How to Become an Influential Writer in the Age of Author Rank

Image of sign: Gentlemen, Adjust Your Dress

Let’s admit it.

Sometimes it feels like everything has been written already. There’s too much information on the web.

How can you write original content? How can you craft influential articles? How can you inspire others with your writing?

It may seem difficult (or too late) to imagine how you can become an influential writer online. An authority. A thought leader. Let me tell you, it’s not too late, not yet.

Hard work is required, but you can write authoritative content — even if you feel like a beginner. But you need to start right now …

To do it, you need to learn these three essential skills:

  • How to create original content;
  • How to develop your own voice;
  • How to become an inspirational writer.

Let’s have a look at authority first:

What is online authority?

Google is quickly learning how to mirror offline authority.

In the offline world how often we talk is less important than what we have to say. Offline authority is based on your ability to influence, to change people’s mind-set, to inspire people to take action, and to change the world.

The AuthorRank algorithm will likely help Google to reflect offline authority better in the future because an online article’s status will also be influenced by its author’s standing.

What can make you influential? A few examples:

  • Discovering the God particle or a cure for malaria;
  • Sharing details of your dysfunctional life that speak strongly to your audience;
  • Being insanely helpful and inspire your audience to change their mind or to take action.

The last example is — of course — a content marketer’s territory. An influential content marketer is both incredibly helpful and persuasive. He’s passionate about his field and generously shares his knowledge. But he might be divisive, too. He might speak strongly to a certain tribe of people, while others may not like his writing. His writing has personality and a recognizable voice.

How can you become an influential content marketer?

1. Steal ideas from different sources

All creative work builds on what came before.
~ Austin Kleon

The web feels like a giant echo chamber. Everything has been said, right?

It may feel impossible to create original content, but you can certainly do it. You can stop regurgitating the same information; and create unique content.


Create your own mix of sources. Don’t steal all your ideas from one or two bloggers. Steal from sources inside and outside your niche. Steal from writers, philosophers, scientists, musicians, and everyone else who inspires you.

Smart content marketers have a swipe file with inspirational quotes, fascinating ideas, and other stuff they like. Don’t use your swipe file to imitate. Don’t outright copy. Give credit to your sources, and let yourself be inspired by a multitude of ideas.

2. Develop your own voice

When I first started out in cartooning, I used to copy Hagar the Horrible. And my work was a replica of Hagar the Horrible. But then I added other cartoons, like Dennis the Menace, Calvin and Hobbes etc. And my work became my own.
~ Sean D’Souza

Who are your heroes? Which writers or bloggers speak directly to your soul?

To create your own voice, analyze the writing styles and techniques of your favorite writers:

You craft your own voice by studying your heroes and stealing their techniques. Don’t slavishly copy but learn from them. Pick the techniques you like from each of your heroes to create your own personal style; and let your passion shine through.

3. Become a better writer

The easiest way to create new content is recycling existing information.

Change a how-to article into a how-not-to article. Turn a how-to into a list post. Turn your list post into an infographic. Combine two (or three) posts into a new post.

Recycling provides a quick way to create loads of content, but it won’t make you a better writer; and it probably limits your potential to be influential. You need to push yourself to get better each time you write. You need to try new writing techniques, tackle more challenging topics, and link different ideas together.

To become a better writer you need deliberate practice. You need to step up the quality of your content; and fully engage your brain when writing. Introduce new analogies. Tell different stories. Try another angle or structure. Take your time to experiment. Quality content requires time.

You need to get out of your comfort zone to become a better writer.

4. Write crappy first drafts

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.
~ Anne Lamott

Combining new ideas and writing original content is hard; it requires writing, rewriting, and rethinking.

Of course, exceptions exist, but for most of us, writing original content is difficult. You might be beating yourself up because you’re not writing fast enough; and because you’re not producing enough content. But this idea that you need to speed up your writing could be killing your creativity.

Writing crappy first drafts is normal — especially if you’re pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. But how do you deal with crappy first drafts? Look for these issues:

  • Your best idea is often buried. Try and find it, and move it to the beginning of your article.
  • Your draft is heading in myriad directions. There’s too much is going on. Go back to your one big idea: How do you want to inspire people? Cut everything that’s irrelevant.
  • Bad grammar, spelling mistakes, and redundant sentences. Don’t worry about this until you’ve sorted out the flow of your content.

