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Footnotes To Life

Because sometimes we need them to help us understand…

Photo from Flickr User ilgiovaneWalter (Sobchak)

Let’s face it, bullshit is pretty prevalent all over the internet. Selling us stuff we don’t need, promising amazing results and promoting useless products that break two days after they ship. These days, it seems even reputable sites are not immune. I was browsing around CNN.com, something I consider a reputable news outlet, when I found a non-sponsored link to this story on Newsmax.com. Well, I don’t know about you, but that got my bullshit antenna tingling.

Firstly, have you noticed how many times this story says “weight loss?” Seriously, it’s in almost every sentence. The story has 372 words, and the phrases “weight loss” and “weight-loss” are used a combined total of 11 times. Let me say that again, 11 times in 17 sentences… does that sound like good English or keyword stuffing to me? I’ll tell you – this article is more stuffed than a thanksgiving turkey.

Speaking of keywords, did anyone else notice how often they are combined with words like “free,” “video,” and “secrets?” Honestly, if it’s on the internet! It’s not a secret anymore. And these things are never free, what’ll happen is you’ll watch the video and it’ll try and sell you on something you actually have to pay for. It’s the internet version of an infomercial. Billy Mays would be proud.

Here’s another dead giveaway for bullshit. The phrase “weight loss” is actually formatted two different ways – weight loss and weight-loss. If you see something like that in any article, it’s a red flag so big it has fireworks, flashing lights and an after-party. It’s done to capture two different keywords from search engines, and since these folks are clearly writing for a search engine and not for the reader, it’s time for us to leave.

Then the links. There are so many links. All with the same words highlighted and all going to the same place. This particular piece of critical thinking is real simple. If you include the same link in the same article more than once, the chances are it’s not worth visiting. Excluding the video itself (which is actually a link, not a video) it’s included 5 times. I mean seriously, what legitimate news organization confuses the issue by coloring a section of text in almost a third of their sentences? It’s so annoying because it’s not designed for people to read. The primary audience here is Googlebot, Google’s cute little robot who roams around, mapping the internet. I’ll let you in on a secret – Googlebot and I don’t like the same stuff.

And the video. Oh where to start. Where are the facts? I haven’t heard so much emotive language since I browsed through the greeting card aisle in Target. It takes a while to sift through the crap before you get to the weight loss tips at the end, and there are five tips… sort of. It’s four tips telling you why it’s so hard to lose weight, including some scientific studies whose authors would be appalled to see them used in such a manner, and one tip telling you to buy a book. That’s right, the whole video is formed around a pseudo-news health report to get you to pay for something! And then, when you try and leave the page you have to click through a confirmation box saying you really do what to leave. What a pile of stinky spam, all within two pages of a CNN story.

And frankly, what pisses me off most about this whole page is not the page itself – this sort of ludicrous writing for search engines shows up all over the internet – but rather the link it gets from CNN. With all the great information available on the internet, what let them to link to this trash which is faker than a Beverly Hill’s Housewife’s face. Come on CNN, act like the journalists you were trained to be.

Unfortunately, this sort of crap is all over the internet and we flock to it like flies. Instead of making it clear we don’t want things like this to replace real information, we run and hug sites like this, buying bogus information for a fistful of Benjamins. It irks me that good legitimate sites, like CNN, link to these idiotic bullshit peddlers and give them some sort of legitimacy. Please, I beg you, do your part and avoid buying from sites covered in this internet sewage.

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