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Monica Cellio has called for Stack Overflow to address what they did to her: Stack Overflow is doing me ongoing harm; it's time to fix it!

A number of users have changed their username to "Reinstate Monica" or some variation thereof and changed their avatar as follows:

reinstate Monica

At CV, it appears that gung and myself have done so.

Is anyone else interested in joining us?

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    $\begingroup$ I am Spartacus. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Oct 25 '19 at 9:05
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    $\begingroup$ Done. Thanks for posting this. $\endgroup$ – mkt - Reinstate Monica Oct 25 '19 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ It'll be a bit confusing if lots of active users change their user names to be exactly the the same. $\endgroup$ – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Oct 25 '19 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ A substantial number of the top users on stats.SE have changed their name, their avatar or both! stackexchange.com/leagues/65/alltime/stats/2010-07-19/… $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Oct 26 '19 at 3:52
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    $\begingroup$ An appeal to raise money for Monica's legal fees, should SE force her to seek redress for defamation in court, has raised an impressive 6k$ in only half a day. $\endgroup$ – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Oct 29 '19 at 13:26
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    $\begingroup$ +1. I've also changed my username and avatar and my 'about me'. $\endgroup$ – user1205901 - Reinstate Monica Nov 2 '19 at 1:16
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know how to update my username. I will see if I can update my icon. I am very much into joining y'all. $\endgroup$ – EngrStudent Nov 5 '19 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ Listen, It is annoying to keep seeing reinstate monica. First of all, all the moderators are on volunteer basis. So the site has the right to determine who gets to be moderator and who doesnt "at will". You guys have not signed any contracts with the company so there should be no wining about it. Period. $\endgroup$ – GENIVI-LEARNER Dec 27 '19 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ Just as the company is free to decide how they run their site, users are (supposedly) free to choose their own avatar and username, within a few conditions that are already specified, such as restrictions on particularly offensive ones. You may find that annoying, but you have no recourse. The company might change the rules (I expect they will), but until then, I doubt they're going anywhere. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Dec 27 '19 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ The developer survey for 2020 should have in it a distinct indicator of the effectiveness of "Reinstate Monica". Those who have the raw data should be able to get to the concrete implication. $\endgroup$ – EngrStudent Feb 7 at 15:34
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Changing your username and avatar are not the only options. People can also change the text in the 'about me' section of their user page. Note that if your reputation is >1k, you can have an expandable usercard that will show some of the text from your about me section when someone mouses over your username on a post.

Some suggested text was first proffered here:

The recent actions of Stack Exchange have been reprehensible. The lack of professional conduct, the tone deaf way they've been dealing with the community, and the unfair and unjustified way they've dealt with Monica Cellio.

Monica is an exemplar of the community, it's incredible how she's managed to keep a level head during this time when emotions have been very high.

REINSTATE MONICA


Update: the gofundme campaign has been closed.

A newer option has been proffered here. What has changed is that Monica has started a gofundme campaign to offset the costs of legal action. As a result, people might change their username to append "go fund Monica", instead of "reinstate Monica". The suggested about me text is then:

Consider supporting Monica Cellio's gofundme here >>>

A popular and well-respected volunteer network moderator, Monica Cellio, was terminated without warning and portrayed to the press as misgendering trans people by Stack Overflow, Inc. All signs suggest this was an erroneous, if not malicious, decision not founded on fact, which the company is completely failing to take any responsibility for. This has caused an enormous and ongoing uproar in the community.

Monica and the community have been quite literally begging for some kind of response from the company either opening up a path to reinstatement, or justifying their decision to terminate her, for more than a month now. She's made many good-faith offers to talk, and others have offered to mediate (and made dozens of constructive suggestions on how to resolve the situation). Members of the Lavender community have spoken up on her behalf (1, 2).

So far, Stack Overflow, Inc. has met all of this with thunderous silence. As a long-time contributor and someone always willing to see the good in the company's and its employees' actions and assume good faith, I'm still struggling to come to terms with the corporate callousness of this behaviour which we have to assume now is the new normal.

Having exhausted all other means of communication, Monica is now raising funds for potential legal action to clear her name. This is in her own interest, but arguably also in the interest of the SO community at large. While only the libel is likely to be legally actionable, it might establish at least some boundaries to what the company can do to its volunteers, as well as be a symbolic slap in the face of a business that appears to have lost all respect for the community that keeps it alive.

I have complete trust the funds will be used well and anything left over (say because they decide to do the right thing after all and legal action becomes unnecessary) will go toward good causes.

Consider supporting her today.

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    $\begingroup$ I wish there were an easy copy-paste that worked with links. This is a good suggestion, gung. … also, fwiw, I got my new (excellent) job through careers, and have referenced others there. That is a source of revenue and credibility. If CV "goes evil", then I can't in good conscience point folks I know or companies that I know to use their careers product. $\endgroup$ – EngrStudent Nov 14 '19 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ @EngrStudent-ReinstateMonica, I suppose I didn't think of that. If you click "edit", you should be able to copy & paste. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Nov 14 '19 at 19:34
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Not just because of Monica, but I've decided to stop contributing to StackOverflow and quit.

Other reasons include that there was 0 progress towards improving the platform. For example, we still see tons of duplicates across the sites, but we still cannot mark a question as duplicate on stats.SE if there is a perfect answer on SO, or the other way round. I hate the overlap between SO, stats.SE, DS.SE etc. but this seems to not matter at all for the company - on the contrary, they get more views. And there is zero progress in assisting new users to not post duplicates. When a user posts a duplicate, the system should ask him to migrate the question instead, for example. Also, when posting a new user should likely be guided through some relevant similar questions, to reduce the duplicates. Instead, the company wastes money on doomed projects such as SO Documentation and SO for teams.

In my opinion, they have stopped listening to their users.

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    $\begingroup$ Sorry to see you go! $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Dec 27 '19 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ Cross-site duplicates. Ditto DataScience.SE, which has tons of duplicates of things answered on SO or CrossValidated. $\endgroup$ – smci Feb 17 at 0:14
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    $\begingroup$ I've pretty much stopped answering questions for the same reason: too many cross-site duplicates. Feel like a waste of time. (Not to mention ai.stackexchange.com which is also another almost exact duplicate. I have raised the issue in dozens of posts on DS and AI SE but weirdly virtually nobody cares.) I'm also very much again the script that does auto-deletion of questions, which caused hundreds of my questions being removed. Basically I don't feel stack exchange cares much about user content, probably because they think they have too many users to care. $\endgroup$ – Franck Dernoncourt Feb 20 at 8:41
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Monica and Stack Overflow have come to an agreement. Monica has posted the identical notice at her GoFundMe page.

I find the agreement utterly unsatisfactory; in particular the first paragraph drips with condescension. SO exhibit the classical signs of narcissism, in particular a complete inability to empathize and apologize sincerely. Narcissists do not change, no matter how much one would hope they do.

Nevertheless, this seems to be the end of it. Monica was not reinstated, but was offered the opportunity to reapply as moderator at the six sites she originally moderated, following the new process.

Ms. Cellio expressed concerns about the new process and has not applied.

As such, I will revert to my old avatar and username in the near future. There is no point in keeping the "Reinstate Monica" one. This is not the outcome I had hoped for, but see above.

I will, therefore, keep my updated understanding of SO, Inc.


Update: Monica is leaving the network.

