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5 Essential Plugins for Every WordPress Site

Posted by on 12:56 pm in Digital Decoded, Small Business Marketing, Wordpress Tips & Plugins | 0 comments

5 Essential Plugins for Every WordPress Site

The Plugins You’ll Wish You Installed Every designer has their starting-line rituals when building a new WordPress site.  After reviewing our portfolio of recent projects, it became clear that these 5 plugins were an essential part of that ritual for the designers at Tower Agency. We’ve decided to share this secret blend of herbs and spices in the hopes that it will make building your WordPress site easier and give you a more attractive, functional final product. Experienced developers will probably recognize several of these favorites; if you fall into this category we’d love to hear about your favorite WordPress plugins in the comments section below the post. As for the rest of you designers-in-training, small business owners, and curious friends, Tower Agency is always looking for new clients and employees to join our team. Contact us to explore the ways that we could grow and thrive together. Duplicate Post Adds the “Clone” button in WP-Admin and other tools to easily make copies of posts or pages. This plugin helps save time when trying to keep a consistent format across a website. During the initial build process, one-click duplication of pages means you don’t have to start “from scratch” with each new static page of the website. Once you’ve established the site, cloning posts can help you keep a consistent look and feel where it counts while reminding you to keep intros, calls-to-action, and other content fresh. Learn more about Duplicate Post. Comments Evolved Adds the ability to enable native WordPress, Google+, Facebook, Disqus, and Livefyre comment systems easily. It converts the standard WordPress comments area into a tabbed social comment section with Facebook and Google+. Social comments are more valuable to most websites than internal comments. They can be shared more easily and create social connections with users. Remember to analyze which medium is most valuable to house your comments: reputation building for a lifestyle brand will probably benefit most from comments on Facebook, while an on-site community with a forum for technical products would more likely emphasize native WordPress comments. Learn more about Comments Evolved. Collapse-o-matic Adds a shortcode to easily create expandable content areas anywhere on the site. This can make lengthy pages much more manageable, and the hidden areas are still indexed normally by search engines. Give it a try! You can collapse as much content as you want in these dynamically expandable sections, just be careful to ensure any nested shortcodes function properly before publishing. Add some CSS styling and you’ve got a beautiful new way to manage content on your WordPress site. This plugin can make lengthy pages or technical explanations look much more organized while encouraging interaction with the user. Learn more about Collapse-o-matic. Gravity Forms This plugin adds a boatload of great features and always looks attractive. Some of our more advanced site builds have been enabled by the Gravity Forms plugin and the associated add-ons; the user signup, verification, and approval process found on EpiscopalClergy.org is a great example. This is a paid plugin, but its variety of features and turn-key operation are well worth the cost. Our Contact Page is another example of a form set up and maintained using Gravity Forms. Learn more about Gravity Forms. Velvet Blues When you are finally ready to pull the trigger and launch your beautiful new WordPress site, you’ll...

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VIDEO: How To Troubleshoot WordPress

Posted by on 10:22 am in Digital Decoded, Small Business Marketing, Wordpress Tips & Plugins | 0 comments

VIDEO: How To Troubleshoot WordPress

FACT: You Will Encounter Site Errors. Understanding how to solve problems with WordPress and where to find the solutions is half the battle. We have compiled the resources you should use when troubleshooting, some of the errors that will lead to these resources and where to find them on the internet. For more advanced troubleshooting, please contact the agency Learn more about our company and the digital marketing services we’ve used for our past client success stories. When updating your site and you receive a white screen of death it is not time to freak out, take a deep breath, get your detective’s hat on and start debugging. There are many answers on the internet, not always correct, and this can make it difficult. Your theme will have helpful resources as well as your host and should be checked first after searching on Google for the problem. Below we have listed the 4 areas you will need to investigate to find the root of the issue.   Troubleshooting WordPress Errors & Resources Video There are several references to check for solutions to your specific WordPress problem. Always make sure that your themes, plugins, and framework are up to date as that could be an easy fix to your issue. Before attempting any troubleshooting, be sure to back up your site so you will not lose any data.     Top 4 Most Common Sites To Find Solutions Host/Server (Database Errors) Theme (Visual Errors) Plugin (Formatting Conflicts and Security Flaws) WordPress Codex/Framework (Function and Back-End Issues) If your host is not working, you may need to contact your host or read through their documentation. If you are having a problem with plugins, you may have to go through and disable each plugin one by one until you find the faulty one. Once you have isolated the faulty plugin, you may need to update it or simply remove it. You can read more about plugin issues on the WordPress Codex. If you are having a theme issue, you can most likely find the answer to the problem on the support page of the site where you got the theme such as ElegantThemes. If not, then you can post your problem to the forum page of the site and someone will surely be along to help. If your issue does not fall into any of these categories, you should visit the WordPress Codex and Support Forums first to see if you can solve this issue yourself before seeking professional help. For more advanced troubleshooting issues, please contact our staff at Tower...

