Final Thoughts | My KidPub Memories and a Goodbye
Posted April 5th, 2020 by Codename-X12
in a secret bunker finishing the Guardians
April 5th, 2020
Here are the opening sentences from the first story I ever wrote. Drumroll, please.
“I had Fun at the wodtre purek I swam in the Laze river, and I ran up and daon on the wodtre casul and we dumpt wodtre on the Kids under the wotre of the berij of doom the Kids on the wodter ubuv us. they dumpt the wodter on us. I did not lick vare muth.”
Quite the masterpiece, I know (and typing this up in Google Docs somehow makes it even more painful). Many of my early stories were similar to the one excerpted above. Basically, if I wanted to do something fun or cool, whether that thing was possible or not, I would write a story about me doing that thing. When I wrote the water park story (if you caught that from reading it, good job), for whatever reason I wanted to go to a water park, but since I couldn’t go to one, I wrote a story about me going to one.
My other adventures escalated beyond such simple things as water parks. I became a Jedi Knight fighting the evil Sith and Separatist armies in Star Wars. I became a character in a video game I enjoyed playing. I became a soldier in a war fought using NERF dart guns. I became a dragon-slaying knight. I entered a secret ghost dimension using a trampoline as a portal. I was attacked by a ninja and had to defeat him with my mad martial arts skills (believe it or not, even this one was fictional). I became a heroic monster fighter who defended the earth against horrifying, monstrous creatures. And so on.
All these stories I wrote from when I was about six or seven years old to when I was about twelve years old. As I’m sure you can see, these stories all feature me (as evidenced by all my main characters having the name Jack) engaging in heroic endeavors and crazy exploits. I wrote these stories just for fun (or maybe out of boredom), and that was all that writing was to me then: something to do for fun (or maybe out of boredom). But, on March 26, 2014 (or, to be specific, the days leading up to this fateful date), all of that changed. Forever.
On this date, my mom discovered an online community for young writers, KidPub. I don’t know how she discovered it, maybe from a Google search or a recommendation from a homeschooling website (I was, and still am, homeschooled, for anyone who didn’t know, which I assume is most of you). How she found it doesn’t really matter though. Perhaps she had seen my rambling, grammar-defying stories lying around somewhere, because she told me about KidPub, and, when I expressed interest in the online community, signed me up.
Codename-X12. That was my username (did I mention I also wrote stories where I was a super-spy with an arsenal of sci-fi weapons which no child should ever have access to). The first story I posted was titled ‘LEGENDS Chapter 1: Imprisoned.’ Exciting, right. Here is the opening sentences, if anyone is interested and doesn’t feel like scrolling through my bio.
“Long, long ago, in a vast and dangerous underground, four powerful wizards with seemingly endless powers had been imprisoned for years. They had been locked up in the darkest, deepest part of the horrible dungeon by the terrible, cruel, dangerous, and deadly Monsters, which had invaded the galaxy from the shadow world of Orkusnox and taken over the forest world of Separnemus.”
As you can see, I had already progressed a lot from my first work of fiction. And who was the main character in this story, you ask?
“‘We need to get out of here!” exclaimed one of the wizards, Jek desperately.”
Jek. Only two letters off from Jack. Well, at least we’re making some progress. I also want to note that, around this time, I received my legendary ‘welcome to KidPub’ post. I sincerely apologize to and join in the sorrow of any member of KidPub has not received the legendary ‘welcome to KidPub post.’ The post was titled ‘Welcome Jack to KP!!!!!!’ (and yes, there are six exclamation points there, I counted them to check) and posted by the equally legendary KidPub member mysterygirl, who I and many others have come to know as Josephine, or Jo-Jo.
(As a side note, I was really sad to see you leave KidPub, and I posted a lengthy comment on the post that announced your leaving, I really hope you see it. I guess my time has come as well, and I plan to leave with a relative bang).
Anyway, this post introduced me to the best and most compelling part of KidPub, the incredible community. KidPub is full (or, I hate to say it, was full) or kind, caring members who commented encouraging, uplifting comments full of praise for the story or helpful constructive criticism, or often, both, on all of my stories (or most of them, at least, as I soon found out). This is by far the reason for why KidPub was such a fundamental, incredible influence in my writing and in my life as a whole. I will be talking about that again and again in my post, but for now, let’s keep things moving.
