Thursday, December 31, 2015

Irregular Shapes for Dummies

Try your method on this polygon, Charlotte!
Whether it's for a coding class assignment, for a homeowner estimating carpet or flooring before a DIY project, or for another topic altogether; it seems that a great number of people are interested in how to calculate the area of irregular polygonal shapes. As you probably expected, a boatload of self-appointed freelance experts have already shared their methodology at eHow.com. As you probably also expected, several of the answers are in serious need of clarification and/or correction (though we did find one version written by a guy who appeared to know what he was talking about). Most, however, needed help -- like the instructions penned by musician, teacher and writer (in her words) Charlotte Johnson. Charlotte's entry in the dumbass sweepstakes is titled "How to Calculate the Square Feet of Odd Shapes," now living at Hunker.com (for unknown reasons).

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Drop-In Ranges, the Dummies Version

Everywhere you look you find misleading terms and descriptions. Take the word "minerality," beloved (for a few months not that long ago) by wine snobs everywhere: it doesn't mean that the insouciant little wine you'd just spit into your bucket was – literally – on the rocks, it means that it had an earthy character. That's probably in hopes of getting the taster to wax elegant on terroir... Well, appliances also have misleading terminology, and eHow.com's Owen E. Richason IV (previously featured in these pages) fell victim to one of those misleading terms when he informed (and we use that word loosely) his readers in a post called "How to Remove a Drop-in Range" (now appearing at Hunker.com).

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Pavers for Dummies

Sometimes we read a blog post or a snippet at a content farm and the writer's complete lack of knowledge on the topic is crystal clear. Often, this is because the content has simply been spun from a more authoritative site -- content at Seekyt.com is notorious for this -- but other times it seems that the writer simply looked at some topic and thought to himself or herself, "Heck, I could do that -- anybody could!" The obvious problem is that the writer's never performed this task and just plain doesn't realize how stupid the idea is. We found one today that definitely fits into that category: "How to Calculate the Cost of a Brick Paver Patio,"¹ which appears at eHow.com (where else?), courtesy of Yelena Johnson. Yelena's by trade a wedding planner, which might account for her lack of expertise in the field of patio construction (we haven't seen many gardeners writing about wedding dresses lately, though...)

Monday, December 28, 2015

Radians for Dummies

As one of Mattel's more ill-conceived Barbie dolls, a talking model, once said, "Math class is tough!" It's apparent that mathematics is pretty much a black box for many of the Barbies of the literary world, those self-appointed freelancers who contribute to content farms on the internet. Take, for example, eHow.com's Chance E. Gartneer, already caught practicing his own rather strange version of arithmetic on another occasion. Today, we find Chance holding forth on a second topic with which he apparently has limited familiarity, in which he instructs his readers "How to Calculate Radians From a Slope" (now at Sciencing.com).

Chance immediately displays his ignorance of his topic in eHow's required "introduction" (75-100 words):

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dishwasher Troubleshoooting the Dummies Way

Don't you just love it when someone pretends to be giving valuable advice, but they're really just rewording another person's work? Well, here at the Antisocial Network, we sure love it -- NOT! -- which is why we point out the screwups freelancing fools make while trying to line their pockets. Too often the problem with their "work" (if you can call a copy-reword-paste job "work") is that the freelancers don't know enough about the topic to get it right. Sometimes, they even make it worse -- not only do they mess up the reword to mangle or omit important information, they add their own thoughts. In the worst examples, their thoughts are so ill-informed as to be dangerous. That's the case with today's dumbass, a repeater named Nicole Papagiorgio, who plies her trade at eHow.com (where else?). Try this bit of dangerous stupidity on for size: Papagiorgio's advice for someone complaining that "The On-Off Button Will Not Work on My Bosch Dishwasher," now at Hunker.com.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Cooktop Installation, the Dummy Version

We have wondered many times whether some of our serial dumbasses are even aware that they're misinforming their readers. After all, does your average fool even know that he or she is a fool? Do these people realize it when they leave out important information, miss critical steps in a process, or conflate two entirely different answers into one? Take, for instance, eHow.com's Naima Manal (who also plies her trade at HubPages and Seekyt): was she aware that her "research" was insufficient before she penned "How to Install a Countertop Cooktop" for HomeSteady.com? Up front, we'll admit that the redundant title isn't Naima's, it's eHow's -- but that's all the slack we're going to cut this serial dumbass.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Torture, the Dummy Version

