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LS15-badge-speaking_200 I am very excited to be speaking at Learning Solutions again. For 2015, I am presenting a new topic: Traininghacks. Basically “Lifehacks for the L&D Pro” – quick tips and different ways to use tools or look at things to address challenges we commonly face. I share some of my own tricks as well as several contributed by others. Everyone will come out of the session with at least one tool they can take back and apply to their work. [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
    • How to send files from PPT to Word so updates you make to your PPT file update in the Word document
    • How to embed Sharepoint document repositories or chat areas (or almost any site for that matter) into training content
    • How to use Infographics to create more engaging and interactive content
    • Using MadLibs to create deeper content and question pools
[/list] And a few other tricks. It promises to be fun, and folks can play along by downloading this zip file: LS2015. It is not required to play along, but if you want to, you will need MSOffice 2010 or above, Photoshop or similar photo editing software, and Articulate Storyline. If you have any additional hacks to share, please comment.
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Hi all!  Back for more quick tips on Magic Kingdom Parks.  This will be a shorter post than the Magic Kingdom or Epcot because I don’t frequent these parks as much.

Animal Kingdom

Food

Except for the Rainforest Cafe at the park entry, I can’t think of any eating experiences beyond very basic park concession stands.  This may be my own oversight. I don’t feel like eating often when I am at any zoo attraction.

Characters

There are a surprisingly good amount of characters available at Animal Kingdom, including safari versions of the Fab 5, Russel and Dug from Up, Flick from Bug’s Life, and Rafiki from the Lion King. Pocahontas is ONLY available at the Animal Kingdom and only for short timespans (Miko, her Racoon is available after she leaves).

Rides

Despite having a few less rides than many of the other parks, Animal Kingdom does offer some of the more intense ones.
  • Expedition Everest is a fast roller coaster. No loops, but very intense. A well done ride with a lot of surprises and thrills and an interaction with a Yeti that is really something else. The line tends to be long and the wait is not air conditioned, so FastPass is recommended.
  • Kali River Rapids is a huge “log flume” style ride in a round inflated raft. They have plenty of storage to keep your things dry. My experience with the ride is that there are two modes- you are surprising spared and get a gentile misting, or you get waterlogged.  Seriously- waterlogged. The last time I came off the ride, I was asked if I had fallen into the river (I was that wet).  You’ve been warned.  The line is very long, not air conditioned, so FastPass is suggested.  This is a “must do” in my opinion.
  • DinoLand USA featurs a few carnival-style rides and a Boneyard (Dino-inspired kids play area). Cute and fun, but nothing you don’t see at an average travelling fair that has rides.

Animals

One of the rides I didn’t cover is the Safari, because it isn’t about the ride itself, it is about the animals. Even having a world-class zoo in my hometown (Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo), I can easily recognize Disney’s Animal Kingdom in a class of it’s own regarding animal encounters and education (that is no slight to Lowry, which is also superb). During the safari you can get quite close to elephants, zebras, and giraffes, and see some other animals it is very difficult to see (not just because of where we live, but because of their endangered status, like the Rhinos). Even just roaming the park you will see birds, monkeys, lemurs and other animals and often animal handlers will bring out some critters for a personal encounter.  If you are lucky, you might even get a chance to play “name that dung”.  Yes, it’s exactly what you think.

Lion King Show

Good singing, classic songs, a little audience participation, animatronics and acrobatics….  plain and simply stated: it’s just plain fun to experience the show. Spoiler alert: You will notice a great deal of construction going on at the Animal Kingdom. A major expansion is underway to make a new Avatar-themed area that is supposed to be one of the most advanced expansions they have ever done. I know a few cast members have noted how secretive the park has been about any cast member getting any access or information to this project. That mystique has them thinking it is really going to be unique, even by Disney standards.

Hollywood Studios

The large Sorcerer’s Hat is missing currently.  I don’t know the story behind it. I am eager for this icon to return to the park.

Food & Shopping

Even the “park food” at spots seems a tad better than the food at most the other parks (except EPCOT). However, there are a few decent eateries, like the Brown Derby, to enjoy some sit-down dining (reservations highly recommended). Hollywood Studios also has some of the best shops which features more Disney “couture” inspired items.

