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Re: [XP] sorting out Peopleware and flow

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  • Allen Higgins
    Reverting back to Lister and DeMarco s points regarding flow and quiet work spaces; wasn t there something about how listening to music (particularly
    Message 1 of 24 , Jan 29, 2010
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      Reverting back to Lister and DeMarco's points regarding 'flow' and quiet
      work spaces; wasn't there something about how listening to music
      (particularly classical) suppresses creative centres in the brain? How then
      does that gell with 'cans' on work? Indeed the creative aspects of
      programming more generally? Is silence better than music better than
      conversation? White noise?

      Allen

      On Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 2:14 PM, Dave Rooney <dave.rooney@...> wrote:

      >
      >
      > Hello Peter,
      >
      >
      > On 29/01/2010 8:11 AM, Peter Scheyen wrote:
      > > I've used the concept of office or zone hours with teams. This keeps out
      > distractors who want status updates, donations, birthday card signings,
      > committees, blah, blah.
      > >
      > > I find the more difficult distraction problem comes from the necessary
      > conversations in the team room itself. Be it one pair talking about a
      > problem distracting others or a developer consulting with a product owner
      > around a particular requirement, etc. Also individuals or pairs don't
      > necessarily keep the same rhythm as the individuals and pairs around them.
      > When one pair needs a little downtime there's a bit of noise and movement in
      > the area.
      > >
      >
      > I agree that the conversations can be distracting, but they are indeed
      > necessary. This is the trade-off between individual versus team flow.
      >
      > If the volume of the conversation is really too high, then some simple
      > and ideally fun way of reminding people to keep it down can be used.
      > I've seen and/or used foam bricks, Nerf guns and a squeaking rubber
      > chicken. The whole team is empowered to use the tools if they feel the
      > noise level is too high. That means that the most junior team member
      > can chuck the brick at the most senior manager. When it happens,
      > everyone (including the target) laughs, but the point is made.
      >
      >
      > > Maybe the set ups I've seen and used are suboptimal. A typical set up is
      > a low-walled area that can hold anywhere from 4 to 8 developers and testers.
      > Each developer or pair station is the usual two-winged (at 90 degrees)
      > desktop surface with monitors, etc. Individuals/pairs are usually between 5
      > and 8 feet from each other.
      > >
      >
      > This sounds fine to me. The only tweak I'd make is changing the
      > two-winged desks to straight one in order to make pairing easier.
      >
      > The bottom line is that communication and true face to face
      > collaboration are much more likely to occur when people are working
      > close together. You're already doing that, which is very good. There
      > are occasions, though, where people need a time and place to think in
      > isolation. In that case, provide a couple of workstations away from the
      > main work area. You don't want people working at them all the time, though.
      >
      > When you give the team the tools and power to manage the noise level,
      > IME the issue goes away very quickly.
      >
      >
      > --
      >
      > Dave Rooney
      > Agile Coach and Co-founder, Westboro Systems
      > "Maximizing the value of your IT investments!"
      > E-mail: dave.rooney@...<dave.rooney%40westborosystems.com>
      >
      > Twitter: daverooneyca
      > http://www.westborosystems.com
      > http://practicalagility.blogspot.com
      >
      > > On 2010-01-28, at 10:04 PM, Dave Rooney wrote:
      > >
      > >
      > >> Maximizing flow is absolutely what you want to do. Maximizing flow only
      > >> for individuals, though, will only result in partial improvement. You
      > >> have to take a more holistic view, and recognize that what may seem to
      > >> be disruptive discussions are actually the type of collaboration that
      > >> help maximize flow at the *team* level.
      > >>
      > >> A helpful practice that I learned about a number of years back and used
      > >> successfully is to have Core Hours. This is typically a 5-hour section
      > >> of the day, e.g. 9-12& 1-3, where the team members focus solely on
      > >> their work. No administrivia, no surfing, no Twitter, no IM with
      > >> friends, no phone calls, etc. Members of other teams cannot disturb
      > >> your team during those times. Outside of those hours, the team members
      > >> can do all the other stuff they need to do. That isolation alone
      > >> substantially increases the team's flow.
      > >>
      > >> Of course, there are exceptions to the rules above... if I see my wife's
      > >> number or my kids' school on my phone's call display, I'm gonna answer
      > >> it! :) The principle of getting the hell out of the team's way during
      > >> those hours, though, works very well, IME. The team members love it too
      > >> - they aren't constantly being interrupted. I've had people comment
      > >> that they didn't realize how often they had been interrupted until they
      > >> started doing Core Hours.
      > >>
      > >> --
      > >>
      > >> Dave Rooney
      > >> Agile Coach and Co-founder, Westboro Systems
      > >> "Maximizing the value of your IT investments!"
      > >> E-mail: dave@... <dave%40westborosystems.com>
      > >> Twitter: daverooneyca
      > >> http://www.westborosystems.com
      > >> http://practicalagility.blogspot.com
      > >>
      > >> On 28/01/2010 7:48 AM, D.Andr� Dhondt wrote:
      > >>
      > >>> short version:
      > >>> Is there new thinking or studies that rationalize away DeMarco's&
      > Lister's
      > >>> advice against open floor plans? Are there new studies on the impact of
      > >>> background noise on creativity?
      > >>>
      > >>>
      > >>> background:
      > >>>
      > >>> I know these are old books, but I decided to read some of the classics
      > that
      > >>> were published before I was done with middle school ;), like
      > >>> *Peopleware*and the
      > >>> *Mythical Man Month*.
      > >>>
      > >>> In *Peopleware* they talk a lot about flow (mental focus). They cite
      > >>> studies on the negative impact of interrupted concentration, the
      > negative
      > >>> effect of background music on creativity, and about the performance dip
      > >>> faced by teams who they sit in open-plan workspaces. I don't know how
      > to
      > >>> assimilate this with contradictory advice and experience, with, for
      > example,
      > >>> Whole Team, the Customer is Always Available, Pair Programming, the
      > Pomodoro
      > >>> technique, etc.
      > >>>
      > >>> Personally, when I develop I feel like my pair can keep me in the flow
      > if I
      > >>> get interrupted... but then again, sometimes that interruption
      > distracts
      > >>> both of us. On the other hand, I feel like flow is dangerous--if I
      > don't
      > >>> use some external "wake-up" call like a Pomodoro, I might go down the
      > wrong
      > >>> path and deliver nothing of value. I've also observed my team learn how
      > to
      > >>> get back into flow--I'd say they can often do so in one minute (and
      > they
      > >>> learned this after only weeks of using Pomodoro).
      > >>>
      > >>> My doubts come mostly from the conviction in DeMarco's and Lister's
      > words,
      > >>> combined with what I'm seeing in the next generation of technology
      > >>> users--people that don't realize the impact of multi-tasking
      > >>> (homework+sms+tv+phone+???). Maybe I'm just not aware of the negative
      > >>> effects of being in a team room because that's basically all I've ever
      > >>> worked in...
      > >>>
      > >>> Is there something missing in the way I do XP that provides guidance on
      > when
      > >>> it's OK and when it's not to interrupt a pair? (we've actually
      > experimented
      > >>> with it, but basically we believe that a developer should try to answer
      > >>> questions alone for 5 minutes, then ask for help--and the
      > team/individual
      > >>> can respond with help or inform that now's not a good time--come back
      > at the
      > >>> next pomodoro pause. I use the term pomodoro loosely, for more info,
      > see
      > >>>
      > http://dhondtsayitsagile.blogspot.com/2010/01/no-more-pomodoros-synch-point.html
      > ).
      > >>>
      > >>>
      >
      >
      >


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Kim Gräsman
      Dave, ... I d be very uncomfortable in an environment where I was at risk of being shot or thrown bricks at... One lovely technique that a former colleague
      Message 2 of 24 , Jan 29, 2010
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        Dave,