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CSS Tips and Tricks for WordPress

Posted by on 1:49 pm in Digital Decoded, Wordpress Tips & Plugins | 0 comments

CSS Tips and Tricks for WordPress

Learn CSS Tips and Tricks for use specifically in WordPress Development/Design In this article you will learn basic css tips for an intro in WordPress development and design. These are common our team uses on new designs, please contact Tower Agency for more assistance. A Brief Introduction to CSS A CSS (cascading style sheet) file allows you to separate your web sites (X)HTML content from it’s style. Per usual use your (X)HTML file to arrange the content, but all of the presentation (fonts, colors, background, borders, text formatting, link effects & so on…) are accomplished within a CSS. In this article, we will discuss a few hints related to some of the trickier CSS aspects of creating a WordPress document. Our goal is to simplify these aspects in order to allow the user to implement them more easily.   1. display:none Property This action will be commonly used when removing extra visual aspects included in a theme. Hiding an element can be done by setting the display property to “none” or the visibility property to “hidden”. However, notice that these two methods produce different results: visibility:hidden hides an element, but it will still take up the same space as before. The element will be hidden, but still affect the layout. display:none hides an element, and it will not take up any space. The element will be hidden, and the page will be displayed as if the element is not there.   2. How to Center an Image Sometimes you need a section (or image) to be centered. Phrased differently: we want the left and right margin to be equal no matter what screen size is being used. There are many ways to move around an image, but the best way to do it for all screen sizes (responsive) is to set the margins to ‘auto’. This is normally used with a block of fixed width, because if the block itself is flexible, it will simply take up all the available width. Example: IMG.displayed { display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto } … <IMG src=”…” alt=”…”>   3. Media Queries (Responsive Design) Media queries, added in CSS3, let the presentation of content be tailored to a specific range of output devices without having to change the content itself. They consist of a media type and at least one expression that limits the style sheets’ scope by using media features, such as width, height, and color. The query is based on the viewing screen size and is great for removing or changing actions for responsive (mobile friendly) web design. Media queries consist of a media type and can, as of the CSS3 specification, contain one or more expressions, expressed as media features, which resolve to either true or false.  The result of the query is true if the media type specified in the media query matches the type of device the document is being displayed on and all expressions in the media query are true. When a media query is true, the corresponding style sheet or style rules are applied, following the normal cascading rules. Style sheets with media queries attached to their <link> tags will still download even if their media queries would return false (they will not apply, however). **Unless you use the not or only operators, the media type is...

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Digital Marketing Portfolio Update