Writing a crappy first draft may feel pointless. Why write something you’re going to change or delete? Don’t worry. Crappy first drafts can lead to something magical.

5. Create inspirational conclusions

How can you influence people?

Stop thinking you’re merely sharing information. You’re creating content to inspire people.

Too often online articles fizzle out, because the author gets tired and lacks inspiration. Rather than write your conclusion last, why not write it first?

Writing inspirational paragraphs that teach is one of the most important skills a persuasive content marketer can develop. Study how your heroes inspire you, and steal their techniques.

The truth about building authority

Writing influential content is tough. It requires hard work, creative thinking, and original writing. And most of all it requires passion for your subject.

Don’t just echo what others are saying. Have your own voice. Dare to be different. Research like crazy. Speak up. Share your opinion. Back up your opinion with studies and statistics. Let your personality shine through.

Remember: one epic post can have more impact than one hundred recycled posts. Stop acting like a blogging machine. Quit guest posting like a mediocre maniac. Instead, take your time to rethink and rewrite your posts.

Write less. Read more.

Talk less. Listen more.

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Reader Comments (87)

  1. says

    Thanks for this. I’m not a copywriter by trade and I find that writing even my own site content and getting my ideas on paper (or docx as the case may be) is a struggle and I’ll publish posts that I’m not overly proud of. Thankfully copyblogger seems to be showing me the right way to write.

      • says

        It’s true. We as copywriters are notorious for writing draft, after draft until we have something to produce that we’re “proud” of. However, after it’s been submitted to the client we’re left thinking, “Oh, I should have said this, like that.” or “I wonder if my lead was strong enough for the body copy?” etc.

        But as Sonia said, the more you write, the easier the process gets. It’s just a matter of putting in the time to begin with.

      • says

        So agree. I’m having the toughest time coming up with the basic language for my website…and I’ve been writing and editing for years. I also edit a monthly magazine and I am always so nervous when we close the issue. What could have been said better? Maybe we should have steered the writer in a different direction. It seems every time I look at copy there is something that can be changed or perfected. At some point though we have to let it go!

    • says

      Point 4 is in my mind is by far the most important here. If you spend too long procrastinating before you start writing (for what ever reason) it gets harder and harder to get anywhere.

      If I could add one more point I’d really say “don’t be afraid of crappy drafts”! Very few writers, no matter how good can write perfect copy first time and just because your first few drafts don’t flow or contain spelling mistakes it doesn’t mean you can’t write!

      • says

        I think this is something that’s lost on many people. Excellent writing usually takes a willingness to go back over your story/words time and time again. Just begin…

      • says

        Great post, Henneke!

        Chris, I totally agree with you about point #4. I struggle with starting (although I guess I start enough times to have been able write for a living for the past 20 years).

        You just have to get the words out. Jam them onto paper no matter how awful it seems; no matter what your mind is telling you. Don’t check Facebook. Don’t run to the window to see why the dog is barking. Don’t use this time to call your brother-in-law about the funny sound your car’s engine is making… JUST WRITE THE DAMN WORDS.

        Hit a wordcount goal. Then reward yourself. Then go back and edit. Do that over and over.

  2. says

    I am beginner in writing, and have written less than 20 guest post.. But last week I was reading random post of Copyblogger it was The 10-Step Content Marketing Checklist by Sonia Simone, it was amazing list and completely change my views.. specially (No-5 Don’t give your great content an ugly apartment ). That night I bought hosting, Genesis theme and made new blog ! And Before reading this post I was confused what is fresh content and how to write a perfect article, but now I think it may easy. If you can give a short advise for very beginner blog writer It will be my best and happiest New Year Gift !

  3. Elwin Sterrenburg says

    Hi Henneke,

    Awesome article. Really, really good. :)
    I saw your name, and I just have to ask.. Are you (from origin) Dutch?

      • Elwin Sterrenburg says

        Hi Henneke,

        Wow, that is awesome. I think you are one of the first Dutch writers who I come across that really know something about ‘internet marketing’.. Awesome!

  4. says

    “All creative work builds on what came before.”

    Each piece of online content acts as a foundation to future creative works. Often, if I’m finding a lack of creativity, I will review what others have written on my specific topic and find a different angle. For example, if someone write the 5 Myths, I may write the 5 Truths. There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel but there’s nothing stopping a creative mind from painting it a different color.

  5. says

    being an author, I actually went through your article carefully and found few new ideas. Not that I am buying all those but I am surely going to try those out. Thanks for reminding me of a few alternatives. Good post.

  6. says

    That was an inspiring post! I think you lived up to your own rules by finishing with a conclusion that makes me think. I’ll definitely start applying some of your ideas to my website. Thank you.

  7. says

    Becoming a person of substance surely seems to be the first step to becoming an author of substance these days, doesn’t it? Good list of the basic steps for us all, Henneke.

  8. says


    I wrote of a similar issue with authorial ranking and the fierce competition for new content it will generate. While I moaned about Penguin and Panda, the new authorial ranking stands to make a more dramatic impact, escalating from the artifact of the writing, to the subject, the author herself.

    I see both moves a significant impingement on the creativity and the authentic voice of the writer, perhaps stifling creative trends in fashionable writing. This force has always existed, however, in various forms, usually the authoritarian editors and publishers (no offense intended you all).

    Now the governing body is Google who has tremendous power, and I am torn. I saw the big difference that the P’s made on the quality of content across the web. I believe they made a real difference in a time when the rules of the game were being written by marketers. We have a cleaner, richer content to search in my opinion.

    But, progress in the form of homogonizied content always comes at a great expense to creativity. I love your skillful maneuvers for dealing with the issues of authorship ranking – methods of pleasing Google, maintaining integrity, and with minimal pain. Thank you for those tips which I think are insightful.

    Still. the issue of impingement on authorial creativity, which necessarily will come as a result of any author ranking, weighs on m4. I believe that this move will produce a much better quality of writing across the internet, but at what cost? We are quickly surrendering the dictates of taste, quality, creativity, and value to a government-like machine. Do I go too far in suggesting that Google is becoming a capitalist state that subtly imposes limits on the free speech of the internet? He or she who has wealth and power dictates taste.

    Because I am from the novel 1984 generation, the power Google wields frightens me, and I feel as if Google is the giant eye of big brother, ominously watching over our every step on the internet. The real power held by the government in 1984 was that they dictated language and therefore thought.

    Thank you again,


    • says

      I think we are right to fear Google and make sure our sources of traffic are always balanced. If your site gets over 50% of traffic from Google, you may want to consider altering your strategy a bit. The flip side of that is to try and get people to alter their habits a bit. Try using DuckDuckGo or Bing instead of Google for your next search. The more users spread their usage, the better off we will be overall.

      My favorite part of this post is creating your own voice. Quality from longer, well-researched posts gets people to link to you but they will come back for more because of your unique voice/perspective. That is my challenge for 2013, really getting into writing with my own voice. I like the idea of putting my personality back in my writing. I recognized this more after taking a class full of journalists. If you are a blogger, pair yourself with a good Journalist, you can learn a ton.

      • says

        Yes! Work, write, and read the right stuff!

        Don’t try to be something you aren’t. People will read your blogs if you are authentic and engaging. Thinking of my favourite environmental documentaries I would say that each have their own strengths and weaknesses, but no director is greater than another in my mind: only different.

        A lot of bloggers right now are trying for whimsical, punny, witty material. I almost prefer the work of someone like Ann Smarty who’s work can be a little more ‘raw’ or an author that writes in a little more academic style. In the end you will or won’t develop an audience based on your voice. You will find the experience more rewarding and easier (in my opinion) if you stay true to yourself at least 70% of the time.

  9. says

    Thank you for the detail in your article. I especially enjoyed your third point about becoming a better writer. Sometimes we all need a little inspiration and that you have done today.
    Domo Arigato

  10. says

    If you’re struggling for ideas… Take a great list post from an author you admire and turn each bullet into it’s blog post diving deep on the idea of each bullet.

    Was each idea created in your head? NO

    But do your expanded thoughts and research have power and authority? YES.

    Great article.


