It's Not About Being First... It's About Market Adoption

from the innovation-vs.-invention dept

We've discussed the difference between "invention" (doing something new) and "innovation" (finding a new successful market) before, and it's resulted in some long and occasionally contentious discussions. Fred Wilson put up a post recently where he looked at a series of product "success" stories, and tried to figure out what was the key to success. In each one, he noted that the product enabled people to do stuff in a different way -- but one of the key findings, was that they all had something else in common: being drop dead simple, leading to much greater adoption. As Fred notes:
It is not enough to be the first to market with a new technology. You have to be the first to market with a version of the technology that is simple and easy to use.
This is a key point -- and it seems so key that I'm often confused how people can claim that being first is somehow more important -- so important that we should bar those who have that vision and are able to take a product to a market in a much better way. How can anyone claim that it's a better solution when the people with the vision to make a product more useful and more valuable such that the market will actually use it, should be blocked from doing that?

At the same time, we see all the time how people mock the "followers." As you look down Fred's list -- including products like the iPhone, Facebook, the Wii, the FlipCam, Blogger, Pandora and Twitter -- when each started to become popular, there were naysayers who insisted they were nothing special and no different than "x" that came before them. And, in many ways, those people had a point that these offerings weren't necessarily new as products, but the implementation was new. For whatever reason, each of those offerings were easier/better/simpler to understand in a way that made the market more willing to adopt them, such that they all have become more useful and more valuable to those who use them. Yes, there are still those who bitch and moan that they're "no different" and who don't understand the value. I'm sure we'll see some of them in the comments here. Yet, what these people miss out on is the fact that this isn't a race about being first -- and it's not about how useful it is to just you, the naysayer. It's about what makes the wider market sit up, take notice and find the real value.
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Filed Under: innovation, market adoption


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  • identicon
    angry dude, 16 Jun 2009 @ 9:38am

    BS from Mikey as usual

    "...the difference between "invention" (doing something new) and "innovation" (finding a new successful market) "

    Only in little techdirt lemming-punk's world

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/innovation

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 16 Jun 2009 @ 9:43am

      Re: BS from Mikey as usual

      Only in little techdirt lemming-punk's world

      Actually, it's been the standard economics definition of innovation vs. invention for about a century.

      http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Schumpeter.html

      "Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy is much more than a prognosis of capitalism’s future. It is also a sparkling defense of capitalism on the grounds that capitalism sparks entrepreneurship. Indeed, Schumpeter was among the first to lay out a clear concept of entrepreneurship. He distinguished inventions from the entrepreneur’s innovations. Schumpeter pointed out that entrepreneurs innovate not just by figuring out how to use inventions, but also by introducing new means of production, new products, and new forms of organization. These innovations, he argued, take just as much skill and daring as does the process of invention."

      Why is it little surprise that angry dude is ignorant of economic history as well?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        angry dude, 16 Jun 2009 @ 9:46am

        Re: Re: BS from Mikey as usual

        Your economic knowledge (or rather complete lack of it) always amazes me and other readers of this shitty blog

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          angry dude, 16 Jun 2009 @ 12:48pm

          Re: Re: Re: BS from Mikey as usual

          ...and, my opinion, contrary to popular belief, is not affected by the fact that I masturbate a lot.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 10:08am

        Re: Re: BS from Mikey as usual

        @angry dude - You just got owned!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        JAy., 16 Jun 2009 @ 10:17am

        Re: Re: BS from Mikey as usual

        Mike, while I agree that innovation is as valuable as invention, describing innovation as "finding a new successful market" is not accurate.

        If you invent something, but can't sell it, so I create a more successful on-line store, that is not innovation, that is marketing.

        If you invent something, but can't figure out how to use it outside of a laboratory, but I can relate it to an everyday task, that is innovation.

        I would think a better definition of innovation to be "finding derivative devices, applications or processes related to a prior invention."

