Some Honest Thoughts about Running a BlogI’ve been running a blog now for almost 4 years and I have a few thoughts on the subject that have been rattling around in my head lately.

I probably should be saving this post for my “blogiversary” in a couple of months.  But since this was on my mind, I figured I’d be a rule-breaker… yeah, I’m a rebel like that!

Running a blog is a unique endeavor.  Some folks do it as a hobby and some as a business.  Some writers post routinely while others just go with it when they feel like it, which might only be once a month, for instance.

What really makes it different though is that it’s generally a long-term game of growth.  It’s rare for a blog to just take off out of the gate and be immensely popular.

It normally takes a lot of time to build a community of readers.  My guess is that that’s the reason so many blogs die off within the first year.  You need to love the writing itself or you’ll probably get frustrated pretty quickly at the lack of traffic because, obviously, you want people reading your work.

The good news is that over time, if you’re running a blog with regular, good-quality content, your readership will grow.  If you build it, they will come.

Nearly four years in, I thought I’d talk a bit about some of the pros and cons that blogging has played in my life.  I’ll also give you an idea of where I think things are headed.

 

Growth of Route to Retire

I started Route to Retire in May of 2015 with the intention of growing an audience over the years until I reached financial independence.  Then I would have an already-growing project to work on in early retirement.

From the onset, I quickly learned that posting more than once a week took too much time away from my family.  I settled on posting once a week with a “bonus” post in the mix whenever time permitted.

Since the beginning, I haven’t missed a single week.  I’m also very grateful to my readers and have responded to every comment on the blog – it’s time-consuming, but also something I feel my readers deserve.

Year over year, my traffic has at least doubled.  We’re barely moving into March of 2019 as I’m writing this and I’ve already matched my entire year’s numbers for 2017.

Some Honest Thoughts about Running a Blog
Dark blue = Visitors
Lighter blue = Page-views

That’s a great feeling to see this!  It means that people actually appreciate and can maybe relate to some of what I’m saying in this blog.

On top of that, I’m starting to notice that my posts occasionally get some random traffic from Google – huge amounts of traffic!  After digging into it, I’ve learned that this is when a post shows up in Chrome on mobile devices as recommendations called “Articles for You.”  When this happens, the spikes have been awesome…

Some Honest Thoughts about Running a Blog
One of my posts hit Google’s recommended pages on January 29 and a different one on February 26. Look how those days (and the residual visits the following day) make the rest of my traffic look like nothing!

I’ve been doing this long enough that you would think those days would be just another day for me, but they’re not.  I get so excited by it and refresh the stats page throughout the day to see how it’s going.

 

So that’s the fun part.  I get to write about stuff I enjoy talking about, see the site continue to grow, and interact with like-minded folks.

Unfortunately, though, there are parts running a blog that aren’t so appealing…

 

Ugh, the time involved…

Writing is wonderful.  I love writing posts every week and look forward to each time I get to sit at my computer to get started.

However, it takes me a long time to write a post.  Generally, we’re talking about 6-8 hours to get a single post done.  That includes the writing and creating a couple of images for Pinterest and Twitter.  As a side note, if you’re new to blogging, Canva can be your best friend when it comes to creating social media-friendly images.

Although I love the process, it’s soooo time-consuming.

I don’t usually get a post done in one sitting.  It usually takes me a few days to get it 100% done and scheduled… that’s a long time!

I see guys like Steve, my BFF at ThinkSaveRetire, cranking out content sometimes a few times a week and I’m amazed.  I’m in awe, not just because of the number of posts, but that they’re really good posts – he’s not half-assing it just to get something new on the site.

Not only is he running a big-time blog, but he does a little freelance tech work on the side (ever heard of a tiny site called Rockstar Finance?).   Additionally, his wife Courtney runs a YouTube channel that he’s a part of as well.

To top it off, Steve’s now started another website – Digital Marketing 4 Bloggers.  That site has to suck because it sounds like he’s spreading himself too thin, right?  No, it’s already ridiculously awesome!

The point is that I’m now “retired” like Steve, but I’m still struggling to find the time to get out just one solid post every week.

Part of me wonders if he’s so good at this because he doesn’t have kids.  But although that might be a small part of it, my daughter’s at school all day so I can’t blame her for occupying all my time.

Maybe my time management’s not as good (I’m still working on this retirement adjustment) or maybe he’s got more ambition than I do.  Whatever the reason, Steve’s definitely a hustler and this isn’t a jealousy thing… it’s some good inspiration to up my game.

 

Writing’s really a small part of the deal

When you first have the thought of running a blog, you think of all the great ideas you want to share with the world.

Here’s the truth though – writing’s only part of the deal.  I’ve hit on the details on this a couple of years ago, but there’s a lot of non-writing work involved.

Technical

Although WordPress is pretty user-friendly, there are always going to be small details that you have to figure out.  Whether it’s figuring out some HTML or CSS to get something to look the way you want or troubleshooting an issue, there’s work to do.

I’m lucky that I have a technical background – I’m not a developer, but I can usually figure this stuff out.  I’m not sure how non-technical folks deal with this aspect of running a blog without pulling their hair out.

Marketing

It would be great to just write what’s on your mind and be done with it.  But once you’re post comes out, you need to market it.  Between Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest and Google+, there’s a lot of work involved in getting folks to show up to read what you just posted.

Remember how I was just talking about Steve’s new site, Digital Marketing 4 Bloggers?  He addresses how to draw and keep traffic coming to your site.  A few thoughts I know already and have in place and then there are some great ones I didn’t know.

But most of what he talks about takes some work to get set up.  I can’t wait to start implementing a bunch of these things, but it’s going to be a slow process.

Right now, my email list is just an RSS feed that goes out every week.  That’s far from an optimal way to handle your email list.  Not only that, but it’s ugly… real ugly.

I plan on changing that soon, so if you’re not already on it, now’s a perfect time to sign up.  Just imagine  – you can be a part of something about to go through a magical rebirth into a pot of gold even greater than what you’re already looking at.

Yeah, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity… do it.  You know you want to:

I could go on and on, but you didn’t come here to hear me rant, did you?

The point is that if you’re running a blog… the writing?  Yeah, that’s only a small piece of the puzzle.

 

Show me the money

So this might surprise you a little bit, but I’m not just in this for the money.  Sure, I’d love to earn a good income from the blog, but it’s not why I’m doing this.  In fact, if it was, I would have quit a long time ago – I mean, we’re financially independent now, right?  Earning from the blog is just icing on the cake.

I don’t write my content based on what’ll make the most money.  I write about what’s on my mind and if I can integrate affiliate links for businesses I truly believe in and recommend, I’ll place ’em.  Additionally, of course, I do have ads on the site that bring in a small amount of income.

The business-minded people are probably shaking their heads in anguish for me saying that, but it’s what makes me feel comfortable.

Here’s the thing, though – you already saw that my traffic has continued to basically double year-over-year.  So what happens?

As a result, I’m organically seeing more ad revenue and garnering more income from affiliates.  I should be able to change ad providers soon enough which will generate even more money.

Basically, the income should continue to increase without me needing to compromise the direction I’m comfortable with moving in.

I do still think I can get to the point in the next couple of years where the blog brings in $25k per year.  But if it doesn’t, so be it.

 

Running a blog – yeah, this one

I have a lot of plans for this site that I’ve been putting off that I’m starting to work on or plan to very shortly.  Here are just some of the checklist items on my list:

  • Change the theme and menu – it’s time.  It’s been four years and it’s definitely needed.  It’s a pain in the butt though because of all the customization I’ve done on it over the years.  So, I’m currently using WP Staging to test things out and troubleshoot problems.  I’ll go live with it once all the kinks are ironed out.
  • A logo – not a new logo, just a logo.  I went into this with only the picture of the ocean we took on a prior cruise that symbolized the freedom of FI in my mind.  That’s kind of become recognizable to folks as I use it everywhere, including social media profiles.  So I need to be careful that I don’t lose that recognition, but I’m working with my cousin (she’s good in this area) to come up with something new.  Hopefully, that should be in place soon!
  • Update a bunch of pages – I have a number of pages that are just getting old.  For instance, I moved my website over to BigScoots a few months ago.  That was such an awesome night-and-day change and I’m so glad I did it.  But I still need to update my Create Your Own Blog page to reflect that.  The pages that I need to change shouldn’t take too long – I just need to make it happen.
  • Create a podcast appearances page – Friends and family always tell me they want to hear some of the podcast guest appearances I’ve done.  Why anyone would want to put themselves through that torture, I don’t know!  I have a category for that appropriately called Podcast and Other Appearances, but I don’t like how that takes you to a big old list of multiple pages.  I want to just create something simple for folks to be able to see and click on – let’s keep it simple!
  • Security / Legalese / Guest post terms – I just lumped all this in here, but when you’re running a blog, you gotta keep up with all the crap that comes with it.  It’s time to move all my reCAPTCHAs to version 3 if possible, review my legalese, make sure everything’s GDPR-compliant, blah, blah, blah.  I also need to make a decision on if I’m going to allow guest posts or not.  If so, I’ll create a page explaining my requirements and link to it from my contact page.  If not, I need to specify that on my contact page to hopefully slow down all the solicitations.
  • Revamp the mailing list – I talked about that already earlier in this post, but it’s time to make that happen.  I’m also going to work on following Steve’s advice and segment the list to make the emails you get more meaningful because, well, I love you guys!
  • Pinterest – yeah, let’s just leave that as an area that needs some work.

All and all, I love writing and I cherish the folks in the personal finance community – especially you!  I can tolerate all the other technical and administrative stuff that comes along with it, but it’s time-consuming.

As we prepare to leave a month earlier before our move to Panama, time still feels like it’s tight for us.  But hopefully, I’ll be able to continue providing you with some good reading along with a new look in the near future!

Thanks for being a loyal reader!

 

Any thoughts on running a blog you want to add?

 

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

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Some Honest Thoughts about Running a Blog

32 thoughts on “Some Honest Thoughts about Running a Blog

  • March 19, 2019 at 9:29 am
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    I think people underestimate how difficult it is to run a blog. I don’t mean the technical aspects or writing content, but the psychology of continuing to plug away. When you start, you won’t get traffic. You won’t make money. You won’t see results. It’ll be a little, or a lot, frustrating – but you have to find ways to motivate yourself to continue until you break through.

    It’s like hitting a brick wall with a hammer. The first hundred times, you won’t see anything happen. But that 101st time is when the wall cracks and you can really start seeing progress. But you don’t get there without the first 100 and it’s crucial to keep pushing even when it doesn’t appear to have any results.

    I can’t imagine trying to manage a site AND move out of the country after liquidating everything I owned. 🙂

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    • March 19, 2019 at 12:38 pm
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      You’re exactly right, Jim. It’s about perseverance, and not a lot of people have it. Too many people get into blogging because they want to make money. A desire to make money isn’t hard. In fact, it’s dirt simple. But, building a foundation to actually get there is the hard part and that’s why a lot of people just don’t stick with it.

      As you said, BFF Jim, there is a ton that goes into building a successful blog. Me? Maybe I’m just crazy enough to think I can build two at the same time. 🙂

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      • March 19, 2019 at 3:51 pm
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        I like that I get differentiated as “BFF Jim”! I think I might start going by that – it’s got a nice ring to it! 🙂

        And yes, you are a little crazy, but that’s what I like about you. Now bring that Airstream up this way so we can have a good brew before we head off to Panama!

        — Jim

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    • March 19, 2019 at 3:47 pm
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      I think you nailed it, Jim. I know I saw a similar pattern with this site. The growth was slow (and sometimes a little frustrating), but over the past year, it seems to be moving at a much more rapid pace. It seems like it came out of nowhere, but definitely no complaints here.

      Ha, it’s really starting to get interesting getting rid of all our stuff… are you looking to buy a new bedroom set by chance? 😉

      — Jim

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    • March 20, 2019 at 1:24 am
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      Amen to that Jim.

      I’ve been banging at that wall for 4 years just like RtR has, but with twice as many posts per week…
      And haven’t seen nearly the same success he has. Growth stalled out for me a couple years ago.

      It’s a good thing I’m doing it for other reasons!

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      • March 20, 2019 at 11:39 am
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        Don’t get too disappointed, Mr. Tako – I guarantee that even with the growth I’ve seen, I’m still nowhere near your stats. In fact, I know it based on another post you wrote a while ago. But don’t get cocky either, because I’m comin’ for you! 😉

        — Jim

        Reply
  • March 19, 2019 at 1:16 pm
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    I think the difference between you and Steve is that so far your blog was a side project/hobby, while Steve seems to blog full time.
    Looking forward to see how your blog evolves.
    Your growth chart looks awesome:)
    Cheers
    Caroline

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    • March 19, 2019 at 3:54 pm
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      Ooh, I like that thought, Caroline – that way makes it sound like Steve’s been more dedicated than I have… kind of takes a little pressure off me! 😛

      — Jim

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      • March 20, 2019 at 10:51 am
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        Haha, I don’t think he is necessarily more dedicated (but he probably is) as much as it is about having more “free” time, since he is “retired”. Plus having kids does make a difference in one’s schedule:)
        From someone who still works full time and has three kids, I am impressed you never missed a weekly post. Congrats:)

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  • March 19, 2019 at 1:32 pm
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    Jim,
    I’m so impressed that you’ve grown your traffic so much over the years posting once a week. I’m sure your engagement and the fact that you’re such a nice guy have helped you, too!! I’ll tell you that from my experience it was a lot harder than I thought to blog right after we moved. Maybe that won’t be your experience, but getting settled takes more work/ brain power than you think. Plus you’re on the other side of your goal so there’s a huge shift in what you’re thinking and blogging about. But I can’t wait to hear how life goes after your move! I have a feeling you guys are going to really love it a lot!

    Reply
    • March 19, 2019 at 3:58 pm
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      Nice guy? Are you trying to say that I don’t have that Mustachian punch-you-in-the-face kind of presentation? 😉

      I keep thinking about the move as well. I can see how that would be a little tough to settle in and get focused with so much change going on. Well, we’ll see what happens! I’m pretty confident though. I’m sure there’ll be an adjustment period, but overall, I have a feeling the excitement will definitely show in my posts.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • March 20, 2019 at 4:21 am
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    Awesome to see how traffic has more than doubled year ion year! That is definitely a big compliment as well as a boost to keep going. It is definitely time consuming to run a blog and indeed, the writing part is just one part of it and not even the biggest. I see you have enough plans to keep yourself busy with so good luck and I look forward to see what the new design will look like. E

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    • March 20, 2019 at 11:41 am
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      Thank you very much, Jo – much appreciated and good luck on your site as well!

      — Jim

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  • March 21, 2019 at 2:06 am
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    It’s cool to see the graphs of someone who has been blogging a while. I’m curious what the actual numbers are! I saw a similar spike in a Google feature and once a tweet of mine went viral (in my second month of blogging) and nothing has lived up to those days since. It was definitely a rush, but I agree that you have to do it because you love the writing. I love the technical aspects, the artwork I make for promotion, but the writing most of all. It’s a great creative outlet as an engineer.

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    • March 21, 2019 at 11:46 am
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      Sounds like you’re in a great position moving forward since you love doing the other things involved in blogging. Keep the content coming and be careful you don’t burn yourself out. Enjoy the ride and good luck along the way!

      — Jim

      Reply
  • March 21, 2019 at 8:29 am
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    Well done Jim and congrats on your pending move to Panama! I couldn’t agree more that blogging is very time consuming and life tends to get in the way sometimes.

    I’ve been blogging since mid-2016 and have not been nearly as consistent as you. I’ve still managed to grow it quite a bit and for me, there’s nothing more motivating than getting a check from Google in the mail!

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    • March 21, 2019 at 11:51 am
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      Thanks, Jon! It’s a fun ride and yeah, the income definitely doesn’t hurt! 🙂

      — Jim

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  • March 21, 2019 at 12:24 pm
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    I’ll have to subscribe to Steve’s new site. I need help too.
    Running a blog really takes a lot out of you. There are so many things to do.
    I haven’t done a good job with my email list at all.
    Good luck with your list. Your traffic looks awesome. Nice job.

    Reply
    • March 21, 2019 at 2:44 pm
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      Thanks, Joe! Steve’s new site is really good. You’d think after doing this for a few years, I’d know this stuff, but there’s always something new to learn!

