Sunday, April 30, 2017

GPS Coordinates for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCXXVIII

GPS Coordinates in latitude-longitude
Just yesterday we handed out one of our DotD awards to someone for giving a very specific answer to a quite general question. Today's candidate for the award is someone who also provides a very specific answer to a question -- it's just that she answered the wrong question (we note with interest that both freelance posts are at The self-appointed "expert" in this case is one Pearl Lewis, PhD, and her topic is "How to Convert GPS Coordinates to Feet."

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Curved Lines for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCXXVII

curved lines that aren't arcs of circles
If our staffers had to choose one attribute that identifies a faking freelancer, it might well be the specific answer to a general question. Take, for instance, the question "how to calculate the perimeter of a quadrilateral?" -- the answer, measure a side and multiply by four works for only a quadrilateral with four equal sides, such as a square. It does't work for any other quadrilateral. We saw this again just yesterday and decided that was all we needed to give the DotD award to a writer by the name of Sean Kotz. Kotz tried to answer the question, "How to calculate the Length of a Curved Line," and managed to answer it for just one curve: an arc of a circle. Dumb, dumb, dumb...

Friday, April 28, 2017

Circles for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCXXVI

Finding the Center of a Circle
The saying, "He can't see the forest for the trees" is another way of saying that someone is too bogged down in the details to see the "big picture." We find that self-appointed freelance journalists, especially the ones answering questions for the former Demand Media¹ people, often suffer from forest and tree confusion -- especially when they're writing on unfamiliar topics. Today's DotD is a classic example of this syndrome: Rachel Pancare, who wrote "How to  Determine the Diameter of a Circle" for what is now the site (who thinks this topic is "physics").

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Radial Arm Saws for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCXXV

the radial arm saw
Our founder has been in mourning for several months over the loss of his Craftsman radial arm saw: the motor went belly-up, and you can no longer buy parts for the saw. Instead, there's a safety recall, and owners must destroy the saw to get a $100 rebate, Oh, well, it had a good life -- about thirty years' worth. At least he knew how to use the saw, something he doubts about Patrick Nelson -- even though Patrick had the nerve to try to explain "How to Use Craftsman Radial Arm Saws" for eHow.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Beetle Hoods, the Dummy Version - The Freelance Files DCCCXXIV

Original VW Bug -- Volkswagen Type I or Beetle
Our staffers run across a lot of self-appointed freelance writers who, sadly, seem to get a lot of things wrong. Heck, they have entire files on some of them, and when they're feeling lazy they just go to the file and nominate something they already found instead of going to the hassle of finding someone new. That's what happened today: we grabbed the file of four-time winner Baptist Johnson and picked something at random: "How to Pop the Hood on the VW Bug" (now at Apparently, his Biz-School studies included neither automotive history nor auto repair...

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Arcs for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCXXIII

arc length as function of internal angle
It's not unusual for our research team members to run across bizarre questions in former Demand Media sites such as eHow, Hunker, Techwalla, and Sciencing. Sometimes the only thing more bizarre than the questions -- which have been harvested from real internet searches -- are the answers to those questions concocted by the sites' contributors. Take, for instance, Amy Dombrower: Amy was saddled with the loopy-sounding question, "How to Convert Degrees into Inches or Millimeters." The plucky J-school graduate gave it her all, such as it is, for -- but they finally realized her answer was bullbleep and handed it to one of their house crap-fixers to rewrite...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Doors for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCXXII

difference between lefthand and righthand swing door
A lot of our DotD candidate finds come from the everyday research our staffers perform even when they're not "working" (we use that term loosely). A recent example is the staffer who wanted to replace the door to her powder room with something less blah that the ugly fiberglass-coated thing she had. During the process of ordering a new slab, she was asked "Right- or left-handed?" That's when she came across eHow "professional" Jim Franklin and his post, "How to Identify Right & Left Hinged Doors" on She's still scratching her head a week later...

