The Good Bad Bug: Fail Your Way to Better Code

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The Good Bad Bug: Fail Your Way to Better Code
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Programming history is filled with bugs that turned out to be features and limitations that pushed developers to make even more interesting products. We’ll journey through code that was so ‘bad’ it was actually good. Along the way we'll look at the important role failure plays in learning. Then we’ll tame our inner perfectionists and tackle an approach to writing code that will help us fail spectacularly on our way to coding success.
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the the the the
the the the the the I will go ahead
and get started and so that any conversation with someone right before this and had happened on the people have been to a lot of really competent like let's say more than 5 OK cool cool I'm curiosity has anyone ever thrown up on the light I'm asking for a for and this just kidding and so if anyone and here is cold it's because you're all sitting so far apart measures like me Antony for those of you watching from home this room is packed standing room only had anyhow thank you so much coming into my talk the good bad by learning from failure I'm just red that's my
Twitter handle I'm not so Kon Tum on you tube if you're in the U-tube this is probably the easiest way to find me and I love to reading and being treated act so feel free to do that alright when I was 26 I decided that I wanted to learn how to pilot a plane now my friends and family were pretty skeptical you are afraid of height you get motion sick you don't even know how to drive a car and every single 1 of these things is actually very very true but I didn't see how it was relevant no 1 was going to click my wheat so now we're 6 once on and I'm coming in the final approach to relate to 1 in Santa Monica for just a routine training flight I pull back on the throttle play cool the yoke of so that I'm just colliding then and I have a beautiful moral last landing and suddenly there was a shampoo audio and inflamed jerks to the side and my search death was like and that the plane might have over there and as you have the plane light it will be responsible for it at this point they stay clear of the plane to a stop and notified the tower to let you know what happens when we got out to look at the damage a flat tire my heart rate had finally started to return to normal the plane safely stopped at a flat tire was a big deal if there were just don't have to go back to make this change of the tire directly was that he blocked for less than 5 minutes and everything was fine so was actually pretty surprised when just said hey drop back of the classroom and I'll come back to the paperwork my heart rate jumps straight back up below no 1 got hurt Why do we have to gardening paperwork here I don't understand and he said I mean I was the biggest and paperwork also was really not a fan of being in trouble so I was really hoping that actually got in trouble and just like a it's no big deal you see it turns out that the FAA collects data on pretty much every event big or small the tiny tire blowout on a runway in a four-seat airplane they wanted as much data as possible so they can start working out patterns that can help them implement C 4 systems they know that having more data means that are going to be able to draw better conclusions but they also know that people don't like paperwork or getting in trouble so as long as no laws were broken and nobody got hurt and you filed the report in a timely fashion you're not to be in trouble nothing about the wildly
different approach that we have for road accident when I was on my was 12 years old I riding in the back of my parents a brand new shiny satin we were literally coming over the dealership in the 1st car that they had ever blocked in the 1st new car and was sitting at a stop light and suddenly lurch forward we had been rear-ended my dad got out to check what we were all OK you got a check of the driver who was an extremely nervous 16 year old boy looking at this brand new card he just hit my down looks it over and he says there's just a tiny hole in the bumper from the guys license plate it as well bumpers of 4 he reminded the kid to try to drive a little bit safer than we all piled back and were not quite as shiny hard we drove home not a single minute paperwork was filed no data was gathered they're actually isn't a single group in the United States that's responsible for collecting data about road accidents it's usually handled by local agencies and I can tell you if you call the police when you have a flat tire they're not actually really happy to hear from you the following up business no 1 that wants to do it unless someone was injured or your filing an accident but at the client site and inches claims so these 2 approaches have actually led to very different outcomes I looked up the most recent
steps that were available which were for 2015 and for every 1 billion miles that people in U.S. travel by car 3 comma decimal 1 people die and for every 1 million miles people in U.S. travel by plane the only 0 comma decimal 0 5 deaths now if you're like me in dB especially when you're talking about a a tiny fraction of a person can be difficult to comprehend so that a little bit easier if you
hold the miles traveled steady 64 people died traveling in cars for every 1 person that dies traveling in a plane is something really super interesting hiding in that data we have different approaches that lead to 2 very different outcomes and the key difference when I started to dig in really was how each 1 approach to dealing with failure you see it actually turns out that failure is incredibly important part of learning now before we go much
