Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Heating Water for Dummies

If there's one thing that's worse than a faked review of a product, it's product advice put together by some ignorant freelancer pretending to know something about the topic. It's part and parcel of the great stupidification of the internet, compliments of all the content farms out there. Let us tell you, around the Antisocial Network's offices we really miss the old days when you could tell Google search to ignore certain sites...

Today's dumbassery example comes from InfoBarrel.com, where member meggie graced the worldwide web with her thoughts on "Inline Water Heater Systems." It's where our correspondent presented such information as:

Monday, March 30, 2015

Copying Owner's Manuals for Dummies

Content-farm freelancers are driven to publish as often as possible, which means they're eternally scrambling for new topics. A time-honored solution to having nothing to write about is to simply reword text you already have lying around the house. That's exactly what Seekyt.com contributor tracyann did in her article "Your Safety Come First When Using A Ladder": she just reworded the safety warning printed on the side of her new ladder! What a concept!

In the real world, rewording existing content is fraught with peril, and the less familiarity you have with the topic the more perilous. Ms tracyann, who probably uses a ladder once every ten years or so, found herself in hot water a couple of times; the most hilarious of which is this choice bit of advice:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Thickness vs. Depth for Dummies

Well, eHow week is through, which is a shame: the site has always been far better at organizing its content than at hiring competent writers, so examples of dumbassery are easy to find. They're just as common at other sites, but harder to find because of the crappy organization (or because they're hidden, like at HubPages). Such is life, we suppose...

Back to dumbasses, though: today's featured freelancer is Dee Dee Thompson of DemandMedia, writing for Synonym Science on the topic of "What Evidence Suggests That the Earth's Outer Core Is Liquid?" (now moved to Sciencing.com by Leaf Group, still as stupid). Now Dee Dee more or less answers the question, but she has a problem: the real answer would only take up a short paragraph, so she has to pad it out to meet Demand Media's minimum word requirement of 300-500 words. Here's where she goes wonky:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Anatomy, Woodworking and General Stupidity (eHow Week)

The old joke says that you can always tell a lawyer is lying because his lips are moving. With far too many of the freelancers who vomited out content for places like eHow, the joke would have read, "his fingers are typing." Most of the time you have to know what he (or she) is writing about, but not always: some of the misinformation is so poorly reworded from the original source that a careful reader can spot the bullshit within a few sentences. Today's example, courtesy of eHow, is Lacy Enderson (a repeat visitor), who used that Masters in Biblical Counseling of hers to sell woodworking advice in "How to Use Wood Lathe Tools."

Friday, March 27, 2015

What is the Sound of Dummies Clapping?

Here we are, five days into eHow week, and the dumbasses are lined up around the block. It's hard to choose from among all the candidates, but someone has to do it. Sigh. So for today, we're going to talk about sound. It's a pretty simple subject - that is, it's simple unless you're Joan Whetzel, writing for eHow on the topic of "How to Define Audible Sound." Here's what we mean:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Homeschooling Mom and Dummies (eHow Week)

If there's any industry we can talk about with at least some authority, it's the oil industry - that's where our staff geologist worked for thirty-five years. So we picked eHow-member Naima Manal for today's dumbass because, in spite of her obvious lack of familiarity with the petroleum industry, she "informed" an unknown number of readers with her article "What is the Definition of Oil Drilling?"¹ There seems to be a theme here, because Naima isn't the only dummy who doesn't let ignorance stop her from writing about the oil industry...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Concrete Work for Dummies (eHow Week)

Some of the so-called information and advice out there on the internet is so downright stupid that you wonder just where it all comes from. Well, one of the chief sources of bad advice and information on the web is eHow.com, mainly because of greedy freelance writers pretending to know their hind ends from holes in the ground. Today we'll have a look at one Larry Simmons, a computer geek who -- shudder! -- published several hundred articles for the site. We have no idea whether his computer articles are well-informed, but we can tell that when he dabbles in other areas he quickly displays his lack of expertise. Take, for example, "How to Measure Yards of Concrete"...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Agriculture for Dummies (eHow Week)

Day three of eHow week, and there's still no shortage of candidates for Dumbass of the Day among the freelancers over at Demand Media. Random selection, however, works just fine - so let's learn what Keren (Carrie) Perles, yet another English major with delusions of competence, has to share. Carrie's topic? "How Are Soybeans Harvested?"

