Law of Reciprocity: Why You Should Think, Twice, Before Using it Unconditionally in Your Social Blogging Channels

Law of Reciprocity

The law of reciprocity is evident that appears sparking in the social-game, after analying the comments received on this blog and in my social channels, about my blog commenting – social networking policy.
Law of Reciprocity
The reciprocity law isn’t new, indeed I think is pre-wired on most of humans (not in everybody) and it’s based in the ethical – moral principle of the golden rule: “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself” This law has been present since all our history and today it’s totally relevant to social media plus blogging.

But, we should stick to this law completely? I believe the answer is: YES and NO.
YES and NO: Hey Gera, are you crazy? No, well perhaps a little 😉

I’ll explain it below, why you’d explore all the angles of the situations!


Law of Reciprocity in Blogging

I’ll put a vivid example that YOU must feel of your own or perhaps with a friend to whom it is happening, right now.

The typical comment-back. You comment on my blog therefore I’d comment on your blog.
Let’s do some maths to study the comment back – hey I’ve “eaten” maths all my life, even the ones that are like hieroglyphics – but this is very simple:

Let’s say you make a comment “campaign” or “visits”- call what you want – and comment on other blogs, wisely not spamming (reading previously the article), in 15-20 comments per hour during 2/3 hours per day.
Weekly, you’d done about 150 min – 300 max comments. Of course you’re a master commenting! I’m so far to that numbers 😉

Now let’s say that rate of comment back is of 50% no idea about a real number and I couldn’t find some stat about it (if you’ve one, tell me in comments). So, you’re receiving tons of comments in your blog, more than 100 per week, just for the reciprocity law, applied to blog commenting!

We must ADD to the equation, the organic comments coming from organic traffic like Google, Yahoo and Bing + the comments coming from your preferred social channels.

Overall, your blog is getting hundreds of comments per week, this is great, but really? All it depends of your objectives:

1) If your goals are only reading comments on your blog – objective, done.
2) If you blog just for hobby, and want comments, then I think is ok or not, it depends of your ego and other extra goals you can have.
3) If your goals are to convert ads into money, leads, etc, those comments presumably will not convert, perhaps a handful, depending of your niche, but in general no.
4) If you’re promoting yourself as a developer of recipes, business coach, master on web design or whatever, etc then your comments are more than comments, you’re doing social-networking and may be the effort pay off – it’s up to you. Sure, an arsenal of quality logo promo products armed and ready to be passed out certainly helps too. However, for now, you’re building trust over you and the comments back could be part of your portfolio.


Lessons Learned about the Law of Reciprocity on Blog Commenting:

* Probably not everybody returned your comments, this is fact. Is it worth the efforts? I don’t know it depends, where you enter in the 1-4 points of before or perhaps you have other targets in mind.

* Remember also that you need to write, share posts of you and others, engage, read, to do marketing, SEO, copywriting and learn new tech skills often to go on increasing; this machine never stops!

* I assume and I bet you too, that you want to increase traffic and subscribers. Consequently more traffic, means also more human spam, more comments coming and phew…for how long will you be doing comments back?

You’ll have to take a moment for pondering this exponential-spiral: I comment over you – you comment on me. This is crazy and you’d stop it or you’ll be commenting and nothing more, or worst you’ll be totally burned out!
(Unless, you want a static blog that never grows and this phenomenon should not happen)

Hence my advice about the law of reciprocity is, do it but filtered, be extremely selective and really manage your time properly or you’ll be mad! As you see it’s a YES and NO, all together.

I started in this spiral unconsciously and stopped long time ago. As I explained on my blog commenting policy, I comment, when I can, perhaps back or not. Also only if the article is good or I’ve something to add, if not I move on.

Then, about commenting on other blogs, have your clear your goals in the long term blogging-strategy for your blog?


Social Networking Reciprocity

Let’s see examples of “real” offline life and move these concepts to the social reciprocity law.

You just meet new people in a party, business meeting, convention or a long trip. Now you’ve their business card, or perhaps their emails or phone numbers.
Are these persons your friends? NO, today! Why?

