Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Five Hundred

September 1st, 2009 · 14 Comments

According to WordPress’s handy dashboard counter, the words you’re now reading constitute my 500th blog post. So what better time to temporarily drop the royal we and think aloud regarding what this whole blogging deal has taught us—and, perhaps more importantly, why we keep at it despite the ludicrously imbalanced labor-to-reward ratio.

When I launched Microkhan in early February, I did so for a few reasons—some of them craven, some of them a tad more honorable. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a self-promotional aspect to all of this—I’d seen how blogging had helped my pal Ta-Nehisi become a household name, and thus sustain our shared quixotic writing dream that much better. Plus, of course, I had a paperback to promote, not to mention various magazine features. Given the way this writing business is heading, I thought it best to take some initiative in terms of, uh, building the brand that is you.

But there were creative reasons for building Microkhan, too—I needed an outlet for the zillion trifling brainstorms that fill my hard drive. Plus I had this notion that blogging about my admittedly esoteric interests might help me unearth stories worthy of deeper treatments—perhaps a post here or there might someday germinate into an article, book, or other long-term project. And, lastly, by forcing myself to post every day, I’d inject some fresh discipline into my working life. I’m the sort who functions best when my plate is more than a little overflowing; if I don’t have enough projects going at any one time, my work simply expands to fill the time allotted.

So, how has the reality matched the expectations?

For ease of reading, I’ll just break out the three main lessons I’ve learned while Microkhaning these past seven months. Like virtually everything else on this site, they are arranged in absolutely no particular order:

The Perils of Deliberate Obscurity
I probably didn’t quite foresee how much of a challenge I created for myself when I pledged to avoid The Tubes’ most popular fodder. I rather foolishly assumed that by focusing on that which was largely ignored in the blogosphere, I’d quickly draw a flood of info-starved readers. Let’s just say that, while I’m perfectly content with Microkhan’s rapid growth, I’d probably draw a heckuva lot more traffic by posting Daily Show clips in lieu of scenes from 1970s Indonesian dance comedies. In other words, Microkhan is on the narrowest tip of the Long Tail, and that can occasionally be a lonely place to reside.

A Different Lobe
I wasn’t a total blogging virgin before starting Microkhan, having done guest stints and freewheeling columns for the likes of Gizmodo and Gridskipper. But blogging daily for months on end was a whole ‘nother creative challenge, especially since that writing had to be done alongside myriad other projects. Given the time crunch, I’ve had to train myself not to edit one lick—I’m at the point now that I only preview my posts to make sure all tags are closed, then I post those suckers. The results can be messy, but I’m learning not to let that chaos ruin my day. I’m a detail-oriented perfectionist at heart, so that’s been difficult. And on occasion, I still sulk and beat myself up for posting a total clunker. (Case in point.) On the whole, though, I’m getting a lot better at forgiving myself for blunders. Blogging is a public process, and in that sense quite different than all my other writing gigs (in which the proverbial sausage-making takes place behind closed doors.) And I’m finally getting comfortable with that fact.

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together
An efficiency expert would probably urge me to drop Microkhan ASAP, given that the rewards might appear meager to an outsider. It’s not like I’ve ever made a lick of money off this endeavor, despite having poured hundreds of hours into the project. And I will admit that shifting gears from blogging to whatever else is on my plate can be a serious mental challenge—to the point that I’ve often wondered whether this blog is doing more creative harm than good. But in those moments of doubt, I remember all the pluses, starting with the connections I’ve made with readers from Alaska to Florida. More importantly, Microkhan has afforded me the opportunity to turn my twin affections for information and writing into a quasi-artistic pursuit. Sure, it’s bloody self-important to refer to posts about poultry judging and kabaddi as “art.” But I have no other real talents aside from wielding language to my advantage, so I hope you’ll bear with my minor pretension. The remixing of information may not be an art on par with, say, the remixing of classic Bollywood tracks, but it’s what I can offer the world. And on those occasions when I’m able to pull it off in just the right manner, it can be damn satisfying—a minor accomplishment buzz that reminds me of the joy I felt in writing Now the Hell Will Start. And so I keep on blogging in search of that creative high…

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled programming, at least for the next 499 posts. Thanks to all who’ve swung by this space over the past seven months. Hope you’ll keep making Microkhan a regular destination.

(Image via MIR Corporation)


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14 Comments so far ↓

  • tsg

    Looking forward to the next five hundred posts, and hopefully the next five thousand after that.

    Microkhan is a daily destination for me, it always provides a unique and refreshing respite from the political and sports blogs I visit otherwise. I hope you’re able to continue to muster the energy to keep this up for a good long while to come.

  • yancey

    one of my favorite stops everyday. congrats.

  • chuck mccarthy

    I just carve my name into a rock or a piece of metal every day, so in a thousand years, after the big war… when all non analog information has been lost, people will think that I was very important. This is how I live; I live for the future.

  • Bobby

    Yep, I’m a daily reader too, and one who very much appreciates the anti-mainstream pledge. You can borrow my twin mantras, which, even if not true, ought to make you feel at least a little better about the whole enterprise: “Quantity is not quality. Fame is not respect.”

  • scottstev


    I’m so glad you find the blog as rewarding to produce as we do to read. I think a huge part of the joy I get checking it daily is the prompt response you have to your commentators and the great conversations that result. Even when a topic doesn’t push my button, I enjoy the thoughts that others have.

    Here’s to another 500 posts, and if it ever starts to feel like work… keep pushing. There’s a lot of people depending on you produce 2 posts a day, minimum. That should keep you inspired.

  • Gramsci

    I came here from TNC, for some of the same reasons I go to him– posts that come from authentic interest and experience, not ginned-up outrage or spectacle (see politics, sports– I’m right with tsg on that one). You guys are Kant’s crooked sticks of humanity, yet to be straightened by the homogenizing, pornifying Bildung of the intertubes.

    I would guess one of the reasons that the traffic is not the quantity you might have expected (though of course of inestimable quality) is how much your approach runs counter to usual net habits. I know for myself I have to think for a half second before visiting, knowing that I could be engaged with stuff that I don’t know about but can’t bear not to know about now that I’ve heard of it. Polymathin’ aint easy.

    So, in a time of distraction, I thi– whee! Standing broom!

  • Bashcraft

    Yay! One thousand here we come!

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    Thanks for reading, y’all. Really appreciate the feedback–that’s another aspect to this whole deal that makes it worthwhile.

    @chuck mccarthy: Interesting approach. I’m generally more in favor of Turkmenbashi-style gold statues, though.

  • Miles Smith

    I’d like to chime in voicing my appreciation of this site. I find it to be one of the highlights of my daily web browsing avoidance of doing Science.

    Also, I wouldn’t say that “It’s not like I’ve ever made a lick of money off this endeavor” is a true statement. While I had it in the back of my mind for some time that Now the Hell Will Start was a book I’d like to read, it was because of the fine esoterism here at Microkhan that I finally got around to purchasing it and will be doing so for any future books.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Miles Smith: Thanks a mil for buying the book. At the pace I’m going, the next one should be out in, oh, 2028 or so. At which point it will cost $14.99 for the neural-implant version. Start saving now!

  • thingsbreak

    Congrats on the first 500. Looking forward to the next several dozen!

    I’ve been without internet access for the last few days, which meant I used my iPhone as an ebook reader and little else. I’d just started The Age of Wonder, and the initial chapter on Sir Joseph Banks and the Tahitians* made me think of your First Contact series.

    *Not itself a true first contact, but far closer than anything else I was reading.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @thingsbreak: Thanks for the congrats. How’s Age of Wonder?

  • thingsbreak

    I’m digging it. Now that I’m back in the land of the Internets I see that you’ve actually covered a First Contact with the same players (the Maori of NZ).

    The book is well written and the author is fascinated by his subject. That much I know for sure- the rest I will dutifully report back on. I could tell as much from the free sample from Amazon and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

  • M

    […] to the nifty WordPress counter, this is my one thousandth post on Microkhan. Unlike the last time I hit such a significant milestone, there shall be no navel-gazing—in part because I’m […]