A Self Guided Tour App How-To (Part 2)

Ideas for content to be included in a self guided tour app aren’t usually too hard to find. As mentioned in part one of our how-to on building a self guided tour app, public spaces, parks, museums, walking tours, and non-profits usually have an idea of where to start. A few questions need to be asked to help shape the content being collected.

There is often a bigger question for management, because it obviously affects budget: Are we providing the mobile devices that visitors use to access our self guided tour app?

There are several options . . .

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

You can provide your self guided tour app in the Google Play Store and App Store so that anyone can download and use the app.

Download Whitepoint for iPhones and iPads

This sticker shows the QR code for visitors to download the app and access your tour.

This is exactly what Whitepoint’s tour framework does for you. As an author, you offer your self guided tour as a scape within the Whitepoint framework, and users download the Whitepoint app. Your scape – the self guided tour – is available via the free Whitepoint app.

Your visitor brings his or her Android tablet, Android phone, iPad, or iPhone, and they access the app. With Whitepoint, you can even password protect your self guided tour app if desired.

To encourage the use of your guided tour, post stickers such as the one shown here. Whitepoint can even provide the stickers or the design file for you to print.

Provide the Mobile Device

Don’t rule out providing the hardware based on cost alone. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches for accessing your self guided tour app. The BYOD route is cheaper upfront. The upfront cost is higher when providing the mobile device yourself.

Because of the lower upfront cost than you would incur with an iPad, we recommend an Android tablet if you wish to provide the device to your visitors.

And, don’t forget that by providing the tablet, a museum or non-profit will have a more compelling reason to ask for a voluntary donation or even charge a small amount to use the tablet.

Save the Scape To The Tablet

One important advantage to providing the tablet is that you can save the Whitepoint scape to the device.

By doing this, your self guided tour app will not bog down your facility’s wifi connection. In fact, you won’t even need general wifi access if none of the widgets in your scape access the web.

Why Not Try a Custom Branded Tablet for Your Self Guided Tour App?

As discussed above, you can count on visitors to BYOD (bring their own device) or provide the hardware in-house.

If you do not want to do the legwork on providing the hardware, Whitepoint can help you source and setup private branded tablets. Reach out to us by email at sales -at- whitepoint.mobi.

We’d love to hear about your self guided tour app project. Please drop a reply to this blog article, email us, or tweet @WhitepointMobi.

Updated July 18, 2016.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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A Self Guided Tour App How-To (Part 1)

A self guided tour app is a great way to get people to engage with a place. Unfortunately for most organizations, the cost of developing a self guided tour app has relegated it to the bottom of the wish list. The Whitepoint framework makes having that tour app possible – at a true fraction of the cost.

Public parks, museums, galleries, walking tours – the possibilities for implementing a self guided tour app are endless. And, the benefits are many. People engage with the subject more meaningfully. And, having an app relieves some of the guided tour burden from already stretched staff. This is particularly important for any non-profit organization.

How Will Your Self Guided Tour App Be Used?

The first question to ask is: Who is your audience? If you are a museum or gallery, your audience is likely the visitors to your space, looking to learn more about what is on exhibit or display.

Whitepoint Tour of Hart Plaza - Detroit

You can see the whitepoints in this screenshot of a Whitepoint tour of Hart Plaza in Detroit. Whitepoints provide greater detail about points of interest.

If you’re providing a walking tour of a city or a park, you likely want to provide some level of basic navigation as well as more meaningful detail about the sights along the way. Who is the artist who sculpted the statue in the center of the park? Who does it depict? What stories can we capture and share that would otherwise go untold?

In some cases, such as our park example, a map image may be a good first image to use in your self guided tour app. In the Whitepoint framework, this image would be called your scape image – it serves as an overview of your tour subject, called a scape.

In the case of a museum or gallery tour app, you may want to introduce your scape with an image illustrating the exhibition itself or depicting the outside of your facility. The Whitepoint tour app framework is easy and flexible enough to leave the map view vs perspective view decision up to you.

The scenes and whitepoints in your scape are where you’ll share the meaty content of your self guided tour app.

Getting Started With the Whitepoint Tour App Framework

There are plenty of resources on the Whitepoint web site that dig into the nitty-gritty details of building your self guided tour app. Really, it isn’t that difficult. In fact, it is about as difficult as managing a Facebook page or WordPress blog.

