Good event curation doesn’t happen by accident

I got tagged in a conversation on Twitter yesterday regarding the hashtag for an event that was taking place. Seemingly there was a volume of tweets and activity surrounding the event but not enough of any real value. More ‘I’m here watching so and so speak’ rather than specific insights on what was being shared at the conference.

hr-tech-world-congress-2016Next week, I’m attending HR Tech World Congress for the third year running as a member of their blog squad. The organisers, HRN, take a lot of time and effort to create a team of people with diverse interests and specialities to share what’s happening at their event. It’s a broad church so there are people with different backgrounds in recruitment, analytics, learning etc. They provide resources, make introductions and outline the sort of content they hope the blog squad will share. It’s not dictated and we’re free to write about our highlights and reflections how we choose. There’s no stated expectation to tweet although unsurprisingly, many of us do. And what you’ll see from next week’s event isn’t just a flurry of tweets across the two days (although I’m fairly sure there will be a storm of these via #HRTechWorld). There will be links to books, videos, research, presentations and more. There will be tips on the latest technology. There will be shiny new tech to go and look at courtesy of inside opinions on the disruptHR zone. By filtering other people’s tweets and blogs, I even managed to curate a ton of useful resources from HR Tech World Spring in London back in March, and I was at home with tonsilitis at the time! But none of this happens by accident.

Sure, some attendees will tweet. And some of them might even blog. But the organisers aren’t leaving that to chance. They understand that by assembling a team (bloggers assemble!) there will be a volume of decent content that shares a slice of the event they have painstakingly put together.

Regular readers will know I am involved in lots of backchannel type activity and I take my role at these events seriously. Live tweeting and blogging isn’t for everyone. As agreed with a couple of my PLN yesterday, using tweets as a form of note taking then reflecting and potentially blogging afterwards in a more considered way is what works for me. It doesn’t – and frankly, shouldn’t – work for everyone. If some attendees want to sit and listen or write notes in a notebook, that absolutely has to be OK. You need to pick people who this type of activity does work for, who enjoy it, and who are ideally passionate about the topics being covered at your event. Give them some guidance, give them some support and great sharing should follow. But it takes time and effort to make that happen.

See you in Paris (or online) next week!



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Day two at Learning Live 2016

I’m exhausted (in a good way) after what was to my mind, the strongest Learning Live event yet in terms of content and take aways. There were several clashes of sessions that meant I couldn’t get to see everyone I wanted to which is a good problem to have. My head is bursting and there is much to ponder from what I’ve heard today, but I wanted to get some immediate reflections down.

Elliot Masie keynote

I enjoyed Elliot’s session, he is a such an engaging character. And it was good to have a keynote who actually knows L&D rather than someone from outside our world applying something that they do to L&D (not that that’s bad – see Richard Wiseman below – but it made a nice change). He didn’t push too many boundaries but equally he didn’t espouse theories either, his pretty practical musings went down well with the audience. He talked about ritual being the biggest obstacle for L&D and how we need to start thinking about things differently. If L&D was rewarded for performance of new starters for example, how long they stayed, how long they took to get to a decent competency level – Masie posits that the induction training process would change pretty quickly! Out would go the introductory videos from the CEO and the learning would be far more focused on their actual job. But instead he said: masie-tweet

I can’t argue with that! I think we know we need to move beyond this type of evaluation to actually measuring the impact and performance results of what learning does. But it never hurts to be reminded of it!

Joe Tidman – Delivering an agile global learning strategy

Joe works for GlaxoSmithKline and the scale of his task in learning is just mind blowing. 100,000 people across 150 countries in an organisation that turns over more than £20 billion. A couple of years ago, there were hundreds of staff not really knowing what they were doing, millions of pounds being spent on nobody really knew what – an incredibly fragmented learning landscape. Not uncommon in this type of organisation, but what Joe and his team have done is wrestle back control of that. They started by focusing on three core pillars. Joe believes that real change wouldn’t have happened if they had just focused on one element – all the change needed to happen simultaneously and work together. They focused on organisational alignment, creating a global curriculum and a global capability model (there were previously over 40 models company wide – argh!) Having these pillars in place is enabling them to streamline and become more agile in implementing learning initiatives.

