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"Spatially Speaking" is the official MAPPS blog providing information on topics related to the association and profession and MAPPS involvement with the issues.


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FAA Reauthorization Act Passed the Senate

Posted By Administration, Monday, October 22, 2018
The FAA Reauthorization Act just passed the Senate with overwhelming support and is headed to the President’s desk to be signed into law. This is an important moment for MAPPS and the entire geospatial community because this bill (which will soon become a law) was a vehicle for the legislative text of the Geospatial Data Act. MAPPS has been a significant and instrumental stakeholder in both the drafting and the advocacy processes for this bill.

Just a few of the business opportunities that may arise from this 5 year reauthorization include:

  • Airport infrastructure projects
  • Airport safety projects
  • Hurricane Florence relief projects
  • Projects related to open data and geo-portal required in the GDA

Not only were we able to insert language into the bill encouraging additional use of the private sector for the provision of geospatial data and services, but we also had a successful Call-to-Action campaign to help advance this bill through the legislative process.

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New MAPPS e-promotion format - ACTION REQUIRED

Posted By Brian Raber, Monday, February 12, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Dear MAPPS members,

As I mentioned last month, MAPPS is transitioning over to a new email promotion format. It seems like some messages sent from MAPPS Headquarters are still not being received in some members email and may have gotten hung up in some security firewalls. If you have not received any messages from MAPPS Headquarters, please check your SPAM folder and be sure to mark the sender as “not junk”.

New promotional emails will be sent using the Real Magnet system. Some spam filters are set-up to block messages from these marketing formats. It may be necessary to “white list” messages from Diane Schafer. Whitelist instructions can be found here: Please contact Diane Schafer ( if you have any questions.

I appreciate your help as we move to a more efficient method to communicate with members. Please try to complete the above action quickly because we have important news to send your way.

Thank you in advance for your prompt action.

Brian Raber

MAPPS President

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MAPPS Updates and News

Posted By Brian Raber, Thursday, January 4, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2018

On behalf of the MAPPS Board of Directors we want to wish you a Happy New Year and highly successful 2018.

As you may have noticed from my announcements in November and December, MAPPS finished 2017 with many positive actions focused to propel our association into 2018 and beyond. Please review my emails and these accomplishments at your convenience. Moreover, we are only 4 days into 2018 and I have numerous updates on items that will once again demonstrate that MAPPS is positioned for a great 2018.

  1. The Legislative Affairs Committee has been reviewing options for our 2018 MAPPS Advocacy and Legislative approach. I am very excited to report that we are in discussion with the finalist firm from Washington DC that will represent our association on Capitol Hill. Our goal is to describe the legislative agenda and benefits of our new approach to advocacy, as well as, introduce our new partner at the Winter Meeting.
  1. Request for Proposals (RFP) for the MAPPS Association Management Services (AMS) were sent on January 2nd to 15 firms interested in supporting MAPPS for membership development, communication services, general administration, etc. The proposal response deadline is January 26th with the Board meeting on the 28th to start the review/evaluation process. We will have an update on the process at the Winter Meeting.
  1. Our annual Winter Meeting is only 25 days away and the program is focused on new business opportunities/technologies, emerging leaders, legislative affairs, positive changes in MAPPS, and much more. Please note there is an important “room block” deadline approaching with the Reunion Resort. This deadline guarantees MAPPS members the special Winter Meeting rate and room availability. Please make sure you book your rooms on-line before January 8th.
  1. As you know, MAPPS hired SMG and Diane Schafer to manage the Winter Meeting and Federal Programs Conference. The next correspondence that you will receive from me and MAPPS will look different because the SMG communications team will be packaging our communication in a newsletter format. I am confident you will like to the new format.
  1. MAPPS just entered into an agreement with the International LiDAR Mapping Forum (ILMF) to sponsor the Welcome Reception on February 5th. Those attending ILMF can enjoy a beverage compliments of MAPPS. Also, don’t forget that MAPPS members receive a 10% discount on ILMF registration by using the special promo code: MAPPS18. Registration Link:


There are many other items that the MAPPS Board and committees are working which I believe will continue to make our association stronger. Thank you for the hard work of many who believe in the MAPPS mission to serve our member firms, stakeholders and the geospatial community.


