Look Back on the First 365 Days of Zemalf.com

Summary: Zemalf.com was 1 year young on the 20th of May, 2010. This is an unsensored post and my thoughts about the year, the blog and everything that has happened

One year. Where did the time go? What happened?


On the 20th of May 2009, I registered a domain, zemalf.com. If you've read my about page, or the story before that, you know that the blog's name comes from my online nickname, gamer tag (XBox Live, etc.) and just a name I came up with (back in 1995ish) and used since.

Even that I've been blogging since the late 2005, I knew very little about blogging a year ago. I had the gaming blog in blogspot, Zemalf's Haven (still there), which I kept for fun when playing games like World of Warcraft and EVE Online.

On the new domain I started this blog. I didn't have a plan. I didn't know what to do. As a hindsight, I didn't even know what I wanted.

But I started a blog, the first posts went live here on the 21st of May. I imported my gaming blog to this domain, but as I was learning stuff about blogging, I didn't feel like writing about games anymore, so I rolled back and removed the old content, reverting the gaming blog traffic back to the Haven.

I didn't know what I was going to write about and I never sat down and did any kind planning. But I knew I didn't want to write about the stuff I "normally did". My day job was out of it, this was my thing. So I didn't start writing about the software development, continuous integration and the IT stuff I was doing for living - I wanted to experiment something new...

But I didn't have a clue what I was getting into, but I was excited, I had my own blog now, on my own domain. I wrote post after post, even that I had no idea what I was doing or why I was writing those posts. There was no plan. I just blogged.

I wanted to make money, but I didn't think through how I would do that. I wanted to build a business, but I didn't know what business I would build. Instead of stopping, thinking it through, I just kept going (to this day).

(lack of) focus

I wrote about wide variety of topics I was researching as I was learning. I wanted to figure out everything about WordPress, I wanted to build the perfect blog, system-wise. I digged into PHP, themes, CSS and plugins. I studied and learned Internet business and making money online -stuff. I got interested about Internet marketing.

Around those early days, I did a self-interview, which was an interesting read now that nearly a year has passed from it. It also reminded me that for the longest time I tried to come up with cool name for the blog, like Technology Alchemist's Trek in the Blogosphere. At one time, I called it Blog of Antti Kokkonen, but then settled for Zemalf.com.

To this day, the blog does not have a better name, it just is. That's what you get for picking a domain name based on your online nickname which doesn't mean much. But that's OK. I can make it work. But it needs a little bit of focus. And some re-structuring. This is stuff I should've thought a bit at the beginning, now I've just went with the flow...

The blog's name wasn't the only thing I changed a lot during the year. I self-designed the blog (started with free WordPress theme called Fusion), I re-designed the blog, twice - no, three times: my blog design.

I really should've been taking screenshots of the old designs. Fuck (...) I'll have to see if I have some somewhere... Where's wayback machine when you need it :(

Hah. Found'em!

Evolution of my blog design, The first 365 days

Started with the free Fusion theme:

Fusion, Free WordPress Theme

May 2009: Fusion, the theme I started with (not a screenhost from Zemalf.com)

I built my own WordPress theme from the ground up, it was a fun exercise. The black/green look was stolen inspired by Tim Ferriss' and David Risley's blogs at the time (screenshots here)...

Zemalf Zen Green, my first WP theme design

June 2009: My first own WordPress theme design was called Zemalf Zen Green, quickly replacing the free Fusion -theme.

From the black/green, I moved into grayish black and white look...

My second WP theme design: Zemalf Zen Gray

January 2010: The first iteration of the new design, new theme built on the previous design, mainly tweaking the CSS styling, colors, etc.

And then to white/light green...

The second iteration of Zemalf Zen

May 2010: Current design (at the time this post is published). The second iteration of my WP theme, ZZ (not published to public).

As a bonus, here's a "logo" I used on the early days, with my first design and also in my custom Twitter background for a while. I completely forgot I did this :)

WordPress on Commodore 64

When it comes to WordPress, Zemalf.com is a good place to visit. Even when trying to load it into C64 :)


So I wanted to learn to how to build WordPress themes, don't know why, but I just wanted to - so I did it myself. For anyone else, I'd say, get a theme and stick with it. Or at least, don't waste any time building the theme yourself, unless that is something you want to do for money.

Lately, when I got obsessed with speed, having my own theme and knowing exactly what's in it, definitely helped. During the year I spend hours tweaking the blog. In my craze of having WordPress set up the right way, I went on a quest to find the best permalink, tuned my .htaccess rules, and tried different WordPress plugins before finding the ones I use now (the WP plugins I use and recommend to others).

