Time Zones and Distractions

I’m trying to determine if I’m more productive when I’m 5-8 hours ahead of most of the people I work with, or more productive on roughly the same schedule.

Pros for being in US:
More hours for overlap, making communication more efficient.
Nights are more free with less obligations.

Pros for being in the UK:
Less hours for overlap, making communication less distracting.
Mornings and early afternoon are more free with less obligations.

I think this brings up the bigger point, which is that certain types of work are better done in solitude, whereas other work is best done with minimum friction for overlap. When I have things I feel I have to do or want to work on (which is especially true at the beginning of a year), any noise that gets in the way makes me grumpy, regardless of how many hours I might spend in the gym to connect with my inner zen.

So, one day in, and I either need to block off more hours during the day without interruption, or wake up at 2am each day. Or I just need to accept that the first week of the year is always chaotic when everyone gets back to it, and revisit this next week. For now I’ll just let out the loudest yell of relief that the first Monday or the year is over!

If you’re reading this on Facebook, this post is auto-imported from http://dylanschiemann.com/2011/01/03/time-zones-and-distractions.

Random Tech Thoughts and Reading

Some random tech thoughts from recent reading:

iAd Producer

iAd Producer is a really interesting approach at getting people off of Flash for creating ads with open web technologies. We need something like this for Dojo users.

Lego Photo

Lego Photo is a fun free app. Smashing apps has a recent article about 12 awesome yet free photography apps for the iPhone.

Hybrid Startups

A nice article from the people at Redfin appeared on TechCrunch on Hybrid Startups. I’ve often argued that people spend the most money on tangible things, and only pay for software when it’s super compelling or addictive. This article talks about how startups that create something that’s both digital and a physical product or service are perhaps easier to defend once they’re successful.


Kris Zyp of SitePen has been working on many many projects, one of the latest being ComposeJS, perhaps the Dojo 2.0 replacement for today’s dojo.declare.

You Choose

I rarely agree with articles in the Economist, though I feel mildly guilty when I walk by their London office just a few blocks from my flat. But their article on the proliferation of choice ties in nicely with my “getting too meta” point in my random thoughts from 2010 for 2011 post. Basically, we need to make choice less difficult, without losing the power of many options for many types of people.


I always like a good article about subtle ways to get people to do what you want them to do. Neuro menus and restaurant psychology discuss how restaurants do this with menus. So next time you’re in a place and wonder why you’re drawn to just a couple of dishes on the menu, ask yourself why and order something else. And no, don’t fall for the reverse-reverse psychology trap, or you’ll never decide what to eat.

Build Apps not Businesses

Build Apps not Businesses reminds me that not everything has to be immediately productive or directly useful. Always a good reminder for me when I’m working like a maniac.


SimpleGeo’s tools are really impressive. We need to add support for this to Dojo and Dojo Mobile.


awe.sm has really awesome urls. I really wanted to try out TweetPo.st, but new sign-ups are suspended for now, so perhaps I’ll try out awe.sm at some point.


Zombie.js is yet another way to test JavaScript code, this time on top of Node.js. I wonder if this approach would add any value for Dojo or SitePen.

Google Font Directory and Ubuntu

It’s great to see the Google Font Directory include the Ubuntu fonts. This, TypeKit, and a few others have really started to transform the fonts we use and see on the web, and in a much better way than our previous generation of hacks like sifr.


I’m curious to see if Forrst can carve out a niche not currently served by Stack Overflow or Quora.

Uncertainty in Romance

Ok, I consider some types of medical research to be techy. Such as the recent study on uncertainty and romance. Per the study, the women in the study were least likely to like men who only like them an average amount, more likely to like a man if they’re told that the man likes them a lot, and most likely to like them if they’re told that the man either likes them an average amount or a lot (what they call an uncertain condition). This brings new meaning to the value of sending mixed signals.


The EFF is always putting up the good fight, one of their latest points being on Traitorware, software or hardware that stores details about you or sends them off, without your consent.


CoffeeScript is getting a lot of attention in the discussions about making JavaScript easier to work with. Basically take some of the best syntax and approaches of Python and Ruby, and make them work in JavaScript.