You can see immediately or as time goes by, that this could happen (and it happened to me):

# You’ve no mutual interests
# You’ve different timings, due to works, or because you’re nocturnal and the other is diurnal
# You’ve different tastes in almost everything
# You’ve different concepts of life or politics or whatever



No matter the first mutual contacts, you aren’t friends; real friendship can take some time. So, how you feel that if immediately after the first contact, this person bombards you with phone calls or goes to your home to sale something.
“Hey I’ve your data and I allowed social reciprocity law”. It sounds weird and disgusting, right? Then, why you allow the law of reciprocity online, indiscriminately?
Now we can these cases applicable to Twitter (but the same applies to Facebook, StumbleUpon, Google Plus, etc)

You receive a notification from Twitter that somebody is following you.
Are you going to apply the law of reciprocity? “Hey If I follow you, you’d follow me.”

Let’s see with some examples and tell me, why should you follow back to them?

These persons (or bots) are:

* Only tweeting their own links.
* Only tweeting random links about a theme.
* Has zero tweets and no bio.
* Never mention nobody, always tweeting about herself/himself
* Has a bio but I’m not interested at all, on the topics
* Only tweeting offers, typical of company without a social strategy in mind (really this is broadcasting)
and list go on and on…

Therefore, I repeat, why should you follow-back to them?

The only reasons I could imagine are:

* You know those persons from other social sites
* You know and are interested in what that company is offering
Both cases are valid and I could eventually follow them, but if not, I personally DON’T use the reciprocity law with them!

I know that not everybody think in that way and I respect other opinions. If you’re interested in following people that are not interested, at all, in what you tweet, it’s your call and eventually you can do it automatically.

See a screen-shot how Twitter Manage the Reciprocity Law

Twitter Reciprocity Law

Extra problems of following indiscriminately is start seeing SPAM in your email via direct messages and if you’re not careful with those messages, your twitter account could be hacked (hundreds of account have been hacked before, because owners clicked on “wrong” links)

Regarding spam, Chris Brogan got tons of spams from emails via Twitter DMs and the reaction to cut the same, derived in his Twitter unfollow experiment, unfollowing thousands of accounts for that motive (trying to reduce spam). As an unexpected result, he experimented also the reciprocity law in action on different forms.

I think it’s more appropriated to talk about blogging collaborations between bloggers in social media, instead to meaningless following-backs that can lead to a reciprocity failure.

* You must be vigilant before entering in reciprocity.
* Study if you’ve something in common and not following unconditionally. Why would you follow if you don’t have anything in common?

Is the law of reciprocity valid in social media? YES an NO. It depends a lot of your goals and the way you see the world.

My own advice, utilize the law of reciprocity but classify, manage and be particularly careful when you are in that game, to avoid problems in the future. Don’t make these social mistakes!


Do you use the law of reciprocity often? In comments, in your social networking or both? I’d like to see your standpoints about this matter in comments!


Technorati Tag: Blogging


Gera is a techie & foodie passionate about how to succeed in social media.
He focuses also on successful blogging tips and food connections.

You can connect with him on Google +.

Subscribe to his Free WPulsar Newsletter about WordPress Plugin & Theme Reviews, Blogging and Social Media.



I generally do reciprocate with blog comments. Not so much with following people in social media. It all depends. I have more than one Twitter account. I have no problem following people back with my primary Twitter account so long as I see that we share something in common. If all they Tweet about is hip hop music, then I have no reason to follow those Tweets. It is just a waste of time.

I am a firm believer in the importance of reciprocity though. When I catch people doing nice things for me, I have a strong desire to do nice things back. That includes linking to my site, sharing my stuff on social media, etc..

That is also why I try to always leave a decent blog comment on other people’s blogs. I think it is the least you can do for them in exchange for them giving you a little bit of publicity.


    Ted I believe the same in terms of reciprocate with blog comments whenever is possible. As you’ve read the problem starts when you’ve tens and tens of comments back, the time begins to be scarce and you need to be selective per weekly basis.

    About social sites, I don’t understand people who follow back even without having anything in common, unless you do it automatically and only in Twitter (in that way is easier to follow back)

    On Facebook, G+, SU etc you’d do it by hand and if you see that the social stream of this person doesn’t fit you, why to follow her/him? However there are different tastes about that matter and all are valid 🙂

    Many thanks for coming!


Another thing to learn. I am utterly overwhelmed!


Hi Gera,

I am very careful with this, but I do reciprocate whenever possible, it depends on a number of things. Some of what you mention in this post.