Characters

There aren’t as many characters at this park as the others, but you will see some characters out and about. The Disney Junior area has characters from the Disney Junior Shows (Jake, Sophia the First, DocMcStuffins).  Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc are at a visiting area just beyond A Bug’s Life. Mater and Lightning McQueen just beyond the Muppet 3D Theater (Sometimes Phineas and Ferb appear next to that location).

Rides

This park has some of the craziest rides of any. For thrillseekers, it’s heaven. If you get motion sickness, this is not a place to experiment with rides.
  • Star Tours- 3D Star Wars flight simulator. <yoda> Do this, you must </yoda>.  Seriously, the force is strong with this one. Even if you aren’t a Star Wars Fanboy/Fangirl (clearly, I am), the ride has over 20 interplayable adventures to switch up the experience.  It can cause motion sickness and dizziness.  Lines tend to be moderate, but the wait is indoors and climate controlled with well-designed ambiance. I would still recommend a FastPass to ensure you don’t miss this (but see my next comments).
  • Toy Story Midway Mania – I can’t imagine anyone not loving this ride. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a bit like a Tilt-a-Whirl and video arcade shooting gallery mashup. Tons of fun. Lines tend to be VERY long. Despite being inside and air conditioned, the length of the wait demands getting a FastPass if you can.
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror- I think this is the most intense ride at any of the parks. The hotel “elevator” brings you up- way up, and opens up the windows high in the hotel to show you exactly how high you are, and then you drop. And when you think it’s over, it’s not. You cannot predict exactly how you will rise or drop in the sequence, it is randomized. Which makes the ride so much more intense than standard thrill drop rides. For serious thrill seekers only. FastPass recommended. The wait tends to be moderate to long, mostly outdoors.
  • Aerosmith Rock-n Rollercoaster- a must do for coaster enthusiasts. It is everything you like about Space Mountain, less everything you dislike about Space Mountain.  It is an indoor roller coaster, in the dark with only neon street signs whizzing by as you twist, turn and invert after the initial acceleration. That’s right, you don’t climb a hill to start this roller coaster, it’s a “shot out of a cannon” style start, which is a unique thrill if you’ve never been on a magnetic-drive coaster before. Great coaster (with a few inversions in the dark). The lines tend to be long, and only half is indoors. FastPass highly recommended.

Shows

There are lots of shows at Hollywood Studios (and that isn’t even counting the classic Hollywood inspired characters interacting with guests in the park, and the acts like the musical landscapers rocking out in the park).
  • Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular: Spectacular is the right word. Pretty much a highlights reel of some of the great stunts from Indiana Jones, but you truly feel the the action (the heat, the sonic booms of explosions).
  • Little Mermaid: 15 min broadway-style telling of the Little Mermaid. Includes under the sea puppets (actually the highlight of the show) and 1990s style laser lightshow elements while sprinklers mist audience members sitting in seats. Not strongly recommended by most visitors.
  • Disney Junior Live: FOR YOUNG KIDS. Period. Everyone sits on the floor, puppets from popular Disney Junior shows tell stories, sing songs, blow bubbles into the audience, and drop gold coin confetti into the audience. Young kids love it. Young young kids. (under 6).
  • Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show: Extreme, but be warned, it is quite a walk and quite a wait. However, to see how the actual car stunts in Hollywood are performed, the skill at which these drivers drive (inches away from each other in cases), and all the technology that goes into classic stunts is quite thrilling to experience live.  Oh, and explosions, big ones.
  • Muppets 4D: Exactly what you’d expect, Muppets, 3D, and a little extra (wind, water spritzing). Fun show, pretty quick.
  • Frozen Sing Along: Karaoke meets Frozen. This has turned an empty space into a stage for kids to come in to watch what is essentially the sing along DVD of Frozen with a quick appearance from Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff.  However, 90% of the work is done by the kids and two hosts who crack jokes the whole time almost signalling an awareness of how cheesy the attraction is (which to me, made it surprisingly bearable and funny).
  • American Idol Experience: Tweens compete just like American Idol. And some of these kids are astounding. If Idol appeals to you, this can be quite an enjoyable experience, especially when you see a really talented kid shock an audience with their talent.
  • Star Wars Jedi Academy: Next to the Star Tours ride, you can see young Padawans training. And Vader crashes the party. Kids use their training to fend off Vader.  If you are passing by and happen to catch it, it is fun. Especially the rare case when Vader asks a kid to join the dark side, and they agree.
Last tip for your visit: Work with your hotel concierge. If you are staying at an on-site Disney hotel, they often have inside intel to help you navigate all of the offerings (I learned from one that my Disney Visa gives me a private character visit at EPCOT).  Even if you are not at an on property hotel, most the concierge services at the surrounding hotels are very knowledgeable about the services in the area (Disney, Downtown Disney, Universal, CityWalk, etc.)
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This is my second “WDW Tips” post for LSCon Attendees.  Catch up on Magic Kingdom tips here. If you are coming to LSCon later this month, you may have added on a trip to Walt Disney World including the park most geared toward adults- EPCOT.  As a local and a multi-year annual passholder, I have some tips.

Tip 1 = EPCOT stands for “Every Person Comes Out Tired”

Wear comfortable shoes. Epcot is actually two parks put together. The front half of the park was inspired by a Tomorrowland vision featuring Spaceship Earth (the big golf ball) at the entrance. After you go through the middle of the park, you will go to the World Showcase, featuring food, architecture, and cultural exhibits from many countries around the world. They are positioned around a lake, so you must walk around to get from place to place. There is no diagonal shortcut. Your FitBit will log some serious steps.

Tip 2 = FastPass Soarin OR TestTrack (and get to the other one ASAP)

You are coming during Spring Break, so planning your FastPasses is critical to ensuring that you get on key attractions. And for most folks, that means TestTrack and Soarin. The park only allows you to book one of the two attractions as a FastPass, so here are tips. 1. Soarin generally has longer lines. In most cases I would book this as the FastPass (unless you have a fear of heights- it is a hang-glider simulator). Even if you do wait a LONG time, it is indoor and climate controlled, so it’s bearable. It is my favorite ride of any park, and my recommendation is a must-do experience no matter the wait. 2. TestTrack also has a line specifically for single riders, so if you aren’t coming with a party, this can get you on the ride much faster than Soarin. Most of the wait is indoors and climate controlled. But the line can run to the outside after it builds up into the 45 minute plus wait time. I highly recommend the Disney Experience Mobile app, which facilitates adjustments at any time. It also shows wait times, character greet locations.

Tips for EPCOT

This park has a lot to offer with the best food of the parks, a few great rides, one of the largest Aquariums in the US, cultural exhibits and a great nighttime spectacular. It is geared more toward adults than any other park.

Food

Epcot has the best food of the parks. This is due to the World Showcase. Most countries have restaurants or snack stands available featuring cuisine from the country. Reservations for restaurants are recommended. Oh, and, it is the one park where you can enjoy libations. My favorite is due to my sweet-tooth- the crepe stand in France. The World Showcase As you walk around the world showcase, you will see architecture, and cultural exhibits for the countries. The Drummers in Japan are astounding as are the Chinese acrobats if you can catch the act. Be careful about getting too close to the Ziti Sisters in Italy- they do pull audience members into the act. The most surprising thing about the World Showcase is that it is authentic. As a homeschooler, I bring my kids to Epcot to learn about the cultures by interviewing the folks from the countries. We did ask if the World Showcase was representative or if it was a “cheesy American tourist version” of their country. We heard from several cast members (France, Morocco, China) that it is a good representation. If you do want to learn about any region across the World Showcase, talk to the cast members. Most are natives from the countries and are happy to talk. And for a cheesy, fun ride, check out the 3 Caballeros in Mexico. You can also buy a ridiculously over-sized sombrero while you are there.

Hidden Gem- Characters in the World Showcase

There are many princesses you can visit around the World Showcase (China is the only location where you can meet Mulan). You can also visit other characters such as Marie from the Aristocats, Mary Poppins, and Alice (from Alice in Wonderland).