There are two great places to get started with Whitepoint:

After spending some time with Whitepoint’s structure, you’ll realize how it acts as a tour content management system for you. And, you don’t pay to have one custom self guided tour app built (along with the ongoing cost of updating it).

Instead, you yourself can keep track and easily manage the information that makes your tour expertise unique.

If cost is the major issue, the basic Whitepoint framework is extremely affordable. And, you can start an authoring account today.

You’ve Got Tour Content, Now What?

You’ve got to deliver all that great tour content to your visitors. To put it simply, with Whitepoint, you can provide the content to both mobile devices and to desktop users – all for free. The next question becomes . . . what devices are they using? Are those mobile devices theirs or do I have to pay for them?

Actually, you can do it either way. We’ll get into that in our next installment . . . Part Two of “A Self Guided Tour App How-To.”

Updated July 18, 2016.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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The Search for an Online Mobile App Builder

Many businesses want their own custom mobile app. We’ve talked about custom tour apps before on our blog, and there is just something about having your very own app.  In fact, businesses want that app, and they want it now. Ideally, an online mobile app builder would make the process a lot less painful.

Let’s Say a Tool Claims To Be An Online Mobile App Builder . . .

Having your own mobile app requires a number of steps in not only development, but also in the developer account setup and management, app maintenance, and then promotion of that app.

For our purposes here, let’s focus on the development. One tool out there – called PhoneGap – does make it easier to build a basic mobile app. But, it does require scripting, so you are going to need a developer. And, if you’re going to attempt to do anything more than just a simple brochure app, it’s going to get complicated. Quickly.

Our past experience in and around Whitepoint is that you can quickly outgrow PhoneGap. And, once you do outgrow PhoneGap, you may find that having attempted native development from the beginning may have been more productive. Not to knock PhoneGap completely – the framework is easily understood and great for building a simple mobile app.

But, if you’re not a programmer, you may not realize that there are different stages of development. First of course, there’s coding. Then, there’s compiling. PhoneGap launched in recent years the PhoneGap Build cloud service which can greatly simplify this process.

However, when most think of an online mobile app builder, that’s not exactly what they have in mind.

What Kind of Mobile Presence Is Your Business Looking For?

Is Your Business Going Mobile and Looking for an Online Mobile App Builder?

If your business is going mobile, you may be looking for a quick way to do so, like an online mobile app builder. If so, keep some ideas in mind . . .

A lot of businesses and marketing teams simply need to point to a mobile app to say they have one. And that’s understandable. However, it may be more productive to think in terms of establishing a mobile presence, and that can mean more than just having your own app.

There are a lot of factors to consider when establishing and maintaining a mobile presence – why not look at it as a step by step process and establish a broader strategy for going mobile?

At Whitepoint, we’re a kind of mobile virtual tour provider – offering our free framework to help businesses build smart tours for mobile and establish a mobile presence that way. We do have an online interface for building your smart tour. But, we take the hassles out of coding, managing, and maintaining your own dedicated app.

Not quite an online mobile app builder per se, but it’s well worth including in your search for one.

Maybe you know of an online mobile app builder alternative we could feature here . . . if so, tell us about it. Comment below. While you’re at it, why not get started authoring with Whitepoint today?

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Social Mapping: Why Museums Should Care

Museums are data rich environments. It seems obvious, but we don’t often think of them in that way.

As a result of being data rich environments, they were key inspiration for Whitepoint – our framework for more easily and cost effectively managing smart tour content.

The entrance to a museum exhibition.

Screenshot from Whitepoint tour app showing the entrance to a museum exhibition. Note the Whitepoint data point that has been plotted to introduce the exhibition.

And, while working on developing the Whitepoint smart tour framework, we realized that the emerging field of social mapping was the best match for how expectations of technology were evolving for data rich environments like museums.

A Social Mapping Example

Waze is one of the higher profile examples of a social mapping app. As a source for crowdsourced traffic information – whether or not you’ve heard of it – you have very likely used it or its technology. Google purchased Waze in 2013 and began integrating its technology with Google Maps.

But, what does a traffic app have to do with museums?  Museums – being the data rich environments that they are – can benefit in a big way from developments in social mapping and where aspects of this technology are heading.

Developing a custom social mapping app is of course beyond the capability of most museum organizations right now. But there are four simple aspects – or qualities – that social mapping technology tends to have. And, these four items read like a checklist for museums looking for ideas on how to boost promotion efforts for their institution or make exhibitions more engaging.

 

So, What Are the Four Aspects of Social Mapping Technology?

