Jim Harrer

STARTUPS, TURNAROUNDS, APPDEV, AGILE & LIFE...

Why my Apple Watch is in my drawer, instead of on my wrist. My review after 4 months.

Apple Watch Goes in DrawerApple Watch - My 2nd review.

My Apple Watch moves from my wrist to the drawer. Why the product failed to maintain my enthusiasm.

I purchased my black Apple sport watch back in June and for the past four months, I wore it every day.  I wore it at the gym, work, doing yard work, and special dress-up events, like a wedding and business events.  I used all of the most popular apps and installed Apple's new WatchOS update a couple weeks ago. For me, the watch has been a disappointment.  Let me explain why.

#1. The Apple Watch fails at being a watch.

Apple will tell you the watch is just beautiful. The truth is, 99% of the time the watch is blank. The face is turned off. In my case it's like wearing a black cube on my wrist. Apple will tell you it's stylish, in fact they recently released a host of new bands to show you how personalized it can be.  I find this hard to swallow, because it's still not very personalized when you stack all the watches side-by-side, they are just different watch bands attached to a blank silver or black case.  As a fashion accessory, or even as jewelry, I think the Apple Watch fails without the watch face on.  This could all have been solved if Apple just given us more choices of how long we wanted the watch face to remain illuminated. Today you have two choices, 15 or 70 seconds.

Apple ignored how many times people glance at their watch, without moving their risk.  Apple ignored how often people glance at other people's watches when in meetings.  With the display off, the watch simply fails at its core duty - telling you, and anyone near you, the time.  This is where Apple blew it with me.  The watch fails to always tell me the time.  Turning my wrist, tapping the screen to tell it to turn on, that is ridicules. 

What if...

Apple would have allowed me to set the auto-off length, from 70 seconds, to say 15 minutes? Now, you would have a unique watch face, with personalized complications, your case in black, silver or gold, your colored band...  now you have something truly unique on your wrist.

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7 Weeks with the Apple Watch–A product guy’s perspective.

FullSizeRenderI received my space gray (black) Apple sport’s watch on June 11, 2015.  People ask about it all the time, so I thought I would share my “first impression” with you.  If you're on the fence, this review may answer the question, "buy now or wait until v2?"

A couple disclosures to help balance the review.  I am a watch guy.  I’ve worn a watch since my parents purchased my first Timex for my 13th birthday (long ago).  I have a lot of watches, high-end and low-end, I don’t like to wear the same watch all the time.  I had an early calculator watch, I participated in Pebble’s initial Kickstarter.  I have a specialty watch for when I scuba dived, did Triathlons, biked and monitored my heart rate (both Polar and Mio) during workouts. I used a BodyBugg 5 years ago to measure my activity and food intake. Today, I wear a Fitbit charge, I wear a MOOV when I swim and kickbox. So, I like wearables.

I thought what might give this review a little different slat is to write about this product from a Product Manager’s perspective, looking at this product simply as a v1.0 product launch.  For those of you who have been following my blog, you also know that I can’t resist adding my predictions on the future product roadmap and offer up a couple suggestions on what would make the product perfect.  I hope you enjoy it, as always, I enjoy your comments and emails, so drop me a note with your feedback.

A Strong Product Introduction

It’s actually mind bogging to think about the challenge Apple faced with this product introduction.  I’m a software guy, which means I have a great deal of respect for hardware designers.  Prototyping, alpha & beta physical product testing, iterating, tooling, supply chain management are all challenges we software guys get to avoid.  In the early days we did worry about how many disks or CDs we needed, which is why we figured out how to allow people to download our software and install it; we needed to simplify distribution.  Hardware designers don’t get this option. Consider this, most of the analyst have Apple selling 30 million watches in the first 12 months, though I suspect this number was a huge miss – more on that in a moment.  Anyone what to guess how many units they ordered for the launch?  2, 3, 5 million?  Then juggle 38 different models, it’s a crazy number for a version 1.0 product.  New merchandizing challenges, cases, displays and training for their gurus.  Add a new operating system (OS), new activation, and new integration with the iPhone – it was an amazing orchestration. Today, Apple Watches are available in their retail locations for immediate purchase, around the globe and soon will be in Best Buy. 

