1015: "Kerning"

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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Iranon » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:28 pm UTC

The joke, of course, is that complaining about kerning outs you as someone with low standards.
Properly designed fonts don't need kerning!
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Zylon » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:44 pm UTC

jdb-44 wrote:
sonoftunk wrote:Case and point, 48/100

Actually, it's "case in point".
I'm a jerk, I know. No offense meant.

If you don't correct people, they'll never learn. Tough love!
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Ardee » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:48 pm UTC

My mom worked at a publishing company in the 70's, in the age of manual typesetting.

She got to shout "stop the presses!" exactly once, and just in time - a book cover had terrible kerning, and it was a book about typesetting.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby jd-1027 » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:58 pm UTC

Harold wrote:Looks like someone needs to lem to kem.


YEEEAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby briarlee » Fri Feb 10, 2012 5:11 pm UTC

I'd never even heard of kerning until today, and I still got 96/100 on the kerning game. This continues my habit of being unexpectedly good at random things that will never benefit me at all. For example, I scored almost perfect on the FM 100 Hue Test that's supposed to tell you how well you see color. (IIRC, the best score you can get is a 0, and I got a 1.) Now, if only I were good at things that mattered in my life/job...
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Coyne » Fri Feb 10, 2012 5:21 pm UTC

Trouble is, it only works for obsessive-compulsive people. Those of us who are more normal can rank the importance of things that bug us. So, for example, if we run across a post where thye canot spel, we cn reed thru the mispeling and get the sense and move on without having to say, "Arrrrrgggghhhh...," and then respond with a flame.
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Re: 1015: "Keming"

Postby Nyerguds » Fri Feb 10, 2012 5:47 pm UTC

I "C" what you did there, Randall :P
jcsalomon wrote:Word of the day: keming. n. Kerning that’s just a bit too tight.

Beautiful!

Iranon wrote:The joke, of course, is that complaining about kerning outs you as someone with low standards.
Properly designed fonts don't need kerning!

That's nonsense. It all boils down to the fact some fonts AREN'T properly designed. The fact the kerning is what is actually wrong is just going into specifics.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby jjcote » Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:07 pm UTC

Iranon wrote:The joke, of course, is that complaining about kerning outs you as someone with low standards.
Properly designed fonts don't need kerning!

Don't make the assumption that all lettering (e.g. on a sign) comes from some kind of magical "font". Not everything in this world is mechanized or computerized.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby mr.velte » Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:20 pm UTC

Check out the period at the end of the sentence "XKCD updates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday." on the home page.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Steve the Pocket » Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:26 pm UTC

Of all the signs he could have used, he had to pick one with no naturally awkward letter combinations ("AV", "LY", etc.) whatsoever. Nor a sign that could possibly have been made with a computer. If you really hate someone, write a webcomic that attracts their interest and then keep making mistakes like that.

It's so true though. I have a Dave Barry book that just glares at me from the bookshelf with its massive space between the A and the V on the spine. And the Team Fortress 2 map loading screen ("YOU'RE ON YOUR W A Y TO BADW ATER BASIN").

Having high esthetic standards is a curse. It doesn't help anyone else, because they don't care or even notice. Whether it's poor kerning, ugly fonts, or bad pop music — all it does is make you look like snob and ruin your ability to appreciate what everyone else can.
cephalopod9 wrote:Only on Xkcd can you start a topic involving Hitler and people spend the better part of half a dozen pages arguing about the quality of Operating Systems.

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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby gleezus » Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:26 pm UTC

sonoftunk wrote:I know what bad kerning looks like, but I can never figure what good kerning looks like. It's a good thing I don't do it for a living.

