Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Drilling Holes in Paneling, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DXCVI

Pretty Wood Paneling
The worker bees in the Antisocial Network's research department have been having tons of fun with stupid posts lately. They've turned up plenty of people like yesterday's complete moron; the fool who thought people could cut their own hardwood flooring using the trees in their front yards. Yeah... sure... Today's candidate also turned up on their radar because he was writing for eHow.com from a position of complete ignorance, supposedly assisting his readers with DIY projects -- even though he had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. This time it's that proud Film and TV graduate Greyson Ferguson, who leveraged his degree while explaining "How to Drill Holes in Wood Paneling." Yeah... sure...

We suspected right off that Ferguson was ignorant of his topic when we read how he described wood paneling in that DMS¹-mandated introductory paragraph:

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hardwood Flooring the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DXCV

Using a band saw to cut a log
Antisocial Network team members like to swap stories "around the water cooler" (as if there were an actual "cooler" at ANHQ, other than that fridge full of craft brews). An ongoing argument among them is who has managed to turn up the dumbest of dummies; an argument that will never be resolved. Similar to the saying that "As soon you think your product's idiot-proof, Mother Nature produces a better idiot," as soon as you think you've found the dumbest of dummies along comes someone with an even dumber specimen. We have to think, though, that eHow contributor Janos Gal certainly belongs in the top running. His leading position is pretty sure, if his post "How Cut Your Own Hardwood Flooring From Trees" is any guide...

Monday, August 29, 2016

Scale Drawings for Dummies - The Freelance Files DXCIV

Blueprint Scale Drawing
In the good old days before some guy named Panda at Google ruined it for everyone, freelancers could rake in tons of money for throwing even the most inane crap on a screen and settling back to wait for the residual income. Most of the content farms that took advantage of this search engine loophole have long since gone to the great website graveyard in the sky, but a few remain -- as does the aforementioned inane crap they hosted. eHow.com was arguably the most famous content farm; a site that harvested millions of search queries and turned a stable of unqualified contributors loose on them. Take, for instance, the search query "How to Calculate the Area and Scale for Building Plans." Ehowian Stephanie Ellen (real last name Sundberg) leveraged her health sciences, math and creative writing degrees for this one... though we note there's no drafting or architecture in that list.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Place that Rubber, Dummy! - The Freelance Files DXCIII

Distance to pitcher's rubber, major league baseball diamond
Some of the internet freelancers our research staffers uncover during their searches have fallen back on a time-honored technique of obfuscation: if you don't know jack about your subject, bury that lack under an avalanche of factoids and miscellaneous rubbish you lift from authoritative sources. One practitioner of this technique the kids have uncovered is eHow.com contributor W. D. Adkins, a self-described "professional journalist" and the possessor of multiple liberal arts MA degrees (we'll need to look at his science articles more closely...) Some of his articles are veritable blizzards of verbosity, but the sad fact is that ignorance will out, just as it did when he posted "How to Measure Distances for the Pitching Rubber" at Healthfully.com.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Fuel Economy for Dummies - The Freelance Files DXCII

Fuel Economy Tips
Here at the Antisocial Network our research staffers have noticed that most freelancers like to claim a "connection" to their topic. Even if they can lay no logical claim to that connection -- they didn't take high-energy physics classes while getting a BA in PolySci -- they could be getting their information by osmosis because their significant other has the knowledge. Oddly, we don't find men claiming to know makeup tips, but female freelancers like to avow that their husband or boyfriend is an accomplished scientist, carpenter, athlete, etc., as the basis for their posts. That's how Trisha Faulkner Wright, aka DLWright, claims to have become so knowledgeable when she posted "Tips for Saving Pennies on Gas Mileage" at WritEdge.com.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Hemispheres for Dummies - The Freelance Files DXCI

Here at the Antisocial Network, our research staffers charitably think that at least some of the freelance dumbassery they uncover is merely failure to understand the topics they attempt to cover. That doesn't release the writers from incurring the full wrath of the DotD, of course... In some cases, thought, we realize that the writer thought he or she was correct -- but just didn't completely think the topic through. That's what we suspect happened with today's candidate, Alexis Kezirian, as the eHow contributor answered... or thought she answered "How to Calculate the Surface Area of a Hemisphere."¹ Alexis' problem? A lack of imagination...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Acceleration for Dummies - The Freelance Files DXC

Change in Velocity
No matter the topic, to the uninitiated the specialized terminology of a discipline just looks like jargon. To scientists, for example, the word "theory" has a specific meaning -- and it's not the meaning assumed by many non-scientists. In reality, these "jargon" meanings are needed to ensure complete accuracy when conveying an idea or concept. If a word has only one meaning, then the only way to misinterpret its use is to be unaware of that meaning. Unaware, for instance, like eHow.com contributor Athena Hessong, who made it abundantly clear that she was out of her scientific depth in "How to Calculate a Change in Velocity."¹

Let's open by defining "velocity." In general use it merely means speed, but to a physicist it is a vector quantity. "Vector" means that describing an object's velocity requires both a component of speed and a component of direction. That, unfortunately, is not what Hessong says in her introduction:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

DIY Auto Mechanics by a Dummy - The Freelance Files DLXXXIX

A DIY mechanic follows eHow car repair instructions
Your local mechanic charges by the hour for repairing a car; though he or she doesn't actually use a clock -- there's a database of standard times. If you've looked at a repair bill, you may have notices that the hourly rate is catching up with what a lawyer charges to draw up a will. Perhaps that's why so many people want DIY help with car repairs, and why so many freelancers are glad to help. The only thing some of them, like eHow.com contributor Marcus Baker, "help," unfortunately, is their own bank accounts. Today's DotD is a little different from the usual, as we take a look at a few of the many not-very-helpful posts Baker submitted to eHow and the mother lode of misinformation published.

When asked "Where Is a Camshaft Sensor in an Engine?" (now moved to ItStillRuns.com) Marcus explained that

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Stuck Lug Nuts For Dummies - The Freelance Files DLXXXVIII

Using a cheater bar on a stuck lug nut
Ever had a flat tire while driving? Unless you have the sort of roadside assistance plan that Giselle Bundchen or Stephan Curry might have -- a posse that appears instantly to provide a spare vehicle -- you'll have to change it yourself. If you're lucky you'll be able to find your jack, your spare won't be flat, and you'll be able to get all the lug nuts loose. That's if you're lucky: auto shops, in mortal fear of a lawsuit, invariably overtorque lug nuts with an impact wrench, rendering the things so damned tight only Hercules or the Incredible Hulk could remove them. When you find one that tight, a little surfing will offer solutions -- but only if you skip the one at ItStillRuns.com, where eHow's John Smith (yeah, sure....) attacked "How to Remove Stuck Lug Nuts."

Monday, August 22, 2016

Digging in the Dirt With Dummies - The Freelance Files DLXXXVII

As our research staffers wander aimlessly about the internet in search of freelance dumbassery -- we'll be honest, most of them spend the bulk of their time at or near Demand Media's sites like eHow.com -- they come across all manner of strange questions and answers. When it comes to mathematics, many of the queries seem to have been posted by fifth-graders who've gotten lost in a word problem. Really, how else do you think you'd find a question such as "How to Calculate the Volume of Dirt Removed" except for someone trying to work out an elementary-school question about arithmetic class? Then again, the question could have arisen from someone with the math skills of Athena Hessong, who attempted to answer it at GardenGuides.com... and failed.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Wireless Routers, The Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DLXXXVI

Where to plug in the wires for a wireless router
Unless you have an in-house expert to perform all the techie things that go along with getting online, you've probably had to look for help once in a while. Perhaps it was troubleshooting an internet connection, maybe it was accessing your email. It might even have been installing software. From experience you know that Ravi or "Susan" from your ISP's help line is just going to read a prepared script, so getting online help seems like a good idea. It isn't always, though, as we recently learned by reading through the bushwa that eHow's Alicia Bodine wrote to the title, "How to Hook Up a Wireless Router" (moved by Leaf Group to their Techwalla niche site).