The Apple Watch as jewelry

FullSizeRender 1The watch is nice, I wouldn’t call it beautiful like some of the reviews.  The reason is, 99% of the time, the watch display is off.  Unlike a Rolex, Omega and similar priced Citizen watch, the Apple watch will not get you any compliments, because it’s turned off.  Unlike other smart watches, like the Pebble, Apple decided it couldn’t risk the batter life to have the watch always telling time.  I get the reason, however this choice places it more in the fitness tracking category for me, not a watch.  A watch should always tell you, and anyone else around you glancing at it, the current time. Once the watch face is always on, the Apple watch case, band and watch face will take on the style of it’s owner.  Not before. 

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Apple SWOT– June 2015 Update

2015-Apple-SWOT-Analysis-JimHarrerI wrote the first SWOT analysis on Apple back in 2012, since then 32,000+ of you have read it making it one of my more popular posts. I admit, it’s fun even for me to go back and read it to see what has changed. Many of you are college students and I do enjoy your emails.  If you appreciate the update, please leave a comment, share it on Reddit or give the website a citation in your paper. Today, I had time to watch Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference (#WWDC15) keynote today and thought this would be a good time to update my Apple SWOT analysis.

Apple appears stronger than ever, iPhone & Mac sales are up and an impressive list of opportunities lie ahead with the Apple Watch, Apple TV, CarPlay, HomeKit and HealthKit. I hope you enjoy the update.

Apple, Inc.

Apple Inc. designs, manufactures, and markets personal computers, mobile communication devices, digital music, video players and wearable smart devices. The company also sells various related software, services, peripherals, and networking solutions.

The company sells its products worldwide through its online stores, retail stores, direct sales force, third-party wholesalers, resellers, and value-added resellers. In addition, it sells various third-party Macintosh, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch and iPod compatible products, including application software, printers, storage devices, speakers, headphones, and other accessories and peripherals through its online and retail stores, and digital content and applications through the iTunes Store, Apple App Store and Apple Watch App Store. Apple also has a number of subscription services, namely iCloud Backup Storage, Apple Music Streaming and Apple iMatch for music backup and multi-device playback.

The company sells its products to consumer, small and mid-sized business, education, enterprise, government, and creative customers. As of March 28, 2015, Apple had a total 453 retail stores, worldwide. The company, formerly known as Apple Computer, Inc., was founded in 1976 and is headquartered in Cupertino, California.

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3 tips to start your DevOps program within your Information Technology (IT) Department

DevOps-IT-JimHarrer

What is DevOps?

DevOps is a software development framework that stresses communication, collaboration, integration, automation, and measurement of cooperation between software developers and other IT professionals, (including Product Managers/Product Owners, IT Operations, IT Infrastructure, Enterprise QA, Release Management and Change Advisory Board). The framework acknowledges and supports the interdependence of software development, quality assurance, and IT operations, and aims to help an organization rapidly produce software products and services and to improve application performance in production.

The evolution of DevOps.

Many IT organizations do not have a formal DevOps program in place today, however a 2014 CIO survey stated 88% of CIO have it on their roadmap, up from 66% in 2013. The concept was first introduced back in 2009 as the Agile Software Development methods began to mature and evolve. DevOps was born out of the need to study the hand-off between software development and IT operations.  In order for development teams to get in a consistent production release cadence, Agile leaders quickly learned IT operations would need to be become part of the “agile team”.  However, anyone who has worked in IT understands, there is a natural friction between developers and operations.  It won’t surprise you that most developers find the deploying of software outside their job duties and IT operations will likely tell you developers are sloppy with their handoff, often leaving out critical deployment instructions or configuration changes.  Yet, when it doesn't work in a lab outside of Dev, it often requires both teams to figure it out - causing even more frustration within these teams.

