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Sales, Swaps, Auction & Approvals/Approvals Disc. : Respectful Critique of Approval Service

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nobozo
08 Jan 2017
02:36:28pm
I've spent a lot of time looking at the listings on the approval pages, and have even bought from a few of the vendors. However, for reasons I describe below, I've mostly stopped doing so. Before going into my explanation I want to say that I appreciate the effort that has gone into approval service, especially since it's free.

The main reason I've stopped using this service is because it's way too time consuming to look at the stamp pictures and decide whether I need a stamp, only to find that it's already been sold when I look at the bottom of the page. If only a few already sold stamps are on a page then this wouldn't be such a big deal. But, there are routinely listings in which more than half the stamps are already sold. This results in a very frustrating experience. If it were possible for the images of sold stamps to somehow be marked this would makes this service much more usable. Or, if listings with more than a certain number of sold stamps were removed, this would also help. Of course, coming up with an appropriate limit would be tricky.

As a computer person, I can imagine several ways to mark sold stamps, but they all would require a fair amount of effort to implement, which is more than I have a right to expect from a free service.

Another thing that would be nice, but would require more work from the approval service and the users of the service, would be if all the stamps in a listing were in catalog order rather than grouped by price. That would make it easier to find needed stamps. Each stamp would have a price shown. I realize that there are members who would probably disagree with this, but it would make the total experience of using this service easier for people like me.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who makes this service possible.
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lemaven
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08 Jan 2017
03:05:57pm

Approvals
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

Great to get some feedback and some good things to think about! My personal opinion follows.

From a seller's perspective...

Selling Approvals (usually at fairly low per-stamp prices) is already a ton of work and the pay-off is less than fractional minimum wage. I greatly admire those members who have the time capacity to add catalogue number but I'd have a tough time justifying it for a stamp listed at 25c let alone 3-5c.


From a buyer's perspective...

I can see where catalog numbers may be useful for well-advanced, organized members who look through pages with their want-list spreadsheet at hand. But I find the scans give me 98% of what I need to make a buy-decision. (Note that I tend to "accumulate" my current interests - moreso than "select" - with little regard, given Approval prices, to some resultant duplication which may be unique to my mindset).

But I feel your pain on going back and forth between the pictures and the available/sold section. I've tried reducing the image size on the screen so both are visible but it's too small to be practical. No idea about the programming possibilities (other than anything is possible, just a matter of cost-benefit) but is there a different setup possible? Side-by-each rather than top-bottom?

The other thing (if we're talking anti-PITA wish lists) would be the ability to select everything you want on a page then confirm. The one-at-a time requirement is horrible when you like more than one or two on a page.


I will certainly continue to sell/buy in Approvals - it is worth some headaches for a free service that benefits both sides of the marketplace. But this is certainly a great subject to bring up. Thanks Nobz!

Dave.

P.S. o, o. I think I may have mis-spelled your name! Winking








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Stevo45
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08 Jan 2017
04:24:38pm
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

Hi nobozo

Your comments point out issues that many sellers here have been looking at for a long time.

Buying / selling stamps anywhere "on line" is a time consuming hobby.

For me, buying here takes a lot less time than listing books.

Many of us do not have access to stamp shops; dealers, stamp markets or stamp clubs.

Where can you look at 300 to 500 stamps from one country @ one price in the one place ?

As you say, often more than 50% of stamps in a book sell out in the first day or so.

This would indicate to me that the approvals are indeed very handy for Sellers and the buyers that "get in" quickly.

To list in "Catalogue order" is impossible (and not a good idea) because we all have different catalogues and many buyers and sellers do not have up to date ones.

I think "one price per page" is a good thing.

Best I can do (under the current rules) is list in approximate "date of issue" order and price.

Also the changes/improvements that you suggest would require a large amount of programming time and are therefore unlikely.

Cheers

Steve

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Tom in Exton, PA
08 Jan 2017
04:26:47pm
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

I understand your disappointment. I too have seen something I wanted only to go to the bottom of the page and see it's already been sold. I don't know how that could be avoided since the entire approval page is basically one jpg image. And that varies in size, number of stamps etc for nearly every page.

