Friday, September 30, 2016

Your Home's Square Footage, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCXXV

Measuring Square Footage of a House
Many times our researchers come across an internet post with the unenviable combination of excessive verbiage and erroneous facts. It's no wonder that the bulk of these occur at content farms and other websites where amateurs were paid to write about topics that professionals have already covered (usually correctly, we might add). Yes, when we say "content farm," we mean HubPages, WritEdge, InfoBarrel, and the whole Demand Media Studio / Leaf Group stable of websites. Whatever... when you're buying or selling a home, the square footage is a key detail. Consequently, you probably want to know "How to Calculate the Square Footage of a Home" -- but you may not want to take the advice of Carter McBride, which the three-time DotD published at the DMS¹ Synonym.com...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bible Searches the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCXXIV

Bible Concordance
If it seems that our research staffers here at the Antisocial Network seem to put most of their energy into the Demand Media (now "Leaf Group") websites -- eHow and, increasingly, the "niche sites" into which they're shoveling their content like a farmer loading a manure spreader -- it's sort of true. For one, many content farms have gone out of business and the other remaining farms are difficult to search. So eHow it is; no problem because it's such a target-rich environment.

One problem many eHowians encountered was a difficulty in interpreting the "titles" they chose, particularly when the subject was itself already familiar. Today's DotD candidate, already a two-time winner, is one Khalidah Tunkara. Not only does she know little or nothing about cars and appliances, she also seems to have only a passing knowledge of "How to Find Bible Verses," now found at OurEverydayLife.com.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Rewiring a House the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCXXIII

From time to time Antisocial Network research team members run across content that is so obviously written by a blithering idiot that they have no choice but to share it at a staff meeting. Last week's finds included one that had half the research team in stitches and the other half looking around wondering why their colleagues were laughing. Once he'd gotten up from where he was ROFL, our founder wiped the tears that had been streaming down his cheeks and explained to the puzzled ones just what was so amusing about the article "How to Remove Electrical Wiring," posted to eHow by a first-time nominee by the name of Nathan McGinty.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

pH Calculation the Dummy Way - The Freelance File DCXXII

As our Antisocial Network research staffers fan out across the internet in search of dumbass freelancers, it gets harder every day as more and more content farms disappear: EliteVisitors, PersonaPaper and Bubblews have all bitten the dust since we started this blog, and Suite.io has been "re-deployed" for more than a year before disappearing. Good old eHow, however, is still kicking. Although they've moved a lot of their content to "niche" sites, we can still count on finding people blathering about subjects in which they have no background over at eHow. That's where we ran into George Lawrence, proud holder of BAs in English and Criminal Justice and -- gasp -- a JD, who nonetheless knows jack about chemistry. He proved that when he pretended to explain "How to Calculate the pH of Lemon Juice."

Monday, September 26, 2016

Your Car's Radiator, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCXXI

Parts of the cooling system, including the radiator and fan
If you spent as much time reading the output of internet freelancers as our research team does, you might occasionally be inclined to tearing out your hair or simply tearing up (gotta love those homographs). One of the most common signs that a freelancer is faking it by rewording text that he or she doesn't understand is a tendency to make little slips in facts or logic. Their output can make someone with only a passing knowledge scratch a head and wonder, "Is that right?" This time, we found eHow.com contributor Lina Schofield holding forth in an area where she's already proven a significant lack of knowledge, the Automotive category, when she pretended to help readers understand "What Causes Car Radiator Overheating and Boiling?" Oh, and Leaf Group has moved it to ItStillRuns.com, even though it doesn't...

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Leaking Sink Flanges, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCXXI

Use a ring of plumber's putty to seal a sink flange
Of all the different DIY home repair projects, the two types that seem to be the scariest to the average homeowner are electrical work and plumbing. That's probably why just asking a plumber to look at a leaky faucet will cost you about eighty bucks... One consequence of the cost of keeping plumbers in suspenders and clean underwear is the proliferation of do-it-yourself instructions on the web. Sadly, many of them were written by people who'd never "done-it-themselves," so to speak. Take, for instance, Maxwell Payne, who penned boatloads of dumbassery for both eHow and Infobarrel (and probably other places we haven't found). This time, we found him at eHow, where he tried to explain "How to Fix a Leak in a Kitchen Sink Flange" -- but failed.