Tomorrowland

I’ve already mentioned Soarin’ (easily my favorite ride- you smell oranges as you soar over the orange groves) and TestTrack. These are the two “big” rides, with the most thrills and longest lines. Spaceship Earth is right in the large golfball. It is a bit like “It’s a Small World” with a slow moving cart leading you through key moments in history. Fun fact: many of the animatronic characters in the ride are duplicates of Presidents in the Hall of Presidents dressed as different historical characters. The lines are moderate to long. The ride? Not exciting. Interesting, but not exciting. Turtle Talk with Crush. I never visited this before I had kids. I am so glad I had kids because it is a hoot. Kids sit in the front, and an animated Crush talks to the kids and responds to their questions. Think Cosby’s “Kid’s say the Darndest Things” but with a Turtle. Never the same show, and very well done. The Living Seas is an “It’s a Small World- Nemo style” ride which in itself is “okay”, but it leads you right into the aquarium. The wait is inside and climate controlled, but if it is long, I say just get to the Aquarium. The Aquarium- Epcot’s aquarium is one of the largest in the US. Many exhibits, a few big and interesting fish (including sharks) occasionally live divers interacting. Living with the Land- Think “It’s a Small World- in a Greehouse (no music)”. Not exciting, but very interesting. Disney shows how growing technologies for food are evolving to conserve water and be more earth conscious. Captain EO- Sorry I cannot comment. I don’t bring my kids anywhere near Michael Jackson in any form. Journey to Imagination with Figment- One of the park favorites featuring scientist Eric Idle and the Purple Dragon Figment who causes mischief (and a stink) on a ride. Mission Space: A space simulator. Comes in two flavors because the original (full strength) version caused dizziness in many visitors. It isn’t a fast-moving ride, but does give you a feeling of liftoff, weightlessness, and more. If you are sensitive to motion sickness, definitely go for the decaf version. Character Spot In Tomorrowland there is a meet and greet location with all the classic Disney characters. Just outside just as you go through the tunnel toward Soarin and Living Seas, Chip and Dale are on the left greeting visitors frequently (they are tucked away and some folks miss it). The East and West buildings flanking the fountain in the center of Tomorrowland feature interactive exhibits and perhaps the most intense ride in the park. A full motion flight simulator (you pay an extra fee to do it). Easily the most intense ride in any of the parks.

Starbucks

Just to the right of the fountain, as you face the World Pavillion. You are welcome.

Best thing to do when you have time between rides: Perry the Platypus game

They distribute the game in the center of the park and it is an interactive spy game that brings you to different locations throughout the park. Runner up: Street performers. They have trash can drummers and other acts (often great vocal groups) that go through Tomorrowland.

Illuminations

EPCOT ends each night with the Illuminations light show that goes throughout the World Showcase. Not as big or as spectacular as the Fireworks over the castle, but a unique and great experience.
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If you are coming to LSCon later this month, you may have added on a trip to the Magic Kingdom.  As a local, a father, and a multi-year annual passholder, I have some tips, but please note:
  1. I have girls who are in the Princess phase, so I have many tips from that perspective.
  2. They are fearless riders- my youngest rode her first loop roller coaster before she was 5 (Busch Garden’s Scorpion)
So, my tips are through the perspectives of girls who seek princess meetings and will go on any ride they are tall enough to ride.

Tip 1 = FastPasses

You are coming during Spring Break, so planning your FastPasses is critical to ensuring that you get on a few of your favorites.  If you haven’t already booked your FastPasses, many may already be taken up. I highly recommend the Disney Experience Mobile app, which facilitates adjustments at any time. It also shows wait times, character greet locations.

Tips for the Magic Kingdom

This is the park with the most to do, fantastic parades, unbelievable fireworks at night, and many rides. It is geared toward younger visitors.

Food

Let’s call it what it is: park food. Yes, there are a few restaurants on site (just above the cut of “quick serve restaurant” IMO) Tony’s being a standout in the pack, but if you really know Italian food (I lived outside the North End in Boston for years), temper expectations.

Princesses

Unless you have a FastPass for Elsa and Anna already, you are going to wait a while- no getting around it. During Spring Break, even Cinderella/Rapunzel/Aurora can be a long wait. Here are other places to see princesses:
  • Snow White- appears just inside the park entrance next to the Mickey and Tinkerbell meet and greet. Sometimes Dopey joins in.
  • Belle- Belle’s Storytime is an audience participation storytime where you can meet Belle (ballgown version). It is cute, but geared toward very young visitors.
  • Ariel- Ariel has her own grotto for a visit, and you meet her as a mermaid with a long shimmering tail!
  • Jasmine and Aladdin – next to Aladdin’s magic carpet ride. Just watch out for the spitting camel as you walk there (you can get wet).
  • Merida- just to the side of the castle as you walk toward the teacups.
  • Tiana- in a gazebo behind the Christmas shop which is opposite the Hall of Presidents- she is easily the most accessible princess in the parks.
Power tip 1: Princesses are pulled from meet and greet locations during the parades. Enjoy the parades and once it is concluded, walk straight to the princess meet and greet. Power tip 2: Snow White, Belle (village dress), Jasmine and Aladdin, and Aurora are all available and generally more accessible at Epcot, so you may want to consider visiting those princesses at Epcot.

Other characters

  • Gaston- near Gaston’s Tavern. Easily my favorite meet and greet character for his banter with visitors. Just don’t challenge him to a pushup contest (youtube it)
  • Stitch- Between Space Mountain and the People Mover in Tomorrowland
  • Buzz Lightyear – by the exit for Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger ride
  • Tinkerbelle- Right at the front of the park in the Town Square Theater
  • Mickey- Right at the front of the park in the Town Square Theater
  • Mary Poppins- toward the front of the park by Tony’s restaurant- she often enters/exits through the candy store
  • Chip and Dale- in Liberty Square (just past the Ferryboat)
  • Jesse and Woody- at the exit for Splash Mountain
  • Alice, the Rabbit and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum – next to the teacups
  • Pluto and Marie (Aristocats) can be found at the park entrance
  • Fairy Godmother- behind the castle across from the Cinderella statue
Note: Alice and Mary Poppins are also available at Epcot. During the afternoon parades, the dance party actually puts characters off the floats into the circle in front of the castle. So kids can dance next to Jessie, Woody, Baloo, and other characters.

Fireworks

World-class. Not to be missed. Viewing is best “straight on” view to the castle, but you don’ t need to be close. Look for Tinkerbelle flying from the castle across the park at the beginning of the show. Really a site to see.

Parades

In a word, great. You will see virtually many characters, wonderful floats, a fire-breathing dragon (Festival of Fantasy parade), and lit-up costumes and floats (Light Parade). The jockeying for position can get a bit crazy at times, but most characters are up on floats for decent viewing by all, so there isn’t much to compete for. The best viewing area in my opinion is in the cul-de-sac right at the park entrance. Most visitors have moved INTO the park, and don’t think to move back to this spot for viewing. And, you get to see the parade approaching down Main Street.