For those reading this on Facebook and elsewhere, this post is auto-imported from http://dylanschiemann.com/2010/12/30/random-tech-thoughts-and-reading/

On Being Less Absent-Minded

I was going to write a blog post on being absent-minded, but I forgot what I wanted to write about. Kind of like when I joined the procrastinator’s meetup group, only to find out they hadn’t gotten around to meeting up yet.

Seriously though, I’m an extremely absent-minded person because I’m very in the moment. I get fully immersed into whatever I’m experiencing, and try to let the rest of the world drift away. It’s terrible for phone conversations because I listen, discuss what to do, but then need someone to send me an email or file a ticket on me or else I’ll never remember to follow-up because I’ll be in the next moment.

So, I’ve been looking for ways to fight this tendency. I used to take notes, or create todo lists but then I would forget to look at the notes. I end up finding the notes a month later, realize I’ve done half of the things on them, and the rest I’ve either flaked on or were not that important to begin with.

Now, I sort of end each conversation or experience I’m having with a mental list of the most important things I promised to do. And then I act on them before the next thing comes up to distract me. This means no immediate back-to-back meetings any more, because if I’m going to do something, it needs to be done right away. It gives me the added bonus of removing clutter from my life.

I’m sure I had something much more insightful to say, but for now, not so much.

(For those of you reading this on Facebook, this post is auto-imported from my blog: http://dylanschiemann.com/2010/12/29/absent-minded/ ).

On Charity and Billionaires

It’s nearly impossible to go a day without hearing about how Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are giving away half or more of their amassed fortune to charity.

The skeptic in me asks “why is this such a great story”? I’d argue that it’s not.

I look back at the thousands of lives and companies that were ruined in the wake of Microsoft’s competitive business practices in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and think “why bother competing so hard if you’re just going to give it all away later”. And giving it away in an area that’s not their core competency (you could argue their business experience makes them a better judge of how to make donations, but it’s too soon to prove).

One of the things that has made the past decade or more in silicon valley great is “coopetition”. Meaning that instead of trying to destroy every company anywhere near your space, you find companies you respect and work with them, and together you build something greater than if you were each stepping on each other and trying to destroy each other. For example, the iPhone features a lot of Google services (though our government decided that too close of a friendship between these companies was anti-competitive, so now they’re competing against each other when it’s really not a good use of resources in my opinion).

Competition is great and drives us to do better (see Ajax toolkits), but imagine how much further ahead the world would have been if Bill Gates had been driven to truly create the best, most innovative computer ecosystem in the world, rather than a monopoly. Or if we hadn’t driven all of our manufacturing overseas through policy, regulation, and business tactics, effectively destroying the US middle class. Perhaps the world just doesn’t work that way.

I’m a capitalist through and through. However, a winner takes all system isn’t great for the future of the world. Hopefully, the past decade in the valley can change that, rather than it just becoming about how Zuckerberg, Brin, and Page win all and donate half of their amassed wealth at the expense of every other company in their wake, with the rest of the world hoping for a handout.

Random Thoughts from 2010 for 2011

Some random thoughts from 2010 for 2011 based on articles I’ve read or seen in the past 10 days:

Mobile Apps and the Open Web

It’s really great to see books like Building iPhone Apps that teach people how to use web app techniques instead of just another book on using Objective C for iPhone, Java for Android, etc. With tools like PhoneGap, Dojo Mobile, EmbedJS, and far too many others to name, hopefully the tide is turning back to using web open technologies for building great mobile apps.

Great Marketing in 4 Hours?

I really love the title of Tim Ferriss’ new book, The 4-Hour Body: An uncommon guide to rapid fat-loss, incredible sex and becoming superhuman. I wonder if he again used AdWords to choose the book title? Or is Facebook Questions or a Facebook ad campaign or a set of Twitter links the new way to test a book title in 4 hours? And why 4 hours and not 3 when it comes to the body? (Queue reference to There’s Something About Mary)

Getting Too Meta?

Running Java inside JavaScript? Seriously? I mean, we can already run JavaScript inside Java, and create JavaScript code from Java, if that’s your cup of tea (it’s not mine). Regardless, I think 2011 will be the year where bringing some cohesiveness and order out of the millions of microprojects and microtoolkits will happen, because developers only have so much time to look at your 500 new projects each month on GitHub.