        Also note that your quotation in your comment nowhere mentions marketing.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Marcus Carab (profile), 16 Jun 2009 @ 10:25am

        Re: Re: BS from Mikey as usual

        I am always amused when people trot out the dictionary definitions of terms that clearly have specific, specialized meanings when used in context.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        stat_insig (profile), 16 Jun 2009 @ 10:40am

        Re: Re: BS from Mikey as usual

        Hmmm. From the article about innovation (http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Innovation.html)

        The prospect of monopoly profits is a particularly important incentive to innovation. A “new mousetrap” gives its producer an advantage against competitors, at least until the competitors imitate the innovation. As Schumpeter writes,“Every successful corner may spell monopoly for the moment.”37 One example of how innovations often begin with a desire for monopoly profits is the movie industry. In the early days of motion pictures, entrepreneur Adolph Zukor began Paramount Pictures. Like many other movie studios, Paramount integrated the entire film production process, from script writing to filming to distribution to movie theaters owned by the film company itself.38 Because motion pictures were still a relatively new idea, it made sense for a single firm to both produce and show movies—just as broadcast television networks were sometimes owned by the same companies that manufactured televisions.39 An antitrust lawsuit ended the movie studios’ ownership of theaters in 1948,40 but actual monopolies have also assisted innovation in some cases. One legal device designed to encourage innovation is the patent, a legal monopoly giving the holder the exclusive right to profit from the implementation of an idea. Any person who attempts to profit from the sale of something covered by another’s patent can be prosecuted and forced to disgorge his profits.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 11:49am

          Re: Re: Re: BS from Mikey as usual

          "The prospect of monopoly profits is a particularly important incentive to innovation. "

          It's an important incentive to prevent others from competing. Since others can't sell a better version of your product the quality of the product remains low (and the price remains high). This only harms innovation, it prevents products from improving. If someone has a patent on a cell phone then that prevents others from building better cell phones. If someone has a patent on a computer than that prevents others from building better computers.

          Alternatively, NPE's (or patent trolls) get patents on tons of ideas and they sue anyone that does implement an idea that somewhat looks similar to some patent they own. It's cheap and involves little risk to think up ideas and get patents on them. It's expensive and risky to implement ideas. So patent trolls profit from the expenses and risks taken by others.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Mike Masnick (profile), 16 Jun 2009 @ 1:55pm

          Re: Re: Re: BS from Mikey as usual

          Hmmm. From the article about innovation (http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Innovation.html)

          The prospect of monopoly profits is a particularly important incentive to innovation. A “new mousetrap” gives its producer an advantage against competitors, at least until the competitors imitate the innovation. As Schumpeter writes,“Every successful corner may spell monopoly for the moment.”


          Indeed. Schumpeter was a big supporter of monopolies, which is where I believe he goes wrong. Schumpeter got some stuff right, some stuff wrong (like his belief that communism wins out in the end...). But the point wasn't to say that Schumpeter is right on everything. It was to point out that, contrary to angry dude's assertions, the definitions used for innovation and invention aren't in common usage among the economics profession.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      angry dude, 16 Jun 2009 @ 2:40pm

      Re: BS from Mikey as usual

      You know, I sat down and gave it some thought. Life is too short to be so angry. Being a dude is enough. I don't want to tear down others in an empty attempt to dull my own feelings of inadequacy. I need to focus on me, so I can be better to all of you.

      So I apologize for any hard feelings. Please forgive me.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    angry dude, 16 Jun 2009 @ 9:44am

    or you have to be Billy Gates

    "It is not enough to be the first to market with a new technology. You have to be the first to market with a version of the technology that is simple and easy to use."

    For Christ sake rent the movie "The pirates of Silicon Valley"

    Windoze was neither first nor simple/easy to use

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 9:52am

      Re: or you have to be Billy Gates

      "For Christ sake rent the movie 'The pirates of Silicon Valley'"

      Using a fact-inspired movie as a counterpoint...and you're the one questioning Mike's knowledge of economics...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 10:09am

        Re: Re: or you have to be Billy Gates

        @angry dude - You just got owned again!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        angry dude, 16 Jun 2009 @ 10:10am

        Re: Re: or you have to be Billy Gates

        Yeah, right

        better use some of that Mikey's "research" he pulls out of his ass

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Esahc (profile), 16 Jun 2009 @ 10:45am

          Re: Re: Re: or you have to be Billy Gates

          you mean facts?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            angry dude, 16 Jun 2009 @ 2:46pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: or you have to be Billy Gates

            Sorry, I apologize. I misrepresented myself. I was so angry, I was blind to common sense. When I wrote my comment I was grasping for relevant contextual support and failed.

