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[P]
Selling Out

By Philipp in Op-Ed
Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 05:08:16 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

In todays New York Times is an interesting article called "Dr Pepper Hospital? Perhaps, for a price" (free registration required). It does a good job at describing how literally everything from buildings to non-profit organizations is being taken over by advertising interests. Let's take a closer look at the issue.


Why this happens is easy to see: When a new sports arena was built here in Los Angeles, the naming rights were sold for a whopping $1 billion to Staples. So now it is called the "Staples Center", although it has nothing at all to do with Staples. This is a great deal for the builders of the site: they don't really give anything up. What is being sold is a "business externality", something that costs someone else. When sports reporters want to reference the location of the latest Lakers game, they have to mention the "Staples Center". Ka-Ching, another AdImpression. They could also call it the "sports arena close to downtown at the intersection of the 10 and 110 freeways". This way they could avoid diluting their advertising output (maybe an Office Depot commercial), but nobody would know what they are talking about.

So, why does this work for the advertiser? People are not the "rational" egoists that economic theory wants us to believe. Humans have, among other things, tribal instincts: They value the importance of being part of a community. For instance, when you buy a GAP shirt, you don't only buy a piece of clothing, but you enter the community of GAP wearers. If that is too middle-class for you, go to Armani and you are really part of an elite circle. Clothing is primarily sold for this reason, the quality is secondary, and most people are not even able to judge this.

The innocent naming of buildings and institutions has a profound effect of society. Previously, a zoo might be named after its founder, a university building after a famous scientists. Or simply called "Computer Science Building". Now, the computer science building at Stanford is named after Bill Gates; in my university it is named after a wealthy businessman (and big-time donor). Whereas, previously, important achievements were honored, the underlying message is now: the most esteemed thing is to be rich.

Imagine a child going to McDonald's elementary school, the McDonald's hospital, and the McDonald's petting zoo. Besides developing intimate tribal feelings to McDonald's, she will learn that McDonald's is doing good things and become very apologetic to anything McDonald's might do. Meanwhile the reality is that McDonald's has really nothing to do with the zoo, which is just considered a good advertising investment and keeps on selling unhealthy food.

You might become cynical and reject all this, but in the context of society you are quite helpless. You might think that it is more important to become a scientist or engineer whose inventions have a profound positive impact on society. But everyone else in society glorifies the guy in the Porsche and considers you a socially retarded geek. Nobody knows (or cares) who invented the Internet, but we know everything about the likes of Bill Gates and Larry Ellison. CEO as pop star is a good advertising strategy that brings free press. Nobel laureates, however, have no advertising budget.

Let's finish this up with a case study: the recent sell-out of kuro5hin to OSDN. A clean-cut deal, the developers of this site sold some virtual real estate and naming rights for some undisclosed amount of money. Here, the externalities are carried by the site contributors. Whatever positive you bring to this site will directly benefit OSDN's esteem (and Rusty's account balance). Don't fool yourself that you can circumvent that: Anti-advertisement has already been done ("Image is Nothing"), and will only increase the reputation of the site.

Kuro5hin now accustoms its readers to the cosy world of slickly designed OSDN web sites. The visitors are invited to be part of the OSDN tribe. Are you in, or out?

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Selling Out | 66 comments (59 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
But people want it that way... (2.85 / 7) (#1)
by Signal 11 on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 06:58:50 PM EST

Hey, it's all in the name of economic progress. The people of the United States of America wanted to be the most materially wealthy nation on earth, and it's succeeded brilliantly. Honestly, this really is a symptom of this "problem". Personally, I blame Adam Smith - if we had stayed in the great depression a few more years, we would probably have ditched this system. :)

I'm movin' to Canada.


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

I'm baffled (3.50 / 2) (#2)
by pig bodine on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 07:18:32 PM EST

Adam Smith was long dead by 1929. I'm not sure that he personally had a hand in the end of the great depression. Could you clarify?

[ Parent ]
Sure! (2.50 / 4) (#4)
by Signal 11 on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 07:51:48 PM EST

Sorry, I mis-spoke, it was Kaynes that I was thinking of. :^)


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]
Come on up! (4.00 / 2) (#30)
by rbeier on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 03:34:43 AM EST

I'm movin' to Canada.

While you're here, check out one of our many hockey stadiums, such as General Motors Place and the Corel Centre...



[ Parent ]

And... (3.00 / 1) (#40)
by retinaburn on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 09:25:08 AM EST

Air Canada Centre, CN Tower, Kuro5hin Brothel ..oh wait I made that last one up.

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


[ Parent ]
CN Tower (3.00 / 1) (#65)
by Mitheral on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 04:19:44 PM EST

However the CN Tower Was built by Canadian National in 1976 to show the world how great Canadian enginneering is. Since they built the thing I guess they can put their name on it. The Chrysler building has a similiar history: Built by Walter Chrylser to bring recognition to his car company in 1930 it never held any Chrysler Corporation offices.

[ Parent ]
Did K5 really sell out? (3.00 / 4) (#3)
by Mr. Piccolo on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 07:49:30 PM EST

Well, yes and no.

Yes, because now they're a nice vehicle for OSDN to push themselves and their ads (meaning a bunch of other "approved" companies) to impressionable Kuro5hin readers.

However, deep down inside K5 is still run by the readers. You can still submit a story that's pro-Microsoft, and if it goes down in flames, it's not because the OSDN told Inoshiro to reject it, but because the readers didn't approve of it. Therefore, at some level they haven't totally sold out.

On the other hand, if it were really run by the readers, we would have had some say in the matter first. So, yes, friends, I guess we can say that K5 has indeed sold out.


The BBC would like to apologise for the following comment.


Are you 100% sure? (3.20 / 5) (#6)
by josh on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 07:55:37 PM EST

You don't see the current rating of the stories until AFTER you vote your way. They could easily rig a perl script to pull a story down and display results that look convincing.

