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It’s a bit surreal to be writing this post—not many people can say they left their dream job twice. Today is my last day as an employee of Stack Overflow. I’ll be joining College Confidential as their Community Product and Operations Manager doing many of the same things I’ve been doing here but with a very different community. To the degree I’m ready for this challenge, it’s because of the amazing experience I’ve had with this community.

When I worked as a programmer at JPL, my first dream job, I was an avid reader of Joel on Software. Joel described software developers who were masters of their craft and companies that treated them accordingly. While I was treated quite well, I looked enviously at programmers who got private offices and didn’t have to fight for better computers. After I was hired at Stack Exchange I didn’t have to envy anymore. The company has always supported me and given me everything I need to excel.

Joel’s legacy won’t, I think, be comfortable chairs or adjustable desks, however. Stack Overflow has given us a far greater gift: global collaboration. Where else can you use the small chunks of time between meetings and such to help someone who lives who-knows-where solve their programming problems? And better than that, your answer can help other people you will never know for years to come. (Upvote notifications on old answers encourage me more than you can imagine.) In my childhood, this was literally the stuff of science fiction.

Obviously we’ve still a long way to go before we achieve an online utopia. As long as I’ve been a community manager, I’ve struggled with what the title means. The goal, however, has always been clear: guide people in the community toward a better future. I’ve developed skills in data analysis, behavioral psychology, event planning, survey design, user interviews, specifications, podcasting and, most importantly, written communication so that by any means available I can be an influence for the good of the community.

I’ve learned so much from my colleagues over the years. It’s impossible for me to imagine a more talented, caring, thoughtful and encouraging group of people to work with. Let me put it this way: I look forward to meetings. (I plan to continue hosting the Unicorn Meta Zoo podcast just so that I can interview my friends here at the company.) Stack Overflow has an amazing future thanks to the hard work of the Community Product team and the unsung heroes who are the Community Managers.

I made this decision in December and it's not correlated with the recent CM team changes. These are just an unfortunate coincidence.

Now I’m not leaving Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange entirely. I still plan to be a user of the sites and to apply to get my moderator diamond back. ;-) I think I come back to the community with a new perspective, ready to help in any way I can. I believe in the Q&A format as a means to pass along information and there is no better place to see that than the Stack Exchange network.

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    Where were you a moderator? You've been a CM for so long I've forgotten. – ChrisF Jan 17 at 15:52
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    Thank you for everything Jon, especially for Meta. I'm sorry to see you go as a CM but I wish you all the best and hope to see you around on the network. – curious Jan 17 at 15:53
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    @ChrisF Biblical Hermeneutics. – Catija Jan 17 at 15:59
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    A great thing about SO having so many employees working remotely, is that those have not gone elsewhere don't get to see how the CM offices get emptier by the day. Silver lining for those that remain. If everybody shared the same space the feeling of seeing more empty chairs could be a tad to strong to bear... – yivi Jan 17 at 16:05
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    Farewell Jon, and thanks for all the hard work! – TylerH Jan 17 at 16:05
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    Oh wow. Your calm, steady hand will be sorely missed in these trying times. I wish you all the best Jon, it's been an honor and a privilege to interact with you, even as little as we have done. – terdon Jan 17 at 16:11
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    The ship is sinking too fast. – Victor Stafusa Jan 17 at 16:11
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    So long, good luck, and I hope someone, somewhere, realises what you're (and communities that you care for) are worth :). – djsmiley2kStaysInside Jan 17 at 16:14
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    Can this be featured please, but no more then 24 hours.... All jokes aside, I wish you a great future Jon. – Luuklag Jan 17 at 16:32
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    That your departure is not correlated with recent CM firings is a small comfort, but nonetheless, I lament that you will no longer be part of the CM team. You were fantastic at your job and I wish you the best for your next one! Also, godspeed on your application to be a mod again. :) – El'endia Starman Jan 17 at 18:40
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    I've written about this transition on my blog too. Turns out I have been doing a ton of writing in the last month or so! – Jon Ericson Jan 17 at 20:50
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    @yivi: We (ugh, they) still have weekly meetings with fewer and fewer faces. It's very discouraging and I don't like to think what next week's meeting will feel like. – Jon Ericson Jan 17 at 20:54
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    I wish you all the best. You and Robert and Shog have been excellent here at SE and I hope every one of you lands where you want to be. – Cyn says make Monica whole Jan 17 at 21:17
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    Now I am saddened to see you step down Jon. Reading Shog's message below makes me remember that I need to be a bit more like you, and a bit less like me, especially whenever I'm with people. Keep shining that light. – Jack Douglas Jan 17 at 21:51
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    Jon, you are/were the CM I most looked up to and most often turned to for much needed advice. This is bad for us, but if it gives you peace, then blessings on you. I will miss you. May the Lord bless you and keep you; may He make His face to shine upon you, and grant you peace. I will miss you. – anongoodnurse Jan 20 at 4:28

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I worked with Jon for a long time. He joined the company 6 and a half years ago, but I had already been working with him for a lot longer than that. Even though we didn't really know each other or particularly even care to know more about the people behind the names in those days... We had been working together since the very beginnings of Stack Overflow, since those UserVoice days. Jon shaped these sites in innumerable ways, influenced more people than we can ever know.

Jon, you've been an inspiration to me. Your writing is invariably thoughtful and well-researched; you draw from a wealth of knowledge and a breadth of experience that I can only dream of one day obtaining. While others babble, you pause and reflect; when you speak, it is invariably to say something worth hearing. I looked forward to every meeting you were involved in; you enriched every conversation.

But what I will miss most is your patience and humility. Even in the face of chaos and overt disrespect, I have never known you to react in anger or to lash out. You are not one to let either pride nor fear get in the way of saying what needs to be said... Whether those words be many or none at all. I envy this, and wherever our respective paths take us next I aspire to continue learning from the example that you have set here, faithfully, for so many years.

Thank you Jon.

Further reading: Please welcome Jon Ericson, Community Manager

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    "While others babble, you pause and reflect; when you speak, it is invariably to say something worth hearing.": this, so much this. Jon has always been impressive that way. – terdon Jan 17 at 16:12
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    As is often the case, Shog9 has phrased my thoughts better than I could have. I have a hard time putting in to words the amount of respect and appreciation I have for Jon. Every single time I've seen him interact with anyone – even in times of hardship – it was with a kind of quite gentle soft-spoken wisdom. Literally, every single time. As someone whose natural state of being is something of a snarky bastard, Jon's kindness, empathy, patience and wisdom has been an inspiration for many years. While you were an excellent CM Shog9, Jon was the best of you all; no contest. – Martin Tournoij Jan 17 at 16:36
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    Lovely tribute to Jon. And I feel for you and have no doubts that companies will be lining up to have the chance of getting you to work for them. Much support to you. – Cyn says make Monica whole Jan 17 at 21:19
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    Thank you for recreating this post that from your now-lost email. It means more than you can know to hear these words from you and I hope our paths will be crossing many times in the future. – Jon Ericson Jan 18 at 1:39
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College Confidential is a good site and it will be even better with you on board. (I can't help but wonder what factors might have led you to this decision, but of course it's up to you how much or how little you want to share.)


Update: Here is an excerpt of the Jan 17, 2020 blog post Jon published called "Why I left Stack Overflow":

In September and October, a series of events demonstrated that leadership within the company neither understood community management nor was willing to learn. In retrospect, that’s likely been the case for years, but the community team has traditionally been given discretion when it comes to community relations. The double-edged sword of attention meant more resources have been going to community-related projects, but also leadership has asserted more control. Unfortunately, their decisions repeatedly violated my standards for healthy community management. By November I was actively looking for a new job.

Thank you, Jon, for sharing your story with us.

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    He details his reasons here; jlericson.com/2020/01/17/leaving_stack.html – Richard Jan 17 at 21:06
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    I might pick your brain about College Confidential at some point. You know more about the community than I do. ;-) – Jon Ericson Jan 18 at 1:44
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    @JonEricson - I don't know it extremely well, but what I have picked up on there is an environment of high school and college students, and parents, seeking and providing mutual support. I know I have found it a very supportive environment. I think it will be great fit for you, and you for the site. – aparente001 Jan 18 at 5:30
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    Also from that blog post: ...Jobs, including the one I start next week, have just been handed to me.... Nonsense, Jon. You have earned them all. Good luck to Jon, I'm sure he will succeed and be valued at College Confidential. – President James K. Polk Jan 18 at 15:57
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    As someone with intimate knowledge of the situation, I can say that Jon is being more than fair @obe... Possibly even diplomatic to a fault. All of these criticisms and more have been shared, numerous times, by numerous people including Jon. – Shog9 Jan 18 at 18:57
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    I realize that I'm in minority here and I also realize that @JonEricson is a valued leader of the community. I am not personally familiar with him or his work, but it's obvious that he is extremely appreciated. I never meant to offend or to suggest that what he did was illegal. I still feel that I would have had an ethical problem to phrase things like he did publicly, but no one nominated me the moral compass of the World (and probably rightly so). However, isn't deleting my comments a little bit extreme? You may not agree with me, but is the discussion not valid? – obe Jan 19 at 12:03
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    @obe - I haven't thought about whether your comments should have been removed. Given the much more reasonable tone of your last comment (thanks, by the way), I have a suggestion: maybe think a bit about the difference between You did that wrong and I would do that differently in your shoes because of such and so. With acquaintances, colleagues, friends and family, the latter approach tends to be received more positively, I find. – aparente001 Jan 19 at 16:33
  • @aparente001 I agree that a softer tone would have probably been better received, and overall more civil. It's interesting, however, that your remark may also be applicable for the phrasing in Jon's blog (at least the specific phrase that bothered me). – obe Jan 19 at 17:12
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    @obe - I'd be happy to talk this over with you in chat. Also, have you thought about trying again to share your point of view, with the more positive tone you're using now? I confess I don't remember exactly which part of Jon's post was the key bit that bothered you the most. – aparente001 Jan 19 at 17:15
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I remember one time, when I was getting training of sorts to be a counselor for a youth organization, we were asked to provide examples of a leader, of any kind, who we looked up to and could aspire to be like.