They did shed some L&D staff along the way, but now their global learning organisation is split across learning operations (the biggest pool), embedded business partners and a small centre of excellence. They’ve also gone through tech changes (interestingly Joe imposed a blackout of old systems and content so when he introduced new ones, people couldn’t revert back to the old stuff), introduced a new approach to learning that doesn’t always involve a F2F course (80:10:10 as opposed to 70:20:10) and have had to deal with handling huge cultural shifts:

They’ve achieved an awful lot but there is more to do. The bugbear Joe still hears is that there’s so much content, people can’t easily find what they need when they need it. So they’re working on surfacing resources and creating more personalised journeys for people. This was a really honest and informative session. For me, the key takeaways are: there are numerous benefits in unifying fragmented learning operations across an organisation, that a tech blackout is a useful tool when introducing new systems (I hadn’t heard of this before and thought it sounded like a great idea to support a new system launch) and that to personalise we must first standardise. Joe had to make sense of what they had, streamline it and apply it in a standard way to sort learning out *before* he could start looking at personalising people’s learning journeys. And I think that’s potentially valuable advice for anyone in a similar situation.

Professor Richard Wiseman

Wow. This guy blew Learning Live away this afternoon. From the moment he came on stage doing a magic trick, the audience were in the palm of his hand. Engaged and often crying with laughter, Wiseman applied humour to relax us and put us into an open mindset. So when he later talked about the nature of good luck and bad luck (more on his work here) we were all very open to what he was talking about. Much like Dweck’s work on mindset, his psychological studies have revealed that much of what makes us lucky is down to our approach to life. And if you have a growth mindset you are probably likely to be ‘lucky’ as you will see opportunities as they arise. It’s basically impossible to do the session justice but the takeaways relate to my own views on being open and aware so that you can spot and make the most of new opportunities. Wiseman encouraged us to try doing things differently, echoing Masie’s earlier sentiment that ritual can be a bit of a killer. Which was summed up by this fantastic clip of an American Football play that goes a little ouside the box…there’s something for us all to learn from this in expanding our horizons and doing things a little differently.

Julian Stodd – The socially dynamic organisation

I’ve said before that I can barely keep up with Julian – his brain just operates on another level! So this session was challenging to tweet and is proving challenging to summarise. He introduced it as a working out loud session where he is applying some of his new research and thinking.

I’m familiar with Julian’s view that organisational structures and cultures need to move beyond their Victorian origins of command and control (couldn’t agree more). But this can’t happen without a huge impact on the social contract between an organisation and its people. No longer should people be viewed as merely assets or resources. And Julian’s new research is exploring the dynamics that exist around issues like people’s trust in an organisation or how they feel valued. This links back to employee engagement for me. And it is going to be a huge problem for organisations if their people don’t trust them and don’t feel valued (which is about more than just money by the way, although financial rewards top the list) they won’t be able to retain or develop talent. And they will fail. The social age is one of flux it seems and I am intrigued to see how much the organisational model can really evolve. It is going to be slow with many falling by the wayside I fear. Whatever we do in L&D will happen against this backdrop and I really think learning is well placed to be a driver in all this change rather than a laggard responding to these changes after the fact.All very high level but fascinating nonetheless. I am looking forward to getting my head more around Julian’s thinking with the second edition of his book which I gladly picked up after the session.

Sarah Lindsell – Getting practical

The last session of the day can sometimes feel like a chore at events. But getting insights from PwC’s Global Director of Digital Learning and Transformation was a privilege. Sarah talked about how she runs her (huge) L&D remit across 142 territories as a business within the business. And this puts her in a mindset that is all about being proactive and performance oriented. She is ‘not about bums on seats or completion rates’ and to demonstrate this, she produces a value report at the end of every financial year. This details the global L&D spend and the impact it’s had. A great tip to highlight to the rest of the organisation where you’ve added value over the past year. This mindset also means Sarah leads from the front by representing her ‘business’ and that means being able to sell and market what L&D is doing. And building key relationships to help it function effectively e.g. making friends with the people you need like IT and procurement (echoing Joe Tidman’s advice earlier in the day).

Sarah also shared her model for innovation: watch, play, jump, fly. I like the honesty that sometimes trying new things is a bit of a leap of faith. And to help her innovate she schedules a ‘getting lost day’ once a month where she catches up on new research or plays with new tech. Setting aside time to do this is such a good idea as it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work that it’s easy to lose that opportunity to see what’s going on elsewhere. The other catchphrase Sarah has is ‘know enough to be dangerous’. So if you’re implementing a new platform, take the training and know how it works – that way you’re eating your own food before serving it someone else, but you also have enough understanding of your new tech to question it (or what people are doing with it). And I think once you get to the top of any profession, that level of detailed insight can get lost. You don’t need to know it inside out but being able to interrogate what’s going on is excellent advice.

This is a long post and it wasn’t intended to be, so apologies if it’s a little rambling. But there was a lot to cover and you can see more of what happened via #LearningLive. I’d just like to extend my thanks again to Colin Steed, Ed Monk and the rest of the LPI team for having me along.

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Day one at Learning Live 2016

Well, half a day has never passed so quickly. I arrived in London and before I knew it, it was gone 9pm and Alex Watson had taken to the stage with her band Bastedo to sing us out of a stimulating first day at Learning Live. And in some style might I add.

I caught up with so many people which was just invaluable. I also attended two sessions, both of which were engaging and thought provoking.

Jane Bozarth on showing your work

This session proved challenging for many in the room. Jane is a fantastically engaging speaker. She also thoughtfully set up a link to curate all her resources around this session here. But she’s pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo – and that can be hard for people to get their head around. I think there’s general consensus that showing your work/working out loud is deemed to be a positive step. BUT there are some buts for many (not for me personally, this is what I took away from the discussion in the room and some of the tweets. Hone in on the session tweets here).

  1. It’s hard for organisations to move away from writing everything down. Jane’s point about organisations needing to get better at sharing tacit knowledge is so important. But as illustrated by a simple exercise in which we wrote down the steps involved in making a peanut butter and jam sandwich (our group had 14 steps!) we aren’t actually very good at translating that knowledge into the written word. Organisations are full of guides and manuals that poorly convey knowledge. But writing them seems sort of ingrained in us. Making YouTube style help videos could be a much better solution – but shaking off the shackles of the past and stopping the knee jerk reaction to write everything up will take time I think.
  2. Self-censorship is required. If you’re showing your work – pretty much nobody is going to want to see EVERYTHING that you’re doing! There is a skill in filtering what to share because…
  3. Noise is a potential issue. If everyone in an organisation suddenly starts showing their work/working out loud, how do you zoom in on the most relevant or interesting bits for you? Andrew Jacobs said (and I paraphrase) one person’s noise could be another person’s signal. So filtering what you consume as well as what you share becomes an essential skill
  4. It’s scary. Lots of people are fearful of showing their work. Many of us have a natural instinct to get things polished before sharing them. Showing a raw work in progress can be quite intimidating. I think some people are constrained by their own fears of not wanting others to think they are incompetent. Others will be constrained by their organisational culture. Jane quite rightly said that it needs to be OK to fail. But the acceptance around that will vary hugely from organisation to organisation.

I am personally trying to work out loud a lot more. It’s something we try to do in my organisation and I am finding it hugely beneficial. I have started to let go of that instinct to hone and polish before sharing a piece of writing for example. Because actually the earlier I get feedback and input on it, the better the end result tends to be. I think we’re going to see the trend of showing your work grow but we need more Janes to show us the way.

Michelle Parry-Slater on the value of free

I recently blogged about making videos and in this workshop, the attendees split into three groups to make free resources. Podcasts, animations and videos. Michelle was ably assisted by Ady Howes and Lisa Minogue-White here and after a rapid fire introduction on some useful free tools, we were given 20 minutes to create something ourselves. Using Adobe Spark, our group created this short little video. Which admittedly isn’t much! But Ady’s four pillars of video are really useful:

  • Story
  • Capture
  • Create
  • Share

You might not use each of these in order. Ady was talking about a shoot he has coming up which is of a live event. So he doesn’t know what the story is yet, it will unfold on the day. But he can set up the capture, he’ll create on the day and do some pre-planning on how he’ll share it afterwards.

