Speed-reading?

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delfts
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Speed-reading?

Postby delfts » Tue Apr 05, 2011 11:25 pm UTC

Recently, I've been wanting to read more in shorter amounts of time. I tried speed-reading last summer, and I did improve my speed a bit, but I found that I was focusing more on finishing the books I was reading as opposed to actually absorbing and enjoying them. Does anyone have a suggestion for how to fix this but also read very quickly? I decided to fix it by just reading at my normal speed (which I guess is ~250 wpm). I'd like to hear some advice from people who read very fast and/or who've had experience in the area. Also, is speed-reading worth it? Will I enjoy the book less/retain less if I train myself to read faster?

Thanks,
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existentialpanda
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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby existentialpanda » Thu Apr 07, 2011 5:50 pm UTC

I read quickly - I can't put a number to it, but I read pretty darn fast. I can't make suggestions, unfortunately, since I have no idea how I do it. As for whether it's worth it....it depends, really. I have definitely found that I miss things when I read quickly, not major plot points or anything but a sentence or paragraph here and there. I don't mind this, because I also like to reread books a lot, and when I reread something, I often catch things I missed the first time. I kind of like the feeling of rereading a book, seeing a particular sentence and thinking, "Huh. I don't remember reading this." It's like having little Easter eggs scattered around the book. However, if you're the type who doesn't reread things a lot, or who wants to catch everything the first time, then this may not be a good thing. YMMV.

(Also, when I'm reading something not for fun, ie for class or something, I have to make a point of backtracking every now and then just to make sure I've caught everything.)

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mrface
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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby mrface » Sat Apr 09, 2011 8:04 am UTC

I just stumbled onto this site. I haven't had a chance to really test it out and I don't know how well it works, but it looks like it's supposed to train you to speed read. Being able to enjoy the book your reading probably depends on who you are, though.

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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby Memorantix » Mon Apr 11, 2011 7:38 pm UTC

I have the opposite problem, I read too fast and I often catch myself almost missing good parts of a story (however small they are) just because Ive glanced over them and not taken them in properly. I would recommend just reading more, if you try and speed-read you will find yourself having to go back over the last sentence/paragraph that you missed all the time.

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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby Anubis » Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:03 pm UTC

mrface wrote:I just stumbled onto this site. I haven't had a chance to really test it out and I don't know how well it works, but it looks like it's supposed to train you to speed read. Being able to enjoy the book your reading probably depends on who you are, though.


I played around with their applet and apparently I can already read about 4-500 wpm with a chunk size of 25 (which I suppose would simulate "normal" reading, and feels relatively relaxed) or 1000 wpm with a chunk size of 2-3 (which feels like what I do when I'm haven't been to class in a month and I have an exam in two hours and four textbook chapters to read). So I guess maybe I've already developed the techniques they supposedly teach?

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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby KingofMadCows » Tue Apr 12, 2011 3:26 am UTC

Most speed reading techniques don't work when you're reading to learn. They generally advise against "subvocalizing," which is a terrible idea. Not "subvocalizing" decreases comprehension. If you're just reading for fun then speed reading techniques can help since they let you get the gist of what you're reading.

If you want to increase your reading speed without sacrificing comprehension, you have to use mnemonic techniques. You need to use a lot of substitutions and associations.

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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby KestrelLowing » Mon Apr 18, 2011 4:02 pm UTC

KingofMadCows wrote:Most speed reading techniques don't work when you're reading to learn. They generally advise against "subvocalizing," which is a terrible idea. Not "subvocalizing" decreases comprehension. If you're just reading for fun then speed reading techniques can help since they let you get the gist of what you're reading.

If you want to increase your reading speed without sacrificing comprehension, you have to use mnemonic techniques. You need to use a lot of substitutions and associations.


Eh, I'm going to have to disagree with you on the sub vocalization thing. To me that seems like, when reading music, saying the letter name in your head and then translating that into the correct configuration for your hands/mouth/whatever. It just slows you down. It's much more effective to see the note and go immediately to the correct fingering.

I naturally read very fast. We had a speed reading section in English once in high school (our teacher forgot we had to read "The Great Gatsby" and we had a common final - so she said we'd 'speed read it!') and when we did our 'baseline', I already read faster than the majority of people did after utilizing the "speed reading techniques". I've always read quickly - my mother used to ration my books. I can't give a number either, but I read the 5th Harry Potter in 3.5 hours.

It's nice to be able to read fast, but you do miss a lot of small details. I also read books many times though, so I usually don't miss that much after I've read it two or three times.