      — Jim

      Reply
  • March 23, 2019 at 12:50 pm
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    Thanks for sharing the not so glamorous side of blogging. I can’t wait to read about your adventures in Panama!

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  • March 23, 2019 at 1:11 pm
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    Congrats on making it to 4 years. I’ve been at it 11, though I honestly haven’t put in the work I should to grow it. Oh well. I do it as a passion project more than a means to make money.

    Initially, I have to say that I was shocked by how long it takes you to write a post, but then I started thinking about all the revisions I do after I’ve written a piece, the number of times I go back and fix stuff (especially now that I’m actually writing in advance and not just the day before it goes up). And yeah it probably works out to 4-5 hours total. So not that much different from yours.

    Anyway, good luck with all the work on the site. You were wondering how we non-technical people deal with it? We pay people like Grayson Bell to do it for us. He’s a godsend as far as I’m concerned. And will be again soon because, like you, I need to update my theme. I need something more mobile friendly. Ugh.

    Reply
    • March 23, 2019 at 1:37 pm
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      You’ve been at this a long time! That’s awesome!

      Good call on hiring Grayson for the technical fun – he really knows his stuff!

      — Jim

      Reply
  • March 29, 2019 at 8:48 am
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    Hi Jim – I just started blogging 3 months ago. I hope I can keep this going for 4 years or more. It has been fun so far.

    I think the hardest part, as someone starting out, is to keep posting content (hopefully good content) on a schedule and be consistent in doing that. I tried back in 2016 to start a blog and it stalled out very quickly after about a month. I told myself this time to invest at least two years this time to blogging to make it a success.

    The one thing I didn’t expect (maybe I never took the time to notice it before) is that people in the personal finance space and/or FIRE arena are very supportive of each other and willing to help. I’ve gotten improvement advice from some folks on my blog and it feels great to get encouragement so early on.

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    • March 29, 2019 at 4:39 pm
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      I like the plan, SoM – consistency will help turn it into part of your regular routine. Statistics say that most blogs don’t last past the first year so if you make that hurdle, you’re ahead of most!

      Totally agree that the FIRE community is amazingly supportive. I’ve never seen a great group of people like these folks for sure.

      Good luck on the blog!

      — Jim

      Reply
  • March 30, 2019 at 1:19 am
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    As a newbie blogger, this was a great post to read for encouragement and motivation. Your blogging style and pace (about once/week, with more of a focus on enjoyment than business) is exactly how I aim to blog.

    I still haven’t reached the well-known blogger burnout plateaus at 6 months and 1 year. But right now I’m still having so much fun that I can see myself powering through for many more years. Fingers crossed…

    (PS—I always enjoy reading Jim Wang and Steve Adcock’s thoughts on blogging, and it’s nice that they stopped by to comment here. Both of you guys are great at what you do, and have provided so much value to other bloggers. I always learn something from you!)

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    • March 30, 2019 at 2:57 pm
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      Keep having fun, Chrissy – that’s the way to do it! And if you made the one-year hurdle, you’re beating the statistics… yay!! Congrats!

      Jim and Steve are great bloggers and just good people in general. I have something fun for Jim in my post on Tuesday – he’s probably just going to shake his head in disgust with me. How’s that for a teaser?! 😉

      — Jim

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      • April 4, 2019 at 2:04 am
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        LOL, I just saw your new post with the photo of Jim. Pretty funny.

        And I realized I worded my last comment badly. I’m actually not past a year yet! I’m actually only at month 3. So still a ways for me to go!

        Reply
  • April 8, 2019 at 11:40 am
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    Nice to see those stats of page views and visitors growing each year. It surely takes a lot of time and perseverance to keep the things going.

    I have recently started blogging on my own FIRE journey. Hope to keep it going. I intend to post twice a week as of now, though it takes a lot of time, as you said with a family with kids around.

    I was not aware that steve has started a digital marketing blog, sure will subscribe there as well.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • April 8, 2019 at 6:26 pm
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      It is tough with kids around so if you find yourself struggling at some point, consider scaling back. A lot of folks don’t do that and just give up altogether. If you produce good content and stay consistent, you’ll find success. Good luck!

      — Jim

      Reply

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