May 2017

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From the Editor’s Desk

nick2016

Nick Ducharme

Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,

We have a very delicious edition plated for your eager consumption today. Please enjoy our special menu:

  • Our appetizer is an interview with this month’s meeting presenter, who is expanding upon his topic from last month’s Picking a Path progression event at UCF with Jumpstart Your Tech Knowledge! The interview includes his personal recollection of visiting the recent STC Summit.
  • Our main course is a fantastically detailed summary of every topic from Picking a Path!
  • Our sweet dessert is a values article on the topic of caring!

 

If you are a chapter member, please also remember that ballots for our chapter election will be available at this month’s meeting on Thursday, May 25th. (That is the fourth Thursday of this month instead of the usual third Thursday. Please note that the ballot distributed last month did not reflect this.) There is also the option to mail in a ballot, if you ensure it arrives by Tuesday, May 23rd. Please let me know if you are a member and did not receive the link to the mail-in version.

 

Now for the meeting details:

Please join us this Thursday, May 25th, either online or at UCF’s University Boulevard IHOP. Click here to RSVP.

 

Many thanks,

Nick Ducharme
Manager, Communications Committee
newsletter@stc-orlando.org

Computer

Image Credit:

By No machine-readable author provided. Skies assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2496069

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The President’s Corner

Alex Garcia

Alex Garcia

By: Alex Garcia
President
(Orlando Central) Florida Chapter, STC

president@stc-orlando.org

Hello and welcome to another exciting President’s Corner.

Well, the confetti has fallen and the vendor booths have been packed up; the 2017 STC Summit is a wrap, folks! What does that mean for Orlando Central Florida Chapter of STC? The countdown is officially on to the 65th Annual STC Summit in Orlando, FL on May 20-23, 2018! Chapter Vice-President, David Coe, had the privilege of attending this year’s Summit and representing the Orlando Central Florida Chapter. We would like to thank his employer (Riptide Software) for making this trip possible. I had a chance to catch up with David as the Summit was wrapping up:

 

Alex Garcia (AG): Welcome back from the 64th annual STC Summit. I believe this was your first. Overall, what was your impression of the conference?

David Coe (DC): I am glad to be back, even though I did enjoy the cooler weather in DC. Yes, it was my first summit. The venue is beautiful and elegant and the ballrooms for the expo and education sessions were arranged simply, which kept navigation issues to a minimum for most attendees.

 

AG: How was the organization of the content and the programs? Were there any topics that you missed because they were scheduled at the same time as others?

DC: Most of the ballrooms for the expo and education sessions were arranged along an “L” shape hallway, which kept navigation from one session to another quite simple. There were some sessions that I was interested in that were scheduled in the same time slot where I had to choose which one to attend. Then there were other sessions in different time slots that were essentially the same, which resulted in missing other new sessions I could have attended. I think most sessions were scheduled well-enough that an attendees did not run into overlaps and missed opportunities, although they did exist. I would suggest a more thorough review of sessions to avoid overlaps and missed opportunities.

 

AG: Did you attend any STC organizational meetings, such as leadership day, the business meeting, or board meetings? Any insights on the health of the Society (that you are able to share)?

DC: I did attend the leadership program (was only half day), annual business meeting, and board meeting. All sessions were interesting.

On Sunday, the leadership program had an interesting topic using firemen leadership paradigms for discussion.

On Monday evening, the annual business meeting was presided over by the 2016-2017 STC Board of Directors. About 100 members were in attendance. Attendees were given a red placard to vote on motions from the floor. Before motions were taken from the floor, there were several reports. While the budget appears strong, it is much lower than I had anticipated due to low membership. On a financial good note, STC was able to reduce their deficits/liabilities by 78.25% over the past three years, which is a significant gain. There were several motions; some were carried and most were not.

I participated in one motion where I argued against it. The motion is to have STC pay for one member from each chapter to attend the upcoming STC Summit to help encourage and support chapter inclusion in STC events. While I love the idea, it is not fiscally responsible, nor is it feasible for STC to support as the motion was put forward. I based my argument on past experience on boards with approving large expenditures last minute with no study with disastrous results and, more importantly, based on the STC financial report given earlier. I did argue that STC does need to find viable alternatives to have STC chapter representatives attend, like a virtual conference or steeply discounted rates. The motion did not carry.

Final act was to transition to the new 2017-2018 Board.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Board meeting was presided by the 2017-2018 Board and was fairly typical for an incoming Board, with the President giving her views, visions, and expectations going forward. There were only three members in the audience. I was able to provide some input in regards to their scholarship and student membership initiatives that will be starting over the next year. Ben Woelk is the new Scholarship Committee chair (new committee).

 

AG: 2018 marks Summit #65. How excited is the Society about coming to Orlando next year for this milestone? What type of promotion did you see in D.C.?

DC: There was a table in the expo and there were several signs throughout the halls for next year’s event. At the table in the expo ballroom, there were several pamphlets from Orlando travel bureaus touting all the places and activities to do in Central Florida. There were several mentions in closing for the 2018 Summit.

During the 2017-2018 Board meeting, it was discussed the 2018 Summit is a milestone year (65th) and there are tentative plans to create new logos and themes to celebrate. The Orlando Central Florida chapter needs to pay attention and to try to be part of those plans.

 

AG: Now that you’ve experienced your first Summit, what kind of advice would you give to Orlando Central Florida Chapter members and friends who will attend the Summit next year?

DC: As a future attendee, I think the Summit is worth attending. It is really a good opportunity to meet like-minded professionals while enjoying the education sessions, expo, and fun activities. You also get to meet the Board of Directors who have been very approachable, and renowned gurus and celebrities in the TC world.

If financially feasible, attendees should consider taking the CPTC Foundation class and exam to get certified. The certification is new and it will need to gain maturity but it is a good opportunity to get this certification early in the program. STC is looking to grow this and I think it will be worthwhile in the long run to have it on your resume.

As the Orlando chapter host, we need to find out how well STC supported the Washington DC-Baltimore Chapter, which did a wonderful job. While I am sure they provided a variety of support throughout the Summit, their main event was the After Party on Tuesday night after the Awards ceremony. Hot and cold hors d’oeuvres with a cash bar were served during the Awards ceremony and After Party. Live music was played by “The Rough Drafts” band, which is comprised of all technical communicator band members. They did a wonderful job. There was karaoke later in the evening, but I did not attend.

We will need to brainstorm and implement ideas in how we can make a positive impact on attendees during their stay in Orlando.

 

AG: Word Association (first word that comes to your mind):

64th STC Summit: Classy and Organized (couldn’t narrow it to one word)

Gaylord Palms National Harbor: Spledid

Washington D.C.: National Harbor: Beautiful

Adobe Connect: Promising

65th STC Summit: Exciting

Orlando Hyatt Regency (Peabody): Classy

DITA: Popular (but not always the best solution)

 

AG: Thank you for representing Orlando Central Florida Chapter STC at the Summit this year. Any parting words?

DC: I had a wonderful time and I thank my employer, Riptide Software, in supporting this venture.  The STC Board, members, staff, volunteers, and Gaylord staff were approachable, welcoming, and supportive.

The expo/vendor selection were smaller than I expected but I have attended massive expos in the past and it is unfair to compare. With that said, many of the tools and complementing software and other services were well represented.

Most the education sessions were tools-agnostic applicable to most writing workshops. I personally would have liked a few more technical offerings, but with only 50 minutes to present, that may be wishful thinking. But for the paid half-day education sessions, there should have been more technical offerings.

Save your pennies if you plan to stay at the resort and attend dinner and other on-site activities. While it may not be as expensive as Washington DC, it will be costly; plan accordingly.

Get excited that the STC Summit is coming to Orlando! It will be worth attending!  

 

Until next month,

Alex

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April Meeting Recap: Pros Guide Students in “Picking a Path”

By: Emily Wells
MtM Staff Writer

 

On April 20, the UCF Future Technical Communicators (FTC) and members of the Orlando Central Florida (OCF) Chapter of STC gathered for the annual meeting at the University of Central Florida. The event, structured in a progression format, provided an opportunity for seven professional STC members to share their experience and knowledge with college students interested in or pursuing careers in technical communication. This year’s event, entitled “Picking a Path,” focused on career choices, job placement, and career advancement within the various disciplines of technical communication.