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Freelancer, Heal Thyself... Dummy! - The Freelance Files DLXXXV

freelance writing tips
Our staff at the Antisocial Network is mainly composed of scientists and do-it-yourselfers, which is certainly why we almost never call out anyone for bad relationship or beauty advice. Keeping that in mind, it's pretty likely that there are few if any books of the self-help variety on our personal bookshelves and eReaders. We're mostly of the opinion that the only "help" most self-help books create is help for the author's bank account. With that in mind, we decided to delve into a peculiar corner of the genre, freelancers telling other freelancers how to make money. That;s where we ran into Trisha Wright (aka dlwright or Trisha Faulkner), a former squid who moved most of her content to WritEdge.com. That includes an article she called "Skills Every Freelancer Should Have."

Friday, August 19, 2016

Transmission Received, Dummy! - The Freelance Files DLXXXIV

meshed gears: how a gearbox works
It's said that if you ask a stupid question, you'll get a stupid answer. That's not really true: ask a knowledgeable person a stupid question and you'll probably get a smart answer that gently corrects your (question's) stupidity -- you know, like asking Neil deGrasse Tyson, "How many days are there in a light year?" On the other hand, if you ask a stupid question -- or even a smart question -- of a person who knows nothing, you shouldn't get an answer at all; just some form of "I don't know." That is, unless you're asking an eHow contributor like Victor Fonseca (three-time winner of the DotD, so far). All bets are off then, like the time Vic attempted to answer the question, "How Does a Car Gearbox Work?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Angles, Inclination and Slope for Dummies - The Freelance Files DLXXXIII

It's often said that those who can, do; those who can't, teach -- but that was before the information age brought us the internet and content farms. Now, those who can't, write about it in hopes of making money doing so. Accuracy and facts be darned, there are pennies to be collected! Among those content farms, we find good ol' eHow, where mere possession of an English or Journalism degree was long presumed to render the holder omniscient -- or at least able to copy, reword and paste anything. Unfortunately, that assumption was bogus, as amply demonstrated by eHowian Nicolette Calhoun (BA in English, of course), whom we found holding forth on "The Angle of Inclination of a Slope" at Sciencing.com.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sonicare Toothbrushes for Dummies - The Freelance Files DLXXXII

When it comes to electronic gadgets, there are few problems as frustrating as devices with non-replaceable batteries that will no longer take a charge. One of our researchers knows that pretty well, since his Philips Sonicare toothbrush quit working a few days ago and started making weird buzzes and beeps in the charger. Since the owner's manual was long gone (the brush was perhaps two months out of warranty), he decided to research online. Wouldn't you know it, he found all the advice he needed from eHow's Si Kingston in a little article called "How to Fix Your Sonicare Toothbrush if It Won't Charge" -- not that Si's advice was any good, of course...

Oh, of course Kingston got the basics right:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Pendulums for Dummies - The Freelance Files DLXXXI

Simple pendulum period frequency
Have you ever read Edgar Allan Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum"? Now there was a writer who knew how to do scary stuff: it's small wonder that so many wannabe anonymous scary types wear Poe masks (c.f., "The Following"). Well, based on his short story we can tell that good ol' Edgar knew at least a little bit about how pendulums work, which made the story all the scarier (that and the rats...). By analogy, however, we'd have to assume that a similar story that was written by eHow's Alexis Kezirian wouldn't be scary, it'd probably be a comedy, given that she seems to know jack about pendulums -- as she so amply demonstrated in "How to Decrease the Period of a Pendulum" (now deleted by Leaf Group)¹.