Soybeans, in case you weren't aware, are big agriculture: American farmers harvest about 80 million tons of the little guys every year. The beans are used widely as animal feed, to make oil and milk, and as a vegetable-based protein source for those who choose not to eat anything with a face. In Japan, farmers harvest immature soybean pods for the dish known as edamame -- which, it appears, is the only use of the beans familiar to Ms Perles, when she informs her readers that:

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sandstone for Dummies (eHow Week)

Sandstone outcrop in Namibia
A lot of Americans think our country suffers from widespread scientific illiteracy. If so, maybe it's because the public gets their science facts from sites like eHow, where John London (a Brit, by the way) plies his trade. London's MA in journalism apparently did not include a basic geology course, or perhaps he just forgot everything he'd learned when he "researched" and wrote "What Type of Rock Is Sandstone?" In the interests of full disclosure, we have on staff at the Antisocial Network someone with a Masters degree as well - a MS in geology. This, folks, is going to be fun...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Refrigerators for Dummies (eHow Week)

A limit switch on an assembly line. The
switch stops the line when it is tripped.
It's eHow week, so we're devoting all seven days to the freelancers who've sold their mortal souls to Demand Media Studios, also known as DMS (ever notices that you can't spell "dumbass" without "DMS"?). The only problem in zeroing in on eHow for a week is picking which of the tens of thousands of available candidates to use...

Let's start out easy this morning with eHow's Mark Vallet, one of the site's myriad former English and journalism majors who choose to masquerade (too often doing so poorly) as someone who knows about technical stuff. Mark's topic today is "What are the Functions of a Limit Switch?"

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Density, the Dummy Version

Immiscible liquids
There's an old joke about a helicopter pilot lost in the fog who deduces that he is outside Microsoft's Redmond offices because he gets "help" that is technically accurate but totally useless. We've seen this happen many times before, cases of dumbassery in which an eHow contributor regurgitated factoids aplenty yet failed to address the real question. Today's dumbass is another Demand Media/eHow freelancer writing under the pseudonym Serm Murmson. Serm addresses the topic "How to Explain Density" for the Seattle PI education (I use that word loosely) blog.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Organic Chemistry for Dummies

There must be a million sites where freelancing fools can scrounge a few pennies by pretending to know something and then pounding out a few paragraphs of bullbleep The Demand Media empire (especially eHow) and Hubpages are the sites that come to mind first -- mainly because they're definitely target-rich environments -- but there are other sites that fit the bill out there as well. In fact, we received an email earlier this week that reminded us to take a look at Seekyt.com. Like the execrable Bubblews, Seekyt has long been overrun with total rubbish and, also like Bubblews, is darned near impossible to search. But trust us, there's bullshit in them that hills! But enough about that: let's have a look at an example...

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Home Security, Dummy Style

We're not sure whether it's worse for freelancers to dump out misconceptions and bad facts because they don't understand the topic (and there's a lot of that) or for them to offer up "advice" that's incomplete or plain old wrong. Well, there's advice that's stupid and there's advice that's dangerously stupid - and the latter is perhaps the worst...

A case in point: HubPages contributor John Albu, writing on the topic "How to keep your home safe from burglars?" Is it just us, or is that question mark a dead giveaway that the content will be crap... Anyway, John's sole advice involves locks. No alarms, dogs, security lights, or any of the other advice you can find at thousands of sites run by law enforcement. No, just locks:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dummy Avoids the Void

Void (blue), not void (black)
It's irritating as hell to be doing online research and accidentally click on a link to some of the twaddle put forth by mommybloggers and the other yutzes who've churned out crap content in a never-ending search for residual income. If you recognize it as rubbish, you waste your time, but if you fall for the fake the results can be far worse. We thank heaven every day that we're not trying to do school homework, because if we were we'd be in grave danger of taking the "knowledge" of these people at face value. Want an example? Sure: our guest bullshit artist today is a repeater, Jennifer Fleming of eHow (see her first visit). Today, Jennifer's sharing her erudition on the subject of "How to Calculate Void Ratio":

Fleming introduces the topic with some bullshit about "Oceanic production sites that extract and distribute oil-based products," which appears to be a spun version of "offshore oil production platforms." After citing some "expert," she goes on to explain the process of calculating the void ratio:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Dummies Caught Faking Experience

The internet is a marvelous source of information; but the sad truth is that too often that information is incomplete, of poor quality, or both. Today, we’ll take a look at a freelancer who sucks in the eyeballs with a promising title, but doesn’t deliver on the promise. We’re talking about Julie, known as DIYmommy, over at HubPages.com. Julie’s article promised to answer the question, “How Can I Replace My Bicycle Chain?” – unfortunately, it didn’t…

There must be a million internet tutorials on changing a bike chain out there - we know, a staffer wrote one of them, and it gets exactly zero traffic. The difference between him and DIYmommy is that he's actually done this, instead of just looking at an online tutorial. You know how we can tell?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Earning Pennies for Fake Reviews

Although the site's now gone to the great dot-com dump in the sky, back in the day quite a few people made a lot of money reviewing products for Epinions.com. Although no one gets any residual income from them any more, the reviews are still out there - including more than a few that are clearly fake. Site members regularly advised newcomers that they could make more money writing reviews of expensive products, especially those that "have cords." Since faking reviews of electronics and computers proved pretty hard, the moneygrubbers headed for the home and garden category where they were received with open arms (often by other fakers). That's where a member calling herself hvarmit concocted her tale of using a 200-dollar cordless circular saw. The review originally said that she'd used the saw to cut curves before someone advised her that circular saws don't do that...