I use to try to make my rounds to comment on other blogs, but after a while that got old, so I only comment when I have something to add.

Sometimes I don’t reciprocate when it comes to commenting, because sometimes, I just don’t have anything to add to the conversations, so I just won’t comment that time around.

As far as for other social networking sites, I don’t follows everyone on who follows me on Twitter. I follow them only if I am interested in in their bio and the blogs/website (have a few things in common). If they don’t have an avatar, bio/profile, I do not follow them even if they follow me.

I agree with you, Yes and No are my answers too.

Take care,



    Evelyn is not the first time that when I go to comment to post, I don’t know what else to add (in general because the post touched all possible themes) so I end reading and go out.

    About Twitter and other social sites, default avatar is almost a no to follow (unless I know this person and is newbie there).
    Other peeve is seeing only links with offers or only RTwetting a big no-no.

    It seems we have the same social concepts, great to hear you and thanks for stopping by 🙂

claudia lamascolo

I use friend or follow and so many friend me then stop and I am appalled that they friend me to gain followers and delete you. Terrible.. I dont use twitter as much as I use to. We do onto others as they do on to me!


    Claudia It happened to me often, you’re just a number to share or to send things.

    Twitter is the best site to practice that: I follow you and after you follow me, I unfollow you…crazy thing…

    So sorry for your loss Claudia….


If the person comes to blogs just for the links, obviously the reciprocation is null for him, in that case is a link-bot harvesting links. I find frequently those guys and unfortunately, relationships with other bloggers don’t count, they are near to spammers or borderline.

Jeremy thanks a lot of for your standpoint!


Hi Gera! Many thanks for sharing these thoughts and strategies. When I started blogging, I engaged in reciprocal commenting quite enthusiastically and I firmly believed that it helped me establish not only readership but also friendships. Reciprocity has been a tremendous help, but there comes a time when the pace of it simply can’t be maintained.

In the past year or so, my rate of return comments (not to mention posting on my blog) has substantially decreased because I no longer have the same amount of time to dedicate online. Consequently, comments received are about a third of their peak and I fret that blog friends – like you – might think I had stopped reading your blogs. This is definitely not the case!

Instead, please be assured that not only am I still reading, but that when I finally do comment, it is because the post really resonated with me. Other times, I will use Twitter to RT a post without commenting on the blog, as a way to show my appreciation of the topic and belief that others should read it as well.

In the end, it is as you say above – what is your blog’s objective? Mine is to share topics and stories that interest me and that I hope will interest others. Anything more than that is icing on the cake!

Thanks again for this great post! 😎


    You’re very welcomed Tracey!
    I know that sensation about reciprocal commenting, at the long term, it cannot be maintained.

    With less and less time, commenting everywhere isn’t possible, even can affect the writing of posts for that motive.

    Perhaps some bloggers think the same about me, I still read several but I don’t comment, unless is something I really need to say 🙂 No worry if you still read me, it’s nice to hear it!

    As you said you can still show appreciation to other blogger, spreading the good articles via social networks (of course if that blogger use them 😉

    You’ve a good point, write for you or for the readers. I feel that first must be themes I like and then adapt to the readers. This post is like that, nothing about food, only about social networking, comments and other stuff that are valuable for all type of bloggers. (The best part is the icing of the cake, because it’s almost ready to be tasted mmm!)

    Thanks to you for your visit and for your kind words!


Hi Gera, Again you and I see another blogging topic, reciprocity in the same light.

I read way more than I comment. Oftentimes there is nothing to add of value that has not already been said. Now the food bloggers, seems that they are the exception and quite different from most other types of bloggers. They will return a comment more often yet I notice they rarely reply to the comments on their own blogs unless a question is asked. In about half of the food blogs I read, the authors will provide an answer. If after visiting a food blog several times and not receiving any return I will stop visiting. If the recipes are above my cooking grade or too common, I will unsubscribe as well.I think conversations on a blog are more validating than a single comment.

There is a small circle of food bloggers that I do consider friends. They visit and comment faithfully. For those food bloggers, yes I do participate consistently, reply to every comment, and read every post faithfully. However, lately I have been supporting them in a variety of ways and not only through comments. I often think how amazing it would be for this circle to see blogging the same way. The number of comments may be reduced but the conversations increased and the overall exposure as well. To me that would be a portfolio to display.

