocum. Although data is not the plural of anecdote, two tendencies of the big-name conservative bloggers stand out to me.

One: Powerline will never link to a left-wing blog — if it gets a mention on a left blog that generates a lot of email, they will sometimes put up a followup, but it will never even name the blog that generated this email, presumably so its readers do not accidentally expose themselves to wrongthink. For instance.

Two: Little Green Footballs and several of its admirers have gone a step farther — they have configured their webservers to check the referrer which sent you to their blog, and if the referrer is a wrongthinker (such as Matthew Yglesias), you are deemed unworthy to visit their site and redirected elsewhere.

15

Slocum 11.15.05 at 4:28 pm

Two: Little Green Footballs and several of its admirers have gone a step farther—they have configured their webservers to check the referrer which sent you to their blog, and if the referrer is a wrongthinker (such as Matthew Yglesias), you are deemed unworthy to visit their site and redirected elsewhere.

Well, OK, how about a concrete suggestion for Corn and Drezner — perhaps they should push for a ‘Pajamas’ blogging code of conduct that covers things like editing of posts, linking dirty tricks, and comment section moderation that any ‘pajamas’ branded blog would be required to follow?

16

neil 11.15.05 at 4:38 pm

A little late in the game for that, isn’t it?

17

Barbar 11.15.05 at 4:47 pm

Yeah, and maybe some of the Crooked Timber bloggers can try to join Pajamas Media as well, and work with Drezner to change it from within. Now that would be constructive, instead of all this awfully menacing “Careful boy we’re not going to talk to you no more if you continue to associate with those fellas” talk. How disturbing indeed.

18

neil 11.15.05 at 4:57 pm

As I understand it, Pajamas Media, now calling themselves “Open Source Media”, is not taking applications at this time, nor have they been since they unceremoniously gave the boot to 90% of their signed-up cobloggers. One could make a snarky comment about the irony of their new name, but really, why bother?

19

Slocum 11.15.05 at 5:01 pm

A little late in the game for that, isn’t it?

How so? The organization is just getting off the ground. Thinking off the top of my head, it seems like it’d be kind of cool to have a loose affiliation of blogs with very varying political outlooks but with commonly accepted rules of discourse and some kind of ombudsman to complain to if they were violated. I would imagine that potential advertisers would find such a ‘good houskeeping seal’ of civility attractive as well.

20

theCoach 11.15.05 at 5:03 pm

For what it is worth, Glenn Reynolds has crossed that line for me, It is not worth to figure out if he is being stupid or disingenuous, but it mostly feels like the latter.

21

Kieran Healy 11.15.05 at 5:05 pm

Slocum, Charles Johnson is in charge of this enterprise. Do you think he has to date shown much enthusiasm for an even-handed comment-moderation policy focused on civility, the elimination of “linking dirty-tricks”, and independent arbitration in the case of disputes?

22

Jeremy Osner 11.15.05 at 5:10 pm

Seeing Kieran’s post as a threat directed towards Drezner and/or Corn strikes me as quite corny.

23

Kieran Healy 11.15.05 at 5:17 pm

A threat?!?

24

Barbar 11.15.05 at 5:19 pm

I was being sarcastic above, in case that wasn’t clear.

Slocum seems very uncomfortable with all this “Charles Johnson is a crazy wingnut” talk, without actually, you know, bothering to contest that claim.

25

jim 11.15.05 at 5:29 pm

Does anyone understand their finances. They’ve gotten $3.5M “private round” financing which is supposed to be for building out operations (buying additional servers?) and marketing (hiring people to sell ads?) and expanding news and opinion (subscribing to more newsfeeds?).

I understand that the founders will pay themselves for managing the enterprise. They have some (three or four, I think) people described as editors, who will also need to be paid: the going rate for this sort of work (as set by Gawker Media) seems to be in the low four figures a month. The editorial board members will get (surely small) stipends. The bloggers seem to expect to share ad revenue (at least that’s what I gathered from Dan Drezner’s post). How are they going to burn $3.5M?

26

Kieran Healy 11.15.05 at 5:31 pm

How are they going to burn $3.5M?

Aeron Chairs?

27

MQ 11.15.05 at 5:53 pm

Looks like the founders might make out very well here.

LGF and Instapundit are doctrinaire conservative warblogger sites. Absurd to think a site with them in charge will end up being truly open.

28

nick s 11.15.05 at 5:56 pm

It’s already obvious that Corn fulfils the role of Alan Colmes on Fox News: Token Liberal To Be Named Later. He’s mentioned (alongside Perfesser Indeed) in the second graf of the AP writeup.

