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It’s tempting to link all of your social media accounts together. If you post something to Facebook, it’s simple to have it automatically feed to Twitter.  While linking accounts may feel like a way to simplify your work flow, I would argue it’s weakening the community and impact of your social media accounts.

August 23, 2012 0 1 comments
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One of the biggest changes Facebook has made in recent memory is the switch to Timeline.  With that came the ability to upload a cover photo that displays across the top of your Facebook Page.  This large, central picture is sure to make a strong first impression to your Facebook friends.  Yet, some churches aren’t utilizing that space the best they can.

August 9, 2012 0 1 comments
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Hopefully we realize church websites have a growing role in leading visitors to our church while also helping our congregations better connect with their church community.  Some new statistics on church websites show how people are using them and what they expect to find.

August 1, 2012 0 3 comments
Discussion Topic

There must be a simple answer, but I would like to know the ins and outs of using pictures of people on our church's web site. Do people give implicit permission by attending church events? Clearly we can ask permission from a few where individuals are highlighted, but what about group shots...

July 26, 2012 0 5 comments
Discussion Topic

I'm a CRC planter in Manhattan, NY.

I just wanted to pass along a recommendation for a website that we've found very useful here in NYC that is now going national.  

Its called Faith Street (faithstreet.com).  I'd encourage you to explore the site and see if it might work well for...

July 11, 2012 0 1 comments
Blog

Church Juice, a project of Back to God Ministries, is giving away two $2,000 grants to churches that have great vision for effectively using communications tools to reach their congregations and surrounding communities. We know communications can be the thankless job in a church.  So we want to stand up and say “You’re doing an awesome job! Now, here’s some cash for your next great idea.” 

July 11, 2012 0 0 comments
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Pictures tell stories in a way words alone cannot. Pictures on websites are important and I think they’ll become even more predominant in the future. As I paged through websites, there were a few things I noticed about the images churches decide to use. And there are a few common themes...

June 20, 2012 0 2 comments
Q&A

We would like to schedule visits to coincide with a widow's or widower's wedding anniversary or anniversary of the date of their spouse's death. We would like to enter the data into a calendar once and then have the calendar update itself every year. Further, we would like to have the ability to...

June 19, 2012 0 1 comments
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Internet hackers are finding church websites to be easy targets for installing viruses and malware.  In fact, church websites have unseated pornographic sites as one of the riskiest places for the safety of your computer. Web users are three times more likely to encounter malware on a church website than an adult site.

June 11, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

Creating website wireframes is the step we skip far too often when designing a new website. It’s easy to get excited about picking colors, style and a fancy new look, but it can be hard to get passionate about a bunch of empty black and white boxes on a sheet of paper. But wireframing may be the most important step ...

May 30, 2012 0 2 comments
Blog

Churches are increasingly investing more time into social media.  It can be a great way to connect with members, regular attenders and new folks in a place where people are already hanging out.  Whether you’re just getting started in social media or have been at it for awhile, here are three tips for avoiding a few common mistakes.

May 7, 2012 0 6 comments
Blog

For many, spring is a time of motivation.  The changing of the seasons get people excited to do new things or clean up old stuff.  So why not give a little seasonal makeover to your church’s website?  Here are three things you could do to spruce up your website to make it more effective.

April 24, 2012 0 1 comments
Blog

For those of us involved in working on web stuff for our churches, I think we often times forget about the importance of good writing.  Yet without solid writing, lots of the other work you do becomes less effective.

April 12, 2012 0 1 comments
Blog

In the church world, there are lots of things we do for the sake of communicating with first-time visitors.  We add snazzy “I’m New Here” buttons to our website.  We create slick brochures as part of a welcome packet.  Now there’s one more thing to add to the list: Facebook Timeline.

April 5, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

As Easter is quickly approaching, it’s time to make sure you’re equipping your members with ways to share your church.

March 21, 2012 0 1 comments
Blog

Google has lifted the ban on churches meaning you can now connect your church to great tools Google has to offer.  Here are some reasons why you might consider moving your church to Google.

March 14, 2012 0 7 comments
Blog

It was rumored for some time, but now it’s a reality.  Facebook has launched the Timeline feature for brand pages.  That includes your church’s page.  Here are some tips to help you get started.