Sherryl @keepupweb had a great post last week about twitter and attaining value. Yes I check every profile before I follow. If we have nothing in common no point in following. Numbers only increase the law of averages, both good and bad, but don’t necessarily increase relationships or value. Better to build relationships and value slowly and consistently rather than deal with the bad acts that comes with high numbers.

Yes and No, I definitely agree!

Have a great week Gera. Thanks for the thought provoking conversation!


    Kathy, I’m in the same percentage much more reads than comments and for the reason exposed: Nothing to add to the conversation, on old posts you see there aren’t answered even questions done, or tons of comments ahead and so forth.

    Perhaps, as you’ve noticed and other readers have noticed, I’m shifting slowly to have more content on blogging-social media in proportion to foodie-stuff. The main reason is the one you clearly explained.

    I was struggling with some other food bloggers that maybe are great in foodie-things and but are a zero in social-stuff. We are all bloggers, first, and then food bloggers. If you took out the social component, you’re only a recipe-broadcaster, period. And for me, the conception of blogging is much wider.

    Several times I “moved”(a lot) socially speaking, posts of great food bloggers who know me, and the feedback was near zero. I did it because I enjoyed and I thought it was a great post, but when you did it tens and tens of times, you begin to start asking if this make sense.
    Later, I understood the reason, they don’t know anything about the necessary social media skills and also they don’t bother to learn also (I think is a huge mistake from them)

    My blog never was a total recipe-broadcaster and never will be (unless now that a guest poster includes one).

    I’m a foodie who love also health-stuff, but also I’m a techie all my life, and now both parameters will be involved here.
    I know that for simple food bloggers will not like, ok they can’t read anymore, if they want. But if other food bloggers and, now bloggers in general, want more than exclusively food, here I’ll be. I recognize that my “new slogan” social media with foodie flavor isn’t a normal combo, but I’m aware that is unique.

    One of the parameter to distinguish if the person is a “wide” blogger with a long term goal, if to see if she/he jump outside of the box and comfort zone, visiting not only foodies, if not other bloggers more in general and this is your case, congrats for that! 🙂

    Commenting is a part of the equation and all bloggers should notice it and long time ago I decided the same, stop do it indiscriminately. I’ll comment when I can, I’m selective and use other social sites out, of food. This when the reciprocation law appeared again and it was shining.

    Thanks, I’ll check Sherryl’s site to see the Twitter posts.

    The dilemma is the same, social proof is just numbers or the quality that is behind. I think if I can choose, I’d chose both, but big social numbers without real persons behind (not bots) don’t make sense.

    Glad you think is a useful post! And if it makes long conversations great too, but never was my intentions 🙂 I want to show the other angles of the social media.

    Have a great week too Kathy! 🙂


      I enjoy the long conversations, AND I think they are helpful for those who read them as well.

      Hugs to you Gera!


Well said…and my mind is spiraling a little fast right now with all you’ve brought up. Reciprocity in any social relationship is natural – that’s a huge reason we are who are today, right? But as you said, the goal is also important – is it to get comments on a blog post? Or to generate dialogue? Or to inform? The other neat side thing to initiating comments is developing a virtual friendship over time…=)


    Belinda blogging without a bit of reciprocity, as in any social relationship, hasn’t value at all at least for me! But I do know that this concept is not for all the bloggers.

    Sometimes when I read tons of blogs per week, I can’t understand which are the objectives in some cases. Maybe they haven’t one in mind and their blogs are just a journal of their journeys 😉


Very interesting! Thanks for sharing your opinion with us.

I must say that sometimes one can go really crazy when trying to answer back all comments. It takes a lot of time and energy…




    Rosa I know commenting takes a lot of time and energy, to be doing constantly. As I entered in “be commenting everywhere” before, now I stopped and I’m more selective on that point. Happy you like it!


I am a faithull follower and I comment on all blogs I follow. I do fell right now so overwhelmed by being away from home for over a month and then trying to settle and catch up. I have now so many post to read and comment. I always tell you that I look forward to your posts as there is so much helpful information. Saludos!


    Many thanks Norma! Try to not be overwhelmed reading, and comment when you can – we’re all busy constantly. Buena semana!