See you at the Winter Meeting!


Brian Raber, CMS, GISP, GLS

MAPPS President


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MAPPS End of Year News - Partnering and Collaboration

Posted By Brian Raber, Thursday, December 21, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Holiday Greetings MAPPS members.

As we start winding down for the holidays and end of year, your Board is working on ways to improve the value of MAPPS for our members. One vision that is critical to MAPPS relates to our association increasing the number of partnerships and collaborative opportunities. We are currently working on several future relationships with the two mentioned below ready to announce.

  • Over the past week your Board negotiated a partnership with the International LiDAR Mapping Forum (ILMF) taking place in Denver February 5-7, 2018. MAPPS will hold a special event at ILMF with more details to follow. For those members that will register for ILMF in the future, we have negotiated a 10% registration discount. Please note the MAPPS discount cannot be combined with any previous or future discounts. Registration and discount details are below:

    Code: MAPPS18
  • Per my recent announcement MAPPS is reengaging our collaboration with the trade press. Initially, the xyHt HEIGHTS publication has already produced excitement amongst some members. Please see my previous announcement and participate in this publication. The greater the MAPPS participation, the better the publication that can be taken to Capitol Hill on March 14th during the Federal Programs Conference.
  • With limited staffing over the holiday period, email will be the best form of communication between Friday, December 22nd and Tuesday, January 2nd. Please feel free to email Diane Schafer, MAPPS Director of Meetings during the holidays at with any questions or concerns regarding the upcoming Winter Conference. Thank you in advance for your patience for any potential delay in response.
  • Lastly, I apologize for any confusion that the recent or future emails coming from JMP&A has caused. As previously disclosed, the JMP&A agreement terminates on December 31, 2017.

On behalf of your MAPPS Board of Directors we wish everyone a Happy Holiday, and successful close to your 2017 business year.

Brian Raber, CMS, GISP, GLS

MAPPS President

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MAPPS Transition Status and Other News

Posted By Brian Raber, Friday, December 15, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Season’s Greetings MAPPS members.

The MAPPS Board of Directors and I would like to provide you another update on how the organization transition and other items are proceeding. Below are a few items that the Board and various committees are diligently working:

  • Several weeks ago I announced that MAPPS signed a short-term agreement for basic association management and conference support with the Stringfellow Management Group (SMG). I am now thrilled to introduce our members to Diane Schafer, CMP who will be managing the 2018 Winter Meeting and Federal Programs Conference.  Some of you may know Diane when she managed the NSGIC conferences for 12 years. Over the next 4 months you will be seeing Diane and her staff at our conferences and receiving correspondence from her. Diane can be reached at, or using the MAPPS phone number (703) 787-6996, ext. 108.
  • As we transition to a new association management approach on January 1st, the MAPPS telephone number, website, FaceBook and other social media will remain the same. However, the mailing address will change to: MAPPS, 9 Newport Drive, Suite 200, Forest Hill, MD 21050
  • High-value speakers and presentations for the upcoming Winter Meeting program are being finalized by Mike Tully’s Programs Committee. Highlighting the program are presentations on Civil Integrated Management (CIM), autonomous vehicles, data quality inspection, QBS, emergency management, ground penetrating radar, etc. Several federal agencies will also attend providing insight to their upcoming programs and contracts. Please register today for the conference and hotel as our room block date is creeping up.
  • Some of you may have received what appears to be random MAPPS Forum Posts. It seems the system is automatically generating these and we are working to determine the source of the problem


Please be checking your email for more information as other exciting MAPPS business is announced.

