Sunday, August 31, 2008

death of a great site

How Stuff Works used to be a cool site. There were all kinds of interesting articles about cars and electronics and other stuff. But it has gone way down-hill since then. Many articles now seem to be product-driven rather than technology driven. And some of the articles are now written by idiots.

In particular there was one article where they discussed the old scam of using water as a fuel source. These scams work by separating the water into oxygen and hydrogen and then burning the hydrogen. The article in How Stuff Works implied that, although the technology does now work now, maybe it can be made to work in the future. Un-freaking-believable. How can someone writing on science and engineering topics not know about the First Law of Thermodynamics? There can't possibly be a way to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen and then combine the hydrogen and oxygen back into water and get net energy output. It would be perpetual motion machine.

However, even worse than such pathetic ignorance in a site that presumes to teach people, is the fact that now when you do searches, the search results include advertisements. And the search result page is laid out to make you think the ads are information articles, to trick you into clicking on them. So someone like me who goes to How Stuff Works specifically to get some technical information and avoid all of the ads and other junk we would get in a Google search end up looking at junk anyway. So what purpose is there for going to How Things Work any more?

I'm a strong free-market proponent, but I've got to say: the desire for increased profits combined with a complete lack of class or respect for your readers has ruined lots of good web sites.

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