I'm pretty certain that the reason I do well on standardized tests is simply because I can read fast so I can re-read everything and check to make sure I'm not missing a key word.

For tips, I've already mentioned I do not sub vocalize at all (phrases just have meanings - they aren't sounds anymore) and I've just practiced. My friend and I used to have competitions. It can help to read easy-to-read fast-paced books that naturally push you to read faster to practice.

Also, for things like textbooks and the like, you eventually learn which portions you probably will be able to skip. Always skip the intro, it means nothing.

Because I ALWAYS read very quickly, I usually have to read everything that I really have to understand at least twice. Usually this doesn't matter as I can read it twice in just a little more time than it takes for the majority to read it once. Still, it's hard to slow down and fully digest something.

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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby KingofMadCows » Mon Apr 18, 2011 9:14 pm UTC

KestrelLowing wrote:Eh, I'm going to have to disagree with you on the sub vocalization thing. To me that seems like, when reading music, saying the letter name in your head and then translating that into the correct configuration for your hands/mouth/whatever. It just slows you down. It's much more effective to see the note and go immediately to the correct fingering.


Reading words isn't comparable to reading music. The association between the note is with the sound produced or the hand movement, it's not with the note's name. Words do not have a direct association with their meaning in the same way that musical notes have a direct association with what they sound like. Words have multiple meanings, they can be modified by the sentence or phrase they are in, and some words have abstract meanings, so the "translation" process is helpful in many cases. "Subvocalization" doesn't work because it doesn't magically give you access to the meaning of the words you've skimmed over.

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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby cv4 » Tue Apr 19, 2011 3:54 am UTC

KestrelLowing wrote:
KingofMadCows wrote:It's nice to be able to read fast, but you do miss a lot of small details. I also read books many times though, so I usually don't miss that much after I've read it two or three times.


This defeats the purpose of speed reading. The point of speed reading is that you get everything a person would normally get when they go through it at a normal pace, you just do it faster. If you have to go over it again, then it becomes useless. Because of this, you aren't really a speed reader, more of a heavy skimmer.

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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby WarDaft » Tue Apr 19, 2011 11:32 am UTC

mrface wrote:I just stumbled onto this site. I haven't had a chance to really test it out and I don't know how well it works, but it looks like it's supposed to train you to speed read. Being able to enjoy the book your reading probably depends on who you are, though.



Ooh, this is very convenient.


Apparently, I can consciously subvocalize (at least mentally, I don't know if I'm doing any slight muscle reflexes or not) at slightly less than 700 WPM. The only training I have in this is the tendency to sit down with a new book and then finish it in one sitting (I blame Chrichton and Ludlum.) Unfortunately it's seems no to be good for determining flow reading rate - that is, the point at which the story isn't words on a page, but a movie playing in your head - because of the jarring visuals. That is something I would never give up, and if learning to speed read would break that, then I'll just have to learn to live with reading at a mere 700.
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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby KestrelLowing » Wed Apr 20, 2011 5:31 pm UTC

KingofMadCows wrote:Reading words isn't comparable to reading music. The association between the note is with the sound produced or the hand movement, it's not with the note's name. Words do not have a direct association with their meaning in the same way that musical notes have a direct association with what they sound like. Words have multiple meanings, they can be modified by the sentence or phrase they are in, and some words have abstract meanings, so the "translation" process is helpful in many cases. "Subvocalization" doesn't work because it doesn't magically give you access to the meaning of the words you've skimmed over.


No, it's not directly comparable, with music's one to one translation. However, I don't think it's so far off. (note: I learned to read music when I was 3 - my mom's a music director - and I learned to read when I was 3 or 4 or so (no one's quite sure), so that may be the reason I draw all those parallels) Each note has a specific tone, yes, but it also has a length, and an attack, and an end. Those are like the different meanings one work can have. Context matters a lot too. For example, a staccato on the last note of a phrase can sometimes mean to play the note very short and other times mean leave a little space before the next phrase.

Heck, there are musical phrases! Ones that you know what they're going to be once you read the first couple notes. That's very similar to phrases in language and you can get messed up in the same way. Something I've found is that when I read fast on purpose, I will sometimes assume a sentence is going to go one way, and it doesn't. It's kind of like reading music, seeing a scale, and not realizing that there's actually a note that's skipped.

But, I do agree with you that sub vocalizing does not give you the meaning.

I still think the best way to read fast is to practice, and practice often. Eventually, you can almost anticipate the sentences and skip over half the words. I can tell when I haven't been reading very often, or when I'm reading a book that has a different prose than I'm used to (Hemingway was horrible for this when I first started reading him) because it's more difficult to predict what the phrase will be.

cv4 wrote:This defeats the purpose of speed reading. The point of speed reading is that you get everything a person would normally get when they go through it at a normal pace, you just do it faster. If you have to go over it again, then it becomes useless. Because of this, you aren't really a speed reader, more of a heavy skimmer.


Eh, it really depends on your definition of speed reading. I was taught (granted, this was by a horrible batty old English teacher) that speed reading made it so you understood what the passage/book was trying to say, but you didn't have to actually read all the details. According to wikipedia (the best and most reliable source ever!): "Speed reading is a collection of reading methods which attempt to increase rates of reading without greatly reducing comprehension or retention."

It's generally accepted that with speed-reading, you will lose some of the information. Reading faster is another thing, something I really don't think that any of these tricks will help - you just have to actively try to become faster.

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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby WarDaft » Wed Apr 20, 2011 6:17 pm UTC

I still think the best way to read fast is to practice, and practice often. Eventually, you can almost anticipate the sentences and skip over half the words.
I imagine it's more that your brain learns to interpret the meaning of multiple words at once. Sure, you can practice forcing yourself to skip words, but simply reading a lot won't generally cause that.

The brain already does a tremendous amount of auditory and visual processing to turn what's basically random radiation and vibrating air into concise easy to comprehend meanings. There's no reason it can't learn to do so in slightly bigger chunks, and if you can do it once, no reason the process isn't repeatable.
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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby Sandry » Wed Apr 20, 2011 7:35 pm UTC

I guess I speed read by default. (For the linked site, I pretty immediately stuck their meter on 10 words at 700 wpm, and my only issue was that words kept ducking under the play bar, making them non-viewable, until I worked out a decent re-sizing.) I find that I don't have issues absorbing most content, but if I'm going to be drilled on details, I might have an issue.

Example: I certainly know what happened in the overarching plot and character development of Heart of Darkness, but when our English teacher asked what the image was in a painting in some office toward the beginning of the book, I had no damned clue. Apparently I missed one symbolic device that Joseph Conrad put in. I'm not precisely crushed.

I haven't found losing details to be an issue for most things, unless you know you're reading work where the author is going to be particularly sly and subvert your expectations.

Different types of writing definitely have different shortcuts. IE in essays spending more time on the first sentence per paragraph, in fiction always paying extra attention to spoken passages, etc.

On the whole, though, I think you just have to read a lot and get used to processing the information more quickly. Certainly throwing out subvocalization helps with that, but practice is what makes perfect, or in this case, brings fluency and speed.
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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby WarDaft » Wed Apr 20, 2011 7:51 pm UTC

Unless you have a really good memory, just read a book through once and you will forget things later, even if you read it normally. You're particularly prone to forget the subtle 'meaningful' things that English teachers want you to remember unless you're studying the book, rather than reading it.
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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby KingofMadCows » Wed Apr 20, 2011 11:42 pm UTC

KestrelLowing wrote:
KingofMadCows wrote:Reading words isn't comparable to reading music. The association between the note is with the sound produced or the hand movement, it's not with the note's name. Words do not have a direct association with their meaning in the same way that musical notes have a direct association with what they sound like. Words have multiple meanings, they can be modified by the sentence or phrase they are in, and some words have abstract meanings, so the "translation" process is helpful in many cases. "Subvocalization" doesn't work because it doesn't magically give you access to the meaning of the words you've skimmed over.


No, it's not directly comparable, with music's one to one translation. However, I don't think it's so far off. (note: I learned to read music when I was 3 - my mom's a music director - and I learned to read when I was 3 or 4 or so (no one's quite sure), so that may be the reason I draw all those parallels) Each note has a specific tone, yes, but it also has a length, and an attack, and an end. Those are like the different meanings one work can have. Context matters a lot too. For example, a staccato on the last note of a phrase can sometimes mean to play the note very short and other times mean leave a little space before the next phrase.

Heck, there are musical phrases! Ones that you know what they're going to be once you read the first couple notes. That's very similar to phrases in language and you can get messed up in the same way. Something I've found is that when I read fast on purpose, I will sometimes assume a sentence is going to go one way, and it doesn't. It's kind of like reading music, seeing a scale, and not realizing that there's actually a note that's skipped.

But, I do agree with you that sub vocalizing does not give you the meaning.

I still think the best way to read fast is to practice, and practice often. Eventually, you can almost anticipate the sentences and skip over half the words. I can tell when I haven't been reading very often, or when I'm reading a book that has a different prose than I'm used to (Hemingway was horrible for this when I first started reading him) because it's more difficult to predict what the phrase will be.


What about ambiguities beyond the way things sound? For example, [blank] being on fire can be interpreted two ways. If I say the house is on fire then the house is probably literally on fire. However, if I said that my heart is on fire, it could mean that I'm in love but it could also mean that I'm having a heart attack. Similarly, there are sentences that can be interpreted in more than one way. For example, if I said, "Mary saw Bob with the binoculars," who's has the binoculars? Did Mary use the binoculars to see Bob or did Mary see that Bob was holding the binoculars?

I can certainly see how music can be interpreted in different ways but I don't think it affects memory or reproduction of the music to the extent to which words can affect memory and repetition. If you played a piece of music from a music sheet and then I asked you to play it again without the music sheet, you probably won't play it too differently. On the other hand, if you read a story and misinterpreted it, and then I asked you to retell it, you'll probably be way off. Since with words, you don't remember exactly what you've read. You remember your interpretation of what you read. For example, if you read a sentence with the word "conflagration" in it, you might not remember the word "conflagration" and instead remember "big fire" or "explosion." When you subvocalize, there's a much greater chance that you won't catch the meaning of what you're reading and end up making a mistake in your interpretation.

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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby mikereads1 » Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:53 pm UTC

Hi delfts,

Realise that this is a bit of an old thread but I thought you might be interested in taking a look at a technology called "Rapid Serial Visual Presentation" (or RSVP for short). RSVP presents words one after the other in the same spot. In doing so it eliminates the need for your eyes to track from left to right and refocus on each word and, for most people, this has the effect of greatly increasing the speed at which they can read.

Best of luck on your reading journey!

Mike

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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Dec 30, 2015 9:22 pm UTC

mikereads1 wrote:Hi delfts,

Realise that this is a bit of an old thread but I thought you might be interested in taking a look at a technology called "Rapid Serial Visual Presentation" (or RSVP for short). RSVP presents words one after the other in the same spot. In doing so it eliminates the need for your eyes to track from left to right and refocus on each word and, for most people, this has the effect of greatly increasing the speed at which they can read.

Best of luck on your reading journey!

Mike


That's basically what the site above does.

I find it impractical, though. Most books come in book format, and anyways, a chunk size of one word feels painfully slow.

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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby araprado613 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 12:05 am UTC

delfts wrote:Recently, I've been wanting to read more in shorter amounts of time. I tried speed-reading last summer, and I did improve my speed a bit, but I found that I was focusing more on finishing the books I was reading as opposed to actually absorbing and enjoying them. Does anyone have a suggestion for how to fix this but also read very quickly? I decided to fix it by just reading at my normal speed (which I guess is ~250 wpm). I'd like to hear some advice from people who read very fast and/or who've had experience in the area. Also, is speed-reading worth it? Will I enjoy the book less/retain less if I train myself to read faster?

Thanks,
delfts


I'm a huge book nerd who reads fast. AND I would have to say that I do have problems retaining information. I mean, I understood the book really well and can talk about the story with someone. But I can't quote parts of it, can't recall the characters' names after a couple of weeks, and when I think about all the books I've read, it's hard remembering what titles go with which story. That's why I started a blog, so I can sort of record the books I've read, what the story was, and whether I liked it or not.

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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby Soupspoon » Fri Sep 16, 2016 1:14 am UTC

Seeing this thread appear under the Unread Posts listing, originating prior to my forum join-date but just now necroed to contemporaneousness, I zoomed straight to the top of the page and reviewed its development in both 'speed read' and 'skimming' modes, as far as I care to label things.

My take-away from that is that the skimming isn't useful except for getting a gist, perhaps keeping a subconscious eye out for known contributors or places where links are embedded (false negatives going unpunished, of course), but I more naturally actually read ('chunking', although as yet no attempt has been made to visit any mentioned callibration site to establish chink-size or WPMin, maybe later) at a rapid rate that allows conceptual understanding, bit tends to skip the subtleties of internal voice that should change for each year individual narrator/contributor. From my speed-reading, I could not tell you who had held what opinion, nor even who participated.

