Update - the theme and layout is now live for everyone.

Thanks for your feedback in this process. If there's additional feedback, please feel free to add to the answers below.

As part of implementing the new unified themes across the network, we're gradually rolling out updated site themes for each site. As of today, we have enabled your updated site theme for testing.

If you can't see it right now, that's by design! We're hoping to get feedback from you before rolling it out to everyone permanently. If you'd like to review it, here's how:

How do I enable it?

Click here and check the "Beta test new themes" option. This will turn on the new theme for all sites that have one in testing, including this one. Here's more info on how to opt in. You can uncheck the box to revert to the older theme until the site is live for everyone (note, it will take a few minutes to go into effect).

What type of feedback do we need?

On this post: Bugs related to this site's design elements

Please help us look for issues/bugs related to the theme design and how we have mapped the old theme to the new. This needs to be done within the limits of the new unified theme.

On Meta Stack Exchange: General concerns about left nav or theming

If you have concerns or issues regarding the left nav or the overall approach we are taking to theming, then this Meta Stack Exchange post is the right place for feedback.

As you may notice, there are some unique design elements like voting arrows and tags that are being standardized in this process. Keeping these custom elements makes our ability to maintain the sites too complex and, while we're very sad to see them go, we're in a difficult position of needing to make the site designs work together so that we can continue to address feature requests and bugs that will make your Q&A experience better. This is addressed in a Meta Stack Exchange post if you want more detail.

What new themes?

If you're like, "What the heck are you talking about?", then you should read the Meta Stack Exchange post entitled Rollout of new network site themes (and maybe the posts it links to for the full background).

Thanks so much for your constructive feedback!

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    Welcome to Physics Stack Exchange! Please let us know if there's any way we can assist you with your New contributions :-). – Emilio Pisanty Aug 31 at 23:17
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    Thanks, I hate it. – AccidentalFourierTransform Aug 31 at 23:47
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    Not a fan of the very square frames but rounded edge buttons. Very distracting to me. Should I post an answer here, or on the Meta.SE post? – Kyle Kanos Sep 1 at 2:00
  • I'm kind of concerned by the lack of voting here... about 8 hours ago, when I was last online, the score on Emilio Pisanty's answer was 7, mine had 3, no other answers existed, and the question itself had 60 views. Now, Emilio's answer is still 7, mine is 4, neither has any downvotes, 2 more answers have been added, and the number of views is on 111. What's going on? – Chair Sep 2 at 2:23
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    ambivalent. Maybe it’s a matter of habit but I’m not overawed by the layout: I don’t see that it makes things clearer since the functional width is smaller. On small screens this could be quite problematic. – ZeroTheHero Sep 2 at 2:35
  • @Chair They could be the same people viewing those new answers. Views aren't user unique. A user who views the post again more than 15 minutes later will count as an additional view. It's a holiday weekend in the US (and Canada, I think), so I think traffic is generally low. :D – Catija Sep 2 at 2:49
  • @Catija I was particularly concerned about the views actually, though my previous comment looks like it's focused on voting patterns (I'm not too happy with those either; we had some meta discussions (here) about that lately). Anyways, I'm somewhat relieved by the possibility that people aren't around because it's a holiday weekend. – Chair Sep 2 at 9:14
  • @Catija Any idea when the SE team's planning to mark the changes which they're going to try to implement and which requests they're declining? – Chair Sep 7 at 13:39
  • @Chair Hopefully early next week. We had a meeting about it on Wednesday but we ran out of time before we got to Physics and EL&U, which is why I've got tags on the other sites but not this one. Summer and vacations and all. I'm pretty sure we'll be switching comments to serif, though... so that's something. :D – Catija Sep 7 at 13:43
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    One of the ugliest looking webpages I can think of. Don't expect me to spend as much time here, in future - I'll be looking for somewhere that understands the concept of "design", which Stack Exchange apparently does not. – alephzero Sep 19 at 14:31
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    @alephzero I couldn't agree with you more. I'm not surprised that Catija deleted my earlier comment: it seems the SE admins are only interested in listening to comments that reinforce their own opinions. – Time4Tea Sep 19 at 15:15
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    @Time4Tea You are more than welcome to voice your opinions. Doing so in a way that's rude or overly hurtful, however, is not acceptable. Being staff doesn't make us permanent targets. If you want to say something, be constructive or at least respectful. – Catija Sep 19 at 15:16

12 Answers 12

With some qualifiers (see below), this bit is nice:

The Feynman-diagram to the background of the logo is also gone, and you know what? I'm having a hard time missing it at all. It's not like people noticed it unless it was explicitly pointed out, or at least they didn't for a large fraction of the time.