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Garage Door Openers for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCXXI

wall button for garage door opener
Our researchers occasionally come across content that just plain leaves them scratching their heads. When that happens, they'll usually refer the post to another team member for clarification and keep going until someone looks at it and either says, "That's just plain bull," or confirms its validity (usually the former). That's what happened when someone ran across "Troubleshooting a Garage Door Opener Wall Button," compiled by Darla Ferrara and posted to eHow. Leaf Group's since slipped it into the pile in their niche sites.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Deleting Files for Dummies – The Freelance Files DCCCXX

windows recycle bin empty and full
If there’s any lesson you should have learned from TV “hackers” over the years, it’s that moving a file into the trash on your computer doesn’t really delete it. What: you didn’t already know that? Take comfort in the fact that lots of people, like you, don’t know that “deleting” a file simply flags the file as invisible to the file system and allows the space where it’s been stored to be overwritten by newer files. Well, eHow’s Gwendolen Akard didn’t know that, either – but by golly, she didn’t let that stand in her way when she wrote “How to View List of Recently Deleted Files,” now housed on Leaf Group’s Techwalla niche site.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Air Conditioned Garages, the Dummy Version - The Freelance Files DCCCXIX

through-the-wall air conditioner in a garage
If there's one thing that makes the average DotD candidate stand out in our staffers' minds, it's probably the inability to understand the topics they've been charged with covering. This lack is especially common when it comes to eHow and the niche sites that Leaf Group is currently populating from its vault. Take, for instance, repeat awardee Kelsey Childress, who clearly had no idea what she was talking about when she attempted to explain "How to Air Condition a Garage."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Building a House for Dummies -- The Freelance Files DCCCXVIII

House under construction
One of the things we occasionally find here at the Antisocial Network is people who vastly overestimate their level of expertise with a topic. Most of our DotD candidates are just plain spreading bullpuckey, but some actually think they know what they're talking about. Take, for instance, eHow's Ann Johnson: Johnson once sold real estate (her communications degree didn't pay off...), which she apparently though made her an expert in home construction. It didn't, as is made obvious by her post "Components of Building a Home."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cubic Feet to Gallons, the Dummy Version - The Freelance Files DCCCXVII

how many gallons in a cubic foot
The old saying goes, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime"...the same for a woman, by the way. In the age of the internet. a lot of people are being handed a fish instead of a fishing lesson, and today we're going to have a look at such a one-meal post. The site is (it used to be at eHow, of course) and the perp is David Chandler, caught here attempting to explain "How to Calculate the Gallons per Cubic Foot."

Our staffers came up with a couple of different approaches to this question. Generally, you could determine the weight of a cubic foot of liquid and use the liquid's density to back-calculate the weight per gallon, then do a little division, like this:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Conductivity for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCXVI

ions move through electrical conductor
Have you heard about Tom Nichols' book, The Death of Expertise yet? Well, you will... simply put, Nichols' thesis is that people who read about some topic in a blog will "lecture" those with education and experience in the field as if the latter know nothing. It happens all the time... In our humble opinion, expertise is dying by a million little cuts -- and today's DotD nominee is responsible for a lot of them, especially when it comes to science. She's 24-time winner of the award Joan Whetzel, who we brought back to tell us "Why Is Conductivity Important?" for eHow, since moved to