Payne displayed his plumbing ignorance right off the bat, claiming that

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Calculating Constant Speed the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCXX

Formula for calculating average pr constant speed
As the  Antisocial Network researchers wander the internet searching through the output of money-hungry freelance writers, time and time again they find their way back to eHow.com. The reasons are simple: first, eHow is one of the few remaining content farms (Associated Content, Helium, Lunch, and the rest have all gone to the great website graveyard in the sky). Second, a combination of strict formatting rules and clueless "content editors" lends itself to further stupidification of the internet. One need look no further that Athena Hessong and the post "How to Calculate Constant Speed" to find an example of both.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Schwinn Bike Computers, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCXIX

Bicycle speedometer, computer, cyclocomputer
Today's DotD nominee comes from the file we affectionately call the "sometimes even a blind pig finds an acorn" file. Those are freelancers' posts that cite a seminal reference on the topic to lend an air of authenticity, yet somehow still leave readers uninformed, misinformed, or simply scratching their heads in confusion. Our author today is Demand Media's Nichole Liandi (already a four-time awardee), who we found writing for a DMS niche site called trails.com. Liandi's topic? well, Nichole leveraged that BA in art history and a self-described passion for travel to tell readers "How to Calibrate a Schwinn Bike Speedometer"... sort of.

The Antisocial Network researcher who stuck her post in the blind pig file did so because Liandi managed to find the website of the late Sheldon Brown, where you can find setup instructions and scanned owner's manuals for dozens or even hundreds of bike computers, old and new. Nichole did manage to get started on the right foot when she said,

Thursday, September 22, 2016

All About Clay, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCXVIII

Clay soil is dirt...
Here at the Antisocial Network, we never cease to be amazed by how poorly the average liberal arts (or J-school, or business) graduate grasps your basic scientific concepts. When one of our researchers with a scientific background runs across internet content posted by such a freelancer (of the money-hungry variety, of course) the misinformation tends to be pretty obvious. The problem with that? It's not obvious to a student or someone else doing basic research when they run across the miscreants' misinformation and misinterpretation. take, for instance business graduate and Kyle Lanning, JD, who mangled the basics of "How is Clay Soil Formed?" for -- you guessed it -- eHow.com (now moved to the niche site Hunker.com).

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Isosceles Triangles the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCXVII

As our researchers wander about the internet wondering about the internet, they sometimes come across an answer to a question and realize that neither the question nor the answer makes any sense. They usually file those in the folder called "ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer." The folks at eHow are some of the worst offenders, since many of them simply churn out content based on search terms harvested by a Demand Media bot, so sometimes the "contributor" must decide what the question even means before answering it. That can be a recipe for disaster... as it was the day Sarah Celebi tried to explain "How to Use the Pythagorean Theorem for Isosceles Triangles" (moved to Sciencing.com by the folks at Leaf Group)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Eclipses, Umbra and Penumbra the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCXVI

Non-scientists frequently complain about "jargon" when faced with media describing scientific phenomena. Of course, non-lawyers complain about legalese, patients complain about "doctor-speak," and the list goes on. Some journalists are able to "write understandable copy" about technical topics, although that usually means defining jargon in everyday terms, thereby making the content much longer, making the "techy" stuff much shorter, or simply getting it wrong. Take, for instance, any discussion of a solar or lunar eclipse, where the words "umbra" and "penumbra" are very likely to appear. When the task of explaining "What Is The Difference Between Umbra and Penumbra?" for eHow (now at Sciencing.com) fell to contributor George Lawrence, he showed that not everyone is qualified to translate jargon to "plain English"...

Monday, September 19, 2016

Area, Perimeter and Measurement the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCXV

regular polygon shapes
If you've ever read a Grisham novel or watched a courtroom drama, you probably have the mistaken impression that the lawyer is always the smartest guy in the room (if you'd prefer to be disabused of this novel immediately, you need only read a Lisa Scottoline novel...). In reality, however, the average lawyer isn't any smarter than anybody else. Or even as smart as many... Our Antisocial Network staffers know this because first, several have sat on juries and watched real lawyers in action and second, because they've seen eHow's Carter McBride, JD, in action, when he posted rubbish like "How to Calculate Acreage From Perimeter," which Leaf Group has moved to "Sciencing.com."