Food for thought.


[ Parent ]
Just for you, josh (2.50 / 4) (#9)
by cp on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 08:04:36 PM EST

Just for you.

[ Parent ]
Unless most of the other posters (none / 0) (#52)
by ZanThrax on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 06:00:46 PM EST

are also mere perl scripts and you are the only real reader, then I think someone would notice that such and such poster threw out a "-1 because I don't like cheese" post and voted +1 according to the drop downs...

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

who pays the bills (3.00 / 1) (#46)
by spart on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 12:53:52 PM EST

So if web sites don't make money - that is a good thing because they have not "sold out". But, then they close... If web sites make money - even if it's just barely enough to cover hosting costs then they "sold out" and they are evil. By that logic any site that grows large enough that the bills are more than anyone can expect the maintainers to eat then it should close down. Or will you give the cliche response that they should solicit "donations" from all the altruistic readers?

[ Parent ]
Economic Theory? (3.83 / 6) (#7)
by delmoi on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 07:56:58 PM EST

So, why does this work for the advertiser? People are not the "rational" egoists that economic theory wants us to believe.

I think you've confused "Economic theory" with "Ayn Rand".
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
Why is this a bad thing? (4.00 / 3) (#8)
by enterfornone on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 08:01:59 PM EST

So what if Dr Pepper get a hospital named after them, so long as they don't force patients to drink the stuff it's not really a problem. If you've got a spare bit of wall, a few pixels at the top of your web page etc and someone will pay you in exchange for sticking their name there, does it hurt anyone not to accept the offer?

Out here we had a big problem with this. McDonalds wanted to give schools money in exchange for displaying their name all over the place. They weren't going to force kids to eat McDonalds of course. But the government wouldn't let them do it. So the schools went without much needed funds.

Personally I'd rather my kids go to McDonalds school and get the resources they need to learn rather than try to hide them from advertising (as if any kid doesn't know who McDonalds are..)

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
Same here (4.71 / 7) (#11)
by rusty on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 08:19:49 PM EST

I think Phillipp hits the nail on the head in his analysis, that is, naming rights are bought to make people feel like they're part of something, and increase goodwill. If you're a Lakers fan, and the Lakers play at the Staples Center, well, you'll feel like in some way by shopping at Staples, you're supporting the Lakers Tribe. That's pretty sound reasoning-- humans are, after all, social animals ("social" in roughly the same way as wolves).

What I think he failed to support was his clear assumption that this is somehow bad. Take the McDonalds case. The McDonalds Zoo doesn't run on goodwill alone. It takes cash. And it probably takes a lot more cash than you're willing to shell out when you take your kid for a visit. Likewise, you don't get to name something for free. McDonalds would have kicked in a large chunk of money for the right to name the zoo. They probably would have to keep on contributing annually to keep the zoo named that, if the zoo's owners were smart negotiators.

So McDonalds is in fact doing something good, by supporting the zoo so that you can take your kid there cheap. Of course they're doing it out of self-interest, but does that matter? I say it doesn't. Good is good, and it wouldn't be any "better" of them if they refused to take credit for their monetary input. Phillipp's implication is that we get nothing for our side of the transaction, but I'd argue that we get a lot more then they do out of it.

So then we get to the bit at the end about us "selling out". Again, the basic point makes sense, but the implication is that bringing esteem to OSDN (or money to my pocket, for that matter) is a bad thing. But of course the reason why is never stated, it's just left dangling, so that the reader can try to convince themselves that it's bad.

Ah, now I see. Phillipp has cleverly used the very same tactics as the advertisers! See, the point is, advertising wants us to be part of a tribe, right? But Phillipp wants to be part of the "Anti-sellout" tribe. His point is that you should join his tribe instead of this other one, because his is the cool tribe that gets to be critical of anything involving money. So, indeed, are you in or out? Before you decide, though, note that you're in either way.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

McD's continued (3.50 / 2) (#15)
by jasonab on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 09:12:08 PM EST

So McDonalds is in fact doing something good, by supporting the zoo so that you can take your kid there cheap. Of course they're doing it out of self-interest, but does that matter? I say it doesn't. Good is good, and it wouldn't be any "better" of them if they refused to take credit for their monetary input. Phillipp's implication is that we get nothing for our side of the transaction, but I'd argue that we get a lot more then they do out of it.
The irony about the entire McD's thread is that they've been funding Ronald McDonald Houses for years now. Those are houses for families of sick children near hospitals. Would we rather those not be built?

As to the contention behind the Gates Building, regardless of my personal feelings, college buildings have been named after their benefactors for many, many decades now. This practice likely predates television, and possibly radio. Certainly, it predates corporate sponsorship of everything.

Generally, the evidence does not support the conclusion. I don't like every sports stadium being named after a corporation, but we have to remember that Wrigely Field, the consummate baseball stadium, was named in just that way.

--
America is a great country. One of the freest in the world. -- greenrd
[ Parent ]

Word from the Anti-Sell-Out tribe (4.20 / 5) (#17)
by Philipp on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 11:34:15 PM EST

First some disclaimers: Of course, I do not believe that money in your pocket is a bad thing. You can have all the money in the world, of course, unless you keep misspelling my name :^). Then, I find it rather outlandish that you equate my expression of critical opinions with the marketing efforts of McDonald's. We have slighly different motives.

But to the point: Why is that a "bad thing". I tried to develop this point in the McDonald's paragraph: If you grow up in a corporate sponsored world, you associate with the corporate sponsors. If you find out that McDonald's put crushed cow heads in their burgers, you think, oh know, look what the did for the zoo, look what they did for the hospital. They are good people, they give people what they want, and obviously people want to eat crushed cow heads, otherwise they would not go to the zoo (intentionally mangled argument).