Posted by on 1:25 pm in Digital Decoded, Small Business Marketing | 0 comments

Digital Marketing Portfolio Update

We’ve been busy and that means portfolio updates! The past few months have been a very exciting period of growth for our small digital agency as we have been incorporating new agents into the mix while bringing on some very exciting projects. I would like to introduce you to our wonderful new clients and am happy to announce that they also love us back. We pride ourselves on customer service and a happy client means we did two things right: The project was completed to both party’s expectations. Successfully learned about client needs, found viable solutions, and executed properly. Brenda Heckert Her quirky personality is shown through jokes, pictures, and videos to help casting directors see the fun nature she brings to the set. Exemplified by her saying “It costs an Arm, a Leg, and a Thigh.” By adding a blogging component to the site she is able to increase community engagement across facebook, twitter and other social sharing sites. Read more Nualgi America Nualgi is a new brand that uses microscopic technology to produce Diatom growth in aquariums, thus removing nuisance algae. Tower Agency was brought in to expand this brand to the new products Nualgi Ponds and Nualgi Bloom, as well as maintain the brand of Nualgi Aquarium. Read more Utah Coffee Expressions An entrepreneurial couple in Utah contacted us to fix their e-commerce site that had been in development for over 6 months in the Phillipines… Quickly the Tower agents got to work to diagnose the issues that were being caused with the site and a lot was miss-communication between the developers and the client. The simple tasks had become overly complex pieces of development that were unfortunately not using the WordPress content management system properly. Read more Shoreline Construction The original Shoreline site had an image gallery and a basic description of the company. We added a personality with high resolution images to better represent the high quality work produced by this home construction company. A beautiful new website was created to showcase the work performed by this construction company and further position them as a top developer of Nantucket Style beach homes. Read more Sheets at the Beach Vera Bailey built a dominant regional reputation with her top quality rental products and amazing service. Tower Agency stepped in when an outdated website began to make operations difficult for both her and customers. Read more Jeff West When Jeff West decided to transition his focus from retail to interior design, the Tower team created a powerful way to stay connected with fans and customers. For years Jeff West Home was a regionally acclaimed source for traditionally hip furniture, unique home goods, and products from local artisans. Read more As we grow we will add to our client portfolio. Thanks for reading and we look forward to sharing more digital marketing success...

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Ditch your Secretary, Google Now is here!

Posted by on 12:19 am in Digital Decoded | 0 comments

Ditch your Secretary, Google Now is here!

Ok, I am sure your secretary has many perks, but on-the-go updates synced with your life is just too much to ask from a single human being.     Today, Google Now is available as a chrome extension, thus completing the full circle in my digital life. I’ve been using the Google Now card system on my phone since I upgraded to Android a year ago (iPhone prior). It notifies me at perfect times when I should be leaving the house, what the latest Red Sox score is, who I am scheduled to meet, and much more timely information. “Timely” is the key word in this statement. The purpose of this product is to get the information precisely when you need it. Five minutes early or late would just not be as useful. Getting information at the RIGHT time is everything Google hopes to accomplish.   Semantic Web is Upon Us All your information, all your data, all locked up and there for you to access fluently wherever you may be. This is the semantic web. This is Google Now. This is the future. Based on a card system like the screen shot graphic from www.engadget.com, you can decide what information you want displayed in a simple, concise manner. Tailored based on your internet habits, Google chooses your cards initially and will sync up live to what is occurring in each category.   The Future is Not Siri “She” may answer a few questions and she may be able to bring up your flight details. But she is not integrated with your google account and most likely will not let you know the exact time you should be leaving your home to catch the flight. This is the future, the ability to integrate perfectly in your life without ever asking. And that, that is freaking scary.   What the Heck is Google Now? I like my Secretary! Google explains it as the right information at the right time. “From knowing the weather before you start your day, to planning the best route to avoid traffic, or even checking your favorite team’s score while they’re playing, Google Now brings you the information you want, when you need it. Google Now works in the background so you don’t have to. Your information is automatically organized into simple cards that appear just when they’re needed. Because Google Now is ready whenever you are, you can spend less time digging and more time living.” From Google Now Landing Page Need support? Straight from the Googles, learn how Google Now, Cards, and Location services work in chrome.  Google Now Support   Get Google Now for Android & iOS Chrome has just released the extension for Google Now to integrate with your web browser. If you are not already using Google Now on mobile you can download it here.   Product Integrations It is expected that this list will be forever expanding, but for the time being Google Now works to give you the right information at just the right time for Flights, Hotels, Events, Travel Sites, Restaurant Reservations, Movies, and Real Estate. Notable companies include, Rotten Tomatoes, Zillow, Stubhub, Booking.com, and a few airlines. Learn more about Google Now Integrations   Have you ever used Google Now? Did you know that your android device is...

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Copy + Paste to Eat for a Day, Learn to Code and You’ll Eat for A Lifetime!

Posted by on 5:22 pm in Digital Decoded, Digital Trends | 0 comments

Copy + Paste to Eat for a Day, Learn to Code and You’ll Eat for A Lifetime!

Every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer code. I just signed up to support this wonderful organization started by twin brothers in Silicon Valley. They bring up a great point and support a mission that will only become more necessary as we go further into the digital world. Personally I didn’t learn a line of code until after college, but have since become intrigued and now dive into html/css3 for altering WordPress sites. Did you know that 9 out of 10 US K12 schools do not offer computer programming classes? And that Forbes magazine ranked a degree in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon College as the best paying degree in the USA in 2013? There are six ways you can help spread the word about code.org Code.org | Non-profit foundation dedicated to growing computer science education 1) Help us promote computer science education Find out what you can do locally to turn around these shocking statistics. If you’re in the US, support the Computer Science Education Act. 2) Ask your local school to teach computer science Your local school can teach this self-serve intro course, partner with us to bring computer science to your entire district, and inspire students with these videos. Check our map to see if your school teaches computer science, and if not, ask them to. 3) Teach locally as a volunteer Host an Hour of Code or a longer self-serve intro course at a local school or club. Or sign up as a volunteer to hear about mentoring opportunities from local teachers. 4) Buy a t-shirt or hat to spread the word We have some pretty awesome shirts, and 5% of proceeds go to charity. 5) Donate money to Code.org We’re a very lean and mean organization, and we appreciate your help. 6) In the US? Tell Congress that you support the Computer Science Education Act Ask your representatives to support it, too. The members of Tower Agency, Inc. sincerely hope you will spread this philanthropic message, buy a t-shirt or support this movement in whatever way possible. Maybe you can even take a short course at code.org or play one of their fun games. Either way, thanks for reading and have a great day.    Infographic by...

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3 WordPress Plugins for Safety, Security, and Speed

Posted by on 5:19 pm in Digital Decoded, Wordpress Tips & Plugins | 0 comments

3 WordPress Plugins for Safety, Security, and Speed

When setting up a new website or pulling off a high-stakes jewelry heist, there are three important things on the mind of every team member: Safety, Security, and Speed. Until each of these concerns has been addressed your precious site is vulnerable to attack from hackers, bugs, and disgruntled users.  We’ve identified three WordPress plugins to help you build up virtual defenses so you can get back to posting content in peace. Safety The diversity and depth of the WordPress ecosystem is a major reason it has become the top content management system,W3Techs report a 60% market share as of January 2014 but that also means components don’t always play nice with each other.  At Tower Agency we’ve experienced plugin updates reducing a client website to are gnarled pile of code.  Because we had a reliable backup plugin installed and activated, the panic was only temporary.  Here’s our current favorite: BackUpWordpress Manage multiple schedules Super simple to use, no setup required Option to have each backup file emailed to you Works in low memory, “shared host” environments Exclude files and folders from your back ups Backup entire site including database and all files Security A fully functional backup plugin protects your site from compatibility issues, staff, and yourself… but what about external parties who mean to deface your site or steal valuable information?  Hackers are nefarious (and let’s face it, kinda cool) and the only way to thwart them off is with site security that keeps pace with rapidly changing technology.  This plugin protects against vulnerabilities you never knew existed; the name says it all: BulletProof Security WordPress version is removed 503 – Website Maintenance Mode Brute Force Login Security Protection WP Dashboard Alerts / Dismiss Notices Root file security with .htaccess files and firewall Anti Comment Spambot .htaccess code – Forbid Empty Referrer Spambots Security Log Automation: Automatically zipped, emailed and replaced based on file size Speed Now that you’re feeling prepared against threats from both inside and out it’s time to rest, right?  Wrong.  All those plugins and php scripts are probably slowing down your site’s load times, leading to a negative user experience.36 sec page load... -_______- You need a way to prepared for traffic spikes (featured on digg?) and reduce bounces while making the most of your server package.  This plugin is a go-to for Tower Agency: WP Super Cache Generates static html files from dynamic WordPress blog Delivers files without accessing database Automated mimic of manual page caching Static html files served to majority of users Works well with WordPress MU These are our favorite, must-have plugins for each site we develop. What are your go-to plugins and what experiences have you had with website security, safety, and speed? Please tell us in the comments below. Happy...