Always Add Value

Will you mentor me. No is a simple article I saw on Hacker News. It should remind you that whenever you’re asking for something, it’s better to add more value than what you’re asking. Get to the point, remember that everyone is always busy, and make the person you’re asking the favor of have a reason to care. And backup what you say with what you do.

Your Favorite Tech or Site is Already Dead

Whether it is email, the web, the PC, Java, J2EE, or anything else you love, everything evolves and changes, or else it dies. And until it is officially declared dead, it’s not really alive. JavaScript the language is finally undergoing some pretty massive changes to help developer productivity right now to prevent it from dying sooner than it should.

The Transporter

Seriously awesome physics breakthrough in 2010. And strange irony to be linking to Fox News for its coverage. Now, if I could just find a good climate change article… never mind.

JavaScript Game Engines

2011 will be the year when JavaScript becomes a seriously powerful enough platform for non-console game development. Crafty and Impact are just two of many examples to emerge.

iAd Producer

iAd Producer really fascinates me. It gets ad agency designers off the Flash crack for creating HTML5 Ads, but it also shows the power of creating tools for building very focused apps, sort of like Palm’s Project Ares

Git vs. SVN

I actually still like SVN over Git for many reasons. I find it fundamentally difficult to manage larger projects with Git+GitHub. That said, maybe I’ll learn some new SVN to Git lessons and change my mind? That said, why do we have to all switch to one source control system? Is SVN truly dead? Is Git? It seemed so much easier getting my brain on vim.

Dislike Button

Everyone is waiting for the dislike button, because right now not liking something is the same as disliking it. That said, while I agree with Stallman on WikiLeaks and freedom, I think the FSF’s article on disliking Facebook because of its control over the net is both brilliant and awful. It hits way below the belt, and comes across as authored by conspiracy theorists and being alarmist, rather than sticking to the provable facts about why a closed ecosystem is fundamentally bad for the world. I never really understand the idea of giving people reason to disagree with you just to draw attention to your point. To summarize: open ecosystem, good, scaring people into not using Facebook at all because big brother can watch you more easily, not good.

The Pains of Launching

keep trying to smear him. And he keeps getting stronger.

Dark Patterns

The evil things people do to trick you into using or buying their product. They know what you want. And yes, I know, that’s a title of a great book on a similar topic.

Better Twitter Client

Will a better Twitter client come along now that Tweetie for Mac seems all but dead. Twitterific and TweetDeck are both interesting, but neither quite do it for me. I guess if TweetDeck had better UI I’d probably switch.

So Glad I Never Finished

One of the best lessons I learned was not finishing my Ph.D. It seems others are agreeing with the diminishing returns and value of our doctoral degree and near-slave labor system for training new scientists.

Computing Your Skill

A truly awesome article on Computing your Skill. I hope to have time in 2011 to finish reading it.


In 2011 I plan to try and sleep more. For many many years I’ve averaged 5-6 hours per night. This year I’m aiming for 7. Perhaps there’s an app for that?

Overused Buzzwords

Per LinkedIn, here are 2010’s most overused buzzwords:

  1. Extensive experience
  2. Innovative
  3. Motivated
  4. Results-oriented
  5. Dynamic
  6. Proven track record
  7. Team player
  8. Fast-paced
  9. Problem solver
  10. Entrepreneurial

Bummer, I’m all of these. Have we run out of unique words to describe ourselves?

Digg and Delicious

It was a brutal year for two of my favorite services. Are they dead? Or has Kevin Rose’s halo effect worn off in a Twitter-centric world? If only social networks were around in previous decades.

WiiFit, without the Wii

It seems like many of the good Wii ideas are being morphed onto other platforms. Is FitFu the WiiFit for the iPhone?

Inspiring VCs

The world has truly changed for me, as I now find several VCs to be inspiring. Mark Suster’s Both Sides of Table blog is always a good read. I recently enjoyed his post on running more effective meetings.

Cash Cow Disease

Is Cash Cow Disease really any different than Dutch Disease, but on a corporate rather than country level?

FlyerTalk, TripIt, Trip Advisor and Seat Guru

4 web sites I spend far too much time on.