As contributors to eHow often do, Whetzel begins by attempting to define conductivity... well, actually, she doesn't: her lede is,
"Numerous materials (like copper) and liquids (like water) can conduct electricity. However, impurities can lower this ability to keep electricity moving, which creates resistance..."
...which is, actually wrong. The whole idea of "electricity moving" is hilarious to begin with, and Whetzel immediately sticks her scientific foot in her mouth with that "impurities... [create] resistance" business. Why? Because she mentioned water, which doesn't conduct electricity unless "impurities" are present. But that's just Joan being Joan...
Some of Whetzel's other goofiness includes
  1. "Micro-mhos (µmhos/cm) are the basic measurement for conductivity for liquids."
  2. "If minerals and metals are suspended in [water], ions form. These can be measured as conductivity."
  3. "Copper atoms are one electron short, making them positive ions."
  4. "Determining the correct conductivity reading depends on the type of water (fresh, salt or distilled) or the metal/alloy..."
  5. "Conductivity and insolation in solid substances is important for electrical purposes. " which we add the following comments
  1. Micromhos (note lack of hyphen) are not µmhos/cm. The micromho is a unit of conductivity, while micromho/cm is conductivity per distance.
  2. Ions are not the result of suspension. Ions are the result of solution.
  3. Copper atoms aren't "one electron short"; the reason copper conducts so well is that the electrons in the atom's outer shell can easily be freed.
  4. Determining the conductivity doesn't depend on those things; the conductivity itself depends on those attributes.
  5. Insolation refers to the quantity of sunlight that falls on an area. It's not the opposite of conductivity (and neither is "insulation".)
As usual, Whetzel reworded a few sites and, confused, changed around a few words. The result? misinformation and misinterpretation -- as usual -- and also as usual, Joan so impressed an equally uninformed eHow content editor with her erudition that the rubbish was allowed to stand. Another Dumbass of the Day trophy bites the dust!     


Monday, April 17, 2017

Temporary Magnets for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCXV

Magnetic Field
Our staffers have spent more than a decade on the internet -- some of them more than two decades. You'd think that by now nothing much surprises them, and you would be right, at least in a general sense. One thing they learned long ago is that the people who teach our children sometimes know barely more than their students. Unfortunately, we're not talking about the TA in your daughter's college chemistry lab -- we're talking about your fifth-grader's science teacher... Let's hope your kid doesn't have someone like Daniella Lauren (aka Diane Lockridge), whose science chops -- and lack thereof -- are prominently displayed in "Types of Temporary Magnets" at

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Map Coordinates for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCXIV

different map projections
One of the founders of the Antisocial Network spent many years working with mapping software, which is completely dependent on location data provided in map coordinates. That's probably why he's always giving the staff links to botched map information at the DotD award meetings. Today he gets his wish, as we feature Scott Thompson of (again) for the inane post, "How do Map Coordinates Work."

Thompson, as is so often the case with people unfamiliar with maps,

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Rock Salt for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCXIII

sample salt dome cross section
The freelancers who wrote for eHow, bless their greedy little hearts, were constrained by many a formatting rule -- sadly, much more than they were constrained by demands for accuracy. One of those constraints was minimum word count, and in the process of gilding the lily and/or padding to meet that count, many a writer introduced significant dumbassery to his or her post. That's the case in the post "How Is Rock Salt Formed?" that Henri Bauholz (also known as Hank Nielsen) wrote for eHow, now migrated to by Leaf Group.

The answer's relatively simple, and Henri danced around it, finally getting close enough for an answer a fifth-grader would count as correct:

Friday, April 14, 2017

JPEG to PDF, the Dummy Version - The Freelance Files DCCCXII

PDF logo
One of the adages our shop pretty much lives by is the old saying, "There's more than one way to skin a cat." We like the idea that we almost always have alternatives... opportunities that the folks at Leaf Group, however, don't seem to value. Take, for instance, six-time DotD Kurt Schanaman, who wrote the article "How to Make a JPEG Into a PDF File" for eHow (it's since been moved to Techwalla). As far as Kurt and Techwalla / eHow are concerned, there's just one way -- and he described it in loving detail.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wave Energy for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCXI

wave power generator buoy
Every once in a while we like to visit old friends, by which we mean "people we already know are dumbasses." Today's one of those days, and our "old friend" is the one and only Joan Whetzel, whose name is already on the DotD winners list more times (twenty-three) than Henri Richard's is on the Stanley Cup (eleven). Today, Joan will tell the world all about "How Is Wave Energy Used to Generate Electricity?" Her work, such as it is, can be found at (do you have any idea how much we dislike that name?)...

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Plywood Grades for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCX

plywood grade stamp
Many long decades ago a friend of our founder taught him the aphorism "Chutzpah is not hubris." He still doesn't know what it means... but he does know that way too many of the "contributors" at the old eHow site exhibited substantial hubris -- or maybe they were just too greedy to care about accuracy. Take, for instance, self-described "professional journalist" Chad Buleen, who was clearly way out of his comfort zone when he submitted "How to Identify Plywood."