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Mobile Marketing: Search Engines, Proximity, and Immediacy Influence Purchase Decisions

Posted by on 6:01 pm in Digital Decoded, Digital Trends, Mobile Apps & Sites, Small Business Marketing | 0 comments

Mobile Marketing: Search Engines, Proximity, and Immediacy Influence Purchase Decisions

 The Mobile Revolution is Upon Us! Just like technology, the modern customers are evolving and have very high expectations coupled with short attention spans. Mobile optimized websites used to be a nice perk, but have become a necessity. Responsive web development means that your site will change it’s layout automatically based on the size of the viewer’s screen. This allows you to have one website that will work on all platforms, with updates being made to a single content management system. Some sites have advanced functionality and do not lend themselves to responsive design, but in those scenarios other mobile development techniques can be used. Use this site as an example of responsive design by making the window smaller. Mobile customers expect your site to be quick, easy to navigate, and most importantly near their current location. This article covers insights discovered by Google where they found that 93% of people who use mobile to research go on to complete a purchase, most happening in physical stores. People are searching and buying locally. Are your pages optimized for local buyers? Search is the most common starting point for mobile research with 48% beginning their quest through a search engine. The report also finds that 69% expect businesses to be within 5 miles of their location. It is important to note that only 17% actually purchased on their mobile device. Customers demand that their searches be local and Google is catering to their needs. Updating Google+ pages is extremely important for local search engine marketing and is growing in importance as new Google software updates are released. These customers are on the go and ready to make a purchase, they are not researching for the future, they are researching for NOW. Google Insights on the Future of Mobile Technology: Consumers spend time researching on mobile – Consumers spend 15+ hours per week researching on their smartphone and on average visit mobile websites 6 times. Mobile research starts with search – More smartphone users start researching about products or services on a search engine vs. a branded mobile site or app. Location proximity matters to mobile consumers – 69% of consumers expect businesses to be within 5 miles or less of their location. Purchase immediacy is key – Over half of consumers want to make a purchase within an hour of conducting research on their smartphone. Mobile influences purchases across channels – 93% of people who use mobile to research go on to complete a purchase of a product or service. Most purchases happen in physical stores. Source: Mobile Path to Purchase: Five Key Findings Nov. 2013 Ready to join the revolution? There are a few things to know while developing your mobile marketing strategy. Consider the Platform – Content must be easy to consume. Bite-sized information served in a concise and relevant way will be consumed more immediately. Understand which platforms speak best to your ideal audience, not just which one may be the newest trend. Use Smart Distribution – Small businesses now have access to the latest tools for monitoring consumer behavior, location, and trends. Break down big data into small and actionable information. Implement your thought leader’s expertise in a quick and timely manner. Embrace Dynamic Content – Dramatically speed up your sales cycle and funnel by tailoring content to an individual user’s...

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Snapchat Hacked: Are you one of 4.6 million compromised accounts?

Posted by on 7:24 pm in Digital Decoded, Digital Trends, Mobile Apps & Sites | 0 comments

Snapchat Hacked: Are you one of 4.6 million compromised accounts?

