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I'm currently flag-banned from flagging posts due to several declined flags on posts that I believe do not answer the question What to do when a player loses or forgets their character sheet? emphasis mine:

Sadly, most of the games I play in have monthly sessions at best. Also, players travel from a somewhat greater distance to play. During the month, many players misplace their character sheets or accidentally leave them at home.

Depending on the game, it might be relatively easy to reconstruct the sheet. I'm also trying to convince the players to scan or otherwise digitize their sheets, and I want them to store them in an Internet-accessible location such as Google Docs.

Even so, there's always that time when a player shows up ready to roll but has no sheet. Without the sheet, the experience for everyone will diminish. It's like putting a big old asterisk on the entire session. I know what precautions to take to avoid it, but how to make it as painless as possible when it does happen?

Are these proper answers to the question?

https://rpg.stackexchange.com/a/7955/44723:

I favor simpler systems because (among other reasons) my group has a few players who invariably lose their character sheets. If the system's simple enough (FATE, WR&M, that sort of thing), I can easily keep my own records of their character's stats. If the system is more complex, I prefer to keep the sheets myself. D&D3.5, though... we all know it well enough that recreating a character sheet during play is nothing. We've all done it at least once.

https://rpg.stackexchange.com/a/1314/44723:

For my group, we keep one copy on gDocs and the other with whomever is DMing the game. That typically removes the lost sheet controversy.

https://rpg.stackexchange.com/a/6152/44723:

I used to always keep all PC sheets. Now I tend to make the players keep their masters on my Wiki. It is not as pretty as physical sheets, but with the wiki, they can always be updated and printed as needed.

https://rpg.stackexchange.com/a/1301/44723:

Unless the character is specifically made to move between campaigns, the character and its sheet are tied to a specific campaign and the GM can justifiably insist on keeping the character sheet. This is especially true when forgetting a character sheet can seriously impact a session.

https://rpg.stackexchange.com/a/6126/44723:

I have a DnD insider subscription and require all players to enter their character in to the character builder. This way I can print off a spare copy if it is ever needed. However, this does not take in to account their inventory, however, it's usually good enough for us to get by, or have someone else take control of an absent player's character.

https://rpg.stackexchange.com/a/1352/44723:

All character sheets for my games are posted online. No chance of losing them.

https://rpg.stackexchange.com/a/1325/44723:

My groups have the DM hold on to the character sheets, plus any notes the players have made (loot, etc.)


All these answers talk about preventing the loss of character sheets, and none address what should happen at the table once the sheets are lost (except for the first that states that you should simply recreate the sheet from memory). None of them offers a frame challenge that addresses the problem, and none give any advice whatsoever about how to make the situation as painless as possible.

Was declining these flags the correct action? Do these answers address the problem:

I know what precautions to take to avoid it, but how to make it as painless as possible when it does happen?

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I have not been review banned, but I did flag a bunch of those and they all got declined. Looking at my accepted 'NAA' flags, I'm not sure if I'm seeing a consistent response to flags by reviewers (not moderators):

Q: Is there a spell to make a PC stop talking while a spell caster delivers a monologue?
A: Less conventional than the other options could be summon swarm (spiders). Every time a pc tries to speak, a spider crawls into their mouth.

The deleted post 'looks' like an answer, but doesn't actually address the question directly ("is there a spell") or make it clear that an indirect solution is viable (i.e. one that achieve the core goal, without providing a spell.)

Q: Suggestions for decreasing metagaming and increasing player immersion?
A: I don't care

This looks a frame challenge (which could be a valid answer), but doesn't address a core goal.


Back to the question where we've had NAA flags declined; I tried to be lenient (as in, give them the benefit of the doubt that they intended to answer and not just that the general advice happened to cover the core question) and edit any post where they answered the question, but it was buried deeper down.

But answers that looked like they could be comments and provided no value as an answer got flagged, such as one you highlighted:

All character sheets for my games are posted online. No chance of losing them.

Is this useful in general? Yes, so it's worth sharing. But it doesn't answer the question, and it's not a good example for others to follow. StackExchange posts don't age off, and even though 'sleeping dragons' should be left to sleep, once one wakes up we should deal with it.

