Monday, November 30, 2015

Pyrite for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCCXII

As they wander the back roads of the internet, the Antisocial Network staffers are often amazed -- though not necessarily amused -- by some of the ridiculous rubbish people spew. We're not even talking about the unceasing river of stupidity flowing through social media sites; we rarely bother with them. No, we generally confine our search for dummies to those places where hack writers try to make money off advertising and referrals (an increasingly difficult task as google gets wise to content farms and keyword stuffing). Once in a while, we come across a veritable jewel in the rough... or, to be more precise, a bit of extra rough in the rough; where someone says something really, really stupid while trying to be "smart." Today's example is a veritable fount of misinformation whose scribblings can be found at PersonaPaper.com, Vince Summers; here caught in the midst of misinforming his readership in a post he called "My Virginia Find - Devil's Dice."¹

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Attic Fans for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCCXI

It may be the wrong season, but seasonal dissonance never stopped the fabulous faking freelancers of eHow from sharing misinformation; so we don't have any qualms about making the same apparent faux pas here at the Antisocial Network. That's why we rummaged around in among the candidates we unearthed last summer to find a post by the one and only Homeschool Mama, Naima Manal, returning here to tell us her version (which, given that its Naima, is likely wrong) of "What is the Purpose of an Attic Fan?" at HomeSteady.com.

It's not so much that Ms Manal gets it wrong in this case, but that she works so hard to meet the eHow minimum word count. For instance, read this, from her introduction:

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Mineral Leases for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCCX

When commodity prices are high, people crawl out of the woodwork looking for ways to strike it rich without working hard -- and freelancers come out of the woodwork ready to advise them on how to do so. When gold was $1800/ounce, there were the freelancers with gold-recovery instructions. When oil was $145/barrel, there were the freelancers with typical bogus advice on how to get rich wildcatting or drilling for oil in your own back yard. Not to be left out, serial dumbass, eHow-style, Larry Parr tried to get in on the act with a little scrap of content he called "How to Buy Oil Leases."¹

Friday, November 27, 2015

Windows Drives for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCCIX

If you've ever tried to teach Grandma (or Grandpa) how to use that computer they bought so they could keep in touch with the grandkids, you've probably been asked at least a couple of questions about some of the most basic functions of a computer, questions such as "How do you turn this thing on?" and "How do I get that cup-holder shelf thingy to slide out again?" The Antisocial Network's staff all certainly hope that when you couldn't answer one of those questions, you admitted  your ignorance and then looked it up instead of bullshitting like you usually do. You wanna be truthful with Gram and Gramp, after all. Unfortunately, when you look it up on the internet, you run a chance of finding the kind of answer written by someone who was just pretending to know something about the topic, like eHow contributor Baptist Johnson pretending to know "How to Use the F: Drive on a Computer" at Techwalla.com.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Faucet Repairs for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCCVIII

For unknown reasons, some freelancers seem to find it necessary to share their latest home repair "triumphs" with the world (in hopes of getting eyeballs from others who are likewise handyperson-challenged). This is especially common with smaller do-it-yourself jobs, although some of the more brazen try to pass along whatever tiny bits of knowledge they've accumulated while watching someone competent -- or for that matter, incompetent -- tackle a complex task. What we have found, however, is that much of the help these money-grubbers is basically useless if for only one reason: the author has only performed the task once, and has no idea how to compose a set of generalized instructions. Take, for instance, the so-called "story" "Repair a Leaky Bathroom Faucet" scribbled down for suite.io (back in the suite100.com days) by one S. Elliott

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The New Toothpaste Solution - The Freelance Files CCCVII

One bit of advice well-known to college students everywhere (and, apparently, everywhen) is the "toothpaste solution": when you move out of the dorm at the end of the year, use plain white toothpaste to fill any nail holes in the walls. By our conservative estimate, older dorm rooms at some of the large colleges (we're thinking of Foster and McNutt quads at IU Bloomington, for instance) probably have better "dental health" than some of the students living there... Nowadays, of course, one of the biggest problems with this solution is finding white toothpaste... but we digress. Whatever the case, Crystal Ray (real name Kim Dalessandro, we believe) of DailyTwoCents.com has the "real" solution for the problem: you use baking soda! No kidding: in her post "An Easy Way to Hide a Ceiling Crack," Crystal / Kim informs us that, if you have a crack in a drywall ceiling, 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Roofs for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCCVI

Ever ask a question and get an answer that was completely incorrect, as though the other person had totally misunderstood you? Here at the Antisocial Network, we call that the "Emily Litella effect." We named it after a Gilda Radner character from the original Saturday Night Live who just never quite got things. We have seen the same symptoms in the content created by some of eHow's stable of freelancers, more than one of whom has proven prone to completely misunderstanding the questions they were allegedly answering. In the process, they supply responses that would be laughable had the reader not wasted several minutes of his or her life reading through useless babble. Take, for instance, eHow's Elizabeth Knoll and the post she created called "How to Connect a New Roof to an Existing Roof" at HomeSteady.com.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Pocket Doors for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCCV

Around the Antisocial Network we ago realized that people are prone to saying just the most idiotic crap when pretending to be more knowledgeable than they really are, you know what we mean? If that weren't the case, then babbling nonsense around smarter -- or more accurately, better-prepared -- people wouldn't be a go-to plot point for just about every situation comedy episode ever written. Babbling incomprehensibly (while looking pretty) was Penny's sole schtick for the first season or two of "Big Bang Theory," right? Well, freelancers out there pumping and dumping their copy-rewrite-paste bullshit onto write-for-cash sites are every bit as prone as sitcom characters to saying stupid things while pretending to be knowledgeable. Take Seekyt.com's Ellina James, who was already in a hole when she chose the title "Advantages and drawbacks of Closet Doors."

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Solar Power for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCCIV

In the bad old days just about anyone writing for eHow pulled their so-called answers out of thin air -- apparently it's a little different these days, since many contributors are now self-described experts. Once in a while, you run across older content from an eHowian who tried to claim expertise... though as often as not the expertise wasn't readily apparent. Take, for instance, the self-described "certified energy professional" Diane Bacher, who we found trying to explain "How to Install a Power Inverter and Solar Panel to an Electrical Panel" for HomeSteady.com  

If you asked the staff of the Antisocial Network for help connecting your solar array, we'd like to think that you'd find some instructions for wiring the various pieces-parts instead of a boatload of semi-nonsensical babble along the lines of

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bookshelves for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCIII

It used to be that if we wanted to undertake a new project, we'd start with our bookshelves or maybe head over to the local bookstore to pick up a new glossy book with a few plans and lots of suggestions. In the age of the internet, though, we just google the project and hope we find something useful in all the millions of hits. Well, we're here to remind you that a good portion of the instructions out there on the internet -- especially after the first page of results -- may well be suspect. Let's say you want to build a bookcase: let's hope that you don't try to follow instructions like those posted to Suite.io (formerly suite.com, if anyone cares) by A. L. (Amy) Fetherlin in a "story" (that's what they call them at Suite -- we kid you not) she titled "How to Make an Adjustable Shelf Bookcase.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Post Holes for Dummies Part 2 - The Freelance Files CCCII

We aren't kidding when we suggest that, some days, this blog darned near writes itself. Take this coincidence, for example: just yesterday, we were exposing one eHowian for telling us how to calculate the volume of cement needed for post holes -- and getting it wrong -- when what to our wondering eyes should appear but another eHowian expounding on precisely the same subject, and getting it wrong, too. What makes this episode of serendipity particularly juicy is that it was eHow.com themselves who provided us the link to the new content, smack-dab in the middle of the page under the bold heading "Other People Are Reading..." Sadly, however, their second contributor, a self-described "professional writer" named Bryant Harland, proved no more competent to explain the procedure than was the guy we featured yesterday. For proof, read what Harland has to say in the piece titled "How to Calculate Concrete for Fence Posts."¹

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Post Holes for Dummies, Part 1 - The Freelance Files CCCI

Sometimes our research here at the Antisocial Network uncovers mistakes so obvious that even the iconic fifth-grader (the one a lot of people aren't smarter than) could tumble to it. Other times, the errors are more... subtle. We're not all that sure which category today's entry in the dumbass stakes should fall into - we'll let you know. So without further ado, here's eHow.com's Larry Simmons, caught holding forth (without benefit of first-hand knowledge) on the topic of "How to Calculate Concrete for Post Holes."¹

Here's our suggestion: if we were assigned this particular problem, we'd probably start with the dimensions of a standard post hole, calculate the cubic footage of concrete needed for each hole, and multiply by the number of holes we'd need to fill... wait... we seem to be forgetting something, though...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bicycle Pumps for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCC

Beginning fiction writers are often told to "write what you know," which may be why so many self-published novels are downright boring (not to mention badly written). Of course, making money off of topics about which you know practically nothing is a time-honored practice at content farms and on blogs, a practice that keeps us in business (so to speak) here at the Antisocial Network, if you can call it that -- making fun of dumbasses is more a labor of love, actually. So with that in mind, we say "Thanks" to eHow's Rocco Pendola, who we caught holding forth on a topic about which we had no difficulty telling that he knows nothing: "My Bicycle Pump Won't Work" in a Healthfully.com post.

We say he obviously knows nothing because first, he found it necessary to quote the late Sheldon Brown when describing the difference between Schrader and Presta valves (he had to look it up? you're kidding, right?) and second, because of a rather embarrassing  faux pas Rocco (and an incompetent content editor at eHow) left embedded in his (mis)information:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Volcanoes for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCIC

It's been more than six months since the Antisocial Network hosted tectonics week, and we're happy to announce that our staff geologist has returned from the "spa" where he'd been "vacationing." It took quite a while for him to recover from the effects of the avalanche of idiocy he uncovered during his research, but he's tells us he's ready to get back in the saddle again -- what a brave guy, eh? So without further ado, let's see what utter bull Suite.io's Angela Schnaubelt scribbled down to "inform" her readers about "Understanding Mountains and Volcanoes." Let's hope the poor guy survives the new shock...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Boot-Up for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCXCVIII

If google's so-called Panda update (we know, we know -- it wasn't named for the bamboo-eating mammal, "Panda" is a google employee's surname) hadn't washed away the dross from some of the worst content farms, today's internet would be awash in crap content (not that it isn't, what with endless Kardashian bullshit and countless YouTube cat videos -- say, have you seen the one of the Antisocial Network's office cat? she's so cute!). As it is, there's still plenty of the rubbish left to go around for an unwary searcher who wanders into the wrong website. Take, for instance, the poor sap who happens to run across the eHow post by Dianne Christensen-Hermance (sometimes known as Dianne Christensen-Herman) while desperately seeking help because, he or she complains, "My Laptop Computer Won't Boot Up" at ItStillWorks.com. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Mean and Median for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCXCVII

Here at the Antisocial Network, we're in the habit of calling out people for exposing a lack of experience, knowledge or common sense in hopes of making money, often while answering (or pretending to answer) questions or providing how-to "instructions." Every once in a while, however, we run across a bit of dumbassery that wasn't published  at a content farm. Today is one of those times: our Dumbass of the Day awardee is Keryn Newman, a NIMBY blogger trying to stop a power line in West Virginia. No matter how honorable -- or self-serving, we didn't read through the entire blog -- Keryn's cause may have been, it's pretty clear that she never took a class in statistics (she must've been one of those damned journalism majors...). All you need do to figure out that deficiency is to take the time to read her post "Median vs. Midpoint" carefully.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Staining Plywood for Dummies (Carpentry Week 7) - The Freelance Files CCXCVI

The last step in a woodworking or carpentry project is (usually) applying a finish, so it's fitting that the last dumbass of carpentry week is exposed for his lousy advice concerning the finishing step. This time, we caught Edwin Thomas exposing his incompetence on a Demand Media (aka eHow) website, SFGate Homeguides. Ed's chosen topic is "How to Stain and Finish Plywood," a subject about which he apparently knows nothing (we guess they don't teach woodworking at American University).

Friday, November 13, 2015

Veneer for Dummies (Carpentry Week 6) - The Freelance Files CCXCV

Resawing wood veneer
The first step in getting the right answer to a question is understanding the question itself. You aren't likely to be able to truly address a question like, "Why did Roger Maris have an asterisk next to his 61?" if you don't know who Roger Maris was, what an asterisk is, the significance of the number 61 to Maris or -- for that matter -- why the numbers 154 and 162 are significant. Deficiencies in basic knowledge like that are a consistent problem with eHow's "answers": too often they've been written, or more likely reworded, by someone who didn't understand the original question -- not that the questions scraped off search engines by the eHow bot always made sense in the first place. Perhaps even worse, eHow contributors like Larry Parr (already featured once this week...) are expected to decide what the original questioner meant when searching, which isn't necessarily conducive to an accurate answer. Here's an example, Larry's take on "How to Cut Wood Veneer."¹

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Parquet Floors for Dummies (Carpentry Week 5) - The Freelance Files CCXCIV

Here at the Antisocial Network, we absolutely love it when we can catch someone who doesn't know anything about a topic holding forth about it at some length. The content is often full of clues that they're talking through the proverbial hat -- all the little miscues and bits of misinformation; sometimes augmented by a big boo-boo or two. We recently caught up with Seekyt.com's Melissa Hamler (the Melissa Hamler from Australia, not the Melissa Hamler from Indianapolis) who was doing exactly that in a post she entitled "Additions of Parquet Floors." 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hinge Mortises for Dummies (Carpentry Week 4) - The Freelance Files CCXCIII

butt hinge on door
Here at the Antisocial Network, we believe that education is an important part of instruction -- in other words, besides telling someone how to perform a task, tell him what he's doing at the same time. Apparently, eHow's Elizabeth Knoll doesn't think that second bit is necessary, because in her post titled "How to Carve Out for Hinges on a Wooden Door"¹ she never once uses the word "mortise." We think it's probably because she doesn't know what the word means... and that she also has no idea what she's talking about in the first place -- in fact, we already knew that...

We realized it this time because Knoll drops several hints in her content that make it clear she's bullshitting her readers. One such hint appears in her introduction, when she tells people that

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Decks for Dummies (Carpentry Week 3) - The Freelance Files CCXCII

Without a doubt, the most popular DIY project for homeowners is building a deck -- probably the project responsible for the sale of more of Home Depot's crappy treated lumber than any other. The problem being, of course, that an average first-time deck-builder barely knows which end of a hammer to use for driving screws, so it's off to google to look for help. With luck, that DIYer will end up at a site written by a pro -- or at least someone who's done the job. If, however, the stars are misaligned, that poor DIYer might well end up getting instructions from someone who -- maybe -- once watched a deck project. Someone like, say, Liz Elias (DzyMsLizzy) from Hubpages, seen here writing (sort of) about "How to Build a Free-Standing Deck." At least she hyphenates correctly...

Monday, November 9, 2015

Pergolas for Dummies (Carpentry Week 2) - The Freelance Files CCXCI

If you're in search of help for your latest DIY project, chances are you've already consulted with your favorite search engine, very likely searching on the phrase "how to build..." You probably got a gazillion results, and some of them were basically... useless. "Useless" can mean a lot of things, but one of them is the old bait-and-switch. That's when you think you're going to get project plans and other useful information, but instead there's just blather stuffed with keywords. 

Take, for instance, "Building A Pergola Takes Patience And Enthusiasm," written by annakec (Anna Kec, aka Anna Damis) at InfoBarrel.com. You'd expect to find at least something about how to build a pergola, right? But here's what you're going to get from Anna's post:

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pine Floors for Dummies (Carpentry Week 1) - The Freelance Files CCXC

Welcome to carpentry week here at the Antisocial Network, where for seven days we will make fun of freelancers giving advice about carpentry and woodworking topics, even if they don't know jack about the subject. Especially if they don't know jack about the subject!. We'll start the week out with a guy who's displayed his ignorance on these pages before, eHow's Larry Parr. For the first day of carpentry week, Larry is gonna educate us on "How to Install Pine Flooring." Sort of...

Now, according to Larry, "Pine flooring can also add thousands of dollars in value to a home, so it is important that you do the job right." Our first response to that statement is to wonder why, if you want to "do the job right," you're looking at eHow in the first place... but we digress. Larry, eager for all of us to increase the value of our homes, is here to tell us how to install...

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Geology Jobs for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCLXXXIX

Is this guy "where the rocks are"?
We all know there are some disadvantages to being a private in the Army infantry or a policeman (people shoot at you), a fireman (you have to run into burning buildings instead of out of them) or a garbageman (you spend all workday around garbage). But what are the disadvantages of other occupations? Do admen like Don Draper face any work-related dangers other than the high probability of lung cancer? Well, someone asked, and a Demand Media (aka eHow.com) contributor rushed to rake in fifteen bucks to explain "The Disadvantages of Being a Geologist" on Chron.com -- not that freelance programmer and "writer" Jeffrey Joyner actually had any idea...

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sewer Smells for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCLXXXVIII

Who would really want advice from someone who doesn't know jack about the problem? Do you ask your hairdresser how to light the pilot on your water heater? Do you ask the guy who mows your yard how to treat achilles tendinitis? Of course not! So why would anyone want advice from Nicole Papagiorgio -- a blogger with an AA in journalism (whoop-de-doo!) -- to explain "What Causes Sinks to Smell Like Sewer When You Are on a Septic System"? The answer to that question is simple: "You wouldn't!" and yet eHow.com paid Nicole fifteen bucks to write a half-assed "answer."

What they got in return was incomplete and doesn't mention the most likely cause of sewer odors in a building regardless of whether it's on a septic system or not. We'll get to that later. For now, Nicole plumbed her vast well of "expertise" and (after blathering about what a septic tank is and does) suggested three possible problems:

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Spin Classes for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCLXXXVII

We get the impression here at the Antisocial Network that as much as half the posts freelancers submit to content farms have been placed there for the sole purpose of inserting an affiliate link or advertising for a business. What we find strange -- and sometimes a bit amusing -- is that some of the posters use the same text at several sites, running it through a spinning algorithm to make it look "different" to search engines. That's probably what SpinningShoes did over at Seekyt.com in the post "Advantages of Using Spinning Shoes For Spin Bike Classes." 

So, you are probably thinking, just where did we get the idea that this particular content might be spun? Well, just take a look at what it says: how else would you get twisted verbiage like

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Quartz for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCLXXXVI

Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
If there are freelancers out there who are worse than the journalism majors for misstating facts and making up bull, it's people who – at least in theory – ought to know better. You know, someone who claims to be an astrophysicist but can't properly define "perigee," or a medical student who doesn't know what pruritis is. Either they've padded their resumes or they graduated last in the class... like eHow's Alexander White, who claims to have degrees in geology and geophysics, but still managed to make a complete mess of "What is Drusy Quartz?" at Leaf Group's Sciencing.com niche site.

Maybe we should cut Alexander some slack: after all, eHow's contributors are at the mercy of "content editors" to whom format is far more important than facts, but even if one of those editors munged up his article, there's a method for White to correct such rubbish as 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Air Conditioning for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCLXXXV

At one time you could find dozens (if not hundreds) of "how-to" websites around the internet, only a few of which have survived -- for which you should thank whatever god(s) you pray to... If you wanted to know how to, let's say, adjust the master widget on your household's disengaging frammis, you just googled the question (or binged it, we supposed), and there on your screen were detailed instructions. Sometimes they were pretty good (if you hit a professional site), but sometimes they weren't. Every once in a while the instructions you found were just plain awful: awful like the post "How to Convert R12 to R34"¹ for which Baptist Johnson collected ten bucks or so at eHow - even though he couldn't be troubled to change the title to reflect the fact that there's no such thing as "R34" in the world of automotive A/C -- it's R134A.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Lineal Metres for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCLXXXIV

In the real world -- as opposed to the strange construct inhabited by so many self-appointed freelancers -- questions are (usually) asked for a reason. A good answer to that question will take that reason into account. A bad answer to that question may be right, but so disconnected from reality as to be confusing. You don't get it? Let Chance E. Gartneer (someone's been using the internet anagrammer!) of eHow.com give you a bad answer in his post "How to Convert Square Metres to Lineal Metres" at Sciencing.com. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Owning a Car for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCLXXXIII

Next to a house, a car (or some other vehicle) is typically the most expensive item anyone will ever buy. That's very likely the reason why there is so much bullshit written about automotive problems by freelancers. About half of what's been posted to content farms (or half of what isn't merely spun content) is utter bullshit. A lot of the rest is rubbish like the list that WritEdge.com's Sharon (Sharon Katzman) called "8 Ways to Save Money on your Vehicle." We'll admit that some of them might save you a bit of cash, but we were pretty unimpressed by others.