The same is true for OSDN's kuro5hin. Visitors to the site will get the impression that OSDN is a great company, because they do good things like kuro5hin. (I know, the details of the OSDN-kuro5hin deal are not that simple, but, honestly, who cares?)

The point is that neither McDonald's nor OSDN (owned by VA Linux [LNUX], btw.), are doing a good thing. They make a calculated marketing decision. This investment is no different from running commercials on TV. They don't give money for nothing. To put it bluntly, that they are doing a good thing is a lie. The zoo is helping to spread this lie.

So now there are you, Rusty, with money in the bank and wondering why that this sell-out is a bad thing. You have a very good point and that is:

The McDonalds Zoo doesn't run on goodwill alone. It takes cash.
The zoo and kuro5hin need money and that has to come from somewhere. In case of the zoo I would say it should come from public funds (yeah, I know, that is a crazy idea, I should get my head examined).

In case of kuro5hin this gets harder. I guess I find hardly anybody who thinks that applying for public funds is a good idea. The issue of subscription fees or donations was presented by many, but never really followed. That used to be the standard way to fund non-profits like kuro5hin.

I have no idea how much the hosting of the site costs. I am not the right person to say that you should do this for free. If you feel comfortable with the current set-up, so be it. But I want to make the point that the money from OSDN is not free money. You paying for it by selling your reputation (and the reputation of kuro5hin contributers) to OSDN.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]

Talk of good & bad is irrelevent (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by Dacta on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 12:55:48 AM EST

The point is that neither McDonald's nor OSDN (owned by VA Linux [LNUX], btw.), are doing a good thing. They make a calculated marketing decision. This investment is no different from running commercials on TV. They don't give money for nothing. To put it bluntly, that they are doing a good thing is a lie.

You can argue that way if you wish. Equally, I could argue they are doing nothing bad, and all your arguments apply equally well.

If a company spends money to promote itself in outrageously immoral ways (say paying doctors to inject drugs in pregnent women so the unborn child becomes addicted to the drug and has to pay for it for the rest of their life) we would complain that what they are doing is bad.

By your argument, doing that wouldn't be bad, because they are doing it to make money (ie: the inverse of your arguement; when they do something that benefits socetity it doesn't count as good - it is just to make money). If you argue otherwise then your arguement is inconsistant.

However, I believe that we can judge companies actions by absolute values. I think if a company does something that I would like done, then I judge that action as "good", even if they expect something in return.

Would I prefer VALinux spent money on ads on Kuro5hin or on ads on TV? I'd prefer the way they sponsor Kuro5hin - and I don't mind that they know that. Why should I? Making money and/or self promotion isn't an absolute evil.



[ Parent ]
McDonald's zoo is evil (3.00 / 3) (#38)
by Philipp on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 05:56:38 AM EST

"Inject drugs in pregnent women so the unborn child becomes addicted" is not just bad, it is illegal. This example does not really get you anywhere.

And I guess I am claiming that having the zoo renamed into McDonald's zoo is wrong as well. The argument is: While zoo is not directly harmed by it, the general population is harmed by this, because it is fed the lie that McDonald's does great things like supporting a zoo, when it really just does a calculated advertising deal.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]

Wrong (again!) (3.00 / 1) (#50)
by Dacta on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 05:44:21 PM EST

because it is fed the lie that McDonald's does great things like supporting a zoo, when it really just does a calculated advertising deal.

Is having a zoo good? (Yes). Does the zoo need money? (Yes). Does McDonalds benefit by providing the money? (Yes). Is there anything wrong with that? (NO)

McDonalds is doing nothing underhand or unethical by advertising. It is obvious that they paid money for the name - but that isn't bad in itself.

Influencing names etc isn't bad in itself, except when they try and hide the influence.



[ Parent ]
Well, how about this... (none / 0) (#51)
by ZanThrax on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 05:47:42 PM EST

The corporation that provides the money that keeps the zoo open in return for having their name on the place is doing a good thing, but not because it is a good thing. Likewise, the corporation in your case would be doing an evil thing, but not because it is evil. Corporations are amoral. The only thing that controls a corporations behaviorial decisions are the laws that make the risk of a given evil act too high to justify the gain. Sure, the people in charge may feel good (or bad, depending) about what they've caused the corporation to do, but if that's the reason for their decision to do something, they aren't doing their job properly. Back to your point though, I think we shouldn't bother whining about corporations doing bad things, or give them credit for good things. If we don't like them doing bad things, we need to make the risk/payoff ratio of evil things worse, both by trying to force our governments to increase penalties and enforcement of existing corporate laws, and to make new ones if neccessary to restrict actions we don't like to see corporations taking, and by doing our best to reduce the payoff by trying to keep our money, and that of those around us, out of their coffers. (To whatever extent that's possible, if you're unhappy with GE or Proctor & Gamble, good luck never buying anything of theirs.)

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Exactly (3.00 / 1) (#58)
by Dacta on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 04:12:04 AM EST

I couldn't have said it better myself - though I do think that sometimes corporations do things for reasons that arent' realated to their bottom line, and they can be judged on those things. (EG: If the CEO uses corporate power to destroy a personal enemy's business or sponsor's a little league team because the boss's kid plays there - or something )



[ Parent ]
Well, (none / 0) (#63)
by ZanThrax on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 10:28:54 AM EST

as long as one is considering the corporation as a simple representation of 'the general characteristics of the group of individuals who control the corporation as well as the effects that the corporate culture within the company has on their decisions', I suppose its fair to judge them in that manner. And I suppose that's where the idea of random corporation X being evil or not evil (which are the only two values most people who actually think about such things grant to corporations) comes from. What causes different people to think of different corps as evil or not evil depends on what each individual considers most important. Some people consider Disney evil for the historical innacuracies and "family friendly" style of their animated movies, while others consider them not evil because of their liberal attitude towards homosexual employees. Personally, there are very few corporations that I think of as truly evil. MS is one of the few, since, for me, they represent everything inherently wrong with capitalism and next to nothing of what is right about it.

