Why There Are No Tweakers

Seth Godin recently asked why it was so hard to find tweakers.

The first problem is that name. It is not descriptive and it sounds belittling in nature. But there are other problems as well. I have found that people generally have to pay or overpay to take you seriously. You can give away general advice all day long, but to take the time to do specific in depth analysis and get them to test implementing the actions you are going to have to make them pay. And pay big! Go with a low price and get no respect. It reminds me of a friend who was giving me shit recently when I asked him if he thought it would be worth it for me to go to school. He said "not trying to be a prick here, but objectively looking at it, how can you respect a business professor who is twice your age and works for 1/3 your wage? What can they teach you about business that you can't learn on your own if you are already ahead of them?"

I might classify, in some ways, as a tweaker, but since there is no domain expertise associated with that general word then why should I brand myself as that? Most times when people do an SEO consultation with me I talk SEO and information architecture. I also tell many clients about how their design does not inspire credibility, they are not effectively using their content to guide the user to the desired action, they are selecting the wrong defaults, their copy could be better, etc etc etc.

If one works on such a wide array of topics it is hard to build up the topical support you would if you worked primarily in one community, and discussed other topics in a framework of how they relate to your domain using the language of your community (Jakob Nielsen is great at that). You have to be known and branded as an expert at something to be trusted enough for your opinion to count on other things.

Why don't I call myself a tweaker? There is no money in it.

The true tweakers (who should be trusted) realize their value and just tweak their own sites or work as affiliates such that they can get paid for the value they create. It is nice to have a few friends like that on your IM list, but I certainly wouldn't hire a tweaker that marketed themselves as such, at least not to work on a successful business.

Published: September 22, 2006 by Aaron Wall in marketing


September 22, 2006 - 7:55pm

The "Tweaker" Name has already been taken. It's used to describe people addicted to crystal meth. Very poor choice of names there . . .

September 22, 2006 - 8:09pm

Of course you had to know I knew that. I just wasn't going to go there ;)

Essentials to that lifestyle...

  • tweaker light - small light so nobody will see the lights on while you are doing stuff at night, all full up of paranoia
  • tweaker diet - not really eating at all...losing 3+ pounds a day...every day, right down to 30 pounds
  • points - another word for needles

I think some of my brother's friends out in California were big into that lifestyle. My brother told me both some funny and some scary stories.

One of the guys who was on the submarine with me had his dad go to jail for making crystal meth. So the kid started making crystal meth to save up money to bail his dad out. He eventually got caught and they offered him 20 years jail time or an enlistment in the military. He got out of the military around the same time as I did, and wanted to do web stuff with me, but I am sure that would have been a "bad call awall" move if I would have said yes. I wonder what that crazy bastard is up to :)

October 4, 2006 - 6:21pm

I guess you have to decide whether to go to school for personal reasons. What do you want out of the experience? In my case, I know more than the average MSc or PhD in computer science and sometimes math, but not having that piece of paper has resulted in me not having any bricks-and-mortar jobs/ contracts for nearly 5 years now, after the 2001 recession.

Yet I have the opposite problem. I was once the youngest student in my class, years ago, but at 44, I am older than most of the professors I had last year when I attempted to do pre-MSc/ Phd studies. Some of them felt threatened by me. I gave up, due to politics.

I am and have always been a D-I-Y anarchistic punk. I suspect you, Aaron, are a DIY person yourself. I think that's a better term than tweaker because it encompasses more. And as a result, I am far, far happier being a freelance blogger and a budding organic SEO person. (Thanks in whole due to your website and ebook, and Andy + Patrick's website, amongst others.)

Regardless, go to school for your reasons. Even if it's just to learn and have interesting conversations with intelligent people. If it's to make more money, well, I think your friend is right in that you probably make more money than the AVERAGE biz prof, depending on which school you're going to.

September 23, 2006 - 11:43pm

"not trying to be a prick here, but objectively looking at it, how can you respect a business professor who is twice your age and works for 1/3 your wage? What can they teach you about business that you can't learn on your own if you are already ahead of them?"

IMO, this is bad advice. There are some brilliant business professors that you can learn a lot from. In general, judging people by how much they make is a mistake.

September 24, 2006 - 12:43am

I am not saying that I judge people by how much they make. Typically I despise that mental mode and perception of the world. But objectively speaking, isn't business typically about making money?

I am not saying that they would have bad advice (or that they should be ignored), just simply that you could probably learn more quicker without them (if you are willing to take risks and have the drive).

To put it in perspective, I got kicked out of the military less than 4 years ago with no college experience. Since that date I almost became a college professor (even flew out for the interview, etc.) even though that would have been a pay cut.

Had I been learning in a normal educational institution (ie: not self training on the web), where could I have possibly gone to that would have allowed me to become a professor in less than 4 years?

September 24, 2006 - 12:22pm


I never finished college as well. And I believe I know a lot more about running a real business then a college professor. But that doesn't mean I can't learn from them. Don't get me wrong, what you have done in the last 4 years is amazing. Your RSS feed is not only my favorite, it is the most effective channel of SEO information I have. But ... these guys know a lot more about big business then either of us and we would do well to listen to them. Don't have to accept everything they say, but in my opinion listening is a virtue.

BTW, the post you did about link bait was brilliant. Could you do a post on how to promote a link bait?

September 24, 2006 - 8:58pm

Hi Joe
done :)

September 22, 2006 - 3:48pm

I remember from your ebook "When people waste the most time is when they obsessive compulsively tweak and retweak their pages"

You said that you think it is only worth it to spend the time retweaking when your site is a total mess in the first place.

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