The Art of Action

The Art of Action offers tricks to learn from the Prussian army and more. Seriously cool article, need to find time to read the book. A prime quote: “Specifying too much detail actually shakes confidence and creates uncertainty if things do not turn out as anticipated. Furthermore, trying to get results by directly taking charge of things at lower levels in the organisational hierarchy is dysfunctional, for a leader thereby “takes over things other people are supposed to be doing, more or less dispenses with their efforts, and multiplies his own tasks to such an extent that he can no longer carry them all out.” Thanks BA for this read on a recent flight.

This post originally appears at http://dylanschiemann.com/2010/12/21/on2011/.

2010 Highlights

2010 was a year packed with many things… random highlights that come to mind include:

  • London Calling & Green Park: After years of enjoying and visiting London, I got a business visa and a flat with Maria and spent about 5 months here working, meeting with clients, traveling to other places in Europe, etc. My flat is just a few blocks from Buckingham Palace and is surrounded by history. The winters are terrible though. This change had several consequences, including…
  • switching from US Airways to British Airways as my primary airline. I now have preferred status on both. It also helps that SitePen won an amazing business opportunity grant from BA. After years of poor experiences with BA, I learned first-hand what a great airline BA can actually be.
  • I found myself not getting out enough in the tech scene, and with no perfect JavaScript or Ajax group, I started the London Ajax User Group with Piotr Zalewa (of MooTools and JSFiddle). The group is up to nearly 300 members, has had 9 events to date, including a one-day conference.
  • We also hosted a Dojo Mobile Summit in London which was good from a proximity perspective with many of the Dojo Foundation’s mobile projects being based on this side of the pond. Besides progress on mobile efforts, the result is also a Dojo Foundation Mobile Roadmap.
  • SitePen hosted a Dojo Workshop in London, with attendees from Germany, Norway, and all over England.
  • I had more people visit me in one year in London than in 3+ years in Arizona, with house guests from Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa! London truly is the center of the world. It was great to see a lot of friends and show them the sights. It also encouraged me to take time and be a tourist.
  • I was in London for the start of the World Cup, with the USA tying England much to the disappointment of all of London, especially on the queen’s birthday. And I was around to see Spain win its first ever championship, including crazy celebrations at Piccadilly Circus. Update: And I got to catch a match at Wembley Stadium with Robin Bowes, with York City taking on Oxford. Robin was interviewed by his local news after York’s disappointing loss.
  • I had the great opportunity to be on the first episode of JSConf Live. Thanks Rey and Chris!
  • Maverick (my dog) moved to Nevada to live with my parents, and he’s very happy to have a new playmate, Buster

2010 was also a year of significant give and take:

  • I’m a proud uncle for the first time, with my sister and her husband having an adorable new niece Alanna,
  • but I’m saddened with the loss of my amazing Grandpa Otto, who passed away right before Thanksgiving.
  • My Arizona home was robbed, but almost everything was recovered because the thieves were busted for smoking pot, stole a suitcase, and left my tags on it.
  • I lost an external hard drive on a BA flight, but it was found and since recovered.
  • Maria’s uncle had brought her a carrier unlocked Nokia white smart phone from Spain, but it was stolen from his luggage. A few weeks later I was at a charity auction/party where I met many great people, I bought £5 worth of raffle tickets and won the same phone model back, but in black. Thanks for the invite Hermione and Kristy (who also went to high school in Sparks, Nevada… small world)!

I’ve been advised to buy a lottery ticket, lose it, and then those numbers will win, and then I’ll find the tickets.

I did a significant amount of traveling again, some for work, some for play, including:

  • Five weeks in Thailand and Cambodia, including elephants, temples, near daily massages, first attempts at yoga, and so very much more. Flat Stanley also came along providing great stories for my cousin Katie.
  • Oslo to help lead an HTML5 CodeCamp at a great spa, and talk with KLP about Dojo.
  • Rennes and Paris, France, for amazing crepes and to meet with great teams at Orange Labs.
  • Stockholm for SWDC 2010 where I finally met Daniel Glazman after 10 years of knowing him online, and got to celebrate Nikolai’s birthday.
  • Copenhagen to visit Mark Wubben and have a Dojo Beer event
  • Brussels for FOSDEM where I gave a talk on Dojo and spent time with Nikolai from Uxebu and two of the guys from Facebook’s open source team
  • Munich for Dojo Connect. I guess it somewhat defeats the purpose of an online conference, but it was a great excuse to stay with Tobias and Sonja
  • San Francisco and the bay area several times, most recently for the Dojo Developer Day at Palm (thanks Ben and Dion) and got to meet a very generous group from RIM/Blackberry. I also had the chance to visit with Michael Carter (Hookbox), Atif of Kupoz, my Mom & Dad, and so many more.
  • New York a few times for various meetings and fun
  • Amsterdam with the great people from Uniface and Hermione Way of Newspepper and The Next Web for iCU 2010 and Bad Ass Squares 3. Uniface was also nice enough to invite me to speak at their UK user group event.
  • And while I was away, az-javascript was started and I gave a talk on Dojo at one of their events.