A successful DevOps program will strengthen the relationship between development and operations, giving them a common goal: Delivering quality software, faster, as one team!

Here are 3 tips to help you get your DevOps program off the ground.

#1 – Create a DevOps cross functional “Team”.

Break down walls between development and operations by creating a DevOps “Team”.  Similar to scrum teams, a DevOps team starts better when they’re able to self organize. Being a members of the DevOps Team is a part time team activity, we don’t want to create another silo by removing them from their functional teams. These members come together each week to meet and collaborate, then go back to their functional teams. However, just like with any team, it’s best it if has a captain and a coach.  There are two ways to approach this, one way is to have co-captains and co-coaches, ideally one from development and one from operations who share the responsibility. The second approach is to assign a Captain and Coach from one group.  If this is the way you want to go, I would suggest the IT Infrastructure team take lead, simply for no other reason than they’re usually “accountable” for anything in production, so having them lead the program will give it a better chance for success.

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Help me find my next adventure…

I’ve decided to leave TrueBlue, Inc. where I have been part of their IT Leadership Team for the past 2+ years as their VP of Application Development.  This was a difficult decision as I really enjoyed working with many of the people at TrueBlue. Plus, their mission to put anyone who wants to work, to work, is a truly honorable profession.  A $2bn+ enterprise, I will continue to be a champion for the company, as well as a shareholder – I wish them continued success.

When I joined TrueBlue in 2013 they wanted to bring an entrepreneurial spirit to their application development team in IT.  As a past CEO of enterprise software applications, I had sold to CIOs of enterprise IT for over 20 years and didn’t give moving into an IT role a second thought.  Boy, did I have a lot to learn and was constantly humbled by what I didn’t know about IT. I learned a ton and want to thank all of the IT pros, especially in IT Ops, at TrueBlue who took me under their wing to teach me. I think I got it and at the same time, I got to teach and mentor a lot of smart, talented developers as we pushed each other to improve our craft in SDLC.  I’m proud of the progress we were able to make in two short years and know I left the team, and our internally developed applications, in better condition than when I arrived.  Still, moving on is always hard, but it’s time for someone else to take them to the next level.

What’s next?

I’m not exactly sure, but I’m excited by the possibilities.  It was fun and challenging working in IT, focused on modernizing legacy applications, solving scalability and reliability challenges, tools, perfecting agile SDLC in the enterprise and DevOps. But, I have to admit, I miss having more involvement in the problem we’re trying to solve. So…

I would like to get more deeply involved in product management, roadmaps, features, design and working more closely with sales and marketing to either introduce new innovative products or work with an existing team to help take an existing product line to the next level. I miss connecting with customers, finding their pain and figuring out how to improve an existing product or create a new product to solve the pain.

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Copyright

© Jim Harrer

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Alexa and I - 90 days and loving it. New tricks I hope the Amazon Echo will learn in the future.

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Amazon Echo - The first 90 days.

I jumped on Amazon's offer to purchase their Echo when I first heard about it.  Alexa, as she was named by Jeff Bezos's team, arrived on February 3rd, 2015. 

I've read a couple of reviews and am happy to share my perspective, however I thought it would also to be fun to talk about some of the things I hope Alexa will learn to do in the future - so I'll discuss both and hope you'll use the comment section below to ask questions and add your own observations.

Review & learning to talk to Alexa

I thought it was incredibly easy to unpack and get set up.  I was talking to Alexa in less than five minutes.  I decided to take her to the office where she would see more consistent use, and even moving her to the company WiFi was painless.  I've got to hand it to the Amazon team, connecting my TVs and DVRs to my home Wi-Fi were much more difficult.  The companion Amazon Echo iOS app I use makes navigating the Amazon Echo pretty darn easy.

I immediately started my conversation with Alexa, things like:

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Morgan - A great dog's five rules to live by.

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For my friends, family, neighbors and care providers (trainers, vets, groomers, etc..) who came in contact with Morgan, my hope is you'll join me in remembering her for the great dog she was.

She was born on 12/31/2002, though our paths would not cross for another six years (1/3/2009) when I stumbled on her at the Bend, Oregon, Humane Society. I was planning on adopting a 1-year old, chocolate lab/boxer mix that day, but God had a different plan. Morgan laid curled up in the back corner of her kennel, with an expression that screamed, “I don't belong here.” Unlike the other 80+ dogs barking and jumping up on the mesh fence as people walked by, Morgan just glanced up at me and gave me one tail wag. As I read her intake form, I learned she was six years old, had never been socialized around people or animals. No formal training, in fact she didn’t know how to sit on command, or fetch, and trusted no one. The reason she was there was because her previous owner couldn't afford to care for her any longer.

Here is the very first video I captured of Morgan when we brought her home. Mike Kathriner was visiting and nailed the fact Morgan hated cameras and as you'll see in many of the photos, she often looked away.

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Put Up the Hoop Sooner - 10 lessons of parenting from one wise guy who's done the dad thing.

This was emailed to me by another dad to help us reflect on Father's day and to give some insight to younger dads.  I share many of  these 10 lessons in common and thought it was fitting to pass it on.  Thanks to Hugh O'Neill for this well written article.

...Jim


Put Up the Hoop Sooner

10 lessons of parenting from one wise guy who's done doing the dad thing
By: Hugh O'Neill

 

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5 Best Practices of a Startup Leader

I’ve been around the block a few times as a technology leader. I’ve been fortunate to start a company, bootstrap it to profitability, skipping the VC rounds, taking it public on the NASDAQ exchange and then having a successful exit – this was over a 14 year span. I learned to manage, I learned the importance of leading by example. Since then, I’ve done another startup and performed three corporate turnarounds, all feeding my intense desire to learn how to build financially sound and insanely happy and productive companies. I thought I had heard and seen it all. Boy was I wrong.

13831827 sThis past year I have been working with 10 startup companies. Some through our accelerator here in Bend, Oregon, others through a recent Startup Weekend we held in Bend and the rest through my consulting practice. Not all startups are created equal. Some start with one person, others with more. Some start with a techie developing a killer mobile application, the other a mom with an idea on how to reduce her child’s asthma attacks and that’s it.

Working with these companies I’ve had the chance to see what has worked and where they’ve stumbled. I’ve been able to start understanding the Best Practices of a Startup Leader. The first thing you should note in my title is, I chose the word “Leader” over manager or founder. I strongly believe you lead people, and you manage things. Startups are about people, not the things. The things are artifacts of the production from the team. Production drops when people fail to lead.

If you’re thinking of founding a startup, or if you’re a founder of a startup, here are some of the Best Practices I’ve observed from the founders I’ve worked with:

1. They’re passionate.

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If your website can't respond to spike demands, it's time to consider Windows Azure.

My wife Debbie and I caught the premiere of NBC’s The Biggest Loser the other night. For those that follow the show, Jillian Michaels returns as the senior screamer on the show. I like watching the show because of its use of embedded product placements and am always curious what they’re going to do next.

TheBiggestLoserThis year, The Biggest Loser has a totally redesigned fitness center, with all of the equipment provided by Planet Fitness, a low cost, neighborhood gym model, available as a franchise. They appear to be out lifting 24 Hour Fitness, the previous equipment sponsor on the show.

As the premier was airing with Bob, Jillian and Dolvett beaming over the new gym equipment by Planet Fitness, I decided to visit http://www.planetfitness.com/ to see if anyone had purchased the rights for Central Oregon, where I live. I’ve been a gym goer since I was 14 and have thought about owning a neighborhood gym for the past 20 years. But that is another blog post, I digress.

windows azure on JimHarer dot comWhen I attempted to go to Planet Fitness, their site crashed. The premier had over 1 million viewers; I suspect this was a spike the Planet Fitness IT team may have not expected. I'm sure the sales and marketing team were happy their product placement created demand, yet immediately went into shock when their web site crashed.  I want to suggest a better way. If Planet Fitness would have moved their website to Microsoft Windows Azure Cloud Platform, they could have easily adjusted the amount of computing resources around their original air dates on both east and west coast premiers. Once their website and member portal is converted to take advantage of Windows Azure elasticity, it’s really as easy as logging onto the Azure management portal and moving a slider up and down to allocate more or fewer server instances.  You have the advantage of extra computing resources when you need them without paying for a maximum build out of a datacenter only to be fully utilized when the Biggest Loser airs.