The only way to do what you are suggesting would be for each and every stamp to be a separate image and they would have to be inserted into a table with each square having a unique ID. And that's way too much work!

I've put up three albums of covers, two to a page, and that was as involved as I wanted to get. Even that wasn't fruitful enough for the efforts. I cannot imagine putting up albums with 25-50 stamps per page.

I do buy on both the approvals and auctions. I am a USA collector and it is a bit tedious working the screen and my albums at the same time. But like you said, it's free!

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Jansimon
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08 Jan 2017
05:31:14pm

Approvals
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

The approval service here on Stamporama may not be perfect, it certainly is successful when you consider that most books are emptied for 50% or more within a few days.
As a seller I think it is the best way of selling stamps. Perhaps if you have higher c.v. stamps, you might be better off on ebay. "Common" and not too expensive stamps go very well though, and I would have stopped a long time ago if it weren't worth the effort. On the other side, as a buyer, I often find stamps at low prices that I would have a hard time finding elsewhere, let alone buy at such prices. Especially more recent stamps can be bought here for good prices. You only have to be fast. But that's part of the sport, I guess.

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rrraphy
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Retired Ap. Book Mod. Retired Pres Golden Gate Stamp Club, Retired consultant
09 Jan 2017
12:38:03pm
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

Improvements of the Approval platform (including indicating when a stamp is sold on the scan) were discussed and many were listed on a to do list. Right now, you have to page down to see if a stamp is sold or not. To display it on the scan would FORCE a standard format, like the pre-printed forms many use, but it was deemed too confining for many. Without the use of a standard sheet format (think the one size of the APS books), programming is infinitely complicated.
We traded flexibility for this feature, wanting to make the books less rigid in format, thus encouraging more to post books. I think it was the right decision.

Also we are a volunteer organization, and most (all) of the software developments falls on one shoulder, Tim, who does a terrific job!

It took almost 6 months of work by the development team to frame and spec this unique platform, and several months of intense work by Tim to program it and for the team to debug it. It is a beautiful piece of software!
If this was a commercial site, and a revenue stream could be assigned to a paid programmer, one could continuously advance the platform. But it works well as is, and for now, other projects have much higher priority. As moderator, I have stopped making requests for improvements, as they are low priority.
We all suffer through some things in life, and for the free benefits this platform offers, I think we can live with it. Sellers can improve the experience, by adding cat numbers, years etc..but it does take time and no one here sells on Approvals as a commercial enterprise, unless their time is discounted to $0.
I have always suggested that sellers add more information, such as years, cat numbers, or list in (nearly) chronological order. Some do it (thank you, thank you!). Others don't. Write to those who do to thank them, and write to those who don't to request it, on a voluntary basis. The books can be improved without the added work of rewriting the programs, if the sellers want to. (Notice that we have refrained from IMPOSING this in our rules which remain very simple and very permissive!)

(dreamingHappy If and when Tim finds the time, and a new team of volunteers can be assembled, and the MT deems it is of high priority, the many improvements we all dream of will be contemplated.
But I have not seen too many volunteers knocking at the door, and realistically it will not happen soon.

rrr... (Temporary Moderator, Approval Books)

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amsd
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Editor, Seal News; contributor, JuicyHeads
09 Jan 2017
08:05:35pm
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

so, Jon, I see you're a computer guy suggesting computer solutions. Hmmmmm. Kizmet? I can't speak for the MT, Ralph, or Theresa about their interest in having your suggestions implemented programmatically, but it's worth contacting them if you're so in clined.

As a potential buyer, I share most of your frustrations, but many of them are inherently part of the approval service as designed.

as a seller, I put together several books, and have another ready to go for Italy, and it's a LOT OF DAMN WORK for very little payout, as Dave and others attest.

so, thanks for sharing, and, if you want to see change made, contact the people who run this to help them do it. Again, I have not been involved in any aspect of this service, so I'm only talking process, and don't know how those who've put the effort into it will respond.