Well, that was an interesting little tangent...

Again, back to what you were saying... While I agree with your point, I don't think your example really works. More along the lines of Ronald McDonald House. Corporate money that gets used to create something truly good in the world, and its not (entirely) a marketing ploy. Plus, its not simply one or two execs abusing their postion (although I suppose it could have started that way, and no one has ever been willing to take the flak that ending it would bring down on themselves and the company.), its more just something that is part of what the McDonalds corporation as a whole is.


Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

The morality of corporations (3.00 / 1) (#60)
by Philipp on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 04:28:34 AM EST

I agree with you that the discussion of morality in respect with corporations is a very murky issue. They are abstract entities that have to function in a certain way: To make money. One could argue that they have some responsibility in regard to the community they act in, but this is hard to measure and demand.

Because I would prefer to place the responsibilty on the zoo, which should be sufficiently supported by public funds. It is a political decision to starve public institutions for funds, and that is in my eyes the core problem. People should be more proud that their taxes support their zoos, parks, and schools instead of selling off all public assests to the highest bidder.

Ok, now I have to get back to look for the Coca-Cola Space Station on the AT&T Sky illuminated by the Microsoft Moon.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]

You seem somewhat deluded. (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by rusty on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 10:59:34 PM EST

You can have all the money in the world, of course, unless you keep misspelling my name :^).

Sorry about that. "Philipp" the name tends to have variable numbers of l's and p's -- I didn't read it carefully enough.

I don't understand your crushed cow head/McDonald's Zoo argument, so I won't even try to address that one. But...

The same is true for OSDN's kuro5hin. Visitors to the site will get the impression that OSDN is a great company, because they do good things like kuro5hin. (I know, the details of the OSDN-kuro5hin deal are not that simple, but, honestly, who cares?)

You have an oddly simplistic view of the world. No, OSDN is not supporting K5 as a charitable work. They intend to make money by selling ads for more then they pay us for them. This is called being a business, and is what the majority of people in a capitalist society spend eight hours of their day doing five days each week. K5, on the other hand, intends to make money by providing a place for people to talk about what interests them, and selling space in that medium for companies to promote their products. I can't believe I'm sitting here explaining how for-profit media works, but you seem to have a slippery grasp on the concept.

I personally believe that having a place where (more or less) like-minded people can talk to each other is a good thing, overall. I think my life would be poorer (in terms of quality, not money) without it. So, I have no personal qualms about making money by doing this. I don't think advertising is Evil, however, as you and some others seem to. Your reasons for thinking this are still very murky to me, so I have a hard time arguing against them.

In case of kuro5hin this gets harder. I guess I find hardly anybody who thinks that applying for public funds is a good idea. The issue of subscription fees or donations was presented by many, but never really followed. That used to be the standard way to fund non-profits like kuro5hin.

Kuro5hin.org is a for-profit company. In all other media in the US, subscriptions fees are a virtually negligible portion of overall income. NPR (National Public Radio) is supported by donations, which are not the same as subscriptions, as you get the same broadcasts for free if you don't donate. NPR is also funded quite a lot by individual companies, which usually are thanked on-air for their donations. It's not quite advertising, but it's damn close. Broadcast TV is entirely funded by advertising, and all other commercial media is funded by some mix which is dominated by advertising. So, I have no idea what media were ever funded by this "standard way" you imagine.

But I want to make the point that the money from OSDN is not free money. You paying for it by selling your reputation (and the reputation of kuro5hin contributers) to OSDN.

This seems to be your main point, and finally, it isn't very interesting. Of course it's not free money. See those ads? Those are what they pay me for. That space up there. I don't think anyone (except maybe you) was under the impression that OSDN just backed the truck up and dumped a bunch of cash into my living room.

And yes, the reputation of the site and it's contributors is exactly what we're selling. OSDN is selling it to the advertisers, in the form of convincing them that K5 is a good place to run their ads. That is, we have smart people who are likely to be interested in certain kinds of products. Again, I fail to see what's wrong with this.

Basically, if you want to be mad at a company, why aren't you talking about Gap (sweatshops), Nike (sheatshops), Phillip Morris (products that kill you), or any of the million or so polluters, exploiters, and murderers that operate under the banner of the capitalist free market? Why are we the bad guys, for showing you some blinking pixels?

By the way, if you're still upset, and you want to subscribe to K5, first get a copy of Junkbuster, set it up and tell it to block k5ads.osdn.com. Then paypal me $25 bucks, and we'll call it even.

Problem solved?

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Ok, I have been deluded (3.00 / 1) (#56)
by Philipp on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 02:19:56 AM EST

Somehow I had the impression that you doing kuro5hin and Scoop as a non-profit thing comparable to the way Linux Torvalds does Linux. So I saw your reference to "subscriptions" the way NPR stations use the term: basically donations to cover costs.

Since this not your intention, this of course changes everthing. Since you see kuro5hin as a business opportunity, you have every right in the world to make money with it in any way and form you feel like. In this context the advertising is a simple business arrangement between and kuro5hin, Inc. and VA Linux, Inc. I am not deluded enough to say that such arrangements should not exist.

I take everything back.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]

Ah. (3.00 / 1) (#57)
by rusty on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 03:51:02 AM EST

I see where you were coming from. And Inoshiro's comments above no doubt did little to dispell the idea that we were a non-profit. I don't know where he came up with all that "trust" stuff, BTW.