On behalf of your MAPPS Board of Directors


Brian Raber, CMS, GISP, GLS

MAPPS President


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MAPPS Board of Directors Actions and Activities - Fall Retreat

Posted By Brian Raber, Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2018

As your President, I am thrilled to report that our association is well on its way to be positioned for longevity, collaboration and value.  Each year the MAPPS Board of Directors meets in Reston, VA following Thanksgiving at our Fall Retreat to review the previous year and plan for the upcoming year. As the Board Meeting adjourns, intensive discussion and actions occurred over a several-day retreat. A few of the many decisions made over the last month and at the Fall Retreat included:


  1. Finalizing the MAPPS association management transition as it occurs on December 31, 2017
  2. Unanimously approved a short-term contract with the Stringfellow Management Group (SMG) to oversee the MAPPS Winter Meeting and Federal Programs Conference
  3. Drafted the Request for Information (RFI) to help select a firm to manage the MAPPS administration and advocacy
  4. Collaborated with several strategic business partners, including our media consultant, a conference planning/marketing firm, and an advocacy partner
  5. Shortlisted the 2018 legislative agenda to be revealed/finalized at the Winter Meeting that is based on the interest of our members and government stakeholders


As you can see, your Board of Directors are carefully acting in the best interest of MAPPS members so that our association provides value to you, stakeholders, the geospatial community and society.

I look forward to seeing all of you at the Winter Meeting beginning on January 28th in Kissimmee, FL when the Board further discloses the exciting future of MAPPS, and obtains your valued input on our new direction.

On behalf of your MAPPS Board of Directors


Brian Raber, CMS, GISP, GLS

MAPPS President

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Creating the Future Value and Strength of MAPPS

Posted By Brian Raber, Friday, December 1, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Good afternoon MAPPS Membership,

I trust that business is good and you are all well.

This email informs membership of some changes taking place in our Association. The attached letter describes these changes and requests your participation to help solidify the vision to strengthen MAPPS for the future.

Over the next few months there will be more information sent concerning these changes and the MAPPS value proposition. However, please contact me or any other Board member if you have any questions.

I am looking forward to working with all of you, as well as seeing you at the Winter Meeting in Kissimmee Florida starting January 29th.




Brian R. Raber, CMS, GLS, GISP
| Vice President Geomatics International | Merrick & Company

5970 Greenwood Plaza Blvd. | Greenwood Village, Colorado  USA 80111

T: +1 303-353-3900 | C: +1 720-320-4843 |


Engineering | Architecture | Design-Build | Surveying | Planning | Geospatial Solutions


Download File (PDF)

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Tax Reform and UAS

Posted By John M. Palatiello, Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Tax reform preserves cash accounting

Before John Palatiello became the first MAPPS Executive Director in 1987, he provided other consulting services to the association.  When Congress considered the last major reform tax bill, in 1986, MAPPS worked with a coalition in the A/E community to preserve cash based accounting for certain professional service firms.  Language preserving cash(versus accrual) was an option that was proposed to included in the 1986 Act. We won.  Congress specifically mentioned surveying and mapping as being among the professional service firms that could continue to use cash accounting for tax purposes. To this day, that is reflected in tax regulations.  At that time, MAPPS was involved in a study that found that as much as 1/3 of an A/E firm's (including surveying and mapping firms) revenue was in accounts receivable at any point in time.  If that point in time was the end of the firm's tax year, and the firm was legally required to use accrual accounting, then the firm would have to pay tax on income – 1/3 of its annual revenue – not yet realized, and in some cases, income that would never be realized.  This was viewed as a great burden on small A/E firms, including those in surveying and mapping.  This argument helped save the day for A/E/S/M firms' ability to continue to use cash accounting in the 1986 tax reform bill that became law.  In recent years, MAPPS (John M. Palatiello and John "JB" Byrd) continued to keep Congress informed of this important tax provision. In a victory for MAPPS members, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, H.R. 1, the tax reform and reduction bill introduced in Congress last week, makes no changes to accounting rules affecting surveying and mapping firms, and thus preserves cash accounting.  



USDOT, FAA create UAS pilot program for drone regulation update

MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello last week joined Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta, and other officials at the unveiling of a pilot program of projects, pursuant to President Trump's announcement to test relaxed regulations governing the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as drones.  At the Drone Integration Pilot Program launch, Michael Kratsios, Deputy Assistant to the President in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House, cited surveyors among the key stakeholders who will benefit from the program.  The program will award grants to state, local, and tribal governments who partner with private sector entities, such as UAS operators or manufacturers, to accelerate safe UAS integration by testing operations such as flying over people, beyond visual line of site, and in other situations currently prohibited by regulation in order to gain experience and gather data on new, relaxed regulations.  See the program information for dates, deadlines and further information.

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35 Years of Progress

Posted By Regina M. Carter, Wednesday, November 1, 2017


As I sat through sessions at the MAPPS Summer Conference, including the enlightening and entertaining Oral History featuring numerous past presidents of MAPPS, I scanned the room and realized that I have been a member of MAPPS and a participant in these conferences longer than everyone else in the room, save my old friend Jim Spell, the retired president and founder of Horizons, Inc. and one of the founding fathers of MAPPS, and possibly Bobby Tuck and George Southard.

I began to reflect on what this organization has meant to my firm, my employees and me personally.

Without reservation, I can say that the growth and profitability of my firm, and my personal prosperity, can be traced to MAPPS.  And I’m sure I’m not alone in that conclusion.

I remember, going back to the 1980s, meeting John Palatiello for the first time.  I was struck by John’s vision and enthusiasm. At the time, MAPPS was a fledgling assortment of small photogrammetry firms.  

I, and my colleagues who were principals, owners and partners of early MAPPS member firms, knew our profession had challenges.  Government agencies routinely duplicated and competed with our firms, the few contracts that went out were mostly low bid.  Our community was viewed as a collection of small, “mom and pop” firms that had neither professional standing nor technological capability.

Where we saw barriers, John saw potential.  He immediately instilled in us a confidence that our voice could be heard in Washington, DC, that our elected representatives would listen, that we had a strong, positive story to tell about private sector mapping firms, and that by working together, we could affect change.

Applying his experience as a staff assistant on Capitol Hill and his tenure on the staff of ACSM and ASPRS, John built MAPPS into a powerhouse whose influence far exceeded its size.  He led us through a strategic plan to identify goals and opportunities to grow our market, trained us on the legislative process, established a political action committee, and started taking us to Congress.

Personally, John helped me get appointed by my U.S. Senator, Jim Inhofe, as a Delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business.  When I arrived in Washington, DC for the conference, John helped me as I chaired a committee on procurement, where we won approval of unfair government competition as one of the top planks in the conference’s platform, and the number one procurement-related issue.  Through John’s leadership, friendship and assistance, I was introduced to principals, owners and partners of MAPPS firms that were larger than mine, where I was able to form strategic partnerships that has brought tens of millions of dollars in revenue to my firm.  That not only increased our profits, but enabled me to grow, hire new staff, and invest in new technology.  It also enabled us to work in geographic markets we could not otherwise penetrate.

Being active in MAPPS, and serving on the Board of Directors, also gave me an opportunity to see how things get done in Washington, DC.  I gained an appreciation for how tough politics can be – long before the advent of today’s toxic atmosphere.  It was difficult to try to win work from Federal agencies on one hand, and on the other hand sit on the MAPPS Board while we lobbied for contracting out and qualifications based selection.  John has always been our buffer, our shield, and yes, our bulldog! Call it the “good cop, bad cop” routine, but it worked.  My firm has never been penalized in any way for our active participation in MAPPS. In fact, we’ve been rewarded for being in MAPPS in more ways than I can count.