Oh, Alexis started off all right, given that she presented both a definition of "period" in this particular context and a formula for determining the period in the (DMS-mandated) introduction:

Monday, August 15, 2016

Disc Brake Pads for Dummies - The Freelance Files DLXXX

When it comes to DIY jobs on the family car (or truck, SUV or minivan), the brake system presents the most interesting intersection between ease of service and potential disaster if screwed up. A reasonably handy person with a reasonably well-equipped toolbox can perform some of the simpler tasks under the backyard shadetree, but this is definitely one system where you don't want to screw up. That's why we were displeased to Catalog.com's Aurora LaJambre exercising her creative writing skills (as opposed to her first-hand knowledge) to tell her readers about "Changing brake pads and basic brake maintenance." Sigh: another "creative writer" who doesn't recognize non-parallel construction...

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Tank Volume for Dummies - The Freelance Files DLXXIX

Hot and Cold Water Towers
It's been a while since we've seen the work of some of our favorite dummies. You know who we mean, the ones who claim higher education degrees but can't seem to get the handle of grammar school problems. Even worse are the ones who teach in grammar school, but don't get it... Today, we'll pay a visit to the scintillating prose and razor-sharp descriptions of one such freelancer, a "teacher with a masters degree in education" that we already know is scientifically and mathematically illiterate: she's Demand Media's Charlotte Johnson, found this time wreaking her peculiar brand of havoc on "How to Calculate Gallons and Tank Volume" for DMS (ever noticed that you can't spell "dumbass" without "DMS"?), which has now been moved to Sciencing.com by Leaf Group.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Tiny House for Dummies - The Freelance Files DLXXVIII

The good people of Demand Media¹ -- the same people who brought you the mother lode of misinformation known as eHow.com -- have been chasing the dream for several years. Unlike several other content farms outed by the Google Panda update in 2011, they're still around. In an attempt to burnish their bona fides, the company eventually began using only "verified professionals" and (sadly for our research staff) replacing some of the most egregious dumbassery with updated content. If, however, they're serious, DMS needs to be a little more... careful. Being more careful might have kept them from allowing self-described "licensed contractor" Laurie Reeves (aka Laurie Brenner) to pretend sufficient knowledge to rewrite "Building a Small Home" at Hunker.com We've already given Reeves a couple of DotD awards, one of them for... contracting!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Wiring a Stove Plug, the Dummy Version - The Freelance Files DLXXVII

220 volt appliance plug wiring for stove
Note the bare ground wire, Nichole
Although it's a little scary -- anyone who's ever gotten an electric shock will understand why -- basic household wiring isn't really particularly complicated. Sure, there are simple rules to keep workers safe while working, and there are also basic guidelines to ensure that a new installation won't burn the building to the ground and that users won't get nasty surprises. Of course, if you want good, quality instructions to help you complete a wiring project, you'll certainly want to find a qualified electrician or an advanced DIYer -- as opposed to a two-time loser in the DotD stakes like eHow's Nichole Liandi. Already tagged twice for her lack of understanding of electrical components and wiring, Liandi extends her streak with a post called "How to Install an Electric Stove Outlet."

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Time for Digging Footings, Dummies! - The Freelance Files DLXXVI

Pouring concrete footings
Here at the Antisocial Network, our crack research staff witnesses a lot of bullshit being tossed around by self-appointed freelance writers more interested in their bank accounts than the accuracy of their words. Let's be clear: it's no sin to perform in-depth research on a topic. write up an article, and run it by someone with enough expertise to spot misstatements and omissions. At the mother lode of internet misinformation -- eHow.com -- however, the "contributors" rarely perform in-depth research and those who vet the content ("content editors") are typically as clueless about the topic as the one writing the article. That's why unqualified people like Heather Heinzer could get away with writing total bullshit like her post "How to Make Footers for Mobile Home Foundations" for Hunker.com.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Replace Your Sump Pump, Dummy! - The Freelance Files DLXXV

Sump pump with battery backup in basement sump pit
Oddly enough, the next day after the sump pump at our founder's next-door neighbor's house went belly-up, his own went south, too. With fairly heavy rain in the immediate forecast, he knew he had no time to waste and headed for the closest BigBox store for a replacement pump and other supplies. Jeff next door had done the same... Luckily for the two of them, they had done the job before and were not in need of instructions. It's a pretty self-explanatory process, anyway, though apparently some people need help. We only hope they don't try to puzzle through instructions like the ones Kristine Brite "wrote" for eHow in "How to Remove a Sump Pump."

People who write how-to instructions for a project they've never performed and don't even understand are exactly why we make fun of our DotDs. Brite gave away her inexperience and lack of knowledge very early, stating in her introduction that...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

When Dummies Try Trigonometry - The Freelance Files DLXXIV

Trigonometry Terminology
There's an interesting phenomenon with respect to knowledge, one that most of us have encountered at one time or another. We call it the "If you can't dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with bullshit" phenomenon. We see this happen a lot while we're researching DotD candidates: in hopes of picking up a few more pennies, the candidate throws a vast assortment of words, preferably polysyllabic, at the page and hopes he or she has accidentally said something coherent. Too often, the result isn't worth the electrons needed to read it. A case in point: eHow's Alexis Writing (fake name number 77, DotD award number four), caught stinking up the internet with Sciencing.com's "How Do Astronauts Use Trigonometry?"

Monday, August 8, 2016

Foundations and Slabs for Dummies - The Freelance Files DLXXIII

Concrete slab
Perhaps no step in the construction of a building is as important as providing a stable foundation. Heck, even today's dumbass understands that, because eHow's Lacy Enderson says so right up front in her introduction: "A house is only as strong and stable as the foundation it is built upon." Based on her long history of dumbass content regarding home construction, however, we were skeptical of Lacy's qualifications for providing the instructions in "How to Build Your Own Home Slab." It turns out that... well, we were right. As usual, Lacy hadn't the slightest clue about the topic, and merely reworded some of the content from an unnamed but doubtless more authoritative site. As a result, we doubt that anyone stupid enough to follow her instructions will end up with a stable foundation...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Roofs, Soffits and Eaves for Dummies - The Freelance Files DLXXII

Diagram of typical eaves showing relationship of fascia to soffit
From time to time even our chief DIYer needs a little help with a home repair or maintenance she's never attempted before. That usually means a trip to the bookshelf, where there's a DIY section that rivals that of many small-town libraries (we've seen it). If that doesn't work, though, she'll reluctantly turn to the 'net, where you can be sure there are hundreds if not thousands of blog posts and videos. Choosing the best isn't a matter that should be left up to google search, however, because you just might run across utter bullshit -- and that's no help. By "utter bullshit," we mean the kind of rubbish posted by Victor Fonseca to eHow in "How to Repair Eaves and Roofs."

Given the 300-500 word format of most Demand Media answers and the extraordinary breadth of the topic, we didn't expect much from Victor. We though perhaps an outline of procedures... what we didn't expect was complete and utter garbage (although the guy was a PolySci major in college -- need we say more?) Fonseca starts off in a hole with this inane statement:

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Kelvin and Absolute Zero for Dummies - The Freelance Files DLXXI

Comparison of temperature scales: Fahrenheit Celsius Kelvin
At our Friday staff meeting, one of the research crew suggested that we take another look at our files -- they're voluminous, to be sure -- of other dumbass posts written by some of our more prolific awardees. These folks are like the Michael Phelpses or the Meryl Streeps of stupidity... although perhaps we should call them the Susan Luccis, since they're perennial losers. That being said, we pulled out the file of the most prolific of all, Houstonian Joan Whetzel, to see what she had posted to her HubPages account. That's where we found he paean to temperature scales, "Absolute Shiv-v-ving in Absolute Zero." Jeez, Joan, shouldn't you have said "shiv-v-vering"? Dumbass...

In addition to her inability to write coherent titles, Whetzel is also pretty bad at synthesizing scientific information (she's already picked up eleven DotD awards in the sciences, mostly physics). This time she's attempting, or at least our researcher thinks, to introduce the Kelvin temperature scale and absolute zero. Nowadays, most middle-schoolers have been introduced to the concept of absolute zero, which we found defined by the nice folks at wikipedia as

Friday, August 5, 2016

Thermostat Installation for Dummies - The Freelance Files DLXX

thermostat wires
Unless the situation is pretty dire, we suspect most of you wouldn't go next door and ask a neighbor to stop mowing his lawn and take out your kid's appendix; ditto with writing you a new will. Doctors and lawyers go through extensive training for a reason -- and, for that matter, so do professional plumbers and electricians. If and when we do attempt home repairs, we certainly want advice and instructions from an experienced person (preferably professional) instead of someone who... well, someone who's obviously never done the job. You know, someone like Sally Odum, who we caught pretending to know "How to install a new thermostat" at the site called Catalogs.com (formerly WhoWhatWhenWhereWhyHow or something like that).

We get the definite impression Sally's never installed a new thermostat herself (at best, perhaps she was around while her "hubby"¹ installed one) based on some of her dumber misinformation. She begins by informing her readers that,

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Slash and Burn, Dummy! - The Freelance Files DLXIX

The researcher staff here at the Antisocial Network have long understood that freelancers figure they're getting paid by the word. Even when they're paid by the chunk of (mis)information by sites like the Demand Media farms, they're still expected to provide a minimum number of words just so they can meet some mythical SEO benchmark. That's why so many eHow answers seem to get to the point by going round Robin Hood's barn instead of in a short, direct statement. Of course, some of their contributors don't know the short, direct statement. We're thinking of folks like Filonia LeChat (real name Heather Brautman), who gave a long, complex answer to a simple (rather stupid) question in "How to Make a Straight Slash in Word."¹

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Cell Phones for Dummies - The Freelance Files DLXVIII

cell phone network
If there's a kid -- or an insatiably curious grownup -- in your life, you really should have a copy of some version of David Macaulay's The Way Things Work around the house. It's well written and profusely illustrated and provides simple discussions of the principles by which everyday objects function. On the other hand, you could just look it up on the internet; however, if you do that chances are fairly good that -- now that Google no longer allows you to preferentially block crap sites -- you'll end up getting information from a DotD at eHow, someone like Alicia Bodine, who took time off from being a self-described cooking guru to answer (not really) the burning question, "How Does a Cell Phone Work?" for ItStillWorks.com.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Recharging Air Conditioners for Dummies - The Freelance Files DLXVII

Parts of an Auto Air Conditioner
In their research into the care and feeding of the freelance dumbass, the staff of the Antisocial Network have noticed that the species has several habits that are typical enough to identify one as a member. Chief among these habits is the rewording of authoritative sources in a vain attempt to avoid being nailed for plagiarism; as a result examples are often munged up and critical steps of procedures get omitted. That's what's happened with today's dumbass, already a two-time winner of the DotD award: he's eHow's Seth Amery, found here performing a poor rewrite of the instructions for "How to Re-Gas an Air Conditioner."¹

Monday, August 1, 2016

Designing a Home for Dummies - The Freelance Files DLXVI

At the Antisocial Network offices, we spend a portion of each day hoping to expose the sort of factual rubbish that arises when greed intersects stupidity in the form of internet freelancers desperately seeking pennies per hit. Although the model is dead as a doornail now, at one point just about anyone could pick up a few bucks pretending to be 1) a professional writer and 2) knowledgeable on some topic or other. Once those criteria had been met, the other lode of misinformation, eHow, would pay "contributors" flat fees to answer questions harvested from the internet. They didn't pay well, but the contributors generally didn't deserve what little they got. Take, for example, Kelly Sundstrom, seen here attempting to explain "How to Make a Floor Plan on the Computer" (moved to the niche site ItStillWorks.com, and then deleted¹).