March 6, 2012 0 2 comments
Blog

My name's Jerod Clark and I'm the new guide for the Church and Web network.  There’s something I know to be true: everything communicates something.  So why not be intentional about what you’re saying?   

March 5, 2012 0 2 comments
Blog

“How time do fly,” my dad sometimes jokes. It’s been a year since I started as the guide for The Network’s Church & Web section, and I will be saying so long, until we meet again -- which I’m sure we will, right here in The Network.

February 24, 2012 0 6 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar was recorded on: Wed, 02/08/2012 In this webinar we'll take a tour of the site and look at examples of the connections being made. Plus we'll uncover tricks to getting the most out of the site, and ways to quickly tap into the collective knowledge and experience of fellow church members across the CRC.

February 8, 2012 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Do any of you use texting in your church? I think it’s a promising idea. Some churches encourage texting during church services, some use it for sending news, encouragement, prayer requests, whatever information they wish to share.

ChurchJuice has an article with notes from a webinar by...

February 4, 2012 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar was recorded on: Wed, 02/01/2012 This webinar is a repeat of the January 25, 2012 webinar of the same name. Learn about web strategies: from planning and designing to content creation and updating. We'll talk about making your website visitor friendly as well as useful for members.

February 1, 2012 0 0 comments
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This webinar was recorded on January 25, 2012 and then a repeat session was held on February 1.

January 27, 2012 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar was recorded on: Wed, 01/25/2012 What does your church website say about you? Learn about web strategies: from planning and designing to content creation and updating. We'll talk about making your website visitor friendly as well as useful for members.

January 25, 2012 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

In this time of New Year’s resolutions, I, like many others, decided I should get more exercise. I had been thinking for a while that I would like to purchase an elliptical machine. So where do I go to find one? Craigslist, of course!

Most of you are probably familiar with craigslist, but...

January 15, 2012 0 0 comments

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I believe bulletins should be password protected, we post out bulletin on a password protected page. The username and password are posted in the bulletin for members. The main issue I see is not some stranger reading the bulletin but web crawlers (ie google) archiving sensitive information about people. It is interesting googling peoples names and finding out they are on coffee for church.

I like it Mavis.  I've been a social media geek for some time now and have not only deepend my relationships with some of my parishioners -- especially the youth, but we've connected into our community with our church Facebook page.  There aren't many on Twitter here where I live, but I follow many of the movers and shakers in the area of small groups and ministry.  I've taken the time to repost them on Facebook for others to see.  It is a very valuable tool for connecting people too.

posted in: Why Give a Tweet?

Is there anything about today's technology that is NOT helpful .. for the church or the body of Christ or our faith formation?

I led a seminar about a decade ago for Christiann communicators, called Technology Unplugged, which allowed communication types to step back from the latest technology and to critically analyse their impact upon our lives. The Church rarely does that. In fact, the Church has historically embraced technology, though pointing out now and then that there are television programs and internet websites that are not conducive to Christian living.

I wrote a decade ago about the Virtual Church, wondering out loud if, "where two or three are gathered online", that can be called a church. Is it the 'body of Christ' when three 'minds' come together for a theological discussion in a chat room or, for that matter, in the CRC Network?

Is an email or text message a suitable substitute for a pastoral visit? I know of churches that actually consider 'an email connection' as a pastoral visit.

The Church, and more specifically the CRC, has not yet developed a theology of technology. I know of at least one church council that has developed its own set of guidelines about when emails may or may not be used when discussing church business. This came about after a lot of misinterpretation of email messages. The church is a relational body and there are times when technology is best left turned off so that individuals can meet face to face.

Conversely, solar-powered radios with prepackaged gospel messages are being dropped by the thousands into remote areas across South America and Africa ... so there are profoundly efficient ways to spread the gospel.

It is, however, high time that North America's Christian community became unplugged long enough to determine just what is helpful and what is hurtful, technologically-speaking, in order to live the Christian life.

Thanks, John and Mark. Good thoughts. And Mark, thanks for the link to the guidelines for accesiblility. Good reminder.

Whether or not people can read the slides also contributes to, or detracts from, effectiveness. Obviously, if slides are projected when the congregation is invited to stand, then a printed alternative needs to be provided for people who cannot stand. Also, text on the slide needs to be accessible for people with visual impairments. Dr. John Frank wrote some excellent guidelines for using technology in an accessible way.

At a recent meeting, not church related, I witnessed the interesting non-use of technology (powerpoint) by two speakers, who although they had a prepared presentation, decided not to use it, and simply spoke from some notes instead, and left off the projector and slides.  I believe they felt the engagement of the audience increased, and that the audience could live in the moment, in the sponteneity.   So I agree, that thought should be given to this, and that sometimes simply changing the pace is one of the most effective methods of relating the message.

On a side note, not technology related, but somewhat similar, is the use of "liturgy".  I am beginning to find distasteful the common practice of "readings" done by everyone in unison.   To me, it is like bad singing and bad music.   While good readings, ocassionally done, and done for effect, may be uplifting, their common overuse leads to a kind of disharmonious drone that hides rather than helps the message.   Often they are too long, and lack the sponteneity and heart-felt familiarity and sense of renewal that a unison reading should contain.   How often will congregants remember these readings or even be affected by them? 

Rather than so many of these unison readings, perhaps heartfelt "Amen!" s   or repetition of key phrases would be more useful. 

Lets also think to the future, in our area the youth are already migrating to smart phone social networks. To many apps to mention but it adds new realm of possiblities. It much more real time which is the direction these networks are heading.

Hmm, I might just have to use that Teamviewer info for a blog and resource. Thanks, Sherick! I didn't know it was free for non-profits.

Routers are not very expensive.  So you can have 2 set up, one not publicly broadcasting with security for office network and the other open.  Each should have different IP range for added seperation.

 Slightly off topic, I have found Teamviewer to be very useful around the Church as it is free for non-profits.  Handy for those volunteers who want to help but can't always make it to the office during the week.

Thanks, Kyle. Good points and excellent information! (And I love the word "shennanigans". :) )

I have mixed feelings about wifi security. Up until about a year ago, my personal wifi was open and I was in good company: security expert Bruce Schneier wrote a short piece on why he also kept his wifi open.

The good news since then is that consumer router technology has progressed to the point where it's possible to run both open and secured networks from the same router. This option, frequently called a "guest" network or a VLAN, lets visitors to your church (e.g., a guest band) hop on easily without having to track down and share passwords. At the same time, the church's computers can remain on the secured, encrypted network, safe from any shennanigans on the public network.

Some consumer routers (e.g, Netgear's excellent WNR3500L) support guest networks out of the box. On others you can install the open source DD-WRT firmware to add guest network capability (though networking expertise is recommended). DD-WRT also has the option of requiring visitors to agree to terms of service before getting online, similar to how many public wifi spots currnently work.

Security and accessibility are frequently at odds, so give some consideration to how you want your wireless network to be used before securing it.

Sometimes when I need a little break at work and other times at home I visit Sacred Space, a website run by the Jesuits of Ireland, which walks you through a brief devotion and provides internal links to help stimulate your thougts.

When you search, you will want to keep the words together. Youversion will get you there.

The NIV is free on YouVersion, as long as you are connected to the internet. You can only view it online. There are some translations you can download and use offline, but NIV is only available online.

Great, I just found it!

It's a bit hard to find a search for "You Version" doesn't work.  If you just search for Bible and then look for the one that says LifeChurch.tv by it you found it.  The NIV was free when I got it but I don't know if it was a limited time offer...

That's helpful, Kris, thanks. I hadn't been able to find an app that includes the NIV--I'll check it out.

I just started using the YouVersion Bible App for my daily Bible Reading on my IPod.  I'm doing a Chronological read through the Bible.  I can set it up to send me e-mail reminders and encouragement but I haven't used that feature.  The app and the NIV, NLT Message were all free.  I really like the way it keeps track of my progress and keeps me faithful.

This is great, love the ways technology is being used for spiritual growth!

I'll second that!