Either he’s got the smarts to get out before the end of the week, or he’s tarred with that brush forever. He’s been told, repeatedly, that he’s the sucker at this poker table. The press coverage makes it clear.

29

Dan Simon 11.15.05 at 8:09 pm

Judging a blog by its most inflammatory comments makes no sense to me. I daresay a few scrawls have shown up around here that Crooked Timberites would have a tough time defending. (And no, I’m not referring to any involving me personally, either as commenter or target.)

There are plenty of readable, useful blogs whose comments sections aren’t worth visiting. Heck, my blog draws mostly annoying comment spam–what does that say about me, other than that I’m too lazy to delete it?

30

Louis Proyect 11.15.05 at 8:36 pm

Interesting that Nick S. refers to David Corn as the token liberal. I would assume that Marc Cooper is a horse of another color. As most people know, this guy has been veering into Hitchens territory for the past couple of years or so, with frenzied attacks on Ward Churchill, the antiwar movement, Cuba of the sort you find on rightwing blogs. The Nation won’t even print his more obnoxious crap, although the LA Weekly will. The LA Weekly was once a hard-hitting alternative weekly, but now it has the politics of the NY Times mixed with articles about where to get the best burrito and massage parlor ads.

31

DennisThePeasant 11.15.05 at 9:23 pm

Marc Cooper was brought into Pajamas Media because he is a personal friend of long standing to Roger L. Simon. Cooper’s political orientation, muddled though it may be, probably wasn’t as much a consideration as one old friend throwing another old friend a paying gig. As one with the personal misfortune of knowing Roger, and discussing his relationship with Cooper at various times with him, this isn’t a matter of uninformed speculation. What is uninformed speculation on my part is the suspicion that David Corn was brought on because he has a personal friendship with Marc Cooper.

Outside of the bloggers themselves, the Pajamas lineup is basically a roster of Roger’s pals, and that includes Cooper, the Powerline boys, and others. To look at the lineup and try reading anything more into it than that is unwarranted. This isn’t so much a VRWC media plot as a bit of group backscratching.

I know this will shock the ideologues of both the Left and the Right, but Cooper and Corn joining Pajamas Media isn’t really about dialogue and balance and that sort of thing… I happen to know, via my own secret devices, that Pajamas will be paying its journalistic side quite handsomely. Pajamas Media is, has been, and will continue to be, about money for the owners, editors and journalists. Cooper and Corn took the job because it pays well.

32

Seth Finkelstein 11.15.05 at 9:25 pm

Ah, look beyond the surface – Judith Miller is a very appropriate keynoter. She’s everything those in PJ’s want to be when they grow up. That is, she’s managed to be almost the perfect embodiment of both the reality and rhetoric of their brand of “journalism”: Access to power while claiming persecution, participating in being a real mover-and-shaker via smears and character-assasination, while at the same time wearing the mantle of a government-persecuted martyr (fulfilling two fantasies simultaneously!), and news as a propanganda arm of the right-wing in the Republican Party.

They’re perfect fits for each other!

33

DennisThePeasant 11.15.05 at 9:30 pm

Jim asks how Pajamas will burn $3.5 million.

Here’s the answer:

It appears Pajamas has not yet started the process of acquiring advertisers. This means they will have no revenue at the time of start-up. All purchases of goods/services will have to come out of venture capital.

Pajamas has already sent bloggers checks for content… Content yet to be supplied. I think it fair to assume the editors and journalists have been paid as well. I have been told that the journalists are being paid well above what would be considered “scale”.

Infrastructure: This includes management and staff salaries, servers, programmers, etc. If Pajamas is serious about acquiring meaningful advertising, it will require a large outlay for qualified personnel, necessary sales materials and travel.

You can go through $3.5 million real fast with that sort of set up.

34

perianwyr 11.15.05 at 11:10 pm

Still sounds like a frigging hash. I give it a year.

35

Jon H 11.16.05 at 12:08 am

Corn and the other Nation guy who joined up remind me of a rule-of-thumb used by a former colleague who went on to found AvantGo.

His rule about meetings was that, on entering the meeting, if you can’t identify the stooge, get out. Because it’s you.

Corn and the other Nation guy come off as the stooges here. They’re pretty much there so that PM can claim to represent a broad spectrum of views.

36

Doug 11.16.05 at 3:02 am

Ok, so their 3.5M came from here

The investor group is led by Aubrey Chernick, angel investor and technology entrepreneur, and also includes Jim Koshland, a leading member of the Silicon Valley venture capital and technology community, and a DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary venture capital investment partnership.

Chernick is apparently a SoCal software entrepreneur. He shared a podium with Bush 41 back in 1996 at some event for his corporation, so he’s obviously got some pull on the R side. Koshland is a partner at DLA Piper, so those two probably came as a package deal. DLA itself is a global law firm. What they’re doing with an in-house VC outfit is not immediately transparent.

Also, 3.5M is a bit big, as I understand it, for first-round financing for an IT category company. If somebody has more than 15 minutes to follow this money, it’d probably be interesting.

The blog I write for was approached by the PJ guys early on, but we found their non-disclosure terms onerous, didn’t think much of the business model and weren’t thrilled about the company we’d be keeping. So we passed.

37

John Holbo 11.16.05 at 3:31 am

I was thinking of writing this very post, titling it “Pajamcolypse Now”, and doing a little rewrite of Brando’s monologue as a marketing pitch courtesy of Charles Johnson. Or possibly, if their roll-out continues not to roll, maybe “Pajam yesterday and pajam tomorrow, but never pajam today”?

I think they are planning to get their 3.5 million back by selling snarky conservative T-shirt ads, possibly ads featuring that carpet-humping guy you always see over at “Reason”. Or, just possibly, money grows on astroturf.

38

Mrs Tilton 11.16.05 at 3:35 am

we found their non-disclosure terms onerous

… and at the same time, in the view of our in-house counsel, rather poorly drafted, in a way that could have deprived the ostensibly protected party of important protections. Not our problem, of course, but it didn’t speak well of the venture as a whole.

39

Tim Worstall 11.16.05 at 6:24 am

I found their financial terms somewhat bizarre myself and I’ve not yet had a clear description of exactly what it is they want to do. We’ll find out later today at the launch I suppose.

But I’m pretty sure Marc Cooper has dropped out hasn’t he?

40

Brendan 11.16.05 at 7:45 am

Not that it matters, but I recalls vaguely (can’t remember the link) something that Glenn Reynolds once posted in which people were asked about their political affiliations and which blogs they looked at. ‘Liberals’ were more likely to check out ‘right wing’ blogs than vice versa.

And I do actually think that due to their actions, blogs like LGF and Harry’s Place are responsible for their comments section, if only because if you annoy these people enough they will ban you. To the best of my knowledge no commenter has EVER been banned from HP for being too ‘racist’ or ‘right wing’, whereas people are banned for challenging ‘Harry’ or being too vehemently against the war all the time.

41

Mrs Tilton 11.16.05 at 8:36 am

Brendan, I haven’t been round there for a while, but I was under the impression that Harry had turned his Place over to the lodgers and left.

It was a website I enjoyed a good deal, a good deal of time ago.

42

Brendan 11.16.05 at 8:47 am

‘Brendan, I haven’t been round there for a while, but I was under the impression that Harry had turned his Place over to the lodgers and left.’

He keeps on promising to do that, but then he keeps on coming back.

43

dsquared 11.16.05 at 9:31 am

just one slightly tangential point: “USD3.5m of financing” does not necessarily mean that they have a cheque for this amount in the bank. It could easily mean $500k start-up cash, plus commitments to fund operating losses of up to $750k/ quarter for the next year (which in turn would possibly be subject to performance reviews, etc).

In any case, it’s apparently easier than one might think to spend $4m on weblogs.

44

Martin Wisse 11.16.05 at 9:56 am

The troubles with Powerline, Litte Green Fascists and Instapundit are too well know for anybody who is an honourable person to step into any venture with them.

It’s that simple.

45

Alexandra 11.16.05 at 10:21 am

All Things Beautiful Trackback Blogging To Differ at Pajamas OSM Media

46

dsquared 11.16.05 at 11:43 am

hmmmm … isn’t “Open Source” a trademark owned by Eric Raymond? And isn’t he rather sniffy about allowing it to be used by people who are keen on non-disclosure agreements, etc? Or am I remembering this totally wrong?

47

Mrs Tilton 11.16.05 at 4:13 pm

Daniel,

whether you’re remembering wrong or not, an NDA can and usually does cover more than (protected or capable-of-being-protected) IP. Very often one is motivated by nothing more than a desire not to broadcast the terms one is prepared to give or accept. No idea how passionate Mr Raymond is about information wanting to be free, but I can imagine somebody making business arrangements that involve untrammelled access to, and the right freely to monkey about with, source code, some other aspects of which he’d nevertheless prefer his counterparties keep in petto.

That said, we didn’t like the looks of the NDA that PJ asked us to sign (among other things we didn’t like about them) — overbroad, sloppily drafted, and apparently prepared by somebody unused to agreements that cross national borders.