Finally so much of what’s listed above would not have been possible without the hard work and success we’ve had with Dojo Toolkit, Dojo Foundation, Persevere, and SitePen, and I’m extremely grateful to get the opportunity to work with extraordinary people every day. Thanks to everyone for being part of my 2010!

One Year Without a Car!

For the first time since I was 16, I’ve had the very liberating yet un-American experience of living without a car. Sure, I’ve had to rent/hire a few cars in various places, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time in taxis (or in Thailand, tuk tuks (never again) and red buses), but most of time, I’ve been able to just walk or rely on the underground/subway.

I do not miss driving, as I think it is fun only when you can drive very fast on the open road. The USA unfortunately makes it difficult and risky to do with over-regulation and terribly unaware drivers. I could always move to München I suppose, and drive on the autobahn, but I don’t truly enjoy driving to justify moving there (though it’s a great city to visit).

That said, my experiment is coming to an end for a bit in 2011. I’ll be back in Arizona for a couple of months and need to decide on a car (it’s one mile just to leave my subdivision, so it’s impractical to not have one). It’s too long to really just rent or hire one, and far too long to borrow one, so I get to choose between buying something that I’ll only keep for two months (in other words, something really low end), or something with reasonably high resale value (e.g., a high quality used luxury car or a classic car). I’m terribly impatient with auto maintenance and repairs, so none of these options are particularly appealing, and really, who wants to drop money into something that’s only real purpose is to get you from A to B? A vintage 1965 Mustang like the one we had on set this weekend was pretty incredible, but the time and effort to maintain it would not suit me.

So, if you have any creative recommendations, I’m open to suggestions.

December 14th was the 9th and final London Ajax User Group event for 2010. The topic was widgets, with talks about YUI and Dojo’s Dijit.

A quick aside: I started this group earlier this year with Piotr Zalewa of MooTools and JSFiddle fame as I wanted to meet more people in London given the amount of time I am here, and bring a bit of the JavaScript valley culture to London.


This event was interesting as I had lost my voice, so fortunately I wasn’t a scheduled speaker. We started off by announcing a pair of prizes:

  • SitePen Dojo Boost Support Plan
  • When released, winner’s choice of: Blackberry Playbook or iPad 2, sponsored by left over funds within the London Ajax group

Everyone in attendance received an entry, and all reasonably good questions received an additional ballot entry.


The first talk was delivered by Matt Parker on the topic of YUI. Matt started by talking about the difference between the two versions of currently in use, YUI2 and YUI3.

He showed off an example with a number of widgets from a product his company works on, and talked briefly about .

After a quick intro to YUI2, he moved on to YUI3 which has a much more efficient and modular coding style. YUI 3.2 has a short list of widgets: overlay, editor (no UI), scroll view, slider, tab view, with more coming in version 3.3: Charts, tree, autocomplete, datatable.

YUI3 makes it easy to pull in YUI2 code which is fortunate given that YUI3 is still a work in progress, as it was a complete rewrite from YUI2.

There’s a YUI community gallery on Github, and it’s easy to include widgets from that gallery:

YUI.use('gallery-treeviewlite', function(Y){});

Matt also showed off the Alloy UI from Liferay, which looks to be a very promising external widget project.

YUI3 has a significant focus on performance, with almost everything being modular and pluggable.

Other nice things in YUI3 include touch events, and an experimental project for using Node.js for server-side rendering of widgets.


Sam Foster of Dojo and SitePen then delivered a talk on Dijit.

Sam mentioned that the name Dijit represents many things: a project, namespace UI components, framework, and a guarantee (of quality).