I get the Today devotional in my inbox every day. It has absolutely made a difference in the consistency of my daily devotions. A book can be neglected on a busy morning, but with that quick devotional and a link to the bible passage right there on my i-phone, I actually do it every day!

It might not be the same for others who don't check their email every day (several times a day) but it certainly works for me.

Our church, Ivanrest CRC in Grandville, MI, did a "Wise Up" series on Proverbs in January.  Pastor Tony Meyer sent out a daily devotional each day via e-mail to those who signed up.  We were challenged as a church to read through Proverbs together and our weekly messages were based on a section of Proverbs.  Our family looked forward to the daily messages and used them for our dinner-time each day.  I also subscribe to The Today via e-mail and pass my Blackberry around to whichever family member volunteers to read devotions at dinner-time.

I didn't know there was an app for the "Today" devotional. ("Today" is a daily devotional published by ReFrame, previously The Back to God Hour. Check out their home page for links to the app - and more information.) How cool is that?! There truly is an app for everything.

Good idea on linking to the Bible Gateway site. I use that site all the time. I'll try to remember to post again and let you know how things go with our Bible study groupo.

Thanks for sharing, Jolanda!

My husband's Iphone is really handy for morning devotions. We use the Today App, which also includes a link to the Bible, so we're never hunting for the little book or the Bible--it's all right there on the phone! 

If you do start sending out emails, you can easily look up the Bible passage in biblegateway.com and then send the link to your group. I hope you'll post again to let us know how it works.

I run two personal websites, both on WordPress, and I LOVE the functionality it provides without too much techie knowledge required. Especially with a premiuim theme (I'm partial to StudioPress).

I like the idea of Google Apps, especially because you can put together a pretty decent site FOR FREE on Google Sites. You're a bit limited on what you can do, but not too terribly much. And you get to integrate easily with so many cool Google goodies.

We currently use WordPress hosted on eleventwo.com. Comparable in price to justhost.com. But it does require a bit more tech knowledge than Google sites.

We purchased our domain through GoDaddy, a choice I regret now that I see their commercials.

In god we trust. AMIN!

Great input, Robert. It sounds like you've got a lot of expertise and insight on this topic - thank you!

What a good point that there is a different "problem" than just clear words. I love the idea that we can use our visuals, as we try to use all our gifts, to help us -- and others -- experience God more fully.

Thanks a million for those $.02.  :)

A great resource for principles and suggestions on "slide" design is: A Guidebook for Visual Worship by Stephen Proctor. You can purchase it here.

Also, as a comment, I'd like to see us think more in terms of communicating visually as opposed to simply putting text on a screen in a way that is readable. Certainly text communicates, and it would be hard to sing a song without the words, but it seems the "problem" we are trying to overcome is more profound than "we needed the words and we didn't want to get a book out." I would contend that the "problem" to solve is our disconnection from our God, and that good visuals, whether on the screen or in the stained glass or projected on the walls help us experience God in a way that words alone cannot.

Just my $.02

Eva,

There is an article in the network called "How to Use Facebook at Your Church" that will give you some good basic information. Also, if you do a search for "Facebook" on the site you'll find quite a lot of resources.

If you need something just for your church members, you would probably want to use something else. If you'd like to share what specifically you are trying to do in regard to information for your members only, we very likely have resources on the Network for those purposes as well. Let us know.

When you use Facebook for your church, you typically would not be protecting it from others or keeping it secure. The whole idea of Facebook is to share information, not keep it protected. It's a great way to connect with people where they're at, and to publicize events and share photos and news. You might think of it more similar to your church's public website than a private, for-your-church-members-only tool.

For example, our church, along with two others, is planning a city-wide 9-11 memorial service. One way we are spreading the word is through Facebook. I posted information and a link about the event on our church Facebook page and invited everyone to share it with their Facebook friends. In this way, the word gets out and multiplies -- besides those who are fans of our page, as those fans post it, the word gets to their friends. And if their friends post it, it gets to their friends, and so on and so on.

Hope this helps!

Mavis

I have been a salesforce.com administrator for 4 years and I am seriously considering trying to implement salesforce.com for our church.  I think I could get it to manage just about every process we have.  Have you actually implemented it or are you just speculating?  I would like to see some real-world examples of what other churches have done.