Anyway, I didn't start K5 to make money, and I haven't maintained it for the past year in order to cash in on the (now former) dot-com goldrush. If I was only in this for the money, I'd have found an easier job a long time ago. :-)

With the OSDN deal, however, there is the possibility of K5 supporting me and some of the other core people who have put a lot of time in, which I was hoping could be possible some day. Basically, my attitude was, if the right deal comes along, I'll go for it. We've had a corporate structure set up for a while, mainly for legal protection (i.e. if someone gets pissed off at K5, they can't take my car). It turns out that having a company already set up makes it pretty easy to transition from an all-volunteer to an income-earning business, so I'm glad I did it.

IMO, this is "the right deal". We're not owned by VA, the limits and responsibilities on both sides are very clear, and either of us can leave if it's not working out. So far it's working out swimmingly, though, and I think my instinct was right about this. Time will tell though.

At the very least, I hope you're reassured that our corporate overlords aren't squashing free and open discussion! I don't imagine this article would've gotten very far if that were the case. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Good luck! (3.00 / 1) (#59)
by Philipp on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 04:18:37 AM EST

I definitely think that your deal with OSDN is pretty okay, since you remain total control, which is not neccessarily true in the Slashdot case. Of course, I would have prefered that you would have pulled it Linux-style, but this is clearly a different situation, and who the fuck am I to tell you what to do with your time.

The disadvantage of the set-up, of course, that it is not much different from other .coms. People are providing free content for a for-profit site might be a different crowd than a community where nobody profits. Let's see where all of this is going... Since you clearly not in it only for the money, I guess I still feel comfortable here.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]

Thank you (3.00 / 1) (#61)
by rusty on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 04:36:27 AM EST

The way I look at it, you, I, and everyone else who participates here gives our time and knowlege, and gets back the collective knowlege of the community. The information flow here is a continuous, self-repaying transaction. What I get paid for is answering user help emails, fixing software bugs, keeping an eye on the machines, forecasting things like bandwidth and hardware needs, dealing with emergencies, and things like that. I try to put everything I can "out front", especially when it comes to the actual business of the site, which is articles and discussion. But behind that, there's still some amount of daily crap that needs to get done by someone. I've done it for free so far, and I can't imagine not having K5, so I guess I'll do it for free whenever it's not possible to get paid to do it. But I know which situation I'd choose to be in, if I had a choice. :-)

That's how I see it anyway. I'm really glad this helped -- I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about what the deal really is here. By the way-- your remark about "linux-style"... I think I am kind of doing that. Think about how Linus went about things. He did (and does) develop linux because he loves it. It's his baby. But he certainly had no qualms about going to work for Transmeta, who offered to pay for him to largely spend his time developing Linux.

I think the key is that "owning" Linus, the hacker, is not equivalent to owning Linux itself. I look at K5 in much the same way -- owning K5 Inc does you very little good if the community doesn't trust you to lead in the right direction. I ought to know -- I'm the majority owner of K5 Inc, and I don't feel like I "own" the community here at all! As you say, let's see where all of this is going. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

nahh (4.66 / 3) (#39)
by streetlawyer on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 09:00:54 AM EST

If McDonalds wants to go off and build their own zoo, that's one thing. But when they take over an already existing zoo, that's another. For a start, the people who used to fund that zoo with their contributions feels a little bit less connected with it now that it's got McDonalds painted all over it. Second, the world loses one more place where you can go if you don't want to think about the world in terms of brands; the amount of mind pollution has increased. Third, how likely is it that the zoo is going to allow the animal rights people to put up a stand there if McDonalds' don't want them too? Great, another public space has been closed down to public politics. And in the end, McDonalds starts making noises to the zoo that it's very hard for them to justify continuing to support a zoo which keeps on telling the world that cows, in particular are cute, so couldn't they just downplay that exhibit a bit ....?

Naomi Klein is right about this one. The takeover of public space by brands is a bad thing; it materially diminishes the extent of public space and reduces our ability to relate to one another in non-branded ways. How many things worth doing really would be impossible to achieve without sticking a brand on it anyway?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

But buildings are already branded (3.00 / 1) (#41)
by retinaburn on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 09:31:38 AM EST

Zoo's will often only have one kind of Fast Food Outlet (normally either a Pepsi or Coke company). This makes sense to the company, they pay extra money to ensure competitors are not allowed in. So here we have internal branding. If they want to slap their name on the whole zoo for more money then all the power to them.

However I have a problem if they are allowed some control over the operations and policies of the zoo just because they have affiliated there name with it. How exciting and informative would a zoo be full of penguins and polar bears wearing coke merchandise available at the nearest of 200 gift shops.

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


[ Parent ]
errrm ... (4.00 / 1) (#42)
by streetlawyer on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 09:42:11 AM EST

Zoo's will often only have one kind of Fast Food Outlet (normally either a Pepsi or Coke company).

You say this as if it were some sort of fact of nature, rather than having been the thin end of the wedge that brought us to where we are today!

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

I was pointing out (3.00 / 1) (#44)
by retinaburn on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 10:11:29 AM EST

That the external branding of a building has little effect compared to the massive and far more prevalent internal branding of buildings.

Its not that I don't agree with you, but if its between losing the Zoo and having a label slapped on it then I would rather the zoo be kept open.

It would be nice if it was legal to 'sponsor' a site, yet illegal to be involved in the policy/decision making.

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


[ Parent ]
Branding (3.00 / 1) (#62)
by Yer Mom on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 10:08:48 AM EST

Zoo's will often only have one kind of Fast Food Outlet (normally either a Pepsi or Coke company). This makes sense to the company, they pay extra money to ensure competitors are not allowed in. So here we have internal branding. If they want to slap their name on the whole zoo for more money then all the power to them.
Fine, as long as I can still take my own stuff in. If I go somewhere that only has Coke outlets and I don't like the stuff, I expect to be able to produce a bottle of Pepsi or whatever from my bag and drink that. Otherwise they're way over the top...
--
Smoke crack. Worship Satan. Admin Unix.
[ Parent ]
Not me! (4.50 / 2) (#34)
by Inoshiro on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 04:56:49 AM EST

I'd rather the government properly funded education. Maybe it's my socialism background showing, but the federal tax base should be used to first pay for responsible health care and responsible education. In Canada, there are regulations on these sectors, as well as government funding.

