Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Diagnose that ABS Light, Dummies! (Cars Week 3)

Braking with ABS vs without ABS
Many of the car-related questions you see on the internet have to do with poor engine performance or difficulty getting the thing to even run. There are tons of questions about the Check-Engine Light (CEL), too; but when it comes to warning lights on your instrument panel, the ones that are most likely to catch your attention are the bright red ones warning you about your brakes. Talk about a critical system: without brakes, a driver's in a LOT of trouble! That's why we find it frightening that eHow let a total dumbass like Stacy Zogheib provide a freelance "explanation" to some poor, benighted reader who asked, "Why Does My ABS Light Flash?" (now available at ItStillRuns). We're all for getting out of your comfort zone, but this is not a subject for someone who just yesterday learned what "ABS" means...

Monday, May 30, 2016

Check those Sensors, Dummies! (Cars Week 2)

Typical MAF Sensor location
This is a MAF Sensor, Andrea
It's been troubling to research this week's crop of DotD candidates, if only because of the absolutely shameless behavior of the content farmers at eHow, HubPages, InfoBarrel and the rest. While we're sure a few of those folks assumed they were being helpful while writing their automotive "advice," it's a safe bet most of them knew damned well they were feeding the public ever-larger piles of steaming bull. One of those latter, we believe, was eHow's Andrea Stein (already a five-time awardee), who graces these pages today for her approach to the topic of "Ford Ranger Sensor Problems."¹ As is typical, other eHow grunts should share this award; in this case, the person who thought that this "title" (as DMS calls it) specific enough that it deserved -- for lack of a better term -- an "answer."

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Load that Engine, Dummy! (Cars Week 1)

Does your car lose power on hills
Consider that a car, van or truck is the second most costly item most people will ever own -- after a house -- and it becomes obvious why people so often ask for help keeping them running. If people are asking for help, then penny-hungry internet freelancers are perfectly happy to offer up "solutions"; solutions that -- you guessed it -- aren't worth the electrons they're printed on. This week, in honor of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, we'll be featuring some of the stupid and occasionally dangerous advice you can find out there about keeping your cars running. We'll start with eHow's Micah McDunnigan, found attempting to explain to someone, "Why Does My Car Hesitate When I Go Up a Hill?" (now found at ItStillRuns.com)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

What Is an Oxbow Lake, Dummy?

meander cutoff forming an oxbow lake
Guess what: today, the Antisocial Network hands out its five-hundredth Dumbass of the Day award. No kidding! and to celebrate, we're bringing back one of our most (un)popular contributors: the maven of mayhem, the sorcerer of scientific illiteracy, the pride of Katy, Texas: Joan Whetzel! It's been several weeks since Joan graced this column, but she's still a winner: seventeen different awards on three sites and in eight different categories. Go Joanie! For today's award, we travel to Hubpages.com and dip into geomorphology (a branch of geology) as Joan expounds on "What is an Oxbow Lake?" As always, Joan's sources are (fairly) good. It's just her reinterpretation that's... questionable.

As Joan explains (rather long-windedly), an oxbow lake is

Friday, May 27, 2016

Choose Your Generator, Dummies!

portable generator in use
Portable gasoline-powered generator in use
Ahhh, Spring; when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love, and everyone else worries about power outages caused by violent storms. Well, almost everyone else: the people who sell home generators are rubbing their hands together like greedy cartoon bankers. Ever priced a generator? you can buy small ones that run on gasoline for a few hundred bucks, but if you want to run the whole house for days at a time – you know, Superstorm Sandy? a Gulf Coast hurricane? – then you'd better be ready to fork over much more than $10K for a natural gas-powered generator. Just be certain you don't go looking for information about how to choose a generator at eHow.com, where today Andrea Stein picks up her fifth DotD award with the woefully unhelpful "Natural Gas Vs. Gasoline Generator."¹ Need we mention that it's... stupid?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Wire that New Outlet, Dummies!

