Zeroth Order Approximation is hosted by the good folks at Blogger.com. 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. Blogger.com 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.
- Blogger.com 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 Red-state.com. (This is distinct from Redstate.org, 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 Red-state.com 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 Red-state.com.
- 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.
(Updated and corrected slightly at about 8 am on 2/19/2005.)