People search for the weirdest things on the internet, and the website we here at the Antisocial Network call the "mother lode of misinformation" stands ever at the ready to help them find that information. Sort of. We are, of course, talking about eHow.com and its stable of freelancers, many of whom are ill-equipped indeed to answer a question that involves technology, science, or anything more complicated than the voting rules for American Idol. Take repeat offender Baptist Johnson, recently found attempting to answer what we found a quite bizarre request, "How to Cut off the Tail of a Scorpion." 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Trapdoors, the Dummy Version

This is a laundry chute, dumbass!
Laundry chutes were a common feature of classic houses, especially ones built in the late 19th and early twentieth centuries. The concept was surprisingly simple: instead of schlepping your dirty clothing from the second (or third) floor of the house down to a laundry room in the basement, builders installed a slick-sided chute inside the walls and let gravity work its magic on the soiled clothing. Why modern houses don't have these conveniences any more comes as a mystery to our staff (and to many others, we note). Well, Novel Treasure over at HubPages.com decided she and hubby needed one,  so they proceeded to create their own – and then she wrote a-a-a-all about it in "How to Install a Laundry Chute in the Floor." That seems to be par for the course for the women of HubPages when it comes to DIY: perform a little household project (or watch someone else do it) and then write a "how-to."

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Gutters for Dummies

One of the common errors of the freelancing fool -- the kind of writer who "researches" questions and "answers" them at content farms or a blog -- is failure to comprehend the point of the question. Take, for instance, the question "What is ethanol?": a freelance fool would "inform" you that ethanol is a mixture of gasoline and alcohol, while failing to mention that the word is more specifically used for ethyl alcohol. eHow.com's Chasity Goddard, freelance "writer" by virtue of a BA in creative writing, demonstrates this class of error by completely missing the point when writing about an unfamiliar topic: "What Are Ogee Gutters?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Diatoms for Dummies

Here at the Antisocial Network, we get butterflies in our collective gut when we run across someone pretending to be knowledgeable and authoritative, but failing because they've said something just plain stupid. We don't mean sticking your foot in your mouth up to the ankle; anyone can undergo a brain fart and say something dumb out loud. No, we're talking about the kind of rookie mistake that comes from bad research or, as in the case of Alisha Vargas at HubPages.com, from cribbing information from multiple sites but not bothering to proofread the resulting "information" for conflicts. Alisha pulled off this stunt in the article she called "The Wonderful World of Diatoms," which – unless you read it closely – actually made her look kinda smart-like.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Gold Prospecting, the Dummy Version

Gold fever: it seizes its victims by their wallets and almost never lets go. It can be so powerful that places like Sutter's Mill and the Yukon Territory are forever linked in popular lore with the yellow stuff; so popular that one NFL football team¹ owes its name to the precious metal. And yes, whenever the price of gold rises, people start searching the internet for how to get rich quick. And yes, freelancing bozos such as eHow's Tom Lutzenberger stand at the ready to underinform, misinform, and just plain bullshit whoever find their content via an ill-considered click on a search result. Under-information (mixed with a plenty of misinformation) can be found at the center of a mother lode site post that Tom and eHow titled "Gold Nuggets Found in Arizona."² The title itself doesn't make much sense, but Lutzenberger's text is even less useful

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Painting Ikea Furniture for Dummies

We're not big fans of Ikea at Antisocial Network headquarters. Oh, sure, we appreciate their reduced carbon footprint and the fact that just about everything can be recycled. It isn't the unpronounceable names (they're fun, in fact). It is partially because we're convinced that Ikea is Swedish for "Walmart" and partially because of their incomprehensible instructions; but mainly it's because we just don't like MDF. You know, medium-density fiberboard? the stuff all their furniture is made from? They coat it with plastic (technically, melamine) and you're stuck with the finish for life -- or you would be if you didn't search the internet for instructions on how to paint over the original finish. Unless, that is, you accidentally found uk_american's HubPages content he (she?) called "How to paint Ikea furniture."

There are a bazillion places on the internet that purport to explain how to paint furniture and the like with this sort of finish, which is actually known in the trade as "laminated." Oddly, that's a word the author of the post never uses – every reference is to "melamine," which the author seems to confuse with MDF from time to time:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Radioactive Isotopes, According to Dummies - The Freelance Files CCCXXXVI

In the process of transmitting information, something a lot of them pretend is "informing their readers," the many self-appointed freelance "journalists" of the internet are somewhat prone to mistakes. We know, we know, what a surprise! The sad fact is that unless you already know something, the unfortunate combination of dumbass and freelancer often results in misinformation and downright stupidity. Take, for instance, a bozo who pounded out more than 500 "stories" – that's the local term for what we politely consider bullbleep – at Seekyt.com. The yutz who calls himself WiseGuy, who we're almost certain isn't Ken Wahl, posted something he called "Radioactive Isotopes." After reading it, we had to wonder whether he actually intended that the "wise" part of his name be ironic. Sadly, we rather doubt it...

Friday, December 18, 2015

Glaciers: the Dummy Version - The Freelance Files CCCXXXV

The world is full of people who realize they don't know everything, and aren't too proud -- or too stupid -- to admit their lack of knowledge. Heck, we don't have any experts on plenty of topics (think tattooing, makeup and British sitcoms) on our staff here at the Antisocial Network. Yet we don't have any problem admitting our deficiency (though lack of detailed knowledge about BBC sitcoms doesn't necessarily strike us as a "deficiency"), and we know that if we actually needed help with those topics there are experts out there ready and willing to fill in the holes in our knowledge. And then there are our favorite freelancing dumbasses, who don't know anything but pretend they do anyway -- all in the desperate search for cash. Take eHow.com contributor Rose Guastella, who once filled in the reading public on the topic, "What is Glacial Till (with pictures), now moved to Sciencing.com?"

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sandpoint Wells, the Dummy Version - The Freelance Files CCCXXXIV

Ahhh, the pastoral life: living off the grid and not depending on any gummint or corporation to provide your necessities. You can shoot your own meat, generate your own power, and grow your own 'taters. What else do you need, huh? Oh, yeah -- you need water. So let's skip on over to that font of all human knowledge, eHow.com, to figure out how to get water. We've heard that the easiest way is to use a sandpoint or driven point well. But how to dig one? Let's let one of the anonymous morons of eHow's early days "inform" us on "How to Drill a Driven Point Well" (now at Hunker.com).

Of course, this being eHow, said moron must first tell us what a driven point well is and why they work (as far as he or she knows, that is):

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Earth's Mantle, the Dummy Version - The Freelance Files CCCXXXIII

Ever see a blog post or other content in which the whole doesn't equal the sum of the parts? You know, an explanation that leaves out critical facts or directions that omit important steps? Well, we see them all the time: and these deficiencies, at least to us here at the Antisocial Network, say we've found another writer who is talking through his or her metaphorical hat. Such a writer is eHow.com contributor Kelsey Childress, and for a sample of this style of "writing" -- in reality, simple transcription of random factoids -- we submit the following article she posted to the mother site (since moved to Sciencing.com) that supposedly explains "What Does the Mantle of Earth Consist Of?" Well, it kind of does; but it mostly doesn't.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Big Rigs, the Dummy Version - The Freelance Files CCCXXXII

The respectable (and respectful) freelancer knows that to write knowledgeably about a topic, one must immerse him- or her-self in the topic and learn the basics from a professional or two. That's why you can trust the words of a well-known freelance journalist like Mary Roach: she's done her homework, talked to experts and given it her best. The self-described freelancers of the internet, however, are a lot more likely to just do a quick read of wikipedia and simply reword an article they found there or somewhere else. That's probably why you find "advice" from people on topics about which they knew nothing before starting their "research," articles that leave their readers knowing worse than nothing after reading them. Sometimes they get it more or less right -- common sense dictates that you can't get some topics completely wrong -- but you can tell they're just guessing because of some of the stupid things they say. Take, for instance, the advice of Amie Taylor, caught by our staff explaining to the world, "How to Start a Frozen Big Rig"¹ -- sort of...

Monday, December 14, 2015

Conspiracies: the Dummy Obsession - The Freelance Files CCCXXXI

Of all the dummies on the planet, we're pretty sure the dumbest of them are the conspiracy theorists – the tinfoil-hat types, the black-helicopter spotters, the fake-moon-landing folks. No fact too damning to their theory can survive their peculiar, circular logic; and no tangentially related factoid is too trivial to be woven into their narrative of "truth." With that in mind, take a look at "The Science Behind the Bermuda Triangle" as presented by zig25 (Paul? Paula?) on InfoBarrel.com. Bear in mind, of course, that this is a freelancer who has also turned his/her finely-honed intellect on topics such as Jack the Ripper, the Biblical flood, the Hope diamond, crop circles, the "truth" of the Kennedy assassination, the "truth" of Tupac Shakur's death, Atlantis, the Loch Ness monster and others... all in prose badly in need of a grammar-checker.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tire Changes, the Dummy Version - The Freelance Files CCCXXX

The word for the day is "avoidance." The Antisocial Network's staff Labrador retriever is expert at this maneuver: put a treat in front of her, tell her to "leave it," and she'll look everywhere but at her treat. Tell her to take it and it's gone in an instant. With apologies to bumper-sticker writers everywhere, it's pretty clear that "Our Labrador retriever is smarter than your freelancer" -- especially if that freelancer happens to be eHow.com contributor Owen E. Richason IV, back for the second time this week alone. We caught Owen demonstrating avoidance in a post he called  (or perhaps more accurately, eHow called) "How to Change a Simplicity Mower Tire," now at GardenGuides.com.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Identifying Oak Trees the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files CCCXXIX

Let's face it: there are some questions that can't be answered in a simple narrative format, such as that used by content farms like eHow.com. Unfortunately, that never stopped the voracious, cash-hungry contributors to the sites; self-described "journalists" who poured forth half-assed explanations of everything from aardvark "facts" to zymurgy "how-tos" -- and in the process, often getting it wrong.  Today the topic at hand is Hunker.com's  "How to Identify an Oak Tree by a Leaf," and eHow contributor Elizabeth Knoll (already on the Antisocial Network's short list of prize-winning eHow dumbasses) was perfectly happy to demonstrate just how poorly prepared she was to answer this question.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Fences for Our Dummy Friends - The Freelance Files CCCXXIII

Ever ask someone a question and get the feeling that he or she just wasn't listening? You know that we mean: you ask, "What's the capital of Illinois?" and end up getting a half-hour dissertation on the use of the color blue in "The Simpsons" (probably because the capital of Illinois is Springfield...). This may happen because the person got distracted and went off on a tangent. We used to have a boss like that, a guy who would change subjects in the middle of a sentence and... sorry... Sometimes it's because the person trying to answer the question is a dumbass -- we're pretty sure that's what's going on in "How to Brace Fences,"¹ posted to eHow by frequent contributor (and DotD recipient) Owen E. Richason IV.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Central Air, the Dummy Version - The Freelance Files CCCXXII

You've probably heard it said that "There's no such thing as a stupid question," but we beg to differ. Around the Antisocial Network, we prefer the alternate saying, "Ask a stupid question and you'll get a stupid answer," though we've also noticed that you can get that stupid answer by asking a smart(ish) question of the wrong person -- and a lot of the wrong people have written for eHow.com over the years! People like Tom Lutzenberger, whose BA in political science failed to protect him from looking the fool when he answered the (admittedly) stupid question, "Can You Run Central Air If Your Gas Is Cut Off?" for Hunker.com.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Rock Types, the Dummy Version - The Freelance Files CCCXXI

Some people just don't know when to quit, do they... well, we suppose that in their defense, sometimes they're not allowed to quit when they should. We're not talking about Peyton Manning here, we're talking about eHow contributors under the lash of their site's minimum word-count rule. That's why some of the articles on the site say so many stupid things: trying to pad the content out to meet the minimum. Today's example is repeater Elyse James, with her Journalism BA, trying (and failing) to answer a question that should have taken fewer than ten words. The question? "In What Type of Rocks Are Fossil Fuels Found?" (now hiding at OurPastimes.com). Elyse's word count? About three hundred... a lot of them wrong.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Humidity for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCCXX

There must be some sort of dysfunction that attacks the brains of internet freelancers when they sit down to write a "simple" post – here at the Antisocial Network, we see the results of this condition every day. Perhaps the most striking symptom is the inability for a writer to come up with a simple, straightforward solution to a problem. eHow.com is a vector for the disease – mainly because of its minimum word count – but it crops up elsewhere as well. Today, for instance, we found it at Seekyt.com (not exactly a paragon of quality writing) in the person of "webforjason" (a.k.a. Jason Knapfel). Jason's symptoms appear in something he called "How to Lower Humidity in Your Home."

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sewer Vents, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files CCCXIX

The big data lovers are always babbling  about "drilling down" in gigantic datasets to find some great insight (we're sure there are lots of TED talks about precisely that somewhere). Here at the Antisocial Network, we occasionally employ a sort of drill-down technique ourselves: we start at known content farms, find a likely website, and zero in on a well-known freelancing fool. Today's one of those days (perhaps because it's Monday? who knows?): we went straight to the mother lode of internet dumbassery, eHow.com, and found one of the site's most dependably dumb contributors: Joan Whetzel. Without further ado, Joan's here to edify her readership on the topic, "What Are Sewer Vent Pipes For?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Foundations for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCCXVIII

Recently we've been seeing way more television advertisements for foundation repair than we think necessary (one company, to be precise) -- but we suppose that any homeowner who has foundation problems would be happy to to find a company to help him. We imagine that there's useful information available on the internet to a homeowner in need, but we certainly hope that anyone whose foundation is decrepitating will take a pass on the advice (and we use that term extremely loosely) that Seekyt.com author (ditto the loosely thing) lucy_hale posted in "Rebuilding Your Home's Foundation." An aside here: we're pretty certain that the author of this rubbish is not the singer whose name he or she appropriated, probably in hopes of garnering more hits...

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Light Years for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCCXVII

Way back in 2011, the search-engine gurus at Google decided that enough is enough: crappy websites filled with poorly-written garbage were getting what they felt was excessively high placement in search results. Consequently, the company released their Panda update to demote the content farms. Facebook and Twitter were given prominence in the algorithm, and the baby was thrown out with the Suite.com, AssociatedContent and Helium bathwater. Unfortunately, eHow managed to survive -- as did some of the content responsible for the Panda update. Content that we at the Antisocial Network mock on a daily basis; content like "What is the Distance of One Light Year?"¹ covered in the grand old tradition of eHow by Jennifer Oster.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Sedimentary Minerals for Dummies

It's bad enough to our staff here at the Antisocial Network when a bumbling freelancer does a halfwit job in the alleged "research" and transfer of information, but they're even more disgusted when they run across people who are supposed to know better doing a crappy job. A case in point: our staff geologist turned up a contributor to suite.io, Alexandra Matiella Novak, who pretty much undermined the validity of the PhD she claims to have in geology with her poor research. Well, it seems Alexandra's back again, and this time she's giving short shrift to "Minerals in Sedimentary Rocks."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Minerals for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCCXV

Q: You know how to tell a lawyer is lying?
A: His lips are moving.

Other than being somewhat sexist (the American Bar Association says its membership is about a third female) and a bit of a generalization, that's probably accurate. Here at the Antisocial Network, we have a corollary of sorts:

Q: How can you tell an eHow contributor is bullshitting?
A: There are words on the screen.

OK, perhaps a little harsh - but true too often to be ignored. Let's take a f'rinstance, that of eHowian Max Roman Dilthey, expounding on "How Minerals are Formed" at Sciencing.com. Is Max bullshitting or not bullshitting? We think the former...

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Slope Calculations for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCCXIV

In the bad old days before Google's Panda update made it impossible for people writing quality online content to make any money from their efforts, the internet was awash in people writing crap content at sites like Helium, AssociatedContent, Lunch, and eHow -- all reasons Google installed the update in the first place. Although eHow was the poster child for the content Panda was intended to kill, it's one of the few such sites still functioning. If, however, you want to see the sort of rubbish that made the site a laughingstock, the managers have left much of it in place. We're talking about content such as that written by contributor Jennifer Fleming, who's visited some pretty awful content on the 'net -- including today's award winner, "How to Calculate Channel Slope" (now residing at BizFluent.com).

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Wiring for Dummies - The Freelance Files CCCXIII

An adage from grandpa's time tells us, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." Here at the Antisocial Network, we've decided to update that old saw for the information age: "Those who can, do; those who can't, freelance by copying off of those who can." There's little more irritating to the knowledgeable than finding that some idiot is making good money off of faking experience and knowledge. You know, people like so many of eHow.com's "contributors"? In specific, like repeat offender Elizabeth Knoll, caught this time pretending to know her rear end from a hole in the ground (and failing... abjectly... as usual) in "How to Wire an Additional Light to an Existing Light and Switch"? [now at Hunker.com]