Edit: [url]http://type.method.ac/[url]

Case and point, 48/100


81/100... Not too bad.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Socks » Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:33 pm UTC

On first glance, I saw the horrible kerning and cringed, assuming it was accidental. Thank you Randall, for reassuring me of your nerd-cred.
Last edited by Socks on Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:17 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby gopher65 » Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:56 pm UTC

95/100:). Bad Kerning drives me crazy, so I try and ignore it to keep my sanity.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Zinho » Fri Feb 10, 2012 7:10 pm UTC

I'm amazed no-one else has started suggesting other, similar, ways to tell people you hate them by making them more aware. Did I miss it? Anyhow, here's my list:

interlacing artifacts seen on progressive-scan displays
cue marks on films to mark reel changes
strobing of those new LED tail lights on Cadillacs due to poor pulse width modulation

My wife was blissfully unaware of any of these before we got married, and is now annoyed by all of them. She blames me, of course.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby steaxauce » Fri Feb 10, 2012 7:35 pm UTC

94/100. I've never really thought about the spacing between letters. I'm also not artistically inclined, and, let's just say that as far as my handwriting is concerned, kerning is the least of my worries.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby bharvey » Fri Feb 10, 2012 7:58 pm UTC

Properly designed fonts don't need kerning!


Properly designed fonts include kerning values for pairs of glyphs that are set next to each other in the same font, style, and size. But the kerning information stored in the font doesn't help with adjacent glyphs that are raised, lowered, different sizes, different styles, and so on. Proper algorithmic kerning requires that the program look at the actual bitmaps.

Oh, to the person who replied "citation needed" to my earlier post: I had to deal with kerning in the program I wrote in 1971-73 to typeset mathematical formulas, one of the systems Knuth studied when he was designing TeX. Instead of storing glyph-pair kerning values, I divided the bitmaps into five horizontal slices and stored the positive or negative distance from the outermost pixel to the glyph edge on each end of each slice. This was an efficiency compromise, so as not to have to examine the bitmaps in detail for each character. For what it's worth, my first algorithm was judged too tight by human typesetters, because I set adjacent glyphs as close as possible while still maintaining a two-pixel minimum separation. I learned to limit the kern amount to five pixels, iirc, no matter how much closer I could have gotten without overlap.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Geronimo » Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:18 pm UTC

mattman00000 wrote:If you don't know what kerning is, google it. The word kerning is kerned wider than the other text on the page



I was looking at this and noticed that the comic is already the sixth google result. Anyone know if that is normal, or is Kerning just that uncommon of a word?
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Iranon » Fri Feb 10, 2012 10:09 pm UTC

Ok, it seems my meaning wasn't as clear as I thought. Sorry for killing a lame half-joke but in the interest of clarity...

Kerning is *selective* spacing taking adjacent characters into account. Some (usually older) fonts don't require much or any of this - letters form readable and pleasant-looking words on their own without being pushed around.
This hasn't been a priority in font design for a very long time, and and most people wouldn't think this property is necessary to make a font good.

It was mostly a jab at font snobbery:
"99,9% of all fonts suck because they need this inelegant and arbitrary adjustment. Complaining about bad kerning is complaining that your doctor is applying leeches CLUMSILY"

but with a hint of seriousness because I honestly believe the following:
GOOD design may look great because a lot of effort and busywork that isn't immediately obvious went into it, truly GREAT design doesn't require such.
LEGO won't be ready for the average user until it comes pre-assembled, in a single unified theme, and glued together so it doesn't come apart.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Fri Feb 10, 2012 10:17 pm UTC

I wonder if there was some reason that this comic came out on the same day I got The Elements of Typographic Style as part of a surprise birthday gift.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Nyktos » Fri Feb 10, 2012 10:26 pm UTC

I got 79/100. My score was really brought down by the two with an initial T where the second letter is "supposed" to be noticeably under the roof of the T, which looked wrong to me. I got 70+ on all the others, and 100 on several of them, but those were both in the 40s.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Fritzed » Sat Feb 11, 2012 12:26 am UTC

sonoftunk wrote:I know what bad kerning looks like, but I can never figure what good kerning looks like. It's a good thing I don't do it for a living.