Dojo has been around for 6 years and carries a lot of really hard earned, painful lessons. One major rewrite and significant incremental releases have occurred over this time. Sam distilled the most important Dojo APIs into one simple slide.

Dijit is themeable, accessible, internationalized, extensible, and production-ready. There’s an impressive theme tester, and Dijit is part of each major Dojo release.

There’s a newly launched Dijit-based Dojo API viewer that supports the current and several recent versions of Dojo.

Dijit provides CSS for themes, allows for instantiation of widgets through declarative markup (1.6 uses HTML5 data attributes instead of custom attributes) or JavaScript.

DojoX provides many additional widgets outside the scope of Dijit including grids, charts, image widgets, and much more.

Dijit contains many classes of widgets, including layout widgets, form widgets, and more.

Sam concluded by discussing the value of ui frameworks, Dijit precepts, and explaining what actually is a widget (HTML/CSS/JavaScript).


The talks were great, and the video and slides will soon be available.

If you’re in London, we hope to see you at a future London Ajax User Group event. We meet the second Tuesday of every month at 6:00pm, and occasionally have an all-day event on a weekend.

Bad Ass Squares Part 3

I had a great time recently being part of the filming of Bad Ass Squares Part 3. Compuware’s Uniface has created the Bad Ass Squares videos as a really fun way to promote their product for developing enterprise applications.

The company is Dutch, so all filming has been done in Amsterdam. The movies are inspired by the work of Tarantino, the famous director of Dutch decent. In 2009 we filmed the first movie, an inspired clone of the opening credits of Reservoir Dogs. I play the role of Nice Guy Eddie so I wear this hideous 1980s track suit and have glued on sideburns that border on Austin Powers. I think we spent about 12 hours and walked miles to get two minutes of useful footage.

As a result, I developed a huge respect for the process of film making and acting (and the need for a trailer during long breaks!). The people at vStream are amazing, and handled all of the directing, video recording, sets, and post-production work. They’re Irish and a lot of fun to work with, and they’ve also done some really interesting and innovative work in the 3-D space as well. After all, it isn’t every company that gets to haze the new employee by throwing them in the trunk of a 65 mustang and not get sued.

The second movie was also filmed in 2009, and has the same characters but in a made-up scene, where the Bad Ass Squares take the girl away from the non-Uniface developer. The lines are cheeky which makes them fun, and when we clear out the bar, I’m busy texting with two phones at once, because I’m that bad ass.

The term bad ass squares basically refers to the cool geek, and without introducing any spoilers or revealing my zen jedi master sideburn tricks, I’ll just say that we make a big comeback in part 3.

I don’t think I’d ever want to be involved with movie production on a regular basis, but as far as weekend diversions go, it was a lot of fun, especially because of the great people I got to work with from Uniface, vStream, and of course Hermione Way of Newspepper and The Next Web San Francisco. My friends and Dojo people might remember Hermione from our London Ajax event as well:

London Ajax JSMiniConf Event Report from the London Ajax User Group.

Ok, fine, if you’ve made it this far, obviously you know that Kill Bill inspired this movie. I have a few behind the scenes photos on flickr and there’s a nice set on the Uniface facebook account. The movie should be out in a month or three. And I still don’t have an answer to my question of “how do you green screen a green screen?”

Cliff Lee to the…. Phillies!

I had a hunch the Phillies would sneak in and sign Cliff Lee, which they did yesterday. They seemed to realize last season that letting him go when they acquired Halladay was a big mistake. They were afraid they couldn’t resign him, but it seems that letting him spend 2010 in Seattle and Texas made him appreciate Philadelphia even more.

I’ve never been a Phillies fan (I’m an A’s fan), but watching the composure, confidence, and absolute domination he had over the Yankees in the 2009 World Series made me want to be a Phillies fan. Sadly for the Phillies, Lee couldn’t pitch every game, though with Halladay now, they’re going to be incredibly difficult to beat.

I didn’t get to watch the 2010 series while in Thailand so I can claim ignorance of his 2010 world series performance, and look forward to watching a few Phillies games in 2011.

Even if you’re not a baseball fan, you should find and watch his two games in the 2009 world series. It was a masterful, inspiring performance on baseball’s biggest stage. If after watching those two games, you don’t want to dominate whatever it is you are passionate about, then you need to find a new passion.

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