I also wanted to mention another post that had a profound influence on me early one, that is the incredible story ‘Barely Alive Ch. 1 (Zombie Story) by Garrett. I loved this story and it may be what led to my near-obsessive interest in all things zombies, apocalypses, and dystopian novels. By the way, I’m still waiting on chapter two, if you’re reading this, Garret. It’s only been six years!
I continued on writing my first KidPub stories (scrapping the LEGENDS story and turning it into a vampire/ghost story called Bloodthirsty...which I also scrapped), until I stumbled onto my first smash hit masterpiece. This story was called the Zombie Games, and readers were quick to point out how the novel seemed to be a mash-up of zombies and the Hunger Games. Ironically, I had never read the Hunger Games at that point and even though I had heard some things about it, it was never an inspiration for the Zombie Games, but I didn’t mention this until this point...so...it’s probably too late.
In writing the Zombie Games, I learned of a secret weapon to getting popular stories on KidPub: the character contest. Basically, members would fill out a form for a character they wanted to submit for a story and then, if accepted, the character would then be in the story. Then, they would want to read the story to find out what happens to their character, and bam, you have a smash hit. Brilliant!
Over the twenty-five chapters I posted of the Zombie Games, I received so many incredible, inspiring comments that it forever changed my perspective on my own writing. The Zombie Games, and, most of all, the KidPubbers who read it and commented on it, made me realize that maybe, just maybe, I had something going with this writing thing. Maybe I didn’t have to write just for fun (or maybe out of boredom). Maybe I could write because...because...I was good at it (don’t worry, I didn’t ditch the fun part of writing, thankfully). The Zombie Games is one of my most popular stories, rivalled only by my Guardians novel (more on that later), and sparked one of the two main epiphanes I had during my time on KidPub (more on the second one later).
Next I entered into what I call the ‘Golden Age Of KidPub (don’t forget those capital letters!) Some KidPubbers have even created timelines of the different ‘ages’ of KidPub, and apparently I missed the actual ‘Golden Age,’ (and a lot of other crazy ones. What was the ‘Taco Age’ about? Does anyone remember it?), but this was my own personal ‘Golden Age,’ and a lot of crazy stuff went down.
I want to list just a few ‘Golden Age’ memories I have (back in my day and all that). The KidPub Games was even more like the Hunger Games than my Zombie Games story. Everyone who wanted to partake in wanton killing and bizarre fashion choices went to the forum and made a character for the KidPub Games. They would introduce their character in an interview of sorts, then the Games would begin, and each member would act as their own character in forum reply posts, striving to team up with or eliminate the other players to be the last one standing.
I joined during the third KidPub Games (written as the KidPub Games III), and I think there were maybe four or five KidPub Games in total (the ones after that began decreasing in attendance until they stopped happening at all). One of the cool things about the KidPub Games was that the arena the battle took place in was themed after a popular story on KidPub, and the KidPub Games III was themed after the Zombie Games! Boy, was I proud! I didn’t win, sadly, but made it until the fateful showdown (and I think some of you will still remember this legendary moment), where William and I killed each other at the same time, allowing another contestant, Lillian, to win.
Another memory from the ‘Golden Age’ was where I engaged in something frowned upon by my parents (though they never found out about it): obscure online relationships. There were a ton of these going on on KidPub, and I ended up in my very own, as, somehow or other, I got shipped with fellow KidPub member Frostblaze, or Madelyn. Together, we became Jadelyn, and nothing could stop us (except for we both died in the KidPub Games). In fact, we became one of the most heavily-shipped couples on the website, along with Sam and Alice, and Cody and Josephine of course (Salice and Cosephine forever!) This was an incredible time were a thirteen with absolutely no knowledge concerning relationships whatsoever found himself in precisely the situation he had no knowledge about. Of course I look back on this fondly. I haven’t seen you on in a while, Madelyn, but I still think about you sometimes. I wish you luck, if there is such a thing, on all your endeavors in the future!
Another story that finds a lot of success on KidPub are the aptly named ‘KidPub stories.’ These are stories which feature KidPub members (by name, not as a character contest), and are usually centered around the website or writing in some way. One of these stories was ‘TRAPPED’ (which I will always remember as KidPub resort) where a bunch of KidPub members met up in real life on a resort island to meet each other in person and engage in all the activities on the website except as a real-life version. A lot of KidPub members dreamed of having the chance to meet each other in real life, and this story was a great realization of what a meet-up such as that might have looked like. Unfortunately it ended in a cliffhanger as a massive hurricane threatened the resort. I still don’t know what happened!
