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Friday, September 01, 2006

Thumbs down...Your Personal Writer

I can't imagine anyone who values writing and/or education would ever find him- or herself putting a site like "Your Personal Writer" in anything but the "thumbs down" category. These "pay us to write your term paper for you" sites are so universally despised that it barely seems worth even mentioning one of them by name. They are an assumed evil.

Your Personal Writer (herafter YPW), however, has somehow managed to take the already corrupt and more than mildly pathetic "paper mill" industry to new lows.

I read a few knocks on the site at a writer's forum and, against my better judgement, took a longer look at it. Ever since, I have known that it would become a Content Done Better Blog Thumbs Down pick.

Before we even get to the twisted brand of ethics espoused by the folks at YPW, there are a few other issues I need to address.

The first is Kambon Obayani. The site contains this interesting remark:

Who would be happy to write about literary heritage of Kambon Obayani, for instance? Who is this Kambon Obayani anyway?!"

After reading that, I had to know.

Obayani is an English professor and an author of at least five books. He's edited some other texts, as well. His website features more information, including a student-filmed interview. Obayani appears to be a nice guy with some interesting things to say about the creative process.

But why, oh why, did the people at YPW feel a need to single him out? What did this CSU-Northridge professor do to deserve mention as an example of an unhappy assignment? Of all the writers in the world, living and dead, what made Kambon Obayani the YPW exemplar of the kind of writing project that would lead one to outsourcing his or her homework?

If I were Obayani, I'd be hacked off. Besides, it's just plain weird.

That's only the beginning of the weirdness at YPW, though. The second issue that must be raised is the actual quality of writing on display.

If you were a lowlife or thoroughly confused student looking for someone to do your homework in exchange for cash, you'd probably try to find someone who might actually do a passable job. Even television bullies don't force the poor students to do their homework--they concentrate on cornering the class "brain." Why have someone else do the work if they are going to churn out garbage, right?

YPW, however, apparently believes that the best way to convince people to buy their unethical text is by writing poorly. I am not just talking about occasional typos or a misplaced word here and there. I am not referencing a split infinitive, overuse of the passive voice or even an accidental bit of subject-verb disagreement.

Based on the sales materials, Your Personal Writer is also Your Personal Source of Crappy Gibberish.

Excerpt 1:

"It would be half the problem if not those terrible particulars. Namely, topics you do not like, tons of materials you need to (a) read, (b) analyze, hours of permanent boring writing, frequent of assignments (when will they finish?), and so on."

Excerpt 2:

"Did I mention referencing? Formatting? No one knows why professors focus so much attention on references in your labored paper. Yet it is not clear why your ideas squeezed out of your mind in excruciating torment gain so little credit because of incomplete formatting."

I'm not even going to bother breaking down the countless errors and assorted bits of craziness sprinkled throughout these two representative paragraphs. Let it suffice to say that whoever wrote this crap should not be entrusted with anyone's grade (ethical concerns aside).

Now, let's look at the ethical issues. Interestingly, YPW has anticipated some concerns on the part of paper-shopping students and has taken the time to make sure they understand why it is okay to hire some crazy person with minimal writing skills in pursuit of academic fraud.

According to the whiz kids at YPW, hiring them to write your homework isn't cheating. Here's why:

"You DO NOT cheat applying to our service because:

  • you pay fair price for your research paper
  • you don't steal anything
  • our task is to assist you so we can make only those aspects of your assignment you encounter difficulties with leaving the rest to be done by you
  • we only accomplish your writing tasks, while you do comprehending and analyzing the material you received, so in the end you won't be less informed about the subject you are studying
  • writers at Your Personal Writer do not cheat either
  • you get quality non-plagiarized paper
  • in the final run, you merely entrust our experts with the assignments you are not willing to do, and have opportunity to focus on more important things"
Right. You aren't violating the academic code at your university because there is a secret caveat that says if you pay a fair price, everything is cool. It's not dishonest to claim academic work as your own when you paid someone to do it. Now, if you paid an unfair price or if someone volunteered to write for you, that would be different. Good gravy, Martha, this is beyond stupid.

It's not cheating because you aren't stealing. Just like it's not assault because you aren't speeding. Just like it's not assault because you aren't violating the Mann Act. Just like it's not...You get the idea.

That third explanation...Well, it could have been another bad writing excerpt. Apparently, it's okay to engage in academic fraud because writing papers is hard. Oh, gee, that makes it fine.

You still have to read the paper. Well, not really, but you do have to know something about the topic. Well, not really, but you do have to know the assignment so you can tell YPW how to butcher it. Thus, you are still learning and all is well. Pretend not to understand that there is educational value in the process of research. Ignore the established educational merits of actually constructing and supporting your own arguments. Disregard the numerous ways that writing can help you to develop analytical skills.

Thankfully, YPW doesn't cheat. They don't plagiarize. All of that crap is home cooked goodness, would-be cheaters! Why you would trust an operation dedicated to helping you to cheat is a mystery, but if you do, you can feel better about yourself. After all, you aren't cheating because they're not cheating. That makes absolutely no sense, but it is sort of catchy.

Somehow, because you have decided that there are more important things to do, you aren't cheating. Wow.

I don't even know why I bothered commenting on their argument against the cheating objection. The complete lack of ethics is incredibly obvious.

So, to recap... These people can't write worth a crap, they can't even formulate a reasonable defense of their ethically-deprived practice, and they felt the need to call out some innocent writer guy in Cali to make a point.

If you are looking for someone to write your papers for you, there is a cheaper and probably superior alternative in the reflection of your monitor.

Or, you could hire someone who is willing to help you sell out your ethics and who produces interesting things like this:

Your mom calls. She wants you to come home on Saturday. 'Damn, it's Thanksgiving!', you suddenly recall. "Okay, mom! I'll be there on Friday." I don't believe it! Don't tell me you have nothing to work on this week... You don't? Okay, I will take that on trust!"

Thumbs down.

In the interest of fairness, however, I gladly invite Sean Isles (listed as CEO and Founder of YPW) or any other YPW representative to provide their perspective.

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