If your business is a B2C (Business to Consumer), and you’re approaching the tipping point, your IT staff should be moving your customer facing web properties into the cloud. IT staff are always resistant to change, especially outside their comfort zone.  This is when you need a team of skills-based consultants who have been there and done that, successfully.

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Why everyone should experience a startup weekend.

Why everyone should experience a startup weekend.

I had the opportunity to attend a startup weekend here in my hometown of Bend, Oregon. In 54 hours, I watched 30 ideas, turn into 7 concepts that developed 7 companies including 7 websites, facebook pages and twitter feeds.  Each team conducted interviews with potential customers and defined their first release backlog for their Minimal Viable Product (MVP), embracing the Lean Startup principles discussed by author Eric Ries. Each team also created business models to help them understand their potential revenue opportunities, cost of goods sold, SG&A and profit potentials.  On Sunday night at 6pm, just 48 hours later, these new companies presented their five minute pitch deck to a group of judges.  One company had secured it's first paying customer, and another company was invited into a local World Market to test their homemade Venezuelan chocolates in the store. These teams gained an amazing amount of traction over the weekend. In this blog post, I plan to share some of the lessons learned from the weekend and how they can be applied to your startup.

I had heard of Startup Weekends being held in other cities, but I didn't give it a lot of thought.  Honestly, the idea of spending my entire weekend coaching teams didn't sound like a lot of fun.  Boy was I wrong.  Not only was it a ton of fun, it was insightful, rewarding and energizing. Let me explain...

Startup Weekend Bend OregonWhat is Startup Weekend you ask?

Startup Weekend is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities to turn a pitch into a startup. These are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers, business strategist and past Founders (acting as coaches), come together to share ideas, form teams, build products and launch startups.

Some people assume Startup Weekend is a tech driven event solely for software programmers, like a hack-a-thon, they're not. Startup Weekend draws a wider audience with broader skills: sales, marketing, business development managers, finance, UX/UI, web, CSS, data architects, past founders and current CEOs, CFOs, VCs and a handful of experienced Angel investors.  Add these skills early on, when the MVP is being defined, changes the  typical focus on "product development" to "customer development", asking some tough questions, early. Like, "Who is our customer, what is their persona, and how much would they pay to have this product or service?"  Add in the 54 hour time box around the event, you also bake in a real sense of urgency to move quickly into customer discovery.

What happened at Startup Weekend – Bend, Oregon.

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Inventor lighting up Kickstarter with a new approach to illuminate bike wheels for safer night time riding.

Introducing the Nori Lights - Bicycle Illumination System

San Diego Kickstarter and Inventor, Chris Flynn, came up with a smart way to Illuminate your bike wheels, letting drivers recognize you instantly at night. Well all know that tiny front and rear lights are not enough. Check out this video:

I know Chris Flynn, he's family, as Nori is my Uncle Nori.  I'll be the first to tell you that Uncle Nori would be very proud of Chris.  You can trust Chris to deliver on his promises and deliver on your pledge.  I would appreciate if you would support this project, by:

  • Telling your friends about it.  Add the link to your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn profiles.
  • Buy a Nori Light System if you own a bike, purchase a tee shirt if you don't.
  • Forward this link to one bike shop in your area. Look them up on the web and send them an email via their contact us page.

Let's start another small business in America.  Please support this project today.

Thank you!

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TWiST Podcast featuring Nolan Bushnell on Atari, Chuck E. Cheese, Brainrush and Education (traditional, online and distant).