“Picking a Path” started with food and networking, followed by the presentation of the Melissa Pellegrin Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in Technical Communication. Established by the Orlando Chapter in 1997, the scholarship honors the memory of a 1994 UCF technical communication graduate and STC chapter member. The coveted award is presented annually to outstanding undergraduate and graduate students in the field of technical communication. This year, scholarship committee member Dr. Dan Jones presented the scholarship to the two recipients, Samra Khan and Jessica Mazza. Samra received the undergraduate award and Jessica received the graduate award.

The traditional candle-lit memorial display honors Melissa Pellegrin each year during the scholarship presentations.

The traditional candle-lit memorial display honors Melissa Pellegrin each year during the scholarship presentations. (Photo by W.C. Wiese)

Dr. Jones presents the Pellegrin Scholarship award to Samra Khan. (Photo by W.C. Wiese)

Dr. Jones presents the Pellegrin Scholarship award to Samra Khan. (Photo by W.C. Wiese)

Recipient Jessica Mazza proudly displays her plaque.  (Photo by W.C. Wiese)

Recipient Jessica Mazza proudly displays her plaque. (Photo by W.C. Wiese)

In addition to the Pellegrin scholarship, the Suncoast scholarship was also presented at “Picking a Path.” Established by the Suncoast Chapter, this year’s scholarship went to a sophomore at the University of South Florida, Samantha McGilvray, who traveled all the way from Tampa to attend the meeting and receive her scholarship.

Samantha McGilvray accepts the Suncoast scholarship award from  Chapter President Alex Garcia. (Photo by W.C. Wiese)

Samantha McGilvray accepts the Suncoast scholarship award from Chapter President Alex Garcia. (Photo by W.C. Wiese)

Unlike the scholarships, the final award, STC’s Distinguished Service Award for Students (DSAS), took its recipient by surprise. This award, given by the Society based on a nomination from an STC community, recognizes exemplary dedication and service to the community by a student member. This year’s DSAS award went to Crystal Brezina, OCF Chapter candidate for secretary for the upcoming 2017-2018 chapter year.

The citation reads: “For inspired leadership of the student members of the Orlando Central Florida Chapter [of STC] and tireless efforts in strengthening the dynamic partnership between our community and the University of Central Florida.”

Crystal Brezina accepts the DSAS from Education Committee Manager Dan Voss, who was Crystal’s mentor last year. (Photo by W.C. Wiese)

Crystal Brezina accepts the DSAS from Education Committee Manager Dan Voss, who was Crystal’s mentor last year. (Photo by W.C. Wiese)

Afterwards, seven progression-table hosts—all local STC members—presented on six topics related to this year’s theme, aimed towards giving students an idea of the diverse job opportunities available for them within the field of technical communication. Topics included:

Matrix Table

Colorful helium-filled balloons identifying the six venues (progression tables) added a festive air to “Picking a Path.”  (Photo by W.C. Wiese)

Colorful helium-filled balloons identifying the six venues (progression tables) added a festive air to “Picking a Path.” (Photo by W.C. Wiese)

All in all, the event was a big success. Many valuable lessons were learned, which can be seen in the recaps of the tabletop presentations in the six progression venues. Read on…

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April Meeting Recap: Burgundy Venue

<b>Supplement Your Writing with Technical Skills</b>:
The Value of Coding to a Professional Tech Writer

By: Alexandra Engrand
MtM Staff Writer

 

David Coe has been a technical communicator for 10 years, with 9 years of programming experience. His presentation, Information Technology as a Career Path in Technical Communication, combined these skills.

David began his presentation by telling his audience how he got into technical writing. It came down to two things: he had the experience and the knowledge for the job.

David stated that he had “18 years of heavy technical experience,” including writing how-to manuals for customers, and was capable of translating “engineering-speak” into content a lay person could understand. These are skills he says employers value and technical writers would benefit from having.

