Toy camera photography with the La Sardina

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One of the wonderful things about film is that it is incredibly unpredictable. It won’t always turn out the way you expected it to.

During my years studying photography, I discovered the wonders of developing film and how different household products could affect the film and create different patterns and colours. However, now I work in User Research, it has been years since I last touched a camera. I wanted to go back and rediscover what I loved about film photography, and a recent weekend in Budapest seemed like the perfect excuse.

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To develop your own film you don’t need a darkroom, and you don’t need crazy expensive equipment either. I always thought that developing film at home was an expensive and complicated process - but this really isn’t the case! Developing your own film is not only very easy to do, but it’s also really rewarding when you see your strip of film come out of the tank full of images.

To get back to the basics of shooting and developing film, I decided to head off to Budapest with a camera that is easy to use and film that I knew well from using it in the past. The La Sardina is a toy camera (which basically means inexpensive and plastic) that looks like a sardine can - how cute! All you need to do is snap a photo with the shutter button and wind the film on. As for the film, I needed something that I didn’t need to think about too much. The Ilford HP5 Plus was perfect for this as it usually produces quality negatives under all lighting conditions.

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I spent the weekend happily capturing the atmosphere and culture of Budapest with my little sardine can. Back at home and armed will all the equipment and chemicals, I was excited to develop my rolls of film and see what I’d captured!

...and then I panicked.

After looking up how to develop film, everything was fine until I checked out all of the numbers about timings and milliliters. My brain just could not figure it out and I really didn’t want to ruin the photographs that I had taken.

With the help of Dan and Daryl and the lovely people of Leicester Lo-Fi, I was able to develop my rolls of film, and even printed a contact sheet of the photographs. They were super helpful and answered all my pedantic questions about how stuff works and why.

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Not all of the photographs turned out as well as expected, but the experience of being part of a community of like minded people and rediscovering what I loved about photography has been amazing. It’s definitely given me the confidence to keep learning about film and developing my techniques.

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The demanding pigeon, writer's block and useless websites

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As soon as the blog pigeon alighted on my desk it quickly became clear that I was in trouble. The feathered visitation heralded the beginning of my RKH blog entry. My mind was blank and I had no idea what to write about. The pigeon demands blog post satisfaction and I am bereft of any such material.

The days have now turned into weeks and the numbing blankness continues. With each passing day, from the corner of my desk, the pigeon’s beady gaze burns ever deeper into the side of my head, serving as a constant, nagging reminder. My mind starts to wonder from the job at hand, and I soon find myself browsing the web in search of anything to take my mind off my current dilemma.

Then it struck me, maybe I could write a little something about the utterly useless stuff one can find online. I’ve never been a big fan of social media, so I don’t spend hours a day doing that, and there’s only so much high-brow cultural stuff one can partake in or hobbies to indulge. So, more often than not, I find myself veering off the beaten track in search of the strange, weird and downright pointless, all in an attempt to perhaps have a laugh or two.

Take for instance eelslap.com - an oldie but a goodie. There is still something so addictively satisfying about scrubbing this video backwards and forwards finding that glorious point of contact between face and eel. Apart from that, it’s totally pointless.

There are, however, far more pointless places to visit if you wish, like crouton.net or republiquedesmangues.fr - two food based wastes of time, although the mango is rather well presented I must say.

The internet is a truly wonderful place which has, for better or worse, permeated every aspect of our lives. It caters for all our needs, our social lives, entertainment, financial matters, shopping, knowledge, and the list goes on. So it’s no surprise that the useless web also reflects this. You can use it to do the strangest shopping at weirdorconfusing.com, read uninspired blogs over on dullestblog.com, or even vent your political spleen in a way which is far from productive at trumpdonald.org.

