Idea Blogging: Your Roadmap to Creating Killer Blog Post Ideas

by Mustafa Khundmiri

 

Image credit: zetson (Creative Commons)

Ideas are taking over.

They’re changing our world. Redefining who we are. Creating new opportunities.

Blogging itself started as an idea. An idea that evolved into a revolution. An idea that’s become so powerful that governments fear it.

No wonder the blogosphere has become a highly competitive place – where most blogs happen to be invisible.

Today, if you want your blog to stand out from the crowd, you need to be more than a blogger. You need to be an idea blogger.

Why Great Thinkers Make Great Bloggers

Blogging is a thinking game – where the one with the most profound thoughts wins.

All great bloggers are great thinkers first. Whether it’s Brian ClarkDarren Rowse or Leo Babauta – they know how to think, plan and execute.

People are done with average ‘me-too’ blogs. But sadly, most bloggers don’t get this.

The ones who do, end up attracting all the attention. Not because they’re anything special, but because they have the guts to think solutions. Think answers. Think ideas.

See, your thoughts are unique to yourself. They differentiate you from others. They have an identity of their own.

Your thoughts make you. Why not leverage them?

This world needs bloggers that lead by thought. Writers that create die hard fans out of readers. Dreamers that take charge of their dreams.

Becoming a thought leader allows you to:

  1. Build a personal brand
  2. Create your own tribe
  3. Get better word of mouth

Gone are the days when blogging used to be “journaling” – now it’s more about “authoring”. Taking your readers through a whole new journey. And giving them the royal treatment.

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus call themselves The Minimalists. They write essays on minimalism with one simple mission: help people live a meaningful life with less stuff.

With over 100,000 monthly readers and growing, they know what they’re doing.

These guys successfully committed themselves to helping others think minimalistically. Which wouldn’t be possible if they weren’t great thinkers themselves.

Thought leadership isn’t about competition. Nope. It means creating new markets, new spaces.

And the key to influential blogging is to become a thought leader. After all, it’s what separates the men from the boys.

Beating Blogger’s Block Like a Pro

Every blogger fears the dreaded blank screen. Not getting post ideas when you want them can be frustrating. It’s like having a “blackout” during an exam.

The blogger’s block is what we call it. A common speed bump experienced on the road to blogging.

Now, the problem isn’t that bloggers can’t come up with fine ideas. They definitely can. The real problem is that they’re too lazy to get creative.

Yes, you can easily find bloggable topics with some research. But is it worth it?

Writing what everyone else is writing, which Darren Rowse calls ‘echo chamber blogging’, won’t take your blog to the next level or position you as an authority. Nor will it get you raving fans.

Understand that there’s a difference between finding topics and discovering ideas.

Ideas come from creativity. And creativity comes from trusting your instincts.

Finding creative blog post ideas means:

  • Looking at things from a different perspective
  • Bringing something fresh to the table and making it work
  • Creating unique concepts that are anything but typical
  • Experimenting with various ideas that inspire you

Defeating the blogger’s block starts with your mindset. You have to let your imagination go wild  and prepare to explore untouched horizons.

That’s how you get ideas worth talking about. That’s how you…

Become an Idea Blogger

“The point is not to show up on a list, the point is to start a conversation that spreads, to share ideas and to chronicle your thinking. That’s the work of an author.” — Seth Godin

Conversations are all around us.

We’re constantly conversing with others. Giving opinions. Sharing thoughts. Discussing theories.

Why? Because we love to let it out.

A successful blogger knows the importance of conversing. He aims at being the starting point of conversations.

Image credit: Marc Wathieu (Creative Commons)

However, these conversations don’t happen just like that. They’re well planned, and are designed to spread.

What makes them work is they’re born out of ideas. Ideas that make a difference. Ideas that change lives. Ideas that you can come up with.

For a moment, imagine…

  • What if every thought you chronicle gets people talking?
  • What if every blog post you write creates a buzz?
  • What if every idea you share gets you more readers?

It’s not easy, but it’s possible. Idea blogging makes it possible.

As an idea blogger you are in better control of your readers. They listen to you and believe in you. They know you’re the real deal, which in turn earns you their trust.

But wait, what if your ideas get stolen?

That’s exactly what you want to happen. You want your readers to steal your ideas. Get inspired by them. Make them their own. And live them.

Unlike others, an idea blogger does not fear the theft of his ideas. He lets them spread, conquer and bring in more exposure to his blog.

However, there’s only one catch.

You can’t fake idea blogging. Sorry. Because your readers will figure it out. They’ll know if your ideas are truly remarkable, or a cheap imitation.

In the world of blogging, originality is serious business. And it won’t come to you unless you…

Get Absolute Clarity

Ever seen a grizzly bear catch fish?

When fishing, it tends to avoid the deep side of the river. And instead chooses to go for shallow, clear waters where the fish are easy to spot. Yes, grizzlies are smart.

Catching good bloggable ideas is like catching fish – bear style. You need clarity to spot them, or else they slip away.

Look, you already know how to produce the right ideas. But you won’t be able to do so unless you work on your cluttered/confused state of mind.

Clarity gives direction to your thoughts, and helps you:

  • See the big picture, while focusing on the details
  • Think without the baggage
  • Channel your passion creatively
  • Form a fertile breeding ground for ideas

The question that arises here is, what gives you this clarity?

It’s the very first step you take – which could be something as simple as noting down your thoughts, or brainstorming with your blogger friend. Basically anything that gets your thinking engine started.

Each step you take brings you closer to perfecting the art of thinking clearly. And recognizing original post ideas becomes much more easier.

As an idea blogger you have to be a doer. The more you act on your hunches and intuitions, the more clarity you’ll achieve.

However, identifying an idea is only the beginning. Yep, you also have to get clear about the idea itself. You need to learn what makes it tick in order to shape it the right way.

And that happens only when you know how to…

Connect the Dots

An idea is only an idea, until you connect the dots. That’s when you get to experience its depth. That’s when it becomes a living, breathing entity.

Remember playing the ‘Connect the Dots’ puzzle as a kid? Where you had to join the dots to reveal the picture?

It’s something like that.

The blog posts you write have to be well-defined. And for that, you should know your ideas well enough.

Initially, post ideas happen to be vague. They become clearer only when you mould them into content. Content that’s worth writing, reading, sharing and discussing.

Shaping your idea is just a matter of connecting the little dots that make it up.

Here, let me explain it to you:

A few years ago, Jon Morrow wrote a popular blog post called “How to Be Interesting”. Yes, not a new topic. However, it’s not the topic that matters – it’s the idea behind it.

The post gives out 21 “how to be interesting” techniques for bloggers. Each contributing technique is an idea in itself.

Jon simply connected these ideas or “dots” together to bring the main idea or “picture” to life.

Do you see what I mean?

An engaging blog post is creative not on one, but on many levels. So the dots you find and join ultimately help you crystallize the primary idea.

So, how do you really connect these dots?

Keep reading because that’s what the rest of this guide deals with.

Seeking Inspiration and Finding It

Some of the best bloggers are artists in the truest sense of the word.

They’re good at painting with their words. Adding color to their blogging canvas. And telling a story with their “art”.

They do what artists do best: creating masterpieces.

I’m not referring to a special breed of bloggers here. These are everyday people producing remarkable ideas time after time after time. They’re the ones who are taking blogging to the next level.

And the good thing is, you can be one of them.

Potential ideas are right there. Ready to be discovered, sculpted and crafted into blog posts. You only need the inspiration to find them.

There are five simple rules to seeking inspiration:

  1. Don’t limit your reach - Inspiration can come from different directions. It could touch you in any form. So don’t put a cap on it. Explore as many sources as possible, because limiting your reach is limiting your creativity.
  2. Know what you want - Be clear about the kind of ideas you want. And know where you’re going, as seeking inspiration begins with clarity. Work with a steady plan so that you don’t miss out on any potential opportunities.
  3. Look within yourself - Sometimes ideas appear through unknown inspirations, which is why tapping into your inner self is as crucial as looking outside. A whole new world lies within you, don’t ignore it.
  4. Avoid making assumptions - Assuming can kill your ideas before they’re born. Stop jumping to conclusions. Be open-minded and let each of your inspirations develop. Give them time to grow.
  5. Be alert - Anything can inspire you at anytime, anywhere. So be awake, alert and self-aware. Period.

Finding inspiration is not difficult, as long as you regularly…

Observe, Analyze, Learn

Let’s face it – generating sensible ideas can be daunting.

Why? Because it’s hard to think out of the box when you’re following the crowd.

Tapping into your creative genius requires you to ‘go beyond’- and look where no one’s looking. It requires you to harness the power of observation.

An idea blogger knows what “being present” means. He’s constantly observing, analyzing and learning. That’s how he gets ideas that are so different.

When you skillfully observe…

…you notice what others miss
…you find inspiration in unknown places
…you stumble upon real facts
…and ideas “just appear” out of nowhere

Most people lack the patience to observe. They’re either too occupied or too busy. This is where you come in. You take out the time to observe, get ideas and share them with your readers.

Trust me, it’s no rocket science. Everything happening around you can teach you something. Something you can blog about. Something your readers want.

There are three basic areas you can focus on when observing – people, systems and events.

Let’s look into each one of them:

1. People

Yes, you can learn a great deal from people. Because they’re unique. And each one of them has a story to tell.

You obviously aren’t psychic to read minds. But you can still read into people by observing/analyzing their:

  • Successes and failures
  • Habits and behaviors
  • Ethics and principles
  • Styles and techniques
  • Methods and ideologies
  • And much, much more

These people can be anybody. They could be a celebrity, an expert or your next door neighbor. The point is to learn from them – and share your analysis with your readers.

Example blog posts:

Lady Gaga’s 8-Point Guide to Larger than Life Blogging
Ernest Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for Writing Well
20 Uncommon Lessons from My Weekend with Warren Buffett

2. Systems

The societies we live in are systems. The companies we work for are systems. The countries we belong to are governed by systems.

Systems are everywhere, and ever-changing. They improve as we move forward. They grow as we grow. And they come in all shapes and sizes.

Can you get ideas by analyzing systems in your industry?

The answer is yes. You can start by looking into:

  • What systems are working and why
  • How the existing systems can be improved and refined
  • How new, effective systems can be created out of the older ones

Example blog posts:

5 Link Bait Post Types That Get You More Email Subscribers [system: linkbaiting]
Perfecting On-Page Optimization for Ecommerce Websites [system: seo]
The New Age Of Article Marketing [system: article marketing]

3. Events

Events can teach us a lot. Observing an event could give you ideas that can be translated into blog posts.

For instance, let’s say you run a tech blog. And one fine morning you come across the news that Microsoft has acquired Skype for $8.5 billion. Besides the obvious ‘news’ factor, could this event help you come up with a useful post idea? Heck yeah!

Regardless of your niche, you should have some notable events happening around you. Small or big, keep track of them and dive in with your magnifying glass.

Effectively learning from your chosen event requires you to:

  • Observe it from an analytical point of view and look for details
  • Ask yourself questions, get curious and delve deeper
  • Simplify what you learn and throw in some of your own insight

Doing this ‘mind-jogging’ exercise can give you not one, but many ideas to blog about.

Example blog posts:

3 Ways to Stop Losing Traffic from Google’s Penguin Update [event: search engine algorithm update]
The $100 Startup & Shattering Self-Installed Glass Ceilings [event: book launch]
5 Lessons From OMGPOP’s Huge ‘Draw Something’ Sale To Zynga [event: website acquistion]

Observation can be a powerful tool in the right hands. So besides focusing on the above three areas, see to it that you also…

Study Every Line You Read

A true-blue blogger reads a lot. He follows other blogs, devours books and regularly discovers content via social media. In short, he reads anything interesting that comes his way.

Don’t get me wrong – reading is great. In fact, it’s a habit that all bloggers should cultivate. But if you want ideas, you should try to study every line you read. You can’t simply scan through content and expect “eureka” moments.

You have to keep your eyes open for ideas. And actually study what you’re reading. 

Anything profound that you read can help you get creative. Right from a thought provoking book to an informative article.

However, we’re so habituated to reading without thinking that we miss out on obvious ideas.

As American author Louis L’Amour said:

“Reading without thinking is nothing, for a book is less important for what it says than for what it makes you think.”

When looking for ideas while reading, choose the ones that you’re confident you can write on. The idea has to be relevant to your blog’s audience and easy to put on paper.

