Brought upon by a terrible movie review and Giant Cypress’s shared epiphany about how creative writers, art majors, and “write about anything” journalists are plastering the web with non-informative tool “articles”, I feel the need to rant.
First, an AP movie writer, David Germain, gives the new Transformers movie 1-1/2 stars out of 4. Why? He basically complains that there’s too much action, too many robots, and not enough of a human element. That’s the same type of criticism some reviewers gave the 2nd movie. News flash – Transformers is about giant robots that transform. Nobody complained that Robots is an animation about robots and Cars is about animated talking cars. So why the heck are these Yahoos (see what I did there?!) complainin that there are too many transforming robots and machines and not enough humans in Transformers? REALLY?
This made me think back to the short post on Giant Cypress that pointed to a rather useless article about Japanese chisels over at what a commenter described as an SEO-targeting* website. You know how there are some eBay auctions that keyword-spam to maximize search results? These types of sites do the same to maximize search results – they publish “articles” about everything and anything.
Now, I’m not saying it’s bad for a website to discuss a wide range of topics. But it is bad when the site hires layman to pen those articles. Reading through some of the articles on these types of sites, it doesn’t take long before one realizes they’re not actually learning anything. Common knowledge is spun around, and random simplistic facts and generalizations are spewed off. Here’s a dramaticized example:
All About Premium Japanese Hand Saws
- Japanese hand saws are made from premium steel from Japan.
- Japanese hand saws have long handles that are made from the very best handle materials.
- These saws are also sharpened to the very premium of quality.
- These saws are similar to other hand saws, but are better.
- Japanese saws are premium, so you must pull them instead of pushing them.
- The end.
Seriously, that’s how they all are. It doesn’t make a difference what the topic is about – tools, woodworking, computers, tech, etc – all the articles are similar SEO-spamming filler. I’ve seen comment and email spam with more informative content!
Not that I myself am an expert at everything I write about, but I [usually] know what I’m talking about, or at least know enough to form opinion. The authors of many of these articles seem to know nothing of the subject!
This now reminds me of an article my wife showed me some time ago, from the Metro, a free ad-supported paper distributed in NYC and elsewhere. There was article written about the essential tools for apartment folk and homeowners. The author, who turned out to be female, wrote about stylish tool bags, a hammer that looked better, and a few other hand tools. From her writing she obviously knew nothing about tools or anything closely related to the sort.
When will it all end? Probably never. Biased movie reviewers that don’t recognize that Transformers is supposed to be about robots will continue to review such movies, and laymen creative writing and art double-majors will continue to write articles about tools they know nothing about.
For the most part, the editors of these types of mass-content sites probably aren’t widely experienced enough to check the facts and information of each and every article. Chances are, they aren’t well versed enough about tools, to know that brief laymen-written articles about tools may be lacking substance. They check for grammar and conciseness, and then someone else sees the potential SEO and pushes the “publish button.” The site gets the Google placement, the layman writer/journalist gets their paycheck and searches for the next juicy keyword to look up. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Maybe I should quit my day job and join the club. I could write about soap operas, what it feels like to deliver a baby, vitamins and supplements, the history of Madagascar, biodegradable adhesives, curling irons, and all the other things I have only cursory experience with.
*SEO = search engine optimization