Let's face it: the question is pretty much stupid, ambiguous, or both. Does the OQ literally want to know whether a substance is plywood or something else? or does s/he want to know what grade of plywood? or what? Buleen, in his infinite wisdom, decided to explain plywood grading, beginning by telling his readers that...
"Plywood is a versatile type of wood commonly used in construction. The type of plywood that a builder chooses varies, depending on his preferences and the specifications of the structure"...
...which pretty much leaves out any question of differentiating plywood from conventional lumber, hardboard, MDF, OSB, or LVL or any of several other manufactured products. But that's probably OK: you'd have to be pretty much unconscious not to realize that plywood's made of several layers of veneer...

That being said, Chad launches into what is little more than a retelling of the official grading standards for plywood, including such -- dare we say it? -- moronic instructions as
"Study the complete lack of repairs in D-grade plywood."
Yep. he said that... But he never said word one about plywood with different grades on the two faces; skipped interior vs. exterior grade; and passed on mentioning treated, aircraft-grade, or marine-grade plywood -- pretty much a half-assed job, if you ask us.

Buleen's biggest research sin, however, was that he didn't point out that every sheet of plywood is stamped with its grade level: you don't have to "Look for," Recognize," or "Study" the faces: all you do is look for that stamp and read it. And here you were wondering why Chad was picking up his third Dumbass of the Day award: now you know...     


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Air Conditioning for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCIX

ductless mini split air-conditioning system
We hate to belabor the point, but it apparently bears repeating: if you want to read accurate information, you should probably look for a source written or compiled by someone who knows something about the subject. We doubt our readers would immediately trust medical information they get from some crayfish farmer or COBOL programming suggestions they hear from a kindergarten teacher's aide -- yet that's pretty much the business model of the old eHow site (now disintegrating into several niche sites). A case in point, former English student Christine Lebenik (aka Krista Lebednik), who made a mess out of the eHow post "The Difference Between a Split AC and a Window AC."

According to Lebednik,

Monday, April 10, 2017

Hanging Mirrors for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCVIII

You can hang a heavy mirror pr picture using cleats like these
In the world of DIY task around the house, the most common beginner project is probably hanging a picture. Just about anyone with a hammer or a flat rock can do this, although it can be harder than it looks. Just ask eHow contributor Melissa Lewis, whose journey to a degree in psychology and a stint as a teacher apparently didn't include shop classes. We can say that because, well, we read through her instructions for "How to Hang a Large Mirror." We found them... interesting...

Lewis was required by DMS¹ to introduce her topic, which is where we found this:

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Raised Kennels for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCVII

raised kennel with shit board
We've been watching with some amusement as the people at Leaf Group (the erstwhile Demand Media Studios) have been migrating much of the eHow content to niche sites. We'll be kind and not call the process "FUBARed," even though it is. One problem that's developed is that they're taking poor-quality content and... well, they're making it worse. We found a new niche site,, and a new DotD in one pass: Scott Mytnyk wrote the eHow post "How to Build an Off the Ground Dog Kennel," which was bad enough in the original, but Leaf made it worse in migrating it to Cuteness...

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Equilateral Triangles for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCVII

Equilateral Triangle Sides and Area Derivation
There were a lot of reasons why became the poster child for content farms gone wild before the Google Panda update started killing them off. One was the incongruity of a college sorority chick turned kindergarten teacher expounding on butt plugs, the other was that the the site's bullshit to information ratio was too often astronomical. Here's an example of the latter: take one business major (Mark Kennan, sometimes known as Michael Keenan), ask him an ambiguous question ("How to Calculate an Equilateral Triangle from Height"), and watch him flail at it on the so-called website... as a "physics" question?

