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Slashdot CSS Redesign Contest 587

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the at-long-last dept.
A few months back we went and redesigned Slashdot with fancy new CSS templates. The idea was that with a new clean CSS framework under the skin, we could more easily redesign the look & feel of the site. At that time I mentioned that we wanted to have a contest to redesign Slashdot. Well that time has come. Read on for the rules, instructions, and timeline. Oh, and did I mention that the top prize is a new laptop?

I will pick the winner based on a series of arbitrary and random criteria, many of which I will list below. The list is by no means comprehensive, but it should give you a good starting point.

I'm sure there are ultimately things that I'm forgetting. But the key goal here is to create the new look & feel for Slashdot. The winner is the one who creates what gets us the closest to a new site design.

This contest will be highly subjective. Ultimately tho, it falls upon me to select the winner based on arbitrary and subjective factors like aesthetics, as well as more tangible ones like implementability and compatibility.

CRITERIA

What follows is a brief list of criteria I will use to judge, as well as how to submit your entries. Remember that anything artistic I suggest is just that- a suggestion. If you hate green, go ahead and make a blue design. I'm just telling you what I'm looking for in a winning design... and while I am the judge, nothing is set in stone... like any good art student knows- you can do almost anything you want as long as you can rationalize it in your critique.

  1. Uses our existing CSS framework - We are willing to make minor changes to our underlying HTML if need be, but the ideal winner is implemented entirely by using custom images and CSS. Almost every element on Slashdot is appropriately classed or ID'd now, so you should be able to do it.
  2. Works compatibly on most browsers - IE, Firefox, Mozilla, and Safari represent the bulk of our traffic. Ideally a winning candidate works on these platforms, but also degrades nicely to the less popular browsers. We'll test winners against whatever we have access to. We're not expecting everyone's entry to work perfectly and identically on every platform that exists, but if your whole design hangs on CSS trickery that only works under 1 browser, you will lose!
  3. Retains all major bits of information - unless you can make a case for dropping something! Articles need bylines. You still need space for our ads. We still need a submenu to list out all the sections. If you want to trim down menus or something, we'll consider that, but most items on our pages need to be there for some reason. You'll need to rationalize dropping items from menus or removing parts of the UI that we need.
  4. Doesn't require us to add major new bits of data - There are a million great ideas for functions and features that could be added to Slashdot. This is not the place to propose them. This is about Look & Feel. This is not about telling us that we need voting on articles or tagging on polls. Those are valid feature suggestions that we would love to do one day. But this contest is about look & feel. Save feature requests for another time (and remember, patches are always welcome!)
  5. Topic Icons - So we have 150+ topic icons. Your design needs to incorporate our existing icons, and not require that we rebuild all of them. That means most likely that the icons sit on a white background. The icons themselves vary from around 50x100 to 100x50 but most float around 64x64. I'd strongly suggest that a winning entry is submitted using our existing topic icons as examples. let me say that again we have 150+ icons, and we can't rebuild them all. Your design should use our icons. Not new ones. That means sizes, and white backgrounds. This is the one rule that is pretty hard and fast. And no we're not switching to anti-aliased PNGs yet. Sorry.
  6. Entries ought not be bandwidth gluts. No hard/fast size limits here, but if your page requires 2 megs of jpegs to render, I'd suggest moving on.
  7. Retains some sense of visual continuity with Today's Slashdot - This one is the real challenge I think. From the Slashdot 'Shade of Green' (#006666) to the curve on the upper left hand corner of the page & article headers, to the use of the Coliseo font, I really think that many of these design elements need to persist. You are welcome to ignore me of course. But I'm being totally up front about this point: the winning entry ought to echo the current design. How loud of an echo is up to you.
  8. Entries should show as at least the index, but ideally a few other pages to see how their design might look showing other data formats. I really think Slashdot has 4 "major" pages: The Index, The Article, The Comments, and The User. I'm not saying you need to do all four, but the winning design needs to translate well to every data type on the site. The more guidance you give us, the more likely you are to win.
  9. I have to like it. Design something pretty. Design something high-tech. Design something minimal. Design something elaborate. I don't know what the winner will look like. I'm excited to see what you guys come up with.