further it's probably a good time to make sure that we're all on the same page when we talk about failure so what is the earlier I think for some of us it's probably that sinking feeling you have the pit of your stomach when everything is going wrong there's a person with a very bright red face cream I you and you like like I even bother getting out of bed today and I can definitely definitely relate to that when I was in fact work in this talk I started looking online and a lot of lay people were like this one's easy failure is the absence of success as like that that sounds really right much success of no worries they said if the after the failure OK and that's the answers of success in our in an unending that doesn't work for you in programming so FIL Antony expert and the experts have a very specific definition of failure and them is a deviation from an expected and desired result None the that's pretty good I mean honestly I have some truth in every single 1 of these definitions but this last 1 this 1 is actually a measurable and testable surrealistic but this 1 for the rest of the talk now can't find any definitive data but I think that programmers are some of the people that have more results than anyone else that deviate from our expectations so I was thinking that programming would actually be an area that we have a lot of people that were learning from failure but 1 of the few places in the programming industry that I could find people capitalizing on failure was actually video game development so
when my family example then this is the game space invaders you know as you know the game right
so it's that old arcade game where you control a small and kinda firing at understanding row of aliens as you if the aliens speed up making it harder and harder to shoot them right that's not what the game was supposed to be space invaders was developed by a guy named Thom on hero Nietzsche Codd this is back when a game could be developed by 1 person in 6 weeks instead of 6 thousand people in 27 years so plan was actually have the aliens remain at a constant steady ClickPaste in matter how many you killed until the end of the level I was only when you switch to a new level that the elites would speed up it was just 1 problem he designed his game for an ideal world now I don't know how good you are at modern history but 1978 was far from ideal he actually placed more characters on the screen then the processor can handle and as a result the aliens actually chugged along at a slower pace and only reached the intended speed was enough of the sprites had been killed off that the processor could catch up now he has a few ways that you could have dealt with he couldn't decided to shelve the project and we can tell the hard work on up an amazing silly but he's an artist and maybe he has a vision and he won't change a thing now he also could decided well the process the kids handle that many aliens so all change the spec instead of having 60 screen at once all have 20 on-screen at 1 and that's reasonable of as well but instead of being rigid and just making a decision right away he decided to test it out 3 denoted here by the investors and they loved it they love it with the broken algorithm and out so excited as things sped up they actually started making up stories in their head when they were described the game they're like all the aliens are starting to get nervous because I'm killing so much and that's why the starting with passive taking away from me because I'm even faster than they are and the staying in the game because people just that was their favorite thing beyond that we condition it became an entirely new being mechanic I call the difficulty curve so prior to this games would remain at that sort of a constant difficulty until the end the level and in the next level it will get harder and the best people realize all bets are off you can make a game as difficult as you want to switch it up anywhere in the middle of the game so that's that's 3 amazing he failed but by testing out seeing how work she actually succeeded more than he could ever have imagined on his own and know if he did this because he bread the studies on failures and capitalizing on them but the thing was he actually was doing a great job of doing exactly what the research that's usually high from Your Failures you should learn from them and it turned out that failure preserve data rate learning opportunities and the reason is that there is more information encoded in failure that there is a success and must think about it what does success look like a check mark a thumbs-up perhaps maybe a smile from your manager and a job well done and we can get these what have you actually learn while done research on this and research shows that people and organizations that don't experience failure become rigid and the reason is that every bit of feedback that they're getting tells them don't change a thing just keep doing exactly what you're doing and everything will be OK if here on the other hand looks
a lot like this I mean just just look at this how much information is available in the failure the right way we know exactly what went wrong we know which line in the code has initial and if you have experience with this particular issue your problem know exactly what you need to do to fix it and even if you've never seen this before you just a quick Google search away were being search or any other kind of search you prefer away from pages where the information about this particular failure now think that experience with an approach that didn't work and you've done some research about what else you could do it's telling me pretty simple and straightforward to write something that does work million in development actually
has a long and honored history of grounding hold the states and and then into successes in fact this concept that exploiting failures to make your programs better is so important that it actually has a name the good bad book and having that space to learn from failure