After seeing how bumbling the US Federal government seems to be during my trip to the states, I can see where you're comign from in not wanting them to be involved with education, but I'd rather get my education finding from a well-meaning-but-senile government than someone who's out to make me learn what's a good thing to eat.



--
[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
Some recent background on this phenomena: (3.00 / 3) (#10)
by elenchos on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 08:05:14 PM EST

    choregia At Athens the choregia was a leitourgia (liturgy) or public service performed by a wealthy citizen for the polis. A choregos (literally `leader of a chorus') was responsible bore the recruitment, training, maintenance, and costuming of choreutai (members of a chorus) for competitive performance of a festival. The same system of individual contribution was used to provide the Athenian navy with its ships (trierarchia see TRIERARCHY).
    ...The competition at these festivals was as much between choregoi and their choruses as between poets, and the efforts of a choregos could be a crucial factor for the success of a dramatic entry.
    ...a victorious choregos in dithyramb received a bronze tripod form the polis which he frequently erected, often as part of a more elaborate monument... It is not clear whether victorious choregoi in drama received any prize beyond an ivory crown, but the spirit of competition and the desire for prestige were so strong among choregoi that the glory of a victory was its own reward... The choregia was at once a legal obligation on the rich and an opportunity for its practitioners to acquire a high public profile. Rich men would cite their glorious choregiai and other leitourgiai in public speeches with the explicit expectation of being shown political or forensic favor in return.

    trierarchy The word trierarchos means `trireme-commander', but at Athens in the 5th and 4th cents. BC the trierarchy was a liturgy, which the richest citizens could be called on to perform for a year. The state provided the ship and its basic equipment, and normally paid for the crew, but the trierarch had not only to command the ship but also to bear the costs of maintenance and repair, which could amount to as much as one talent.

From The Oxford Classical Dictionary third edition. Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth eds., 1996.

I feel less guilty about cruising K5 instead of doing schoolwork if I can find some way of doing schoolwork in my K5 posts, or taking my K5 posts and turning those in for credit.

Adequacy.org

This little thing called "free will" (4.50 / 6) (#13)
by Demona on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 08:30:54 PM EST

Remove the maker's insignia. Or buy a generic item. Sometimes the latter might mean lesser quality, sometimes it's not enough to matter. Personally, I buy all my clothes at thrift shops because I think it's the height of irresponsibility to pay more for clothes than one does on food.

Sometimes its not possible... (4.25 / 4) (#18)
by CyberQuog on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 11:43:30 PM EST

Sometimes your forced into things that are owned by corporations, that you cant get out of. For example, a company that publishes 90% of childrens school books also happens to produce lumber and paper. In one of their Biology books, they say that clear cutting forests help create new habitats for animals and helps the enviroment.

The true problem here, is that the interests of corporations are being put in front of the interests of the public. What happens if McDonalds tells it's hospital not to let me into the ER because I'm a vegetarian. Fuckin capitalism....


-...-
[ Parent ]
sports (2.50 / 2) (#16)
by radar bunny on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 09:17:44 PM EST

My favorite is how advertising has taken over sports, and Im not just talking about the normal stuff thats been going on for 20-30 years. This is newer stuff, like you no longer have a simple replay-- now its the BUDWIESER REPLAY MOMENT, or the Coca-Cola Punt Return. It's pretty amusing when you think about it.

Pro Sports (none / 0) (#22)
by Seumas on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 11:50:25 PM EST

Honestly, if you're enjoying professional sports, how can you complain about the commercialism of sponsorship for segments?! What in the world is more commercialized than professional sports?
--
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]
XFL (none / 0) (#24)
by Philipp on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 11:59:07 PM EST

Hey, the XFL is about honest dedicated football players trying to make it. Commercialized? That must be just the NFL.
=^0

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]
XFL Catastrophe (none / 0) (#25)
by Seumas on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 12:17:26 AM EST

Speaking of the XFL, I never saw this posted on K5 -- even though it seems like it would have been interesting enough: XFL Fans Throw Paraplegic Over Balcony
--
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]
not complaining... (none / 0) (#26)
by radar bunny on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 12:47:00 AM EST

I wasn't complaining, just observing really. As I said, it's kind of amusing. Oh wait, its time for a home depot freethrow.
:-P

[ Parent ]
What I'm waiting for . . . (none / 0) (#28)
by Seumas on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 01:07:50 AM EST

I'm waiting for the "Pepto-Bismol speach of the day!". On CSPAN.
--
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]
Good. (4.33 / 3) (#21)
by Seumas on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 11:48:33 PM EST

Personally, it's better than government subsidization.

In Portland, we had yet anothr coluseum built called The Rose Garden -- mostly for concerts and NBA games. It was largely subsidized by the city via our taxes, tax breaks and long-term loans.

It angers me that places like Portland and Seattle are stuck footing the bill for major arenas for a commercial entity so that they can play some games and host some concerts, all in the name of money. Let the rich billionaires pay for it themselves, instead of bilking the rest of us. It especially angers me when my taxes are used to build the arena, but if I ever want to go there, I have to pay full (high) price, even though my money helped create it.

The only time I might possibly start to have a problem is if they are public buildings and services, with commercial identities. Such as naming a school or hospital after a product -- or the building/service sells out to promote a product (for example, Washington school districicts that plastered every visible surface with Coke products or the kid who wore a pepsi shirt to school on "Coca Cola Day" and was suspended).