The hat logo looks a teeeny-tiny bit too white to me for now, but I'm pretty sure I'll adjust shortly.


I think the logo still needs more work, potentially amounting to a do-over depending on what the process looks like design-side.At standard zoom on my device (4k monitor) the hat logo does have some aliasing at some patches in the middle, as well as on the lower edge:

This is noticeable enough that it catches the eye very fast the first time and thereafter at repeated intervals. The SVG definitely looks like it needs some attention, because here are some stronger zooms:

Or, in other words, the points are kind of all over the place, and it does affect the visible display at a bunch of different zoom levels. Why not replace all of those with single Bézier curves with intersections? Or use the single-line-segments approach of the original proposal on this meta? If the design does require an explicit grid, though, with two parallel lines for each displayed line, then those gridpoints do need to be better placed, I should think.

Oh, and also, while you're fiddling with the logo, remember to stash a copy in the hat cupboard for next Christmas. Or swap out the SVG graphics on the front page for my glorious PWMS (paper, whiteboard marker, staples) version, if not.

  • Is there a particular reason why the logo was changed? The version which is there on the old theme and the one in the post about the vector logo are both very neat (though in on case low-res). I don't see why they redrew it with those slightly unsteady curves when the only eventual change was the change in background colour (actually the lines look a bit more sparse now, but that doesn't seem like a very significant change). – Chair Sep 10 at 12:41
  • Also, the awkward arrow in teh Feynman diagram looks less obtrusive here; it wasn't on top of the border at that time. Just thought I'd point it out... I'm not missing it at all. – Chair Sep 10 at 12:43
  • I think this is done. Aaron reduced the compression to let the lines be more smooth. The image size is bigger but it's cleaner. Apparently, the white was always there but being in pixels caused it to average out to the mint color, so the brightness of the white was a side effect of switching to an SVG. – Catija Sep 13 at 22:25
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    @Catija This does look better. The points still look askew to me under extreme levels of zoom, but nothing that impacts the everyday use. I don't think the whiteness of the background is either good or bad, it just is. – Emilio Pisanty Sep 14 at 10:17

Logo Alignment

The new vector logo is a great improvement; it's nice and sharp. But I don't like the white at all; the previous one with the pale green was much more subtle. And the Feynman diagram was a distraction; I'm happy that it's gone.

My real problem is the alignment/location of the site logo. It looks really awkward and skewed. Here's the old theme (I managed to get a screenshot by opening a private tab, because I can't go back now):

enter image description here

The logo is comfortably aligned to the text and it looks neat. In the new version, there's this huge bit which is practically 50% of the width which is sticking out.

enter image description here

I figured this would be a problem on a lot of sites with longer names, so I popped over to the main meta post Rollout of new network site themes. Some of those, like Unix&Linux have the same problem, but I don't think mathematics looks too bad:

enter image description here

Music and Electrical Engineering SEs have similar systems (coloured background for the sides) too. ServerFault has the same as Physics SE right now, and I think it doesn't look great.

The difference is that they have their background present behind the left bar as well, with the actual Q&A content in a separate white box which is hence very celearly differentiated. Obviously this isn't presently a very good solution for physics SE though, because our top bar is a pretty dark colour for both meta and main. Maybe we could make those green (main) and brown (meta) stuff a bit lighter? It has the added advantage of sharpening the contrast for the logo, and then it'd be feasible to colour our left side bar and the right space, like the math theme.