So should the answers be dealt with just by downvoting and moving on? Maybe, but we can do that with all posts we find unhelpful personally. I think this is more about this question being an exception, it's a skeleton in the closet of bad not-really-answers that don't need preserving.

Flagging makes sense to me here, and I think they should be deleted for providing no value because they don't address the issue.

Looking at this post the same way my accepted NAA flags were handled (albeit, accepted by reviewers not moderators), it might be clearer these should have been handled in a similar way:

Q: What to do when a player loses or forgets their character sheet?
A: All character sheets for my games are posted online. No chance of losing them.

The question asks when, so the issue has already come up. You can't sensibly answer that by essentially saying "Don't let it happen in the first place."

As an example outside of this site, if you came to your doctor with foot blisters, this would be an equally worthless exchange:

Q: What do do when I have foot blisters?
A: Wearing better shoes would prevent foot blisters.

Nothing of value is lost by deleting those sort of answers, and tidying up the post is definitely worthwhile doing.

As Someone_Evil points out, my declined flags were handled by Moderators, but they had already been marked as 'Looks Ok' by the reviewers. I think I'm ok with still questioning those decisions, but I'm happy (and not surprised) our mods and reviewers are in sync.

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    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW when you're talking about flag handling, the helpful flags in question were handled by review queues, not actual moderators. It makes it maybe a bit of an apples to oranges thing? The same review queues had already marked those answers as Looks Good. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Nov 10 '21 at 12:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil good distinction! I didn't mean to implicate diamond moderators here, I was assuming that the reviewers had to have 'moderator privileges' but it looks like I was wrong there. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10 '21 at 12:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ahh I've further misunderstood your point, let me edit to address that specifically \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10 '21 at 12:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ The already deleted answers may be of note. Especially given that they have this comment: "I'm removing this because it provides a preventative measure with no information on what to do when it does happen. Due to the age of this post, despite my removing it, you will keep the reputation associated with it." If they were deleted, I see no reasons these others wouldn't be as well \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10 '21 at 12:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point @Exempt-Medic \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10 '21 at 12:40
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Yes, these were incorrectly flagged.

[Sorry this took a while: since this meta post raises the issue of whether we, elected moderators, are handling these similarly we took some time in our mod-chat to touch base and see whether we were harmonious in our NAA flag-handling. We are, and this post represents our current understanding and practice.]

Not an Answer (NAA) is a challengingly-named (one might even go so far as to say misleadingly-named) flagging reason. This meta.SE post goes into much more detail; here we'll summarize and look at how it applies to the posts identified in the question.

NAA is for posts that are new questions (use the "Ask A Question" button), "thanks" comments (If you really need to say thanks, do it in a comment), attempts to talk to another user (chat or on-topic comments are for that), requests for clarification (comments are for that), necro-bumps (bounties are for that), &c. NAA covers posts that aren't rightly posts at all, in other words.

NAA is not for bad answers; weak answers; unsupported answers; terse-to-the-point-of-annoyance answers; answers you think are horrible advice; answers based on a misreading of the post; answers that miss large parts of the question; answers based on thinking everything is the latest version of D&D, even. Because those are all answers. Downvote to your heart's content, comment on how bad they are, vote to delete, even! But they're not NAA and we'd decline an NAA flag on every one of those.

The challenge, of course, is that NAA flags throw posts into the Very Low Quality queue. I'll say that in my (nitsua60's) experience: NAA-flagged posts on this site are almost always Very Low Quality, and always never Not An Answer. (Frequent VLQ reviewers: please reread that last sentence.)


On to these posts: the original question presents a problem with people showing up without sheets, and asks specifically how to dial down the impact (pain, in OP's words) of a missing character sheet.

Answer 7955: states that playing in a simpler system makes losing sheets less likely, and that knowing the system well enough ensures "that recreating a character sheet during play is nothing." It's on point, whether you agree or not, whether you think it's good advice or not.

Answer 1314: states that gDocs solves the (underlying) problem of losing a sheet. It's a frame challenge or an XY solution, it's not explicitly stated as such, but it's definitely a user trying to relay experience with a similar problem.

Answer 6152: ditto 1314

Answer 1301: not spelled out very much, but implicitly saying "the pain is too great, so put all your eggs in the 'don't lose character sheets' basket."

Answer 6126: ditto 1301

Answer 1352: this one's terse enough to annoy me, I'll admit. But it's not not directed at the problem OP is having and is presumably this user's solution to the problem. It's just not NAA.

Answer 1325: ditto 1352


Finally, there is the matter of whether these flags should have been handled by the review queue, rather than a mod. Normally, the mods do leave NAA flags to the queue (or the reviewers handle the flag before a mod even sees it). However, there is a cooldown on how often an answer can be pushed to the VLQ queue by an NAA flag, and less than an hour before Akixkisu flagged those answers another user flagged them and the review queue preserved them. This meant that Akixkisu's flags could not be handled by the review queue, they had to be handled by a moderator (or gum up the moderator flag queue forever).

[Some follow-on discussion in RPG General chat can be found here: NAA flag meta bookmarked conversation]

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    \$\begingroup\$ In that case, will you will be undeleting the posts (1, 2) that (at the time) fellow moderator doppelgreener deleted for exactly the reason Akixkisu flagged these other answers? "I'm removing this because it provides a preventative measure with no information on what to do when it does happen. Due to the age of this post, despite my removing it, you will keep the reputation associated with it." \$\endgroup\$ Nov 12 '21 at 14:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess the thing I care about most here is "is there really no way you could have prevented flag banning one of our most prolific curators, given that those flags were following the example of actions already taken by a moderator on substantively identical posts?" \$\endgroup\$ Nov 12 '21 at 14:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ "If the problem is subtle and may not be obvious to whoever reviews your flag, then raise the "in need of moderator intervention" flag instead, and explain in detail why you think the answer violates the site rules and should thus be removed." was my next step, you (the team) also declined that flag. You also choose to forgoe the action to accept, but not act on the flags - would you mind going to into detail about both of these actions? \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Nov 12 '21 at 15:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to confirm my reason for deleting those answers: I believe if a question asks “I've twisted my ankle, what do I do?”, a response that does nothing more than tell me how I could've avoided twisting my ankle in the first place is categorically not an answer. If I'm looking up this question, I've already twisted my ankle—these are flatly not giving me anything resembling a solution to my problem. Worse, they're unhelpful: they're noise I now have to sift through to find real answers. You could tell me preventative measures after solving my current problem, but not instead of doing so. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 12 '21 at 17:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't consider them to be valid frame challenges either. A frame challenge solves the problem at a new angle instead of answering the question head-on, generally by addressing a mistaken premise in the question. They're a way of saying “You're thinking about this wrong.” If my problem is that I've lost my sheet, that's not a faulty premise to call into question. It's simply gone. I need a recovery plan. A response that only tells me how I could've avoided this isn't diving deeper, it's not correcting anything, it's just not a solution to my problem. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 12 '21 at 18:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ To be "a user trying to relay experience with a similar problem." is not an answer in its own right. NAA also covers posts that should or could (with no loss to the community) be comments as they provide tangential advice. I'm on the same page as @doppelgreener here, some of those flagged posts are noise \$\endgroup\$ Nov 12 '21 at 18:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ I should add: I largely agree with the list of what NAA is/isn't for at the start, with the exception that it's my reading that “not an answer” isn't just things that categorically aren't answers, it also includes things that categorically cannot possibly be an answer to this particular question (or solution to this problem). This means I would actually file an answer to a Fate question based on thinking it's about D&D 5e as an extension of NAA. This has enormous wiggle room, but the answers I deleted, I considered not to pass this bar. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 12 '21 at 18:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov (Slowly catching up, here.) "Will you be undeleting the posts...?" Not personally, no. I wouldn't have deleted them myself--I'm happy to see things like that downvoted and visible as a negative example more often than others are, I think--but I'm not going to go and undelete them, either. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Nov 12 '21 at 22:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I will say that those posts, greener's comments on them (she's generally wiser than I), the commentary here, and some thoughts in Role-playing Games Chat certainly make me wonder if I'm the one who needs some recalibrating. I'd certainly listen to a community consensus that says "we will not suffer two-line 'don't get into that situation' answers to live." \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Nov 12 '21 at 22:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ "I guess the one thing I care most about..." Just so future readers are perfectly clear: the declining of these flags caused Akixkisu's flagging ability to be locked for a week. "Flag-ban" is the shorthand many use for it, but fear not: in a few more days they'll be free to flag again. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Nov 12 '21 at 22:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ "If my problem is that I've lost my sheet, that's not a faulty premise to call into question...." I guess that's where I'm reading it differently: I think (mainsite) OP's premise isn't that they have lost a sheet, it's that they take for granted that they will. (And now this is feeling like a pretty fine hair to split....) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Nov 12 '21 at 22:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ You say "answers based on a misreading of the post; answers that miss large parts of the question; answers based on thinking everything is the latest version of D&D" It would be good to show that this particular argument is not part of that meta - it is your individual stance. It even runs contrary to the second-highest scoring answer, which goes into detail concerning how to make that commentary/answer distinction - in particular, the section about "answers that attempt to answer another question or are just a general dump of unsolicited information[.]" \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Nov 14 '21 at 10:23
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Flagging NAA, recommending deletion, and reviewing "Looks OK" are all appropriate actions.