  11. says

    I am new to blogging, but in the last six weeks I’ve started one on my own that allows me to ramble on about the YA book I’m writing, the other is joint effort with a writing friend and we are definitely learning as we go. Thanks for you advice, some of it I already do (and yes I read Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird – extremely helpful), but some of your suggestions sound enticing and I’ll be trying, especially your suggestion to turn a how-to do list into how-not-to is great; I’ll be copying that soon. Thanks. for all of your helpful posts.

  12. says

    I have tons of ideas; until I sit down to write them. I think through topic after topic as long as I’m not trying to get it out of my head. As soon as I sit down, it’s all gone and I write stupid stuff instead of the great stuff I was thinking.
    I might say that’s my biggest barrier. I have content that’s so original there’s only one or two people out there really writing about it beyond personal journeys. I want to get my information out there in a way that sounds professional and attracts Health Coaches, Nutritionists, and other professionals. Hopefully I won’t give up until I succeed, but sometimes….!

    • says

      I feel a lot like you Debora! I will come up with so many ideas, but then I can’t seem to get them out of my head the way I wish they would. I like this article because it gives us a couple of things we can start working on to make us all better. It doesn’t tell us what is the absolute best thing, because there isn’t one. Rather, it gives us ideas to build off of. We can develop as writers by trying new ideas. In order to become better at anything though, it takes time and practice! A lot of the time people don’t realize this, and they lose patience. That is where most people fail.

    • says

      Have you tried using a dictaphone? Sometimes ideas flow more freely when spoken – without editing.

      You could even try recording a conversation between yourself and a friend where you try and explain everything that is going on in your head.

      Pen on paper, or fingers on keyboard, can sometimes put you into “instant editor mode”… When really you just need to let the ideas flow (but still have them captured).

      Final thought. Oscar Wilde said to write drunk and edit sober… if that helps at all 😉

      • says

        Chris – I do this when I’m driving. If I know I have some time alone in my car, I’ll dictate ideas, stories, and “talk out” what I want to work on writing next. Even if I don’t use all of it, playing the recording back serves as inspiration.

        (Hmm… Oscar Wilde might’ve had a good idea there… :) )

    • Henneke | Enchanting Marketing says

      That sounds familiar, Debora. But often when you keep working on your article – write a second, third or even fifth draft – you’ll find that your post becomes better.

      The problem is – good articles often look like they’re written in one go, but that’s often not the case.

      It took me a few drafts to write this post. And when you’re finished you wonder why did it take that long? But that’s just how it works sometimes.

      • says

        Yes…My husband is a poet. And when I first met him, I read one of his books of poetry and marveled at the beauty and meaning in every word. Then I saw literally a 3-inch pile of papers that represented just one short poem. Object lesson!

  13. says

    First drafts are always bad. When so-called writers claim to write cleanly or to change only a word or two in the editing phase, either they are lying or their final work is wanting. Thanks for the encouragement and the tips!

  14. says

    These are good reminders on how to become an influential writer. It would make a good New Year’s resolution: to become (and affirm I AM) an influential writer and pay attention to AuthorRank.

    I liked how you put a different spin on writing the ‘how to’ articles. Let’s face it; sometimes, writing ‘how to’ articles gets old after a while. Writers have a tendency to burn out from writing the same post over and over again. I like the idea of writing a ‘how-not-to (fill in the blank)’ post. Or, turning a list post into an infographic. Thanks for sharing these ideas.

    Happy New Year everyone!

  15. says

    “Write crappy first drafts” is excellent advice as long as it is followed by some rigorous rewriting and editing. Too often the crappy first draft gets published as the final draft.

  16. says

    This was really helpful to me today. I just started a new website and was already feeling like maybe I really can’t do this. Thanks for providing ideas that I can actually DO and that will help me become a better writer.

  17. says

    Thank you for the great post. It was just what I needed to read. I’ve been having such a hard time creating content that hasn’t already been written a million times. I have never written a first draft before at all. I always just wrote my final post and I think your advice will really help me write unique content and gain more readers.

  18. says

    This is great stuff! Thank you so much for sharing this. It is good practical advice that I will implement not only in my own writing, but also in writing for my clients. Keep it coming!

  19. says

    there is a lot of good advice in this article. But the very last two sentences are particularly true:
    Write less, read more
    Talk less, listen more.
    So true. I need to improve the listening part, i’m too self centered some times and i noticed that REALLY listening to people can truly inspire u with fresh new content, instead on focusing in what YOU think is interesting.
    By listening to other people/reading what they have to say you gather a lot more information than just sitting on a desk trying to write something brilliant out of the blue :)

    • Henneke | Enchanting Marketing says

      So true. By listening you can also learn what challenges others face and help them with their struggles.

  20. says

    Thanks to copyblogger for all the best pieces of advice and guides I read every time I needed them. Although I don’t consider myself a good writer; I am slowly learning the trade and slowly progressing.

  21. says

    Well done, you manage to draw me into the story and get through to the end.

    Far too many bloggers lack personality, you need to write for readers not the search engines. Like you say take existing content and add your own opinion to the mix. Oh, and good formatting is vitally important, themes like genesis may seem expensive, but they will pay for themselves when you start to get regular commenter’s on your blog.


  22. says

    Henneke this has so much food for thought that I have gone back and re-read it three times now. I love what you say about finding inspiration for fresh ideas outside the box with the musicians, scientists and philosophers that inspire us. It made me think of Brian Clark’s awesome post about Depeche Mode (which was how I first found Copyblogger). I guess I need to ‘Enjoy the Silence’ and take the time to digest your words fully … ‘Talk less. Listen more.’ *Prints off post and pins to notice board to read again in the morning*. Thanks!

    • Henneke | Enchanting Marketing says

      You’re welcome, Katherine.

      Like you I learned a lot from reading and analyzing the posts here on Copyblogger. :)

  23. says

    Fantastic post. Influence, trust and authority are big topics for 2013.

    As the noise online continues to grow we will seek out smaller and smaller groups of people to listen to and to trust with our time.

    “As content has grown increasingly abundant and immediately available, attention becomes the limiting factor in the consumption of information.” – Attention Economy (Wikipedia).

  24. says

    Great post Henneke,

    I think the idea of writing a ‘how not to’ instead of a ‘how to’ is a brilliant idea. So simple and yet sitting right there in front of most of us.

    We sometimes are drawn to reading posts because of their magnetic attraction without even realising what or how they write that is drawing us in.

    With ‘Copyblogger’ I find the headlines are very magnetic and almost always make me want to read the post.


  25. says

    Hey thanks for the insight since i downloed books from the scribe library, i have developed a habit of focussing on content marketing and i can see its one of the MUST Requirments you must have. Thanks Duistermaat

  26. says

    Firstly, HNY to all!

    Secondly, what an interesting post to start the year. Carrying on from where you left of in terms of content strategy.

    I have to somewhat disagree with what was said about the how Google will start to rank authorities online. Simply because, most of what is online today is merely opinion or ones perspective of how things have unfolded for them. Not only that, but to solely rely on just content is not gonna make you an authority – what if no one sees what you are writing? There is never just one solution, hence the plethora of blogs or online sources peddling “how to” information.

    Seeking the approval of others is something I’m strongly against and who gives someone the right to have the final say of whether one person is more of an authority than another?

  27. says

    “Let’s admit it.

    Sometimes it feels like everything has been written already. ”

    The history of humanity unfolds daily. There will always be something to write about. Sometimes it’s Ghandi, sometimes it’s Honey Boo Boo. But one thing you can count on, there will always be something new happening.

  28. Tom Southern says

    Like the idea of writing crappy first drafts – or rather, allowing yourself that freedom.

    A lot of people get bogged down in editing and re-editing their writing until they lose the essence of what first sparked their creative idea in the first place. Or they edit and edit and never actually finish a piece of writing, feel disheartened and a failure, throw away their thoughts of ever making it as a writer and give up.

    Just write, always. Get your idea down on paper in full. Yes, it may change as you go – that’s creativity in action.

    Perhaps if more great writers let people see their crappy first, second, third …. drafts, more great writers might finish their own work – and get noticed, and enjoy their dreams coming true.

    Once your idea is out in full, that’s when you can spend the time creating your epic.

  29. Janice Williams says

    I can’t believe I’ve just read an article on “How To Become an Influential Writer In The Age of Author Rank” which has the first point as “Steal Ideas from Different Sources”…! How about not stealing ideas at all. Radical.