Even I have thee usual complaints which have already been put up on the main meta... navigation is split between the left nav bar and the top (for viewing top voting users and top editors and so on), there's that glorious unused space to the right of the Physics SE logo in the top.

Other points which I made in this post have been moved to separate answers to this question so that they can be voted for individually:

Overall, I can't quite say I like the changes, but there are definitely some positive things for users, and several good things for the developers (apparently/hopefully).

  • I agree a lot with changing the font in the comments (sans-serif looks super weird with MathJax), and title color. I thought everyone knew that links should not be in black? – Javier Sep 1 at 14:43
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    The inconsistent and distracting use of sans in virtually all situations save one alone — that of main posts’ content — remains unaddressed on all the many sites that have this unwillingly forced on them. That’s because they planned on making every site use Arial for absolutely everything, thinking that if it’s good enough for your cell phone, it’s good enough for the desktop site. But they were very wrong, and have relented only on the main posts’ content. But everything else that used to be serif is still broken, and it’s inconsistent and distracting. – tchrist Sep 2 at 16:14
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    @tchrist If the use of serif for texts and sans for navigation distracts you, I would advance the notion that in that respect you're not very representative of this site's userbase or the internet at large. (That doesn't mean it shouldn't be fixed, of course.) – Emilio Pisanty Sep 3 at 8:38
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    @EmilioPisanty The important thing is getting only the navigation to contain the sans. Right now, with titles and comments in sans, I'll have to agree that it's a bit of a mess, both functionally and cosmetically. – Chair Sep 3 at 8:54

(I'm splitting up my huge answer here)

Question title colour

The colour of the question titles has changed. I liked the previous blue; it looked nice, was obviously distinguished as a title, and had some functionality benefits. It was very obvious that clicking that title would refresh the page to focus on the question if you got to that page with a link pointing to a comment or answer on it. That was useful when I wanted to share links to particular questions. The link functionality has stayed the same.

Old version:

enter image description here

New version:

enter image description here

There's a clear competition for attention when you use the heading format to start your question. Previously, the blue would draw my attention, but now, I can't help but see the bold text first, even though that isn't actually the title. The only difference to emphasize the title is the slightly enlarged font, which doesn't compete with boldface.

enter image description here

This is more of a minor gripe, and it can ultimately be user-scripted away if necessary, but there's no reason to have bad styling on as a default.

This isn't the nineties. Please get rid of the link underlining.

It just adds clutter for no real gain. Underlining-on-hover is nice and useful, but always-on underline is a web 1.0 custom that absolutely earned its place in the graveyard of bad ideas.

  • There are some arguments along the lines of "underlining hyperlinks would be useful for the color blind"... (not that I like how it looks though!) – Blue Sep 2 at 20:38
  • @Blue I would like to see those arguments, and how they deal with "just make the link color a different lightness and then links will be distinguishable regardless of colorblindness". – Emilio Pisanty Sep 2 at 20:56
  • Well, one issue is "How much contrast is optimal?". This seems to be a pretty nice article which discusses the issue. As long as SE uses color-blind friendly contrasts I think your suggestion of "underlining on hover" is good enough. That said, I'm am not much aware of which colors are "color-blind friendly" and which are not, and thus also not sure how well the "black-orange" contrast works. They ought to spend some research time on this I guess. – Blue Sep 2 at 21:21
  • @Blue "It requires some thought to make it colorblind-friendly" ≠ "you shouldn't do it". – Emilio Pisanty Sep 2 at 21:23
  • Yes, I never said that they shouldn't do it. All I was saying is that "they ought to spend some research time on this"! Personally, I don't really find the underlining thing visually appealing either. :) [The best case scenario would, of course, be: "underline on hover" along with "a colorblind friendly contrast"]. – Blue Sep 2 at 21:31
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    Official designer response on mother meta: Feature, not a bug. – ACuriousMind Sep 2 at 21:56
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    @ACuriousMind Thanks for pointing out the correct venue for my downvotes and to heap my scorn :-). – Emilio Pisanty Sep 2 at 21:59
  • FREEHAND CIRCLES!!!! Still, I disagree with this; the underlines look tacky but they can be useful sometimes. I think that the problem is that they're too gaudy and blatantly in-your-face with the bright orange. The hover-over is a good idea. – Chair Sep 3 at 8:50

Comments are switched back to serif for your MathJax enjoyment. ~Catija

This is mentioned in the longer answer by Chair, but it jumped out at me so I'll post it by itself anyway.