And that’s before you even get onto all the cat and dog content, the internet is awash with cats and dogs, so here’s a selection of time wasters for all you animal enthusiasts: cat-bounce.com omfgdogs.com procatinator.com doughnutkitten.com corgiorgy.com

Other useless websites really get the bit between their teeth and go for it. I mean, if like me, you’ve always wanted a comprehensive database of airport carpets then you’ve just got to visit carpetsforairports.com. Hats off to everyone involved, an idea grandiose in scope and ambitiously realised, I’m sure you’ll agree.

These sites can also be surprisingly engaging, inviting you to mess about and interact with them, wasting minutes and hours of your precious time. chrismckenzie.com, staggeringbeauty.com, zenphoton.com and koalastothemax.com are some of the best examples. Others employ more hypnotic tactics to keep you hanging around like somethingopen.com, zoomquilt.org and crossdivisions.com.

The examples I have subjected you to are just a tiny slice of the nonsense available once you start looking. You may have seen a lot of these sites before, but that’s testament to their ability to permeate people’s everyday lives, whether actively looking or not. Some have also gained significant social media coverage, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by advertisers and creatives alike. They can be stupidly addictive, and they have the ability to make you laugh or hook you in with an engaging way to interact.

Stupid, useless and weird they are, and a great way to waste time, but next time you’re stuck for ideas and need inspiration, looking for something useless on the internet might just be the unusual and unexpected kickstart you need. So maybe they aren’t quite as useless as they first appear, and perhaps we could all learn something from this type of content.

Conversely, if the useless web doesn’t manage to inspire you (which is a very real possibility) maybe it can just give you that little bit of emotional support you need to get you through that tough time - make-everything-ok.com.

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RKH Macmillan Coffee Morning

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Last week we held our RKH Cake and Coffee morning in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support’s National Coffee Morning on 28th September. What could be better than raising lots of money for a great cause, all whilst getting to eat homemade cake and treats? It’s every RKH’ers dream - we’re pretty well known for our love of both making, and eating, delicious food!

Many of us have been touched by the care Macmillan provides and wanted to help give something back to the charity. After a morning of eating cake, playing themed games and enjoying a hot drink or two, we managed to raise an amazing £400 for Macmillan.

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Rachel and Georgia from PR organised the whole thing, getting each department involved in baking some delicious cakes and snacks, including homemade chocolate truffles, an unusual grapefruit drizzle cake, freshly-made bread (baked right here in the office!) and a whole host of other treats. The girls also made the entire office a special round of hot drinks, including tea, coffee and their signature hot chocolate with whipped cream, marshmallows and flake chunks.

During lunch break we all headed upstairs to our break-out area to play silly games including ‘place the cherry on the gateau’ and ‘guess the length of the veggie role’. And what’s a coffee morning without a bake off? Each baker was scored on their bake and given points out of 5 by our panel of judges. Prizes were given for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, with the top prize being a cake stand and winners badge. PR Account Manager, Alanna scooped 1st prize, Account Manager Katie was awarded 2nd prize and PR and Social Media Executive Conor took home 3rd prize.

We all had such a great morning and headed off home feeling full to bursting with incredible homemade food. We hope the money raised will help make a real difference to Macmillan and the people they support.

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RKH get hands-on with LE Solidarity

Over the past few weeks we’ve been doing our best to help out local refugee fundraising group LE Solidarity. We ran an office collection for toiletries to donate, and last week several of team RKH headed down to help load up a truck full of sleeping bags, tents, toiletries, clothes, shoes and other essentials destined for Paris to be distributed to refugees across the city.

Along with LE Solidarity and a team of volunteers from DMU, we lugged sacks, boxes and sleeping bags full of items from their first floor storage space into the old-style lifts, and down into the loading bay. As we looked at the piles upon piles of items slowly taking over the bay, and spilling out into the corridors, it was hard to imagine it all fitting into a single truck. Half an hour later our truck arrived and it was all hands on deck taking it in turns to play real-life Tetris to fit as much of it in as we possibly could. We stacked tonne sacks and boxes up like bricks, squeezed sleeping bags into each and every tiny space, and slotted folded tents wherever we could fit them. By the end, we were sweaty (some more so than others!) and exhausted, but had managed to tightly pack every single item onto the truck.