came in really handy for a game developer group in the nineties that we're working on a street racing game so the concept and game was that players would raise through city streets while they're being chased by Cocke and if the cops caught up to the drag races and pulled them over you lost it could complete the rates but there's just 1 problem they kind of got the algorithm wrong and the cops were way more aggressive they knew they had intended instead of pulling the drag races over the cost flam ended up now the Manchester is actually had way more fun trying to get away from the police they had this kind of racing through the city try not to get pulled over and as a result the
entire direction of the game was switched up and a grand theft auto series was born now I want you
to think about that for a minute the concept of the poor concept and the best selling video game franchise of all time 1 then lost it the developers panicked when they realize that they got the algorithm wrong annotated covered up just pretend it never happened but instead the actually let people tested out and they realized they were onto something here that something was billions of dollars
now there remains a lot any program really that gets large enough might have a whole lot of work that goes into it before you ever get to write a single line of code there may be hundreds if not thousands of hours done by product and designers and business folks before developer ever gets to it in game development this is I translated in a doctorate called the game design document for the GATT and it's a cost of living document you are allowed to make changes to this document but when you're really late in the game literally and metaphorically of making any kind of changes is a big deal if it means that you have to change tack requirement pages are pages are going to need to be redone release dates like have to be pushed back budgets might be off I mean you guys get the picture you can change it but it's a big deal now that's the unhappy reality that the
silent hill development team were facing they started building out the team the game to the GATT spec but they have 1 problem happen you see in the PlayStations graphics
card could not render all the buildings and textures in the scene as a result when you step forward buildings that suddenly pop up into existence and blank walls would magically have textures that were there before it really distracted people from the game and that some than in any game but if you're building a survival horror game that's really bad because the atmosphere needs to draw you in you can't have it like popping in and out and it just doesn't work now women easy for everyone to
start pointing fingers at everyone else because they'd all kind of played a part failure design has put 1 or 2 more buildings and just to make it look even better detecting decided to make the PlayStation instead of the more powerful 3-D a jad wire that were available at the time the business team had determined the release date there wasn't 1 single individual that had obviously made about call there were just a bunch of tiny tiny issues that started a snowball can tell an entire system had failed but instead of running from the failure of the team that would decided to sidestep they found a way to work around the failure they the world with this really didn't father because it turns out that body is actually a very lightweight thing for a graphics card to render because the heaviest cost graphics card is usually light and font is all about hey guess when there's no election so now it obscures the objects in the distance which means that as you're walking back and forth it didn't matter that a part of building work texture in the background pop then because you couldn't see it anyway and as an amazing added bonus from the state Silver creeping creepy in fact that once the technology had caught up and they didn't need the fog to hide things anymore they kept the fog in there is people like you can have a creepy Silent Hill game with like sunny skies and seeing 20 miles into the distance but this contain part of the game was like another success ripped from the job was a failure know and in the 3 examples
from the programming world and what I wanted to do was illustrated was happening at a more high stakes example in aviation and automobile accidents the aviation system save so many lives because accident and treated like lessons that we can learn from they gather data in aggregated and find patterns it an accident was caused by a pilot being tired they never just stop there they look at pilot schedules and staff levels and Flight Readiness Checklist and determine what contributed to the pilot the entire in contrast that we blame for road accidents now the driver right she doesn't know what she's doing here is an idiot 1 of the other license always the driver's fault but I'm trying to illustrate here is that airplane accidents are treated as failures of entire systems where road accidents are treated like failures and individual with only judgment that comes from being found to be like a bad individual it's no wonder that people try to cover up those failures of said acknowledging them and learning from them mean how is how like and definitely stop at a stop sign and even if I didn't stop and it's because it was hidden behind a tree or a shot or now we're not
all pilots here but I think that we all have a lot to learn from how they handle that failure if you're willing to use the system to track and learn from those failures as you write code you're going to have so much better results but much in that system of like in broad strokes I
think that there are 3 important parts and the first one is really important you have to avoid placing blame you have to collect data that's the 2nd 1 and you have to have structure
so alright step 1 you need to make sure that you understand that you are not the problem and I'm sure this is easier said than done we could probably have an entire talk about learning not to beat yourself up and aviation failures they never stop at that top level of blame there was acts this case where a pilot made a critical error by dialing in the wrong 3 digit as city code in his fight computer and the cockpit recording the investigators could clearly hear the pilot the on and talk about the excited to finally get a good night's sleep they can easily have stopped there and they're like well we figured it out the pilot was tired and needed state there was not enough for them to know that he was tired they wanted to know what its name verified that he had a hotel available to him during his layover and that was enough made sure that it actually checked into that hotel and that was enough they looked at every time his card had been used to open the door so that they can get an accurate picture of how many hours of sleep he actually got and even then they didn't just say we show that there is no way he could have gotten more than 4 total hours of sleep that was the problem they looked at the 3 letter readout on-the-fly computer and thought man if you're all tired or distracted that's really really confusing and that 1 had that whole picture that's when they said now we know what caused this accident now if you see an example they're not avoiding placing blame on the pilot they did acknowledge that he is tired but they always look at it as a systemic failure and they wanna know what happened in the entire system so if there's 1 thing that you can take away from a failure encoder anywhere else while if the only thing you take away from me is I'm dumb I just don't know what I'm doing this probably isn't for me yeah actually missing out on the best parts of failure the parts that that show you what your you know the present revealed to you like a better way of doing things and I know that right now it might be a little bit hard for some of us to quiet those inner critics and that's OK it's not something that you just have after fix overnight but if you can at least do a good job of ignoring them for a while and working the rest of the system eventually you're gonna find that their start contributing helpful insights instead of just tell you how bad you are coding now step 2 is document
everything even things that might seem small especially the things that might seem small mean remember the story about my flat tire that flat tire on the runway in Santa Monica that was not a big deal but the FAA wanted to know about it because figuring out how many times that happens that search revealed bigger patterns in places where in snowballing major problems and catching problems early on in course correcting is going to help you avoid those major knocked down but how
should be document things I'm actually a big fan of paper documentation but as long as you have some sort of record in kind of documentation that you can go back to whether it's notes on your phone or light training events that you can see a later or anything else you knew many or now the thing is that you should include a details about what you were trying to do what resources you were using whether or not you are working with other people how tired or hungry you are and what the outcome was you should really be specific especially when you're recording the outcome if you're trying to get data from your rails back in and out of the old you react components and it keeps telling you that you can't dispatch in the middle dispatch don't just write down reactors so dumb and I could do all this with a couple like japery and I don't know why my bosses for training because that's actually not help I know that track now the final step once you have
all this data is to start contract abstracting patterns from it imagine how powerful that data is as you go through and you start looking for those patterns when you do your best work when you do your worst work and vaguely remembering that you struggled the last few times you try to learn how to manipulate hashes in ruby the that you really only had issues of 2 of the last 3 times the difference between the 1 where you felt good and the other 2 was that you were well rested for that 1 many notice that you learn more when you pair or when you have music playing or when you just in some amazing pineapple straight from Kowloon Hawaii on the front side you might discover that you don't learn well past 9 PM or that you're more likely to be frustrated with something new if you have struggled with the puppy for at least 20 minutes prior to opening your computer that's a really good thing to know it's a lot easier to identify the parts of the system and that do and don't work for you when you have a paper trail and you also have a really
nice lawn of the concepts that you're struggling with the read your documentation from your last at coding section and you see I was trying to wire at the form for my rate distract him now plants in sort of you see it wasn't weird because the data that were was yet but the form data ended up in the URL and hopeless strange cool you now have a problem to research and it's not be too long at all once you dig into some form documentation before you realize that you were using the get action on that form and get a class but the the the URL posted plus or the 1 that keep it hidden in the request bodies now you just any 20 minute the puppy call time and you're ready to go fix that form now do this topic mostly been focusing on how individuals can learn from failure but it's also incredibly important for teams there is a famous study that looked at patient outcomes add demographically similar hospitals and the researchers are kind of confused because they had found that hospitals that have nurse managers that focused on creating a learning culture instead of a blame culture actually had higher error rates but will mean it even stranger was that patient outcomes at those hospitals with higher error rates were actually better so they started digging deeper and what they found is that the nurses in the blame oriented hospitals were terrified of getting punished and you try to cover up their mistakes not only did it make it more likely that a patient would be harmed by their mistake but also meant that all the underlying issues that contributed that mistake were never dealt with and the same mistakes would happen over and over and over again and it's the same story for our engineering teams you show me a dev team that had 0 tolerance policy for mistakes and I'll show you a debt team ready engineers spent a good portion of their time every day covering up mistakes if you focus on blameless postmortems and reward experimentation you're going to have a very different outcome for the team now