Our previous design, for a couple of years, uses a font with serifs so that inline text and MathJax snippets look less dissimilar. The new design uses a serif font for the body text, but sans-serif for the comments, where people also post MathJax snippets.

I like the idea behind using a different typeface to help distinguish the comments from the main text. But unless we're going to add support for sans-serif fonts in MathJax snippets (which is non-trivial, and not necessarily great-looking even if you can get it to work) I think it's better to have inline consistency.

  • I've split that answer up into separate posts, based on feedback by KyleKanos in the comments. The answer about the serif-vs-sans issue is here now. – Chair Sep 2 at 2:34
  • Sans-serif math looks terrible, IMO. My present physics textbook at school uses italicized calibri (with the plain text in garmond or something serif because reasons??) and I hate it so much. Cambria math is a standard font; it's used by mathjax (I think) and even Microsoft Word, so practically every thing uses it. That being said, Mathjax has \mathsf for those who really need it, though on Physics SE we obviously can't add that in every single comment just to make things look uniform. – Chair Sep 2 at 2:40
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    If you think sans-serif math looks horrible, you ought to see how bad pronunciations specified the International Phonetic Alphabet look in a sans face. They’re a lot harder to read. With a serif font path that picks George first and Times New Roman second, these all look fine again. – tchrist Sep 2 at 16:16
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    Sans-serif math fonts are challenging enough on LaTeX but, from a technical perspective, I strongly suspect that it's simply not doable on vanilla MathJax. But even if it's possible to make it work in best-of-cicumstances MathJax, that platform has a huge variability in fonts, as it reacts differently to different device capabilities, and it directly allows the user to set the renderer (in preferences which then get buried and forgotten). Sans-serif MathJax simply doesn't look feasible to me. – Emilio Pisanty Sep 2 at 22:29

(I'm splitting up my huge answer here)

Why is meta orange?

A number of things on meta have turned orange:

Links in posts


enter image description here

(I have freehand circles. Gotta take this one seriously :P)

Old: (none of those links shows up as visited because I'm signed out in a private window for this one)

enter image description here

Author names and comment buttons

enter image description here

Other random stuff

enter image description here

I'm not really surprised that there are so many orange stuff, because they probably all run on the same style stuff. I popped over to Mathematics meta and Electrical Engineering meta, and even they've ended up with orange. However, the Super User and Server Fault meta sites got their own reddish-brown colour, so this isn't one of those network-wide Stack Overflow-like standardizations.

In absolute terms, I actually like orange way more, and it looks fun and bright, but it doesn't fit here; our meta is brown and it wouldn't feel like a meta in bright orange. So can we have the old brown? Actually, even the reddish thing on SU and SF metas is ok; it matches the colour of the word "meta" in the Physics meta logo.

Obtrusive Ask-question button on Meta

Similarly, our meta Ask-question button has been feeling a bit off-color lately.

Main site:

enter image description here


enter image description here

It's a bit too obtrusive and sticks out like a sore thumb with the rest of the brown/orange (???) theme. Can we have a brown or maroon instead?

Or rainbow stripes. Can't (easily) go wrong with rainbow stripes.

(I'm splitting up my huge answer here)

Occasional lapses into sans-serif fonts

The heading font in the review queues is messed up: it's a sans-serif font, and our usual titles (still) use a nice serif font.

enter image description here

This shows up in revision histories as well:

enter image description here

I couldn't find an example, but this would look really bad on questions with mathjax in titles.

Sans-serif font for comments too?