There is obviously no evidence of anyone acting in bad faith here. Everyone is just trying to curate the site to the best of their ability, and it is okay if we disagree on what that looks like. The whole point of community review is to get input from multiple users who have earned review privileges by contributing quality content to the site.

  • You flagged NAA because you felt that an answer did not provide any meaningful solution to the problem. This is what we are supposed to do.

  • Some reviewers recommended deletion on some of the posts, either because they agreed they were NAAs or had other problems warranting deletion. This is what we are supposed to do.

  • Some users marked "Looks OK" because they felt the posts provided a sufficient response to the question and did not otherwise merit deletion. This is what we are supposed to do.

So while we may disagree on which of these actions is the "most correct" action, I want to emphasize that all of these actions are appropriate actions to take because it is okay if we disagree here.

Things were moving through the queue just fine and the community was handling the flags through review as we typically do. There was really nothing exceptional going on here. We have had queues balloon like this before, and the volume has never been more than our active reviewers could handle in a reasonable amount of time. By all accounts, things appear to have been working as intended.

So getting flag banned for appropriate flags is...not great.

You were flag banned because a ♦ moderator manually declined your flags. I flagged several of those answers and two reviewers quickly reviewed them "Looks OK" (which again, is just fine), so mine were marked "disputed". It looks like two other users got to a couple of your flags and recommended deletion (which again, is just fine). Had community review been allowed to carry on, we would have gotten more eyes on the posts, and at worst, your flags would have been marked "disputed".

However, a ♦ moderator took over for the community review that was already working things out appropriately, and moderator actions here have unique consequences. Now one of our most active and helpful reviewers is flag banned for the next week for taking actions that were entirely appropriate.

To be clear, I am sure the moderator actions were done in good faith. The system simply isn't designed to allow a moderator to decline the flag without the potential for consequences, which isn't the mods' fault, it's a design flaw. I think this is one where they should have waited for something to go awry in a process that appears to have been functioning as intended.

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    \$\begingroup\$ (And if Im missing something about how the review queues work that absolutely required moderator intervention, let me know.) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10 '21 at 18:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is one catch to the review queues: if an answer gets pushed into the review queue by a flag and finishes its run through the queue without being deleted, another flag on the same answer within a certain cooldown period will not push the answer back into the queue, in which case it must be handled by a moderator. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    Nov 12 '21 at 14:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage As I'm not a mod I don't know the details, so I need your help understanding here. With these second flags, were the only options you were presented with "decline the flag" and "delete the post", or is there an option to not delete the post that doesn't flag ban the flagger? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 12 '21 at 14:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you feel that, "Will this flag ban the flagger?" should be part of the decision-making process when handling flags? \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    Nov 13 '21 at 0:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage Given that you have a choice between being the one to make that decision and letting the automated system decide, the question “should this user be flag banned for these flags?” should enter the calculus of the decision. We can leave it up to the central computer to make that decision for us, but why would we do that when we can bring to the table that analysis that the computer is incapable of? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 13 '21 at 1:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ So you feel that the decision should take into account criteria other than, "What is the correct response to this flag?" \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    Nov 13 '21 at 1:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage I think considering the outcome of each available response is part of determining what the correct response is. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 13 '21 at 1:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I agree in this case, but that's a reasonable position to take. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    Nov 13 '21 at 1:23
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what did the reviewers see?

