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Question of the Week: How would you use blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other Web 2.0 tools to protect the environment?

2008 June 23

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Wikis and widgets and blogs, oh my! “Web 2.0″ is about sharing content… your photos, opinions, links, and more. At EPA, we are trying to find ways to use Web 2.0 technologies such as wikis, blogging, news feeds, podcasts, or social networking, to improve how we reach out to and communicate with the public.

How would you use blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other Web 2.0 tools to protect the environment?

On Monday, June 23, “Ask EPA” hosted an online discussion about using Web 2.0 to protect the environment – read the transcript.

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En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

¡Wikis y widgets y blogs, Dios mío! “Web 2.0″ se trata de compartir contenido…sus fotos, opiniones, enlaces, y más. En EPA, estamos tratando de encontrar maneras de utilizar tecnologías de Web 2.0 como wikis, blogs, “feeds” noticiosos, podcasts, o reds sociales, para mejorar la manera en la cual nos comunicamos con el público.

¿Cómo utiliza blogs, wikis, podcasts, y otras herramientas de Web 2.0 para proteger el medio ambiente?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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69 Responses leave one →
  1. Brian Mannix permalink
    June 23, 2008

    I like the idea of a watershed wiki. It has the potential of organizing into a more self-aware community many of the people who live and work within a watershed. And it can help assemble from disparate sources a knowledgebase about what is going on in a watershed that might affect its health.

    There are some examples out there. Some students at Michigan State started the Great Lakes Wiki (start small, anyone?) a couple of years ago. ( http://www.greatlakeswiki.org )

    I remember the moment in my youth when I first became watershed-aware. I was standing atop a mountain in New Hampshire with a climbing buddy, looking at the neighboring ridges and peaks, trying to figure out their names and relative heights. But when I talked to Jim about this, I found that he was looking at the terrain in a completely different way. He named the major drainages and watersheds, and pointed out the connections between them. It immediately struck me that this was a much more practical way to look at the landscape–not least as a way to avoid getting lost.

    Years later, Jim and I climbed Snow Dome — an unassuming peak (ok, bump) in the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies. This is the triple-divide point of North America, the junction of three continental divides, where the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic drainages all touch. If you go there, be sure to carry your own drinking water. Not that there isn’t plenty of snow on Snow Dome, but it is known as the place where one can pee in three oceans. So just trust me on this and carry a bottle.

  2. Beth permalink
    June 23, 2008

    I would utilize those tools to help foster flexibile work arrangements and tele-working. With some of the newer technologies, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with the office and around the world – and reduce the need for transportation. Create podcasts of trainings and presentations, create project resource wikis for tem members in different physical locations, stay connected with office discussions in blogs, meet people in different departments utilizing “social networking” software as virtual/anytime office mixers so people can network and keep in touch.

  3. Tina permalink
    June 23, 2008

    The same way the media uses all mass functioning resources to spread information worldwide: upload and conquer!

    The World Wide Web and up and coming technology is virtually overaccessible, making information more easily available to all brands of people. Whether it be wiki, widgets, podacasting, etc…all of these things are on-the-go, fast ways of divulging important information.

    Also, a lot of revenue can be made off each of the products you mentioned meaning that “going green” can mean “making green” as well, if that made any sense at all.

    I’m at work — gotta run!

  4. Thomas R. Kopp permalink
    June 23, 2008

    What states have a reduction/discount.rebate on converting a home to green?

  5. Stephanie permalink
    June 23, 2008

    I use podcasts and webcasts to get the “Go Green” message out to our 7500 employees across 16 states. This allow me to get out new message every month without having to send out newsletters or hard copy memos. I also use webcast for training folks in other states.

  6. Michelle permalink
    June 23, 2008

    Linking folks together who are interested in a particular environmental cause & initiating a collective change. 1 person alone can’t do too much, 150-200 folks united for a particular cause can do more no matter what the issue is. :)

  7. Ronald J. Gramm permalink
    June 23, 2008

    I am going to use my web site, http://www.exonerateco2.com , to exonerate co2 from the people who want to harm America and propose that the Principal Green House Gas is Water Vapor.
    CO2 is the Environmental, Food Growing Super Gas upon which all life on planet earth depends.
    CO2 IS NOT POLLUTION.

