Saturday, April 30, 2016

Calculate that Volume, Dummies!

Pentagonal Prism
One of our core tenets at the Antisocial Network is that internet freelancers shouldn't be "informing" their readers unless they actually know what they're talking about. It would be nice, for instance, if  woodworking advice came from people who know the difference between nominal lumber sizes and actual lumber sizes; or content on pollination were written by people who can spell "angiosperm" correctly without having to look it up. But that's not the way it is -- and if you spend much time at eHow.com, you'll learn that this was rarely true in the old days, and is questionable even in their latest. video-based incarnation. Case in point? Self-described college "instructor" Michael Judge, who did a bang-up (not) job of writing "How to Calculate Volumes of Pentagonal Prisms" forSciencing.com.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Install that Wall Oven, Dummies!

Wall oven gap
Back at the dawn of time, one internet search engine (MetaCrawler, we think) let users watch a sample of the search queries that it processed. Once it filtered out the usual requests for "jessica alba naked" and "ex-girlfriend selfies" that dominate the search world, search voyeurs were left with a combination of thoughtful queries like "quantum physics versus string theory" and... less thoughtful searches like "What Do I Do If I Bought a Self-cleaning Oven is Smaller Than the Hole It Goes In?" Although the phrasing is clunky, we get the gist: someone bought a new oven and got it home to find out that it's smaller than the old one. What to do, what to do? Well, you could always ask eHow's resident appliance dumbass, Naima Manal. Heck, Naima's already taken on a similar topic once before, albeit over at HubPages...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Repair Your Basement Windows, Dummy!

basement window
Around these parts (the Antisocial Network's International Headquarters building) we are always interested in do-it-yourself projects and repairs. For one thing, DIY projects can be fun and satisfying when they result in a job well done. For another, it's a darn-sight cheaper to do it yourself than hire a professional. Not that we have anything against pros - we use them when we realize the project is beyond our skills. What we don't like is half-assed freelancers telling us - wrong - how to do our projects. You know, the kind of people we hand out DotD awards to? People like the yahoo that calls himself hubauthority over at HubPages.com? Yeah, that guy - the one who demonstrated his ignorance about home repair in an article he published called "How to Repair Your Basement Windows." How, indeed...

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Focus on Microscopes, Dummies!

Microscope Depth of Field
Here at the Antisocial Network our researchers have noticed that a dead giveaway we've pinged another freelancing fake is finding a nonsensical answer to a nonsensical question. You know, like someone who says "chlorophyll" in answering the question "What makes the sky green?" -- the sky's not green, and even if it were it wouldn't be because of chlorophyll... That's how we spotted an old friend in a new venue not long ago: she's sixteen-time winner of our coveted Dumbass of the Day award Joan Whetzel, who we happened upon answering the nonsense question "What Is a Depth of Field Microscope?"¹ for Demand Media's Techwalla,com website (we have to assume that Techwalla thinks Joan's contribution is a "product review" because most or all of the employees are Demand Media drones with little or no technical experience beyond holding their iPhones in that stupid flat position to use them as speakerphones... but we digress).

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Frame a New Interior Wall, Dummies!

Frame a wall
So you think you want to build a new wall, eh? That sounds like fun. Let's see what the internet has planned for you... ummm, we'll Google it... oh, and here's a post at our favorite HowTo website, eHow.com: "How to Nail a Wall Frame." And it's by one of our favorite eHowian "contributors," an early childhood educator who goes by the name of Elizabeth Knoll. Hey, haven't we seen that name before? Sure we have: Elizabeth is already a six-time winner of the Antisocial Network's Dumbass of the Day award, having picked up plaques in the carpentry, construction, electrical work and biology categories so far. Is it time for Liz to get another of our fabulous plaques? After all, Knoll's proven in the past that she feels free to give advice even when she knows absolutely nothing about her topics: let's see what she has to say on this "simple" topic.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Make a Hockey Stick, Dummies!

Construction of Dynasty hockey stick blade
Try cutting this out of wood, Michelle!
A couple of our Antisocial Network staff members found themselves watching the Stanley Cup playoffs a few nights ago (Go, Pens!) and one of them remarked in our staff meeting the next morning that most Americans (yes we know, Canadians live in North America, too) seem to know absolutely jack about ice hockey. Ask most of our fellow countrymen the difference between offsides and icing or where "the point" might be, and you'll probably just receive a blank look. Oddly, having this level of ignorance doesn't stop some people from pretending to be knowledgeable about the sport... For a specific example, we now refer you to Michelle Raphael, whose BA in PolySci just plain failed her when she decided to contribute "How to Build a Hockey Stick" to the idiot factory called eHow.com.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Check Your Reflection, Dummies!

Reflected light vs. refracted light
If you've been paying attention at all in the past decade or two, you know that the USA's education system has been turning out way to many people who are highly literate in pop culture but know jack shit about science, technology, engineering and math: the STEM subjects. Even if you haven't been paying attention, all you'd have to do is look at the kind of bullshit answers published at eHow.com by journalism, English literature and political science graduates when the question is even the slightest bit "science-y." Wanna see what we mean? Check out the mess eHow's Jack Ori (aka Stephanie Silberstein) made when trying to answer the simple question "What Makes Light Reflect Off of  Mirrors?" at Sciencing.com.

Jack -- according to LinkedIn, the holder of an MFA in creative writing -- did get creative in his post. Oh, he got the basic bits and pieces right:

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Tighten that Screw, Dummies!

Torx Screw
The Torx: neither Phillips nor flat head
No matter how simple (some might say "stupid") the question, you can pretty much bet that some penny-hungry freelancer, somewhere, has managed to post an online answer to it -- even something as dirt simple as how one might change a light bulb. Yep, these are people who believe -- with near-religious fervor -- the misquote attributed to H. L. Mencken: "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American Public."* You know they're out there: why else would freelancer Chris Simon have posted to eHow.com the completely moronic "How to Tighten Screws"? Or perhaps a better question should be, just why on earth would Simon think that there is someone out there (above the age of four) who doesn't know how to use a screwdriver? Because he wanted his ten or fifteen bucks from eHow, that's why...

Friday, April 22, 2016

Your Barn Door's Open, Dummy!

The Barn Door Comes Inside
Interior barn door
If someone around Antisocial Network HQ wanted advice on Chinese cooking, we'd be a lot more likely to reject unsolicited advice written by Mohammed Said than that written by Lee Ling -- wouldn't you? Ditto with information about raising llamas written by an Oklahoma rancher instead of something penned by a Manhattan apartment-dweller... In truth, you want your advice and information to come first-hand from someone who actually knows about the topic, as opposed to someone who had to look it up. Right? No wonder no one trusts eHow.com articles, if they let the likes of Michelle Raphael (pretend to) explain "How to Build Rolling Barn Doors." Maybe if she'd ever even seen a barn door...

OK, that's not fair: most people have seen a barn door, but that doesn't mean they can make one: Raphael clearly falls into the category of "those who can't do"; though in this case, she can't "teach," either. Oh, she gets the idea and utility of barn doors right -- you'd have to be pretty disconnected from reality to not be able to reword that bit of advice -- but when it comes to actually constructing a barn door? No way, Michelle...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Classify that Rock, Dummies!

Rock Types in Rock Cycle
Many years ago, our senior staff researcher (the big high muckety-muck in the research group) learned that politicians would much rather give speeches than write essays. The reason? It's easier to, shall we say, "hedge the facts" for listeners than for readers. That's the main reason why our staff has heretofore avoided taking on video content, even though it dominates the newly redesigned eHow.com. eHow also knows it's harder to spot utter bull in a video than in writing. Alas, the time has come -- and so we're taking on our first video DotD, eHow's Jane Stammer, as she explains -- sort of -- the process of "Classifying Rocks."

Let's open this by reporting that nothing Jane says in her video is demonstrably wrong. Our awards committee discussed this for several minutes -- that's several times as long as Stammer's 59-second video (in reality, 51 seconds, given her 8-second introduction); in which she tackled the question she expanded to "How to Classify Rocks" in a mere 114 words.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Remove that Tilt-Out Window Sash, Dummy!

Removing a Tilt-Out Sash
Yep. the bottom has been raised...
Anyone who's ever moved into a different home -- and that's pretty much everyone these days, right? -- knows that the previous residents almost always forget to leave the instruction manuals for everything but the kitchen appliances (and often forget those). If the new home is your first experience with those newfangled tilt-out windows, chances are you have no idea how to take out the sashes for spring cleaning. Have no fear, the internet's here to help. Just hope that you don't encounter the kind of non-help offered up in the SFGate HomeGuide titled "How to Remove a Tilt-Out Window Sash." Given that freelancer Cecilia Harsch wrote this piece for Demand Media (parent of eHow), you should probably know better than to trust it...

In the interests of full disclosure, one of the Antisocial Network staffers had an "accident" the first time he tried to perform this task, and the reason he had that accident is because -- like Harsch -- he didn't know what he was doing. He does now...

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Try Some Elementary Chemistry, Dummies

Baking Soda Bubbles when mixed with Lemon Juice
Much of the most conspicuous dumbassery discovered by the Antisocial Network's researchers as they troll the internet lies at the feet of the website we call the mother lode of all dumbassery, eHow.com. After the site took a serious¹ hit in Google's Panda update, the owners (Demand Media) split up the website and created "titles," as they call them, in numerous subgenres across multiple websites (Livestrong, SFGate, Synonym, etc.). The contributors, however, stayed pretty much the same; as did (apparently) their vaunted content editors -- not to mention the morons, whoever or whatever they are, who created the titles. That's how a documented scientific illiterate like Jonae Fredericks ended up writing about chemistry -- yes, chemistry! -- for a Demand Media niche site called ModernMom.com. The results? A bit of classic dumbassery the people at DMS titled "What Happens When You Mix Lemon Juice With Baking Soda?"

Monday, April 18, 2016

Build a Planter Box, Dummies

Wood Planter Box
Head over to your local library or BigBox hardware store, and you're going to find dozens if not hundreds of DIY books filled with instructions for simple woodworking and carpentry projects -- the same goes at Amazon.com, for that matter. The typical layout of a project goes along the lines of description, materials list, instructions. If it's a fairly involved project, you'll probably find a cutting list with dimensions of the different parts you'll need to cut. Good DIY writers know the "lingo" of the trades and (at least usually) write step-by-step instructions. On the other hand, there are fakes like Lina Schofield, who attempted to explain to the readers of eHow.com (really: do people never learn?) "How to Make a Wooden Planter Box"¹ -- and failed. Miserably.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Titrate that Solution, Dummies!

Titration
So, readers, what do you think would happen when one of the bazillions of money-hungry freelancers out there happens to run into an assignment he or she doesn't understand? An assignment for which he or she has no background at all? If you guessed "run with it anyway," then you've hit upon the reason why it's rarely a problem for one of our researchers to dig up another of the Antisocial Network's Dumbass of the Day nominees (trust us, they have hundreds more still waiting in the wings...). Yep, people who know nothing will type the topic title into their search engines (we hope using quotation marks) and then reword the first hit in the list. At least we suspect that's what happened to eHow.com's Jack Ori (him again!) who set aside his "coaching" duties just long enough to make a mess out of "Titration Explained" at Sciencing.com.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Visit Indianapolis, Dummies!

Indianapolis Children's Museum
It's time to take another look at fake travel reviews again, and with the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 (the iconic auto racing event, no matter what NASCAR fans might say), we thought we'd take another look at the Crossroads of America. We've already caught serial armchair traveler Isabelle Esteves pretending to have visited Indy, so we thought we'd see who else out there likes to write fake travel reviews. It took just one google search – indianapolis site:hubpages.com –  to turn up a bit of badly-spun content some lazy, self-appointed "freelance writer" had apparently lifted from the city's tourism bureau. The culprit this time? HubPages.com's Arthurart, who performed a not particularly scintillating bit of copy-mangling in a post he called "What to See in Indianapolis."

Friday, April 15, 2016

Build a Supercontinent, Dummies!

Gondwanaland and Laurasia
If we here at the Antisocial Network had to rank the dumbasses we encounter in our research by type, content spinners and people writing advertisements disguised as information rank pretty low on the pole. Another set of pea-brains that tend to incur our collective wrath are those who pretend to write informative content by simply rewording a wikipedia article. Not that wikipedia isn't a better source of information than most content farms (and a helluva lot of blogs), but faking knowledge always pisses us off. That's why the staff geologist fingered Donovan Sak, who exposed his dumbassery to the world with "What Were Earth's Continents Like and What Will They Become?" which he published at InfoBarrel.com.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Time that Engine, Dummies!

Timing Sequence Internal Combustion Engine
Back in the day when everybody's grandpa had to walk ten miles each way to school (uphill both ways, of course), you could climb into the engine compartment of your V8 Ford to perform a tuneup beneath the old maple in the yard. That's not so much the case any more, due to the combination of clean air regulations and advances in engine design. Your Grandpa and, if he's old enough, your Dad (maybe Mom, for that matter), could swap out the plugs, install new points, change the oil and filters and set the timing in a short afternoon. Nowadays it takes a special tool and two hours of grunting to get the oil filter off the block... Having never performed his own tuneups, however, didn't stop eHow's Thomas West from parlaying that MA in English into the less-than-helpful "How to Advance or Retard Ignition Timing" at ItStillRuns.com.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Learn Some Chemistry, Dummies!

Periodic Table as Ring
It may seem as though we at the Antisocial Network concentrate our research on how-to articles, and that might be a fair assessment. Whether that's a cause or an effect of the frequency with which we mine the motherlode of dumbassery at eHow.com is debatable, sort of a chicken or egg question. In reality, we find dumbasses everywhere: it's just that they're easier to find at eHow! Today, however, we head over to another primary source, HubPages.com, where we found one of our champions, 15-time winner of our signature award, holding forth on a topic about which she clearly knows nothing. It's the one and only Joan Whetzel, who today we find misinforming her readership about "The Elements of Earth's Crust."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Calculate Your Roof Pitch, Dummies!

Roof Pitch
In our wanderings around the internet, the research team here at the Antisocial Network continue to be just flabbergasted at some of the inane crap that money-grubbing freelancers have published -- not that it's been published, of course, but that these people actually got paid for doing such a lousy job of it. Today's awardee is a case in point: the author of well over a hundred eHow.com posts across a wide range of categories, Carter McBride, JD, has already gotten the nod once before for overthinking a simple mathematical operation. He's back today, holding forth on another topic about which he clearly knows nothing: "How to Calculate Pitch."¹

As is so often the case with eHow contributions, the freelancer tips off his or her readers that the content is bullshit in the introduction. McBride's post is no exception:

Monday, April 11, 2016

Frame Those Jack Studs, Dummy!

Jack stud used in framing
With, we suspect, thousands of self-appointed freelancers jamming the information superhighway (how long has it been since you heard that phrase, huh?), it is never a surprise when we encounter someone who is simply talking through his or her hat when it comes to sharing that "information." Unfortunately, it takes time and at least some knowledge to root out the liars, the second part of which is why eHow was so successful at the stupidification of the internet -- their fact-checkers were as incompetent (and greedy) as their contributors!

Today's Antisocial Network awardee is a long-time contributor to the motherlode of misinformation, one Thomas West. West contributed several hundred articles to the site, the majority of them automotive (a topic seemingly at odds with his MA in English). Since automotive topics tend to be highly specific, however, our researchers tend to ignore them. They did, however, notice when Thomas ventured out of his depth in another field, the day he pretended to answer the question "What Are Jack Studs?" at HomeSteady.com.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Make a Fossil Fuel, Dummies!

crude oil
In the last decade, the money-hungry freelancers filled the internet with the kind of rubbish that has frustrated middle-school teachers since... well, since the first middle-school teachers. We're talking half-assed answers here, and bullshit based on incomplete, shallow research. You know, the kind of answer that just skims the surface without actually bothering with facts, right? You don't know? Well, the researchers here at the Antisocial Network have turned up a striking example of this kind of "knowledge"; if one can dignify the answer with that word. The content was perpetrated upon the 'net at, no surprise here, eHow.com; and it was posted by contributor Robert Balun in response to the question "Why Are Fossil Fuels Non-Renewable?"¹

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Drill that Keyhole Slot, Dummies!

Keyhole Slot Cutter Bit and Keyhole
It's bad enough when the Antisocial Network's research staff find rubbish thrown up on content farms by people who are completely unfamiliar with the subject matter, Hell, that's pretty much par for the course -- especially in this hot and heavy political season. But things can get worse: the content may be an example of bait and switch (either deliberate or a result of stupidity) or can be an out-and-out failure of logic. We ran across a classic example of the latter in our research, thanks to an eHow drone who calls himself Jack Ori. Jack (aka Stephanie Silberstein), whose eHow output comprises hundreds of posts, mostly on business, tripped himself up by venturing into woodworking with "How to Make Keyhole Slots With a Drill" (now at Hunker.com).

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Convert Your Ingredient Measures, Dummy!

An old joke has it that a scientist knows everything about something, a technician knows something about everything, and a secretary knows everything about the scientists and technicians. Sadly, some people would like you to believe that they know everything about everything. For some reason, these people invariably end up as the sort of freelancer writers who dump incomplete and/or incorrect information out on content farms like HubPages, Suite and eHow. Take, for instance, Amie Taylor, who claims to be highly conversant with landscaping. Maybe she is, but here at the Antisocial Network we suspect she's scientifically illiterate and now we've also decided that she doesn't know much about cooking, either. The reason we think so? take a look at "How to Measure Equivalents for Baking"¹...

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Hang Your Cabinets, Dummies!