Even more influential than the KidPub resort story was the incredible ‘League of Incredible KidPubbers’ (or LOIK, for short) series of stories (why did autocorrect want me to change that to the ‘League of Incredible Kid Barbers?). This story was another of the KidPub stories I mentioned, and was written by Josephine. In this masterpiece of a novel, viruses infected the KidPub site and infested all the stories, taking form as massive spider-like creatures (or at least that’s how I pictured them). The members of KidPub then went on to take on incredible powers and enter the stories, traveling through different KidPub stories as they battled the viruses. The Zombie Games was featured as one of these stories as well! I hate to brag, but my superpower might have been the best: I could turn into a massive, angry green monster totally not inspired by the Hulk (which, by the way, is a copyrighted character).
And then things got even more confusing as an Avengers crossover took place and we met the actual Hulk, along with all the Avengers. I hope Disney never finds out about what took place following this. The LOIK members had to team up with the Avengers to take out Loki and an evil version of Josphine (aka Lokina) and save the world, all while dealing with romance, time-freezing, and other shenanigans. This story was amazing, and spawned two sequels, the first of which was titled LOIK: The Day Breaks, and the last of which, titled LOIK: Falling Behind has not been completed (this seems to be a common theme among KidPub series, including my own). Overall, a 10/10 series and one which was a major influence in my own smash hit masterpiece, the Guardians (be patient, I’m getting to that! Just a few more things to go!)
Was the LOIK series your favorite story on KidPub, you ask? Close, but not quite. Another story, called War of the Gifted by Lena (my favorite book in this series was ‘Venom and Medicine, either that or Cry of the Ghost). This series was about organizations made up of superpowered teenagers, aka ‘Gifted,’ found for power on a global scale. This series had everything: betrayal, awesome characters, cool powers, romance (and a lot of us), scary villains, mind control, torture, battles, pyromania, and more. There are three books in the series, the first: Venom and Medicine, the second: Controllable, and the third: Cry of the Ghost, and all of them were incredible. In fact, they were better than a lot of published, marketed books I’ve read, and honestly they should be published. Think about it, Lena! Another major influence in the Guardians series now that I think about it (leave me alone, I’m almost there!) and another one which ended on a cliffhanger (and right as they were about to go to war, too! Come on!)
What was I up to at this time? Well, I was posting a lot of different stuff, like the Darkness Within, The Hunt (the sequel to the Zombie Games, which, sadly, didn’t do nearly as well as the original), an attempt at creating an online Dungeons and Dragons-esque writing-based game called Wizards Online (which really did not well), and, most notably, Monster Fighters. Yep, I decided to post that monster-battling story I mentioned at the begin of this admittedly very long post). I went crazy on this story, writing 51 chapters in which a secret underworld full of monsters is discovered, a secret suit of magical armor is found, and a massive demon dragon is slain. Sadly, this was the story I mentioned that didn’t receive many comments, despite all my hard work on it. I even began work on a sequel, and had a lot of plans for it, but didn’t end up completing it. Maybe some of the ideas I had for it will surface in other stories I write someday.
Also during this time I was creating a secret league of super-spies (yep, taking inspiration from the early story I mentioned), called S.T.O.R.M. (and yes, the acronym did come first, but come on, its cool). This took the form of a never-ending story on the forum. Similar to the KidPub Games, each member would create a character and then act as that character in the forum replies, and a lot of crazy stuff went down. We fought an evil secret organization, F.E.A.R. (again, the acronym came first) were betrayed and had our base ransacked by enemies all at the same time (the direction of S.T.O.R.M., Director Storm, clever, I know, was killed, so were used a poll to choose a new leader, which was won by Madelyn, even though I really wanted to win). Then Madelyn was captured and F.E.A.R. almost made a zombie virus (well they actually did make it but we stopped them in time), and then people stopped posting on it so it ended. Also, my close friend, Ian, the only of my non-virtual friends to join KidPub, joined, and posted the A.I.M. spy story, which may have been inspired by S.T.O.R.M., though I don’t know that for sure because I didn’t ask him.
As I’m sure you can tell from the paragraphs above, the ‘Golden Age’ was a magical time. I was on KidPub every day, checking out crazy, awesome stories, playing forum games like the KidPub Games or S.T.O.R.M. and chatting with other people on the forum, comments, or the ‘Author’s Notes’ chat section, and anxiously awaiting new chapters of the stories I was following. Usually there were at least three to five members online consistently during the ‘Golden Age,’ and I specifically remember one time when there were between eight and fifteen members on, which was and still is the most members I’ve ever seen online at one time.
In the forum there’s a tab at the bottom which reads ‘Most users ever online was 653, 01-02-2015 at 10:01 AM,’ and that is just completely crazy to me. If the most members I’ve seen only was around ten, I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for there to be over 650. Now that I think about it, that also includes guests (non-members who can’t post or comment), but there still must have been a heck of a lot of members online as well. I also just realized that I was actually a member during this time, but I don’t remember there being that many people on, so I must have missed it. Darn! Also, I must note that during this time I made a post in the forum encouraging people to spam comments and posts so we could reach a million posts in the forum. As I look at it now, as of April 4, 2020 (shoutout to you future readers) there are exactly 590,113 posts, so suffice to say we did not quite reach our goal.
But all good things must come to an end, and, as Andy Bernard famously said, "I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” In 2016, after having spent two blissful years in the ‘Golden Age,’ we on KidPub entered what I like to call ‘The Pre-Dark Age’ (actually I just made that up on the spot). In ‘The Pre-Dark Age,’ there were still a decent number of people on and a decent amount of stories being posted, but this activity was not nearly as crazy as it had been during the “Golden Age,” and was beginning to slow even more. Of course, the other members and I were not aware that we had in fact entered ‘The Pre-Dark Age.’
The first story I wrote during ‘The Pre-Dark Age’ was my first foray into horror, in the form of a Five Nights at Freddy’s fan-fiction (yes, I know), called Mr. Happy and Benny (based off a bunch of Scratch games I made where I ripped off someone's recreation of FNaF in Scratch and switched out the pictures in the security cams and office with pictures of my friends trying to be spooky in various locations around my house). I also wrote another zombie novel, The Eclipse Files, which is sort of inspired by World War Z (the book, not the movie), and takes place in the universe of the Zombie Games.
Then, I wrote...the Guardians (see, I told you!) The Guardians was a superhero novel inspired by LOIK and possibly inspired by The War of the Gifted. At this point in my KidPub career, I had become aware of the power of the character contest, so I wrote up a first chapter to the Guardians and posted a character contest along with it. I posted this chapter on July 6, 2016, and anxiously waited for characters to be submitted. And let me just say, the character contest did not fail. I got several characters right off the bat: Fabric, Thespian, Safron (I will forever wonder if Sally meant Saffron or Safron), The Fox, and Kid Darkness. In the next few chapters, I also got Sky Skimmer, Mirage, Shadow, and Viper. I’d like to thank Hazel, Luna, Brian, FrostBittenKitten, Sally, HawkEye, Ruby, Moe, Charlie, and Justin for these great characters. You have really had an incredible impact upon the Guardians and my writing career also!
I kept posting chapters throughout July, and the story quickly began to blow up. As I’m looking over the comments again, it didn’t get as crazy as the Zombie Games had been, but it did pretty well for having been posted in ‘The Pre-Dark Age.’ Side note: it was about this time that my brother Roen joined KidPub. I had to make some minor adjustments to the characters people submitted, but for the most part, they were pretty similar (since them I have completely overhauled all the characters, so...sorry?) Also, a funny story. Sally posted another character named Red Skull, and I thought for a second she was joking, but it turned out she hadn’t heard of the classic Captain America villain! She then changed the name to Dusty Fire.
I have posted 28 chapters of the Guardians on KidPub, and during this time, I underwent a drastic shift in my perspective on writing, due mostly to a particular comment I received on one of my Guardians chapters. This comment was posted on July 24, 2016 at 6:54 PM and read ‘good as always! you seriously need to think about being a major author when you grow up.’ Thank you, Sally, for this incredible comment. This sparked my interest in pursuing and investigating a career as an author, and completely changed my life (no exaggeration!) I hope you read this so you know how much this comment and everyone’s support on the Guardians meant to me.
Why did I stop posting the Guardians, some of my loyal fans likely wondered. The reason was that my plans for the novel evolved dramatically while I was writing it. Not only did I have a shift in my perspective on writing, but my writing ability and ambition grew along with that. I started out writing the Guardians just for KidPub, to entertain the members on there and (ahem), maybe get popular. But over the course of its writing, the story evolved far beyond that, and into something I now want to publish eventually. I have changed all of the characters, the entire structure and plot of the story, the worldbuilding, everything, and it is a very different story compared to what it was then. Maybe keep an eye out for it, because I’m going to try to publish it sometime in the next five years, once I finish up with another project I’m working on.
Back on KidPub, the situation concerning fewer posts and less people on was growing more dire. Looking back, I think this was when ‘The Dark Age’ began to emerge. The Guardians, and all stories in general, were getting less comments, there were less people on the main site and the forum, and, worst of all, many KidPub veterans announced they were leaving, including many of my old KidPub friends. I understood why they were leaving, they were no longer kids anymore, many of them were entering college and pursuing other goals, but it hurt nonetheless.
The problem was, as people got older and left the site, there were no new members to replace them. KidPub was created in 1995, back when the Internet was still developing, and since then, it hasn’t really evolved to keep pace with all the crazy changes the Internet has seen and its current trends. Pretty much every website and app with a membership now, from YouTube to Instagram to whatever has free memberships and makes its money using ads. KidPub doesn’t have ads, so it has to charge a one-time fee. Even though that fee is relatively inexpensive and has a lot of value (more value than most monthly premium memberships on websites and apps, I might add), most people, including my friends I’ve told about KidPub, don’t want to pay a 15 dollar fee.
As the situation grew worse, the people still left on KidPub were beginning to worry. Then I proposed a solution to perhaps save KidPub, the KidPub Renaissance Project. The KidPub Renaissance Project had been around for a while, but it had mainly been about encouraging people to post, comment, and mentor newer members. My plan went beyond that. I proposed the KidPub Houses Project, where three Houses would be made (I totally didn’t rip off Harry Potter), and members could join a House and post and comment to boost their House points. That way, theoretically, we could boost the site’s activity and entice new people to join by showing that KidPub wasn’t dead after all.
The project began on April 19, 2017. We got to work, planning what the Houses would be called, what the rules would be, and developing the points system. I posted a bunch of development updates on the progress of the program and people would post their ideas and suggestions in the comments. Then, when we had worked out most of the details, we voted for the names. The whole process was not without controversy, for me and another user named Red Zero had some slight arguments over certain rules, but in the end, everything worked out, and I respect you, Red Zero, for being a major influence in the project. The final names for the Houses were Sky, Land, and Sea, and I myself joined Sky, while Red Zero joined Sea. I thought I would list a few other names we proposed: Fabulator, Lectorem, Pathos, Auctor, Ethos, Logos, Tolkien, Snicket, Kraken, Chimera, King, Rowling, Phoenix, and Suess. As you can see, a whole lot of work went into the KidPub House Project. It may have taken until May 14, but, with our plans finalized and ready to test, we were about to bring back KidPub’s ‘Golden Age’ for good!
Except the project did not manage to get past the testing phase. I’m not sure what went wrong, but I have a few theories. One was that the system was pretty complicated and relied on people calculating their own points and posting them in the forum. Then, the team leader would have to add up all the points and post them on a different forum to show which House was ahead in points. I guess this system was just too complicated or was based on too many moving parts, because it flopped completely. However, it was not completely in vain. The community of KidPub was assembled for what will likely be the last time to work together (for the most part), to bring back a website we all loved. I will always be a proud member of the House of Sky, and I know there are likely still a few members online who remember and are proud of whatever House they chose.
After the failure of the KidPub House Project, the website entered what I will refer to as ‘The Darkest Age.’ Members on and stories posted plummeted to an all-time, devastating low that made the actual ‘Dark Age’ seem tame by comparison. A tab on the forum shows the number of active members on the site, and every time I would come online and check the forum, I would see that number drop...and drop...and drop. I don’t remember exactly at what times I checked, but I remember seeing it at 60, then 40, then 30, and then, 13. Right now it has risen slightly to 16, but this is still heart-breaking to see. Of course, before I delve into the effects of ‘The Dark Age’ and ‘The Darkest Age,’ I have to mention my greatest controversy on KidPub.
KidPub had always been for kids, and as such, inappropriate content, while not specifically banned, was almost always limited and censored. I wanted to create a writing site more geared toward teenagers (not that I wanted to have it be incredibly vulgar, violent, and inappropriate, I just wanted to make a site where teenagers would be able to write more freely without having to worry about younger kids seeing it). I made a post about it on KidPub, and boy, did that spark controversy.
A lot of people were for it, but some were complaining about what I said was off-limits, and some thought that I was trying to take even more members away from KidPub. I said it was more of a companion, or separate section as King Explosion said. A lot of people joined anyway, including some people who were never KidPub members, but, since then, my site, writerhub, has gone through its own ‘Dark Age,’ one much worse than the one KidPub is going through. In fact, writerhub never really took off, and I had to shut it down last year because literally no one had posted in months. It was sad, but I have plans to try to bring back the site in the future somehow.
Back to KidPub’s own ‘Dark Age.’ In March of 2020, only 16 stories were posted, in February of 2020, only 12. When you compare those numbers to the same months from other years, you can see how the ‘Dark Age’ has gotten worse and worse. March of 2019 had 39 stories, February of 2019 had 67, March of 2018 had 67, February of 2018 had 79, March of 2017 had 100, February of 2017 had 110, March of 2016 had 253, February of 2016 had 267, March of 2015 had 251, February of 2016 had 221, and, back in my own personal ‘Golden Age’ of KidPub, that is, 2014, March had an incredible 644 stories and February and an equally astounding 516 stories. Looking at the data (all of which can be found under the Stories tab under Older Stories by year), KidPub’s most active time was in 2011, when in March 1,860 new posts had been made, and in February, 1,737 posts were made. It’s devastating to me to see how bad it is now.
My sister Olivia joined during ‘The Darkest Age,’ and I’m sad that my brother and sister will not be able to experience the joy and fun of ‘The Golden Age.’ My brother joined earlier on, but even he missed the best times I had on KidPub. Now only a handful of members are posting: Fire Dragon 74 (my sister), Ava, Tia Snow (who’s online now as I’m writing this), Lelin Da Flame, IllegalSparkles, Wolfpup_Angel, Luna, roisin, and Jill (it’s amazing that you’re still here, you were a veteran even when I joined!)
I haven’t posted on KidPub since June 18, 2019, and, after I read Jo-Jo’s post about her leaving the site, I started thinking about my own leaving post. This isn’t a decision I make lightly, but I feel it has to be done. I want others on KidPub to know what KidPub used to be like during the Golden Age. I want to leave behind all my best memories and experiences for both myself and others to look back on. I want all my KidPub friends to somehow find and read this and know what an incredible impact they have had upon my love of writing and my life as a whole. And, most of all, I want everyone to know what KidPub has done for me. I would not be the person I am today, not even close, if it weren’t for KidPub, the community, the stories I read, the memories I had, and all the friends I made along the way. So I’m going to list most, if not all, of my KidPub friends.
Thank you for the incredible memories! I will always look back fondly on this website and all the fun we had, all the stories we wrote, and all that we did on KidPub. As of last month, I have been a KidPub member for six years. I started when I was eleven, and now I’m seventeen and in my junior year of high school. Crazy how time flies, huh? I still remember when Jo-Jo made my welcome post, or when Madelyn said she shipped us and I didn’t know what the heck was happening, or when I lost the KidPub Games, or...and the list goes on and on and on.
Thank you KidPub, thank you, Perry for creating this incredible website, thank you to all my friends. Thank you for supporting me, having fun with me, encouraging me, and turning me into the writer, and the person, I am today. I’ve had no better friends than all of you, and no better times than the times I spent with all of you on KidPub. I wouldn’t be who I am now without all of you. Because of you, I love to write, I love to tell stories, and because of you, I will love to write and tell stories for the rest of my life.
I gotta say, that was the best fifteen dollars I ever spent!
This is Jack, also known as
Jack Van Hoof
The Guardian (Jack)
Word Wizard (Jack)
signing off: March 26, 2017 to April 5, 2020.
I will always be a proud KidPubber.
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