One method of wiring a light and an outlet to a switch
As our research staff plies the ocean of content on the internet, the kids often run across posts to "how-to" websites (need we say, "especially in the Demand Media¹ family"?) that appear to make perfect sense. The steps are pretty much right, the warnings and tips are all on point, and the pictures – assuming the post is one eHow has upgraded – are illustrative. And then someone actually reads the content and thinks, "Why the heck would anyone do it that way?" Such is the case of "How to Wire an Outlet from a Light Fixture," posted by eHow's Nichole Liandi. The first clue that Nichole is... unfamiliar with her topic is in her introduction:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Learn About Pulleys, Dummies!

Pulley Types
Remember that TV show "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader"? We're sure it's still on, somewhere... the fascinating (some of the Antisocial Network staff prefer "sad") premise of the show is that a lot of adults aren't "smarter" than the 10-year-olds on the show. Of course, it's all about long-term vs. short- and intermediate-term memory: the adults likely learned the exact same thing the kids know, but in the intervening years the memories have faded. Not so for a 10-year-old who just learned it last week! That's why there's research: google a question on  the 'net and you can find out everything you've forgotten since you were ten. Unless, of course, you're a knowledge-faking freelancer like eHow's Micah McDunnigan. Even that BA in "international relations" (whatever that that is) didn't prepare him to expound on "3 Types of Pulleys,"¹ moved from eHow to Hunker (for unknown reasons) by Leaf Group.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Replace that Water Heater, Dummy!

Gas Water Heater
Note TPR valve at right...
An old joke says, "How can you tell when a lawyer is lying? His lips are moving." Yes, we know, a lot of lawyers are women – so sue us (rimshot). Whatever the case, when it comes to DIY, we have a similar riddle for freelancers: "How can you tell a freelancer is lying? He says the job is 'easy.'" We caught Alecia Gibson, aka AllyG47, over at Infobarrel.com telling us that replacing a water heater is easy when she wrote "Water Heater Installation," and we were pretty certain she was lying... about ever having done this... because the very first sentence in her article is
"Water heater installation is an easy do-it-yourself project. Anyone can do it and it only takes a few hours."
It has been our experience that nothing involving large-scale plumbing jobs is "easy," which suggests to us that Alecia may have watched a professional plumber (with an assistant) perform this activity, but she's never some close to doing it herself. In the first place, Ally doesn't know the names of the tools:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Understand Your Speakers, Dummy?

Ohms and speaker output
In our research of internet-based freelance bulltossers, we often run across a type who will happily write (and in a few cases, film a video) of just about anything. That'd be fine – IF the writers knew what they were talking about; but too often they simply don't. We don't know about you, but when we have a question we'd rather get an answer from someone who didn't have to look it up; especially if the person answering the question gets it wrong! Let's try an example: some poor guy out there wondered "How to Understand Subwoofers and Ohms"¹: do you think he got a good answer from a philosophy student like Gwendolen Akard when she tried to reword an answer from a more authoritative source? In a word, no...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fix Your Xterra's Timing, Dummy!

Xterra Timing Belt
Some of our staff here at the Antisocial Network remember working on engines in the pre-Clean Air Act days, when you could just about climb into the engine compartment and stand next to the "mill." Nowadays, the space is so crowded with the hoses and sensors of the emissions control system that it's nearly impossible for a shadetree mechanic to perform a simple tuneup. That may be why some of the freelancers writing automotive "advice" (we use the term loosely) at eHow.com don't know jack shit about the topic -- they've never even tried to do it. Take a look, for instance, at the mess three-time Dumbass Baptist Johnson made while attempting to address "The Timing is Off in My Nissan Xterra and It Won't Start."¹ Duh...

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Circulate that Warm Air, Dummies!

Winter Ceiling Fan Direction
Boomers and, perhaps, Gen-Xers intuitively understand the concepts of clockwise and counterclockwise (anticlockwise if you speak British English) because they remember wall clocks with hands and dials. Millennials, not so much: they've come of age with digital clocks and, increasingly, smartphone displays. So it's probably not a surprise that there are dumbasses out there who don't know which direction is which, much like there are preschoolers who don't know left from right (as an aside, the Antisocial Network HQ dogs all know left from right: are your kids that smart?). Take, for instance, Stephanie Mitchell of Demand Media's SFGate property: Steph screwed the pooch when she answered the query "How to Help Distribute Home Heating With Ceiling Fans"; probably because she got confused... but in her case, it might have just been scientific illiteracy!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Fix that Outside Faucet, Dummy!

Standard Sillcock
What "top cap," Maxwell????
If our research into the foolishness of self-described freelance "helpers" has proven anything so far, it's probably that DIY plumbers are working in about as dark a "black box" as DIY electricians. The main difference is that fouled-up plumbing usually won't kill you. We learned in about three days that you just don't take plumbing advice from people who got paid to write it, especially at eHow.com and similar sites. If you do, you're likely to end up trying to figure out just what these people meant when they reworded their original sources to avoid getting caught plagiarizing. It's much easier to write a synonym for a term you know than something unfamiliar... as was proven by eHow's Maxwell Payne, caught pretending to know "How to Repair an Outside Faucet Drip"¹ for HomeSteady.com. Unfortunately for the readers, he didn't...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Find that Intercept, Dummies!

Line showing slope and intercept of equation
One of our staffers here at the Antisocial Network minored in math and computer science while getting a science degree. That doesn't mean he's a math whiz, it just means that he didn't have enough courses in any other subject to declare a minor. He's fairly good at algebra and geometry, though, and given enough time he can remember how to use trigonometry. Whatever... he once observed that people who understand math aren't good at teaching it. For proof, read any calculus textbook published before about 1990 and look for the phrase "it's intuitive" -- it's not! That doesn't mean that people who aren't good at math are good at teaching it, though: take a look at the mess eHow's Gwendolen Akard made of trying to explain "How to Find the Y Intercept."¹

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Inflate that Basketball, Dummy!

From time to time, we like to make fun of our dumbasses (if you didn't know, the Antisocial Network staffers hand out a daily "Dumbass of the Day" award) for some of their more truly ridiculous statements. It's not bad enough that these people hold themselves out as authorities on topics they'd never heard of before starting to "research" them; but some of them are nowhere near as skilled as their biographies might suggest. Take, for instance, eHow's Sheri Lamb: according to her profile, Sheri "...has covered virtually every beat associated with community newspapers...[specializing] in sports." She also claims "...skills as a reporter..."; but the quality of her output in "How to Keep a Basketball From Losing Air" (now at Healthfully.com) definitely belies both claims.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Test that Sump Pump, Dummy!

Diagram of typical sump pump installation
It's said that water is a homeowner's worst enemy. A home's plumbing, a black box second only to electricity in the mysteriousness department, keeps the water that occupants use at bay, but what happens to all the water falling from the sky: rain, snow, sleet or hail? Roofs and gutters do most of the work, but if the house has a basement or the foundation is below grade, the house probably has a sump pump, too. These nearly invisible, yet vital, tools provide decades of reliable service -- but they can, and do, occasionally fail (we know this from experience, of course). The wise homeowner occasionally tests the pump during the dry season to make certain it will still work when the rains come. Since he (or she) is wise, however, he's not going to take advice from Cecilia Harsch at SFGate, and definitely not from the article she published for them called "How to Test a Sump Pump."

Monday, May 16, 2016

Table Your Data, Dummies!

Data Table
Spend enough time surfing the internet, and it's a safe bet you'll run across someone, somewhere, willing to say anything for a buck. Oh, sure, we've all heard of crack whores and other criminals so desperate for dollars that they'll do anything, but these people -- for the most part, anyway -- seem to be reasonably well-educated types who just wanted to pick up a little pin money. The problem, of course, is not that they said these things, the problem is that they didn't know jack shit when they said them. If you need an example, you need look no further than Serm Murmson, already a two-time winner of the DotD award (in Geography and Physics), who expanded his reach into mathematics when he pretended to answer a nonsensical question for Chron.com: "What is a Horizontal Axis in a Data Table?"

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Tow that Car, Dummy!

Tow Dolly
Let's imagine a f'rinstance: you're halfway home from your local Starbucks, tooling down the boulevard in your Kia (Soul, Sportage, Optima, Sorento, Sedona, Rio....) when all of a sudden the Check Engine Light comes on -- just as your engine sputters and dies. You've dropped that AAA subscription the 'rents gave you at graduation to afford a better data plan for your iPhone, so you call your BFF to come and get you and the car. When she gets there, you realize neither of you has the slightest idea what you're doing, so you whip out that iPhone and google "How to Tow a Kia."¹ If you're lucky, you will not end up finding the phony answer to that question published by Seth Amery at eHow  (now moved to ItStillRuns). Of course, if you had a brain, you'd just look it up in the owner's manual...

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Solve Those Equations, Dummies!

Solving Equations
The people at the Antisocial Network are pretty much like anyone in the age of the internet: when we want to know something, we whip out our smartphones (android, though, never iOs) and fire up Google to look for an answer. We all know that's why content farms, especially those claiming to specialize in "how-to" took off a decade or so ago, but we learned a hard lesson from those places: don't trust them! When we look for an answer or help on a new problem, we want someone with experience and know-how to explain things, and we want an answer: not someone dancing around the topic and never actually saying anything. That's why we returned to Oliver VanDervoort and Catalogs.com: the guy just plain bullshitted his way through something he called "How to Solve Math Equations," back when the site was WhoWhatWhereWhenWhy.com -- you can see why they left out the "how" after reading this crap.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Install that Pet Door, Dummy!

Cat Flap or Dog Door
Have you ever walked eagerly into a store or show room, your heart set on some marvelous bargain the store had advertised, only to find that the merchandise was no longer available? Sure you have -- probably every time you've shopped for furniture or a used car, sometimes even for groceries. When done deliberately (it usually is), this upsales technique is a form of "bait and switch." Whether it's deliberate or simple dumbassery, content farmers and other freelancers often use a similar technique, click bait: a title or eye-catching link that leads the reader to pedestrian bullshit, but doesn't yield what it promises. You know, like the Catalogs.com how-to article titled "Installing a Pet Door at Home,"posted courtesy of  Info Guru Bryce Hammons (guru, our collective hiney!)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Let's Make Some Mountains, Dummies!

Sawtooth Mountains
Explain these, Cindi...
Science... why do some people even try? Even the simplest scientific concepts seem to baffle many of the self-appointed freelancers out there on the internet. Our researchers have lost count of the number of times they've seen scientific terms misapplied, mathematical formulas written incorrectly, and the most basic of principles presented in wildly incorrect terms. Having studiously avoided all those tough science and math classes to get a BA degree (journalism, political science, business and English seem to be the most-favored disciplines), these folks still think their innate "intelligence" and research "skills" allow them to hold forth, at length, on any topic. Some, like Catalog.com's Cindi Pearce, prove themselves wrong as soon as they sit down at their keyboards. Have a look at Cindi's opus, "How Mountains Are Made" if you don't believe us...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What Size is Your Motorcycle, Dummy?

Motorcycle Engine
Our founder (and most antisocial member of the network) well remembers a former classmate, who was one of the most irritating personality types there can be: someone who knows everything. In fact, the only thing worse than a know-it-all is someone who does know it all (can you say, "Sheldon Cooper"?). A surprising number of self-appointed know-it-alls end up being freelancers, where they can put all that excess brainage to work. Unfortunately for internet readers, most of them don't know everything. Over at Catalogs.com, we found some dude named Oliver Vandervoort, whose profile at the former WhoWhatWhereWhenWhy.com claims that "if there is a topic he is not an expert on just yet, he soon will be." The questionable sentence structure notwithstanding, Oliver's claim of universal expertise is downright preposterous, as he demonstrated with the article he called "Meaning of cc in motorcycles."

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Store that Bicycle, Dummy!

indoor bike trainer
A "stationary mount"?
We swear, some freelancing fools will write about anything, whether or not they have the slightest idea what they're talking about. We're not even gonna talk about the grammatical mistakes and hyperbolic language some of them use in their never-ending efforts to sound important. No, we're talking about garden-variety stupidity and ignorance of even the most basic factoids. The putz who engendered this particular rant is today's DotD candidate, the third freelancer of the week from the former WhoWhatWhereWhenWhy.com (now cleverly renamed Catalogs.com), Tim Brugger. Tim's topic is "How to Store a Bicycle." As simple as that subject may seem, he proved equal to the challenge of making as many stupid mistakes as possible...

Monday, May 9, 2016

Let's Hang Cabinets, Dummies!

Hang Kitchen Cabinet
Among the most productive dumbasses the Antisocial Network's staff turn up in their research are the sort of people who have watched something being done -- maybe even on TV -- and then immediately ran to their computers to publish a "how-to" guide detailing their new "experience." These fakes tend to be easy to spot, because they so frequently leave out minor details that don't come across when you're just watching something being done instead of doing it; tricks of the trade and so forth. Lacking the knowledge and experience that even someone who's performed the task once could share, this sort of freelancing fake is a prime candidate for a DotD award -- and today, Julie Henry of Catalogs.com (the website formerly known as WhoWhatWhereWhenWhy.com) displays her ignorance of "How to Hang Kitchen Cabinets" for our readers.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Let's Use a Router, Dummy!

Router Terminology
The first power tool most wannabe DIYers buy is almost always a drill/driver, which these days is likely to be cordless. A lot of folks never buy another power tool. but those who do typically go for a saw next -- usually a jigsaw, perhaps followed by a circular saw or even a power miter box. Unless you plan on building things instead of making household repairs, you probably won't pick up a router -- but if you do build things such as furniture, shelves, and the like; a router is darned near essential (for the record, there are two in the wood shop at Antisocial Network HQ). Because it's not something you find on the shelf at every home, a lot of people don't know how to use one -- some people still aren't clear on what a router does! Not knowing the difference between a collet and an ethernet port doesn't mean some ignorant freelancers don't "educate" their readers about routers; including ignorant ones like Heather Vecchioni of Catalogs.com, whom we found pretending to know "How Do I Use a Router"...

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Grow Some Asparagus, Dummies!

Asparagus Crowns
Each spring, our staff here at the Antisocial Network eagerly await the arrival of cheap asparagus. In the local groceries, the prices start dropping from almost five bucks a pound some time in March or April, occasionally even dipping below a buck (can you say "loss leaders," folks?). Of course, it's still been harvested somewhere in Mexico and shipped hundreds or thousands of miles, but hey - it's in season! Since relocating HQ from the Gulf Coast to the Midwest, we actually tried planting our own; sticking some of those dried-out-looking "crowns" in a prepared bed and sitting back to wait. And wait. And wait... So, "How Long Does it Take Asparagus Crowns to Sprout," anyway? Yep, when our crowns didn't show any shoots for a while, we googled it: and we found a familiar name: Demand Media's Shala Munroe "explaining" this in her "answer" for SFGate. Well, that's what she claimed, anyway...