Ask yourself if you can write on it using at least one of the following:

  1. Your Insight - Do you understand the idea better than others? Will you able to bring in more clarity to it? Do you have an opinion to share? Can you offer some kind of insight to your readers?
  2. Your Experience - Have you practically applied the idea yourself? Have you seen someone else do it? Do you have any results to share, or a story to tell? Can you vouch for it from personal experience?
  3. Your Research - Can you back the idea with research? Or add more meaning to it? Will you be able to elaborate on it with reference examples or factual data?

The moment you start reading with alertness, ideas strike you from everywhere. However, reading isn’t the only way to get your creativity kicking – you can even…

Learn While You Watch

There’s something about learning by watching. Something that can’t be explained in words, but can only be experienced.

A lot of what you know today is because of what you watched, deciphered and absorbed in the past. Both consciously and subconsciously.

When you take control of this process, you’re able to:

  • Churn out refreshing blog post ideas whenever you want
  • Rethink your concepts to understand what works and what doesn’t
  • See from a different, more unique angle
  • Give a new lease of life to your creativity

What’s the secret to taking this control?

The secret is there is no secret. Since you’ve been doing it all along, what you need is a proper direction to focus your ‘watch & learn’ adventures. A direction called video.

It’s not a secret how the Internet is becoming more and more video friendly. For a regular web user, this might mean a non-stop dose of entertainment. However, for bloggers it’s yet another way to hunt down cool ideas.

And no, I’m not referring to random videos featuring cute cats but videos that make you think. Videos that teach you something worth knowing. And give you a reason to be creative.

Yes, finding inspiration through a video can be frustrating. But what if I told you there’s an easier way?

Informative videos are usually centered around a core message. What you need to do is:

  1. Identify this core message as clearly as possible
  2. Connect to it and understand what the video is trying to convey
  3. Extract your own ideas out of it without losing your originality

It doesn’t matter if the video is directly related to your blog’s subject or not. Because you’re not copying ideas – but seeking inspiration.

For instance, let’s say you run a fitness blog, and come across this TED Talk video of Tony Robbins where he talks about “why we do what we do”.

Could you possibly grab some motivational ideas from it? And customize them for your fitness audience?

Of course you can!

As long as you focus on getting inspired, you will find a way to discover ideas that are unique.

Pulling Ideas Out of Thin Air

Picture this: A magician comes on stage, and pulls out a dove from his sleeve. The audience cheers and applauds as he pulls a few more out of nowhere. And you’re sitting there awestruck wondering how he did it.

The dove magic trick is a classic that’s been successfully used by magicians for decades.

However, what many don’t realize is the amount of work that goes into it. The magician dedicates a ton of time training, feeding and taking care of the doves to make the illusion look real. That’s how he’s able to do it so flawlessly.

Similarly, it’s possible to pull original ideas out of thin air. And believe me, there’s no magic in it. But then again, it doesn’t happen in a snap. It takes work.

For starters, you have to have options. Lots of them.

Why?

Because not every idea you have is gonna be a winner. Most of them will prove to be duds. So you need to keep coming up with an idea after an idea, until you strike gold.

In the words of Dr. Linus Pauling:

“The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas, and throw the bad ones away”.

Mastering the art of pulling ideas out of thin air takes time and practice. It means getting better at being persistent with ideas – without judging them.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter how many ideas you generate, but how disciplined you become at generating them. And for that you will have to…

Find Quality Time to Think

“Thinking is hard work, which is why you don’t see many people doing it.” – Sue Grafton

Grafton’s right – thinking is hard work. But it’s also the ladder that leads you to ideas.

One of the most common mistakes bloggers make is: writing without having something to write about. I mean, c’mon – if you have no idea what to put on paper, how far can you possibly go?

Writing becomes less tedious and more fun when you actually have an idea. And to get that idea, you need to think. Yes, thinking is more necessary than you think.

Image credit: Gisela Giardino (Creative Commons)

Some of the best minds spend a fair amount of time doing nothing but thinking. So laying there, staring at the ceiling (or the sky) and pondering deep is not all that bad.