Upon reading the blog by my dear friends Ron Drake and Axel Hoffmann, I recalled the wonderful history of MAPPS and began reflecting on what got us to the dynamic, healthy, hi-tech, growing, and profitable geospatial market we enjoy today.  Ron and Axel are right, we should not take that for granted.  Nor should we forget the role MAPPS as an organization and John Palatiello as a leader played in getting us to where we are today.  As we celebrated the 35th anniversary of MAPPS in Colorado Springs this past summer, I thought we were remiss in not acknowledging and recognizing the critical role John, and Sally Palatiello have played, and how so many of us have personally benefitted from their dedication to our cause.   All of us owe John a debt of gratitude, and more.


Regina M. (Jean) Carter is President of Aerial Data Service, Inc., Tulsa, OK.  She served on the MAPPS Board of Directors from 1992 to 1994 and was Treasurer of MAPPS.

Tags:  MAPPS Summer Conference 

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Don’t Grumble About Farmers With Your Mouth Full

Posted By Axel Hoffmann and Ron Drake, Retired Members, Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Today, principals of America’s leading geospatial firms enjoy a large, mature and profitable market for their professional services, data products, and other goods and services.  Hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal, state and local government contracts, numerous commercial opportunities, and expanding new markets not even contemplated even a decade ago abound, keeping many firms busy even in the recent down economy.  Competition on contracts on the basis of qualifications with fees negotiated or awards based on best value, rather than the lowest bidder, is now the norm. To many firms, the most pressing challenge is not finding work, but finding qualified and trained workers.  Association meetings now feature open and cooperative presentations on best practices in the business, professional and technical ways of running enterprises.  And business-to-business strategic partnerships have become a common, everyday way of winning and executing projects.

This “embarrassment of riches” has not always been the case and should not be taken for granted.   Long before the term “geospatial” even entered our lexicon, hard work, political action, dedication and stamina by a group of visionary principals, owners and partners of a cadre of firms grounded in photogrammetry banded together to plot the rise of today’s private sector spatial data community.

Were it not for the perseverance and cohesiveness of these “founding fathers”, mapping and geospatial activities today would be characterized by government performance of most of the services and functions now routinely outsourced.  The few contracts let by government would be on a “down and dirty” low-bid basis.  Few mapping and geospatial services would be subject to either state licensing or private organization certification.  And each firm would play their cards close to the vest, sharing little information on how they function for fear of divulging critical information to an arch competitor.

The aforementioned is exactly what described the community in the early 1980’s. While not among the founders in 1982, we both served on the MAPPS Board of Directors in 1990’s and witnessed first-hand how the private geospatial community grew to what it is today.  Trust us -- nothing was handed to private mapping, photogrammetry and GIS firms.  The mature, healthy market we have today was hard earned.  

When MAPPS was formed in 1982, a few federal agencies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and the Navy and Air Force contracted for topographic, planimetric or cadastral services.  Virtually the entirety of the USGS budget was dedicated to in-house staff salaries and equipment.  The Defense Mapping Agency, predecessor to today’s National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, contracted for printing and color separation work, to the lowest bidder, and drove several firms out of business.  The government workforce in surveying, mapping, charting and geodesy in agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration numbered in the thousands, while contracts from these agencies barely registered.  It was not that a qualified private sector did not exist.  It was simply ignored.  A 1973 report by the Federal Mapping Task Force on Mapping, Charting, Geodesy and Surveying (1973), convened by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) found “private cartographic contract capability is not being used sufficiently. We found this capacity to be broad and varied and capable of rendering skilled support ... Contract capability is a viable management alternative ... Its use should be encouraged in lieu of continued in-house build-up.''

For more than a decade, little was done to push for implementation of this recommendation.  No politically effective organization of mapping firms existed and it was not in Federal employees’ self interest to voluntarily privatize mapping activities.   So, in 1987, MAPPS hired as its first Executive Director, an ambitious and savvy young political professional, fresh from Capitol Hill – John Palatiello. The first order of business was to develop and implement a government relations strategy to advocate for increased utilization of the private sector for mapping activities. Meetings with Federal officials were held, at which the MAPPS leadership politely and respectfully promoted the capabilities of the private sector and sought a “win-win” balance between government and contractor performance of surveying, mapping, charting, geodesy and emerging GIS activities.  The MAPPS’ advocacy was greeted with responses from Federal officials that ranged from “over my dead body” to “if you ‘mom and pop’ firms make an investment in digital technology, we might throw some work your way” (The digital photogrammetry revolution had been ingrained in private firms more than 5 years earlier) to “we tried contracting, but you guys couldn’t get the job done” (but failing to admit the agencies’ lowest bidder procurement practices doomed the contracting experiment from the start).

The members of MAPPS were emboldened, not discouraged, when their offer of cooperation rather than competition was rejected by the agencies.  The private firm owners simply moved their political strategy from the agencies to the White House and the U.S. Congress.  

A three-pronged legislative approach was advocated: (1) increase the use and application of mapping data to government programs, activities and applications, (2) utilize the private sector for the collection and creation of mapping data and (3) clarify the requirement that the award of contracts for surveying and mapping be based on the qualifications of competing firms, just as Congress had intended when it enacted the “Brooks Act” for architecture-engineering and related services.

The privatization revolution of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan was taking hold, and MAPPS was committed to being part of it.  As a result, President Reagan’s last budget submission to Congress designated mapping as a highest priority Federal privatization opportunity.  The Clinton-Gore Administration proposed breaking up the NOAA hydrographic survey monopoly through competitive contracting by the private sector.  And when the Republicans won control of Congress in 1994, MAPPS won several appropriations bill provisions mandating contracting of mapping services to the private sector.

Today, the MAPPS Strategic Plan still embodies these three fundamental principles.  Whether it is direct federal activities, or grants to state agencies, such as DoTs, MAPPS continues to seek a balance between legitimate inherently governmental responsibilities and functions that are commercially available.  The association also maintains its promotion of increased use of geospatial and GIS applications to government programs ranging from environment to infrastructure, from defense and homeland security to agriculture, natural resources, demographics and health care.  And it continues to be part of the MAPPS agenda that competition based on qualifications ultimately gives the taxpayer the best return on investment.  These principles are now in numerous pieces of legislation that has become law, a large part of Federal policy, and a standard practice in many agencies.

Over the 35-year history of MAPPS, more than 100 individuals have been elected by their professional peers to steer the association as members of the Board of Directors.   The Board has consistently reached out to the membership to gauge sentiments on policy issues affecting private firms.  Each time, the members have reaffirmed their commitment to these principles, which at least one agency has dubbed “The Holy Grail” of MAPPS. While the road to today’s success has not always been easy, it has been necessary … and ultimately successful.  Along with our colleagues who have been on the MAPPS Board over these 35 years, beginning with our “Founding Fathers”, we have steadfastly worked to serve the public interest and the well being of our member firms.

In the 1980s, America’s farmers staged protests in Washington against low farm prices, parking tractors along The Mall, disrupting traffic, and lobbying Congress with campaign buttons and bumper stickers that read, “Don’t Grumble About Farmers With Your Mouth Full”.  (These protests also gave rise to the annual “Farm Aid” concerts that now feature leading rock and country music artists.)

Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  It is important that today’s generation of principals, owners, partners, and senior executives of private geospatial  firms, and their counterparts in government agencies, are knowledgeable and appreciative of the history of our profession, where we were, and how we came to where we are today.  Just as one should not grumble about farmers with one’s mouth full, newer MAPPS members should not reap the benefits of years of struggle and be critical of the sometimes aggressive, but ultimately successful, way MAPPS created today’s market.   A return to the way things were before the involvement of MAPPS would not be in anyone’s best interests.

- - - - -

Axel Hoffmann, former owner of Hammon, Jensen, Wallen & Associates, Oakland, CA was a MAPPS Director from 1991 to 1994.  Ronald L. Drake a former owner/partner of Wilson & Company, Salina, KS, was a MAPPS Director from 1997 to 1999.

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