  8. Dan permalink
    June 23, 2008

    The most, almost the only, important issue relating to the environment is the one we talk least about: Human Population Growth. I would use the web to raise the issue of the need to limit the human population to what the planet can sustainably support. We have already passed the level that the world can support with a wesern standard of living, and we may have even passed the level it can support on a continuing basis over the long term, period. Of course, the planet will limit our population growth eventually, through the traditional controls of disease, famine, war, drought, etc. but it would have been nice if we could have done better.

  9. Joel permalink
    June 23, 2008

    As our economy continues to crumble, I’d suggest that bells and whistles should be put on a back burner. I would hope that any progress in this direction would be an attempt to save tax payer dollars. I am an IT Director, and it always troubles me when I see a sink hole developing.

    Technology to save tax dollars, great!
    Technology because it exists, shame, shame!

  10. Tony Pirondini permalink
    June 23, 2008

    I believe that most people want to do what’s right. People want to protect the environment and preserve it for their children and grandchildren.

    But, I also believe that people are more motivated to save money now than by acting to save the future (ex. global warming). And most people want any conservation measure to be easy and convenient (i.e, recycling).

    Keeping that in mind, electronic forms of communication (blogs, podcasts, etc.) could be used to disseminate useful tips that could both save money and conserve resources. It can be done, with some thought. There’s a lot of junk “snake oil” products, leading to much unnecessary waste – and a lot of thoughtlessness.

    “What can I do to make this world a better place – and save money too!” – would make a good campaign.

  11. Jake B. permalink
    June 23, 2008

    We will need tools like wikis and blogs to sort thru all the information that environmental issues create. These problems and opportunities are extremely complex and will require diverse and multi-functional teams of people to work together and compare lots of different perspectives. The environment is a crisis of perception as much as action and interaction of vast ecosystems. We have yet to perfect a tool that will sort thru all the hype and highlight only the grains of truth that will help us survive and thrive on Earth.

  12. Richard Whisnant permalink
    June 23, 2008

    Take a look at our water wiki….http://www.unc.edu is a portal into it. We are using the wiki to organize the thoughts of a research team on water allocation, but given the nature of water (to dissolve categories) we have intentionally left the wiki open to water management, policy and law discussions of all sorts. Please join in!
    thanks
    Richard
    UNC-CH

  13. Richard Whisnant permalink
    June 23, 2008

    Oops, that url should be http://water.unc.edu

  14. Bonnie Aylor permalink
    June 23, 2008

    Well, I could use podcasts and blogs just to tell the mass amount of internet friends I have about different subjects effecting us or just wildlife and the environment in general and open discussions (of course implementing my own educated views as well) about what we, as humans and citizens of multiple countries, can do to help preserve the environmenta and combat those issues. I could also use them to make people aware of different campaigns about the environment and why they are important. I could use podcasts to not only transfer videos from multiple campaigns about the environment to the masses, but to also create my own videos, tutorials, presentations to people to give them more ideas of how everyday people can help the environment through things they do or just by getting involved and also why its important to help teh environment personally and just for the environment. Wiki’s are good for all of thsoe things but they are also good for use in businesses that protect the environment, for creating journals about environment subjects, and transferring data and documents. Maybe even to make environmental message baords. Even for conducting Environmental Surveys.

    Wow! Your talking about a RICH SUPPLY of avenues for environmental education and campaign efforts. AS well as for gathering information to use to render better policies and surveys related to the environment. That’s totally AWESOME.

  15. Maria Tardo permalink
    June 23, 2008

    Not knowing what wikis and podcasts are, will comment about the use of blogspots and webcam that can be used to alert citizens of emergency incidents such as the one our community had this weekend with the I-10 Twin Span Closure in Slidell, LA due to a hydrochloric acid tanker spill.