You might ask, “Aren’t we constantly thinking anyway?” – yes we are. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make. What I’m referring to is ‘constructive thinking’ or ‘thinking with a purpose’ where you:

  • Specifically set aside time to think and reflect
  • Think freely without any preconceived notions
  • Focus your thoughts in the right direction
  • Have an end-result or goal in mind beforehand

The time that you put into ‘dedicated thinking’ usually leads to multiple ideas. Some vague, some vivid and some downright awesome.

When you become a thinker you start enjoying the whole idea creation process.

But make sure you note down the ideas you get, so that you can separate the chaff from the wheat later on. Even better, go ahead and…

Create a Wish List

Some of the most common advice given to bloggers is to “maintain an idea diary”, where ideas can be stored or recorded.

It’s a fine piece of advice, but for a moment let’s change an idea diary to a wish list.

No, no, this has nothing to do with the ‘law of attraction’. What I’m asking you to do is create a list of ideas you wish to see in the blogosphere. Ideas that should be covered but nobody’s doing it or is at least doing it well.

You may not be the only one wishing for such content. Your readers could be looking for the same solutions or answers that you are.

Why not tap into your own wishes when searching for ideas? Makes sense, right?

Your wishes are desires that can be a source of inspiration. They could help you tap into your inner self, and uncover valuable ideas.

Creating a wish list isn’t hard, as long as you are able to:

a) Keep track of relevant thoughts

Make a note of any strong, relevant thoughts that come to you. So that later on you’re able to identify those wishes that can be turned into bloggable ideas.

b) Stay aware of related wants

Bloggers with a loyal audience usually get ‘post requests’ from readers asking them to cover certain topics. Being a reader yourself, stay aware of any such wants arising in your own mind when browsing through other related blogs.

c) Understand problems within your niche

Regardless of your blog’s topic, you’ll come across problems specific to your niche from time to time. When you recognize these problems and understand them better, you’re pushed to look for ideas to solve them.

Having said that, if you really want to become proficient at getting creative ideas then…

Be Eternally Curious

Curiosity is what drives us. If you’re not curious, you’re not exploring. And if you’re not exploring, you’re not discovering.

If you want to discover fascinating blogging ideas, then dig deeper. Have the attitude of a learner, of someone who isn’t afraid to ask questions.

Look at kids, they have this insatiable appetite for knowledge. With their endless curiosity, there’s nothing too boring for them. They’re not afraid to ask questions that sometimes even baffle us adults. And they hardly take ‘no’ for an answer.

Being an idea blogger, you have to become a learner with a childlike curiosity. Because there’s a certain power in asking ‘Why?’. It can lead to ideas you could not have imagined before.

So how do you bring out the curious child in you?

  • Get super excited: You can’t drag yourself into being curious. The solution? Get mega excited and enthusiastic about what lies on the other side.
  • Wonder and pursue: Every single time you hit a mental roadblock, you’re forced to wonder how to get past it. However, when you’re searching for ideas you don’t just wonder – you wonder and pursue answers.
  • Know there is a way: Where there’s a will, there’s an idea. You might not see the way to it yet, but it’s out there somewhere. When you believe this with conviction, you naturally get curious enough to look for ideas and find them.
  • Learn to unlearn: There is so much to learn out there – so much. However, it can’t be done with a closed mind. You have to learn to unlearn in order to relearn.
  • Venture into the unknown: The uncertainty of the unknown can be crippling. But it can also be an opportunity for growth. So make it an habit to venture out into the unknown as it improves your curiosity level.

Maximizing Your Chances

By now it should be clear that you need a consistent flow of ideas to make your blog successful. Not any ideas, but ideas that compel your readers to take action.

We’ve already seen where and how you can seek inspiration. We also learned how to come up with kick-ass ideas from scratch. So, what next? Do you stop here?

Nope. Certainly not.

As an idea blogger, you:

  • Bring out the full potential of your creativity
  • Keep doing the unconventional
  • Train yourself at the thinking game
  • Increase your chances of finding worthy ideas

Most bloggers do little to go beyond the traditional. Having no clear direction, they’re stuck up with the same rehashed topics.

However, when you’re idea blogging, things are different. You get to push limits. And do whatever it takes to improve your odds of creating winning content.