Still, is naming a hospital "Oscar Meyer Central Hospital" or "Huggies Diapers West Hospital" any worse than "Emanual Hospital" or "Adventist Health Hospital" or any of the other hospitals named after religions?
--
I just read K5 for the articles.

The politics of sports arenas (3.00 / 1) (#23)
by Philipp on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 11:56:17 PM EST

The public funding of sports arenas is one of the worst instances of corporate welfare. If the money-making sports teams need a stadium they should build it themselves. But instead they pressure cities (who want to have economic benefits or glory of having a sports team) into footing the bill. Sadly, the free-marketiers are quite quiet on this issue.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]
Portland really has it tough (none / 0) (#66)
by PresJPolk on Thu Feb 22, 2001 at 02:32:01 AM EST

Not only did you have to pay for the Rose Garden, but you had to watch the Blazers throw away their season!

[ Parent ]
Shades of jealousy? (4.40 / 5) (#32)
by Inoshiro on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 04:30:43 AM EST

"Let's finish this up with a case study: the recent sell-out of kuro5hin to OSDN."
Note how the writer uses words with negative connotations.

"..the developers of this site sold some virtual real estate and naming rights for some undisclosed amount of money."
Actually, no. All money produced from the OSDN deal goes into a trust under the auspices of Kuro5hin, Inc. A small non-profit company that was created for the management of Kuro5hin way back at the beginning. Hurstdog, and other perl developers working on Scoop are not employed by this non-profit company. It's merely a managed trust. But, you wouldn't want that known since you have a point you're trying to make with your case study.

"Here, the externalities are carried by the site contributors. Whatever positive you bring to this site will directly benefit OSDN's esteem (and Rusty's account balance)."
If you could make this a bit less wordy, you'd have a hit comedy routine. If people choose to contribute, they do so. We're not forcing them. We're not robbing them. You try to paint us this way for some reason, though. Why? As for the "balance," OSDN is renting ad space. If you look at other websites, you'll notice they also use this practice. It's how we pay these things called "bills." Unless you're volunteering to pay for the gigabytes of bandwidth per month this site uses....

"Don't fool yourself that you can circumvent that: Anti-advertisement has already been done ("Image is Nothing"), and will only increase the reputation of the site."
This isn't even a good attempt at making us the bad guys. Have you ever used Internet Junkbuster?! I use it all the time. When we tried ads to cover costs of a new server back in May, I never saw the crappy ads we got. When OSDN started renting space, I only noticed the extra gray banner where the ads are visually separated off (so you can ignore them better). Considering the past ads we've had, I'd say the OSDN stuff is more appropriate anyways (I did spent sometime with them turned on to see what it would be like).

"Kuro5hin now accustoms its readers to the cosy world of slickly designed OSDN web sites. The visitors are invited to be part of the OSDN tribe. Are you in, or out?"
Slickly designed? Have you even visited these places? They're just plain-ol' websites setup by people who come up with ideas and play with them to see what works. Look at Slashdot -- I hate that green :-p

Anyways, now that I've dispersed your strawmen, I find I don't even want to know why you set them up. Go back under your bridge. Or choose to stop being bitter about other people running a website. Of all the things to be bitter about, that one is certainly far down my list :-p



--
[ イノシロ ]
Wow (3.80 / 5) (#33)
by Philipp on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 04:56:28 AM EST

It seems I pissed you off. It's a bit cheap to simply accuse me of jealousy and tell me to go back under my bridge. But anyway.

You mention that other sites use advertising, too. Sure, guess why I linked to the NY Times article? I don't think you are unique. I am fully aware that you have to pay bills. Life under the bridge is not cheap either...

And yes, I am considering to volunteer to pay your bills. A lot of others have, too. It is not at all the case that advertising is the only possibility to finance an endeaver like this. You seem to think so, though.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]

Bah (4.75 / 4) (#35)
by Inoshiro on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 05:24:45 AM EST

You haven't researched me at all then. Go read comments I've posted on "The Ads Return." You'll have to go back a page or so.

Now, when you read these, you'll notice a funny thing -- I support end-user choice. I tell people about Internet Junkbuster all the time, I point out that I'd love to see workable plans and patches for end-user subscriptions, etc!.

And, yes, you pissed me off. There is a large group of teenaged computer using people who seem to delight in nothing more than going to the sites they normally visit, calling them sellouts, and continuinng to visit them. These people are jealous, petty, and bitter people. They are the same people who will willing buy DVDs after ranting about them on Slashdot or something similar. You pegged yourself as one such person by the way in which you setup your story. (Perhaps you don't yet understand that honey will catch more ants than vinegar.)



--
[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
Junkbuster is not the solution (5.00 / 4) (#36)
by Philipp on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 05:40:47 AM EST

You make a hell of a lot of assumptions about me. I am not a teenager and I never bought a DVD in my life.

I read all you comments on the article you quoted, but I have no idea what you want me to find there. I have not read all your comments that you ever posted, so it might be better, if you simple tell me what is your point.

The set-up of the story is not to diss kuro5hin in particular. I am pretty sure, if I would have dropped the last two paragraphs, the response would have been 90% "these evil corporations really suck". But it did not want to make it that easy.

Apparently you want me to quit visiting this site, because I am critical of a certain decision. You know, you are staring to piss me off, too. I have no idea what you are trying to say by your honey/vinegar analogy.

I would really prefer, if you would concetrate on the issue I raised here. Two questions:

  • How expensive is the hosting of kuro5hin?
  • Would you consider dropping the ads, if enough people donate?


alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]
Funding web sites - the killer app (4.50 / 2) (#45)
by spart on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 12:46:25 PM EST

I've run a couple semi-successful sites and I know where from the k5 people are speaking. How expensive is the hosting of kuro5hin? A. Take a look at the amount of posts / stories multiply that by "a lot" and you have the # visitors / time. Take that and multiply it by the avg page size / avg pages view per visitor. I'll guarantee you that results in a whole shit-load of bandwidth.