    In fenceline communities, blogspots and webcam can also be used for video monitoring of flaring reduction plans’ reliability and to communicate and broadcast individual homeowners environmental upgrades on everything from home improvements, community recycling efforts to chemical free home gardening pest control

  16. M Burkett permalink
    June 23, 2008

    sharing content… that is the value of the internet…Thanks for your work

  17. Bob McCann permalink
    June 23, 2008

    Can the EPA publish how many ‘orphaned Class 2 injection wells’ exisit in the US? — based upon its databases?

  18. Pam Broviak, PE permalink
    June 23, 2008

    As a civil engineer who relies on the EPA for resources and design information and permitting, I have to commend your agency for its innovation and progressive approach to using the Internet and for your willingness to move forward to enhance your offerings through the use of Web 2.0 tools. I often use the current tools and information on your Website.

    And I think all of the new and emerging Web 2.0 tools, including the use of Virtual Worlds like Second Life, can be used to further your delivery of services to those of us in engineering and public works.

    A wiki sponsored by the EPA that would allow for editing by those of us working in the industry would be a tremendous asset for all of us. The FHWA has partnered to produce one for pavements so there is already a model of this implemented. (http://www.pavementinteractive.org)

    The blog that you have set up is nice as a public delivery tool, but another one focusing on design and permitting issues would help us get more timely information about changes that we need to be aware of. Perhaps you could then produce a widget of this blog with a feed that we can install it on our own sites.

    Podcasts are ok, but I enjoy your webinars better and keeping them up on your site for later reference is helpful. Perhaps developing this into a type of library would be useful.

    Which brings me to the virtual world issue – I have been exploring the use of Second Life for planning, design, and education uses in our industry. For some time, I have thought this format would be a great fit for your agency. The EPA could create a virtual space with an area set up for each segment of the agency such as water, sewer, watersheds, etc.

    Not only would a virtual world build allow for the intuitive collection of many forms of media in one space, but there is the opportunity to create 3-D exhibits of related principles and policies. A space like this would be the obvious place for engineers and public works professionals to hang out and network not only with agency staff but with each other. There are some universities already teaching environmental courses in Second Life – your webinars and other education seminars could easily be delivered in this space.

    There is a Federal Consortium already formed of Federal agencies and employees who are moving in this direction. (http://www.ndu.edu/IRMC/fedconsortium.html) I know I could get so much more accomplished if I could visit an EPA build in Second Life to research and keep up with the design requirements that govern my work.

    Thanks so much for allowing us to voice our opinion.

  19. Cathy B. permalink
    June 23, 2008

    I’m new to this.
    what is a WIKI?

  20. Ron Lubensky permalink
    June 23, 2008

    I think it has to be said that by using online services alone, you avoid the resources (eg. trees) necessary to mass print alternatives like newsletters and journals and the CO2-generating transport to deliver them. So the medium aligns with the message.

  21. Bill S. permalink
    June 23, 2008

    EPA’s Greenversations is a good start. At first I thought the questions weren’t probing enough. But the variety and quantity of responses prove me wrong. I have been noticing with environmental blogs that complex starter questions or comments produce limited feedback. But based on the results here, you don’t need to have technically or legally challenging questions to get people to speak out — which, after all, is the goal. Relating the question to what the average folk encounter on a daily basis is also important. It gets people thinking. Anyway, my compliments to whomever is responsible for this. Keep up the good work! And, no, I have absolutely no connection to EPA or any environmental agency.

  22. Terry Muir permalink
    June 23, 2008

    The golfing industry has utilised web tools to develop an web based EMS as part of a global strategy to improve environmental performance across the industry. The web tool is called e-par and it has a number of web communication tools that include:- an environmental “Chat room” for the Superintendents to chat with peers on environmental issues. There is also a “Trophy Room” that enables good news environmental stories from golf to be posted and shared. There is a “Newsroom” where environmental information is communicated to clubs around the world. There is an on-line environmental training room that provides training on environmental management. Through the web tool we can provide data on EMS status and report on performance. Podcasts are planned to assist golf clubs with their EMS. Visit e-par at http://www.epar.com.au

    Through web tools the golf industry is making environmental management accessible and fun and verifiable around the globe.

  23. Mamasmad permalink
    June 23, 2008

    I use a blog site methlabhomes.com to try to help others learn about meth labs. Recent trends to make meth outdoors and in
    moving vehicles is a trend that will increase the contamination of our environment.

  24. Matthew permalink
    June 24, 2008

    Me & my mom are doing a Adopt-a-Beach in Evanston, and we post interesting results and questions to other people also helping us adopt Greenwood Beach (how much does wind affect longshore current, etc.) at http://adoptabeachblog.northpondclub.org.

  25. Kit Cat permalink
    June 24, 2008

    I agree on the issue of population growth. Take a look at population growth statistics & projections…it’s astounding. If one takes a deep look, it is evident that ‘mother nature’ is trying to control earth’s population but man is ‘interfering’…there is an old saying about man’s interference to try to improve a situation usually results in the creation of another problem. When poverty-stricken african nations have women marrying @ age 11 and giving birth to 7-11 babies over their child-bearing years…it makes one stop and wonder…where is the effort to address birth control. Where does the food & water come from to feed 7-11 babies per female in developing countries? Again, look at MEGACITY projections for 2030 or 2050…it’s shocking! And, most of the population growth will occur in nations that don’t have the resources to take care of themselves. Their governments are always looking to the western world to feed, cloth & shelter their population. This email is not meant to be cold-hearted, it’s meant to open the eyes of people who have no idea the kind of demands the world’s population is going to have on Earth’s resources. There will be a day when Mother Earth will say “no more”! Back to the original point of this blog…I think technology is a great way for the ‘common’ person to submit thoughts and ideas that can foster conversation. The media and politicians are out of control…who can we believe anymore and what news outlet can provide unbiased information to us? Each of us may have our own view and our bias is obvious but nobody is squelching our thoughts when we have a chance to comment on blogs. It’s today’s ‘man-on-the-street’ interview.

  26. Valarie permalink
    June 24, 2008

    For those of us who have computer access and are connected by broadband to the internet it is fun and easy to use Wiki’s blogs, Postcast, RSS feeds. However there is still a large population that does not have access or the tools to enjoy these information tools. We still need to get the thoughs and ideas of those not connected.

  27. Martha permalink
    June 24, 2008

    A wiki is basically a web page that can become a document–and therefore is editable by anyone.

    Great explanation here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dnL00TdmLY

  28. K. Agle permalink
    June 24, 2008

    Great question! These tools could bring about the next big leap in government transparency and public participation. Imagine dozens of feeds/podcasts about targeted, precise areas of interest, made available by the EPA. For example, I would subscribe to a podcast or RSS feed that would send me automatic updates related to the Tittabawassee River in Michigan (pending enforcement cases, dioxin monitoring), and another related to nanosilver impact evaluation, and another related to IPM in schools. By narrowing the topics, you’ll find more users who are willing to sign up. The agency could also learn valuable lessons by analyzing which topics generate the most interest.

  29. greenmullet permalink
    June 24, 2008

    Web 2.0 is the new town hall, the new town square, the new water cooler.

    Tools like blogs and wikis and podcasts (don’t forget Twitter) are great ways to distribute information to the public, and get conversations started (like this one).

    The EPA can help engage people with blogs like this one, and by offering legitimate, non-biased information about environmental issues.

    And don’t forget to visit my blog. It’s the environment mixed with Rock ‘N’ Roll. You don’t have to be lame to be green.

    – Green Mullet
    http://greenmullet.com/

  30. Kim Balassiano permalink
    June 24, 2008

    Brian – your wish is our command! EPA is currently working on a Watershed Central wiki right now – which is meant to facilitate local to local watershed management collaboration. Decades ago and maybe before, scientists realized that characterizing natural systems based on political boundaries – didn’t really make sense. After much debate, the watershed was identified as the most practical unit of analysis – and the rest has been history. But thanks for bringing home that message based on your personal experience!

  31. Kim Balassiano permalink
    June 24, 2008

    A wiki is basically website software that allows you to let the anonymous public (or a select, targeted community) add content to or delete content from that website in real time.

  32. Anonymous permalink
    June 24, 2008

    I use my Logical Ecology blog, http://www.logicalecology.wordpress.com to talk about down-to-earth ways to help the environment.

    Environmental issues are often emotional, and sometimes common sense takes a back seat to jumping on the latest bandwagon. My goal is to foster intelligent thinking and discussion about ecological issues–especially water related topics.

  33. Donna Kaluzniak permalink
    June 24, 2008

    I use my Logical Ecology blog, http://www.logicalecology.wordpress.com to talk about down-to-earth ways to protect the environment.

    Environmental issues are often emotional and common sense can take a back seat to jumping on the latest bandwagon. My goal is to foster intelligent discussion about ecological issues — especially water-related topics.

  34. Wendy Smith permalink
    June 24, 2008

    Hi. Students at Klem Road South Elementary School are using a variety of technology tools to help them learn about water quality issues in our community and share their findings with community members. One of their multi-media presentations was streamed live over the Internet using ustream.tv. Click here to see the students share their year-long project. Students also shared information and collaborated with classmates via the discussion tabs on our Pond Partner Wiki. This project was made possible through a HP Technology for Teaching grant and involved 5 teachers and 3 classrooms. Next year we are expanding our environmental studies to include 15 teachers and classrooms.

  35. Wendy Smith permalink
    June 24, 2008

    Pond Partners Wiki

  36. Cat Laine permalink
    June 25, 2008

    If I were the EPA, I would use a blog/podcasts/vlogs to help consumers go green, answer common questions (e.g. where do I recycle CFLs), provide a range of steps they can take if they want to up their renewable energy use or go off grid, interviews with EPA scientists/staff on their current work. Short Voice of America style audio pieces on EPA news of the week would be great as well as info on how the public can become involved if they like/or do not like EPA policies.

  37. refused permalink
    June 25, 2008

    One of the things that I am amazed that people continually leave out of the rush to “let’s emulate wikipoedia” is the issue of authoritative source.

    If, as one of the earlier commentors remarks, EPA were to provide such a venue for professionals, what is to prevent an agent of an interested party from removing or subtly changing data about, say, a potential clean up site, and both people potentially being subject ot injury (either through manipulation of property values or via manipulation of data to minimize appearance of risk) and/or the government becoming embroiled in litigation?

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes doesn’t even apply here, because there clearly are no watchmen. Exampli gratia: the history of data manipulation on Wikipoedia even by their senior edit/control function as recently as the last 60 days (sorry to keep harping on them, but the ill informed still attempt to cite raw data from there as if it were an authotitative source).

  38. Valarie permalink
    June 25, 2008

    I like Cat’s idea of a where can I for different recycleing items. There are many different places to take items like batteries (Radio Shack will take them), Home Depot will now take the old light bulbs and other organizations will take specific items a blog or Wiki with the information taylored for a neighborhood will help people know where to recycle the different items. This would be very useful for new people who move into a neighborhood and don’t know where to dispose of items.

  39. Phillip permalink
    June 25, 2008

    Protecting the environment takes informed people. We all must be better informed to make better decisions, but we ( you ) don’t know what you don’t know. So there is a chance to increase awareness about environmental issues. In part thanks to this box there are now environmental practices today being performed that were preached 20 years ago. The unfortunate reality is a sense of ” preachin to the choir ” cause it is not the readers of this blog that won’t do the environmentally responsible thing.

  40. Richard Whisnant permalink
    June 25, 2008

    So far, what I’ve found from the water wiki at http://water.unc.edu on this question: first, on matters of opinion and judgment, it is a scale issue. It is not hard for the relatively small number of people who are very committed to our wiki to monitor all the changes in all the pages, particularly the pages that they have written, and even subtle changes are easily flagged and corrected. Perhaps not so at the scale of wikipedia. As to Quis custodiet ipsos custodes, a major value of wikis is broadening the number of custodes out there. Second, on matters of data that have been recorded and are now being reported as historical facts, those can be posted in .pdf or other form that is not easily altered. This is a bit antithetical to hard-core wiki philosophy, but is where we have come down: you need both the free flowing easily editable open text and the harder “lumps” of historical data. There is no way to ensure absolute data integrity and also attain cheap very widespread distribution of the same data if you assume malicious motives.

  41. Richard Whisnant permalink
    June 25, 2008

    I think it would be useful to convene a group of people working on environmental wikis to talk about things like navigation structure, interface, interwiki linking and the like. I have had some discussions with the creator of the great lakes wiki and the water wiki in the wikia family about this and would welcome participation from whomever is working on this at EPA. There are a lot of hard questions about structure that you’ll find will not be solved by the community of users out there; in short, what you offer to the reader/editor when they first arrive in your wiki has a lot to do with the chance that they remain interested and contribute. We are finding the rule of 90-9-1 ( see http://www.wikipatterns.com/display/wikipatterns/90-9-1+Theory ) true here. It would be great to figure out for environmental wikis how to break through this rule….

  42. sharon permalink
    June 26, 2008

    41 Responses to “Question of the Week: How would you use blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other Web 2.0 tools to protect the environment?”
    Firstly, help folks learn how to navigate them, then link the public to resources. More people would go “green” if they knew who offers incentives, what products are available, where to get products (at an affordable price), when is the best time to buy, where they are available, how and why certain products will meet your particular needs.

  43. Mary R permalink
    June 29, 2008

    Educate the kids. Even the grownups. Make it funny. Like should we seend our garbage to the moon? Get their attention.Then inform them. Let the kids do it, maybe. Or some Hollywood types, comedy writers, anyone who cares, and can reach people without being too wordy or serious. Even though the issues are!

  44. Kaye from Kentucky permalink
    June 30, 2008

    It would be nice if our Kentucky licensed electricians could be offered training closer than Florida or Utah to get certified in installing solar panels. I guess if EPA is behind it…maybe training for the average JOE on the HOW TO portion of using less energy and protecting our environment would be very helpful. With the economy sucking our dollars every which way we turn…it would be a refreshing and useful manner in which information could be shared. So offer DIY courses or information to educate concerned citizens about our homes and offices is my suggestion.

  45. Joel Deluxe permalink
    June 30, 2008

    I started a webgroup on Flickr () for folks to post photographs of pollution in the environment and share their stories.

  46. Justin permalink
    July 1, 2008

    One could argue that all life on planet earth also depends on H20, however, that doesn’t mean that too much H20 won’t kill you.

  47. Joe Laur permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Web based social networks like http://www.greenopolis.com can expand education and fuel personal action on sustainability issues. But they must be structured to achieve real results on the ground, not just pledges and promises. Rewarding the behavior via point system, community recognition, and increased self awareness are all very useful.
    Social network websites can also foster the collaborations within and across sectors that is essential to address sustainability issues. It will take all of us, and these networks can bring us together.

  48. GovITwiki help Desk permalink
    July 1, 2008

    One way for government agencies to cut energy costs is to focus on the amount of energy consumed by their information technology systems (desktop computers, servers, datacenters, networks, etc.)

    We have started this wiki page as a place to discuss these issues, and it’s our hop that this will evolve into a place where best energy practices can be tracked.

    So… that’s one more energy saving use for a wiki!

  49. Bill E. permalink
    July 2, 2008

    I change my habits every so often. Three weeks ago I started riding my bike to the bus again. It’s hot out, but a few miles on the bike each day helps me feel better. Although the gas prices helped give me that extra push I needed to get back on the bike, I was already planning on it. What really helps people make these changes in commuting habits is providing enough comfortable transportation. In my area, although a lot of buses have been added over the past years, there still are not enough, and it’s often standing room only on the express routes. And, we the only commuter train is due to arrive later this year, covering only a small portion of the city. I’m hoping for more and more affordable and fuel efficient, alternative personal vehicles to come out soon, for those days that I can’t ride the bike. With gas prices so high, the push is on to make this happen.

  50. Robert Giggey permalink
    July 2, 2008

    An MBA course on Sustainable Development and Competitive Advantage chose to use a wiki to share information throughout the course. Each semester builds a new wiki. Businesses likely have the most influential capabilities. Hopefully the business leaders of tomorrow will be considering sustainable development.

    http://sdca.wordpress.com/

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