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donderdag 29 januari 2009

Malus Darkblade: The Daemon's Curse

Dan Abnett & Mike Lee's The Daemon's Curse is the first in the Malus Darkblade series. Malus is a well-known character from the Warhammer fantasy tabletop game. He is a Dark Elf, who is especially cruel (even for his race). This series tells the story of how he gets possessed by the demon (or daemon if you will) Tz'arkan. The first installment recounts the events leading up to the possession.

Malus is a highborn Dark Elf, a noble, who has not been able to gather the amount of bounty which is expected given his place in society. On the instigation of his sister Nagaira he leaves the race's capitel Hag Graef in search of an unknown source of great power and wealth. During his search and travels, accompanied by a score of retainers, he basically gets in fights, captured and tortured all of the time. This is followed by him worming or fighting himself out of the predicament of the moment. It goes on like that right up until he gets possessed.

The description above doesn't really do justice to the crafty writing of the authors, but this is how the book feels. Things happen one after the other. There isn't a real deepening of the main characters, apart from Malus' cruelty and hateful temparement. Maybe I'm missing something because I'm not a Warhammer player. I only know what the game is about thanks to what some of my friends have told me about it and the few times I joined them. So for the Warhammer fans there might be an extra layer to the story that went straight over my head. In short, if you're not really into the whole Dark Elf thing, I wouldn't especially recommend the book. In my opinion Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 books are a lot more interesting (even for a 'layman' like me).

woensdag 21 januari 2009

Comin' to u live!!!!

There are some hip-hop shows comin' up. Next week we got Capone-n-Noreaga coming to Brussels at the VK (Vaartkapoen). They should have come to Belgium about ten years ago (at the time of the excellent War Report album), but that got cancelled. Prob'ly because Capone happened to be in parole violation right about then (again). But they're playin' now! And at the VK in Molenbeek. For those of you who don't know: that means not too many RnB chicks/dudes and hardcore beats all the way.

However I'm especially looking forward to the 24th of February. Check the rhyme - tour is coming to Gent, with none other than: Paris (The devile made me do it, Guerilla Funk), Lords of the Underground (Chief Rocka, Tic Toc), Alkaholiks (oo oooo!) and ... Jeru the Damaja! What a killer fucking line-up. So in the words of the Liks: One million beers to drink, choose one.

donderdag 8 januari 2009

Anderson's Long Tail

Chris Anderson launched in 2004 the Long Tail hypothesis in an article in Wired Magazine, which he reworked into the book The Long Tail: Why the future of business is selling less of more. It is based on the graphical representation of a Pareto distribution. Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who saw that in 19th Century Italy 20% of the population controlled 80% of the country's wealth (this is why it is also known as the 80/20 rule). George Zipf saw the same phenomenon in the use of words. The most commonly used words (such as "the") account for the largest proportion of use. The frequency of words is inversly proportional to its rank in the frequency table. When you display this graphically you get what is known as a Powerlaw distribution. The high use of a limited amount of resources can be found in the "Head", while the low(er) use of a huge amount of resources can be found in the "Long Tail".

Anderson noted a similar distribution in online shops like iTunes (music) and Netflix (movie rentals). In bricks-and-mortar retail stores the amount of available items are limited because of real world limitations to shelf space and distribution issues. In the digital realm, the cost of an SKU is virtually zero. This means that the less mainstream items can also be placed in inventory. His research showed that in these cases selling a little of a lot can also contribute to profit. Simply put, business is ruled in most cases by a given level of scarcity. Thus the most viable business model is one that focuses on selling as much hits as possible, whilst avoiding losses. Anderson postulates that when confronted with more choice, people tend to buy more and with more variety. Niches become more important and generate revenue. In order not to be swamped by the multitude of niches good filters are absolutely mandatory. Filters are not the same as the traditional cultural gatekeepers.

Even though I'm not sure how pervasive the concept of the Long Tail is in the world-wide economy, I am convinced that (for now) in certain sectors and/or for certain ways of doing business it is a force to be reckoned with. Long Tail economics is an important new business model. The classic examples of Amazon, iTunes and Google have shown its viability. Anderson states his case in a convincing well written way. For anyone interested in how the internet is changing our way of living, this book is a must read (together with Weinberger's books). It is a perfect introduction to a new way of thinking about business. The natural follow-up read is Wikinomics, which provides a complementary insight. In short: heartily recommended.