Although McBride claims to have both a JD and a MS (it's in Accounting -- is there really such a thing?), he apparently didn't take much math; especially geometry. Had he done so, he might have used his words more carefully in the introduction to the post:

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Big Birdhouse, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCXIV

Bird House Plan
Many Antisocial Network staffers are DIYers of some sort or other; especially when it comes to home repair, woodworking or carpentry. You can bet that whenever a new project comes along, these folks almost immediately turn to the internet in search of plans and suggestions. We imagine that everyone else out there has a similar process: google it, ignore eHow and HubPages, and look for people who obviously know what they're talking about. That second step is critical: if you don't ignore eHow, you just might end up with dreck like that published by Bailey Shoemaker Richards in something called "Building Plans for a Large Bird House." Trust us: you'd never get a "large bird house" out of these plans...

Richards opens by explaining that

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Acid Rain, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCXIII

Carbon dioxide and rain water, acid rain, pH
You've heard of acid rain, right? No? Well, rain that picked up pollutants from industry and power plants in the Midwest became acidic and started eating away at famous buildings and monuments on the east coast of the US, which was a driving force behind amendments designed to strengthen the Clean Air Act of 1963 during the 1970s. With that in mind, would it surprise you to learn that rain is naturally acidic? Well, this little revelation apparently surprised Robert Balun of eHow.com, when he attempted to explain "Why Is Rain Naturally Acidic?"

Friday, September 16, 2016

Wire Nuts the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCXII

Remember back when politicos and the media called the internet the "information superhighway"? We're not certain, but an informal poll of Antisocial Network staffers suggests that the term was last used in 1999... but back to the topic. If the internet is the information superhighway, then content farms are its dead-end streets (excuse the mixed metaphor). You think you're getting something useful from one of the contributors and then BAM! bullshit! Such is the case of two-time DotD winner Edwin Thomas of the Demand Media stable, here found on eHow where he attempted to explain, "How Do Wire Connectors Work?" Eddie was doing OK until... until he wasn't.

Oh, Thomas got going with some fairly useful information -- albeit clumsily worded -- in his introduction, where he said that

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fuel Economy the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCXI

There's an old story about the guy who, sick of his neighbor's bragging about his fuel economy, started sneaking over every night for and adding a gallon of gasoline to the neighbor's tank. After a couple of weeks of crowing from the braggart about his increased mileage, the nighttime sneak started siphoning out a gallon each night. So funny... These days, you can't get into the tank of most cars without the keys, so that's not gonna happen... It does, however, bring up the topic of fuel economy and how it's expressed in different countries. That's why we found eHowian Gene Tenzca leveraging his BS in industrial education to explain "How to Convert Kilometers Per Liter Into Miles Per Gallon."¹ Never mind that no one uses km/l for fuel economy...

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Backup Sump Pumps, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCX

backup sump pump, water-powered
Most people who have owned a house fear water. We're not talking rivers bursting their banks and leaving behind several inches of mud; no we're talking that everyday trickle of water that threatens to soak the basement -- the reason why so many houses have sump pumps. There's nothing more terrifying than watching the water bubble up in the basement because the sump pump gave up the ghost or because the power failed in the middle of a torrential rain. When that happens, you will definitely want to know "How to Make a Sump Pump Work Without Power." We're here to tell you, however, that you probably won't want to take advice from eHow's Maxwell Payne.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Automatic Transmissions, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCIX

Automatic Transmission Selector Lever (Shifter)
One of the Antisocial Network staffers took the family SUV into the dealer for maintenance one day, and was a little surprised to see his vehicle still waiting to be driven into the shop ten minutes later. When he asked the service writer why, he was told that they were waiting for the tech who knew how to drive a manual transmission to get free. No kidding. There used to be lots of how-to articles for maual trannies out there, but our researcher was pretty surprised when she ran across this slightly different one: "info guru" Bryce Hammons of Catalogs.com (formerly WhoWhatWhyWhenWhere or something like that) decided it was necessary, or more likely profitable, to explain "How to drive an automatic car." And no, he didn't mean a driverless car...

Monday, September 12, 2016

Finding True North, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCVIII

Map of magnetic declination in the United States, circa 2005
We've heard it said (on many occasions) that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." OK, well, maybe not many occasions -- except around the conference table at the Antisocial Network's weekly staff meeting. In the real world, a lack of knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially when one is pretending familiarity with the subject at hand. That's pretty much what's nailed all Dumbass of the Day winners so far. Today's candidate is a noob to our site, a onetime theater major by the name of Mark Keller.  We caught Mark as he was holding forth on geography in "How to Determine True North," now appearing at some Leaf Group niche called GoneOutdoors. Really...

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Bentonite Slurry, the Dummy Version - The Freelance Files DCVII

Use of bentonite slurry to protect groundwater from contaminants
The research staff here at the Antisocial Network long ago realized that many less-scrupulous self-appointed freelancers, at least those at content farms like eHow.com, would write multiple posts on related topics. Some managed to write dozens, if not hundreds, of posts about topics like auto repair or Facebook, while others zeroed in on topics with less competition. Take Frederick S. Blackmon, a screenwriter and parkour instructor, who claimed expertise in "environmental science": his motives notwithstanding, Freddy's poor understanding of that detested oil business produced some typical eHow bull; and he returned for anther fifteen-dollar bite of the DMS apple in the vaguely related "What is Bentonite Slurry?"

Saturday, September 10, 2016

All About Gutters, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCVI

A splash block may be all you need to direct rainwater away from the foundation
How about splash blocks, Chasity?
We appreciate it -- really we do -- when people who have experience and knowledge share their knowledge, training, and hands-on experience. We're also inclined to appreciate it when people who've done careful research share their knowledge as well -- people like professional freelancer Mary Roach. On the other hand, there are the types who perform a slap-dash thirty-second Google search and then reword some information from a couple of online sources as their version of "research." You can usually identify type two "journalists" because they make such a mess of their subject. That's not unlike Chasity Goddard, who -- for some unknown reason -- decided to specialize in gutters at the mother lode of misinformation, eHow.com. It's not as though she studied gutter science while getting that BA in Creative Writing... Here with her third DotD nomination on the same topic is Chasity's "Should Water Drain Into the Ground From a Gutter?"

Friday, September 9, 2016

Volume of Voids, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCV

Volume of Voids
The famous actor and comedian W. C. Fields advised freelancer writers that "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit." Well, actually, he wasn't talking directly to freelancers, but many of them have nevertheless taken the advice to heart. One such Fields aficionado we've found is eHow.com's W D Adkins (William), whose favorite freelancing trick is to throw so much bull at his content editors that they don't know he's full of hooey¹. Not to worry, though, because the Antisocial Network's researchers aren't as easily fooled -- like the time that Adkins attempted to explain "How to Calculate the Volume of Voids."

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A GMC Spare Tire, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCIV

A typical system for raising and lowering the spare of a pickup truck or SUV
Although we don't consider ourselves sexist here at the Antisocial network, we have noticed that many a female driver is clueless about how to change a flat tire on her ride. We've also noticed that it's not just women... Although some freelancers are out of their depth when it comes to just finding the spare, today's DotD candidate had the advantage of a search engine when it came to finding the spare tire on a 2006 GMC truck. On the other hand, eHow.com's Thomas West still showed that he'd probably be stranded if that time ever came, at least based on his article "How to Get the Spare Tire Down on a 2006 GMC," which can now be found (without a byline) at ItStillRuns.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Making a Magnet the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCIII

Researchers at the Antisocial Network run across dozens of questionable freelancer posts every time they fire up their search engines (Google more than Bing, if you're interested). Lots and lots are about do-it-yourself projects or about figuring out what's wrong with your car, but there's also a healthy dose of misinformation about the natural world out there -- especially science. J-school, history, poly-sci and English majors are particularly likely to mangle even the most basic science in the search for residual income. Need an example? well take the catalogs.com (formerly WhoWhatWhereWhenWhy), where one of our staffers caught contributor M. Dee Dubroff (aka Marcy Dubroff or Marjorie Dorfman) attempting to answer the eternal question, "How Are Magnets Made?"

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Wiring a Chandelier Like a Dummy - The Freelance Files DCII

Wiring for Ceiling Light
What about the red wire, Nichole?
As the Antisocial Network research team combs the internet looking for DotD candidates (and we admit it doesn't take a lot of searching), time and again we find ourselves at good old eHow.com. That's partially because most of the other content farms have died the real death and partially because it's such a target-rich environment. Whatever... One trick the site's less scrupulous contributors liked to pull was to write nearly identical posts on very similar titles, and that's exactly what today's candidate did. She's Nichole Liandi, whom we already caught pretending knowledge in "How to Install a Plug in a Chandelier"; today she returns, doing a similarly dumbass job of telling her readers "How to Hard Wire a Chandelier."

Liandi likes to impress people with her knowledge of elementary factoids like

Monday, September 5, 2016

Electrical Boxes, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DCI

Old work electrical box showing fins clamping box to drywall
When it comes to DIY projects around the house, even the most fumble-fingered homeowner or apartment dweller is sure he or she can wield a cordless drill or -- if he or she is old school -- a hammer to hang a picture; maybe even curtains or a shelf system in the closet. When the topic is plumbing or electrical work, however, many prefer to call in a pro, though a few will forge ahead with the project. For those few, we here at the Antisocial Network strongly advise avoiding any instructions you find at eHow.com. If they don't, they just might end up with "advice" of quality similar to that published by Sarah Celebi in "How to Install an Electrical Switch Box"... and that would not be... optimal.

We say "not optimal" because it's quite clear that Celebi has no training or experience whatsoever in as an electrician, DIY or otherwise. That's pretty clear from the first paragraph, in which she claims that

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Adding On, the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DC

Adding on to a house with a room addtion
Partial answers are the bane of the human condition. You know what we mean, right? You ask a fairly complex question, and some ill-informed person gives you half an answer -- or less. As long as they're well-meaning, we suppose it's all right; but if the person answering the question claims to be an expert and is getting paid? Well, that's not OK with us. Take, for instance, eHow's Laurie Reeves, allegedly a licensed contractor. She pulled down a tidy stipend for passing off something titled "Enlarging a Room With an Addition" as the answer to some poor schmuck's internet search. We have to admit that what we expected would happen did: her answer was, at best, partial -- and not even the most important part!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Metal Roofing , the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DXCIX

standing seam metal roof on cabin
As our researchers wander the back roads of the internet in search of ridiculous claims and mathematical foul-ups, they often run across "helpful" rubbish, This is especially true in the area of home improvements and home repair, although many of our posts are of the "Don't Do It Yourself" variety. Today's DotD falls within that rubric, as Trisha Faulkner Wright (writing under the pseudonym DLWright at WritEdge.com) attempts to sell her readers on metal roofing in "Is Metal Roofing Right For Your Home?" Like most of the content she sprayed across the site in a two-month period before the owners quit paying pennies per hit, this appears to have been repurposed from a Squidoo lens. That doesn't mean, however, this particular post is worth jack...

Friday, September 2, 2016

Making a Taller Fence the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DXCVIII

Extend the height of a wooden privacy fence
Here at the Antisocial Network we run across dozens of half-wit freelancers every day. Although most of them take a shotgun approach to their topics, some try to "specialize." You might find them specializing in science at HubPages, cooking at eHow and travel at InfoBarrel, probably because once they've created a template for a field or found a useful basic reference, they get the often mistaken impression that they have the subject well in hand. Unfortunately, some of them don't. Take the case of Lacy Enderson, a Bible scholar who wrote tens (if not hundreds) of how-to articles for eHow, many about construction and home repair -- and got them wrong (for which she's already collected ten DotD awards). Take, for example, the post she wrote for some poor schmuck who wanted to know, "How Can I Make a Fence Taller?" Well, whoever it was that asked, he came to the wrong person...

Let's see what Lacy has to say in the DMS¹-mandated 75 to 100-word introduction:

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Radius from Chord the Dummy Way - The Freelance Files DXCVII

Calculate a circle's radius from the length and height of a chord
It's been a while since our research staffers passed along an example of just how poorly the average owner of a liberal arts degree understands mathematics beyond simple addition and subtraction; although some have pretty sketchy skills there, too! One such self-appointed expert we've seen several times plying the freelance mathematician trade, albeit badly, is eHow.com's Charlotte Johnson, already a five-time DotD with four awards in mathematics! Charlotte's chosen task this time is to explain "How to Find the Radius of a Circle From a Chord," a procedure of, shall we say, intermediate level that's covered in eighth-grade geometry classes. (Note: content has been moved to Sciencing.com)

The real answer? Given the length of the chord l and the height from the chord's midpoint to the arc h, the formula for the radius r is