like anything else that you try the process that I'm proposing that may not work perfectly for you the 1st time around and arrest going a bit too that you just see the figure out what is it working and see how you can adjust it that's right you can learn from the failures you learn from while learning from the failures this in learning from failures just now as you get more comfortable gleaning information from the failures and find that everybody is actually really of feature it's true as long as you're able to learn from it even if you can have every single line of code now
traditionally and this was actually 1 of my talk and that's why there's this big thing Q train with my contact info but every time I give this talk and had people like usually minority women after variation of the same question they say I have worked for years to be respected in my field do you think it's safe for me to fail publicly and I think if I'm honest to the user for most of them ask is going to be you know so when a share
story revealed I learned to read when I was 3 hold your applause please and it's not that big of a deal that does not impress people eat read wanted 36 it's only impressive new young but in the eighties this was enough to get me labeled as gifted and I got putting gifted tracks in school and my entire childhood people told me how smart and really and I was now that meant that I never had to be worried about not knowing something I mean economy don't because every adult in real life told me how smart I was so it didn't bother me not to know something I would just after ask a question and that start with me all the way up to my coding bootcamp front row him constantly in the and I took that with me to my 1st coding job if I didn't understand something I felt comfortable asking for clarification if I thought someone else in the room didn't understand something but I got the sense that they were embarrassed to ask it didn't bother me to be the 1 asked so I'd ask their questions to and that worked fine there were some weird things like 1 time a one-on-one with my manager a couple years and he said you're like me you really have to struggle to learn how to code I thought I was strange because burning the code had never been a struggle for me with the exception of the very sticky backbone marionette implementation but I think we've all been there and it it just had come naturally to me it was 1 of the topics that I felt I was just so easy and so strange but every OK well I don't need to correct his opinion it's fine if he thinks I struggle to learn how to code and the thing is is that that was great when things were going I got plenty of work the place of interesting problems to solve and then I think it went off books for so then 1 day and the management team decided that they wanted to cut the engineering team down to about a 3rd of its size and I did not make the cut now I see you with full of really really amazing people and there's a chance that I would have made the cut anyway but I do know that when you have to go down to a skeleton crew of the people that you're more likely to cut the people that use a struggle that are going to be more of a drain on everyone's resources that fail more often so it's definitely something to be concerned about it's also something that can be pretty devastating what happens to you and they want a share another story so 4 years ago I applied for a technical support job and get out I was about 5 rounds of interviews and I'd gone through so many rounds of interviews that I was positive that I have a job I was so positive that when I read the e-mail that said we think fantastic and I was like yeah you do but we're defining a higher someone that has more technical experience of is that they and hiring me it took me a couple ratings a cut up the like no no be they making them great but they're not hiring and that left me a little a bonds as I love this company and I want to work for them and by and decided and so like stuck trying to fairly next move was and I thought we that sudden occurred in 12 weeks not like that to be yes but I searched and it seemed like Collegiate Programming up going to boot camp in becoming a developer fast forward and 6 weeks ago I joined the team to get out of as an engineer now sucked to be downsized from my previous engineering job the path from not technical enough to get the technical support position to being hired by that same company to be a member of the engineering team would have been much longer for me if I had been free to make those make those mistakes and learn from them and you need a figure out for you when an acceptable level of risk it and adjust accordingly I have no doubts I had no dependence I had another income in my household so the only thing that suffered was my ego and it it suffered there was some like fetal position crying on the kitchen floor was it was tough but my life was never in danger I have friends on the other hand there are the 1st people in the family not to have a service job they don't have extra income as a programmer they have in common that pays their parents bills that keeps their grandmother from being evicted from of the department she's had for 50 years that is now 10 times more expensive than it was 5 years ago there was this higher it's because being able to see experiment fail and learn from that helps you learn faster and that's a scanner skyrocket your career but not if you can get hired because people are like you're a failure so for those people I would say projected confidence and competence write the blog posts as if you're the smartest friggin person in the world because you open but make sure you find a place where you can fail safely because lying about making mistakes being bad and try never to make a mistake and blame yourself make mistakes is going to keep you from learning so finder people and if you don't have any a code newbies is a great group have 0 financial interest but they are fantastic people you can fill with them if you can tell anyone else hit me up and be like I felt so hot it's only option I too have felt so hard and was decide I get out I'm so it is still 1 of the people by other people's biases keep you from learning as much as you possibly can I am going to step all of my soapbox and in that year when think thinking info so much for coming if you haven't had enough of me talking code yet you can check out my YouTube channel youtube dot com slash child I'm also on Twitter at us writer and conditions they don't ask
me that I would be added so aptly have cool does anyone have any questions I yes the wishes show the question people managers are their suggestions for creating a culture that embraces failure and that don't punish people for state but is I mean at sounds trite but that really is the number 1 thing I think and there was I get end Web services went down sometime in the past year and it turned out later 1 dad had made a mistake and it was like a typo and it took down production and took 4 hours to bring it back up their members so many tweets being like all man I would hate to be that dad he better lose his job he just cost millions if not billions of dollars and I thought I really hope none of the people tweeting that follow managers managers of developers because the fame those sorts of things like even in jest is going to make people that you harder of whose career as you play a huge role in just terrified of making mistakes so the more that you can model that it's OK to fail whether it's showing an example of like much someone made a mistake how they do have places in N. a systems where we would make a similar mistake how would we fix that like always putting the focus back on the system that led to the error instead of saying this is a bad developer that steadily gonna help now there's always business people involved with at most companies so it could be that you just as a manager going have to do the best you can within the system that someone else is putting on top of you I'm so young artist have using your manager skills as a shield for the people underneath you is 1 of the best things you can do and any other questions I thought I saw another hand activists then yes yeah as said suggestions for like waves on a team of highlighting failures in a positive way is the harder bring up I think so I think it was get lab that had a major outage and then wrote up this beautiful postmortem blog post detailing everything that went wrong so adding a 1st step it is finding things like that and sharing them and highlighting light is in this amazing like look at the anatomy of this problem look how they saw that look how no 1 got lame but instead they they look for solutions and suppress the finding places that the people of model back finding people on the team that feel comfortable at modeling that as well so probably you're in junior female developer that is you know 4 days in their career is not only the person that you should burdened with like hang when you write a blog post about how you brought down production there was really OK of she might be comfortable with that but she might go home and curl up in the fetal position kitchen and cry you know maybe I have so definitely like fighting the people who I think and 1 a great talker earlier about winning privilege and so if you're a senior developer and a well established in your career and your well known at the company and you have a lot of social capital the alliance to be like man did I have up yesterday let me walking guys through how that happened and then like find people that can model that especially if you're the manager I think you can model that but certainly don't don't put pressure on any 1 individual developer because they have their own reasons for not wanting to be the person that I can I make mistakes even though every developer on every team could have those stories developing cats now I said that I haven't been definitely don't do that ethylene off with concern I and so the question was as a people manager what's 1 of the most comforting things that you can do when someone makes a mistake so I'm I once made a mistake that cost my company had 30 thousand dollars and I was in search engine marketing I had an account that was owned by the company is an account of a taking over and the client and I was supposed to run their as well as setting up hours and then when ours went like I was supposed to turn this off and I forgot to turn there's is often it ran for a month spending their full budget and channel and the full budget in their account and when I discovered this I freaked out because that was a about what I was making any here at the time the the company and I half in my entire salary and so was like I definitely lost my job I am also probably going to have assumed bill and never to be able to you and to pay back and so I was in tears and I went to work on parliament best humans honor may I see 2 of the time door at the time and I was like door and this is what I've done and I'm so sorry and he said to me it's OK not whispers of almost comforting think he didn't freak out he said it's OK you know what I have made mistakes that have cost this company with more than that this is fixable and so just like having that kind of acknowledgment 1st of all that was OK it was huge for me because I just like OK I'm Minella capped at 10 jobs to pay this back in and don't have any doubt horrible and just it's OK I was just huge and is when you make a dumb ass state like that you feel like you're the only 1 that ever done and just the having an acknowledgment a life is not over helps a lot I think anyone else so I have to get him stickers for anyone interested I also have come chant stickers if if any YouTube channel you've never heard of that and I guess I am not available for questions or anything else afterward on Twitter word in person the person if world so so so


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