Mind you, if you’re right and Mr Raymond is able and of a mind to nail the PJs’ collective testicles to the floorboards, I daresay I shall manage to put a brave face on it.

48

jim 11.16.05 at 4:14 pm

Dennis and Daniel (is that d(d+1)?):

Thanks for the info. I guess I’m just a natural cheapskate.

One thing did strike me from Dennis’s comment that bloggers have already been paid in advance. Some in this thread have wondered why, say, Dan Drezner doesn’t bail. If he’s already cashed the cheque, he may not have the option. He may be contractually bound to supply a certain number of blog posts to the new entity, or a number of blog posts which in aggregate attract a certain number of page views (or . . .).

In addition, Dan in his first post announcing he was to be part of PM said his blog address would redirect to PM at some point. It wouldn’t surprise me that that’s also part of his contractual obligation, if he has, in fact, accepted consideration.

Obviously we don’t (can’t, unless someone violates an NDA) know the terms under which participants can recover their blog addresses. But it may well (sorry for all the subjunctives) not be a simple matter for someone to extricate themselves from Simon’s web.

49

thibaud 11.17.05 at 12:13 am

What (if anything) are Pajama’s venture capitalists thinking? Regardless of its location on the spectrum, the political blogosphere is free masturbation for politics junkies and assistant professors. Any website whose audience is a) >90% male and b) entirely free of charge and c) unconnected to sports/gambling/porn is a sure money loser.

The gender angle’s crucial. While Politics Junkie Dad expatiates and slings artful putdowns about weighty matters on CrookedPajamasKosFreeperRedBlueState, Responsible Mom is rapidly and efficiently (in the precious few minutes she has to herself each day) surfing for sites with reliable info and advice on questions about trivial matters like children’s immunizations, which drugs can be taken during the first trimester, where to find car seats that are safe, which SUVs get a 5-star safety rating etc.

Whereas Dad carries the torch of ideological warfare, clicks on few if any ads (Ourside T-shirts! Coffee mugs! After dinner mints imprinted with your favorite slogan!) and spends still less money at the sites he visits, Mom actually buys stuff based on what she learned about all those tedious matters of hearth and home. Lots of stuff, and lots of money.

The only political website I’ve seen that has significant economic value is Kos, which functions more like a product recommender site funnelling money from its audience to Kos’s political clients ie those who’ve been given the Kos Seal of Approval. Never mind that Kos’s clients have yet to win an election– IIRC he’s a perfect 0 for 9 in ’04– the little b*stard is a brilliant businessman and brand marketer. Give the joker his due.
As to the rest, as anyone who’s worked on the business side of any political journal will tell you, the demographics for political fare are, to an advertiser, a pig’s breakfast: ages, incomes, location are all over the map, and the audience isn’t in a mood to buy anything anyway. This doesn’t cut it for a micromarket, which in the online world is probably anything under 1 million unique visitors per month.

50

thibaud 11.17.05 at 12:28 am

Pajamas has already sent bloggers checks for content… Content yet to be supplied

WTF? Without advertisers locked and loaded into rates that are some margin higher than the price paid for the content?

Sounds like a futures operation run by intermediaries who’ve yet to identify any buyers for all the product they’ve purchased. Or maybe just BlogAds, run by dyslexics who managed to reverse all the P and the L items. Dotcom-era insanity rides again.

51

Seth Finkelstein 11.17.05 at 3:02 am

dsquared: The Eric S. Raymond mark is dead/abandoned:

Word Mark OPEN SOURCE
Goods and Services (ABANDONED) IC A . US A . G & S: COMPUTER SOFTWARE LICENSING. FIRST USE: 19980203. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19980203
Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
Design Search Code
Serial Number 75439502
Filing Date February 24, 1998
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Owner (APPLICANT) Software in the Public Interest CORPORATION NEW YORK P.O. Box 70152 Pt. Richmond CALIFORNIA 948070152
Assignment Recorded ASSIGNMENT RECORDED
Type of Mark CERTIFICATION MARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Other Data The certification mark, as used by authorized persons, certifies that the software license conforms to a set of guidelines published by software in the public interest.
Live/Dead Indicator DEAD
Abandonment Date March 18, 1999

52

Gary Farber 11.17.05 at 1:44 pm

“But I’m pretty sure Marc Cooper has dropped out hasn’t he?”

Not at all. See here, including comments. (Earlier here.)

53

Gary Farber 11.17.05 at 2:43 pm

Gosh. It’s taken all of one day for the eating your young to commence.

54

Gary Farber 11.17.05 at 3:40 pm

Also, the Blogometer, unsurprisingly, has a good round-up.

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