The other two groups managed to create a podcast and an animation. Many in the room were chuffed to bits seeing what they could create so quickly and were clamouring for Michelle’s list of free tools. (Tweet her if you’d like a copy.) There are so many free tools out there but finding and assessing their worth is a challenge. This was a useful session thanks to Michelle’s spade work in cherry picking some of the best tools out there. Really worthwhile.

More to follow on day two. Stay tuned.

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Inside #LearningLive with Ed Monk

LEARNING-LIVEAs I prepared for this year’s Learning Live event, it struck me that the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI) go to great lengths so make their flagship conference stand out from the crowd. It keeps evolving every year and initiatives like providing personalised learning agendas and lecture free zones show how the Institute is walking the walk. Events are tough to manage – the traditional model has been set for so many years – and much like training itself, getting people out of their comfort zone is a challenge. So what the LPI does is no mean feat.

I thought I’d dig a little deeper behind the scenes and managed to grab some time with the LPI’s Managing Director, Ed Monk.

KG: What makes Learning Live different to other L&D events?

ed-monk-managing-director-lpiEM: I do believe Learning Live is genuinely different. First and foremost we always push the word ‘efficacy’ with everything we do at LPI. We’re committed to providing real, demonstrable impact in all of our services. With Learning Live, this means practical solutions, guidance and learning which lasts longer than the train journey home. We want to improve the performance of anyone who attends, and their organisations when they get back to work.

What does this mean in reality? Well, it means that we avoid the traditional ‘chalk and talk’ sessions; last year was the first year we announced Learning Live as a ‘lecture-free’ conference which was an important shift. This year we have gone further – and this is really different – in that we created a personalised conference experience. We spoke to our delegates, identified the sessions they should go to, suggested people to follow on social media, and coordinated meetings for them at the event. This will deliver a very different experience to wandering aimlessly around an exhibition hall, hoping that by chance you may bump into someone of interest! We identify the exhibitors that provide real value to delegates based on what people are asking for, and what they said they wanted last year. This is a carefully curated event, and in essence it isn’t another L&D event as this is about L&P – learning and *performance*.

KG: I have a few stand out moments from Learning Live over the years – what are your key takeaways from previous years?

EM: I will never for20140911_102846get Lord Winston’s keynote many years ago; we were the first to secure him for a conference in our industry which was a real coup. He was captivating and really thought-provoking.

But for me, the best speaker was Professor Steve Peters. Steve really did blow people’s minds in one hour. He made us think differently, and more intelligently, about how we act as human beings. Everything you would want from a keynote was there in his session. He was charismatic, humble, effortlessly polished, and provocative. And he backed it up with facts.

(I got over excited at this point as Steve Peters was also my stand out moment. If you haven’t read his book The Chimp Paradox, both Ed and I highly recommend it!)

EM: The takeaways from Learning Live in previous years, for me, have always been about the change we make in the weeks after the event to those who attended. It’s about bringing awareness, demystifying concepts, destroying urban myths, and pointing to the future – and ultimately, preparing learning professionals for a fantastic career.

KG: What are your tips for making the most of the event?

EM: Our motto for this year is #makeithappen. So if you’re coming along, make sure you speak to people, ask LPI staff to make introductions, raise your hand and ask that question in sessions, get the contact details for speakers you enjoyed.

Ask yourself before you arrive, ‘what do I want to get out of this?’ Basically, set objectives for yourself and return to them to see if they were met on Thursday evening. I mean, that is what as learning professionals, we do ourselves – set objectives, and return to them. The LPI’s organisational mantra is ‘involve, inform, inspire’ and that is what we expect our speakers to do.

KG: Who or what are you most looking forward to this year?

EM: There are some incredible speakers this year; we are flying in people from across the globe, reflecting the international status LPI now has. But I am specifically looking forward to seeing the robot that Volume are bringing to the conference, the simulator that Serious Games International will be demonstrating, and the Creativity Zone which will teach people how to actually do the things everyone theorises about. For example, if you want to create video content, we will show you how to do that at the event.