Bandwidth isn't cheap - in fact it's very expensive! Advertising _barely_ recoupes those costs. I'd venture a guess at the several thousand $ / month area.

Would you consider dropping the ads, if enough people donate? A. Of course! Who wouldn't! No one _wants_ to run ads on their site. But, the fact remains that "donation" or "tip jar" is not a feasable funding strategy for most sites.

I'll tell you this: I sure as hell would rather see ads than pay small fees. I'm sure others have differing opinions. The killer web app would be a system where you could a) see the ads or b) pay a subscription fee. If you want free beer then your out of luck! Spart brightloop.com

[ Parent ]
One thing I mentioned.. (3.00 / 1) (#48)
by Inoshiro on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 02:10:02 PM EST

On "The Ads Return" was a desire to allow people to pay 15$ or 20$ and not see ads for 12 months. Another field in the user table which has time until people see ads again (set to -1 to totally disable in the case of large donations).. boom, easy peasy subscription and advertising living side by side. There would still be a group of people who used ijb to avoid ads, but I don't mind.



--
[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
So I looked up the costs... (3.50 / 2) (#49)
by Philipp on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 03:50:58 PM EST

You mentioned 160GB Traffic in January, and I went over to vhosting, and calculated a $500/month colocation bill for this. If you find 120 people willing to pay $50 a year then the expenses are covered. Maybe it's time to put up a poll on the front page? Some people here bragged about their 6-figure salaries, so the money is there...

This $25, so that I personally don't see the ads does not make any sense, nobody will go for that. It does not change at all the public perception of kuro5hin.

If I would be personally so appalled by the ads, I would just use junk busters. Since you are advocating this solution as well, why don't you ad a preference option "no ads"? That would simplify the process...

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]

income != bandwidth cost (4.00 / 1) (#55)
by rusty on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 11:15:59 PM EST

We're not making income to cover bandwidth. In fact, all the theoretical bandwidth calculations are nullified by the fact that our bandwidth and hosting are paid for by that VHosting button on the right of the page. We haven't paid for bandwidth ever, yet.

Income is for mainly for me to work on the site and Scoop, for us to have some cash to play with if we need to buy hardware, for us to go to conferences, and pay our rent, and think of interesting new things to do with the web. "Subsistence" is not a very interesting goal, for me.

And I still think we will offer subscriptions for those who want them. Things move rather slower than we'd like sometimes, but don't give up on that option. I want it just so I can release hard numbers about how many people actually do it. I'm betting it'll be a lot less than you might expect, or hope for.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

The analogy. (3.00 / 1) (#47)
by Inoshiro on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 02:04:37 PM EST

The analogy is that you can capture more ants with honey than with vinegar (maple syrup also works well). How to test is to just set down a plate with a coating of this near an ant hill. Within a few hours they'll be swarming all over it. The "classical" version of it involves flies, by flies are attracted by shit -- not honey.

You chose to use an entirely negative conotation view of K5 at the end of your article. Wether to generater discussion or not, I found it offensive. That's why I pegged you as that kind of person (they generally are the type of people to post such things).



--
[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
A workable plan for end user subscription (3.50 / 2) (#37)
by Philipp on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 05:43:38 AM EST

You do the following:
  • Say how much money you need
  • Provide a snail mail address
  • Solicit donations
  • Report how much money you got
Life can be easy.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]
Er, what? (5.00 / 2) (#54)
by rusty on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 11:06:47 PM EST

Sheesh, man. You of all people should know what K5, Inc. is!

All money produced from the OSDN deal goes into a trust under the auspices of Kuro5hin, Inc. A small non-profit company that was created for the management of Kuro5hin way back at the beginning. Hurstdog, and other perl developers working on Scoop are not employed by this non-profit company. It's merely a managed trust. But, you wouldn't want that known since you have a point you're trying to make with your case study.

Uh. That's mostly not true. Kuro5hin.org Inc is a for-profit company (a Delaware C Corp to be exact). I am the pres & chairman, and Mark Meszaros of Intes is the secretary. That is to say, we're not a non-profit, and we're not a trust. I don't know where Inoshiro got this idea.

It is true that almost no one is an employee of K5 Inc. Up to now, we haven't had any money to employ anyone. Inoshiro is now, however, a contract employee, and I will soon be the first full-time employee of the company.

I just thought everyone ought to be on the same page here w/r/t our actual corporate structure.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Correct me if I am wrong ... (3.50 / 2) (#43)
by retinaburn on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 09:49:41 AM EST

But doesn't "selling-out" denote some kind of loss of control ?

If OSDN had really 'bought' Kuro5hin, Rusty and his cohorts we would no longer be able to freely discuss ideas. They would squash any posts that cast OSDN and their affiliates in a negative light.

This isn't the case though is it ? Nope.

So get off your high horse and try calling reality.

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


Lightspeed Briefs (3.00 / 1) (#64)
by broken77 on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 05:50:59 PM EST

This topic always makes me think of a certain Futurama episode, where Fry is having a dream, and the dream turns out to be "sponsored" by a product called "Lightspeed Briefs"...

"Didn't you have ads in the twentieth century?" -Leela
"Well, sure, but not in our dreams. Only on TV and radio...and in magazines...and movies, and at ballgames, and on buses, and milk cartons, and T-shirts, and bananas, and written in the sky. But not in dreams, no sirree." -Fry

Also, you can get a soundclip here.

Sure, we laugh about it, but I'm personally scared to just what level corporations are going to take advertising to, and what we and lawmakers are going to do about it... I'm convinced they will take it to any length that is technologically feasible.

I'm starting to doubt all this happy propaganda about Islam being a religion of peace. Heck, it's just as bad as Christianity. -- Dphitz

Selling Out | 66 comments (59 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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