David

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bobstew617
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10 Jan 2017
05:29:30am
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

As a buyer of approvals, here is what I have learned to do as I go through each page:

1) check to see if the red SOLD OUT comment is showing. If so, move to next page.
2) Go to the bottom of the page FIRST, noting which items have been sold. THEN, look up. To me, that saves a lot of time in the end. (another suggestion is using snipping tool or "snagit" to take a picture of the bottom of the page while you are scrolling through the pictures at the top.). The heartache comes when someone has nabbed that single or set you know is causing a blank spaces in your album. You see it, but oh so close. Crying

Once I started doing that, my frustration level diminished a bit.

BOB

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Soundcrest
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10 Jan 2017
06:38:37am

Auctions - Approvals
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

As a person who sells in many venues (and things other than stamps as well) I have to say that SOR is probably the most challenging one but also the most enjoyable one.

It does take a lot of time and at times I have wondered about cutting corners as many do by not put catalog numbers in their books but then I look at it from a buyer point of view - and I wouldn't buy a stamp if I had to look it up, assuming I had a catalog which is getting more and more expensive. I also wonder if I say it is mint or used as it is pretty obvious by looking at it (MNH is different).

I would love bigger books. I'm doing one this week which might only have 50 sets as the sets are big and 24 pages fill up quickly. To put multiple pages together and take a picture reduces the quality of the image and looks pretty bad to a potential buyer. Besides the programming aspect, I am sure there is pushback to 50 page books as some will say "its then a store"

Jansimon is correct in that higher priced stuff belongs in ebay. I try it here all the time and except for a couple of buyers there is zero interest. There is almost no interest in Non Scott stamps as well. I keep trying though!

Ralph is correct in that no one that sells here (or for the most part anywhere) makes a lot of money selling stamps. If you ever stopped to factor in time you probably wouldn't do it. For me for all my stamp venues I tried to figure out the minimum weekly time and its about 35 hours, and that is just to do 3 books, 200 auctions on multiple sites, and fill orders. In reality since I have to break down old books, add inventory and take pictures of other things its more like 50-60 hours. Still its a great life and I wouldn't want it any other way. In my old days in IT I used to get a 4:30AM bus into NY and get home around 7:30PM. A 50 hour workweek doing something I like is a breeze!

Greg

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sheepshanks
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10 Jan 2017
09:46:16am
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

Two thoughts, maybe as Bob says align 2 separate windows using "windows key" left and right to put top and bottom screens together. Problem is this will result in smaller images.
Alternative, which would entail a program amendment, is to put a separate line below the price per page line to show item sold numbers for that page. This could be linked to the "click to buy" button.

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ikeyPikey
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10 Jan 2017
10:45:44am
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

Quote:

"... Bob says align 2 separate windows using "windows key" left and right to put top and bottom ..."



I would open the page in two different browsers, so that I could scale each window independently, and use {Alt}-{Tab} to flip between them.

Cheers,

/s/ ikeyPikey

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rickben2
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10 Jan 2017
11:16:11am
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

As a buyer I realize the amount of work that the sellers have to go through. That is probably the main reason I haven't got into selling. I want to thank all sellers who go the extra mile to fully describe their stamps. A great example of this type of seller is Soundcrest who I buy approvals from on a regular basis. I buy from others who don't describe their stamps and I never know what I will receive in the mail. I buy worldwide, pre 1940, mint, hinged and it is disappointing to receive stamps with no gum. I know the extra effort to fully describe low value stamps isn't cost effective but this is an online stamp club and not a bourse where one can fully see a perspective stamp purchase. Kudos to Soundcreast and others who help to make this a great way to purchase stamps.

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lemaven
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10 Jan 2017
11:30:39am

Approvals
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

I tried ikey's idea, which sounds brilliant. Unfortunately, every time I go to a new page it resets to the top, so I have to scroll down anyway.

Maybe it's because I'm using a Mac. I'll keep trying some things and report back.

Dave.

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lemaven
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10 Jan 2017
11:49:26am

Approvals
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

Here's a work-around. Simply resize the two windows so that the stamps are maximum size (left) and the Purchase/Sold text (right) is the smallest possible (discerning "SOLD" is easy!)

Because each book has different sized scans you have to refit the screens for each new book before you start. Not perfect, but a technique I'm going to try a few times to see if I can figure out any more shortcuts.

If only there was a way to cut off the top of the screen above the Book #/Description... Ideas?

Dave.



Image Not Found

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TuskenRaider
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10 Jan 2017
12:39:40pm
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

Hi Everyone;

@ lemaven;

I don't know if you are aware of this Dave, but Apple Macintosh used to be able to have two monitors. You simply instructed the display software to indicate which monitor was on the left and which one was on the right. You could then mouse off the left screen (stamp images) and onto the right screen (buy buttons).

@ nobozo;

The same thing could work with a PC, but you would need one of the new HiRes wide screens to do so. Just as Ikey said, put the images on the browser on the left, then in a second browser to the right, have the buy buttons displayed. However, remember to change to "Next Page" for both browsers at the same time, or you'll be in for a surprise at invoice time.
"Hey I didn't buy those!!!"

Just thinkin'....
TuskenRaider

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cardstamp
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10 Jan 2017
12:40:34pm

Approvals
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

As someone that sells via approval books here alot just a comment about providing catalog #'s. I tried it for a period of time last year. It was not worth the effort of spending the time to put the numbers in. I checked with a couple of my frequent buyers and they told me that it makes no difference to them because they just take out their albums and look at the books at the same time online. I try to keep the books focused in an order so you do not have to jump around from year to year. Due to the price differences they can not be in exact order but they are usually very close. Sometimes I will indicate the # if there is some confusion of which stamp it is - if there could be more than one just looking at the image. I also try to keep the books down to a targeted year range. Steve

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Stevo45
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10 Jan 2017
04:14:37pm
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

Hi Dave Good to see another mac user here...

Quote:

"If only there was a way to cut off the top of the screen above the Book #/Description... Ideas?
"



You could take a "Screen shot" (shift/Cmd/4) of the bottom half and put it to one side.

Cheers

Steve.


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Stevo45
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10 Jan 2017
04:24:47pm
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

This is a screen shot:

Image Not Found

Note the Number bottom left - 7490 / 1 = Book number / Page

Steve.

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hfbaker
27 Jun 2017
11:41:27am
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

I realize this thread is a few months old, but I just discovered it, and I thought I would share a thought. I too was concerned about the frustration that must be experienced by approval buyers in determining which stamps on a page have been sold. I realize that the flexibility offered in page layout makes a programmatic solution difficult. My work around would be to offer sellers the option of sequentially clicking near the center of each stamp on their page to cause the coordinates to be saved to a database. I have seen javascript which will perform this function. With the positions of the stamps available from the database, the buy button could be programmed to cause the text "SOLD" to overlay the stamp image.

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Brechinite
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Neddie Seagoon from The Telegoons
27 Jun 2017
06:17:33pm

Auctions - Approvals
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

I must point out that this latest comment would add more work for the seller and depends on the sellers computer literacy.

More work on mostly cheap stamps???

Do the buyers also want the seller to put the stamps in the buyers album????...(Hee Hee Hee)


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Soundcrest
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28 Jun 2017
07:30:00am

Auctions - Approvals
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

Ian I have been "cured" of putting a catalog number for each stamp after spending probably 6+ hours making up a Chile book of 400 stamps having had to look up each one, and of the 400 probably 300+ were for 5 cents. The result, hardly any sold. Going forward when I have hundreds of stamps on pages in no order they are just going to be 5 cents each, and I'm not going to check them. Sure there might be a stamp worth a couple of bucks in there, but there are better ways of spending ones time than looking all these stamps up. Lots of folks ignore the numbers and seem to sell out their books all the same

Greg

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rrraphy
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Retired Ap. Book Mod. Retired Pres Golden Gate Stamp Club, Retired consultant
28 Jun 2017
12:26:28pm
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

Putting the cat number next to each stamp is certainly more work.
Alternatively, if the seller groups their stamps in rough chronological order, then all is easy to figure out if you put at the top of the page the reference Year...and/or the reference Cat Number.
The problem for buyers is with books that throw randomly stamps on a page, in total disorder...these are more like floor sweepings than organized Approval Books.