        On Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 15:14, Dave Rooney <dave.rooney@...> wrote:
        >
        > I agree that the conversations can be distracting, but they are indeed
        > necessary.  This is the trade-off between individual versus team flow.
        >
        > If the volume of the conversation is really too high, then some simple
        > and ideally fun way of reminding people to keep it down can be used.
        > I've seen and/or used foam bricks, Nerf guns and a squeaking rubber
        > chicken.  The whole team is empowered to use the tools if they feel the
        > noise level is too high.  That means that the most junior team member
        > can chuck the brick at the most senior manager.  When it happens,
        > everyone (including the target) laughs, but the point is made.

        I'd be very uncomfortable in an environment where I was at risk of
        being shot or thrown bricks at...

        One lovely technique that a former colleague told me about (he'd
        mentored youth chess teams for a number of years) is to encourage
        anyone who feels the sound level is disturbing to stand up and raise
        both hands up in the air. Anyone who agrees does the same. When most
        team members stand with their hands in the air, whoever was involved
        in the animated discussion will notice that something strange is going
        on, realize that they were too loud, and lower their voice.

        I like it, because it's very disarming. At least compared to guns or bricks :)

        - Kim
      • George Dinwiddie
        A couple cents more... ... Another direction to take this (other than nerf guns), is to look at what the pairs or individuals are working on. If they re
        Message 3 of 24 , Jan 29, 2010
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          A couple cents more...

          Dave Rooney wrote:
          > Hello Peter,
          >
          > On 29/01/2010 8:11 AM, Peter Scheyen wrote:
          >> I find the more difficult distraction problem comes from the
          >> necessary conversations in the team room itself. Be it one pair
          >> talking about a problem distracting others or a developer
          >> consulting with a product owner around a particular requirement,
          >> etc. Also individuals or pairs don't necessarily keep the same
          >> rhythm as the individuals and pairs around them. When one pair
          >> needs a little downtime there's a bit of noise and movement in the
          >> area.
          >>
          >
          > I agree that the conversations can be distracting, but they are indeed
          > necessary. This is the trade-off between individual versus team flow.

          Another direction to take this (other than nerf guns), is to look at
          what the pairs or individuals are working on. If they're swarming on
          one story, I've found the conversations to be highly beneficial in
          creating a cloud of knowledge. If they're working on separate tasks,
          then they become distracting.

          - George

          --
          ----------------------------------------------------------------------
          * George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
          Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
          Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org
          ----------------------------------------------------------------------
        • Ron Jeffries
          Hello, Allen. On Friday, January 29, 2010, at 9:47:44 AM, you ... Music totally kills my ability to program hard stuff, but doesn t bother me when I m moving
          Message 4 of 24 , Jan 29, 2010
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            Hello, Allen. On Friday, January 29, 2010, at 9:47:44 AM, you
            wrote:

            > Reverting back to Lister and DeMarco's points regarding 'flow' and quiet
            > work spaces; wasn't there something about how listening to music
            > (particularly classical) suppresses creative centres in the brain? How then
            > does that gell with 'cans' on work? Indeed the creative aspects of
            > programming more generally? Is silence better than music better than
            > conversation? White noise?

            Music totally kills my ability to program hard stuff, but doesn't
            bother me when I'm moving smoothly. Background conversation doesn't
            bother me, but conversation addressed to me makes me stop thinking.
            If I'm TDDing, that's fine.

            The second best programmer I have ever known programmed with
            classical music in phones all the time. Maybe he would have been
            best if he hadn't done that? Got me hangin ...

            Ron Jeffries
            www.XProgramming.com
            www.xprogramming.com/blog
            Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
            The important thing is to not stop questioning. --Albert Einstein
          • Bill Caputo
            ... I would find that passive-aggressive - and off-putting - while the brick idea feels aggressive (which I personally wouldn t mind, but I understand how
            Message 5 of 24 , Jan 29, 2010
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              On Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 9:03 AM, Kim Gräsman <kim.grasman@...> wrote:
              > When most
              > team members stand with their hands in the air, whoever was involved
              > in the animated discussion will notice that something strange is going
              > on, realize that they were too loud, and lower their voice.

              I would find that passive-aggressive - and off-putting - while the
              brick idea feels aggressive (which I personally wouldn't mind, but I
              understand how others would so it would bother me too). The problem
              with waiting for others to notice something is when they don't - but
              they don't because they don't see it as a problem - a potentially
              vicious cycle. Its precisely because different people find these
              "indirect" approaches lovely/offputting that...

              My preference is to develop a team dynamic where simple,
              straightforward, polite and direct communication is used: "We're
              finding the noise level distracting, could you reduce volume or move
              your conversation to an office or conference room?" - even better is a
              dynamic where the conversation's participants recognize the need to do
              so without the prompting (usually evolves from the first dynamic).

              Additionally, this is where the coach, team leaders and other
              extroverts of the team have an opportunity to step up and lead all
              involved by example - both by initiating the moves to less distracting
              volumes/locations and by being assertive and asking the same of others
              (and being on the lookout for opportunities to do so on behalf of
              those who still feel uncomfortable doing so).

              Respect and Communication don't just happen they require Courage (and
              Empathy) too.

              Best,
              Bill
            • Bill Caputo
              ... The hardest part of pairing for me has always been losing my music. I do my best work and thinking with music (generally loud fast music that most people
              Message 6 of 24 , Jan 29, 2010
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                On Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 9:19 AM, Ron Jeffries <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
                > Music totally kills my ability to program hard stuff, but doesn't
                > bother me when I'm moving smoothly.

                The hardest part of pairing for me has always been losing my music. I
                do my best work and thinking with music (generally loud fast music
                that most people hate) - it was the same for me when studying/doing
                homework in school. My theory is that I get distracted too easily
                otherwise, so the music provides a limited range of distractions (i.e.
                focusing on the music) that I quickly recover from. I also believe
                that I'm in the minority on this.

                Incidentally, I much prefer pairing to programming solo without music
                because my pair keeps me focused. And as I like the benefits pairing
                gives me (e.g. extra set of eyes, someone to bounce design ideas off
                of, shared understanding of the solution, etc) I still pairing is a
                superior way to write software. However, I acknowledge a (guilty)
                pleasure from coding solo that I don't get any other way - its a cost
                of being a professional (which I recoup by coding on my own for
                personal enjoyment, and on those tasks where I am working solo).

                Bill
              • Keith Ray
                PeopleWare authors didn t realize that pairing was a good thing when they wrote the book, but the data is there: How Developers Spend Their Time table (10.1)
                Message 7 of 24 , Jan 29, 2010
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                  PeopleWare authors didn't realize that pairing was a good thing when
                  they wrote the book, but the data is there:

                  How Developers Spend Their Time table (10.1)

                  30% = Working alone
                  50 % = Working with one other person
                  20% = Working with two or more people
                • Dave Rooney
                  ... Yes. Both the aggressive and passive-aggressive model are really ways of allowing teams to create an environment where that sort of communication can
                  Message 8 of 24 , Jan 29, 2010
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                    On 29/01/2010 10:33 AM, Bill Caputo wrote:
                    > My preference is to develop a team dynamic where simple,
                    > straightforward, polite and direct communication is used: "We're
                    > finding the noise level distracting, could you reduce volume or move
                    > your conversation to an office or conference room?" - even better is a
                    > dynamic where the conversation's participants recognize the need to do
                    > so without the prompting (usually evolves from the first dynamic).
                    >

                    Yes. Both the 'aggressive' and 'passive-aggressive' model are really
                    ways of allowing teams to create an environment where that sort of
                    communication can occur. If a team or organization hasn't traditionally
                    had such an environment, you need to show that it's OK. As a coach, I
                    sometimes have to be the first one to 'throw the brick'. Often, though,
                    people are more than happy to do it. ;)

                    > Additionally, this is where the coach, team leaders and other
                    > extroverts of the team have an opportunity to step up and lead all
                    > involved by example - both by initiating the moves to less distracting
                    > volumes/locations and by being assertive and asking the same of others
                    > (and being on the lookout for opportunities to do so on behalf of
                    > those who still feel uncomfortable doing so).
                    >

                    Introvert != Shy, and Extrovert != Outgoing. People with those
                    personality types *may* have those attributes, or they may not. It can
                    also be context-dependent.

                    > Respect and Communication don't just happen they require Courage (and
                    > Empathy) too.
                    >

                    Absolutely - I agree 100% with this.

                    --

                    Dave Rooney
                    Agile Coach and Co-founder, Westboro Systems
                    "Maximizing the value of your IT investments!"
                    E-mail: dave.rooney@...
                    Twitter: daverooneyca
                    http://www.westborosystems.com
                    http://practicalagility.blogspot.com
                  • Bill Caputo
                    ... Same here - and in the past, I ve been guilty of taking the bricks (rubber bands, foam cubes, etc) too far (because I find it really fun, but then I m a
                    Message 9 of 24 , Jan 29, 2010
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                      On Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 10:21 AM, Dave Rooney <dave.rooney@...> wrote:
                      > As a coach, I
                      > sometimes have to be the first one to 'throw the brick'.  Often, though,
                      > people are more than happy to do it. ;)

                      Same here - and in the past, I've been guilty of taking the 'bricks
                      (rubber bands, foam cubes, etc) too far (because I find it really fun,
                      but then I'm a big, aggressive, BS'r who loves confrontation and to
                      hear himself talk by nature) and I've learned over the years that the
                      dynamic becomes burdensome to those who don't like that sort of thing
                      - often the same people who have a hard time asking people to dial
                      down the volume.

                      Nowadays, I find it works better (or maybe I'm just getting old) to
                      skip over the games and go straight to respectful and direct.
                      Specifically, explicitly including why I am making the request (i.e.
                      some form of explaining that to make an open team culture work,
                      requires us loud-mouths to be mindful of those who are less
                      comfortable with speaking out) can get people thinking meta, and bring
                      about a similar increase in comfort with just stating what one's
                      feeling.

                      As an aside: I've come to believe that amplifying the volume of the
                      quiet pays big dividends (IMHO quiet people often have a better
                      understanding of what's going on than us loud-mouths if only their
                      ideas could be heard above the din) and so I look for every
                      opportunity to increase their comfort with an open team area, with
                      presenting ideas without waiting to be asked, and with otherwise
                      taking the initiative (but not making the mistake of pushing them to
                      do so which has the opposite effect). One of the best ways I've found
                      is using my willingness to speak up to advocate quiet (and to simply
                      ask them what they think while creating a conversation window - by
                      force if necessary - for them to answer).

                      In short: I don't have anything against using either method as an
                      interim approach to getting to direct communication (and the
                      personality mix of the team would most likely dominate my tactics
                      regardless) but I'd be concerned if those interim dynamics lasted very
                      long (weeks not months) lest it inhibit communication between those
                      who like to talk and those who don't.

                      Bill
                    • D.André Dhondt
                      ... I really like this synthesis--and I think I m going to do an experiment. We re already using 2-hour synch points, I m going to try to prevent external
                      Message 10 of 24 , Jan 29, 2010
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                        On Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 4:04 AM, Dave Rooney <dave.rooney@...> wrote:

                        > Maximizing flow is absolutely what you want to do. Maximizing flow only
                        > for individuals, though, will only result in partial improvement. You
                        > have to take a more holistic view, and recognize that what may seem to
                        > be disruptive discussions are actually the type of collaboration that
                        > help maximize flow at the *team* level.
                        >

                        I really like this synthesis--and I think I'm going to do an experiment.
                        We're already using 2-hour synch points, I'm going to try to prevent
                        external interruptions during that window. Thanks, everyone, for the
                        comments...