I’ve introduced these new concepts this year as we want to demystify concepts and point to the future. It is a great two days; my team are excited about it, and I know delegates are from the messages I’m receiving via email, Twitter etc.

lpi-dreamflight-calendarOn a final note, LPI is raising money for Dreamflight and we will be launching a new charity calendar with a twist on Wednesday – featuring senior learning professionals as you’ve never seen them before!

I hope everyone has a great two days, and if you can’t be there, get involved through social media using #LearningLive

I couldn’t have summed it up better myself! I’d like to thank Ed for taking the time to answer my questions during one of his busiest weeks of the year. And I look forward to sharing as many highlights as I can over the next two days.


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Looking ahead to #LearningLive 2016

LEARNING LIVE LOGOThere’s a distinct ‘back to school’ vibe around here this week. After an August where I didn’t go on holiday, but seemingly everybody else did, it’s all of a sudden noisy on my networks again. And I have the first event of the new ‘school year’ to look forward to: Learning Live, the annual conference of the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI).

I’ll be tweeting from some hotly anticipated sessions, including:

Jane Bozarth: Show your work: the payoffs and how-tos of working out loud

I wouldn’t miss Jane’s session for anything. As well as being lively and funny, she is also an expert who walks the walk, working and implementing her ideas in the real world. Since joining Fosway, I have been working out loud more across the team because that’s the culture there which I think is great. I would like to share more on my blog etc though, so am looking forward to some good tips here. Follow Jane on Twitter here if you don’t already.

Michelle Parry-Slater: The value of free: creating fantastic learning assets

Michelle is another expert who walks the walk. What I love most is her incredibly practical advice. So this session for those in L&D on a budget should be a cracker. If you haven’t seen her #NoPlasters and #TheWhole100 series, be sure to check them out. And you can follow her here.

Joe Tidman: Delivering an agile global learning strategy

Joe is not someone I know, but the title of his session caught my eye. I feel that L&D *needs* to become more agile. Organisations across the board do. And if learning can really achieve this, it’s future will be bolder and brighter in my opinion. So I’m fascinated to join this interactive session to find out more on Joe’s thinking. Follow him on Twitter here.

Julian Stodd: The socially dynamic organisation

I can barely keep up with the pace at which Julian’s brain works. He is so prolific and smart that I feel privileged whenever I am merely in his presence. I love the way he is pushing boundaries around social learning and can’t wait to here more about his vision for wher he feels organisations should be heading. Try and keep up with him here.

Sarah Lindsell: PwC – Getting practical

There’s a trend with my session choices. Because Sarah is another expert who is walking the walk 100%. What she’s doing at PwC is inspirational for other learning teams looking to embrace the shift to digital. Her recent interview on Learning Now TV is a short teaser for what I know will be an insightful, pragmatic session based on real world experience. You can also follow Sarah here.

It was tough to choose which sessions to attend. View the full programme here.

Other folk to follow:

Colin Steed – Learning Live Chair
Ed Monk – LPI Managing Director
Don Taylor – LPI Chairman
Michael Strawbridge – LPI Member Services
Jo Stephenson – Backchannel contributor
Phil Willcox – Backchannel contributor
Kim George – Backchannel contributor
Clare Haynes – Backchannel contributor

Tune into #LearningLive this Wednesday and Thursday for the live stream.


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Are all algorithms created equal?

I have noticed a trend recently. I am using Instagram more and more. Partly because I have just started renovating a Victorian house, so am sharing more visual content as we go through the different building/decorating/interior design aspects of that process. Partly because I am also enjoying consuming the visual content of the people I follow there.

Interestingly though, I am clicking on their sponsored posts more and more frequently.


Sample sponsored posts – the one on the right is more me.

Not only that, but I am also converting those clicks into sales and buying (skirts, shoes, lamps, china to name a few) from those sponsored ads. Whatever Instagram is doing with its algorithms to understand my behaviour and my preferences – it’s working. Slightly terrifying really.

But here’s the funny thing. I *never* click on Facebook ads. Never. I exclusively use the app version and so don’t even really see their ads.