He went on to discuss different skills he has found useful for technical writers to have in their toolkit. He said entry-level jobs are difficult to find in the technical writing field, as many people lack the expertise and experience required. David recommended improving your chances by learning valuable skills, such as programming and coding. Being able to translate technical jargon into writing others can understand is an important part of the job. This is something that can be learned on the job, in the classroom, or a combination of both.

David concluded his presentation by listing some websites technical writers can explore:

  • Linda Learning (Free for UCF students)
  • Codewars
  • DocBook (Markup language)
  • idratherbewriting.com

April Meeting Recap: Blue Venue

My Job is to Make You Look Good

By: Alexandra Engrand
MtM Staff Writer

 

The subject of the headline was one of the main ideas was one of the main ideas Debra Johnson discussed in her presentation, Adding Value Where It Counts Most: Content Development Lifecycle/Workflow. Debra began by explaining the lifecycle of a document, complete with a handy, easy-to-follow chart of the 10 steps that make up the process. The process began with “Discover,” where information for the project is researched and acquired, all the way to the last step, “Maintenance,” which included updating and adjusting the published content as necessary.

 

Debra’s presentation focused on explaining the rest of the diagram to her attentive audience. Towards the end of the presentation, she shared the best way to perfect the “elevator pitch” for why technical writers matter. It essentially boiled down to “my job is to make you (and your company) look good” and “it is more than just making documents look pretty.” Technical writers add value to the work they do, help companies avoid liabilities, cut support costs, and offer a better overall experience for the customer.

 

Debra Johnson (far left) explains the lifecycle of a document to a rapt audience. (Photo by W.C. Wiese)

Debra Johnson (far left) explains the lifecycle of a document to a rapt audience. (Photo by W.C. Wiese)

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April Meeting Recap: Green Venue

There’s More to Life than Proposal Writing:
Marketing as an Alternative Path

By: Emily Wells
MtM Staff Writer

 

A leading misconception about technical communication is that it’s all about writing technical manuals and proposals. While this may be a convenient way to explain job possibilities, it is not all that a technical communicator can offer, which W.C. Wiese discussed in his presentation on Using Your Gifts for Marketing Support.

W.C. started by talking about how marketing is a different option for technical writers, explaining that if you can add persuasion to your technical writing skills, you can be a marketing writer. He demonstrated this by sharing his personal story of how he became a marketing writer, offering valuable advice along the way.

For example, he stressed the importance of starting by writing proposals and tech manuals for products, as this can allow you to learn everything there is to know about the product you are selling. In addition to knowing your product, you must also know what the competition is doing and anything else that relates to the economies of your industry. With that in mind, you can then create a media plan to go with it, showing your marketing skills.

This all tied in to perhaps the greatest lesson W.C. imparted: to always look for ways to improve your worth as an employee. For example, as a way to establish himself ,W.C. started a daily newsletter at his company using excess time he had. This served as a “daily calling card” while also showcasing his marketing skills, since the newsletter essentially served as a market analysis report. Fifteen years later, the newsletter is still going strong, and W.C. is working as a valued and successful marketing writer.

 

W.C. Wiese fields questions about life as a marketing writer.

W.C. Wiese fields questions about life as a marketing writer.

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April Meeting Recap: Orange Venue

To Thine Own Self Be True: What Tech Writers Can Learn From Shakespeare

By: Alexandra Engrand
MtM Staff Writer

 

This was just one of the many tips Dan Voss included in his Shakespearean-themed survival guide for technical communication students about to venture into the “corporate jungle.”

What Price Success? An Ethical Roadmap thru the Thorny Thicket of Corporate Politics was an enlightening how-to for young professionals about how to navigate big-company politics.

The presentation was split into three parts: (1) a Shakespearean-inspired survival guide recouched in 21st century parlance, (2) a Vossian addendum to Shakespeare’s insights, and (3) the somewhat cynical but undeniably educational Elephant Theory of Management Sensitivity.

This was taken from Dan’s very first STC conference presentation at the East Tennessee Chapter’s regional Practical Conference on Communication (PCOC) back in 1989.  Had Dan not offered this little tidbit, the writer wouldn’t have known; she wasn’t there. J

In Part 1, Dan analyzed Polonius’ advice to his son (from Shakespeare’s Hamlet), translating his 16th century principles into modern-day “corporate speak.” For example, “give thy thoughts no tongue” becomes “don’t run your mouth.” And the famous “to thine own self be true” translates to “Stick to your principles. Do what’s right.” Dan transitioned this into a quick look at situational ethics, which, he warned, “are a slippery slope.”

Part 2 was Dan adding his own bits of wisdom, picked up during his 39 years working in the industry.

The final part of Dan’s presentation offered survival advice for new employees interacting with upper management, whom he refers to as “elephants.” In this metaphor, technical communicators are mice. The seven rules for mouse survival in an elephant’s world include:

  • Keeping a low profile
  • Avoiding contact with elephants wherever possible
  • When being attacked by elephants, either hide, run away, divert their attention, or refocus their stomping on another mouse
  • Most importantly, never get between two elephants who are crossing tusks.
Presenter Dan Voss

Dan Voss shares his 21st century take on Shakespeare’s wisdom as it applies to corporate politics. (Photo by W.C. Wiese)

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April Meeting Recap: Purple Venue

Landing the Job: Tips for Success from Your Resume to the Interview

By: Emily Wells
MtM Staff Writer

 

Getting the Job: Resumes, Portfolios, and Interviewing was the focus of Jessica Campbell’s progression presentation. Jessica walked attendees through the steps, starting with resume-building tips, proceeding to portfolio building, and finishing with the all-important interview.

In discussing resumes, she covered everything from formatting—such as avoiding colors on your resume and using sans serif font—to content, such as making sure you use relevant keywords for the job in your resume and using coursework as relevant experience if you have no job experience.

After covering how to build an excellent resume, Jessica moved on to creating a powerhouse portfolio, either online or in print. The biggest advice she had for building a good portfolio was to remember to include a cover letter for your portfolio, whether online or in print, just as you would for a resume, and to make sure to list the writing samples included in the portfolio at the beginning. In addition, Jessica also recommended including letters of recommendation and a resume in both .doc and .pdf format in your portfolio. The objective is for the portfolio to serve as a one-stop shop where employers can learn about you.

Finally, Jessica covered how to ace the interview from before you walk in, starting by researching the position and the company. She also stressed the importance of dressing professionally and greeting the interviewer with a strong handshake. She then presented typical interview questions and explained how to answer them to your advantage.

Jessica advised giving questions thoughtful consideration and answering truthfully, even on difficult questions, while still turning them around to aid you. These included the tricky-to-field question “what is your salary requirement?”—one which Jessica advised beginning job hunters to parry by not providing a specific value, but saying it is negotiable.

Another question was the ever popular “what are your weaknesses?” Jessica’s advice? Identify your barriers or weaknesses, but then flip them around and sell them as strengths. In addition, be specific about how you will overcome these barriers, making you an even better employee.

A final piece of advice Jessica had to offer based on her experience was to go to every interview you can to practice your interview skills, as practice makes perfect—or, in this case, helps you land the job.

Jessica Campbell (far left) shares her knowledge to help students  succeed in their job hunt.

Jessica Campbell (far left) shares her knowledge to help students succeed in their job hunt. (Photo by Emily Wells)

 

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April Meeting Recap: Gold Venue

Leveling Up: First Years on the Job

By: Emily Wells
MtM Staff Writer

 

The tag-team duo of Bethany Aguad and Nick Ducharme took on the monumental quest of covering the first few years on the job, using a gaming approach to explain how to not only survive, but to excel in your early career in Leveling Up: First Years on the Job. To tackle such a giant challenge, they broke it down into three sections: Key Attributes, Skills, and Leveling Up.

First, Bethany and Nick discussed the top four attributes an employee should have: balance and self-awareness, education, self-confidence, and technical knowledge–also known as wisdom, intelligence, constitution, and strength. One of the biggest lessons they imparted was to remember that you are not being graded anymore; instead, you will be measured by your performance and by how much value you add to the company.