But I note that the OP's initial request (to be able to speed-read without losing sense) seems to be closely allied to the skim/speed boundary of my own experience. My advice to them (if they ate still around... *glances down at Topic Review section* ...more than six years later) is to read as fast as you can without sensing (or, upon a more leisurely re-read, realising) that you are skipping over words. When there is dialogue in a novel, you lose out if your inner voice does not provide self-distinctive inner voices to all speech (or at least disimilar to the surrounding prose narrative), but it is probably wise to slow yourself during multicharacter interactions, whilst the technical manual (which should never ideally be read 'straight through' in the manner of a fictional tale) can, and often must, survive reading for word-matches (fuzzy or exact) relating to your expectations, relying upon the subconscious 'grep' function to reasonably accurately alert you to the discovery.

To train the latter take time out to 'search' for something you know to be in a publication, and start by virtually flicking the pages past the eyes, repeating and slowing until you catch your glimpse (or think you did, even if your reaction time is so tardy that you have to wind back a fair way). The shape of a desired word (whether or not you initially knew you were looking for it) can be found surprisingly quickly under such circustances. Barring dyslexia, of course, but possibly not even then. (A friend of mine is dyslexic, especially in spelling, but has a form of 'blindsight' in finding specifc lost words within a publication. It may arise from his coping mechanisms.)


But for reading for pleasure, I slow down somewhat and saviour the words more. At least on one of the read-throughs. Give yorself the luxury, when you can, I say.

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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Sep 19, 2016 4:09 pm UTC

delfts wrote:Recently, I've been wanting to read more in shorter amounts of time. I tried speed-reading last summer, and I did improve my speed a bit, but I found that I was focusing more on finishing the books I was reading as opposed to actually absorbing and enjoying them. Does anyone have a suggestion for how to fix this but also read very quickly? I decided to fix it by just reading at my normal speed (which I guess is ~250 wpm). I'd like to hear some advice from people who read very fast and/or who've had experience in the area. Also, is speed-reading worth it? Will I enjoy the book less/retain less if I train myself to read faster?

Thanks,
delfts


Depends. Merely reading fast does not necessarily detract from enjoyment. However, many speed reading techniques amount to a form of skimming. This is alright for quickly gleaning essential bits about something for a paper or what not, but it generally does detract from enjoyment.

I read extremely fast due to having read an insane amount. Churning through a few hundred books is really normal for me, and it's common for me to slam into posting time limits on forums despite being a bit verbose. So, usually I browse a few forums/news sites at once if I'm killing time. It's just a basic result of doing something a ton, eventually you get very good at it. Your base speed creeps upward.

So, it's pretty normal for the regular reading speed of someone who reads a ton to be comparable to a speed-reading level for someone else. Either person skimming is going to go faster, but miss detail, but the base speeds are definitely different.

KingofMadCows wrote: They generally advise against "subvocalizing," which is a terrible idea. Not "subvocalizing" decreases comprehension.


Huh. Don't subvocalize at all, myself. Seems like it'd slow you down to a crawl.

I see it as a progression. Yeah, you may start out reading out loud as a kid, and would find it difficult to suddenly skip to reading quietly. Additional difficulty. But eventually you do, and it helps.

cv4 wrote:
KestrelLowing wrote:
KingofMadCows wrote:It's nice to be able to read fast, but you do miss a lot of small details. I also read books many times though, so I usually don't miss that much after I've read it two or three times.


This defeats the purpose of speed reading. The point of speed reading is that you get everything a person would normally get when they go through it at a normal pace, you just do it faster. If you have to go over it again, then it becomes useless. Because of this, you aren't really a speed reader, more of a heavy skimmer.


Eh, it's enjoyable. Re-reading something isn't done solely to pick up additional detail, but because the experience is worthwhile. Yeah, it's nice to occasionally notice something clever you overlooked the first time through, but it's hardly the main point.

I realize only now that some of the stuff I'm replying to is ancient, but eh, seems to be still mostly on topic.

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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby dclxvi » Tue Feb 21, 2017 2:36 am UTC

Woody Allen: "I took a speed reading course. I read War And Peace in 45 minutes. It's about Russia."

Me: I took a speed reading course and was reading around 2500 WPM by the end of it. I was getting 100% scores on the comprehension tests, but the tests were so absurdly simple that I started taking them before I read the books and was still getting scores in the 90% range. The technique was useful for scanning for specific items but of no value at all for hearing the music of the words.

Now I plod along unmeasured. Like Montaigne, I read much and remember little.

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Re: Speed-reading?

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Feb 21, 2017 10:52 am UTC

I quite liked Sleeper.

(Sped-read the post above, and I think that's what it was about... ;))


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