Good points, Gera. I try to comment on blogs I find interesting. I find that a lot of the blogs where comments exceed 50 or so, do not comment back. But maybe, giving the benefit of the doubt, it isn’t a full time job for them. Like me, I have a mainstay business. When I can, I visit various blogs and comments. When work is busy, I don’t have the time and am absolutely done in by the end of the day. I try to get my own post up but unfortunately miss the opportunity to comment on a lot of good posts already out there.
As for Twitter, I follow back if we have something in common. Otherwise, no.
Facebook – I’m still figuring out.


    Joanne I do the same. In very rare exceptions, I comment on blogs with tens and tens of comments in front of me, I read and move on.

    As always job is first and blogging – for part time bloggers – have a second place. For full time bloggers, the story is different because it’s their job.

    I read, or scan in several cases the posts, and If I find interesting, I read carefully or perhaps I comment, depending of the day.

    I feel more comfortable with Twitter than Facebook.

    Recently I prefer Google Plus over Facebook, but however I can’t dump on at all Facebook 😉

Cajun Chef Ryan

I would say the same that Kathy has mentioned, I have no more time to comment on dozens of blogs a day anymore, and even time to comment back on my own blog has become harder. With two jobs now and keeping up with the online blogging, it has taken the back burner.

Bon appetit!


    Ryan totally with you. The big factor is time and it’s impossible to be commenting everywhere.

    Anyway I try to dedicate sometime to respond the newer comments on the newest blog post, but isn’t easy.

    I know, in recession times, most of people are multitasking offline and online.

      Cajun Chef Ryan

      Got that right, I have two jobs now which take up a lot of my time to make ends meet. The blogging is still a hobby, albiet, one that pays a little for now.
      Thanks again!



I do my best to comment back on my own blog’s comments, but again, only if it is of interest to me. I simply don’t understand the random business links and such and I tend to just delete them.

I used to be a faithful follower and poster to numerous blogs and I just don’t have time for that anymore. Now that I have some great blog “friends,” I prefer to read their posts and leave my blog reading at that for the most part. It’s much more fun to actually get to know the other blogger that way.

I think that the rules are a bit different for food blogs and I do enjoy browsing and seeing what other people are making when I have the time to do that.

I’ve enjoyed reading your recent posts here. I haven’t honestly given it all that much thought beyond enjoying the world of blogging as I’ve very recently discovered it. I did create twitter and FB accounts, because several persons requested it.

I don’t even pretend to understand twitter at this point. I try to remember to tweet my daily posts and that’s it. It amuses me greatly that so many people will follow and they have NOTHING in common with me. I occasionally check out my newest followers and if they are actual food bloggers, I try to click through to their site. IF I like it and IF I have some food interests in common with them, I’ll comment on their blog and maybe follow them back on twitter. I imagine that plenty of them stop following soon enough.


    Mary being selective is essential online and to chose careful where to comment and read to not waste time. Agree with you food bloggers are a little different in term of social networking (Some social parts are fine and other I don’t like, but that is it)

    Social sites is to engage with others, but a tiny of automation on Twitter can benefit you (because you’ll do it anyway)
    You can tweet your posts automatically via e.g. Twiterfeed.


    Good questions. Both sites are really for whatever you want. Who said you can not tweet or share your posts in both? The formula is to have a balance and not all the time being talking about you and you. Sometimes share from others interesting things that your followers can appreciate apart from your own posts.

    The problem with subscriptions is that nowadays, social networks are replacing, in some cases, the RSS reader or Google connect. It’s not my case, but also isn’t the first time that I read a post coming from FB or Twitter, before catching up in my subscriptions.

    Anyway, there is no rule for social media, you use it like you want, no matter big gurus can say, because it’s evolving so fast that nobody know all the answers. Today Facebook, in term of users, is one of the “bigger” countries of the world 😉

    As I replied Kathy before, independently of the main interest that can be food, bloggers need several ingredients for the blogging-recipe, namely writing, copywriting, a bit of marketing, SEO and today the social sites. If you’re idea is to grow as a blogger, you can see successful bloggers and you’ll see all these stuff on their sites, and moreover, those components can be out of foodie-streams.

    As you know, without all the necessary ingredients, the final dish can be bland or worst of bad quality. The only exception are chocolate recipes LOL, with chocolate are enough 🙂


Sunny it sounds logical why you’d follow somebody if you aren’t interested in him/her. The same apply on comments-back only if you can add something to the conversation.