BTW-  The Chatter feature would be HUGE for communication between ministry leaders (think Sunday School) and volunteers to communicate schedules, whether a sub is needed, etc.  Just give all volunteers a Chatter account (perhaps even a very limited salesforce.com account) and then everyone can communicate.

We are debating the pros & cons about going on Facebook. Can you provide more information? How can it be used to bring information to our members? How secure is it? How can it be protected so that those outside of our church do not have access to it? Would like feedback for churches who already are using facebook and if they are happy with it.

Thanks for your help, Eva

Wow, @Tim, you declined your chance at 15 minutes of fame! ;-) Probably a smart move. But, yes, wouldn't it be great if Google would change their minds? Seems to me it'd fit right in with their motto of "Do no evil." (That's them, right?)

Interesting. I can completely understand why companies want to differentiate between various types of non-profits. I just hope that Google considers adopting Microsoft's approach of setting up a separate program for religious organizations.

Update: I just got a call from FOX & Friends. They saw Matt Branaugh's Christianity Today article and asked if I'd be interviewed for a segment on their show.

I declined, but it's interesting how this little discussion thread can turn into something bigger. And, even in declining, maybe Google will see my tweet about it and reconsider their stance. Not super-likely, but one can always hope!

Tim, very cool you were quoted because of the network. Very UN-cool that Google has made this change. Maybe they'll change their mind? I guess that's a slim chance, but we can hope.

Christianity Today just posted a story about this - Google Cuts Churches Out of Non-Profit Program

Matt Branaugh's reporting answered some of the questions I had (especially the part about existing churches getting grandfathered in). BTW, the reason I was quoted was because he saw this discussion on The Network. Cool, eh?

Michael -

I checked with our CRCNA IT department, and here's what I found...

First of all, some of the big-name vendors that most churches are interested in (e.g. Adobe, Microsoft) can't be purchased at a non-profit discount through TechSoup's purchasing program (see their list for religious organizations). So it may be better to use TechSoup for information, but then check on the vendor's website or through a local reseller to see if you qualify. Or, just check some of the big-box stores to see what the pricing is like there.

If you do want to purchase through TechSoup AND you have your own 501c3, go for it. But, as you point out, many churches don't have their own 501c3 because they can all fall under the CRCNA's umbrella (as I understand it at least). While it would be technically possible to associate the CRCNA's TechSoup account with that of individual churches, the benefits are mediocre at best. Not only because of the issue above, but because many of the vendors further restrict purchasing to organizations below a certain $ threshold (e.g. Sage is under $500,000 so the CRCNA account doesn't qualify). And other vendors restrict the number of licenses an organization can get (one license among all the CRCs won't go far!). And we'd need to think about how the payments would be handled (does payment/invoice info get saved with the organization profile?). Our IT department is on the lookout for deals they can extend to churches, but they've judged that this one has too many limitations to make the benefits worthwhile.

Having said all that, if there's a specific software that, after doing your research, you find fully qualifies for purchasing under the CRCNA TechSoup account and is not limited to a single license and can save your church big bucks...send me a direct message through The Network and we can see if we can make it happen for you.

Even without using their purchasing program, the TechSoup website is a valuable source of information for churches. So check it out even if you don't use the purchasing side of it.

Hope this helps!

Good suggestion but Techsoup requires that you be a 501C3 registered organization which many if not most churches are only an implied 501c3. There is a way around it but to date I have not been able to make it work. Since the local congregation is a "branch" of the parent denomination "CRC", they can use their 501c3. The CRC has a subscription to Techsoup (according to Techsoup) but the CRC office does not know the account number or how to access so those CRC congregations that could be using the great resources of Techsoup can not because they can't get access without going through the long and usually costly process of obtaining their own 501c3. If you know how to get the info from the CRC offices in regard to Techsoup and can share it with our congregation, please do.

Tim, I had heard about Google's change and tried to find something official about it. I saw, as you did, the wording on their guidelines. I couldn't find anywhere where they'd made a statement about the change, but I guess that it would make sense they wouldn't do that. It's a shame. I felt kind of betrayed when I heard about it, after thinking how wonderful it was that Google offered the free licenses to churches.