Install Cabinets Screws
As is often said by teachers and the like, there are no stupid questions -- though a teacher is unlikely to say, out loud at least, "there are only stupid people." Although the implication is that the person asking the question is the stupid one, we here at the Antisocial Network quite frequently find that the person answering said question is equally stupid. This is most common among freelancers who are so desperate for a few bucks that they'll say anything. You know, the people who ply their trade at content farms like eHow and Hubpages? People like Neal Litherland of eHow.com? Well, you'll know who's the stupid participant in this exchange after you read Neal's "answer" to the question, "What Screws Do I Use to Install Cabinets?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Propane, the Dummy Version

Ice on propane tank
For a couple of decades, educators all across the USA have bemoaned the citizenry's increasing scientific illiteracy. Whether it's a plot by social conservatives to keep people uneducated about evolution, genetics and climate change, or just an outgrowth of the pay disparity between technical jobs and teaching, there's undeniable evidence that the populace is becoming less familiar with basic science at the same time that they're becoming more familiar with the private lives of "celebrities." We see the evidence all the time, especially at websites that allow journalism and English literature majors to answer technical questions... like the time eHow.com allowed political scientist Mark Fitzpatrick to hold forth on "What Causes a Propane Tank to Frost Up?" for Hunker.com, even though he had no earthly idea what the reason might be.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Keep Your Toilet from Clogging, Dummies!

Clogged Toilet
If you spend anywhere near as much time wandering the halls of the internet as the Antisocial Network's research staff, you're certain to come upon some pretty lamebrained "solutions" on a daily basis. Unlike our staff, though, we suspect you aren't looking for lamebrained rubbish: you want the good stuff. Well, that's the main reason that we're here: to steer you away from the kind of junk vomited out on websites such as eHow.com; crap written by halfwit, unqualified "freelancers" like William Jackson. We're pretty sure earning a "Masters Degree in Humanities" (even if it is from Penn State) didn't prepare him to tell people "How to Prevent Clogged Toilets."¹ His lack of preparation is readily apparent from the... "solution."

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Convert Decimal Feet to Feet and Inches, Dummy

Spreadsheet example
Spend much time at all on the internet and you should figure out within minutes that at least 95% of the people sharing "facts" or "truth" do not, in reality, have the faintest idea what they're talking about. That makes getting at a kernel of truth in the middle of any statement a little dicey at times, especially when you learn that the words were dashed off at top speed by someone hoping to make as much money as possible in the shortest time. Oh, sure, sometimes you get lucky and encounter internet "truths" that are well-researched and/or written by someone with a solid grounding in the subject. But on the other hand, there's eHow and its stable of freelancers... freelancers like Carter McBride, who claims to have an MS in accounting (get that: a Master of Science!) plus a JD; neither of which was apparent when he attempted to tell people "How to Convert Decimals to Feet and Inches in Excel."¹

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Use Your Pipe Wrench, Dummy!

Pipe Wrench Jaws
Any home-repair task involving plumbing, at least beyond basic faucet repair or swapping out shower heads, will require the use of a pipe wrench. That's why a version of this tool shows up in just about every DIYer's home toolkit once he or she gets past the hammer-plus-pliers-plus-cordless drill stage. It's probably why InfoBarrel.com's Robert VanNorden shared his thoughts about one brand of these tools in his post "The Best Pipe Wrenches Money Can Buy Online"... essentially a thinly-disguised set of links to Amazon.com padded out with some lousy text to meet the site's minimum word count. Our first question, of course, was, "Are there better wrenches you can't buy online???"

Anyway, we're not here to argue with VanNorden's assertion that the Ridgid brand of pipe wrenches is simply the best, or even that a pro could benefit from the significant weight advantage of the brand's aluminum wrenches as opposed to cast iron. We're pretty sure they beat the cheap house-brand wrenches you can get at Lowe's or HomeDepot (not to mention that Chinese-made Tekton brand Amazon keeps trying to push on us whenever we buy tools). No, we're here to wonder why someone who claims to be both "a writer" and a "retired heating contractor" does so bad a job of describing this tool. Says Robert,

Friday, April 1, 2016

Seal that Undermount Sink, Dummy!

Undermount Sink
Along with "granite"¹ counter tops, the big kitchen and bath trend of the '90s-2000s was undermount sinks. Instead of having a lip that extends over the counter to support its weight, an undermount sink is fixed to the bottom of the counter with built-in clamps. The installer adds a bead of caulk between the sink and the countertop to keep water from slopping over the rim and into the base cabinet. eHow's Steven Symes (serial plumbing dumbass) once attempted to explain how to replenish that sealer in "Caulk to Reseal Undermount Sinks."

As readers with even a little common sense should notice, however, Symes labors under a misconception when offering his "advice"...