Edit: [url]http://type.method.ac/[url]

Case and point, 48/100


I have never been more aware of my mild OCD than I am at this moment. I've never done anything like that before, but I got 100/100 on 8 of those for an overall score of 98/100.

WTF is wrong with me?
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby jpk » Sat Feb 11, 2012 1:12 am UTC

cjmcjmcjmcjm wrote:I wonder if there was some reason that this comic came out on the same day I got The Elements of Typographic Style as part of a surprise birthday gift.


Ah, no.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Unclevertitle » Sat Feb 11, 2012 1:58 am UTC

1. Read the page.
2. Look up "Kerning" on Wikipedia.
3. Return to the page.
4. Laugh out loud.
5. Continue surfing the-AAUGH!
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby lane32x » Sat Feb 11, 2012 2:24 am UTC

jdb-44 wrote:
sonoftunk wrote:I know what bad kerning looks like, but I can never figure what good kerning looks like. It's a good thing I don't do it for a living.

Edit: [url]http://type.method.ac/[url]

Case and point, 48/100


Actually, it's "case in point".

I'm a jerk, I know. No offense meant.


THANK YOU! I make it a point not to troll on my first post to a thread, but that one was driving me nuts.

Also...93/100 on the kerning game. w00t!
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby TrueNarnian » Sat Feb 11, 2012 2:53 am UTC

Or try becoming a piano tuner. Being able to recognize when a note is the tiniest bit out of tune must be terrible.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby PM 2Ring » Sat Feb 11, 2012 3:29 am UTC

Iranon wrote:Ok, it seems my meaning wasn't as clear as I thought. Sorry for killing a lame half-joke but in the interest of clarity...

Kerning is *selective* spacing taking adjacent characters into account. Some (usually older) fonts don't require much or any of this - letters form readable and pleasant-looking words on their own without being pushed around.
This hasn't been a priority in font design for a very long time, and and most people wouldn't think this property is necessary to make a font good.

It was mostly a jab at font snobbery:
"99,9% of all fonts suck because they need this inelegant and arbitrary adjustment. Complaining about bad kerning is complaining that your doctor is applying leeches CLUMSILY"

but with a hint of seriousness because I honestly believe the following:
GOOD design may look great because a lot of effort and busywork that isn't immediately obvious went into it, truly GREAT design doesn't require such.


Your meaning is still not clear, Iranon. If you are implying that a well-designed font shouldn't require manual kerning, I agree. But if you are claiming that a well-designed font requires no kerning at all, then you're very much mistaken. Proportional fonts have kerning data built into the font file, generally in the form of kerning tables that specify the separation between pairs of glyphs, and text rendering engines use that data when setting text.

If you disagree, I'd like to see an example of a good-looking font that doesn't contain some form of kerning data.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby RebeccaRGB » Sat Feb 11, 2012 3:39 am UTC

84/100. Got 100/100 on at least half of them. :) I blame "Xylophone."

Edit: Second time through, 90/100. :D
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Netsnipe » Sat Feb 11, 2012 3:57 am UTC

radtea wrote:Just you, others who work seriously with text in a professional or semi-professional capacity, and a huge crowd of amateur font geeks who use their laser-like ability to spot kerning issues as a substitute for having anything substantive to say. The latter can be identified most easily by the fact that they have never, ever seen any font anywhere that is kerned properly in all cases...

[Font Geeks] are good for amusement, but not much else (and I appreciate a good font as much as anyone who has ever laid out a page, I just do not, in Aristotle's phrase "expect more precision than the subject matter admits of.")


Three pages of posts on the xkcd forum thread about typesetting and I'm surprised that no one's mentioned TeX yet!

I suspect that a fairly large number of us "font geeks" who aren't in the design field, ended up being intrigued by typography and typesetting all thanks to TeX (or LaTeX & LyX) and having to write papers at university using it! And the more you read up on how TeX works, the more you appreciate the elegance of well designed text, not to the mention the genius of Donald Knuth.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby keithl » Sat Feb 11, 2012 7:33 am UTC

Netsnipe wrote:Three pages of posts on the xkcd forum thread about typesetting and I'm surprised that no one's mentioned TeX yet!


GOOMHNetsnipe. I was just about to post a bad joke about a wickedly evil computer virus that attacks TeX, disabling sysadmins who recognize bad kerning.

BTW, has anyone developed an xkcd font (with kerning tables) yet? I need it to Turing test my Artificial Randall program.

EDIT: There IS an xkcd font, http://antiyawn.com/uploads/Humor-Sans.ttf. Randall, prepare to be replaced by automation!
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby jpk » Sat Feb 11, 2012 7:46 am UTC

Netsnipe wrote: not to the mention the genius of Donald Knuth.


Which, of course, is exhibited in many areas, not least being Extreme Procrastination, a field which he invented, brought to perfection, and closed the book on. Some people play a game of nethack when they ought to be writing their thesis. dek takes ten years out from compiling everything that's known about the field of computer science to write a fantastically nifty and perfectly unnecessary piece of software.
Nobody ever wasted time so wonderfully before, and nobody ever will top that.

I <heart> dek!
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Re: 1015: "Keming"

Postby Idhan » Sat Feb 11, 2012 8:14 am UTC

jcsalomon wrote:Word of the day: keming. n. Kerning that’s just a bit too tight.


Reminds me of a post and comment I once saw on BoingBoing.

Cory Doctorow: New typography term: Keming (improper kerning). From Ironic Sans, a new typography term: "Keming" -- improper kerning. Link

Tom: Silly word. The only people who'll get the joke are font geeks, and according to font geeks no font anywhere is ever kerned properly. To them, "kerning" and "keming" have exactly the same meaning. So who needs the extra word?
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby drakvl » Sat Feb 11, 2012 8:16 am UTC

JoeZ wrote:True story; I read todays comic while working a problem in my analytical chem book. It included;

􏰆0.167 89% as an error...

Which I read as 0.167 and 89%, prompting serious confusion.

After reading the comic, I figured out that it was in fact 0.16789%. Yet another problem solved by Randall.


This is actually not a kerning error. The practice of using spaces to separate three-digit units in decimals serves the same purpose as using commas to separate three-digit units in whole numbers: it improves readability.

radtea wrote: Font geeks are a particular variety of subject-specific hipster


'Hipster.' I do not believe that word means what you think it means. (Why, oh why, can I not resist feeding the trolls?) Insofar as the word 'hipster' has meaning beyond being an empty insult, it seems to mean someone who uses takes bits and pieces of different fashion and combines them, with no real understanding of context. (Sort of like Gehn's writing style.) A geek, on the other hand, is merely someone who has a fondness for a particular field, sometimes to the point of obsession; and geeks are a bit notorious for showing off.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby jpk » Sat Feb 11, 2012 8:49 am UTC

drakvl wrote:
'Hipster.' I do not believe that word means what you think it means. (Why, oh why, can I not resist feeding the trolls?) Insofar as the word 'hipster' has meaning beyond being an empty insult, it seems to mean someone who uses takes bits and pieces of different fashion and combines them, with no real understanding of context. (Sort of like Gehn's writing style.) A geek, on the other hand, is merely someone who has a fondness for a particular field, sometimes to the point of obsession; and geeks are a bit notorious for showing off.


So if someone gathers up bits and pieces of fashion, including bits from the currently fashionable "dig me, I'm a geek" persona and styling, then you'd call them a hipster?
I live in Boston, and I see plenty of people fronting geek everywhere I go. Frankly, foaming at the mouth over trivial issues of layout is fashionable these days, and it's an easy pose to strike. Buy the t-shirt ("Kern this"), pick a favorite font, and cringe at every piece of text you see. You're in! See how easy it is to be a geek these days? No mussing about with actually giving a damn about anything, you can just get right to the sneering and superiority.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Alaska Girl » Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:13 am UTC

I did not know a thing about kerning before reading the comic and this thread. Now I shall suffer.

I got a 91/100 on the game, which probably has something to do with the amateur graphic design I fiddle around with. I would have done a bit better if not for Toronto.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Iranon » Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:22 am UTC

PM 2Ring wrote:
Iranon wrote:Ok, it seems my meaning wasn't as clear as I thought. Sorry for killing a lame half-joke but in the interest of clarity...

Kerning is *selective* spacing taking adjacent characters into account. Some (usually older) fonts don't require much or any of this - letters form readable and pleasant-looking words on their own without being pushed around.
This hasn't been a priority in font design for a very long time, and and most people wouldn't think this property is necessary to make a font good.

It was mostly a jab at font snobbery:
"99,9% of all fonts suck because they need this inelegant and arbitrary adjustment. Complaining about bad kerning is complaining that your doctor is applying leeches CLUMSILY"

but with a hint of seriousness because I honestly believe the following:
GOOD design may look great because a lot of effort and busywork that isn't immediately obvious went into it, truly GREAT design doesn't require such.


Your meaning is still not clear, Iranon. If you are implying that a well-designed font shouldn't require manual kerning, I agree. But if you are claiming that a well-designed font requires no kerning at all, then you're very much mistaken. Proportional fonts have kerning data built into the font file, generally in the form of kerning tables that specify the separation between pairs of glyphs, and text rendering engines use that data when setting text.

If you disagree, I'd like to see an example of a good-looking font that doesn't contain some form of kerning data.


A famous example would be Kennerly Old Style. The way characters interlock was given major attention in the design process.
Of course, I'd expect digital rehashes to RUIN the genius behind it because adding kerning data is easy and the result looks superficially better to philistines. :P



EDIT: This may be an even better example: http://twitpic.com/4a5w56
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby revolution_vanderbilt » Sat Feb 11, 2012 6:45 pm UTC

A solid 79. Some I got 100 on, others I did poorly (and Toronto....). Everything has it's place. You don't want a note coming in even a second too soon in a musical piece.

Sometimes the kerning in MS Word bothers me, and I wrongly think that I hit the spacebar by accident.

Alright, that it's for my annual post. See ya'll next year!
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby cellopants » Sat Feb 11, 2012 7:44 pm UTC

Ahhh, forever the curse of an amateur typographer.
I'm not even good at design and this still torments me.
That and constantly identifying fonts on signs.

Incidentally, I used to like Helvetica. Then I learned how to differentiate it from Arial and now my life is slowly falling apart.
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Kisama » Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:06 pm UTC

Code: Select all
Monospaced fonts all the way baby!
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby Lode » Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:06 pm UTC

What are "city offic es"?
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Re: 1015: "Kerning"

Postby PM 2Ring » Sun Feb 12, 2012 2:11 am UTC

Iranon wrote:
PM 2Ring wrote:Your meaning is still not clear, Iranon. If you are implying that a well-designed font shouldn't require manual kerning, I agree. But if you are claiming that a well-designed font requires no kerning at all, then you're very much mistaken. Proportional fonts have kerning data built into the font file, generally in the form of kerning tables that specify the separation between pairs of glyphs, and text rendering engines use that data when setting text.

If you disagree, I'd like to see an example of a good-looking font that doesn't contain some form of kerning data.


A famous example would be Kennerly Old Style. The way characters interlock was given major attention in the design process.
Of course, I'd expect digital rehashes to RUIN the genius behind it because adding kerning data is easy and the result looks superficially better to philistines. :P


EDIT: This may be an even better example: http://twitpic.com/4a5w56


Ok. But it's not easy to verify that Kennerly Old Style doesn't use kerning without buying the font (and a free imitation may not be the same as the real thing). The Chêneau example is fairly convincing, though, but it's a pity that the photo's not very straight.
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