This is an exceptional episode on ThisWeekInStartups featuring Nolan Bushnell. Nolan is know for many things, including founding Atari, being Steve Jobs' boss, starting the restaurant chain Chuck E. Cheese's and, most recently, creating the educational startup Brainrush.

If you're an educator or interested in education, online education or distant learning, this is an excellent podcast to watch. You'll get to learn about brain decay and other cool things.

If you're just old enough to have used an Atari 2600 or played Combat or Pac-Man for countless hours, this is a great podcast to watch.

Finally, if you're 50, 60 or 70 years of age and still courous about the future and what can be, instead of focusing on what is, this podcast is worth your time.

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DVR Captures over-the-air HD Programming, Simple.TV - Another Kickstarter Project

The Living Room continues to evolve.

I likely have a very common living room which consists of a 55" Sony HD TV, XBOX 360, LG BluRay DVD, Apple TV and a DirecTV HR21 DVR. My DirecTV cost $121.99 per month, a whopping $1,463.88 per year.  When it comes to programming, we have DirecTV's Choice Xtra package which includes 195 channels, HD and DVR features. In reality, my wife and I watch primarily 13 channels.  We've tried to cut the cord and live off of Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus and AirPlay from our iPad to Apple TV, but it has it's drawbacks.  One drawback I would like to address in this blog is content from the major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and PBS).

Introducing Simple TV (known as Simple.TV as in http://www.Simple.TV)

Assuming you can receive HD signals from the major networks at your home or office, Simple.TV is a small device that captures these signals, converts them to digial and stores them on a network storage device.  Simple.TV does not plug into your TV, it connects to your home network via an Ethernet port, an HD antenna or basic cable connection, a USB 2.0 Port for an external drive and power.  As I understand it, once connected it will appear as another media device on XBOX, Roku or iPad.  It records full 1080p HD Video and allows you to watch live TV from any of these devices.  You can also purchase their programming guide service for $4.99/month and schedule programs to be recorded just like any standard DVR.

SimpleTV

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Facebook's Stock, their float and the importance of a solid Investor Relations (IR) strategy.

I took a mini vacation for the past week, I came back to several emails regarding my thoughts on Facebook and why I was holding on to the handful of shares I purchased in the IPO.  I didn't think the post would generate so many negative emails. Before I respond, I want to make it clear, I don't edit comments left on this blog.  I would prefer you post comments, rather than send me emails debating my blog posts so others reading this blog can also chime in. You can post as a guest if you don't want to leave your name. 

Facebook's Overhang

Several of the emails I received felt I didn't emphasize the amount of stock which would flood the market through the rest of the year. To recap, prior to last Thursday, Facebook had 421 million shares in it's float, on Thursday they unlocked 268 million shares which is what helped drive the stock to an all time low of $19.05. In October, another 192 million shares will unlock and then right before Thanksgiving, a large block of 1.2 billion shares will unlock.  As many of you pointed out in your emails, this is a fundamental supply and demand problem.  One email went on to say that technology fund managers may also reallocate their portfolios this quarter, which will add additional downward pressure in September. Another said that some fund managers no longer believe they need to have Facebook in their portfolio and pointed to the mass exodus on Zynga and Groupon from popular tech funds. 

I can't argue with these comments and the fact the Facebook brand is taking a school yard beating right now. In hindsight, the overhang in the stock should be a concern to any investor thinking about $FB.  I can't agrue with supply and demand. Who is going to buy this 1.4 billion of new stock? Does anyone know the answer? 

Another email said I didn't spend enough time pointing out Mark Zuckerberg's lack of maturity and that I should have suggested he would better serve his shareholders as a Chief Technology Officer, not the CEO.  I see his point, however I don't have enough information to agree or disagree. I don't know Mark or his BOD. Call me old fashion, I invest in people and am usually LONG in my investments, therefore I haven't given up on Zuckerberg just yet.  Their BOD must have faith he can hold the top job.

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