Friday, April 7, 2017

HDTV Antennas for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCVI

Rabbit ears TV antenna with tin foil
If you were to let just about anyone "answer" questions posed by internet surfers, you'd leave yourself open to contributors who do little more than reword crap they don't understand in the first place. That was always eHow's (now a bunch of niche sites with stupid names like Techwalla, Sapling, and Hunker) greatest shortcoming: they were more interested in format than accuracy. Take the example of college film student Stephen Lilley, who tried to explain "How to Know Which Direction to Point Your HDTV Antenna"; along the way revealing that it was something that 1) he'd never done and 2) was something he didn't know how to do; but he still wanted that fifteen bucks, so what the heck...

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Table Saws for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCV

rip fence on table saw
One of our staffers was reading a classic scifi book (Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon) and ran across this passage that pretty much sums up our mantra at the Antisocial Network:
"I think it's clear," Randy said, "that if you are ignorant of a particular subject, that your opinion is worthless. If I'm sick, I don't ask a plumber for advice. I go to a doctor."
Way to go, Neal: that's what we've been saying all along... just like we say that if you want information about table saws, you don't go to some bozo with a design degree... nonetheless, Patrick Nelson (a designer) wrote "How to Troubleshoot a Craftsman Table Saw" for eHow... and his ignorance showed.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dimensions for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCIV

length area volume units
One of the Antisocial Network research staffers commented at a recent staff meeting (after the first round of craft beers) that we could probably keep the site running almost indefinitely simply by searching the Leaf Group¹ niche sites for the words "conversion" and "calculation." The number of stupid posts we've found so far on those two topics is enough to choke your average mule -- and today's just one more of them. This time, it's some character who claims to be named Matt McGew (it's probably really McGrew or McGee), who demonstrated his tenuous connection to geometry when he wrote "How to Calculate the Feet per Square Foot" for eHow.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Cookies for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCIII

common and popular internet browsers
Our staffers at the Antisocial Network tend to be generalists, although most of them are trained in technical and scientific fields. As a rule, they're smart enough to know the difference between general and specific topics. For instance, "changing spark plugs" is general; "changing spark plugs in a 1967 Camaro with a 327 V-8" is specific. Unfortunately, not everyone understands the difference, which is why eHowian Melissa King is back already: she gave specific instructions to the general question "How to Permanently Delete Cookies." For her (lack of) effort, she's getting an award...

Monday, April 3, 2017

Rock Salt for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCII

halite (rock salt) crystals
Today's a sort of "back-to-basics" day, one in which our Antisocial Network staffers bully greedy freelancers for faking knowledge and misinforming the public, all just to grab a few dollars at a content farm. Today, we'll make fun of yet another J-school graduate attempting to explain simple science, and doing a lousy job of it. She's kiwi Alice Hudson, who displayed a less-than-charming vague relationship to science in "The Properties of Rock Salt" for We assume it was originally posted on eHow, but who knows?

Hudson gets most of the basics right -- after all, how hard is it to just reword some website where the authors know what they're talking about? Isn't that what they teach people to do in journalism school these days? However, we did notice that Alice had a few little problems with her copy-reword-paste job. Here are a few of her misstatements:

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Degrees and Meters for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCCI

great circle path
From time to time the Antisocial Network research staffers come across content that supposedly addresses questions that, to be honest, are damned near unanswerable (most commonly at eHow or some other member of the Leaf Group of niches). Sometimes it's because of the wording, but it's usually because of a lack of context. Take, for instance, a question about "How to Convert Degrees to Meters": we suppose that might be a badly-worded question about the length of an arc, among other queries. contributor Emile Heskey (an assumed name, most likely) decided it had something to do with latitude and longitude on the Earth. Hmmm... maybe not...

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Pinterest unHELP for Dummies - The Freelance Files DCCC

We know, just about every day we feature money-hungry halfwits who post misinformation, mangled instructions, or just plain stupidity to the internet solely for the purpose of lining their pockets. Yes, we occasionally snipe at a blithering idiot for living in a political bubble, but 99 times out of a hundred it's freelancing idiots. Well, today's a little different: see, we get tired of crappy "support" from websites, especially when the support crew are in come far-flung country but claim English-y names. Not long ago, a staffer tried to get help from Pinterest... and got stiffed.

Here's what happened: