Eyeflow: How do people scan your site?

dcblog-eyeflowIt takes 1/5 of a second for someone to form an impression of your site

 

In another 2.6 seconds, they will have located the content that interests them.

 

In that time span of 2.8 seconds the user has scanned the page, made some judgments, and is ready to move deeper into your site.

 

Or move on in search of a better site.

 

Our point: Every aspect of content placement on a home page or landing page has to be scrutinized because even the smallest decisions can affect performance.

 

So let’s take a look at exactly what’s happening in those 2.8 seconds and talk about a few of the essentials of eyeflow.

 

1. Scanning vs Reading

 

Scanning a page – as opposed to reading it – is how people seek content. Jakob Nielsen pointed out many years ago why we scan rather than read but the dominant reason is twofold: Time pressures, and the fact that reading a computer screen is tiring to the eyes.

 

When scanning, the eye generally makes short, rapid eye movements as it moves across a web page, seeking the touchstones and visual cues that signal the content environment is relevant and useful.

 

2. From Gutenberg’s “Z” to Nielsen’s “F”

 

Gutenberg’s diagram is the basis for how we are taught to enter a web page visually.

 

Our eye tends to move in a “Z” shaped pattern, starting in the upper left corner – because that’s how we read – and moving right, left, and right. [This explains why, in print advertising, the logo is often positioned lower right.]

 

But our exposure to the web – and especially to search pages – has reshaped our eyeflow into the form of an “F.”

 

As you’d expect from the shape of the “F,” – as opposed to a “Z” – the eye tends to look across the screen twice and then stop, rather than completing the scan in the lower right corner.

 

Nielsen pointed this out in 2006 – viewers often start in the upper left corner and go right. Then they come back and follow a second movement, also left to right. Then they return to the left side and scan vertically.

 

Side point: Viewer eyeflow can change based on needs. General browsing eye patterns are slower, and more random than information-seeking patterns, which tend to be quicker and centered on navigation. Search page eyeflow tends to have a “hot potato” effect. If you’re redesigning a site, usability testing can provide clarity around how your content is being scanned..

 

3. Type hierarchy matters. Big Time.

 

Viewers look for and read headlines as an instinctive process for locating the main message of a page.

 

Subheads tend to be scanned as viewers go deeper into subpages, looking for relevant content – so don’t write meaningless subheads. Make sure each subhead actually encapsulates the written content below it. This builds reader trust. And keep your fonts simple and consistent so readers begin to feel confident in the aesthetics and standards of the site.

 

4. White space

 

Clients tend to overfill web pages, forgetting that unoccupied space creates a sense of calmness, focus, and makes reading and visual digestion easier.

 

We advise clients to think of white space not just in terms of large areas, but also in terms of column spacing, leaving room around graphics, and even in terms of paragraph length. Short, one and two-sentence paragraphs surrounded by white space accelerate the read and make viewers feel they are getting somewhere.

 

The elements of commanding attention and directing viewers’ eyeballs to where they need to go is a big topic.

 

Too big, in fact, for a blog.

 

But if you want to get into it deeper, we suggest you stop by for a beverage.

Let the students speak: How schools can crowd source their brand

Academic brands: Stuck in Sloganville

Academic brand messages usually take one of a few approaches.

One is a recitation of institutional values – “Courage. Honor. Confidence. Conviction. Integrity.” Sometimes they’re accompanied by a motto that’s marinated in Latin.

Snore.

The other method is to concoct a single slogan, either rooted in research, or cooked up by an agency, or both.

Again, snore.

Waking up to a new way of looking at academic branding

We believe – based on working with a lot of clients in education  – that institutional brandmessages need to yield to the voices of the people who own the brand: The students.

It’s not new thinking but it’s the right thinking. The students are the strongest spokespersons.

Why? Because they have authenticity.

This is the quality so many brands seek to capture, but too often they insist on fabricating it through slogans rather than unlocking it from within.

How to leverage the branding power of students

Feature them in video. Use student interviews as the basis of any video-based marketing initiative. DO NOT use a voiceover, as tempting as that may be. Students (and often parents) learn about schools primarily through video, and they know marketing content when they see it. So avoid pitching with a VO.

Open social channels and keep them open. Students have mixed reactions to engaging with their school via social media. In high school, they’re not inclined to engage with their school because it’s viewed as an authoritarian presence. In college, it’s different. Our advice: Be selective and choose the SM outlets where your targets congregate. Tumblr may be better for teenagers, Facebook for parents, and LinkedIn for alumni.

Let them author content. It takes some nerve to hand over the reins of marketing to students, no doubt. But the right student blogger, for example, can make a difference. So can student-produced video. Just make sure you’re choosing the ones who have the skills and will tell a good story.

If your school’s brand is still in Sloganville, contact us for a conversation.

Now Trending: Websites in 2015

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1. Massive background images

  •  Trend frontrunners such as Apple have been implementing massive background images alongside clean, rich typography and subtle parallax scrolling effects to deliver an intuitive, elegant, yet simple user experience.

 

Untitled

 

2. Tile Based Design: Hip to be square

  • Google uses card or tile based designs to fit different types of sizes of content on screens for varying platforms such as web, mobile devices, and tablets.

 

Untitled copy

 

3. Responsive Design: Google says it’s time for a makeover

  • There are legacy sites out there that were built before the advent of devices, and now it’s time to re-stage content for tablets and mobile browsing.
  • Google actually now penalizes websites that are not mobile-responsive in search results – so it’s important to UX and SEO.

 

digital

Mobile View

 

web

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web Browser View

 

4. Innovative scroll

  • By pushing the envelope on how and where a user can scroll on a page, the UX can become fresh, exciting, and visually inviting. Proviso: Relevant content areas still need to be positioned in a way that is intuitive and sensible.

 

heaphones

Horizontal scroll vs. traditional vertical scroll

 

scroll

Color parallax (change) scroll

 

 

 

5. Navigating By widget

  • Site navigation is still one of the easiest ways to make or break the user experience.
  • Developers continue to play with conventional sidebar and menu item navigations, such as the implementation of sticky menus that stay “glued” to the top, or side of a screen while you scroll.

 

6. Putting the World Wide Wait in the rearview mirror

  • Advances in website speeds enable website creation that was unthinkable just a short time ago – such as HD video as a website background, seamless real-time integration of Google Maps, and animated storybook effects.

 

location

Site can now seamlessly integrate Google Maps when applicable to geographically related concepts.

 

 

7. Native Advertising: Act like you own the joint

  • Native advertising features adverts on or within a page that match the form and function of the platform to create a seamless user experience.

 

 

native

Buzzfeed features advertising within their page that appears as integrated content.

 

 

8. Rebirth of the Banner Ad

  • Average users have trained their eyes to look right past the everyday banner ad.
  • Now, banner ads are remerging with a full makeover to return to the limelight – as dynamic, compelling, engaging ad units.

 

travelocity

Travelocity uses dynamic ads in tandem with retargeting methods to respond to a user’s recent searches.

 

See anything you like on the menu? Give us a call and stay trendy with drinkcaffeine.

INSIDE THE PODCASTING COMEBACK

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Listen by the numbers

Podcasting is sounding better and better. And people are noticing.

Before anyone gets into a trend-chasing tizzy, remember that overall, podcast growth has been modest. Adults who listened to a podcast grew about 20% between 2006 and 2012. That’s nice, but it’s not setting Rome on fire.

But then podcasting reached an all-time high in 2014, with 15% of U.S. residents having listened to a podcast in the last month – almost 39 million people. Here’s the research, and it’s good.

Why it’s growing

Any victim of Serial addiction will talk your ear off about how great this podcasting series has been.

It tells the story of Adnan Syed, a high school student convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend. It’s told in real time, and his case is still in-process, so listeners feel like it’s actually unfolding – because it is. Serial has combined immediacy and drama in a way no other podcast ever has.

Podcasting is also something of a life-hack tool – a way of making daily life better by enabling people to gain information and be entertained during time that would otherwise be wasted. Look at how Esquire’s Top Podcasts recommend an esoteric mix of daily content in your diet.

Lowering the technical media drawbridge

As podcasting content and production quality have gone up, the cost of entry has gone down. It’s a great forum for creative risk and adventure.

Plus, devices are so ubiquitous that there are more and more opportunities to listen. Commuters are prime podcast consumers, and Edison research showed that people who listen to online audio content while commuting feel it is “new time” for them, i.e. it holds value.

The podcast leaders

Apple and ITunes are still dominant and holding steady as the resource for podcast search and access. But on the content side, podcasting’s standards are largely defined by – you guessed it – NPR.

This American Life, an NPR production with Ira Glass, began in 1995 but became widely available through the Public Radio Exchange in 2014. It examines a wide range of stories, often through 1st-person narrative. Along with RadioLab, This American Life has been a standard bearer for entertaining, educational, thought-provoking, and humorous content. Serial is a spin off of it.

How podcasting works best

Some podcasts with a commercial agenda seek only to inform. Nothing wrong with being informative, but podcasting, as Serial shows, adores a good story.

Storytelling is a powerful tool. When a story is told, the human brain lights up. Language, sensory, and motion centers all become engaged. Lovers of fiction have always known this.

Marketers should know it, too.

4 things to think about before creating a podcast.

Decide what the purpose is. Get an objective. Is it to teach, to entertain, to cultivate followers? Content strategy will flow from this.

Craft the narrative. What is the story that is unfolding? How can it be dramatized or made relevant through anecdotes and allegory?

Create a calendar. Podcasts require planning. So brainstorm and plan to explore the bandwidth of the topic you’re considering.

Listen to other podcasts. Get immersed in podcasts you like to build a sense of what really works and what doesn’t.

Whenever the topic is marketing, we’re always ready to listen. Contact us for a conversation.

4 NEW RULES FOR SEO

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It All Comes Down to Content

You’ve heard it ad nauseam, but today, when it comes to being the highest ranked on a search engine result page, content really is king.

With Google’s new SEO algorithm introduced in Google Panda content is being scrutinized as never before.

Panda evaluates UX in its analysis of site content. So it’s not just the range of content your site features, it’s the quality. That means a lot of site managers need to rethink their content strategy.

The rules have changed. And now, SEO thinking has to change, too. Here’s a guide to 4 critical new rules of SEO as seen by the folks here at drinkcaffeine.

The “Best of the Best” Rule

To maintain basic competitive positioning in search hierarchy, your site content must be as good as the best results on any particular search page. If you can’t consistently maintain this standard against the keywords used to explore your category, the hard truth is you do not have the opportunity to rank.

Search is becoming a mature category. Lots of sites have good, unique content. But it’s not enough to get to the top. You should aim to be the absolute best and then some.

If you don’t think you have the content to fulfill the keywords that drive your site traffic and your industry, then go back to the drawing board and review what it will take to bring your content to the next level.

The Right Links

 In the new world of Panda, links matter. Panda will discern between links that are authoritative and ones that are not.

Google, again valuing the best user experience, favors sites that are organically linked to by users. In fact, if you’re not earning links organically, you may even be earning undesirable links that Google is penalizing you for by lowering your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) ranking.

It’s an uphill battle to earn links with anything less than the best content, but there’s a reason why getting to the top of the hill is worthwhile. And users are already beginning to notice that top-ranked players on any given SERP have the goods.

Think mobile

User experience more than ever relies on mobile-friendly sites, pages that load instantly, and device rendering. Don’t forget this aspect of UX as you develop your site. Panda certainly hasn’t.

So how do you become the best?

The shifts in Google’s algorithm require us all to look in the mirror and examine content more critically than ever before. Here are some critical questions.

  • Do my pages answer specific questions or call outs that a user may be searching for? A user problem-solution model is a powerful way to earn user trust, and links.
  • What’s my site like from a UX perspective? Are pages loading quickly? Is the navigation really intuitive and based on what users want?
  • Where is my content being sourced from? Content that pulls from trusted, branded sources will be far superior to the content that has no anchor to solid data.
  • Am I communicating visually? As we mentioned, people want their information delivered quickly and efficiently. Tidbits of text information will seldom surpass the power of an infographic or graph.
  • What am I missing? What are the top SERP leaders missing that you can provide? This is how you’ll set yourself apart.

When it comes to building out your best content, we’re your search engine optimizers. Search drinkcaffeine for your best result.

 

 

For Extra Credit: Deeper Social Media for Schools

dcblog-socialcollege

So you’re a senior Admissions or Marketing or Development person in a college or university…

You’ve established some social media outposts (nearly 100% of you have). Now it’s time for What’s Next. Here are some thoughts about sharpening your presence.

 

Facebook: How to make the most of it

Most schools dove into Facebook to “engage students.”  But it’s time think outside the fan base you have and revisit your Facebook presence by asking: What are the primary things I want to accomplish? For consideration: (Thanks, University of Washington)

  • Connect students with mentors
  • Provide a network for alumni
  • Boost student engagement
  • Alert students to upcoming events and deadlines
  • Enhance minority recruitment
  • Drive traffic to key pages on your site
  • Give students another outlet for getting answers to their questions

The point: Your Facebook content strategy and what you post and author should be objectives-based, as should the KPIs you develop to evaluate it.

 

Twitter: Think before you answer

In our view, the decision to create a Twitter presence depends largely on the size and focus of the school. Bigger schools often have individual feeds for different departments. Yale, for example.

Schools who are big in research are often heavy Twitter users so they can post achievements and have discussions about areas of study with students, professors, and other schools. Smaller schools may find that Twitter is not necessary, or not worth the time.

However, American University is a school on the smaller side and still gets an A in the Twitter category because of their effective tweets and retweets.

Remember that Twitter is used most effectively by marketing companies, consumer brands, and news organizations – entities that have a constant stream of content to share. We think that until you do, leave Twitter be.

 

LinkedIn: Where schools get down to business

Yes, LinkedIn skews older, but that’s why it’s so valuable for Development and Alumni Relations.

For all communities, LinkedIn’s Youniversity is a good overall content platform for articles, videos, news, blog content, and school profile information. But the real value is in LinkedIn’s credibility. Members trust it to guide decision making to the tune of 87%, and nearly 50% rely on it for information on brands.

And remember: Higher Education is now the 3rd largest industry on LinkedIn, outpacing software and telecommunications.

One of the most influential schools on LinkedIn is University of California, Berkeley. See how they are getting their work done on this platform.

 

YouTube: Required

A strong YouTube presence could include faculty and student interviews, virtual campus tours, a look at dorm rooms, classrooms, and athletic facilities – the things that trigger engagement. Plus YouTube will help with SEO.

Remember: YouTube also includes YouTube for Schools, YouTube EDU, and YouTube.com/Teachers – three content areas that allow content sharing, and ways of using YouTube in the classroom. Setting it up is easy.

 

Pinterest & Instagram: Electives

Pinterest and Instagram are very visual (but you can provide visual content in other social media, too). Both platforms are great for consumer brands, and big with younger demographics. Stanford’s Instagram is a nice example of what a college’s account should look like.

So before you enter these areas, ask yourself: To what extent do you see your educational institution as a consumer brand? Start with goals and objectives before you chase trends.

 

Google+: For extra credit

Google+ lets you share content with multiple communities of like-minded people. The layout is clean and easy to access. And the synergies with other Google products is, of course, strong.

But the Hangouts On Air feature – where professors stream LIVE discussions, debates, and lessons – is where the excitement is. It enables a dynamic and free exchange of ideas. For best practices, look at this sparkaction blog. Or, check out the most influential colleges on Google+.

Social changes every day. For the latest on what’s happening, contact us.

Sutureself

dcblog-sutureself

Primary care is the front line of the health care industry

It’s not just where conditions are diagnosed and treated; it’s where a doctor’s business policies and practices have to adapt to changes in the industry. And, much to the pain of doctors who can’t stand the word “marketing,” this includes communications.

 

Primary care is a volume business

Years ago, 50% of med students said they wanted to become a primary care physician. Today, the number is 20%.

Since the advent of HMOs in the 1980s, when insurers implemented cost-control and patient-management practices in exchange for contractually defined monetary benefits, primary care docs have become like public school teachers: too much work, too little time, no room for error, and no end in sight. Obamacare has only intensified the situation.

No question, primary care practitioners have taken it in the teeth.

 

The communications opportunity

But in business terms, the volume of consumers that primary care providers must serve also means that the field is a dynamic business area where many people can be influenced and informed through all different forms of marketing communications.

