Friday, February 18, 2005

Traffic analysis

I am no blog expert, but I have been reading blogs for a few years now. This blog has been active for just about three months. Some of my readers, it turns out, know even less about this blogging business than I do, so I thought I'd take a second to say a little about how it's going.

Zeroth Order Approximation is hosted by the good folks at They provide space for a blog and a web-based tool for creating and maintaining posts. I use the basic service that is offered free of charge; but more advanced services (including greater bandwidth allowances) can be had for a fee. hosts thousands upon thousands of blogs, and although many more advanced bloggers may speak of it with disdain, for a regular person like me this is a great way to get started.

So far I have had few readers. How do I know? Check out the little icon marked "Site Meter" at the bottom of the page. Site Meter is a service that keeps track of the number of times a page is viewed; it also collects certain information about each viewer (e.g., the time zone, operating system, and type of web browser of the person accessing the page). This is really interesting, because it gives a kind of detailed, close-to-the-ground view of how the Internet works.

No one will read your blog unless they know about it. So in each case, it is interesting to try to imagine how a particular reader got here.
  • Every time I load this blog myself, I get counted by by the Site Meter. Since I come here to check for comments and make sure the posts read okay, I am my own most frequent visitor.
  • Some readers, of course, are friends of mine to whom I have mentioned the blog. Hi, guys!
  • My friends appear to have mentioned the blog to others. These friends-of-friends are recognizable because their IP addresses can be identified. At least one of these secondary contacts has a blog, and he very generously added a link to me on his blogroll there. (A blogroll is a list of links to favorite blogs. This often appears to one side of the text of a blog. I do not have a blogroll at the moment, in part because I haven't figured out how to do it. I'm still learning this stuff!) Someone who reads this guy's blog might click through to me, and this has happened a few times.
  • has a place where you can see a list of about ten randomly-selected blogs, and also a list of the most recently updated blogs. Some people like to check these out, just to see what is going on. I have had some visitors from this, I think.
  • Occasionally, someone will find this blog from a search engine like Google. The word "zeroth" seems to be a popular inbound keyword for this page. Google is not omniscient, by the way; this blog had been going for two months before I got my first search engine hit. Since then I've had several.
  • The most important source of readers is the inbound link from another, more popular blog. One way to create this yourself is to visit that blog and leave a comment that contains a link back to your own page. Folks who read the comments there may decide to visit your blog to see where you are coming from. I am betting that some bloggers spend a considerable amount of time and effort planting inbound links in this way. I've probably done this a half-dozen times myself, with one or two visitors here in each instance.
  • This blog is also listed under "Ohio blogs" on (This is distinct from, by the way.) This happened very early in the game. I get a few visitors from this link, and a fairly regular one about every week or so. I suspect that someone is routinely checking the links to make sure they are still good. All of this shows some admirable alertness and organization on the part of Michael Meckler, the proprietor of
  • A few weeks ago my blog was listed with several score others in one of Hugh Hewitt's "Vox Blogoli" sessions. Hewitt is definitely a big fish in the blogosphere, but he likes to draw attention to the "long tail" of the blogosphere -- in other words, the small fry like me. So he sometimes invites his readers to post comments about a particular issue on their own blogs and send him links that he posts on his own far more popular page. Several readers arrived here by this route.
  • At the moment, most of my readers are coming via a link on John Scalzi's page. I commented briefly on his novel Old Man's War (which I mostly liked), and he put a link in one of his posts sending his readers over here. Thank you, Mr. Scalzi -- and greetings to all his readers.
  • There is also a residue of visitors whom I cannot quite categorize. Either Site Meter cannot provide information on them, or their points of origin are somehow hidden, or there just is not enough data to go on. Spies? Hackers? Men in black? Internet mavens who know how to work the privacy systems? Well, don't worry, O shadowy blog-viewers: we serve everybody around here, no questions asked.
While you are reading what I'm writing, I am finding out a little about all of you. I do not know your names (except for a few nearby friends), but you do seem to come from a fairly wide section of the planet -- eight or nine time zones so far out of only a couple of hundred visits. Isn't that cool? Welcome all! I'm glad you stopped by.

(Updated and corrected slightly at about 8 am on 2/19/2005.)


Blogger Kerry said...

Zeroth, howdy. Here's how to make links. This comes from blogger help, although you may find it as unintelligible as I until it isn't, which, of course, is no solution. This is the code:

After two tries to post and having script rejected, and not finding an email address, you'll have to find the code at blogger help. It's at how do I edit links. Now, where to put it? Mine is below the line which starts with: p id="powered-by" There is a feature at the bottom of the page which lets you see the edits before making them permanent, and undo them if necessary. Thie page is at your dashboard page, templates, edit existing. Next, inserting the actual link. See the
words EDITME! after the http:// That is the place to insert the link, www.whateveritis.blogspotwhatever. The the title of the link replaces the next (lower case) Edit-me. It's not too bad, I'm sure you'll get it. I've pasted in several of the scripts as spares to use as needed. They will appear in you main page sidebar as Edit Me. You'll see them on other blogspot pages sometimes. Hope this helps. A week ago I couldn't do. Something else which is useful is tracback links, which you can learn about and make happen by visiting here: I think trackback links will also bring readers, maybe even trolls and moorlocks. Die trolls! Die moorlocks! P.S. I've just had my HTML not accepted, and had to spell out "six" up top in the script. Oops! Didn't like that either. See blogger help to get the script.

11:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Hi Ben!

If only you knew someone whose job description actually included teaching computer skills to faculty members at small liberal arts institutions in Ohio. If only, if only.

9:54 AM  
Blogger narrator said...

As someone "just testing out" blogger after more than a year with Xanga (which continues), I guess I'm confused by the difficulty in building logical links here. At xanga you automatically have a "subscription module" which allows people to link their sites together, plus "blogrings" that give a ready place to connect based on interests ("metros" to create location-based links as well). Maybe at some point I'll figure the way blogger works, but right now its a struggle.
( - if you want to see)

10:11 AM  
Blogger Martin LaBar said...

I use Bloglines ( to subscribe to a number and variety of blogs. Bloglines also allows me to subscribe to a search, which means that some large fraction of the blogosphere is searched, and new items are displayed for me to look at. One search I subscribe to is for C. S. Lewis. Your sermon for Lent came up, and that's how I found your blog.

5:41 AM  
Anonymous Matt said...

In your most recent post (here---congrats!), you equated yourself to God in so many words. Naturally, in my regular searches of the net for references to John Lennon, your weblog post came up.

No! Really!

Oh, OK. A fellow alum pointed out that you had, in so many words, equated yourself to God, and had to make a stink about it. Actually, he just needed a witty one-liner to introduce the fact that he was coming over to England. And, by way of wit, introduced the fact that you have a weblog. Dangerous things, they are. Your actual comments happened, in this case, to be a mere sideline to the real message, but for an opening act, you were pretty good.



(/ (* 3 (expt 10 8)) (* 5 (expt 10 -7)))

is always unambiguous. But, then, Lisp lost the syntax war a long time ago.

I must admit, I'm inspired to try and re-enable comments on my own weblog now... hm.

6:38 AM  

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