    How about only writing on things you genuinely care about, studying them, and actually coming up with original ideas of your own… just a thought…

    That said, am enjoying learning about how Google is trying to catch up with concepts of authorship. I still see a lot of crappy content that is highly discoverable, and awesome content that is buried. Changes like Penguin and Panda should take us in the right direction. Happy to see the days of writing to a keyword-density goal behind us. Just wish this would all happen faster.

    • says

      Ask any writer whose work you admire — they’ll freely admit they “steal” ideas. For a writer, stealing is more like borrowing, playing with, adapting, turning on their heads.

      In fact, one of the best ways to come up with your own original ideas is to read very widely (both within and outside your topic) and let yourself soak up great influences. As Henneke said, “Don’t outright copy. Give credit to your sources, and let yourself be inspired by a multitude of ideas.”

      • says

        Allow yourself to be inspired…use another’s idea as a jumping off point. Sometimes that feels like cheating, but every great writer/artist/musician has been influenced by others.

  30. says

    Years ago I worked as a portrait artist at the French Pavilion, next to the World Showcase Lagoon, Epcot. Orlando. My job was to create a “pleasing likeness” of a park guest who had paid for my services. The cost paid to the park was something like $19.00, I was paid by the hour. The portraits I did were chalk profiles. Not the cartoons, real portraits. I always gave it my all in the 10-15 minutes I had to get the job done. I have a point relative to this subject, and here it is:

    Somewhere in the middle of making this picture I always felt a complete feeling of panic that this picture was never in a million years going to look anything like that person sitting in my chair. And, yes, sometimes I missed the likeness. But more often than not, that feeling of panic propelled me into doing my very best. And my subjects were pleased and surprised with the result.

    I write now, I write a lot more often than I draw. And the panic occurs regularly. How am I ever going to pull all this together into something reasonable and coherent, and write something that not only makes sense, but will also make an impression on my reader?

  31. says

    This is spectacularly helpful advice – I love the points about writing crappy first drafts, starting with an inspirational conclusion and also your tips for re-working existing content from different perspectives.

    Most of all I like your advice at the end about taking your time – I couldn’t agree more that great content takes time, and I think bloggers need to fight against the imperative to churn out posts at an alarming rate – once a week is as much as I can manage at the moment, and I wouldn’t compromise on quality by agreeing to guest post unless I was sure I had time to do a decent job.

    Many thanks for all the tips you’ve given here – appreciated and shared!


  32. says

    Love this article. Your suggestions are practical and applicable! This is a keeper that goes into my Writing binder. Sometimes I lose sight of how hard and time-consuming it can be to do good work–original content that’s written well. After 30 years of being in some form of editorial work, I think I should be faster and better by now. But maybe that kind of thinking turns out to be a motivator to be better, instead of derailing me. You’ve inspired me for a New Year of intentionally better writing!!

  33. says


    notice the similarity?

    You are spot on – writing is key to developing your authority, and Google is busy figuring out who matters and who doesn’t in your niche.

    So get in there. Share your opinion, find your voice, create awesome content, find your voice.
    Be consistent and you’ll be an authority before you know it.

  34. says

    I read a lot of Copyblogger articles, but this is my first comment. I felt compelled to comment because, well, I’m a writer and I’ve been struggling with this “how original can I really be online?” fear for a few months now. This post has solutions for that, as well as suggestions on how to create better original content. Your second-to-last line of “Write less. Read more” seems particularly useful, as I often feel I spend too much time reading and not enough writing. I’m glad that this may actually end up paying off in the end!
    Thanks for the wonderful advice. (Also, here’s to being Dutch!)

  35. says

    In my opinion, writing for search engines instead of readers has been the curse of the internet since Web 2.0 made its appearance. Penguin seems to have done a pretty good job of fixing that, but the mindset remains. I still see too many formulaic blogs out there:
    A) Longtail keyword in headline and first paragraph!
    B) Break it up with bullet points!
    C) End with a call to action!
    Those are just a few of the “rules” we’re supposed to follow. Not bad general advice, but slavishly followed, SEO rules stifle originality.

  36. says

    You’re right about writing crappy first drafts, it works. I must have 30 or so drafts I have saved in wordpress. Eventually those crappy looking drafts will become blog posts. Great content by the way!

    • Henneke | Enchanting Marketing says

      Thank you, Tyronne

      This post went through quite a few crappy drafts before I was happy 😉

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