My example was Jon Ericson.

Of course, nobody had any clue what I was talking about. None of the other people there had ever heard of the network, let alone individual staff members. But to me, over the past several years, Jon has been one of the people that I actively aspire to emulate.
You have a way of communicating in such a clear manner that I'm simply in envy. People respect your words because you use them so effectively, and allow you to lead them. That takes real talent.

When I was just getting started as a moderator, you were one of the most helpful resources available. The wealth of information that you have and the manner in which you are able to communicate it is simply astounding... and it doesn't hurt that you were the one who did the button-pushing of actually giving me the diamond ;)

It is unfortunate that things have come to the point where you are forced to write that "...leadership within the company neither understood community management nor was willing to learn...", and that things are now in the state where they are. But this is a step forward for you, and I wish you good luck in your future roles.

:יְבָרֶכְךָ ה' וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
:יָאֵר ה' פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ
:יִשָּׂא ה' פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם

May God bless you and protect you.
May God shine his face upon you and be gracious to you.
May God lift his face to you and grant you peace.
The "Priestly Blessing", Bamidbar / Numbers 6:23-27; my own translation

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    Your translation of the Hebrew is pretty much spot-on, FWIW. – Tim Biegeleisen Jan 19 at 4:45
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    @Tim - I've been paid to translate in the past, I'd certainly hope my translations are at least somewhat accurate ;) – Mithical Jan 19 at 6:34
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    I've been joking that quitting is a great way to get praise. (Doesn't scale, though.) But this . . . wow. No joke this made my day. (And I had a surprisingly good day all things considered.) – Jon Ericson Jan 19 at 6:35
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Safe travels, Jon.

You'll be missed, even if we haven't heard much from you in the recent past.

I'm not sure what to think about your thoughts about coming back for a diamond, but it's certain that you know best.

It could be considered a glimmer of hope, although without additional clarity about what's going on around here that's something that is hard to hold on.

Thanks for all your work during these years.

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    I've lost the habit of posting on Stack Exchange except for what was required for the job. I'm hoping that will change soon. I do honestly believe this is the best place to contribute questions and answers. I'm especially interested in participating in my old haunts at Biblical Hermeneutics. – Jon Ericson Jan 18 at 0:49
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    We [my wife & I] really love the Biblical Hermeneutics site. – JosephDoggie Jan 21 at 20:14
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Best of luck, Jon. I do hope that you get your diamond(s) back (I forget how many you had before you got all of them on the CM team). It's been a while since we've overlapped in TL, but I always remember you having insightful perspectives (even if I didn't totally agree with them) on community and moderation. I'm glad you're sticking around as a user and hope to still see you around in the mod chat from time to time.

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    My goal has always been to backup my opinions with evidence. I think that makes a difference even when the other person disagrees. Or perhaps especially in that case. I know my opinions are often wrong, but by sharing my reasoning, we can forge better ones together. – Jon Ericson Jan 20 at 18:37
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Good luck Jon. Since the events of September/October (moderator resignations, the gofundme to prevent defamation etc) I was hoping that you, or a colleague within the community team, would have been given the chance to fix the mistakes made when leadership of the company decided to rush in to the role of community management with disastrous results.

You obviously had the skills and understanding to do so, but were not given the chance. I'm glad to see that you have set up your next opportunity, wish you well, and am sure that your role and talents will be better appreciated than they have been in the past few months.

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In some sense¹ I feel like some sites have lost you twice too! Once when your activity (e.g. on the Biblical Hermeneutics where we both moderated) dropped precipitously when you picked up the CM role, and now again.

You did good work Jon, and appreciate the thought and care you put into all your actions. I wish you the best in upcoming endeavors.

¹ Thankfully not in the most personal sense as my first version suggested. I stand grateful for the correction on that point.

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    One of the things I remind myself of over and over again is that friendship doesn't depend on circumstances. I'm eager to reconnect with you in whatever forum makes the most sense. I've looked up to you for as long as I've known you. The events of the last few months have strengthened my regard for your character and integrity. – Jon Ericson Jan 18 at 17:31
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Jon, you helped us on some of the more...subjective...sites handle some of the most challenging interpersonal issues in our communities with patient, calm and measured dialogue, helping us see the best in others where we maybe only saw the overt trolling, as well as supporting us in rapidly removing those that did turn out to be malicious and cruel, or downright obscene.