After this, Bethany and Nick shared the four skills they considered most important: the ability to analyze processes, email considerations, the ability to successfully interview subject matter experts (SMEs), and time management. Throughout this portion, Bethany and Nick also stressed the importance of effective communication and a “go-getter” attitude. For example, even if someone doesn’t follow up with you, you should follow up with him or her instead of blaming them for you not being able to proceed. And most importantly, always be able to adapt. After all, you never know when a boss-level monster is going to pop up and ruin your perfect game.

After providing the pieces for success, Bethany and Nick shared their ideas on how to go about “leveling up” in the corporate world, specifically regarding what to do when looking for a job (looking at career opportunities and progression within the company) and what to do when already in a job (performance reviews). They stressed how important this two-fold approach is, because knowing in advance what career opportunities are available to you enables you to use your performance review to create a plan of attack to win the match and level up.

Nick Ducharme (far right) shares his “cheats” (knowledge) to help keep students a step ahead of the job market competition.

Nick Ducharme (far right) shares his “cheats” (knowledge) to help keep students a
step ahead of the job market competition.

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Exploring Values: Caring

Mike Murray

Mike Murray

By: Mike Murray
STC Fellow
Former Three-Time Chapter President

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles about values, which is a natural complement to the writer’s ongoing series on excellence. Over the next several months, Mike intends to work with chapter leaders to define our community’s core values. The first value has to do with caring—and, in so doing, making a difference. Read on…

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word … all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

—Leo Buscaglia

I once heard a story about a man who often said, “A stranger is just a friend I haven’t met yet.” He found himself compelled to make eye contact with people around him. A warm smile and a hearty “Hi!” later, he seemed able to determine if the person wanted or needed to talk or preferred to be left alone. Most people this man met couldn’t help themselves—they talked.

Based on many years of mentoring, general counseling, and common sense, the man found that once a new-found friend started talking, he was always able to share some good advice with the person. Sometimes the new friends responded and sometimes they didn’t, but that didn’t matter. The man’s love of people compelled him to “keep talking.”

As the story goes, the man found himself sitting next to lady in the third-floor waiting room of a doctor’s office. After making eye contact with the lady, the man learned in the ensuing discussion that the lady’s sister had Parkinson’s disease (PD). It became evident to the man that the lady and her sister had given up hope. They lived every day with depression and general gloom. They had given up the fight for life.

The man had some experience in this area, for he also had PD. For the next few minutes, he regaled his new friend with general tips and specific information he thought would be helpful. He told her about a local Parkinson’s outreach program, and he passed along contact information for the director of that program. The more the man talked, the more the lady’s face lighted up. Then the lady and the friendly man were called in for their appointments, and they went their merry way—or so the man thought.

After his appointment, the man took the elevator to the first-floor lobby to await his transportation. A few minutes later, his new friend emerged from the elevator. Seeing the man, the lady quickened her pace until she was standing right in front of him. She began by saying how grateful she was to have met him. She confirmed that she and her sister had indeed given up hope. She said she was watching her sister fade away in front of her eyes. She told the man his words had lifted them from the doldrums. She now had hope, and that hope would give her sister a new lease on life.

As she started to walk away, the lady turned back to the man. With a gleam in her eyes and a smile on her face, she told him, “The world is a better place because you are in it!”

I was completely speechless (not a typical state for me! ☺). Nobody had ever said something like that to me before. As I sat there frozen in time, the lady put the fingertips of both hands on her lips and blew me a kiss, and then she was gone.

I sat motionless for many minutes until my transportation arrived and I was compelled to get aboard for the trip home. When I got there, I couldn’t get the day’s events off my mind (nor did I want to). Finally, my eyes began to close as the familiar PD curtain of exhaustion descended upon my day. Still, there was a grin on my face as I slowly made my way to bed with my two wonderful dogs and my extra-special, loving wife. My final thoughts as sleep overtook me were the words the lady had said to me that afternoon.

I had made a difference in two lives.

It’s moments like this that make me want to keep meeting new friends.

Caring about the happiness of others, we find our own.

—Plato

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