Quote:

"Rule 4 states: NOTE: Please do NOT compile books with unrelated material, "floor sweepings", and do NOT combine unrelated countries or topics, etc.. Your book must fit one of our categories. Make sure the title contains enough information, such as year range, catalog number range, condition, topical subject, etc. to define precisely its content.
"



As moderator, I have been very lax at enforcing this rule, especially if the stamps are priced as low as some sellers do ($0.03?), and I am quite aware of the time it takes to put a book together.
But at $0.15-$0.20 a stamp, I expect more!
But a more precise title...is that too much to ask? And a little organization in the pages, as a courtesy to the buyer? As a moderator, I could be more fussy at enforcing and toughening the interpretation of the rules, but one of the goals of Approvals is to encourage ALL to list their duplicates, and to shop for those pesky low cost stamps that they miss in their collections.

Now for all who sell and buy here, remember the intent of Approval Books, introduced in late December 2014, and I will refer you to the January 2015 article in the Rambler: https://stamporama.com/upload/2000638062.pdf
The main goal is to help our members to collect and to dispose of their duplicates, and in particular their low cost duplicates. In that sense, it is a CLUB tool for members to trade, and no one expected it or planned it to be a commercial tool like Auctions on commercial sites. We made a lot of compromises in setting it up, and formulating the simple rules.
Yet, it is truly unique in that it allows the efficient "trading" of low cost stamps that are less and less available to buy on commercial sites. And the software developed by Tim is truly brilliant although there are many improvements that could still be incorporated, if we had time and resources!
And it has been a great success, as we approach the 10,000 th Approval Book, in less than 3 years!

rrr...

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Brechinite
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Neddie Seagoon from The Telegoons
28 Jun 2017
06:09:17pm

Auctions - Approvals
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

Soundcrest:-

I also have stopped putting in catalogue numbers. More because of the different catalogues in use throughout the world.

If the majority of members are in the United States, Gibbons numbers are meaningless.

Where possible I try to put in order or by year. However like you, there will possibly be stamps valued at a dollar or two in some of my Approval BookS.
If it is NOT possible to put in year order, (looking up years in a catalogue is just as time consuming as Numbers and /or prices), then the prices may be reduced and more bargains may be found.

Lets be honest a large number of us like a good hunt for a bargain. OK the purists want lots more details, like soldiers on parade but for "cheap" stamps, come on. (NB I have avoided the insulting term "floor sweepings". One persons rubbish is another persons gold)


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Richmond
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RICHMOND FC PREMIERS 2017
16 Aug 2017
03:29:34am
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

I find the approvals service excellent on all counts.

If I was to have one gripe it would be to seek clearer marking of the stamps condition - MNH, MH etc or maybe a default could be considered such as used unless marked otherwise.

I note some sellers seem to do this already, however I havent sold any stamps (yet) so not sure how difficult and time consuming it is to put together a book.

Anyay, just an observation, and a note that the lack of such impprvement would not prevent me using the invaluable approvals service

Regards


Richmond.

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copy55555
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21 Jan 2018
11:56:16am
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

After spending a while searching SOR, I can't seem to find any place where the moderators are listed. I need to point out a few observations in the USA approval section and am trying to contact the moderator via a private email. I'm sure I knew who was in charge but my memory isn't what it used to be. Thanks,

Tad

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michael78651
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SOR Auctioneer
21 Jan 2018
02:45:14pm
re: Respectful Critique of Approval Service

The list of moderators for the sales platforms is found in the Auction Introduction and Approval User Guide pages.

You can click on my user name and send me a private message for what you want to discuss now.

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