Friday, May 6, 2016

Install that Doorbell, Dummy!

doorbell ringing
About five years ago, Google (the people who operate the most popular search engine in the western world) decided that certain websites with "questionable" content were getting way more hits than the quality of their products seemed to warrant. They did so through "search-engine optimization," and some of them were pretty good at it. In hopes of improving their customers' results, Google rejiggered their search search algorithm to push content farm content down the page. Why they thought that social media content was "better" remains a mystery, but their plan worked: Helium, AssociatedContent, Suite101, Lunch and others bit the dust. The biggest offender, eHow, remains, however. If you ever wondered what was so objectionable about eHow content, all you need do is look at some of the crap they published... Our list continues to get longer, since Demand Media's farm complex is such a target-rich environment. Today's target? Contributor Michelle Raphael, who pretended to know "How to Install a Door Buzzer" -- even though she didn't.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Let's Get Dense, Dummies

oil water gas relative density
There are times when freelancers at internet content farms are so disconnected from reality that it's embarrassingly obvious that they know nothing of their chosen topic. Here at the Antisocial Network, we've noticed that a preponderance of these "know-nothing-but-write-anyway" types seem to have college degrees, but they're often in liberal arts or occasionally business. Whether they're incompetent in the fields in which they're trained, we don't know -- we just know that they often get lost when they run into science, industry, or technology. Take for instance, a holder of a business degree, Alexis Writing: Alexis tackled the question,"What are the Relative Densities of Gas, Oil and Water?" for eHow (later moved to Sciencing.com by Leaf Group; recently deleted¹...), and -- since she skipped all those "hard" science classes to get a BA -- she found herself woefully unqualified to answer the question... which didn't stop her.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Install a Prehung Door, Dummy!

Prehung Doors
It's often been said that "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." Around the Antisocial Network, we like to add the following corollary: "Those who know nothing, freelance." Perhaps that seems rather cynical, but we suggest that you visit a content farm some time and read a handful or two of articles about any topic with which you're familiar: you'll probably start saying that same thing immediately! Today, we meet a business school graduate who considers herself a "freelance writer and editor" -- a freelancer we would never hire to do any odd jobs around our offices, based on the mess Sue Lynn Carty (aka Sue-Lynn Carty in her incarnation at eHow) made when posting "Install a Prehung Door" at a site called "LoveToKnow.com" (where she probably should stick to her comfort zone, astrology and feng shui).

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Make You Some T-Molding, Dummy!

Oak T-Moulding
Our researchers here at the Antisocial Network absolutely adore the eHow sites, because they make it so easy to find content written by people who know absolutely nothing about the topic. Heck, they're even so research-friendly that you can follow a single contributor across a wide spectrum of topics of ignorance. The problem thus becomes "so many morons, so little time!" While checking on an older post (updating, in other words), we found a new candidate for out DotD awards, Alexis Writing (we suspect it really says, "Alex is writing"), proud possessor of a "BA in Communications." Her degree studies, however, clearly never included a wood shop class, as she ably demonstrated in "How to Make a T-molding."

Monday, May 2, 2016

Let's Use Hidden Hinges, Dummies!

Soss Hinge
To paraphrase Madeleine Albright, there must be a special place in hell for freelancer writers who post how-to articles telling someone how to perform a task they've never performed themselves. Unfortunately, the woods out there are full of this sort of money-hungry faker. Those who've actually performed the task or have the skills and know-how to tackle it if need be can usually spot a fakes from the misuse of terms or tools caused by their dumbassery. Let's take a look at one such writer today, a multiple winner of our DotD award (four times across three websites and two names), Dianne Christensen-Hermance; who we found this time writing for eHow.com under the shortened version of her surname. Nevertheless, we could recognize her style and lack of substance in the article she titled "How to Install Soss Hinges."¹

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Explain those Earthquakes, Dummy!

One recurring complaint about the current state of American education is the generational decrease in scientific literacy. Whether one believes this to be a devil's bargain between Christian conservatives and the Republican Party to make Fox News viewers believe climate change is a Chinese hoax, or just an outgrowth of the dwindling attention span of the average teen, all we have to do is look at the output of modern-day self-appointed freelancer writers for evidence that these people know darned near nothing about science. We called the Antisocial Network's staff geologist out of her semi-retirement to dissect the scientific illiteracy of one longtail, who (pretended to) explain "What Causes Earthquakes" for his (or her) readers at HubPages.com. Sadly, he didn't do very well...