You learn how to…

Do More, Experience More

Steve Jobs, a visionary and a creative genius, knew exactly what it takes to find breakthrough ideas. That’s how he transformed Apple and turned it into one of the most powerful tech companies in the world.

Here’s something he said that we bloggers can connect with:

“A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

Ring any bells? Yes, the Apple founder is specifically talking in terms of experiences when it comes to creating better design.

But his words also apply to creating better blog posts. Because in the end, blogging involves learning from experiences and sharing them with your readers. The more diverse these experiences are, the better it is.

Designing great blog content starts with finding better ideas. And these ideas come from your experiences. Like Jobs said, you have to have “enough dots to connect” to find new concepts.

Experiencing more does not mean you go and spend your day playing video games (unless you’re blogging about gaming of course). Your experiences should not only be diverse, but also meaningful.

And that only happens when you’re constantly doing and experiencing things relevant to your blog’s subject. Things that you haven’t thought about doing before.

So if you’re a tech blogger, you spend more time playing with the latest technology. If your blog’s subject is cooking, you try unique recipes or formulate your own. And so on.

Geraldine Fishkin runs a travel blog cleverly named Everywhereist. She started it to chronicle her frequent travel escapades with her husband Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz.

Everywhereist isn’t your typical travel blog. What makes it stand out is that it’s built on the many unique experiences Geraldine has when traveling.

She’s always writing stories that her audience finds interesting. And it’s only because she isn’t afraid to experience something new.

The point I’m trying to make here is, even you can have your own share of learning experiences and end up with more ideas than you can handle. Your blog could be in the most obscure niche and still have the best content.

Experiencing more can be exciting and fun as long as you…

Crush Your Comfort Zone

Having different experiences may leave you with a number of ideas to play with. But the prerequisite to going through these varied experiences is that you accept change.

That’s right – change is where all it starts.

However, most of us happen to reject change. Why? Because uncertainty makes us uncomfortable. It makes us cling on to our comfort zone, rather than try something new.

Your comfort zone may be safe, but it invariably puts you in the ‘slow zone’. It halts your growth, cripples your creativity and limits your ideas. In short, it’s bad.

If you want to live experiences that lead to a great ideas, you have no choice but to break out of your comfort area. More like crush it.

Creating remarkable blogging ideas takes guts. You can’t idly sit there, do nothing and wait for that ‘Aha!’ moment.

Go out there and make change happen. Don’t just push the envelope, put it through the paper shredder!

Here’s how…

  • Take the road less traveled: Be brave enough to tread untrodden paths. Paths that seem scary at first, but turn out to be amazing experiences. Because going down the road that everyone else is taking will only lead you to crowded ideas.
  • Kill your catastrophic fantasies: Get real and say no to creating catastrophic fantasies in your mind. What will happen and what you think will happen are two completely different things. Don’t exaggerate your fears. Stop being negative and start doing positive.
  • Jump without looking down: Let thrilling experiences become a part of your blogging life. Take your leaps without looking down. Become a daredevil, an adventurer who likes facing challenges at every step.
  • Replace fear with fun: Give fear a toss and let fun take its place. Enjoy doing the unusual and put your discomfort aside. The moment you embrace change without pain, you evolve. And jump to the other side of your fear – opening doors to unique ideas.
  • Get familiar with the unfamiliar: Spend more time knowing the unfamiliar. Explore the unexplored side of your niche. Teach yourself what needs to be learned to find blogging ideas that ignite and change conversations.

Remember, the only reason why people don’t want to move out of their comfort zone is to avoid failure. And the way to deal with failure is to…

Turn Experiences into Experiments

There, I just gave you the secret formula to not fail again.

The thing is, when you treat new experiences as experiments, you don’t fail – you get feedback. This feedback can then be used to come up with unique blog post ideas, and to improve future experiments.

It also makes risk taking easy because you’re no longer worried about the result. What you care about is the conclusion.

And the anticipation of ‘not knowing what lies ahead’ makes each experiment so much more exciting. You literally go from “What if it doesn’t happen?” to “Let’s see what happens!”… which, if you ask me, is huge.

So let go of your inhibitions and become a “mad scientist” blogger. Go crazy with your experiments. Create innovative ideas. And give your readers the content they deserve.

Image Credits: zetsonMarc WathieuGisela Giardino

 

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