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    $\begingroup$ There's no need to continue to have the GoFundMe information--her GFM campaign is closed. From my point of view, the result is unsatisfactory & she should still be reinstated. I recognize that SE isn't going to do anything they aren't forced to do & the lawsuit is over, but that doesn't change what should still be done. I intend to keep my avatar & username for now. I don't know if / when I'll change or to what. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Dec 24 '19 at 13:51
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that Monica should be reinstated. However, based on the agreement, it sounds like she herself is not pushing for this any more (otherwise she would not have agreed to this wording), and I can't blame her. I personally do not see the point of agitating for something Monica herself apparently does not push for. I'll change back when I can bring myself to do it. It's all very sordid and not at all what I want to ruminate on this time of year. $\endgroup$ – Stephan Kolassa Dec 24 '19 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ Not quite. She stated on the agreement thread (now deleted) that she wants to be reinstated; if I recall the phrasing correctly, "to have the removal reversed". In place of that, SE has reoffered for her to go through the moderator reinstatement process that they set up after she was fired (the one she already declined). The issue there is that the reinstatement process assumes the person is guilty / was correctly removed, & her agreeing to go through that process amounts to her implicitly acknowledging that. That's why they want her to do it & she doesn't want to. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Dec 24 '19 at 14:26
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I get all this. My point is that she agreed to the agreement. Which does not include her reinstatement. I take her agreeing to it that she will not pursue reinstatement outside the new process. (And in addition, she will not go through the new process. Two different things.) Am I mistaken? $\endgroup$ – Stephan Kolassa Dec 24 '19 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ It's plausible that Monica sincerely believed that this agreement was the best that was going to actually happen, & so it was that or nothing. It's hard to say if the agreement is something she actually finds agreeable on its merits. Her statement that she would like the removal to be reversed implies the agreement is not fully acceptable. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Dec 24 '19 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, Monica signed a contract. But she may not actually agree with it, and it could be something that she was forced to do. That you find 'the agreement utterly unsatisfactory' says enough how this could have gone. SE/SO has won a legal battle and has not reinstated Monica or has not shown to have done anything that would be a satisfactory agreement for Monica. I am not gonna remove my avatar now and do as if this legal settlement settles the case sufficiently. Sadly SE/SO believes it is just enough to handle it legally, but to me this is not a legal issue. $\endgroup$ – Sextus Empiricus Dec 25 '19 at 22:54
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    $\begingroup$ The offered process for reinstatement was flawed - essentially it was not in any sense designed to be a fair process - and as structured was tantamount to an admission of guilt; in the circumstances I wouldn't have accepted it either, no matter how keen I might be to get the diamond back. The company is still able to offer her reinstatement without conditions and it could then apply the actual processes for removal of a moderator. The non-acceptance of the flawed application process was not a new thing, Monica rejected it for publicly stated reasons months ago. ... ctd $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Dec 27 '19 at 22:35
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    $\begingroup$ ctd ... as far as I can see from the announcement, the only substantive change to the various positions from well before any of us had "Reinstate Monica" avatars is that the company have removed a couple of posts of theirs that could be seen as defamatory.. Everything else seems to be exactly the same as the situation then. I'm happy they're at least taken a small step to stop defaming her (but apparently only because lawyers made that happen) -- but because nothing else has changed, I see no good reason to stop asking them to simply reinstate her (or at least offer it) to undo the ... ctd $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Dec 27 '19 at 22:38
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    $\begingroup$ ... capricious removal. They didn't apply proper process in removing her and there's no good reason to require she follow a process for reinstatement that builds in the assumption she was properly removed in the first place (but even in the case of a properly applied removal is not in a process many mods seem to think to be fair or reasonable). $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Dec 27 '19 at 22:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Glen_b-ReinstateMonica: I agree with every single word you write here. My point is that Monica herself apparently does not pursue reinstatement any more, given that she signed off on that agreement, and that I don't see any information to the contrary. It is against this background that I don't see the continued usefulness in calling for it. YMMV. $\endgroup$ – Stephan Kolassa Dec 28 '19 at 6:39
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    $\begingroup$ @S.Kolassa-ReinstateMonica, she says she still wants to be reinstated, so I'm not sure it's correct to say that she "does not pursue reinstatement any more". She did accept the agreement, whatever it entailed, but my guess is she was strongly advised that this was all she could get. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Dec 28 '19 at 13:35
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    $\begingroup$ @S.Kolassa-ReinstateMonica, she said so in a comment to her answer here, which has since been deleted. Here is the [dead] comment link. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Dec 28 '19 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand your reasoning. She said quite clearly that she wants to be reinstated. Is your question just, 'why did she only say it on meta.SE & not also say it on her GFM page?' That distinction doesn't seem as important to me as it does to you. I find it suspicious that the only thing posted on the GFM page is exactly the same as the OP from the meta post. I suspect part of the non-disclosure agreement was that exact text be all that's posted there. I don't know, of course, & I don't know who deleted the comment, or why, but I do know that she said she still wanted to be reinstated. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Dec 29 '19 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ Stephan, but the settlement is apparently prohibiting Monica to say anything this matter publicly. If so, then she cannot make a comment anywhere; I'm not sure why you say that "she could do so very easily". Doing that would probably break the terms of the settlement with whatever legal consequences this entails. (cc @gung-ReinstateMonica) $\endgroup$ – amoeba Dec 29 '19 at 20:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Glen_b-ReinstateMonica I meant that the quote is taken from the statement that the lawyers of Monica and SE have presumably agreed upon (because the same identical statement appeared on meta.SE and Monica's gofundme page). That's all I meant. I imagine Monica and SE signed something and this something included this statement. $\endgroup$ – amoeba Jan 4 at 15:02
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First of all, all the moderators are on volunteer basis. So the site has the right to determine who gets to be moderator and who doesnt "at will". Moderators have not signed any contracts with the company,