The latest victim in a growing club of exploited tech giants. Earlier this week, during the happy hubbub of holiday cat snaps and New Years Eve selfies, a huge database of Snapchat phone numbers and usernames was exposed. The hackers didn’t stop at stealing the information, they made it publicly available on the internet through the currently suspended site SnapchatDB.infoCached copy of SnapchatDB.info with the statement: “You are downloading 4.6 million users’ phone number information, along with their usernames. People tend to use the same username around the web so you can use this information to find phone number information associated with Facebook and Twitter accounts, or simply to figure out the phone numbers of people you wish to get in touch with.” — SnapchatDB.info Has my snapchat account been compromised? You can enter your username into this lookup tool to find out if you are one of the 4.6 million unlucky users whose account information has been made public. According to an analysis on Reddit of area codes found in the leaked database; accounts with phone numbers in the following states have not yet been compromised: Alaska Delaware Hawaii Kansas Maryland Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Mexico North Carolina North Dakota Oklahoma Oregon Rhode Island Utah Vermont West Virginia Wyoming My account has been hacked, now what? Snapchat is not the only tech giant to be exploited by hackers, they’re just the latest.  Skype, Twitter, Facebook, and official blog pages were hacked earlier this week by the Syrian Electronic Army, while Britain’s public broadcasting network BBC was hacked on Christmas day. The biggest digital looting of the holiday season occurred at Target, where credit and debit card data from 40 million accounts was stolen over several weeks starting Black Friday.  Compared to these data breaches, the leaked trove of Snapchat usernames and phone numbers poses a minor threat to the safety of personal data.  No credit card information was stolen and no information has been released to show that images and videos were hacked. Now that the information is public, it will spread and find it’s way into the wrong hands. Most effects will be realized weeks, months, and years later. Following these steps will minimize risk: Change usernames that match. If your Snapchat username is the same as the one you use for Instagram, Twitter, or other platforms, it is easy for hackers to connect them to each other and you, especially if you have entered your phone number. Step up password security. Only usernames and phone numbers have been compromised; a strong password helps protect the rest of your data.  Use capitalization, punctuation, and a modified password for each account (i.e. Facebook = PassWord3.f VS. Twitter = PassWord3.t). Delete your account and start fresh. It is currently impossible to change usernames, the only way to truly ensure protection of your data is to delete your current account and create a new one. Learn your lesson. Nothing shared through an application or website is truly private or secure.  The allure of a self-destructing snap has ignited a massive following, but next time it might not just be account info that is leaked. The leak is made even more painful due to warnings of the potential hack made by Australian group Gibson Security last week.  According to their “told you so” tweet on Tuesday, “…the exploit works still...

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Finally, a Great Example of What One Facebook Like is Worth

Posted by on 2:15 am in Digital Decoded, Digital Trends | 0 comments

Finally, a Great Example of What One Facebook Like is Worth

Don’t let the evil man punt Baxter! Give a like, Give $1 to Charity. Maybe you will get off the Naughty List this year. For every person who likes the San Diego Humane Society Page between last Tuesday and Dec. 23rd, $1 will be donated to the organization from the Rachel Ray Nutrish Charity. The goal is to raise $10,000 and you don’t have to spend a single dollar. This social media campaign will succeed for a few major reasons. It is endorsed by mega celebrity, Rachel Ray, and thus can take advantage of her many media channels. Very minimal effort is needed by the user to donate: just a single click. Will Ferrell has been promoting the Anchorman launch for months and the audience is very aware. It is the holiday season and people are in a giving mood, especially when it is free to them. People love dogs. Especially ones that can eat a whole wheel of cheese (we aren’t even mad, we’re impressed). The tough question is how long do these users stay fans of Nutrish and do they ever purchase the product? Often marketers need to clarify to upper management what the ROI will be on the money invested in Facebook. Normally they make assumptions, algorithms or state it is just for brand awareness and link building. In this scenario it is easy to tell the cost of aquisition. It is literally $1 per like. Facebook has recently changed the rules of their promotions and contests within the social media network making it easier to run contests of this nature. As of Aug. 27th, Facebook removed the requirement that promotions be run through an app. Now they can also be administered through a page timeline. Businesses can now: Collect entries by having users post on the Page or comment/like a Page Post Collect entries by having users message the Page Utilizes likes as a voting mechanism By removing these restrictions it is making it far easier for small businesses to run promotions on the site without fear of getting blacklisted or penalized by the social media network. Hiring someone to develop an app or paying for a software as a service can immediately crush any return on investment that was expected by the promotion. Facebook and other social networks are the greatest asset a small business can has in their arsenal to compete against larger chains. For example, our client uses Facebook advertising for three months a year to direct students who are graduating college to their shop for thesis binding. It is a very targeted audience and Facebook is one of the few options to get them the message directly. Have you successfully used a Facebook promotion or advertising campaign to grow your digital presence? Please tell us your story in the comments. Stay classy my...

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