Rides

Snow White’s Mine Car Ride: Let’s just address the big question: Snow White Mine car ride (the newest ride) will be a very long wait unless you have your FastPass. It is a very good ride, despite it being short. The swaying cars actually make it is very smooth ride and a perfect “starter rollercoaster” for any rider unsure if they are the roller coaster type. The animatronics of the Dwarfs in the mine are really well done. Other thrill rides:
  • Splash Mountain: a fun log flume ride. It is a big drop, but fun. Wetness factor varies greatly. You can get lucky and spared, or drenched. Center of the bench you sit on will be the driest spot; put you phone there. Wait times tend to be long in general. FP recommended.
  • Thunder Mountain: not a tremendously tall roller coaster, but very fast- this is the real deal. Fast turns, fun. Wait times are “moderate” in general (but Spring Break moderate is on a bell curve).
  • Space Mountain- fast, clunky roller coaster in the pitch black. If you are unsure of roller coasters, skip it. If you have stiff neck- be warned that turns with no warning for preparation can be uncomfortable. If you love roller coasters, this is a thrill. The wait tends to be longer, but it is indoors and climate controlled, so bearable.
  • Great Goofini- a kids roller coaster- just over a minute long. Great fun for kids, and generally a very moderate wait.
  • Teacups- the classic. Wait times are generally very reasonable. This is not a ride for anyone prone to motion sickness, but for anyone who wants to spin themselves silly- a blast.
Other rides:
  • It’s a Small World: the longest ride in the park by seat time, and per the constant song playing, it feels longer. These are 1960’s era animatronics and a very nostalgic ride enjoyed by many. Wait times are reasonable, and it is a great way at times to beat the heat.
  • Ariel’s Under the Sea Ride: moderate to long wait times. It is essentially “Little Mermaids Meets It’s a Small World”.
  • Peter Pan; A classic ride, but the wait times are long without fast pass. It is not a thrill ride in any manner. It is a slightly better take on “It’s a Small Worlds” with a flying ship tour through the Peter Pan story highlights.
  • Cinderella’s Carousel: just behind the castle, a classic Merry Go Round. Wait times are reasonable in general.
  • Tomorrowland Speedway: Drive a gas-powered go-cart around a track. A classic ride. The cars don’t go terribly fast and steering is very limited to a track. However, it does let young kids feel pretty cool, and the worse they are at driving, the more fun you will have being pinballed along the track (the jolt of the car correcting can be powerful, snapping the wheel out of the kid’s hands- usually resulting in laughter and more bumper bowling your car along the track). Wait times are reasonable in general.
  • Buzz LightYear’s Space Ranger Spin: A spinning car on a track you use to play a laser tag game by shooting targets as the ride progresses. An easy ride appropriate for any age. Wait times are moderate.
  • Flying rides- essentially all the same, but in 3 themes:
    • Dumbo- THE classic Disney ride. Wait times tend to be reasonable (now they have 2 Dumbo rides- one dedicated to FastPass holders.
    • Aladdin’s Flying Carpets – Essentially, the Dumbo ride done in a Flying Carpet theme. Wait times tend to be shorter.
    • Astro Orbiter – The classic spaceship flying ride, high above the park. It is very fast, and you must ride an elevator above the Peoplemover to ride it. Wait time tends to be long.
  • Jungle Cruise Ride: A nostalgic ride of animatronic jungle animals popping up during a jungle cruise. It’s datedness has actually become great material for the boat operators.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Another classic ride which has been updated to put in Jack Sparrow (whose animatronics are superb- you’d think he was there). Moderate wait times. The whole area around the ride has a cool pirate flair.

Best thing to do when you have time between rides: Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom card game

Right at the park entrance at the Firehouse, you get pack with 5 player cards along with a key card to open magic (video) portals throughout the park. You visit portals, encounter villains and play your spell cards to defeat them in interactive video. Costs nothing, gives you a fun thing to do while waiting for rides.
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morelistening   If there is one thing I took from Learning Solutions and Ecosystem 2014, it’s that L&D Pros still seem to be very focused on outgoing signals. Don’t get me wrong- there were some very good sessions on how to make the content we deploy much more effective.  I thoroughly enjoyed Will Thalheimer’s session on subscription-based learning which addresses the impact of forgetting by applying the spacing effect. Ray Jiminez also had a session on how to chunk information into smaller bits for greater impact. We are making vast improvements into packaging our outgoing messages to be more effective. However, I still feel we’re missing something big. THE thing, actually. Today, we have more tools than ever to understand our users. I am not talking about our traditional view of metrics (read: test scores- where it is a bit late to really help the user, isn’t it?). We have analytics tools at disposal to listen- really listen– to what our users are DOING (focus on performance vs content was a common theme at the conference, but I mostly saw items on how to make content more performance-focused, and very little on how to understand how users are performing to better support it). [blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”left”]It’s time our profession stopped holding the megaphone to our mouths and start holding it to our ear first.[/blockquote]With the tools available, why not listen first to understand needs, then design content to respond to users needs?  I am not talking formal needs assessment, but in-process metrics to understand our users at a deeper level and respond in a timely manner to best support them. More like games which constantly monitor a player’s actions and adapts accordingly to provide feedback and guide actions.  That. I think now we have a great opportunity to transform L&D from being barely valued and irrelevant in many organizations to a strong and indispensable support partner. But that will require us upgrading our skills from one-way content deployment to an actual dialog with our users. 
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