Anyway, here's some of hvarmit's other bullshit:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

If You Don't Know Anything, Write Anyway

June, here's what block planes look like
We imagine that freelancers who write for sites like HubPages occasionally find themselves running out of topics. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to stop them from writing anyway: apparently, they simply glance up from the keyboard and write about the first thing they happen to see. At least that's what June Campbell, prolific contributor of Hubs, did, with an article she mistitled "Hand Tools for DIY Woodworking | Shop Supplies" - we say "mistitled" mainly because she never even mentions shop supplies.

Now, June doesn't actually give you wrong advice, although some of it's pretty questionable -- such as information like "Woodworkers recommend getting a regular hacksaw rather than a junior one, and also to get a coping saw. With a coping saw, its easy to cut intricate shapes." I mean, really - woodworkers recommend getting a hacksaw? We do? And what is it about coping saws that incompetents are always mentioning them? Some day we'll have to do a series on coping-saw stupidity...

Like we said, June doesn't give wrong advice, but what she does say makes it glaringly obvious that she's never picked up most of the tools she mentions, stupidities like 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Backwards Earthquakes Gets Dummy

There might be nothing more pathetic than a freelancer, desperate for pennies, floundering around in completely unfamiliar territory. The sad thing is that, although the situation is pathetic, it's rather common. The result, however, is another chapter in the gigantic volume I like to call The Stupidification of the Internet. Today's chapter was written by Joan Whetzel (a repeat offender) at eHow, in an article called "Difference Between a Seismic Wave and a Tsunami." As happens so many times, Joan shows exactly why people who can tell their hinies from holes in the ground have long derided eHow as utterly undependable. Just take a look at the last paragraph:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Quoth the Dummy, "Do as I Say, not as I Do"

A new day, a new platform for freelancing stupidity! A little poking around at the website SnapGuides quickly located a contributor too interested in making money off his expertise to get off his lazy ass. The freelancer is Jim Burke, and his topic is "How to Sharpen Mower Blades." 

Now there's nothing inherently wrong with the instructions Burke gives, other than the fact that his mower is a lot different from that of most people so the ten steps spent on getting the blade(s) off are pretty much a waste. It's also not that he assumes people have a grinding wheel (we actually do, but that's beside the point). No the dumbassery comes in at steps 20 and 21, in which Burke tells us

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

This Dummy Needs a Punch

Metal tap for threading holes
Freelance writers habitually pretend experience and knowledge they lack in reality, presumably to lend credence to the wonderful advice they are sharing. By "sharing," I actually mean "rewording from another source." If they get it right, fake experience is usually harmless (except perhaps to their karma). If they get it wrong, it just looks ludicrous. Take eHow's Larry Parr, who displays his ignorance (again) even as he claims experience in an article called "How to Use a Screw Extractor." Larry tells us that to use a screw extractor, you need a "metal tap," and here's how you'd use it:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Dummy gets Gravity Backward

The great guitarist Mark Knopfler (what: you've never heard of Dire Straits?) one said that "Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug." Internet freelancers seem to be pretty much the same: sometimes you have to read past the obfuscation to see that they're full of bullshit, sometimes the bullshit is right there in your face. We recently ran across a perfect example of the second kind of freelancer. She calls herself Brooke Ashley, and writes at eHow.com (them again!). Her tour de force for today is titled "What Is the Meaning of Barometric Pressure?" We kid you not: it took our researcher fewer than ten words to spot her incompetence:

Monday, March 9, 2015

This Dummy Doesn't Comprehend Acronyms

An interesting factoid, for those of you who aren't already aware, is that the "experts" at Demand Media (now known as Leaf Group, parent company of eHow) aren't allowed to cite wikipedia.com, the web encyclopedia, as an reference. That's because the website isn't "an authority," the same reason lots of high school teachers don't allow its use for students writing term papers.

In reality, wikipedia is usually right, especially about matters of fact -- as compared to matters of opinion. When it comes to being wrong about matters of fact, you need a greedy freelancer; someone like Joan Whetzel of HubPages (and Leaf Group, for that matter). Joan's the one who penned the article she calls "Speed Measuring Instruments" that contains this juicy bit of misinformation: 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dummies and Woodworking Ignorance

Using a coping saw on crown molding
It's often small details that trip up freelancers when they're faking it. If you actually know something about the topic, you read along and suddenly think to yourself, "Wait: did he actually say that?!" Today's example of freelance misinformation comes from the nice people over at HubPages.com, where a member calling himself (herself? itself? who knows?) wowleveler regaled readers with an article titled "How to Use the Coping Saw." 