(Feature request because it looks like they blanket-implemented this one without explicitly saying that it's being standardised: Mathematics SE and English L&U both have sans comments but serif posts)

I imagine this one was deliberately implemented... but I think the sans-serif font in comments looks really strange. Yeah, it's cool to make headings in sans serif and content in serif, but when you switch back to sans serif for comments, it starts getting a bit creepy and looking strange, like this:

enter image description here

It's convincing to argue that sans-serif fonts were actually optimised for low-dpi environments and are clearer when they're small, while serif fonts show up really badly on low-res displays (particularly when the face is small), but this just looks... strange. For it to look better, we'd need to have the main post content in sans-serif, but that clashes with mathjax (there's a meta post on physics SE which requested a serif font for those reasons, Can we have a font which harmonizes better with MathJax?). And since comments occasionally contain mathjax, we might as well keep a serif font there.

Good: Author indicator design and front page navigation

However, I am quite happy with the new sans-serif font in the author profile below answers. It's much cleaner, and for some reason, the sans-serif doesn't clash too badly with the serif in the answers/question.

enter preformatted text here


enter image description here

Also, the old front page suddenly looks like a wreck to me:

enter image description here

But everything in this new image (other than the position of the logo, see my answer about that here) looks awesome and clear: the absence of highlighting around the 'active', 'featured', and 'hot' tabs in the old version actually looks pretty confusing.

enter image description here

Rendering of text on Home page Safari browser

I've noticed over a course of a week or so that the rendering of the question titles on the Home page on MacOs Safari browser is not so satisfactory, resulting in overlapping words with the reputable attributes on the left. Is anyone else having this problem? The formatting on the Questions page is, however, rendering fine and I've checked both pages on firefox in the same system and it appears fine.

enter image description here

  • 1
    Do you get this problem on other sites with the new theme? If so, this may be best reported on the mother-meta thread. – Emilio Pisanty Sep 23 at 12:42
  • @EmilioPisanty Indeed, the problem also appears on the math stack exchange. Ok, I will post the issue on the mother meta. – CAF Sep 24 at 14:44

I'd also like to complain about the fact that if you switch to Beta view you're stuck with it and can't switch back. I'm not the first to say that and I have a feeling I won't be the last.

Regarding the new layout the (pointless) sidebar is a few lines that take up a lot of space and waste the entire height of the screen doing it. It could be just as easily left on the top or if you're going to insist on having the sidebar then move more of header stuff to the sidebar and leave room for questions.

enter image description here

The side bar should be collapsible. It's rarely needed so why is it open all the time ?

A button on the header graphic would be suited to toggling the sidebar open and closed, for example :

enter image description here

For that matter the "Ask Question" button could be in a similar location.

These changes would also benefit tablet and phone users who are already short of space and don't need it wasted by permanently placed UI features that are infrequently used.

Edit regarding comment by Emilio Pisanty.

While the StackOverflow community may use the sidebar space differently, this does not, IMO (as a professional programmer myself) that the sidebar should not have a toggle button or similar to hide it when not required.

Regarding the "Ask Question" area I suggested moving to sidebar, given Emilio's info I would suggest this could also be toggled or given a "drop-down" approach something like a drop down menu when you hover over it. These are pretty much common as dirt UI elements all over the web and it's odd they're not being exploited to maximize space. I am aware of the argument that the multitude of devices makes the coding tricky, but it's also coding that is supported by third party libraries and it's not exactly something that they have to completely invent themselves or maintain themselves.

Again I'd point to the issues tablet and phone users may experience if they have to deal with it.

BTW It's not clear if UI changes are being rolled out on mobiles and tablets at the same time.

Regarding the mobile UI on my (small) phone I'd particularly note that the current payout (with "Beta testing allowed" flag On) means the tags and the rather pointless update time and user name for the question occupy as much space as the actual question title. I have a small phone, but I don't think users on mobiles need to see tags as much as they need to see questions. This is not an issue for desktop and laptop users as they have a lot more real-estate to play with. Users of larger tablets and phones may not be affected either, but we don't all use large mobile devices precisely because we want small mobile devices. Here's a crop of a screen shot from my mobile showing what I mean :

enter image description here

Now 95% of the time I use a desktop myself, so this isn't an issue I experience much.