HOW TO ENTER

My preferred method of submission would be that you email redesign at cmdrtaco.net with a URL to a place where I can see your design. Alternatively, if you have no access to a web server, I will accept a zip file or tarball, but would REALLY prefer URLs where possible.

I fully intend to critique good entries. The goal here is of course to get the best looking, bandwidth efficient, compatible, attractive Slashdot. If I think your design is ugly, I'll tell you. If I think it's close, I'll give you specific ideas. I'm the judge here, so this is totally unfair. But again, my goal here is not to be fair, it's to make Slashdot look awesome.

I'm going to give this 2 weeks, and then I'm going to share with you some of my favorites at that point in a story. I'll try to tell you all what I like about these designs. I'll ask at that time for your feedback. Then I'll give everyone one more week. The contest will continue to be open to anyone who wants. Everyone is welcome to refine their designs, or submit new ones right until the end.

Between now and then, I will try to post a few journal entries as I see good designs float through. I want this whole process to be as participative as possible.

At the end of this time, I will pick a winner. I will be biased. I will be unfair. I will pick the design that I think is the best for Slashdot based on the criteria I mention above as well as my own personal sense of aesthetics.

The winner will get a fancy laptop. We haven't picked the exact one yet, but it's going to be a good one- we're not cutting corners. You'll be able to choose from a MacBook Pro or else a bleeding edge Alienware laptop. We'll pick the specs when we pick a winner so you get whatever is supremely awesome, but valued up to US $4500. We'll also be offering a $250 runner up prize.

Lastly, our corporate lawyer tells us that you are required to read the official rules before you enter.

Good luck to everyone. Happy designing. Have fun... I can't wait to see what people come up with!

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Slashdot CSS Redesign Contest

Comments Filter:
  • OMG PONIES! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:02PM (#15205803)
    SWEET!
  • OK... (Score:5, Funny)

    by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:04PM (#15205829)
    Oh, and did I mention that the top prize is a new laptop?
    But the question on everyone's mind is ... does it run Linux?
  • by nelsonal (549144) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:05PM (#15205839) Journal
    Just reuse this one [deekayen.net].

    You can send the laptop to:
    Troll, inc
    Under your bridge
    Mid-town, USA 00192
  • by hattig (47930) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:06PM (#15205851) Journal
    If multiple entries prove to be good, especially for different targets (e.g., Light HTML, Mobile Presentation, etc) then it should be trivial to implement having multiple stylesheets the user can select, either via the browser's stylesheet selector, or in the user preferences.

    However I quite liked the OMG Ponies design...
    • by Surt (22457) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:52PM (#15206243) Homepage Journal
      I liked OMG ponies also, so I definitely think an assortment of user selectable options would be great. Consider your proposal seconded.
    • Exactly! When I saw this rule:

      Retains some sense of visual continuity with Today's Slashdot - This one is the real challenge I think. From the Slashdot 'Shade of Green' (#006666) to the curve on the upper left hand corner of the page & article headers, to the use of the Coliseo font, I really think that many of these design elements need to persist.

      I was crestfallen 'cause the very first thing I'd thought of with this contest was that I'd find a cooler colour scheme. Also, when the OMG!! Ponies!! des

  • by Heliologue (883808) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:07PM (#15205857)
    If Slashdot is ugly (and it is), why are so many of its "characteristic" elements supposed to be retained? One of the first things I'd do in a redesign is drop the #006666. And why not let users submit new icon packs? Once again, the icons currently in use are pretty horrendous, and yet the criterion is "Make it look pretty while still using our shitty gifs. So let's see: The redesign has to keep the same title font, the same top-left curve, and the same green; it must have white content areas, because it must incorporate the lovely set of circa 1999 icons. What exactly are you expecting?
  • Make it Ugly (Score:3, Interesting)

    by neonprimetime (528653) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:11PM (#15205892) Homepage
    Remeber this story? [slashdot.org]
  • by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:12PM (#15205898) Homepage
    How about something that blocks all Dvorak articles?
  • by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdot @ e x i t0.us> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:15PM (#15205914) Homepage
    I'm actually looking forward to this "American Idol" evaluation of the CSS submissions. Goot luck to the entrants.
  • Quick! (Score:3, Funny)

    by OctoberSky (888619) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:17PM (#15205936)
    Quick! Some Anonomous Coward send Taco a link to Digg.com just to fuck with him.
  • Runner up? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:19PM (#15205951)
    We demand a signed photograph of CmdrTaco as a runner up prize. Mod this up if you agree!
  • by greenmars (685118) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:20PM (#15205963)
    10. Creative treatment of grammatical errors Some sort of highlighting for its/it's errors would be nice.
  • by FortKnox (169099) * on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:21PM (#15205970) Homepage Journal
    The 'top selected URLs' you plan on using in two weeks... will you provide the webspace to host them. Because most of us have bandwidth expenses and fear the slashdot effect from the story...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:57PM (#15206282)
      Anecdotally, I've heard the Slashdot effect isn't nearly what it used to be. And the statistics are there to support this claim. The rate of commenting sitewide (including journals, polls, and user-created sids) is down over 25% from its peak [imageshack.us] in 2004-2005. This is publicly verifiable knowledge; just dig around in old stories and note the comment IDs.

      Posting anonymously, with no cookies, from a foreign proxy, with an alternate browser, so as not to get "bitchslapped" down by the editors.
  • by Stick_Fig (740331) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:22PM (#15205979) Homepage
    ...don't just redecorate it.

    Your confines are really tight, and don't really provide any room for the identity to grow. Considering your competition (digg) has a much stronger, cleaner design because they haven't had to be tied to a decade of old design rules, I would almost say that you'd be better off throwing some of the rules out.

    I think if you really want to redesign the site, you need to be willing to try new approaches with the architecture -- redoing many of the icons, cleaning up what can be a glut of information, and giving the site a more modern style that suits 2006. Tebrand the site and get rid of the font; create a new logo.

    I hate to put it this way, because it's so cliche, but think outside the box. Your parameters make the box really hard to move around in.

    I'm betting the best designs you get are the ones that ignore your rules and regulations the most.
  • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:23PM (#15205989)
    Retains some sense of visual continuity with Today's Slashdot - This one is the real challenge I think. From the Slashdot 'Shade of Green' (#006666) to the curve on the upper left hand corner of the page & article headers, to the use of the Coliseo font, I really think that many of these design elements need to persist. You are welcome to ignore me of course. But I'm being totally up front about this point: the winning entry ought to echo the current design. How loud of an echo is up to you.

    This one made me forget about entering. You listed the main things I hate the most about the current design. And while you say 'you can ignore me of course', it is strongly implied that this would be an exercise in futility.

    I'm not sure I know how to please someone who's aesthetic discretion module is so blinkered as to actually cause an affection for Coliseo. :)

    • by CmdrTaco (1) * <malda AT slashdot DOT org> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:31PM (#15206058) Homepage Journal
      Which is why I said 'How loud of an echo is up to you'. You are welcome to ignore any element. I don't want the new design to ignore it's past. I also don't want it to be limited by it. I want the old Slashdot readers to still feel like they are reading Slashdot. Thats the challange I guess... how far can a talented designer go...

      the winning design may end up being purple. I don't know. But I think echoing a few elements of todays design is important, and will be judging with that in mind.