                        --
                        D. André Dhondt
                        http://dhondtsayitsagile.blogspot.com/

                        Support low-cost conferences -- http://agiletour.org/
                        If you're in the area, join Agile Philly http://www.AgilePhilly.com
                        Mentor/be mentored: the Agile Skills Project
                        https://sites.google.com/site/agileskillsprojectwiki/


                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • Kim Gräsman
                        Bill, On Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 16:33, Bill Caputo ... Horses for courses... When we tried the hands-up thing, some people found it disturbing, and preferred a
                        Message 11 of 24 , Jan 30, 2010
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                          Bill,

                          On Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 16:33, Bill Caputo
                          <list-subscriber@...> wrote:
                          > On Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 9:03 AM, Kim Gräsman <kim.grasman@...> wrote:
                          >> When most
                          >> team members stand with their hands in the air, whoever was involved
                          >> in the animated discussion will notice that something strange is going
                          >> on, realize that they were too loud, and lower their voice.
                          >
                          > I would find that passive-aggressive - and off-putting - while the
                          > brick idea feels aggressive (which I personally wouldn't mind, but I
                          > understand how others would so it would bother me too). The problem
                          > with waiting for others to notice something is when they don't - but
                          > they don't because they don't see it as a problem - a potentially
                          > vicious cycle. Its precisely because different people find these
                          > "indirect" approaches lovely/offputting that...
                          >
                          > My preference is to develop a team dynamic where simple,
                          > straightforward, polite and direct communication is used: "We're
                          > finding the noise level distracting, could you reduce volume or move
                          > your conversation to an office or conference room?" - even better is a
                          > dynamic where the conversation's participants recognize the need to do
                          > so without the prompting (usually evolves from the first dynamic).

                          Horses for courses...

                          When we tried the hands-up thing, some people found it disturbing, and
                          preferred a more direct approach. Nevertheless, when someone got too
                          loud, and a couple of us raised their hands in concert, we all broke a
                          smile, because it's such a silly ceremony.

                          I just wanted to offer an alternative to the shooting and throwing. I
                          know that makes me really uncomfortable :)

                          - Kim
                        • William Pietri
                          ... I was just visiting the nice folks at Pivotal, and one of their interesting solutions to this is a balanced breakfast. In particular, they have their daily
                          Message 12 of 24 , Jan 30, 2010
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                            On 01/29/2010 05:11 AM, Peter Scheyen wrote:
                            > Also individuals or pairs don't necessarily keep the same rhythm as the individuals and pairs around them. When one pair needs a little downtime there's a bit of noise and movement in the area.
                            >

                            I was just visiting the nice folks at Pivotal, and one of their
                            interesting solutions to this is a balanced breakfast.

                            In particular, they have their daily stand-up at 9:05. To give people a
                            reason to be there early rather than trying to hit it exactly, they have
                            a good breakfast available every morning. Aside from improving
                            attendance (and mood, I'm sure), everybody leaves for lunch at about the
                            same time. And most everybody leaves for the evening in a 15-minute span.

                            William
                          • Steve Freeman
                            Brilliant! Inexpensive and effective. S. ... Steve Freeman http://www.growing-object-oriented-software.com
                            Message 13 of 24 , Feb 23, 2010
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                              Brilliant! Inexpensive and effective.

                              S.

                              On 30 Jan 2010, at 17:06, William Pietri wrote:
                              > I was just visiting the nice folks at Pivotal, and one of their
                              > interesting solutions to this is a balanced breakfast.
                              >
                              > In particular, they have their daily stand-up at 9:05. To give people a
                              > reason to be there early rather than trying to hit it exactly, they have
                              > a good breakfast available every morning. Aside from improving
                              > attendance (and mood, I'm sure), everybody leaves for lunch at about the
                              > same time. And most everybody leaves for the evening in a 15-minute span.

                              Steve Freeman
                              http://www.growing-object-oriented-software.com
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