  • 2
    This is probably best voiced in the main-meta thread. The switch to left-nav was implemented to make room for integration with Teams on StackOverflow, which occupies that whitespace. That kind of tramples the rest of the network, but it's a conversation that should be had network-wide. – Emilio Pisanty Sep 1 at 20:02
  • @EmilioPisanty Useful info as alway. – StephenG Sep 1 at 20:11
  • @EmilioPisanty I'll give some thought to moving my answer, but if the moderators feel it should be migrated, I'm fine with that. – StephenG Sep 1 at 21:04
  • I don't think it needs to be migrated - it's just that the conversation is over on MSE (and the question here explicitly points to MSE as the place to provide this type of comment). I'd encourage you to re-post this there, and link it from here. – Emilio Pisanty Sep 1 at 21:34
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    There's already a request to have a toggle for the left sidebar instead of the setting in the user profile page. :) And it's currently under review. As to mobile, this will eventually replace the mobile theme but the full site view is not yet optimized for mobile at the time being. It's planned, just not implemented. – Catija Sep 2 at 2:57
  • @Catija Thanks for the info and link. I'll think about deleting this post, as it sounds like the issues I raise have been raised elsewhere and simple upvotes there are what I need to do. – StephenG Sep 2 at 3:12


I occasionally switch from "mobile" to "full site" view on a recent Android device (Chrome browser). (The mobile site hides basically all of the diamond moderator tools.) The new design seems to degrade to mobile more gracefully than the old one did. However there a few cases where modal dialogs make bad assumptions about the small screen size, and limits on zooming and scrolling can put some controls our of reach. One is the suggested edit review box shown in the screenshot above (reached by pressing "edit (1)" under the question). Another, I learned while making this post, is the "insert image" dialog.

It seems like the mobile theme circumvents this problem by hiding the "edit" link while a suggested edit is pending.

Since I signed up for testing, I have been using the"unanswered" link on the left, and thought it was a great improvement,except, today I realized that checking "my tags" did not give me a list of unanswered questions in "particle physics", but I got an old list back , and I thought people were no longer interested in particle physics :).

old list appearing all these days, I think since I had last checked the "mytags" enter image description here

I see no choice for getting the "newest".

Here is the particle tag of a few moments previously to the post. when I hit "particles" in the tags list of the question:

enter image description here

A "newest" in mytags would help.

On the other hand, I have had trouble with firefox before, giving me old pages ( for example I sent a correction to hyperphysics, and it kept coming back with the old wrong page, although in a new private window the corrections were there).

treat the above as just a comment on the way I use the site.


Chat still uses the old logo

enter image description here

Looks like the new logo wasn't implemented there. I don't know if it supports high-resolution vectors, but it'd be nice to have some symmetry for the Feynman diagram and the hat's coloring.

The older logo also shows up in profile > edit communities. It looks like the lines are much more sparse in the new version. Perhaps the mexican hat which shows up as our HNQ icon would be more appropriate here?

enter image description here

The same happens with the question migration stats in the 10k tools

enter image description here

  • This will probably wait until the logo is fixed but it's good to have the reminder. – Catija Sep 8 at 4:49
  • @Catija Does that mean that the logo is currently on status-planned? It'd be good to have status markers on the various answers here. – Emilio Pisanty Sep 10 at 12:10
  • Probably more like status review, @EmilioPisanty . I'm not able to commit to anything until I've talked with the designer to confirm. – Catija Sep 10 at 12:33
  • @EmilioPisanty Whether or not the suggestions from your answer are implemented, there's going to be a change: the new left-nav version has a white background for the logo. – Chair Sep 10 at 12:34
  • Did some more digging. We're not using the same format for the images any more, so we'll have to actually change how they get served to chat in the future. This will be fixed eventually, just not sure how soon. – Catija Sep 19 at 12:28
  • @Catija See edit - I suspect it's probably the same fix to change the logo in the migration stats. I don't know where else that png shows up, but it's probably worth tracing it when the fix is in preparation? – Emilio Pisanty Sep 22 at 16:40

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