            Mike, I apologize for making a comment about the kinds of research you have in your ass. It was presumptuous and unkind. I should be more supportive of your work, rather than thoughtlessly critical.

            Please accept my most sincere and post-angry apologies. I think your research and your ass are very nice.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 10:56am

        Re: Re: or you have to be Billy Gates

        Even worse, that movie just adds weight to what Mike was saying in the first place!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ChrisB (profile), 16 Jun 2009 @ 11:47am

      Re: or you have to be Billy Gates

      Second-to-market is a legitimate strategy. The "first-to-market" company typically works out the design kinks, and does free advertising and customer education.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      angry dude, 16 Jun 2009 @ 1:05pm

      Re: or you have to be Billy Gates

      ...and while I'm thinking about it, rent the movie "Scooby Doo: Pirates Ahoy!"

      ...Christ, I love that movie...

      ...Oh yeah, and "Ice Pirates"...Robert Urich's shining GLORY!

      ...Robert Urich makes me want to...we'll, you know...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 10:10am

    I'm tired of people who can't do anything without asking for the government to grant them a monopoly. If you don't want to do something without a patent, then don't, no one is forcing you. But you shouldn't take away someone else's right to do something. Others will take your place very shortly.

    It's like those crybabies who claim, "Google should pay us or we won't create their art." Then don't, many other people would replace you in a second. Your argument that "no one would make the art for Google if they don't pay" is nonsense, many people were willing to. Same with patents, people will develop things without patents.

    Even worse are those patent trolls (NPE's) that don't develop anything but they just sit around all day and think up ideas to patent. They hope that their patent is so general, ambiguous, and hidden among the clutter of many many complicated patents that a developer will not see the patent and develop some product that might somehow remotely resemble their patent. Then they sue and since many developers don't want to waste money on lawsuits they often settle. Sitting around all day and thinking up ideas to patent is cheap and has little risk involved. Developing them is much more expensive and risky. So they sit around all day and think up ideas to patent (cheap) and after others have gone through the trouble of developing them (expensive) they sue. Why should they go through the expensive and risky process of developing anything when they can have someone else do that for them? Then all they have to do is sue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      angry dude, 16 Jun 2009 @ 10:15am

      Re:

      Punky

      you are sitting at the kiddie table tonight

      And no more popcorn and techdirt reading for you - doctor's prescription

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 10:19am

        Re: Re:

        Hey AC, is Angry Dude one of those cry babies you were talking about? Sure looks like it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          angry dude, 16 Jun 2009 @ 3:02pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Admittedly, this comment stung. Fortunately, the sharp words served as a klaxon, driving me down the path of introspection and enlightenment.

          Thank you, Anonymous Coward. Thank you.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 10:13am

    Would those followers have even developed a product if the first to market had not been invented? Would those initial products been invented had they not known they would get patent protection?

    What about products that don't differentiate? Prescription drugs for example.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 10:17am

      Re:

      Prescription drugs are one area where a patent makes sense. Patents for online shopping carts, one-click check out and stuff like that is where they don't make sense. One, they are obvious. Two, they are business processes. Anyone can implement a shopping cart without stealing the actual code from another's implementation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 10:20am

        Re: Re:

        I agree with you there, and I am also against some of the patent extensions that are granted to drug companies. Not all of them, but some of them.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bob, 16 Jun 2009 @ 10:46am

    Semantics are FUN

    Let's spend a lot of time arguing about the definitions of words whose meaning we all understand in context instead of discussing the ideas.

    All things being equal, being first does matter quite a bit. For starters it allows you to employ a defensive strategy. It allows you to create barriers to entry, economies of scale, and other competitive advantages.

    That being said, it is not enough to plant the flag and call it a day. Innovation must follow invention. Particularly in high-tech industries, continual iterative innovation is an absolute must.

    That was Fred Wilson's point; that its not enough to be first. Not that being first isn't extremely important.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeffry Houser (profile), 16 Jun 2009 @ 11:28am

    I used to say that to be noticed you have to be first, worst, or best. Although first can be nice, I often shoot for "best".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 11:45am

    Hey, I have a great idea!

    Hey, wouldn't it be cool if your video game console could connect to an external network that would let you download games directly onto your console? You'd set up an account with your credit card, pick the game you wanted, and a couple minutes later, you'd be playing! Pretty cool huh?

    Well, let me introduce you to Gameline. The download service for the Atari 2600.
    http://www.atariage.com/2600/archives/gameline.html?SystemID=2600

    This kind of thing is now standard equipment on all current consoles, handhelds included.

    It only took about 25 years for the idea to gain widespread adoption.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 11:50am

      Re: Hey, I have a great idea!

      Have you ever heard of the Sega Channel?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 1:20pm

        Re: Re: Hey, I have a great idea!

        There was the Sega Channel later, yes. Also in Japan, the Famicom and Super Famicom had similar services. But it looks like the Intellivision beat Atari by a couple years.

        PlayCable -- 1981
        http://www.intvfunhouse.com/hardware/playcable/

        I just thought the huge gap (~25 years) really exemplified the idea in the article. How far removed are the article's examples from the failed-in-the-market original idea? A couple years? They're mostly all web services, it couldn't be that long.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    The Cenobyte, 16 Jun 2009 @ 12:21pm

    Just because you can sell it better does not make you an innovator. This is exactly why patents exist, because it's not fair to the inventor that is bad at marketing, for the guy that couldn't invent his way out of a wet paper bag but can market well to be able to steal the idea and sell it leaving the inventor out of the market.

    I know this site is all about freedom to take things and reuse them and for the most part I am all for it. I also know that this site hates the way patents are used and for the most part I don't disagree. But the idea that someone that can market something should be allowed to just do so because the inventor was not good at it is pretty stupid and would be a great detriment to true innovation (Defined by the dictionary not from the article)

    You need to be careful drawing to many parallels between copyright and parenting here. I know they seem very similar but they truly effect people and markets in completely different ways.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    The Cenobyte, 16 Jun 2009 @ 12:26pm

    Just because you can sell it better does not make you an innovator. This is exactly why patents exist, because it's not fair to the inventor that is bad at marketing, for the guy that couldn't invent his way out of a wet paper bag but can market well to be able to steal the idea and sell it leaving the inventor out of the market.

    I know this site is all about freedom to take things and reuse them and for the most part I am all for it. I also know that this site hates the way patents are used and for the most part I don't disagree. But the idea that someone that can market something should be allowed to just do so because the inventor was not good at it is pretty stupid and would be a great detriment to true innovation (Defined by the dictionary not from the article)

    You need to be careful drawing to many parallels between copyright and parenting here. I know they seem very similar but they truly effect people and markets in completely different ways.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 16 Jun 2009 @ 2:01pm

      Re:

      Just because you can sell it better does not make you an innovator.

      Why not? If you can sell it better it means you figured out how to make a product that the market wants to buy. That's important in terms of economic growth.

      This is exactly why patents exist, because it's not fair to the inventor that is bad at marketing

      Why is it not fair? If you can't sell, you don't make money. Welcome to capitalism.

      for the guy that couldn't invent his way out of a wet paper bag but can market well to be able to steal the idea and sell it leaving the inventor out of the market.

      This assumes, totally incorrectly, that "just marketing" sells a product. That's rarely the case. To be good, you often need a combination of both technical know-how and good marketing. It's that combination that's important, and any smart inventor can/should team up with a good marketer.

      On top of that, if the invention is really unique/valuable, it won't be easy for a marketer to just "steal" the idea in any useful manner.

      But the idea that someone that can market something should be allowed to just do so because the inventor was not good at it is pretty stupid and would be a great detriment to true innovation

      Again, there's little evidence that that's true at all. What we've seen in places where there is no or weak patent protection is much GREATER competition in the market place, as everyone learns that the way to profit is to innovate constantly. So it increases the pace of innovation. If you're just some marketer, you'd get passed by quite quickly and be behind the curve.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 2:08pm

      Re:

      I tend to agree. As an inventor I do not see any reason that I should just give up an invention for free to someone that can market it better than I can. Why should I go hungry while someone who can market my invention well should not go hungry? That makes no sense. We can however come to an agreement where we both share in the profit, the same way we shared in the inventing and marketing. Its not about monopolies, its about everyone getting a share. Inventors add value, marketing people add value. There is no reason why inventions should be free.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    angry dude, 16 Jun 2009 @ 12:57pm

    All Y'all...