But Facebook owns Instagram. I can’t understand why they’re not replicating whatever Instagram is doing? Seems odd to me. But maybe for my bank balance, that’s a good thing…

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Video in content marketing

During the summer I was lucky enough to have lunch with some industry luminaries and as people who all create content – albeit predominantly of the written word type – the conversation came around to the use of video in marketing and communications. Common wisdom was that yes, all the insight points to HUGE growth in video consumption: the predictions state that globally, IP video traffic will be 82 percent of all consumer Internet traffic by 2020, up from 70 percent in 2015.* Facebook has invested hugely in its new ‘Live’ video broadcasting and since when did Zuckerberg jump on something that didn’t have some kind of traction?

But! The shared experiences around the table reflected a consensus that while video is great and can absolutely add value, producing it and delivering it to a high standard is a damn sight more fiddly than typing some letters into a word processing document (or blog, or whatever your preferred format is). There has always been some debate with people I know around video about the importance (or not) of the quality of the output. Brand is so important these days and a piece of crappily shot video with rubbish audio can potentially undermine a company or an individual’s position. Having dealt with the ramifications of that previously, it can be easy to come to the conclusion that video might be more hassle than it’s worth.

However, can ‘good enough’ video be better than none? It doesn’t have to be over-produced or shot in a studio – but if the audio is good and the quality is at least ok – is it preferable to giving up the ghost before you’ve even started?

Learning from good examples

I was mulling this over during the holiday season when I came across the video below (HT Katie McNab – also my maiden name doppelganger!).

This is not over-produced. In fact, although I’m sure it wasn’t actually cheap to make, I would say the quality falls into the ‘good enough’ category. But what makes it stand out (to my mind at least) is the concept. It’s clever, deceptively simple and makes the production values less of an issue than they might otherwise be. Even something as simple as this will have taken a lot of planning, and you can bet your bottom dollar (or pound sterling) there will have been a much discussion about which doors to include in the video! The music is also a smart choice and adds to the overall snappy, punchy feel of the whole piece.

I then also started following Alex Pettitt who is one of the biggest Periscope broadcasters out there. He mostly talks about social media and tech, and his broadcasts pop up at all sorts of random times. He gets thousands of viewers and he is mostly just sitting in his office talking to his web cam. It’s not flashy. But he always has a particular topic he is addressing in each broadcast and it’s clearly working for him and his huge community of followers.

So, what are my conclusions after kicking this around for several weeks?

  1. Concept is key. Whether it’s a Periscope broadcast or something you are storyboarding and scripting – you need to have a point to what you’re doing. Video for video’s sake is not going to work for you or your viewers.
  2. Plan. I would go so far as to say you should even plan short live broadcasts through before you press that big red button. I don’t believe videos need scripting necessarily, but planning your start, middle and end points means you won’t ramble on and bore people in this age of low attention spans. And if you’re creating something more formal for say a corporate brand, then the planning becomes even more key. It might take longer to plan than to film, but the up front investment in time pays off with a better end product in my opinion.
  3. Quality does matter. Poor audio and shaky camera work on something you are recording ‘properly’ (as opposed to a live video) can potentially be damaging to your brand…Interestingly, Zuckerberg feels that video feeds a desire from people to see more ‘raw’ content as an antidote to the stylised images of perfection that proliferate platforms like Instagram. But I would argue that nobody wants to see your laundry in the background of your home office!
  4. But having said that, ‘good enough’ – to my mind – is better than nothing at all. As video becomes increasingly important, getting too hung up on the perfect shoot with the perfect script and the perfect edit will be a blocker to you keeping up with the competition and getting your video out there. It’s all about balance.
  5. Don’t be too dependent on a particular channel or video platform. With Blab suddenly pulling the plug last month, there’s a lesson for us all not to get too dependent on any one platform. Make or broadcast the content you want without putting all your eggs into any particular platform’s basket. The video market is proving pretty brutal and it would be awful to lose previous recordings etc if your chosen platform suddenly folds.

I’ll be attending Learning Live this week and aiming to do more live video – hopefully with half decent audio and a particular topic in mind for every broadcast! My aim is to to summarise each session immediately afterwards. I’m sure the camera work will be shaky but hopefully the content will be useful to those following the backchannel.

Useful links:


Marketer’s guide to the corporate video production process

31 video marketing statistics

* Cisco Visual Networking Index


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