I got the basic WP settings when starting out figured already, but the journey continues to find what the ultimate WP setup, the settings, plugins and themes that work the best. I'm still working on it, the perfecting never stops. Perfectionism is a bitch.


The biggest problem is the uncertainty of all this. I should have a plan. A plan about where this blog and myself are going. During the year I've learned that I want to make some money of this stuff, after all, I'm using quite a lot of time on it. It's been a great hobby and I've learned tons, I've even made some money already, but around one thousand for the whole year isn't much.

It is enough to cover all the hosting stuff, etc, so I haven't "lost" any money, but I haven't really made any either - especially as I've invested the money back to tools and training.

The problem is I've made most of the money through various marketing experiments, not this blog, even that I used most time and effort into this. I've made less than a hundred dollars directly from this blog. I don't have any advertising here, and I'm not sure if I ever want to, so the money has come from the affiliate sales of the 31DBBB Problogger workbook, Beyond Blogging and even one random sale of the How to Launch the **** Out of Your Ebook, which I mentioned on my post about writing and marketing eBooks.

I probably could've made more money, if I've had a mailing list, and I had driven people to my reviews more aggressively. I also should've written more than 3 reviews already. And I should've started making my first product a lot sooner. But the self-doubt kept me from it, and I struggle with it every day. Thus far, I've been unable to convince myself to sell stuff, so I just give it away for free. That's the first thing I'm going to change.


I put good stuff in this blog, instead of selling it, because that's the easy thing to do. And I admit, it feels good to help people without expecting anything in return, but I can't do that forever, if I want to make money. I might try advertising on the blog, but for that I'd need to build tons of traffic. Selling stuff, and I don't need that much traffic (and there's bigger potential for making enough money to make all of this worthwhile the time I invest in it).

So why I'm not already selling things? Well, publishing blog posts is easy and care-free. Putting things on sale is SCARY. Fear you must not, as say Yoda would...

I need to start a mailing list, I need a way to get money and deliver the goods (e-junkie or Clickbank for example) and I need to create the actual product I want to sell. Nothing too hard, very easy in fact, but still I haven't been able to get myself into it...

When selling stuff, I need to start worrying (or taking care of) taxes, customer support, and all that good stuff. I should probably start a company, business or whateverthatiscalled to cover my own ass. I'm scared shitless that someone will sue me (yes, I watch way too much US-based TV), take all my money and my house...

I'm afraid that 5 years from now, I will receive a notice from the IRS that I need to pay 1 million dollars of US taxes, even that I've only made a 5000 or so...

Yes, I'm very good at making excuses. I have the eternal ability to not take action, so I waste my time on stupid shit I shouldn't even be doing. I'm lazy. I look for the easy way out and procrastinate the hell out of it.

And it doesn't help when are not really certain what direction you should go, what action to take...


I need to walk the walk, and get my fat ass moving and start doing stuff. Start doing the right stuff. Increase my productivity for real and not just write about it.

With all that said, I'm still not sure where I'm going with this blog. With the lack of focus, a blog name that doesn't mean anything, I'm fighting an uphill battle. So I might branch out to other domains, keeping Zemalf.com as a playground, place to share the experiences and stuff I learn, just I have done so far.

I feel most connected to the SEO stuff, I enjoy learning about that stuff. And I love WordPress, so it'll be here. So perhaps it'll be something along those lines, not too different from what it's been already when I think about it.

no fate

The good news is that it's all in my own hands. I can make this happen.

The future's not set. There's no fate but what we make for ourselves. - John Connor, The Terminator 2

The bad news is that it's all in my own hands. I'm my own worst enemy.

I'm getting there. Slow, but steady.


What will the rest of 2010 bring to me and this blog? Good things I'm sure, but I'm still working on how I'll go about it...

p.s. This post is bit of a mess, I'm sorry about that. But I won't edit it. I'll leave it as it is, even that I was rambling a lot. I thank you for reading this, I thank you for helping me out. I could not have done any of this without you.

p.p.s. I'll be doing report on the highlights of the first year, telling what posts did well, what didn't. And I have another post with lessons learned coming, stuff I'd do different if I started now and stuff I wish I knew a year ago, etc.

p.p.p.s. I wanted to add the third PS to a post for the first time in this blog because it would be awesome if you would tell why you are here, reading my blog? (have you been here long? how did you find the blog? What have you liked, what has sucked?)

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