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    $\begingroup$ And we have the right to be upset by it too, since we are customers of the services SE offers. Don't get your point at all. $\endgroup$ – Firebug Dec 27 '19 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ I think you've got the reasoning backwards. I can make a criticism of anyone or anything for any reason -- but they're under no obligation to do anything about it. Following your reasoning to its logical conclusion, you're suggesting that no one should be allowed to criticize BP for poisoning the Gulf of Mexico, or Boeing for killing hundreds with the 737MAX, or Arthur Anderson for cooking Enron's books. I don't know about you, but I'd prefer marine life to not be poisoned, aircraft to be flightworthy, and financial criminals pilloried... Of course, you're allowed to disagree. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Dec 27 '19 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ Even if we restrict the consideration to employment, (1) I'm still entitled to express an opinion about firing Monica; (2) firing Monica, besmirching her character, and disparaging her to the press is wrong; (3) and possibly illegal. If the crux of your argument is that I have no power over SO, then you're correct, but completely missing the point: people who do dumb or bad stuff should be criticized; that criticism has moral value; any legal characterization is at most one-third of the issue. Perhaps you believe SO wasn't wrong to fire Monica, but no one is above reproach. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Dec 27 '19 at 22:47
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    $\begingroup$ Anyway, my point about BP, Boeing and Arthur Anderson is that I can criticize them. It seems that you've confused criticism and legal liability. These two things are different. Even if there's no underlying legal wrongdoing, I can still have an opinion and express that opinion. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Dec 27 '19 at 23:10
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry that you were laid off. That must have been a very trying time for you and your colleague. Your claim appears to be that because you were laid off, anyone anywhere can be laid off for any reason. But I don't understand why your firm laying you off justifies SO firing Monica and smearing her. This is an apples and bananas comparison. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Dec 28 '19 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ If your point is that corporations are cruel and the American economy gives workers little recourse, then of course I agree with you. If you're somehow trying to use this as an example of why unions or social reforms are bad, or to show that the so-called "free market" is good, then I'm afraid you've gotten your argument backwards again. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Dec 28 '19 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ Which of your statements should be read as arguments and which are merely unrelated anecdotes? We’re not talking about an abstract situation involving football, we’re talking about what happened to Monica. Given the strange leaps of logic and selection of weird, unrelated examples to justify your position (what position? Why was it good to fire and disparage Monica?), it seems out you have neither logic nor morality on your side. Anyway, logic and morality aren’t exclusive positions. An entire field of philosophy dedicated to reasoning about what is right and just. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Dec 28 '19 at 19:14
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    $\begingroup$ Ultimately, if you think that logic and morality are mutually exclusive, either you’re subscribing to bad logic or you’re subscribing to bad morals. I’ll let you sort out which is which. But I really hope you take a moment and rigorously think through why you think it’s true that it’s impossible to be both logical and moral. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Dec 28 '19 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ Are you really suggesting that just because someone has power, it is right use that power to do anything that is not explicitly illegal? Because there's a wide gap between what's right and what's illegal. People who do bad and dumb things can be criticized. That's my argument. Criticism won't necessarily change it, but that does nothing to invalidate the moral basis of the criticism. Our orientation to power is the most important political stance we can take, and your orientation towards power suggests an entirely authoritarian view: might makes right. As to that, sic sepmer tyrannis $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Dec 28 '19 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ I've let my friends sleep in my house when they're not able to make it home safely. But I wasn't legally required to do this. If I'd refused, my friends could say "Sycorax is a jerk! They made me get a cab home," and perhaps they'd be right (depending on the circumstances). My argument is that you can criticize people who do dumb and bad things. Your hypothetical doesn't disprove that claim. Another flaw with your hypothetical is that it confuses legal rights and moral stances. This is a flaw with every one of your arguments so far. Another flaw is that it places power above reproach. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Dec 28 '19 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ Again, you're making a legal claim, but my arguments hinge on the distinguishing between legal and moral arguments. Until you acknowledge that moral arguments have value, we will be at an impasse. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Dec 28 '19 at 22:50
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    $\begingroup$ Anyway, your argument from legality finds itself in a hard spot. Either you're assuming that all of today's laws are just, so you are implicitly making a moral argument, or you don't care if today's laws are unjust, in which case you'll tolerate any atrocity that the legal code permits. This is it is dangerous to blindly follow the law just because it's final, instead of seriously engaging with moral philosophy. Your legalist argument also can't answer "Should we write a new law? What should it say?" because it has no basis to reason about what a good or bad law is. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Dec 29 '19 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ @GENIVI-LEARNER, you've repeatedly referred to people advocating for Monica as 'social justice warriors'. Your analogy is flawed. To the extent either party is analogous to SJWs, it would be the company, which fired Monica in order to create a more welcoming environment for trans people. (Note that they failed badly on this goal.) Personally, I support a welcoming environment for everyone, but it is obvious that some of the people complaining the most are transphobes & trolls who don't really care as much about Monica. The company is explicitly following a SJW-type policy. They have said so. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Dec 29 '19 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ The company's decisions don't make sense from a hard-nosed business perspective. They have alienated many more people than are actually trans users on the site. They have lost some of their most prolific and highest rep contributors. Those are the people who generate value for the company. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Dec 29 '19 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand your question. The lawyers for the 2 sides negotiated & came to some agreement. Part of the agreement was the rule that they don't discuss it. We don't know exactly what the agreement entails, but there's no question Monica was at a disadvantage. My guess is her lawyers advised her that the agreement was the best she was likely to get. That's pretty typical of this sort of thing. Whose cause is just has nothing to do with it. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Dec 29 '19 at 15:53

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