Simply put, social mapping technology tends to have these qualities or characteristics:
  • Social – A social component that goes beyond just having a Twitter or Facebook account. Content encourages others to engage and “belong.”
  • Discovery – Discovery capability that enables linkages between individual interests and subject matter.
  • Navigation – As technology matures, we’ll likely find that mobile technologies will increasingly help people navigate smaller spaces – not just the larger spaces we see on maps now.
  • Mapping – The meaning of mapping here goes beyond the traditionally map-based meaning of the word. In the very near future, we’ll likely find that mapping things as data points – not just places – becomes routine.Consider the implications of data points that are not only easy to locate, but social-enabled.

With museums being the data rich environments that they are, they have a unique advantage in benefitting from social mapping. Beginning to think in these terms now may translate into many more, and happier, museum patrons in the future.

This article is based on highlights from a talk prepared for Museums and the Web ASIA 2013. You can view the supporting Whitepoint slideshow here:

 

 

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Thoughts on An Exhibition App

Exhibition apps can be expensive and time consuming. Content acquisition and preparation for that app – as for any exhibition guide – requires brains and some grunt work. Yet, the payoff in helping communicate new ideas and engage new patrons can be huge.

There are also interesting approaches that museums can take in the way an exhibition app speaks to different audiences. This of course has important implications for museum outreach.

An Exhibition App Case Study

An important exhibition at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center provides a perfect example of just how an exhibition app can help deliver meaningful, more engaging content to visitors whether on or offsite.

Scene from museum Whitepoint smart tour.

Scene from the Fallen Fruit of Atlanta Whitepoint tour. This exhibition provided countless opportunities for more detail or further explanation.

The exhibition, entitled Fallen Fruit of Atlanta, features more than 270 works divided into over a dozen groups. Each group has significance for the wider meaning of the exhibition and the overall experience.

In addition, with over 270 pieces in the exhibition, there are countless points for engagement and further exploration by visitors. On one hand, there is so much to absorb and on the other hand, so much that can be potentially missed.

Though the exhibition ends in December 2013, you can experience it with the Whitepoint smart tour here:

Different Audiences, Different Approaches

Different audiences have different needs and expectations from an exhibition. Unlike so many other ways of sharing details about specific items on display, an exhibition app – or smart tour – can provide more flexibility in how that information is conveyed.

In the example above, a single voice provides insights for a general art-interested public and facilitates jumping off points for further dialogue. However, an institution could just as easily provide different tours geared toward children or adults with different levels of literacy on the subject. In the end, it boils down to the goals of the institution, and of course, available brains and hands for managing that content.

Regardless, smart tours of spaces and exhibitions will become the expectation as our culture – already bombarded with content from a variety of sources – looks for knowledgeable voices to help them navigate spaces and create more meaningful experiences.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Tech Ideas, Insights, and Projects for Museums

Earlier this year, we were briefly mentioned in a document provided by the New Media Consortium called “The NMC Horizon Project Short List (2013 Museum Edition).” I’m glad this resource was brought to my attention, because it provides for museums a wealth of tech insights that would otherwise require a lot of legwork.

Because museums and non-profits are often working with limited resources, just the research alone into tech improvements that might enhance the visitor experience is often difficult. This document details a number of technologies of importance for museums, three of which I’m highlighting here.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Whenever museums consider a tour app rollout, the issue of providing hardware for visitor use will be raised as a major expense. What few museums realize is that they can leverage the proliferation of smart devices already in visitors’ hands.

The obvious technology to leverage in this fashion is the QR code, of course. However, content can be much more rich if a tour app is adopted that can install to iOS and Android devices. Blackberry and Windows devices are nice to have, but iOS and Android are a must.

For those visitors that don’t bring their own device, that’s fine. Two or three low cost tablets can be on hand to provide for their use.

Crowdsourcing for Museums

For a variety of reasons, institutions and curators aren’t often in a hurry to relinquish messaging and interpretation. However, the latest generation of museum visitors expect interaction and diverse viewpoints.

Museums can use technology to help bring context for visitors.

Visitors are now expecting more from museums, and technology can help bridge the gap.

Leveraging the “collective knowledge” of the community or a number of voices that are knowledgeable on the topic helps satisfy this expectation as well as alleviate the workload for understaffed museums. Technology can assist in both collecting and distributing the perspectives of those voices.

Engaging more voices results in a richer dialogue and logically, more traffic.

Augmented Reality

The technology for museums isn’t quite there yet, but once the ball starts rolling, it will happen fast.

The NMC Horizon Project Short List explains augmented reality as a “layering of information over 3D space” that provides new experiences and perspectives. For those not yet familiar with the technology, it sounds like something out of Blade Runner. But, proofs of concept and work in the field tell us that the technology is not that far away.

One of the factors that has delayed adoption of augmented reality is hardware related: Augmented reality is demanding on batteries and requires significant processor capability. And, for museums, associated costs will be significant.

Still, the move toward an augmented reality experience tells us how the curatorial space is changing and what the evolving visitor expectations are.

Do you represent a museum looking to enhance the visitor experience with technology? Please, tell us about it here.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Getting Closer to a Social Mapping Definition

Social mapping is an awkward buzz phrase. Right now, a search on Wikipedia will yield “social map.” It’s definition has a cartographic orientation. It also has marketing’s application of the phrase. There is another term as well: “Corporate Social Map.” The material is sparse, and the article called for additional citations . . . in August of 2008.

No social mapping definition yet on Wikipedia.

Defining “social mapping” is difficult. Anybody got a World Book?

Social mapping has yielded at least one billion dollar tech acquisition, but no Wikipedia entry apparently.

Social Mapping in The Wild

After months of testing, development, observation and hand-wringing, I documented some of our findings on the social mapping space while building the Whitepoint framework. You can now read them in a paper for Museums and the Web Asia 2013.

The museum space is the perfect arena for a social mapping discussion, because the concepts are easily illustrated in that environment. Museums and the arts also have much to gain from the associated technologies.

The paper identifies common qualities of social mapping technologies – including social, discovery, navigation, and the mapping of data points. It also discusses shifting user expectations with regard to aerial versus point of view perspective.

What’s In a Name?

Because of the rate that technology changes, we may one day find that nailing down a definition of social mapping was futile. However, right now, the concept is an important one. I’m convinced of this, because the ways in which we capture, consume, and process information is fundamentally changing.

Terminology has been thrown around that indicated the trend years ago. Virtual tour, virtual reality, augmented reality, wearable technologies . . . What comes next? The concepts and qualities of social mapping technology can help us all get our brains around what we’re capable of doing today and what we’ll be expecting tomorrow.

Adoption

As evidenced with various technologies and attempts at engaging users, immediate adoption is – of course -another story.

In 2002, I used – and loved – the HP Compaq Tablet PC TC1000. It had a stylus and a keyboard that you would conveniently hide away. It was compact, ran Windows, and was surprisingly reliable.

In 2010, Apple introduced the iPad. By then, any idea of a Windows tablet was forgotten and even laughable.

On what device are you reading this blog? Maybe you’re reading it on your phone or a Surface.

Do you disagree or agree with this take on social mapping? I’d love to hear from you. Reply below or tweet @WhitepointMobi.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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A Low Cost Android Tablet Recommendation

Android was the recommended OS in our previous blog post on providing a self guided tour app.

We actually have been digging a little deeper into the topic for some time. To test how much hardware life one could expect at what price point, we gave a toddler a low cost Android tablet.

The thinking was that the toddler would be the worst case scenario in terms of letting a museum visitor or tourist run off with a tablet.  (Insert your industry specific joke here.)

Our Low Cost Android Subject

We settled on the Zeepad 7.0 Allwinner, 7″ single camera Android tablet for our extended evaluation. This unit was – at the time of writing – available on Amazon.com for $59.99.

Zeepad tablet running Android - complete with Whitepoint app

Zeepad tablet running Android – complete with Whitepoint app, gel skin, and dirty screen protector.

We also added a screen protector. Be sure you get a custom fit one – not one you have to cut to fit. This mistake will cost you time and a headache. Our Zeepad shipped with a custom fit screen protector, but the . . . er, toddler screwed ours up.

Finally, we added an “almost-Whitepoint-red gel skin. This was money well spent at about $10 – $15. We highly recommend this for public applications.

Here’s what we found:

  • First off, the Whitepoint app ran beautifully on the Jelly Bean version of the OS shipping with the Zeepad.
  • Even with erratic toddler turn on / turn off behavior, there have been no issues charging, powering up, or powering down.
  • Wifi connectivity and setup has been flawless.

Here are our two complaints:

  • The power button seems cheap and flimsy, though we (including the toddler) have had no related issues even after several months.
  • The gel skin we bought for the tablet hinders the power adapter plugging in smoothly. We just pull the skin back and plug it in to charge.

When you think about a per tablet investment total of less than $70, even this price point for a self guided tour app roll-out would work for many non-profits. And, like those silly handheld audio tours, a museum or walking tour could charge a small amount to use the Android self guided tour.

Or, Spend a Little More for Your Android Device

For more money, you can get an even more solid Android hardware device. We have experience with the Toshiba Thrive and Samsung tablets, for example. These are a great value and still come in at a lower price point than using an iPad for your self guided tour.

Custom Brand Your Android Tablet

You also have the option to use a custom branded Android tablet. These can be surprisingly economical.

Interested? Let us know how we can help you with tracking down a custom branded tablet for your self guided tour app installation. You can email us at info -at- whitepoint.mobi or on Twitter @WhitepointMobi.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Password Protection for Mobile Tours Now Available

Ever thought about offering a tour for mobile devices that only certain people can access? Maybe guests, visitors, or employees? No problem.

Password protection for mobile tours and desktop tour access is now available to Whitepoint Pro and Premier Authoring Accounts.

Examples of Password Protected Tour Scenarios

For example, this is helpful when you’re using Whitepoint access as a perk to ticketholders for an exhibit. In an exhibition environment, you may want a separate scape – our term for “tour” – for those who have paid admission. This might replace an audio guide, for instance.

Golden Gate Bridge - Screenshot from a Whitepoint Tour

If you were providing a walking tour of the Golden Gate Bridge, you might want to offer mobile tour access to ticketholders only.

In a training scenario, you may want trainees to have access to material that the public can’t see or access. Password protection for your kitchen tour or retail shelving training presentation is a perfect fit.

Currently, the capability is available in the Whitepoint Android app and for the ScapeViewer – tours that are accessible to desktop or laptop computer users. Password protected access to scapes will soon be available in the iOS app.

Your Tour Secrets Are Safe

And, don’t forget: For Premier Authors, scapes can be listed as public, private, or super private – depending on your desired level of secrecy.

  • Public – Scapes, or tours, that are listed as public are available for searching.
  • Private – Scapes, or tours, that are listed as private can be discovered by search but not accessed without the password.
  • Super Private – Scapes, or tours, that are listed as super private can not be discovered by search and also require a password.

This means your password protected scape could be used in a public facing scenario or for internal use only. Whether guest, visitor, or employee, they can access the scape by mobile device or desktop computer. For added security, you may even want to consider a DIY kiosk. Or, issue standard tablets or iPads for specific uses.

Haven’t built a scape yet? Get started today.

Updated July 18, 2016.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Building a Mobile Museum App: Five Things to Consider

Mobile museum apps are in the news quite a bit. And often, it is the lack of an app that gets attention. In research we’ve done at Whitepoint, we’ve made some interesting discoveries that might help as organizations approach building mobile museum apps.

Here are a few of them:

1) What is the purpose of your mobile museum app?

Are you looking to attract new visitors? Are you looking to engage visitors once inside? Is the app purely an educational tool with the side benefit of generating new interest?

This answer is important, because its affects the design and development of your mobile museum app.

2) Is the app just for the outside world or does it serve a purpose inside your museum?

Depending on your answer to question number one, you may in fact need multiple apps or at least a very flexible single one. Does it work as a museum guide? If not, are you just developing another version of your existing web site?

3) Expense, both upfront and ongoing.

As we detailed in an earlier post on building a custom app, there are tremendous expenses upfront – and not just in the development of the app. Again, depending on your answers to numbers one and two, you may incur marketing-related expenses as well. Plan on that. Maybe even find a way to experiment before diving in.

4) Curatorial voice and updating.

Once you build a custom mobile museum app, the work is just beginning. Is there content? What kind is it? Who writes it? Does anyone want to write it? Are you just formatting a copy of your web site to upload in Google Play and the App Store?

You’ve got to keep the content fresh.

5) iOS and Android

The arts community, for example, has a clear affinity for iPhones and iPads. We’re not sure if paleontologists though are big Android people. Maybe they are. There are lots of things to consider regarding your development platform, but keep in mind who your target audience is.

If you’re targeting new visitors outside your walls and you’re in the arts, maybe Android is a good place to start. If you’re providing the tablets or iPads to deliver your mobile museum app in house, Android tablets are a lot cheaper to provide. Maybe your space is small, and a single kiosk makes sense.

Regardless, the adoption trajectory for Android is such that it must not be ignored – even though you might prefer iOS.

Happy #whitepointing.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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