The questions were not listed as not an answer to me. They were asked "Review the following answer:" What to do when a player loses or forgets their character sheet? [answer], like here:

a random of the answers from the review que

The answers do answer the question as displayed in the title, but not necessarily the full question in the question body. It is not always apparent that something is "not an answer" from that view, even if it is available via the question button.

See also here:

An answer is "Not an Answer", but the flag was declined or disputed!

First, verify that the problem wasn't corrected after you raised the flag. If the author or someone else was able to edit the answer and fix the problem, then you did nothing wrong; the problem was simply not visible anymore at the time the flag was handled.

If the problem is still visible, then consider that perhaps it isn't as obvious as you thought it was. When reviewing "not an answer" flags, moderators aren't shown the question or comments in context without clicking further, which they probably won't do unless there's an obvious reason to look for additional context. The same applies to flags handled in the review queues for privileged users1, which requires reviewers to scroll or click through to view the question or other answers.

As suggested above, subtle problems can be more effectively handled by raising an "in need of moderator intervention" flag, which allows you to explain the problem in detail. If a "not an answer" flag is declined or disputed and a serious problem is still evident, then escalate the issue to the moderator team with a detailed description.

Disturbing sleeping dragons

The question is 11 years 2 months old. That means it was a sleeping dragon, till someone flagged it. That puts it into the review queue automatically. That drew attention to it. Flags got denied and re-raised and - and while people started editing some of the answers flagged, mods also went on to try and weed out what was in there. At that point, it was not the users that resulted in the denied flags.

10, 11 years back, the stack was different, more chatty, and was soon allowing campaign recommendations. Since then it matured and no longer does those things. Some of the people you flagged are gone for more than 10 years, one of them was a moderator a few years ago [sevensideddie]. In any case, it isn't in any way an urgent matter that needs to be reviewed now and could have gone through a longer Meta before raising a bunch of flags.

Clogging the line

Notwithstanding who raised the items to the review queue, flagging those old posts all at once raised (to me) the idea of trying to clean up for the sake of clean up - possibly clogging the pipeline with things that have no large urgency. People can only vote so often to delete or close in a day, and we might or might not see a surge of urgent cases popping up - and then those that do moderate are out of votes?! I have been there, I had clogged the line with close votes on missed game-recommendation questions, and was called out to please only toss in small numbers at a time.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Generally dislike doing so on meta, but removed a whole chain of comments disagreeing over a misunderstanding. Reminder to both parties to be friendly, which includes respect for others actions, and for disagreement with those actions (and, you know, conveying the whole thing respectfully). \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Nov 10 '21 at 11:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Let me then try to cover the misunderstandings. Firstly, Aki's flags didn't put those answers into the review queue. That were someone else, and those flags were marked as Disputed, which doesn't count towards flag limitations. Being marked as declined requires an actual moderator to take action. And we might well be inclined to do that if there's a whole swath of answers that get flagged seemingly from being marked Looks Good in the review queue and there's nothing else compelling in there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Nov 10 '21 at 12:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil I may be misunderstanding you here. It seems like you’re saying because two users marked the answers “Looks good”, any further flags should just be declined rather than allowing them to be handled by more users. That seems rather counterintuitive to me, so I think I’m missing something about your comment. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10 '21 at 12:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Ahh, no, that wasn't quite my intent. But often if it's been marked as Looks Good we will also agree with the reviewers, at least that it isn't delete worthy. Repeated flags won't (generally) create new review items (I think there's some time and/or other limitations on that, but have no idea about specifics). \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Nov 10 '21 at 12:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil Ohhhh, I see what you mean. That makes way more sense. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10 '21 at 12:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @akixkisu I cleaned up some of the content that was bringing the miscommunication between us rise: I am sorry that we stuck that impasse yesterday. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Nov 11 '21 at 10:20

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