If primary care physicians can be a bit more marketing conscious, they can do more than create a coherent identity around their practice and a strong base of patients. They can redefine and reshape what primary care medical practice means.

 

The new message for primary care marketing: We’re in this thing together.

Primary care physicians (which includes physicians, PAs, nurses, and front and back-office staff) need to send the same message that health care insurers keep trying to send: Healthcare is like home improvement. It’s a DIY world where you learn about it, invest in it smartly, and it feels good and pays you back over time.

By this model of thinking, primary care professionals are like good contractors. They’re incredibly valuable, trusted, experienced, high-quality professionals who are there to educate, diagnose, point things in the right direction, and help make things better. It’s not their house. It’s yours. But they know how it works better than you do.

The old model of patient communication in America was paternalistic: Follow the doctor’s orders. End of discussion.

The new model is participatory: Get the right doctor, get smart, and stay healthy.

 

4 Tips for Primary Care communications development

So let’s express in real terms the idea of self-reliance and the spirit of savvy consumerism that primary care doctors should be developing though their communications.

Use DIY content marketing. In-office and out-of-office communications should focus on consumer-oriented conditions and problems, boiled down to a handful of actionable items. 5 Things to Cut Out of Your Diet. 7 Things That Keep Kids Under 7 Healthy. And so forth. It’s basic, but content like this – in the form of brochures, email, and waiting room videos – establish a drumbeat of self-empowerment through knowledge.

Make the doctors and staff human. When patients need care, they want to know who’s doing the caring. Personalized bios for staff is a good first step.

Leverage doctor-rating sites. The migration to Healthgrades and other doctor-rating sites has been slow, but more than 250 million consumers use Healthgrades each year. It’s time to start uploading information and encouraging patients to rate their experience – even before they leave the office.

Make patient communication a priority. Patients are powerful consumers, and the goal is to make them smarter and more involved.

So the use of email and text messaging to confirm appointments, notify patients of changes, and remind them how to prepare for office visits is important. Post-visit, asking for feedback through surveys enables participation and gives the practice data to use as proof of performance.

If you’re feeling the sting of not knowing where to turn for health care marketing counsel, contact us. We’ll be happy to buy you a beverage.

Make Me Laugh

dcblog-makemelaugh

 

A grasshopper walks into a bar…

He hops up on a barstool.

Bartender walks down, polishing a glass, and says, “You know, it’s funny, but we have a drink named after you here.”

Grasshopper says, “You have a drink named Dave?”

 

Your brain on humor

Humor, when it’s used effectively, has a powerful effect on the brain. And that explains why marketers use it so often. Go back to our grasshopper joke for a minute.

When you hear the 1st line, your left brain is activated, making sense of the situation, picturing a grasshopper going into the bar and hopping up on the stool.

When the bartender walks down and says, “You know, it’s funny…” the left side of the brain is still working hard, making sense of the scenario.

Then Broca’s region – the language control center – gets involved when the bartender says, “we have a drink named after you here.”

Finally, when the grasshopper says, “You have a drink named Dave?” the right brain lights up, the part that “gets” the joke and feels satisfaction.

 

Why humor works for marketers

When the brain experiences humor, it releases dopamine, inducing pleasure. When the brain finds something hysterically funny, neurons distribute dopamine all over the place.

Then other functions like memory and association are activated, as we repeat the joke or the source of humor in our mind and consider who we will tell it to later. And it feels really good.

When marketing content brings on the funny, brands generally win. That’s why Super Bowl ads tend to be attempts at humor three times as often. That’s why marketers tend to go for humor, even when the humor has nothing to do with the product.

 

Funny vs. Interesting & Relevant

People tend to rate funny advertising higher in likability and share it more widely and more frequently.

But being amusing is no joke. There’s a time and a place for it and it needs to be handled correctly. In the same way that gratuitous humor is disposable, so is advertising and marketing content that’s funny for it’s own sake.

There’s some evidence and testimony that asserts what we’ve always known: Relevant and full of useful content is what makes funny advertising effective.

If you need to hear a good joke or two, contact us.

 

Our Top 5 reasons why timesheets suck harder than an airplane toilet

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Anyone in professional services knows the issue.

Timesheets, to put it as delicately as possible, suck. Show us someone who likes timesheets and we’ll show you an anal-retentive, neo-maxi zoom dweebie.

The many sucky aspects of timesheets

1. They suck creativity out of the brain. Timesheets are the ultimate buzzkill. They are to creativity what kryptonite is to Superman: a life-denying, soul-shattering, anti-matter experience that leaves a trail of scorched cerebral earth in its path.

2. They suck away time that could be spent on YouTube. One of our employees claims that he can’t work past 3:30 without going on YouTube to watch a baseball manager get thrown out of a game. Timesheets seriously cut into his Watch-a-Grown-Man-Have-A-Hissyfit time. Argue with that.

3. They suck the life out of my Kwan.

As Rod Tidwell said in Jerry McGuire, you gotta have the Kwan. Timesheets are a total Kwan-killer.

4. They suck because all forms suck. Misery comes in many forms. Most are either IRS forms or timesheets.

5. They suck because they make people go shoplifting in convenience stores. Unproven fact: Timesheets are known to cause people to shoplift at their local Gas n Sip, resulting in excess consumption of turkey jerky.

AND why we do them anyhow

  1. They help us understand process. If we’re way over budget or behind schedule, we can look at how we got there.
  2. They help manage workflow. Some tasks take longer than others. Some people work faster than others. Timesheets tell us about ourselves and how we can organize our efforts better.
  3. It’s just good business. We talk about metrics and how they can tell whether something is worth the investment. Timesheets are a metric for telling us if we’re performing at a strong level, fro clients and for ourselves.

Chime in. Let us know your true feelings about timesheets.

The Hackathon, All Grown Up

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The hackathon used to be about breaking people’s web apps or attacking networks by DDOSing web servers. (We know all about that.)

Today, hackathons are mostly focused on creating something useful. One of our developers, Nicole, recently attended one called HackTheNorth. It’s billed as Canada’s Largest International Hackathon, and she brought back this report on the state of the hackathon today.

It’s a marathon and a sprint

In hackathons, teams collaborate to build a useable piece of technology. It’s hacking in the sense that what you create is hacked together in broad strokes with a lot of urgency involved.

This involves serious donut consumption. Fatigue levels run high. You sometimes have to step over the bodies of developers sleeping in unusual places and positions (known as casualties).

This includes, according to Nicole, someone laid out across a row of folding metal chairs. NOTE: Veteran hackers stuff T shirts into swag bags to make a pillow.

So, hackathons are based on the idea that focused bursts of sustained, creative energy (powered by technical aptitude) can move ideas forward. Hence both marathon and sprint.

Ideas & People

But it’s more than just marathon coding. There are workshops for learning APIs, tech talks, and “fireside chats” with top entrepreneurs. Hackathons are part conference, part competition, and part company showcase.

It’s the kind of environment where people are more excited to see Sam Altman, founder of YCombinator, or Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, than Brad and Angie.

Go big or go home

Hack the North promised to be Canada’s biggest hackathon, and it didn’t disappoint.

There were 1200+ people from universities around the world. There were at least 1000 hackers and about 200 mentors to help with APIs and SDKs. [That’s application programming interface and software development kit.] Sponsors ranged from Apple to Uber. Major League Hacking, sponsored by Dell, provided tons of hardware to code with.

A team’s idea: Create a virtual reality hack using the Oculus Virtual Reality goggles

People can attend hackathons as individuals or as part of a team. Nicole didn’t have a team, so she walked around to see how other people were preparing their battle stations for the next 36 hours.

She connected with 2 other people who didn’t have a team yet. After sharing ideas and skill sets they decided to create a virtual reality hack using the Oculus Virtual Reality goggles. They didn’t win any prizes, but they got to make an idea come true – a product that allows you to go on Google Maps Streetview and roam in any direction you’d like.

Winners included Pebilepsy, a nocturnal epilepsy symptom tracker and prevention software and What the World Wants, which analyzes public data on social media to determine what products people want inventors to work on.

To hack is a beautiful thing

The hacktahon reminds us of a core truth in our business: There are ideas that only happen when people collaborate, share creative energy, and insist on finding solutions.

So if you have a problem that needs hacking, let drinkcaffeine know about it.