      • Purple? (Score:3, Funny)

        by ari_j (90255)
        I hereby petition you not to accept any design based chiefly around the color purple. Any other color (OMG PONIES included ... that's a valid HTML color name, right?) is acceptable, but not purple.
      • I imagine that I don't really need to tell you this, but I'll do so for the sake of the improbable case that you have not yet realized it: Slashdot's core "nerds" audience is generally offended by restrictions of any kind, and moreover are fascinated by the concept of the edge case. If you suggested that the contest would give $1,000,000 to all entrants as long as they submitted their entry as a bziped tar file, you would get 100 responses on this page about how unreasonable it is to require bzip over gzip/
      • Taco: Could you explain your model, young man?
        Anonymous Coward: What's to explain? He's an idiot!
        Mods: Pipe down!
        Eddeye: Well basically, I just copied the plant we have now.
        Taco: Mm-hmm.
        Eddeye: Then, I added some fins to lower wind resistance. And this racing stripe here I feel is pretty sharp.
        Taco: Agreed. First prize!
        Anonymous Coward: But it, it was a contest for children!
        Mods: Yeah. And Eddeye beat their brains out!
    • by tverbeek (457094) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:44PM (#15206168) Homepage
      These are standard "identity redesign" constraints. When Pepsi or Burger King or AT&T or DC Comics redesigns their corporate identity package, they ask for something that has some continuity with the old one. Same here.
    • This one made me forget about entering. You listed the main things I hate the most about the current design. And while you say 'you can ignore me of course', it is strongly implied that this would be an exercise in futility.

      Love it or hate it, /. has a strong brand. To throw away the brand in pursuit of aesthetics would be kind of silly.
  • by MasterC (70492) <cmlburnett@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:25PM (#15206015) Homepage
    Instead of requiring someone to set something up elsewhere, it'd be nice if you could post your CSS to your user account and have it applied (much like on wikipedia). Slap in an option on the URL to viewing the page with someone else's style sheet. Bam. All your entries are in one place; no one has to worry about setting up hosting elsewhere; anyone can view anyone's entry (or throw a admin-only thing on it or something if you care); etc.

    Only problem I see is that you can't do anything outside of what you can do with a style sheet. If someone's that serious then they shouldn't have a problem/lack-of-motivation of setting up hosting elsewhere.

    Better still: make this permanent. If I don't like X or Y then I can tweak my own style sheet the way I want. But I suppose that'd lead to user's finding a way to display: none the adverts.

    Oh well, one can dream I guess...
  • by orthogonal (588627) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:31PM (#15206056) Journal
    A $4500 laptop is pretty cheap for a complete site makeover. Not to mention getting dozens if not hundreds of non-winning redesigns done on spec, any of which may be mined for additional ideas:

    (c) By submitting your Entry you hereby agree to the following terms: The Design will be deemed a "work made for hire", as that phrase is used in the United States copyright law, and all right, title and interest in and to the Design will vest automatically in Sponsor. To the extent the Design is not deemed to be a "work made for hire," you hereby assign, transfer and convey, and agree to further assign, transfer and convey, to Sponsor any and all your intellectual property rights in the Design.


    Taco's getting a great deal here.

    And more power to him, but let me suggest he sweeten the deal a bit.

    (I'm not suggesting this put of self-interest: I'm a programmer, not a graphics designer. And besides, I prefer the minimalist non-graphic Slashdot interface anyway.)

    In addition to the laptop, give the winner a tiny link to his (or her) site on any Slashdot page using his design. On the bottom of each page, in a small font size, something like "Page design by Winner's Name/a>.

    This costs Slashdot nothing, and gives the winner free advertising that lets him participate in his own success. He can link to a site that offers redesigns for as fee, or a blog that explains his design principles and gets him some ad revenue, or whatever.

    For the non-winning submissions that become Slashdot's "work for hire" property, at least put up a gallery of those designs, hosted by Slashdot and linking to the submitters' sites, so that Slashdot's readers can check them out and give the non-winners some business or at least page views.


    And Slashdot should relax the work for hire provisions of the legal contest rules; I understand that Slashdot wants to be unhindered in its use of submitted designs and careful not to open itself to any law suits, but maybe Slashdot could provide an more Open Source example than requiring that all submissions, even the non winning ones, "transfer and convey, to Sponsor any and all your intellectual property rights in the Design".

    Again, more power to Taco and Slashdot. Taco's leveraged Slashdot's visibility to get some serious work done for free. Just use that leverage to reward the contest submitters too.

  • e-e-e-e-18 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tehshen (794722) <tehshen@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:33PM (#15206076)
    (e) You hereby represent and warrant that you are eighteen (18) years of age or older and that you are free to enter into this agreement;
    I'd like to know why this is here. Is there some law against "minors" entering for contests somewhere? (not sarcastic, there very well might be)
    • Re:e-e-e-e-18 (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jerf (17166) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:42PM (#15206144) Journal
      Minors can't sign contracts.

      Parents can theoretically sign on their behalf, but handling that on a large scale is hard, and there are a lot of other laws protecting minors, such as child labor laws in this case, that while you may not be in violation of, it's easier just to skip the problem entirely.

      Please be sure you understand that last sentence before replying. I'm not saying this contest would violate child labor laws. I'm saying that verifying that in all relevant jurisdictions, plus any other relevant law, isn't economically worthwhile.

      Since a minor can't sign a contract, the minor can't transfer IP rights as necessary to Slashdot. Obviously, this would be another layer of hassle for Slashdot if they picked a minor as the winner, getting the parent to sign instead. (This is where a creative lawyer could bring in "child labor" laws, by construing the prize as payment. Creative and unlikely to win, certainly, but Slashdot has "already lost" just by being sued.) And I'm not certain, but there may be issues with trying to directly give the prize to the minor, as well.

      It's just not worth it.
  • by Walkiry (698192) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:45PM (#15206175) Homepage
    As long as they stop the browser from jumping to the end of the bloody page every other time when I try to highlight text.
  • by SensitiveMale (155605) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:45PM (#15206177)
    Third prize is "You're fired".
  • just css? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 20oz (970887) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:51PM (#15206241)
    Is javascript using some of the more well known frameworks/scripts (ie: dojo or prototype) allowed?
  • by T-Kir (597145) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:53PM (#15206254) Homepage

    Coliseo Font [searchfreefonts.com] (direct download)... from here [searchfreefonts.com] in case they don't link the hotlinking to the zip file.

    Good luck everyone!

  • by nizo (81281) * on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:55PM (#15206266) Homepage Journal
    It might be useful, since we could stick to whatever layout you are used to now anyway.
  • by Nate Fox (1271) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:58PM (#15206292)
    check out my brand new design:
    http://s87360432.onlinehome.us/slashdot.html [onlinehome.us]

    After reading the rules, like the one that says 'echo the current layout' and 'use the same font' and 'dont change the graphics' - I REALLY think taco will pick my new layout. New laptop, here I come!!
  • by eston (758303) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @01:09PM (#15206375)

    I'm sorry, but I can't throw any support behind this endeavour at all. After all, I think it's time to go back and look at what was just said:

    Hey guys! I'm more than willing to let you redesign this place. Oh, keep that shitty logotype, and that "Slashdot Green", and the crappily-compressed icons of yesteryear. Actually, what we want is you to just change things minimally, and we want to do as little work on the Slashcode backend (and information architecture) as possible.

    The point you guys are missing here is twofold: first, a redesign is more than just skin-deep; second, it's hard to even get to the skin-deep side of things when you're stifling creativity to the point of where the only thing you want to see is exactly what you've got now. Just go do a find/replace and change section heads to Helvetica and body copy to Georgia, space out your line-height a bit more, and voila! instant Slashdot "redesign". I wouldn't even call it much of a facelift.

    You guys are trying to compete with places that are obviously out of your league from a UI perspective at that. As my friend Stick_Fig said above, Digg works because it's drastically cleaner on the frontend, and the only way to get that cleanliness on Slashdot in a CSS change would be to add a ton of display: none; to the code. This offers no benefit in decreasing load time to the user and just makes the site that more frivolous.

    You've already lost some part of your readerbase to sites like Digg (which is a forbidden term around these parts) and quick-access links lists like del.icio.us popular [del.icio.us]. Asking for a facelift isn't helping your cause.

    Anyway, let's get to that point: Changing a CSS file is not a "redesign". Saying so is just fooling yourself. A true redesign would take into account plenty of information architecture, markup optimisation, and a total re-thinking of Slashcode's interface. It's not enough to simply change green to blue and underline your links with dotted borders. A redesign requires changes to the markup both for semantics/accessibility as well as to maintain a coherent architecture across the redesign. A redesign requires thinking outside of the box on comment layout, administrative interface, and site structure.

    You should be allowing designers and developers to tweak Slashcode itself as well as the template's markup. This readerbase is more than talented enough to do so. Once the aging Slashcode dinosaur is brought into check and architecture has been optimised, things can move along smoothly on the CSS end of things. And no, that HTML/CSS thing that you guys did a few months back (that CmdrTaco is saying was so snazzy) really doesn't change much of anything. Changing markup and not changing any internal IA structure is useless, and this contest is exactly what designer Khoi Vinh complained about in October [publish.com].

    Slashdot, you're pretty much keeping yourself right on the same track. This is just as short-sighted as the original concept was, and I don't see anything changing drastically here in the near future. From the article on Publish.com:

    Without the freedom to rethink, for instance, Slashdot's comment threading, or its presentation of search results, or its topic pages, the net effect of a redesign will be considerably less impactful than one might hope for: prettier but not sturdier. This is because the linchpin of effective online graphic design--a mindful awareness of architecture and usability--will be hampered by the existing code. There may very well be new improvements to these architectural challenges in development, but even the best design based on today's feature set will have difficulty adapting to significant future changes in the user experience. Like a lot of facelifts, this one may be pleasing at first glance, but will likely prove somehow unsatisfactory afte

  • I have an even better contest. I call it "Do My Job 2006."

    1. I send you a list of my job duties.
    2. You do my job.
    3. You give your results to me.
    4. Of all applications, I choose the best to reward with a paltry fraction of my income in the form of a prize.
  • by Aqua OS X (458522) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:09PM (#15208217)
    Not to sounds like a know it all SOB, but 3 weeks for pro bono design and development is somewhat rushed. At the very least, this time table is going to alienate the best professional designers that frequent this site. In my experience, the really good designers are busy, and if you want to get free work from them, you need to give them some time. On the other hand, there are tons of mediocre "designers" that have all the time in the world.

    Slashdot is a large site and could be a great portfolio piece. I will probably forward this info to my colleagues. Yet I don't think this contest properly geared toward the design process. That could result in a final site that isn't as successful as it could be.

    For a high traffic site you really want something more then a shinny skin. You want someone to consider more then development and contemporary graphics. You want someone to who understands branding, interaction, typography, psychology, and other aspects of visual communication. Realistically, a small site for a paying client might need two weeks for sketches and or photoshop / illustrator comps, and an additional week for an interactive comp. For a non-paying client, I'd doubt that time frame.

    Once again, I don't intend to sounds like a whiny SOB, and I'm sure someone will flame the hell out of this post, nevertheless there things the boys behind Slashdot could do to assure a better end result. At the very least, give the contest a 2 month deadline, and pass this information to organizations like the AIGA. You'll get a better selection of successful solutions.
  • BBC Reboot (Score:3, Interesting)

    by math0ne (567591) <math0ne@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @07:09PM (#15208879) Homepage
    A lot of people seem to be criticizing CmdrTaco ethically for holding this competition. I personally don't see it as an issue, but its always interesting what other people's opinions are. BBC is holding a very similar competition (http://open.bbc.co.uk/reboot/ [bbc.co.uk]). They received a lot of the same negative comments from people that this is like getting a $10,000 job done for half the price with twice the creative control. However these people did not realize the winner would only be showcased for one day and retained complete intellectual property of the design. BBC had this to say about it: "I would completely agree with jay that we would be ripping people off if we were going to turn entries submitted into the final homepage design. But that's not the objective of this competition." Interesting read at any rate, and very relevant to peoples criticisms.

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