    You chumps just don't get it. I am so bloody sick and tired of you imbeciles trying to navel-gaze your way to a coherent thought. The simple fact, if you haven't gotten it yet is that in *spite* of my chronic masturbation, I *still* run circles around you with your pathetic logic.

    Get a life you losers.

    A.D.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    angry dude, 16 Jun 2009 @ 1:17pm

    Impostors be damned

    Have a nice night, techdirt lemming-punks

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 2:37pm

      Re: Impostors be damned

      Well, if your scaredy ass used a real name, may be we would believe you that posts above are "impostors." As it is, you probably just got one hand free for a moment to type up more nonsense and then wanted to back track. Too bad there is no delete button for you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        angry dude (minus the angry), 16 Jun 2009 @ 3:15pm

        Re: Re: Impostors be damned

        You're absolutely right.

        I am horrified by my own insignificance. My callow missives intended to provoke attention are little more than the rants of an unattended child. I crave to belong, to be heard, to be felt, to be significant. Mommy...oh, I am so alone.

        I've been thrust into an ambivalent world made more impersonal by the very technology I use to communicate. I am both haunted and hollow. And I don't know what that means.

        Adieu.

        Please note, my "chronic masturbation" was a misused metaphor. I heard it earlier on Howard Stern and thought it sounded cool.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2009 @ 3:14pm

    "Why not? If you can sell it better it means you figured out how to make a product that the market wants to buy."

    So says PT Barnum.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    CrushU, 16 Jun 2009 @ 3:19pm

    Meaningless Comment

    Epic Lol.

    Seriously... Invention itself should be given a LIMITED copyright. 10-20 years should be just fine, if you can't figure out how to sell/market it by then you REALLY need to let go of it and let others do it. If you've been trying and can't, that's when you sell partial rights and get a marketer to work with you on it. And once that 10-20 years of your glory is up, then you have to actually start working again to stay ahead of all the inventors around you.

    The only problem with this? If someone hits upon a good idea and can market it, suddenly has 10 years where they can do absolutely nothing and get paid for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    zaven (profile), 17 Jun 2009 @ 6:58am

    Just look at the iphone

    I'm gonna point to the iPhone in agreeing hole-heatedly with this one. It clearly wasn't the first smartphone but the simplicity and ease of use of the UI contributed greatly to it's success. When the thing was first created, I had significant doubts about the ease of use with the touchscreen keyboard (it wasn't the first to use one of those). I had used them on Windows mobile devices in the past and I don't think there is a worse experience than typing on a tiny keyboard with a stylus. 2 years later, I've been proven wrong and it turns out people can actually use that on screen keyboard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2009 @ 7:31am

    "2 years later, I've been proven wrong and it turns out people can actually use that on screen keyboard."

    I have used my windows mobile device (with a slide out keyboard) for about 5 years now and I would not ever get a iPhone.

    So we think that marketing should decide how things run in the marketplace? Don't worry about this chainsaw not being safe, it is really cool to use.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      zaven (profile), 17 Jun 2009 @ 8:22am

      Re:

      I could honestly care less what your specific opinion of the iPhone's touchscreen keyboard is. My point was to look at the number of people that have bought the damn thing. Clearly people agree that the keyboard is usable, otherwise that many people wouldn't have bought the thing.

      If you read my comment, I said that I had used a winMo phone which only had a touchscreen keyboard. That experience is horrible. I agree that slide out physical keyboards rule.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2009 @ 3:21pm

    I don't really care about the iPhone either, but my point was that just because someone can sell a product because they make it (or market it) as "cool" doesn't mean being the inventor who can't make it "cool" should be shut out.

    Marketing and advertising should not rule the day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2009 @ 3:34pm

    Pet Rock

    I am reminded of the Pet Rock product. When I first heard about this "new" thing called a Pet Rock I thought "bunk, rocks are not new", and of course I was right. I also didn't think it had a chance of being a hit in the market. Boy, was I wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    staff1, 18 Jun 2009 @ 6:38am

    ughhh!!

    gawd, you're stupid!!!

    if the 2nd to invent actually produces something patentable, then fine. if all they're doing is repackaging a product that is on the cusp of enormous success then all they've done is jump on the bandwagon...just like you.

    unless we reward the first to invent then no one will want to do so. everyone will sit on the sidewalk waiting for it to be a success before testing the waters. as a result no one will innovate. it's too risky. figure it out. ughhh!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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