Thanks for stopping by!


Thanks Barbara! I think is a common problem for many bloggers lately.


You’re welcome Mary!


When someone new comments on my blog I will generally visit them back and thank them for visiting. However, that said, it doesn’t mean that I automatically add them to my list of sites to visit on a regular basis unless I really like the look/content of their site. I have blogs that I have followed for years now. Sometimes I comment, most times I don’t. I follow them in other places also where I am more social (like facebook and just starting to use twitter a little more). My blog is a story and recipes and my comments are open but I don’t expect them. I know I get traffic (which yes, I want it!) but I don’t need comments to prove it. Sometimes I want to turn them completely off because I get sick of real people leaving unkind comments, but decided that I have comment moderation for that and want to leave comments on for people who want to contribute something and I have semi-tough skin. 😉 Good post Gera!


    This is my case Shelby. I’ve blogs that I follow for years, abandoned others and catching up new ones into my RSS reader.

    If you moderate is a good idea, a hard work too, but you can delete spammers and other rude comments. Anyway I don’t understand why you get unkind comments on your blog..bad karma for them 😉

    Thanks for stopping by!


I try to reciprocate on Twitter if it makes sense after reading the person’s profile, and so far it seems to be working to get some followers. With regard to commenting on blogs, I don’t do it automatically. I will check out the blog of the person who commented, and if there’s interesting content, I will leave a comment. The biological and evolutionary basis of reciprocity is fascinating, but you make an excellent point: it may not extend to the blogosphere!


    I approach with similar ideas regarding Twitter and commenting back.

    Yes not all offline things are good online and vice versa 🙂

    Thanks for coming by!

Deeba Rajpal (

Hi Gera…you make me THINK!! I would love to comment back to reciprocate each comment, but often never find the time. That said, I’m attempting to get better organised {and have to add that I ADMIRE Rosa above for her promptness. hats off to her}.


    Deeba, I’d wish I can reciprocate everybody, but more traffic and comments I’ve, those things become impossible.

    Rosa, for sure, yes she is admirable 🙂


Thanks Natasha! Being selective is a conclusion I’ve had also and no matter if the comments go down or not, time is vital 🙂

Yomar Lopez

Gera, I was introduced to your blog by Kathleen (@WomanMomFriend).. I’m glad she did!

This is all stuff I’ve been thinking and writing about tons lately. As I discussed with Kathleen, reciprocation is good but only when the intent is good. There’s inherent value in supporting others, even the competition, but you can’t expect returned favors.. And, like you said, are those favrors REALLY that valuable?

Great thoughts here and I think you said it all. Now comment back.. J/K!


    Hi Yomar,

    Great to see you here and what an interesting conversation on Twitter about this theme. Thanks also to Kathleen, she’s very supportive to other bloggers!

    I’ll visit your posts about it; this is a recurrent theme that is over the entire cyberspace but not in clear manners.

    As you said reciprocation is good only in a normal way and not always asking something in return. Typical in social sites people just meet you and immediately start asking everything. Are those persons in the same way off-line? I don’t think so.

    Many thanks for your visit and for your feedback too 🙂


Sailu I’ve the same idea, if the post has some value, I can eventually comment depending of my time.

I try to be different and I mix foodie-views with some necessary techie-concepts.
As you said blogging, social media and SEO themes, in my opinion, should be interesting to all type of bloggers, no matter the niche and foodies are not the exception.

Thanks for stopping by!


I think I’m coming to your side…I’m slowly getting overwhelmed with commenting back. I have a people-pleaser personality…and it’s tough for me not to reciprocate. But there is just not enough time in the day. I found your post in my foodbuzz inbox back about 800 shares…can’t keep up there, either, but I knew you’d have some sage advice. Thank you!!!


    Liz isn’t possible to be reciprocating all the time, the day isn’t enough!
    I know my foodbuzz inbox is flooded of posts too, I can’t catch all of them 🙂

    Thanks for coming by!


Sometimes I don’t reciprocate when it comes to commenting, I just don’t have anything to say about the topic! This is very interesting!


I hope I can add more to conversation. I read a of awareness about the law of reciprocity. Now I have to check how this law affecting to my blog and thank you for this info because I uncover some on the blind-spot on my blog.

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