You helped us grow, as sites, as teams and as people.

With you gone, SE/SO is almost out of reasons for me to remain :-(

Your next employer is a very lucky company! I hope your new role is as much fun as your last one!

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    What can I say, I enjoy the challenge. ;-) – Jon Ericson Jan 19 at 6:26
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    What is an example of those more subjective sites? – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Jan 20 at 7:59
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    Parenting or Music, for example. – Rory Alsop Jan 20 at 12:46
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    Thanks for everything, John. – John Martin Jan 22 at 19:21
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Thank you Jon for all the work you've spent making Stack Overflow a better place for all developers.

I really appreciate your effort in developing SO Documentationanswering everyone's queries and analysing the successes and failures of the project. Though, unfortunately, the project wasn't realised.

Of course, thank you for always listening to suggestions from users, not to mention adopting my idea of a "Documentation User" badge which I fondly remember.

Best of luck in your future endeavours.

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    For a project that had so many bumps in the road, I'll always remember Documentation with fondness. I'm still holding out hope for a revival. (Though I can tell you it won't function much like <strike>Examples</strike> Documentation. ;-) – Jon Ericson Jan 18 at 1:41
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I very much appreciate your open announcement. As so often, you come over refreshingly clear. Factual, yet from the bottom of your heart!

And by being so transparent you saved us (and the moderators here) the potential drama and endless speculations about "why is Jon leaving, right now..."

Thank you for your countless efforts to work with the user community.

I wish you all the best for your future, albeit I am less optimistic about the future of the communities here, and the company running the servers.

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I hope the new job is also a dream job, Jon. Best of luck with it. It'll be odd to see you still around as a normal user.

Thank you for all you've done for the communities.

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Hi Jon,

I have always loved hearing your insights, and the times I got to interact with you on a more direct level were memorably joyful.

Based on your blog post, and this, I am in some way looking forward to hearing your voice joining the chorus of community. Your posts have always been so inspirational and thoughtful.

More and more it seems there is a deep set issue with the decisions being made at Stack Overflow. That pains me, and it pains me to see the collateral damage reach people I admire.

I hope that your newfound location appreciates you as much as the community here does. Regardless of how this plays out, we will always appreciate the work you did here.

I wish you the best Jon, and I genuinely hope to see you around :)

-Travis

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    Yep. I'll see you around. Maybe even a bit more than the last few months. ;-) – Jon Ericson Jan 19 at 6:25
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It is sad to see another high quality member leaving. Congrats on being able to move to a new position that you can enjoy. Thanks for all your hard work here and I wish you well on your future endeavors.

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I do not know you, nor any of the CM/moderator team from SE. I'm just a regular SO programmer who from time to time look at the meta site, without writing. Just into that 99% of users.

I just wanted to say that you looked like a good guy and a great professional. I'd bet I'm speaking on behalf of that 99%, as well.

Good luck in life Jon.

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I made this decision in December and it's not correlated with the recent CM team changes. These are just an unfortunate coincidence.

I wish you well. I'm glad it doesn't have to do with the recent changes.

It's just a shame to be losing yet another person that has invested into the community. And so soon after the others.

But again, I wish you well. I hope your new job becomes your new dream job.

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    "I'm glad it doesn't have to do with the recent changes." - I mean, I wouldn't totally say that. See his blog post about the departure where he goes into more detail: "Why I left Stack Overflow" – V2Blast Jan 19 at 5:45
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    I'm just replying to what he has said here. See my edit. – Chipster Jan 20 at 3:34
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For all intents and purposes, I am no longer using SE (any of the sites, in any form) but I saw this and wanted you to know from someone who had a negative interaction with you roughly 80% of the time (I'm not going to link, the posts are easy to find):

I really do appreciate the tone and professionalism you showed during all those interactions

More than any other CM or employee, you were the one I saw most take our ire & I always respected the honest way you responded. Thank you for all the work you did.

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    Perhaps this is part of my secret, but I don't recall our negative interactions. ;-) In any case, thanks for the compliments. – Jon Ericson Jan 30 at 0:52
  • @JonEricson none of them were negative because of you. Just negative in the "OMG, what is Stack doing now?!" way and you simply were the one to handle it (meaning me ;) – LinkBerest Jan 30 at 1:27
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Thank you for everything Mr. Jon, especially for Meta. We're sorry to see you go as a CM but we wish you all the best and hope to see you around on the network.

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I'm new to this community. Thanks Jon for taking efforts to make this community a big one.

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All paths come to an end and this time your new journey starts Jon! Hopefully in this new adventure, you will feel reward and appreciation as always and you would be able to help more people with your time and great work!

Good luck in the next stage!

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