Kyle, I like your idea. I wish Google would come out and say something.

I've seen this more and more in a post-9/11 world. Businesses are shying away from supporting non-profit organizations that prosthelytize. No business want to risk having their product linked to a radical extremist. Some organizations, like Microsoft, have a separate (but still very good) license for religious organizations. Hopefully Google will consider having something like this, as well as grandfathering in existing religious customers.

Thanks for the comments Kyle and Todd, I have seen twitter work in many different capacities, both with Tech-savy people and vice versa.  For me it goes back to knowing where your audience/client/consumer/congregation is and then spending some time in conversation with them.  Twitter is one of those things (like many others) that the more time and effort you put in to it, the more you get out of it as well.  

 

Thanks for your comments!  

Jason/@jasondyk 

The junior high pastor at my church manages dozens of volunteers. When one joins the ministry, he makes them get a Twitter account and follow a certain account. He then uses this account to post messages for his volunteers. His thinking is that Twitter is available on all cellphones & an easy way to do regular updates--even urgent ones like "The weather has cancelled tonight's meeting!"

I work at a CRC agency and one of our programs deals with communications issues for churches. Here's a white paper Church Juice released on using Twitter as a Ministry Tool. It includes the basics of how to use Twitter and shows how other churches are successfully using this form of social media.

I often tell people that Twitter is not a must for organizations and churches: You need to think through why you would use it and how. If you do it, do it right. Be interacctive. Don't just advertise or broadcast. Share. Be present. Tweet more than once a week. Even if you don't have the staff to man an active, menaingful account, you should have the capability for people to share your website or content viz their Twitter account. Here's a good resource on that.

We host a Serve missions week through Youth Unlimited every year. In past years we've used Twitter to provide, brief, up-to-the-moment updates from the work sites, with the idea that friends & family back at home could follow us and be especially keyed into what their loved ones are experiencing. With that said, my experience has been the uptake on Twitter outside the tech savvy community is still relatively low, especially compared to Facebook.

Sounds like a really interesting project. Like the others, I unfortunately have no suggestions, but am very interested in what you learn. 

you might try kemmeyer.com, a website/blog of the communications director of Grainger Community Church. You also might try churchmarketingsucks.com.

 

You might check with either the research center at Calvin College or the Pew Forum website.

Good questions, Phil. I don't personally know any answers, unfortunately. I'd love to hear more about your project and how it turns out. I'm hoping others on the network will have some ideas.

You're right, Allen, knowing what you're doing makes a big difference, and that takes training.

Staying focused is definitely a prerequisite, too, as you noted. Once when I was recruiting new people in a bulletin announcement I wrote that one of the necessary skills was to stay cool when things go wrong. No matter how hard we try, sometimes things do just go wrong (As Jon Acuff also wrote in his blog, "God hates microphones."), and staying calm is another necessary skill. 

Thanks for sharing your perspective, as someone who's on the other end of the mike.

posted in: Say Thanks

Thanks Mavis,

I know that running sound and tech can be a very thankless job.  The sad thing is that people have no clue what it takes to do that ministry well.  As a worship pastor I trained our sound techs thoroughly so they had less of those head turns at them and could really help make the worship band sound good.  As a musician, I'm at the mercy of the sound people to help create excellent sound.  As a preaching pastor I am counting on the projection volunteers to make sure the screen is projecting what it's supposed to at the right time.  Both ministries require focused attention to details -- not something just anyone can do.  The sound people especially need to know what to listen for in order to tweak the sound just right -- what knob and slider does what and how to use it.

Kudos to all the techies out there who love what they do and seek to do it better!!  And strength to those who have been battered from insensitive parishoners.

Go thank your tech people after church this Sunday  :-)

posted in: Say Thanks

yes, that is the goal, doing the job so well that no one notices!

thank-you sound people!

posted in: Say Thanks

Thanks Mavis. After a few long days at synod it was so nice to see your post.

Webcast traffic has been very steady (~1,350 unique viewers so far) and there's been some very good discussions in the chat. It's like a real-time extension of what we're doing on The Network!

posted in: Say Thanks

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