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It was really incredible to see the sheer amount of stuff that had been donated and the scale of people’s generosity. These much needed items will make a huge difference to a lot of people, and hopefully help to provide a little comfort to those who are in such a dire situation at this difficult time of year.

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If you’d like to get involved with the amazing work LE Solidarity do, join the LE Solidarity Facebook page to keep up to date with collections and find out more about how you can help.

Wolf Run for One Roof

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Matt and Alex are counting their bruises this week after taking part in the Wolf Run, a 10km ‘wild running’ race through the Warwickshire countryside.

Along with Salma and Karyn, from Leicester homeless charity One Roof, they climbed over, crawled under and swam through a variety of daunting obstacles alongside almost 10,000 other runners. Together the team crossed the finish line tired, covered in mud but smiling and proud to have finished the course.

The aim was to raise as much money as possible for One Roof, and thanks to generous donations from friends, family and colleagues the fundraising total for the team currently stands at an impressive £2,000.

Matt has been volunteering for One Roof since December 2016, helping out at the winter night shelter. The charity runs a number of projects but the aim of the night shelter is to provide beds, an evening meal and breakfast to 10 guests who otherwise would have been sleeping rough throughout the winter months.

Matt said: “I typically did the evening shifts, serving food, making beds and generally helping the guests feel at home – chatting, playing chess or cards with them and so on. There’s a great emphasis on social interaction, equality and dignity – it’s really important that the guests and volunteers all feel like equals to each other.

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“It’s been an incredibly heartwarming experience to see how much difference One Roof makes to individual lives – guests and volunteers alike – and that they do this with so few resources. I’ve also met some amazing people in the two winters I’ve been volunteering, and while I hope that one day the night shelter won’t be necessary, it’s something I intend to be involved with as long as it is.”

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You can still donate to the team at https://mydonate.bt.com/events/orlwolfrun/464915.

To find out more about One Roof and learn how you can get involved, visit www.oneroof.org.uk.

Crisis communications: PR’s role in preparing for the worst-case scenario

 Image credit: PRWeek

Image credit: PRWeek

Having spent seven years as a news reporter before making the leap to PR and joining Rock Kitchen Harris, I’ve seen plenty of emergencies and crises unfold. Covering these breaking stories usually involves trying to get as much information as possible, as quickly as possible, from busy press officers who often seem reluctant to give out even the most basic details.

What I’d rarely stopped to consider was the process that goes into putting out a statement or preparing someone to be interviewed about a crisis. It’s rarely as straightforward as making a single phone call to establish the facts before quickly phoning a journalist back. Particularly when dealing with large organisations, there are often important layers of approval with a number of departments and individuals who all need to give their input before a comment is released. The process can take time, but is essential to give key people the chance to consider and comment while ensuring any information that is released publicly is both correct and answers questions clearly and appropriately.

We see this on a regular basis with our larger clients, so it was fascinating and useful to hear more on how best to deal with these issues from a range of speakers representing global companies and organisations at PRWeek’s recent Crisis Communications conference, held on 13th June at etc.venues in Victoria, London.

 Image credit: PRWeek

Image credit: PRWeek

From breaking emergencies such as the Manchester Arena bombing to reputational damage and recovery via KFC’s chicken shortage, the topics covered were diverse but were all tied together by a similar thread - plan for any eventuality and prepare to deal with it if it happens.

Carol McCall, the head of civil contingency communications in the Cabinet Office, set the tone for the day by explaining how a recent review of Government emergency communications has led to the development of the ‘Primer’ system - Plan, Rehearse, Implement, Maintain, Evaluate and Recover - and this was built upon by most speakers, with an emphasis on planning and preparation.

In a panel discussion on building a crisis team, the role of in-house and agency PR teams was made clear. It is our job to encourage, and sometimes compel, clients to consider the worst scenarios they could face and, more importantly, how they would react. Preparation includes putting together teams of decision-makers who know their roles when crisis strikes, building relationships within and between these teams and ensuring the communications procedure is clear to anyone who might be involved in a crisis. Understanding the needs of the client, the media but also other stakeholders such as customers and regulators is equally important.

 Image credit: PRWeek

Image credit: PRWeek

However, there are some circumstances that not even the most thought-through and rehearsed action plan can predict, as explained by Samsung Electronics UK’s head of PR James Coyle when talking about the lessons learned from the Galaxy Note 7 ‘exploding phone’ crisis. Being calm and informed, releasing information only when there is something new to say and being at the ‘heart of the storm’ at all times were some of the key takeaways - as was the warning that a communications plan may not hold all the answers.

Speakers from Sky, Virgin Trains, KFC and others had further lessons on preparedness and recovery from a crisis, while Hanover Communications corporate and brand managing director Gavin Megaw’s insistence that communications professionals should be the ones to guide crisis operations was a valuable lesson, acting as a reminder that we are relied upon for our experience in this field by others who rely on our help.

But perhaps the most important lesson, and certainly the most poignant, came from Amanda Coleman, head of corporate communications at Greater Manchester Police. Her heartfelt account of how her team worked with the wider force, the media and families of the victims during and following the terrorist attack on fans leaving an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on 22nd May 2017 again focused on preparation but also covered ‘the one thing we don’t talk about’ - people. Whether you work in corporate, civic or charity communications it’s highly likely that the organisation you represent impacts on people’s lives in one way or another and it’s vital this isn’t forgotten, both when putting together a communications plan and reacting to a crisis.

A day at the races

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Getting dressed up on a beautiful summers day to try our luck at the races has become a bit of an annual tradition here at RKH. Heading down straight from work on a sunny Wednesday we claimed our spot, grabbed some food and drinks, and quickly placed our bets just in time for the second race of the evening.

With Faye (and her knack for picking winners) unable to make it this time, Steph asked her to pick a lucky colour before we left. Faye chose yellow, and as we looked over the race guide we noticed Foxangel’s jockey had a yellow hat. This was enough of a sign for Steph, who ran to put a bet on, but everyone else remained skeptical of Faye’s obvious horse-related sixth sense. Things were not looking good at the start of the race with the horse trailing behind, but Foxangel pulled ahead of the pack on the final stretch and effortlessly took first place. It didn’t take long before the rest of us were betting on yellow too!

We also discovered Léon was a secret horse whisperer, after he correctly picked out every winner. His technique was to go down to see the horses beforehand, and then choose the one that he thought walked with the most swagger. Everyone else took the far less scientific approach of choosing their lucky horse based on which one had the best name or colours, with very mixed results. Well, until some of us noticed Léon’s winning streak and then just copied him!

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We all had such a nice evening, and thankfully the weather stayed perfect for it too. The girls came out on top this time, with all of them taking home some winnings, whilst the boys bet hard and mostly went home empty handed - better luck next time boys!

Me, a sea of smiling faces, a pair of old boots and a little imagination...

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If you’d have told me this time last year that I would be giving a talk at a WI meeting I wouldn’t have believed you. But it’s funny what a difference a year makes, and how simply helping at the school summer fair can lead from one thing to another.

Last summer I made quirky planters out of children’s wellies and sold them at my daughter’s school summer fair to raise money for the school PTA. Little did I know that one of these wellies would be bought and given as a gift to a member of the local WI and the rest, as they say, is history.

I had never been to a WI night before, so I had no idea what to expect. I was a little apprehensive - I certainly don’t speak in front of large groups of people regularly, if at all. I also felt like a bit of a fraud, as even though I had been asked to take the talk, I wouldn’t ever describe myself as a professional in ‘quirky planters’!

Of course I was made to feel very welcome, and quickly realised I had no reason to feel nervous. After singing of a verse of Jerusalem and some WI business, I was up!

I briefly introduced myself and then dived straight into a demonstration of planting a boot, which a fellow RKHer had kindly donated and that I had already painted. I discussed the fact that another lovely aspect of these creative projects is that it gives a new lease of life to something that you may be thinking of binning. With quirky planters you’re only limited by your imagination!

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The ladies then had a chance to create their own quirky planters with items that they’d bought in from home. They did a superb job and went home thrilled with some fantastic new additions to their doorsteps and gardens!

Despite my apprehensions, I left feeling really glad that I’d done it. It was a great experience and I was so glad I took myself outside my comfort zone for the evening.

The Facebook Pixel: what is it and why do you need one?

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It may have felt the effects of some less-than-perfect press recently but there’s no denying that Facebook is an important way for businesses to listen to and interact with their customers. If you’re currently advertising on Facebook, or even just thinking about it, then a Facebook Pixel will be all kinds of useful to your business.

From helping you get to know your audience and the kind of content they like, to making use of retargeting adverts, it will help you sail through the often-perplexing landscape of Facebook advertising, giving you more insight whilst saving you advertising budget along the way.

So, what exactly is a Facebook Pixel? How does it work, and why should your business make use of one? Let’s get started!

A Pixel is basically a short piece of code that Facebook gives you to put on your website. Every advertising account on the network has access to one and don’t worry, it won’t require a degree in computer programming to get it set up. Facebook will guide you through everything.

Even though Facebook only gives you one Pixel, you can target different audiences and different actions thanks to the way it’s structured.

Made up of 2 parts, the Pixel will give you:

  1. A Base Code, which identifies your advertising account and is placed across every page of your website. This code will never change.
  2. A Standard Event Code, which is the part that specifies the action you’re tracking, such as purchase or email sign ups, for example. This code will sit on individual site pages because you only want it to be triggered when someone completes the action you’re tracking for. Looking to measure sales? Then add this code to the confirmation page that only people who have completed a purchase will see.

Once your Pixel is up and running, you can begin delving into some pretty nifty insights…

Start tracking your conversions (AKA making sure your advertising budget is being spent wisely)

A purchase, a subscription to your mailing list, or an enquiry all fall under the same metric category: they’re conversions - actions that a person has taken on your website. Now, Facebook will already tell you how many people have landed on your site because of one of your adverts but what good is that if you don’t know how many conversions you’re making whilst those people are there?

Step in the Pixel. There to tell you how many people converted, the cost for each one of those conversions, and the total spend.

Let’s say you own a t-shirt business with tees selling for £20. Your current adverts work out at around £2 per click and you’re getting 100 clicks to your site. That means you’re paying £200 for 100 clicks. Sounds pretty good, right?

But with Facebook Pixel now in your arsenal you’ve learnt that actually, out those 100 clicks to your website, only 3 have converted into t-shirt sales. That means it’s costing you £200 in advertising to sell £60 worth of product.

Hmmm, not so good now. Based on this Pixel-led insight it sounds like it’s time to review your adverts and targeting.

Create retargeting adverts to lure customers back

We’ve all been there, searching for flights to your next holiday, minding your own business. Then, without so much as a single hover over the ‘Book Now’ button your Facebook feed is suddenly full of adverts for travel deals at that very same destination.

These are retargeting adverts and they’re a powerful tool for your business to have at its disposal.

Retargeting adverts achieve a 10x higher click-through rate than regular adverts. Retargeted customers are also 70x more likely to buy from your business than those who have only seen your ad once. And if that wasn’t incentive enough, those same customers spend on average 5x more than a singularly-targeted customer.

Retargeting works by showing adverts to audiences who have already been to and interacted with your website. You can also dig a little deeper into what they did whilst they were there, like whether they added a product to their basket but didn’t end up buying it. With this information you’re then able to remind them - through the medium of a great-looking and creative retargeting advert - to come back and finish making their purchase.

So how does a Pixel fit in to all of this? Using a person’s Facebook ID for reference, the Pixel will spring into action when they complete a chosen conversion, such as adding something to their basket. Your retargeting adverts will then begin to show in their feeds based on that ID.

Show your adverts to the right people, in the right place

Based on all of the information that the Pixel will have picked up on, Facebook will begin to automatically improve your advert placements and delivery, showing your ads to not only more people but the right people. Those people who are most likely to subscribe to your email list, make a purchase, or complete whatever other conversion you’re looking to achieve. So if more people are clicking your advert when it’s placed in their newsfeed as opposed to down the right-hand ad column, then that’s exactly where Facebook will put it.

Hands up then, who wants a Pixel?

Like we’ve mentioned, you don’t need an otherworldly amount of tech knowledge to get a Pixel up and running. You simply need to activate it and this can be started by clicking through to your Facebook advertising account.

Getting down into the details of what makes an advert great, and to who, is a bit of an obsession for us here at RKH and we’re always up for a new challenge. So if you want to get set up and running with adverts and Pixels on Facebook but aren’t sure what to do first - or if you’re looking for help refining your advertising efforts - be sure to drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.

Swap 'til you drop

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We all have those items hanging in our wardrobes - unworn pieces that still have tags on, expensive dresses worn once for an event and never to see the light of day again, or things that are just no longer our style or size.

So in the spirit of having a good wardrobe spring clean and raising some money for a good cause whilst we were at it, we decided to hold the first ever RKH Swap Shop in aid of a local charity close to many of our hearts, LOROS. In the process we managed to raise an impressive total of £1,512, which will help LOROS continue to provide invaluable care for terminally ill patients in Leicestershire.

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The Swap Shop started off as a simple idea to recycle our unwanted clothes, but quickly grew into a bit of an event. Alongside the rails upon rails of clothes, shoes, accessories and makeup, we also put on a raffle and a silent auction with a variety of amazing prizes up for grabs. Delilah Deli, Ragdale Hall Spa, Holland & Barrett, Phoenix Cinema, Argento Jewellers, Burleighs Gin Distillery, Leicester Gin & Rum Festival, Set, 200 Degrees Coffee, Exchange Bar, Kibworth Shooting Ground, Everards and Boden all kindly donated prizes for the raffle. And for our silent auction we had two wonderful experiences donated, a 7 course taster meal and wine flight for two at John's House, and a spa day for two at Champneys Springs. With so many exciting prizes to win there was definitely a lot of friendly competition and tactical ticket buying going on in the run up to the draw!

Body Shop at Home representative, Sam, was also on hand throughout the evening to give complimentary facials or hand and scalp massages and talk through her range of goodies, with 10% of all sales being donated to LOROS.

So how does a Swap Shop work?

To keep things fair, there were a few key rules to follow. First, each person who wanted to take part had to bring in at least 3 items in good, wearable condition. We then put a stamp system in place to make sure those who brought in more expensive items were rewarded fairly.

Stamps were given to each swapper based on the value of the items they brought in, and those pieces were then available to ‘buy’ for the same number of stamps. For example, a piece from Primark earned and cost 1 stamp, Topshop was 2 stamps, Reiss was 3 stamps and designer pieces were 4 stamps. You get the idea. This not only helped to encourage everyone to bring more than 3 items in, but also to bring along more good quality pieces, allowing them to earn more stamps to spend.

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The whole evening was such good fun, and it was lovely to see items which had been sitting unworn in our own wardrobes being excitedly snapped up by the other girls. Everyone that got involved took home at least one new piece they really loved (though, it was more like a bag full for most of us!) and couldn’t wait to do it again. At the end of the night, all of the items that were leftover were bagged up and donated to LOROS, meaning they’ll all get another chance to be worn again or recycled.

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