At first glance, it looks like wowleveler has actually seen a coping saw somewhere. The general description and examples of using a coping saw are accurate, although that information is readily available just about anywhere. It's when he starts  talking about a project that he trips himself up:

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Redefining Greed, the Dummy Way

You can always tell when someone on a paid writing website has nothing to say, because s/he says it anyway. Personally, I think it's pretty shameless to write an "informative" article about something as banal as "how to put on gloves," but that never stops some folks. By "some folks," I mean the likes of Joana Mendoza, who writes at DailyTwoCents.com. Here's a classic example of having nothing to say but writing about it anyway: "Simple Tips for Replacing Broken Bulbs."

Friday, March 6, 2015

Science Dummy Spins Tectonic Travesty

What is the confluence of ignorance and greed? As far as I can tell, it's writing for money at content farms like HubPages.com, where "Hassam" plies his trade. A quick overview of Hassam's content at the Hub suggests that he's quite happy to churn out crap about any subject he runs across, usually by simply rewording content he found elsewhere. For a perfect example of what is wrong with Hassam's method contributes to the stupidification of the internet, we need only visit a little ditty he slapped - or, more likely, spun - together a few years ago, an article called "Earthquake Fault Lines."

If you can fight your way through the crapalicious first paragraph, you find yourself even more confused by the jumbled grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of paragraph two:

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Dummy Repeats: Bad Science Again

Calcite in the wild
Although we regularly find repeated examples of dumbassery on websites or among a stable of writers, today's the first time we've been able to name and shame an individual a second time. The honor goes to Demand Media's Joseph West, who first appeared yesterday. He's back again today, pumping out more misinformation in his never-ending quest for filthy lucre. 

Joe's topic today is "What Is the Purpose of Crushed Limestone?" in an article written or SFGate.com's gardening section. He starts off with a bang, including a nice little error in his introduction:

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Another Dummy Overwrites His Topic

Those who write for Demand Media Studios are paid a flat fee for most of their work, and are held to exacting (though not necessarily high) standards for their work. One of those standards is a minimum word count: for most articles, 300-500 words is "desirable," ostensibly because SEO demands that length. This requirement often leads to hilarious padding of content with tangential and extraneous information. A classic example the article written by Joseph West for eHow, "How to Get Electrical Power From the Road to a House in a Rural Property."

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dummy Displays Plumbing Expertise?

We poke a lot of fun at Demand Media Studios, especially their "help" website, eHow -- for good reason, we might add. You have to give DMS some credit for trying to rein in the stupidity of their contributors, though: unlike most other websites, they perform a modicum of fact-checking before publishing content. An author creates the content, which is then "punched up" by one of their Content Editors, In theory, CEs are "experts" in the topic; though in reality most are journalism graduates and inveterate freelancers who think they've attained expertise by some form of osmosis.

A case in point is CE Billie Jo Jannen, who edits DIY articles in eHow Home with a ferocity akin to that of a shebear protecting her cubs. Her qualifications? her "eclectic education includes engineering and horticulture..." Apparently, however, it doesn't include much of either. Here's a segment from a Jannen-authored article entitled "How to Add Air to a Holding Tank for a Well":

Monday, March 2, 2015

Freelancing and Coprophagia

A dog-proof litter box 
In the never-ending quest for pennies, citizen journalists will visit any topic that looks like it might prove lucrative. Today, we'll look at a member of WritEdge.com who figured that if Americans spend billions annually on their pets, she should have a slice of that pie - even if she doesn't know cat shit from Shinola®. Here's what Sharon Katzman had to say in instructing her legion of readers about "Making a Dog Proof Litter Box" (note to Sharon: research hyphenation... apostrophes, too)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dummy Spins Utter Bull

You might have decided we think that a freelancer who writes bull for pennies is the lowest form of life, but you'd be wrong: they're the second-lowest form of life. The lowest form of life is the spinner, who simply feeds text copied from an article somewhere through a program that runs amok in a list of synonyms to "create unique text." Yeah, sure. 

In your travels about the internet it's likely that you've come across text that, to be polite, doesn't make sense when read closely. Chances are you've just come across a spinner. Just for grins, here's an example from an article titled "The Faucet handle is Hard to Turn - Repairing a particular handle Faucet" in a blog about flashlights: yes, flashlights! First-off, WTF is a "particular handle"? well, particular could be a synonym for single, so it appears that it really "single-handle" faucet. 

It gets worse, though: