Vague consultants and how-to articles are annoying

(cute but angry hulk face)
Image Credit: Mohammad Jobaed Adnan

This post is just a little rant of mine. Partially from my own experience in working with “outside help” and from my own personal fear of how I may come across to others sometimes.

I think it started when I read a link from a follow on Twitter, something about “4 tips for XYZ”, only to find the “tips” so boring and obvious that I am shocked that people get paid to write that sh*t for the web.

So often when “how-to” articles are written for the web, the suggestions sound good, but when they come down to it, are incredibly vague. Things like “a good leader communicates a strong vision” or “paying close attention to colour choices is important when designing your website”. Well, duh. But when it comes down to it, what does “communicating a strong vision” or “paying attention to colour” – when you are sitting down at your desk, or participating in a meeting – actually LOOK like? What do I need to DO? Literally DO.

On a past project I worked on, I had an outside consultant c0-leading the project. She, theoretically, had expertise in an important area of the project at a level much higher than my experience could muster. But when it came down to helping me out, divying up the work, and getting information – I got nothing. When I asked what her role in the project was, I got those annoying vague words that we all joke about when listing words we can throw into a work meeting to sound like we’re saying something important.

“OK,” I exhaled. “But when you’re sitting down at your computer, working on this project, what are you actually doing?”

I got nothing.

On this blog, I try to do one of two things. Either give specific examples of what I mean when I give tips, or I ask big picture questions that I don’t have the answers to but that I’d love to discuss.

Vague blog and web articles, I can deal with. I can tell within a few second that the read is a waste of my time. But consultants, that gets me peeved. Consultants are expensive. Consultants, whether you have to pay for them are not, cost money because they cost you time. More than a few seconds. And some start out sounding intelligent, so you hold on waiting for the moment when their “work” kicks in, only to realize too late that they are costing you way too much money to tell you stuff you could have found through Google on your lunch break.


What’s your experience with vague help? Have you experienced a nonprofit being taken advantage of by one of “those”?


  1. I often wonder if Twitter is contributing to increasingly weaker blog writing.

    When you start Twittering you’re told to add value – not talk about what you had for lunch).
    This is a good advice, but interpreted by many as just posting links to anything related to their personal Twitter brand. On top of that you have businesses and spammers who use blogs/Twitter just to draw traffic…

    Everyone knows that a “Five Things” list will draw attention (Cosmo, I’m looking at you) and I often wonder if the combination of these factors if driving increasingly lamer blogs and useless Top Ten lists.

  2. Definitely some downsides.

    I try to only tweet or RT things that I have read and found valuable enough to save for later reference.

    The speed with which some people RT stuff to me says that they are trusting in the text of the original tweet (or the authority of the original tweeter) without a critical read of the actual link content.

    The thing is that I think it’s easy to buy into “top 5 lists”. They’re like self help books or books on “leadership”. They make you feel good and inspired and ready to take on the world. For a few days. And then reality sinks in — how will your life really change until you can transfer the vague tips to real, behavioural goals that allow you to DO?

  3. Read your article, “Extroverts vs. Introverts” at Brazen and decided to take a look see at your blog. Liked the rant here. I have similar gripes with “How-To” article and see a lot of them as a waste because of vagueness and duh-ness. I also think that if people use their own good judgement and try something unknown to them instead of reading how-to articles outcomes will be similar to if an “expert” is used. Plus you gain confidence in your own abilities when you do things yourself. I have a blog post about this:

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