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How Exploited Its Own Writers

Updated on August 16, 2008

One of the main caveats that all freelance writers should have engraved onto their computer screens is "Never Give Away Your Work." Any prospective job poster who asks for a free sample should be categorically denied. There are some pointers on how to handle these requests in my Hubs: How To Beat The Send Me A Sample Scam, and Avoiding Freelance Slave Labor . That is why I am completely flabbergasted by the "writing contest" being run by (FWJ), one of the previously most reputable online freelance writing job sites and communities.

In this particular case I'm going to spare the usual biting sarcasm and corrosive vitriol I usually ladle onto online scams. I have a great deal of respect for this site, its principals and what they have accomplished. Starting from rather threadbare obscurity, Deborah Ng has managed to maneuver her site over the years into prominence as one of the primary "go-to" sites for freelance writers seeking online jobs. The community of freelance writers that she has so carefully nurtured may just be the most active, cohesive and friendly in the online writing business.

That is why her latest project simply floored me. After establishing a reputation as one of the champions crusading against online scams that prey on writers, Deborah decided one fine day to launch something called FWJ Idol. The idea sounded great at least at first. A whole bunch of bloggers would audition, American Idol style, and the community would vote on the winning blogger who would then become a paid regular contributor to the site.

However, as everyone knows, the devil is in the details. The way Deborah chose to structure this Idol contest opened her site up to widespread catcalls. Just like American Idol, the bloggers would audition, make a cut, do another audition, make another cut, and so on and so on and so on.

That is the part that totally floored me and many others. After years of educating and informing her far-flung writing community on how to avoid online writing scams, Deborah (I like to believe "unwittingly", but I do have to doubt how skewed the thought processes were that allowed her to come to these outrageous conclusions) managed to set up one of the biggest sucker traps I've seen in my years of cruising the freelance writing market.

The 22 initial contestants keep writing and writing and writing all sorts of very high quality content which is posted to the site and keep getting eliminated with the survivors getting to write and write and write some more! Of the 22 contestants, 21 will have participated in this marathon of blogging which has now run for over two agonizing and painful months for absolutely nothing. Thousands and thousands of quality, unique words for no pay and not even any credit, as the sucker... er... contestants are only identified by numbers!

In the meantime this FWJ Idol has turned into nothing more than a free content mega-stuffer for the site. Deborah has been lambasted for preying on the very members of her own community who have supported her for so long, and her "solution" has been that she will delete the blogs of the losing participants when the winner is selected.

This "solution" is so disingenuous that it boggles the imagination. Those pages will not only live on in Google caches long after they're gone, but the net benefit in pageviews and pagerank from all of this unique content will persist indefinitely: all at the expense of the bloggers who wrote great content for free. Let's not even get into the fact that the voting process was set up in such a blatantly amateurish manner that the dedicated attempts to "game" the polls have succeeded in distorting the process to the point that whoever wins will be always under suspicion.

Deborah, Deborah, Deborah... in the famous words of Jay Leno when he interviewed Hugh Grant shortly after his Hollywood arrest for picking up a cheap prostitute in his car: "What were you thinking?" The only ways out of this sticky wicket that I can come up with would be to either retroactively pay a reasonable per word rate to all participants (which would then allow her to keep the content online) or to just cancel the whole mess right now and apologize profusely to everyone for her ghastly lapse in judgment.

Whatever the answer, Deborah Ng needs to go into damage control mode now, as this misbegotten and profoundly flawed FWJ Idol is a fubar blunder of historic proportions.


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    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Thanks for the compliments! Much appreciated! :)

      You might want to check out:

      where I Photoshop my own Adsense statement to show that I'm raking in the dough. However, I am honest enough to immediately below that image publish my REAL Adsense statement to show people how easy it is to fake it in order to scam poor innocents into BUY MY GET RICH BY TUESDAY ON HUBPAGES EBOOK. :)

    • profile image

      Bryan Eaddy 9 years ago

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      Although I don’t agree with you totally, I must admit that this is an excellent hub. I love your brutally honest writing style; very comical (it’s been a long time since I laughed so hard).

      The e-book ministers of propaganda are the worst with their promises of untold riches in exchange for $19.95. Believe me, I’ve read my share of electronic books and in almost every case, the free e-books where the best. I recently wrote an e-book with the intention of making a few bucks but decided to publish it for free here on Hubpages.

      So, here I am; an affiliate marketer and SEO junkie giving you praise. Again, while I don’t agree with you entirely, I must say well done! I’m a fan.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Allena, than you for your kind words. I'll keep callin' 'em as I see 'em with my reader's interests first and foremost in my mind. If some people take exception to my candid honesty, then they can blast me all they want! :)

      Golem Zero: Yes, the matter is resolved as publicly stated on both this Hub and FWJ. Ms. Ng stated that she was not about to seek legal recourse, I apologized for misreading the intent of that badly phrased sentence (although not for the valid points I made in the original Hub), and the issue is closed completely and forever. FWJ remains IMHO the number one source for up to date job leads in this niche and participation in the community is optional. Thanks for your comments and support! I appreciate it!

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      JVM: 100% agreed!!!

      quicksand: Thanks! I appreciate the kind words!

      Others: This may be of interest:

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 9 years ago

      Oops! Sorry to barge into this intellectual discussion, but LOL! I could not help it ... I had to ... I just had to! I was reading every comment on this hub with great interest since I am a newcomer to the game of freelance writing and I needed more information on the benefits and "dangers" that free lance writers have to face. However, when I came to the part where you mentioned chasing grass skirted girls with a lwan mover ... LOL, I just burst out laughing! I scrolled right to the bottom just to leave this comment !!! LOL, Hal, I admire your writing style, your humor, and your knowledge!

    • profile image

      JVM 9 years ago

      Freelance writers, unite. Stand strong and don't let anyone sell you short.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Yes, as I stated in my Hub, it is a trick that scammers are using more and more and I'm amazed that writers keep falling for it. Please note I am NOT including FWJ in that statement as I said, the matter is closed.

    • esocial profile image

      esocial 9 years ago from California

      Good hub! I was asked to write in a similar manner, and I told the folks to go suck an egg :)

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      eyes in the back of my ears: Don't your eyeglass frames poke you in the eyes? (Couldn't resist that pun.) :) I have been clear that Ms. Ng herself has acknowledged that there have been some fairly serious issues with the implementation of FWJ Idol. I cannot comment on anything but facts that I can ascertain with my own eyes, which strangely seem to be placed well in front of my ears. (Couldn't resist that pun either... sorry...) The best advice I could give is that these sorts of "contests" are run on the internet all the time, whether they involve freelance writers or not: There are many acknowledged standards and "safety nets" that are readily available which could have been integrated into Idol, yet they were not. I don't believe this was done through malice, but perhaps through lack of knowledge of these safeguards. I cannot speak for Ms. Ng, but if I were to do something like that (and don't worry... I have no such intention), I would take exceptional care to ensure that I would build in every possible precaution to keep it from spinning out of control as FWJ Idol clearly has. I appreciate your comments.

      anon: Ah, to savor a kebab in Shmeisani! I'm drooling just thinking of it. Thanks for the clarification. FYI, judging by his IPs your anon-clone hopped around in several states in his postings, often going coast to coast within minutes, so I'm still impressed by the Mach 20+ speed of his law firm's Lear Jet or SR71 Blackbird or Space Shuttle or whatever he has... :)

      magnoliazz: Thank you so much for your comments. Not only do I truly and profoundly appreciate them but I am very thankful that you chose to be one of my formal Hub Fans. Yes, it profoundly stinks that your content and mine is being not just posted with links, but outright copy and pasted onto other sites some without even having the consideration to publish our names so that they can claim authorship. It's no more or no less outright theft as showing up at 2 am in a 7-11 waving a Saturday Night Special. Unfortunately the structure of the internet makes it well nigh impossible to squash all of these pathetic copiers, so just consider it a backhanded compliment that your content is strong enough that they deem it will draw in traffic. That means you're a great writer, and they are just thieving lowlife scum. To the best of my knowledge I was the first person ever to attempt to build an online community to write a collaborative novel. It may be hard to believe but it occurred several years before the release of the first Mosaic Web Browser at a time when online activities occurred on 2400 baud modems connecting to CompuServe at $12 an hour. I headed an active and participatory group of writers which produced some truly sterling work but it proved unworkable. It is impossible to accurately credit each writer in an activity such as that. If everyone shares equally, then the person who created an entire fleshed-out subplot gets their nose out of joint because they're receiving the same compensation as the writer who plunked in two lines of dialogue. If you try to develop a prorated compensation structure, then every single person involved thinks it's unfair and you make no one happy. I've very carefully sidestepped online collaborations in the more than two decades since.

      I think I have made it more than amply clear that:

      1) I have always respected the fine work of FWJ (outside of the lapse shown by Idol) and still do.

      2) I have stated my case and stand by each word. The only retraction I made was when I misunderstood a single sentence (almost incomprehensibly) written by Ms. Ng, and my verbiose apology above settles that specific issue to (at least) my satisfaction.

      3) I continue to encourage any freelance writer to avail themselves of the superlative resources and friendly (to everyone but me lately... boo hoo...) community at

      Ms. Ng has stated on her site that she considers the matter closed, and therefore I will too.

    • magnoliazz profile image

      magnoliazz 9 years ago from Wisconsin

      Hal-WOW, I just got done reading the comments here and they really BLASTED you because you chose to speak out about something very unfair. I give you credit for standing up and saying what you did, and I am behind you 100%. Obviously they would not be this upset if indeed they were on the up and up. If they really want to be as fair as they claim to be those bloggers should get PAID for all their hard work and for all the traffic they drew into the site. Kudos to you Hal for trying to keep these guys honest. Keep up the good work, I am happy I read this hub, and I plan to read your hubs in the future. Thanks!

    • magnoliazz profile image

      magnoliazz 9 years ago from Wisconsin

      WOW!! This hub certainly hit a nerve! You know.....I wonder who would ever want to be on American Idol and set themselves up to that kind of torture. The same could be said for those poor bloggers. Why would they even get involved in such a scheme to begin with? Helium is another site where you write and write and write and you may never see a dime for all your work. When I found HUb Pages I could see right away that this is a much better system. You are directly rewarded for your efforts. Of course, even making money on the Hub Pages is not easy? Why? Because of the millions of bloggers out there flooding the internet with often free content. If you want to make money writing, I am not sure that blogging is the way to do it, or any other online scheme. I am now looking into sending my stories to magazines, and maybe even start writing that daunting first novel.

      What I think would be interesting and fun to do would be to create a novel online with a group of writers, and then trying to get it published. This feat would have been just about impossible before the internet, but not anymore. Perhaps the group of writers could agree on an idea and then each writer would create a chapter. The writers would vote on what stays and what goes. Perhaps an editor would volunteer some time for a portion of the profits.

      Of course the devil would be in the details as you stated so well in your hub. What happens when you get a writer in there who wants to run the entire show, or the writer who simply cannot write very well, but thinks they are the next Stephen King?

      All in all, I have found writing online a very unrewarding experience. I have found my blogs used by websites, and I never saw a dime for these stories which I never gave permission for anyone to use. I was at first flattered that my blogs were getting read at all, but as time went by, and I found my blogs being used with no credit to me whatsoever, I became sour on the entire blogging ordeal. Of course, I have no copyright or anything, so I suppose that they did have a right to use what they pleased, however I do not think it is very fair.

      For now, I am trying my best to write interesting hubs, and I am very pleased to find my hubs listed on the first page of google! Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel after all!

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      anon 9 years ago

      I am the anon in Amman, Jordan. I did not claim to be an attorney, nor did I write all of the posts authored by anon. More than one person can be "anon," which is short for anonymous.

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      eyes in the back of my ears 9 years ago

      The biggest scam in the FWJ Idol is the illusion that it's a fair and unbiased interview, and not a popularity contest. There have been some issues with schooling the system, as Deb put it, even after she assigned code names to make contestants anonymous. I've heard rumors of a group who is out to prove that one, if not more, of the contestants is padding the votes-- namely one that is consistently in the lead and miraculously jumps in vote numbers any time the contestant's rivals begin to catch up. There has also been speculation that a certain contestant that has been oft lauded has been handpicked by the powers that be. In these same circles, there are rumors of rampant censoring of comments so that there isn't any dissention among the ranks. In other words, keeping everyone in line and making examples out of certain posters. Whether there is any truth to these rumors, I don't know. But if you know where to listen, you'll hear many more such stories. I have no doubt that the FWJ team didn't intend for these things to happen when they first started the interview process. Maybe things just weren't planned as well as they should have been. Maybe they just got in over their heads. Who knows. No one but the person monitoring, moderating and posting behind the scenes.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Er... has Ms. Ng addressed the issue and accepted my apology? I haven't seen a clue even from the mysterious "Me" to say "I read your apology and it's accepted/it's not accepted/you suck/whatever" but she does seem to have sic'ed her Proxy Hiding Lawyer on me. I am not surprised by the lawyer, since by his comments he seems like a slimeball. No self-respecting lawyer would ever tip his hand to advise that he is going to launch a suit through an anonymous proxy-hiding posting, unless he got his law degree from the Nigerian Institute of Scam Law. However, I do admit that I am surprised by Ms. Ng's silence. I can understand if she doesn't want to post here, but an acknowledgement to my apology on her site: "I read your apology and "it's accepted/it's not accepted/you suck/whatever", with a proxy hidden "Me" post here to let my readers know would seem to be the proper thing to do. But then again, it's a free country and she can do whatever she wants to.

    • profile image

      Lisa 9 years ago

      I've got no dog in this fight. I visited this and Deborah Ng's for the first time today, directed from a third site I frequent.

      But I just wanted to say how silly I find this controversy. Ms. Eng obviously has a loyal following, and many of her die-hard fans have gone a little overboard in their desire to defend her.

      It's sort of telling that Mr. Licino cotinues to thrive on this controversy, while Ms. Ng has addressed the issue and moved on.

      He can't continue to argue his point if no one will argue with him.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      I have my plate real full for the next couple of days on deadlines, so I'm gonna have to keep this short: "Since most writers contribute towards the end of the week, should that have their content pulled it would only be up at FWJ for a matter of a few days." I'm sorry, but I doubt that anyone can tell me that is a clear sentence. The way I interpreted it was that the content was off. It could be read that way or one of many other ways. I am not blessed with ESP and thus can only tell what a person is trying to say by the words they write. When it was made amply clear from "whoever" was posting as "Me" that was NOT the intent, then I did the right thing. I apologized because if I implied that Ms. Ng was lying it was based on that muddled sentence, not on any other fact. My apology above explains EXACTLY what I misunderstood and makes eloquent amends. Am I going to reverse my stand and state categorically that FWJ Idol was the best-executed online contest ever run? No. The flaws are evident and even Ms. Ng has acknowledged some of them. Therefore, I'm perfectly happy to live up to the situation that I described in my apology. "Me" stated "And since you want to keep it friendly you really owe Deborah an apology for calling her a liar." I believe my apology was more than satisfactory to clarify my obvious misunderstanding based on the one mangled sentence she wrote. If Ms. Ng wants to sic Mr. Ambulance Chaser Proxy Hiding Moron Esq. on me, then I hope that she will like driving around town in my rusty 1985 Chevrolet Sprint. She's welcome to it since it's raining right now and I don't think it's going to start today. So go for it. I've got nothing to lose and I'll laugh so hard while her so-called attorney tries to sue me that I might crack a rib! :)

    • profile image

      Hmmmm 9 years ago

      You said:

      "it may have been due to the lack of clarity in your post response on your site which contained a sentence which was difficult to comprehend. ?"

      Deborah said:

      "All contestants were (and still are) offered the opportunity to have their content pulled the week after it was posted, after each week's voting. This is not my content to keep. I do not own the rights and the contestants are welcome to do whatever they wish with the content. One contestant who didn't make the cut requested removal and we were happy to oblige. Mr. Licino claimed we offered to pull the content after the contest was over - not true. We offered to pull each week's content after the weekly poll."

      How was this unclear? You can't tell us this isn't a hit piece. You're taking a few words here and there and using them for your benefit without showing the whole picture. Case in point is John Hewitt's quote.

      You said:

      "I found it very telling that an industry bigwig like John Hewitt from Writer's Resource Center stated that he thought that the "flack was inevitable."

      The full quote actually reads:


      I’m sorry to hear about the hit piece. I have to admit I thought that someone would take offense sooner or later. Contests like this always generate controversy. Your inspiration, American Idol, generates plenty of controversy and conspiracy theories. I still think the contest was a brilliant idea, but I’m afraid some flack was inevitable. In the words of a wise fish… Just Keep Swimming.


      Takes on a whole different meaning, doesn't it?

      You know why Deborah Ng is a success? She weighs all sides of the story and presents an unbiased point of view. She doesn't just up and trash people or their hard work. If she disagrees, she does so in a respectful manner without name calling, finger pointing and half truths. Even her comment policy is respectful.

      You sir, could take a lesson from Deborah Ng.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      OH... I'm trembling in my shoes! Oh well... I hope you like to collect lasagna. DOLT! :P

    • profile image

      anon 9 years ago

      The damage is done, son.

    • starcatchinfo profile image

      starcatchinfo 9 years ago

      HI, NICE HUB

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Ms. Deborah Ng: I wish to inform you that I sincerely, profoundly, and completely, from the bottom of my heart, never wished to hurt you or your operation which I respect completely and still do as I clearly stated in the original article. If it has been insinuated or stated by me in any way that you are a liar, it may have been due to the lack of clarity in your post response on your site which contained a sentence which was difficult to comprehend. Therefore, if I was in error on that specific fact, you not only have my complete, honest and unwavering apology, but I wish to voluntarily offer that I write a Hub outlining the spectacular, amazing, wonderful and magnificent work you have been doing on FWJ for years in helping hundreds or thousands of freelance writers, including yours truly, in finding good jobs, avoiding the myriad pratfalls of the business, and making good money. Prior to the writing of the Hub on this page, I had NEVER had any occasion to doubt your ethics, honesty, integrity or goodwill. If you operated FWJ Idol in a way that I, through my responsibility to my readers, saw fit to inform them of its failings, I did not EVER wish it to be construed that you were in any way a scammer of any type or form. We are both aware that FWJ Idol had its problems and you have been open with the "gaming" poll allegations to your credit. With the upcoming conclusion of FWJ Idol, I have absolutely no reason to question or doubt your operating policies as FWJ is a 100% class act. Once again, in the spirit of the brotherhood and sisterhood of freelance writers around the world, of which your FWJ community is one of the bedrock foundations, I extend my hand to you in friendship, respect, and deference in homage to your years of fine work and the many years ahead of you where you will surely continue your superlative service to the freelance writers who need your help. I am proud to be a supporter of FWJ and will continue to be one as long as you are operating it. Again, you have my complete and humble apology and complete retraction if you deem I have misrepresented anything about you or your ethics.

      Now, I will see you all in a couple of days! Bye! :)

    • profile image

      Me 9 years ago

      And since you want to keep it friendly you really owe Deborah an apology for calling her a liar.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      What, and give Mr. Peek A Boo Pro Bono something more to sue me for, like copyright infringement? Heck that might cost me my favorite Harley TShirt and maybe even my Las Vegas Dice Coffee Cup! :P It's on Go read it. Now I AM OUTTA HERE! ADIOS! SEE YA IN A COUPLE OF DAYS!

    • profile image

      Me 9 years ago

      Hal since you're quoting John Hewitt why not add his whole entire quote? You see to just take out the bits and pieces that (self) serve you best.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Oh, and to save everyone the trouble of coming up with conspiracy theories as to why I'm not going to reply for a day or so, let me save you the energy. I'M BUSY. Keep posting and I'll publish when I return. Keep it friendly or you go into the CyberTrash. :)

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Hi! Thanks to all FWJ fans for your comments on your site. I really appreciate all the innovative ways you've found to call me a scumbag. Very creative! :)

      It's me: "Since most writers contribute towards the end of the week, should that have their content pulled it would only be up at FWJ for a matter of a few days." OK, now, Ms. Ng is a freelance writer of some note and she wrote that abortive pseudo-sentence which can be construed one of a couple of zillion different ways? So what's the story now (as it seems to change a lot), only one contestant pulled out and wanted their stuff off while the other ones that pulled out wanted it left on? Or as you said conntestants (sic) but I won't make the obvious pun about conning... :)

      Denise: Ah, negative reactions. They don't faze me much as long as they're not trying to kill me. When you say that "In Deb's rebuttal, she clearly stated" are you referring to that mishmash incomprehensible sentence I just listed? That's clearly stating? Yikes! :) Denise, please review in the Hub and in the comments how many times I displayed my respect and admiration for FWJ minus Idol. If anyone takes that to reflect on the entire site, then they're obviously misreading.

      Amy and FWJer: I can't understand clearly what Ms. Ng is "clearly stating" so I await further "clarifications." But the real bottom line is that the content is there, it was not paid for, it is benefiting FWJ and not its writers, and no matter if the contestants went into it with wide open eyes or not, IT IS NOT RIGHT! WRITERS SHOULD BE PAID FOR 6,000+ WORDS! Sheesh! You'd think I was talking to a bunch of overclock/lappers, not professional freelance writers!

      anon: Yes, I did take the time to finally plough through 98 comments on that site. I found it very telling that an industry bigwig like John Hewitt from Writer's Resource Center stated that he thought that the "flack was inevitable." The rest was mostly the predictable Hal-bashing. Meh. Sticks and stones. There were some gems:

      "Did I say that Hal stinks? He smells, has incurable B.O. and is a poor writer. I bet he doesn’t brush his teeth either."

      Nah. I'm a good writer. But you're right about the other stuff. :)

      "I used to write for HubPages, too, as a columnist for one specific niche. I earned $5.00/article + ad revenue…"

      You got paid that since you didn't draw flies with your Hubs. I no rite no Hubs for no five dollahs, bubba. :)

      Those were really good ones. However, there were a couple that need a smackdown: "No response here, Hal? I mean posting as yourself, of course? Telling." What the HELL are you talking about? If you're accusing me like ape of posting anonymously, you can stop the accusations right now. The last time I posted ANYTHING on FWJ was well over a year ago. If you think that I've been playing hide and seek games you are 100% out of your mind.

      Back to you, anon, I find it rather funny that "an attorney" would WITHIN ONE HOUR post one comment from Taylorsville, Georgia, another from Amman, Jordan, and another from Novato, California. Dang gum it, I knew that dem dere fancy corporate jets you bigshot lawyers had were fast but I dinna think dat fast! And I'm the one accused of proxy hiding, where here we have the very first proxy hiding "attorney" I've ever heard of. Hmm... the interesting people you meet on the net! :) However, the funniest thing was that you want to get Deb to sue me. HAHHAHAHHHAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Dude, you have given me the best laugh since the bozo death threat punks at Geez, Mr. Attorney... I await your confirmation of my assets. I'll be glad to save you the time:1) 1985 Chevy Sprint, 200,000+ miles. Value (if you're lucky) $100.2) PC. Value (if you're real lucky) $500.3) Two pairs of running shoes, a couple of folding tables, a 20" TV and a whole rented house full of rented furniture. Value $100 on a good day.Too bad you didn't get me a couple of weeks ago when I sold my Harley. But it all went towards my credit cards so my current cash on hand is $284.07. You wanna garnishee my wages? No prob. I've been considering that I should stop working and write my Great Canadian Novels living rent free at my nice, elderly mom's home where she has a lovely bedroom waiting and three delicious squares a day. Try garnisheeing her lasagna and she'll bite you. Be forewarned. She still has ALL her own teeth! :)

      I look forward to your lawsuit. I hope your pro bono work is cheap! :)

      Oh, and did I tell you that you were (here comes my favorite word) A MORON? :)

    • profile image

      FWJer 9 years ago

      Hal Deborah Ng isn't a liar. She told all the contestants she would only keep their content up until the poll but they didn't want her to take it down. One writer did but the others asked for the content to stay. You should clarify this to your readers.

    • profile image

      anon 9 years ago

      Hal to be fair Deborah offered to pull content more than once and long before you posted this. All of the contestants but one requested the content stay up at FWJ. They would much rather have their bylines and links at such a prestigious site.

      One person did seek to have content removed and it happened right away. So Deborah didn't lie, you misrepresented the facts again, and you didn't see all the entrants' content because one person took it down. She didn't lie and your statement that "every single word" is still there is not true.

      P.S. I don't think it's necessary to save screen caps of all the content since the onwers of said content requested it stay up.

    • profile image

      Amy 9 years ago

      Hal -- I believe Deb only pulled content from those contestants who wished to have their content pulled. I know at least some of it has been pulled, because I went through the Idol Archives at one point wishing to reread a post, and it wasn't there.

    • profile image

      anon 9 years ago

      The reason the content is still on the site is because Deb offered to take it down IF the contestants requested that. Alternatively, she offered to add by-lines and bios. to the articles - again, IF the contestants wanted that. I fail to see how you conclude that Deb is lying?

    • profile image

      anon 9 years ago

      Hal I think if you're going to make this statement:

      "After years of educating and informing her writing community on how to avoid online writing scams, Deborah Ng set up one of the biggest sucker traps in the freelance writing market. "

      You have to provide proof. Your opinion isn't proof. How do you know for a fact Deborah Ng set up a sucker trap? Did she tell anyone this? Are contestants crying foul? Is anyone but you claiming this is indeed a sucker trap? No. So what proof -ther than your opinion and only those facts you wish to share with your readers, do you have that Deborah Ng knowingly set up a sucker trap?

      So if you're going to state Deborah Ng set up a "sucker trap" you need better proof than your opinion and a few comments that continue to leave out many details.

      This is a dangerous, slanderous statement and I recommend you re-word it to this as being your opinion.

    • profile image

      Denise 9 years ago

      You wanted someone to point out where you were factually incorrect. While several people have done that, apparently you are too busy dealing with death threats to actually comprehend what they've pointed out to you. Here is one glaring error that I will point out specifically so you don't have to read your own work looking for it:

      "Thousands and thousands of quality, unique words for no pay and not even any credit" (Regarding the credit part, this is factually incorrect. In Deb's rebuttal, she clearly stated that all bloggers who choose to leave their content on the site once the contest has ended will receive a full byline and links to wherever they want.)

      While I am not an active member of the FWJ community, I do frequent the blog for it's daily job postings. The blog has been instrumental in helping hundreds of writers, and your post bashing Deb for this contest seems highly unfair. Had you spoken to Deb before you wrote this, I believe you could have avoided much of the negative reactions you've received since this piece went live.

      I'd like to echo what others have previously stated, in that the truly sad thing about this entire article is the number of newbie writers you've undoubtedly turned off to Deb's site. These are writers who, never having visited Deb's site before, would possibily have benefited from the work her and Jodee do on a daily basis. Unfortunately, your negative remarks have convinced some of those writers that Deb's site is worthless. Good job - you must be very proud.

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      It's me 9 years ago

      Deborah Ng said on her blog she will not engage in back and forth with you so I'm going to do for her. I love playing devil's advocate. Hal, in your passion I think you missed a key detail. Deb <em>offered</em> all conntestants the opportunity to have their content pulled immediately after the voting <em>each</em> week. The contestants chose to keep their content there. Not because Deb exploited them but because the contestants themselves chose to keep the content on FWJ until after the contest when they would each be given bylines, bio and links back to their websites or blogs. And it's not all there in its entirety. One contestant did request to have his or her content removed and Deb and Jodee promptly honored that request. So you didn't pull up each and every entry, only the entries of the contestants who wanted to leave their content up. See Hal? Options. No one is being exploited.

      I do appreciate how you have no time to read through 93 comments but have time to troll Deb's blog (as well as various message boards where people don't like you) to find stuff to throw back here. It's tough being so busy and you have my deepest sympathies.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      David and MW, I have gone onto FWJ and read Ms. Ng's commentary on the front page of, although forgive me for not ploughing through 94 comments. I did conduct a foray into another and very interesting part of the site, however, as you will soon see:

      - Ms. Ng, please don't sue me for reprinting this excerpt without your express permission from your site but it is necessary to make my point: "Mr. Licino claimed we offered to pull the content after the contest was over - not true. We offered to pull each week’s content after the weekly poll. Since most writers contribute towards the end of the week, should that have their content pulled it would only be up at FWJ for a matter of a few days." Er... Ms. Ng. Please excuse me. But I just went on FWJ (not google caches, the actual site) and managed to pull up each and every single entry from the beginning of the contest in full. Yup, two months of content. All there. In its entirety. Every single word. Absolutely nothing has been pulled in. It's all on under the FWJ Idol tab. I have copied it all and have it here for safekeeping should it suddenly vanish now, like the entire death threat thread did on (which I also copied in full). I find it interesting that I'm being called a liar and a hatchet-jobber who didn't check my facts by the FWJ Faithful on this Hub, when Ms. Ng lays down a whopper like this one. Holy Toledo, Deb. I'm TRYING to give you the best benefit of the doubt, but you're shooting yourself in the foot by outright lying to your readership. You can't get far in this business by trying to obfuscate the truth when anyone who can click a mouse can see you're lying!

      - I fully believe that Ms. Ng is wholly ethical and it was her inexperience in running an online contest which is to blame for the problems. Leaving the issue of free content provision aside for a moment, the "gaming" of the polls was a result of the voting being set up so that it could be "gamed." Thousands of polls are run on the internet every day and most of them are set up with security features which Ms. Ng (again I continue to trust through inexperience, not malicious intent) did not implement. As for the outright whopper above... well... er... what can I say... my faith of non malicious intent is beginning to be chipped away.

      - I never stated FWJ was scamming. I stated Idol was an exploitation and I still believe that.

      - I don't believe this Hub is a hit piece, neither was it written for traffic as I have made amply clear in my comments. If I calculate the page views for this Hub since its writing, I strongly doubt it would buy me a stick of chewing gum.

      - Stating that FWJ does not own the rights to the content and don't expect exclusivity is so foolish as to be downright misleading. Exactly what is ANY writer supposed to do with content that will fail Copyscape? Paper their walls with it? No other web publisher in their right minds will ever give them a dime for it.

      - 22 people applied for the job. Yes, they did. However, they didn't do it through telepathy. Every one of them wrote SOMETHING. 21 of them will have written that SOMETHING for NOTHING. Some may have written "Hi Deb I want in." Others may have written enough words to fill a novella. Excuse me if you can't see the irony of the situation where a site which has been SO STELLAR IN PROTECTING WRITERS AGAINST GIVING AWAY THEIR CONTENT actually turns around and engages in placing tens of thousands of perfectly good, valid, custom-written, unique words into Google caches for eternity! If asked people to write an ENTIRE NOVELLA FOR FREE which I would post under A NUMBER on my site so that not only could they never use the content again (ah... that ol' devil Copyscape) but that I would stuff my site jam full with very attractive content, I would be in exactly the same boat as the scammers who prey on naïve writers and suck them dry while their traffic soars. NO, FWJ IS NOT A SCAM SITE. It is a respectable and wonderful operation. But this FWJ Idol is wholly misconceived and implemented with all the deftness of a ball peen hammer. 21 people write for free. 1 wins a job. Hey, there's worse deals out there so in and as of itself, I might have let it go uncommented. However, when you consider the reputation and the status of the site that it's on, it becomes inconceivable and inexcusable. As to how I would proceed if I were in Ms. Ng's place... I offered the two best options I can think of at the end of my Hub. I'd be more than happy to entertain other suggestions.

      The bottom line in my reply to Ms. Ng's commentary is as follows:

      1) You're still welcome to post a full original rebuttal. I will place it entirely unedited and untouched in a Guest Hub and pay you the rate you well know is a reasonable market value of 2 cents per word.

      2) I stand by every word I've written, including "sucker trap." Sorry, Ms. Ng, but my discovery that your FWJ Idol Archive is still stuffed full of two months of the content you stated you were pulling on a regular basis establishes that you are lying for some reason known only to you (and it may be malicious or it may just be naivete... it's beyond me to be able to make that determination.)

      Shadesbreath: Yes, there are some rather disturbing parallels to tobacco companies and home loan schemes here. I wish that wasn't the case, but in light of the FWJ Idol Archive online right now, it very well may seem as that could be true. I appreciate your comment and support.

      Oh, BTW, to ape: I don't appreciate the innuendo that I am writing comments on this Hub under another name. Prove your allegation or stay in the CyberTrash where you belong. But, then again, you ARE an ape after all! :)

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      MW 9 years ago

      Hal I tried to post this three times with an error so forgive me if you get it three times. I believe what anon hubber up there is saying is that Deb did respond to your post, just not on your exact terms. Anon is not asking you to read the comments she's asking you to acknowledge the post and direct your readers there for Deb's side of the story.

      Deb posted a full rebuttal at her blog a few days ago. That you are not responding to it or sending anyone's attention to it is even more suspect than what you are accusing her of.

      Thanks and hopefully this one went through.

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 9 years ago from California

      I don't know anything about that other site and can't be bothered to go investigate all this rot. However, I will say as an uninvolved observer, it seems the bulk of the opposition for Hal's point comes from the very site he writes about. Starts to look like defenders of the faith with all the testimonials lining up. Hard to tell if Hal is way off base or if he hit the nail on the head.

      I will say that all the arguments in favor of this contest because "they read the rules and knew what they were getting into" are the same arguments tobacco companies and rip-off home loan people make when their products are impuned. So, just, if anyone cares, that argument is a horrible one and makes you sound like a scammer to those of us reading this hub and comments just to be amused. I'm not saying you or that contest ARE scammers/scam, just saying when you use that argument, you convey the impression that you have no legitimate answer and are going to rely on technicalities and redtape to keep your reputation clear.

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      David 9 years ago


      What many of the posters here are trying to get at is that Deb wrote a response to your allegations. Is it possible for your to go back to the site, read her response (nobody else's, just hers) and comment on what she said about what you posted about FWJ, as it would provide a little more clarity on your position. It seems like (I said seems, no judgement here) you are ignoring her response. By all means, take care of your death threats issue first, totally understandable, just consider addressing her rebuttal when you come back to post again. Again, no disrespect.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      anon hubber: When I read your comment, I went to FWJ and saw that there were 93 comments on the site about this Hub. I'm just starting out a week where my primary concern is going to be 5 death threats, so I really don't feel like reading 93 people commenting on a page that isn't my own about how much I suck. I have enough respect for the FWJ clan to not have to go through 18 long pages of comments like I had to do on to pull out the death threats. I'm sure that no one over there at FWJ is crossing the line into felonies, therefore I'm more than happy to let them vent all they want. If they want to address an issue with me, I'm here and awaiting their comments.

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      anon hubber 9 years ago

      With all due respect, Hal. You're not being fair. Deborah Ng posted a response at on Saturday and you refuse to address this in any way. Even if you can't reprint it word from word you can still quote or direct your readers to her response. It would be the fair thing to do. When Deborah's commentors are saying something she doesn't feel is fair towards you (for instance you're working for a non-paying entity) she does respond so they'll have their facts correct. After such an inflamatory posts it would be better for your credibility if you alerted your readers towards Deborah's response instead of calling it suspect and making it seem as if she didn't respond at all. Honestly Hal, you're not doing the righ tthing here.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Ah... A lovely weekend spent at the lake and now back to a fun week of facing death threats and rabid accusations... I LOVE HUBBING! :)

      Karl: If you had a clue as to copyright law, you would understand that no one can legally copy and paste content from one site to another without specific permission of the original content owner. I have invited Ms. Ng to write a full rebuttal, and have even offered her fair market compensation per word. She hasn't replied other than to state that I should have talked to her first. The offer is still open, but her reluctance to reply is highly suspect.

      Blondie Writes: Where in the 3rd paragraph? Huh? Can you count to three? And kindly do not denigrate HubPages in my presence. How dare you state that "IF you had the experience you claim, you certainly would not be writing Hubs." You are displaying your ignorance and rudeness towards a reputable site that is one of the leading ones of its type and draws 7 million unique visitors a month. Go do us all a favor and go play with your building blocks on the freeway.

      Wess Stewart: Thank you for your informed opinion that both my blog and hers suck. As long as no laws are violated, you're free to write whatever you want about me, Ms. Ng, or Donald Duck on your blog. Just like I'm free to write whatever I want on mine.

      James Chartrand: Who am I to say what writers should do? Er... Who are you to tell me what I should write and what I shouldn't? Note that on top of your browser window there's an address bar. You are free to type in any other URL and go enjoy its content. You could argue that over on I should have minded my own business as if total suckers want to spend $47 for "Doc" Cohen / GoneBig's total SCAM secret code for huge AdSense revenue I shouldn't get involved. Instead I shamed the author by offering him $470 in cash if the code worked in a completely unbiased scientific test. His failure to agree to the challenge is just as suspect as Ms. Ng's failure to post a PAID rebuttal here. Where is the slaughter and bloodshed? (A bit dramatic, don't you think, Jamie boy... tsk tsk tsk... poor writing...) I called it as I saw it and I await a rebuttal. I am absolutely adamant that the facts in the Hub are correct, and am still awaiting Ms. Ng to prove otherwise. I happen to have something that seems to be rather rare online: It's called a conscience. I also have a responsibility to my readership to provide my perspective. That's made me one of the top bloggers on HubPages, and I'm extremely proud of that achievement.

      Genesis: I am very happy that you so overestimate my POWER. You place me at the level of CNN or maybe even the White House. As much as that is flattering, I have repeatedly shown my respect and admiration for FWJ's content in the Hub and the comments. Any reasonable reader will understand that it was FWJ Idol which was a "misbegotten and profoundly flawed" contest.

      Texas writer: Oh... I'm sooooooo sorry that I hurt mommy. I'll bring her flowers and everything will be ok. :) Here I am in the middle of an investigation on five separate death threats I've received from lunatic CPU lappers, and I'm supposed to have my heart bleed because Ms. Ng is taking some deserved heat over a contest that was so ineptly conceived and implemented that she was being blasted on her own site LONG before I wrote my Hub? This is the internet, Texy. Everything that can be justified as a valid opinion on facts goes... of course short of death threats and other illegalities. If a web publisher can't stand the heat, they should get out of the kitchen.

      Kathryn: Yes, "going to spare..." I believe I was extremely balanced when confronting this issue. You believe upwards of 12 posts of 500 or more words is reasonable. I call it a sucker trap. You say tom-at-oh, I say tom-ah-toe. And I work for general content for around 2 cents a word all the time. That's 2 cents per word more than the payment made for the words squandered by the losers of FWJ Idol.

      AC Gaughen: I'm not too sure about the contestants "are enjoying themselves pretty heartily." There is plenty of content on FWJ showing otherwise and a rather telling attrition rate of contestants who obviously got fed up running endlessly on the FWJ treadmill. If you earned scraps on HubPages, that either means that you didn't try hard enough or you're not good enough. Don't blame HubPages for that. "I have a great deal of respect for this site, its principals and what they have accomplished. Starting from rather threadbare obscurity, Deborah Ng has managed to maneuver her site over the years into prominence as one of the primary "go-to" sites for freelance writers seeking online jobs. The community of freelance writers that she has so carefully nurtured may just be the most active, cohesive and friendly in the online writing business." Exactly why am I telling people otherwise? About what? Make sense AC! Keep writing Hubs like you write comments and you'll have no one to blame but yourself for your lack of success.

      Lisa Russell: Prove that my statements in my Hub are factually wrong, or stop making your accusations. Are you serious about the contest entries being able to be "used elsewhere"? Where? In Writer La La Land? Ever heard of Copyscape? If you haven't, your freelance writing income must be feeding your family of 8 nothing but roadkill.

      anon: Did your momma have any kids that lived? :) First read: especially this part: "I started blogging on HubPages well over a year ago. In that time, I've published 234 articles, many of which virtually taken up residence on the Hot and Best Hub pages, and one of which got a quarter million page views! My total Google AdSense earnings to date have yet to exceed $500!" Then enjoy as I am this AdSense report for the past three days: Friday, August 15, 2008 $1.56. Saturday, August 16, 2008 $3.07. Sunday, August 17, 2008 $3.94. That's a grand total of $8.57 in three days ON TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY-SIX HUBS! If it had to rely on AdSense earnings, I'd have to ask Lisa Russell if she had an extra plate of roadkill. HubPages pays me and other top Hubbers a respectable and fair wage per Hub. That is public knowledge. The great thing about that is that it allows me the total freedom to write whatever I want without chasing traffic. Now, please.... go join Blondie Writes in chasing traffic... on the freeway.

      Nevada: I can't say that I've gone through the comments on this Hub for various anonymous posters using unique phrases, but thanks for looking out for me! Hey, as far as I'm concerned, as long as a poster doesn't threaten to kill me, they can use any name and any IP they want.

      bean: Thanks! To hear the cries and wails of the FWJ aficionados, you'd think that this was the first accusation against Idol. I'm happy that you went to verify with your own eyes that what I am stating in the Hub is correct.

      Karen Swim: I have no details incorrect. Prove otherwise with facts, not innuendo.

      Amy: Why don't you join anon in the "people who have no clue about AdSense" queue?:)

      Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to turn my attention to people who want to kill me. Have a nice day! :)

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      Amy 9 years ago

      It is a shame that you are unable to look at the opporunity Deb is presenting. To take a community that helps writers by finding them jobs and badmouthing it in order to get traffic to your site is a real shame. You, sir, are not a "writer" but instead someone who uses inflammatory words and lies in order to create discussions. You might feel good about the amount of hits your page has gotten over this, but realize that a large majority of those who have visited this page think YOU are the real scam and because of that, you come across as a real joke.

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      Karen Swim 9 years ago

      I am not a frequent commenter on FWJ but have followed the blog and have great respect for Deb and the service she offers. I have followed the contest and you have some of the details incorrect. It is a contest, hence unpaid. I do not see it as a scam when people willingly agree to participate in a contest. All of the bloggers are not writing content each week as there have been regular eliminations. The contest was meant to be a fun way to allow the community to choose a new blogger. It would have been nice to have had the issue raised with FWJ and received their feedback in advance of the article, particulary since it's a site that you respect. This post, has disparaged them and as noted some commenters will now write off FWJ as a scam site. That doesn't seem quite fair to me.

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      bean 9 years ago

      You know Im a big fan of yours but when I first read this I thougth that you were being a bit harsh. So I went onto that site and read through the archives for the Idol. You are absolutly right on everything you said. Dont let any comments from the fans of that site disuade you. There have been plenty of people on that site who have been complaining about it for weeks. Stand your ground as you really saw through it!

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      Nevada 9 years ago

      The use of proxies was a nice touch. If only the person hiding behind so many anonymous names didn't use the same unique phrases.

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      anon 9 years ago

      desperate for traffic much?

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      Lisa Russell 9 years ago

      I am a freelance writer, I am currently the sole income provider for my family of 8. My income pays our mortgage, groceries, medical insurance, car payments, you name it. I use Deb's site regularly to pick up smaller gigs.

      I don't think the #1 rule is "never give it away" because giving it away is often a great way to drive people to your site. The #1 rule should probably be "check your facts" and it doesn't look like you did that.

      I don't think you read Deb's rules thoroughly, because she's not insisting she keep the material on her site forever. She's not exploiting the writers, that's really a bit overboard. The things they write for this contest can be moved to their personal site or used elsewhere.

      What kind of contest pays their contestants? In some literary cirlces, writers pay to enter the contest.

      Congratulations on your success with hubpages. If you don't want to participate, you don't have to. Being ugly might get you hits to your site, but it doesn't make anyone respect you.

    • AC Gaughen profile image

      AC Gaughen 9 years ago from MA

      Hal, I think you're completely overlooking the fact that these contestants agreed to do this, and I'm sure are enjoying themselves pretty heartily. How could they be exploited? How could this be unexpected on their part?

      Additionally, it's a HUGE boon for the writers, because as soon as the contest ends they will be credited if they choose to keep their content up.

      Personally, this site has made the difference between earning me scraps on places like Hubpages and earning serious money for real jobs. I think that you are taking a cheap shot at a popular page to try and get your adsense revenue up--which, you know what, do what you have to do. But for anyone reading, this is bar none the best site out there to find freelance jobs. Don't let him tell you otherwise.


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      Kathryn 9 years ago

      Although you may not openly call FWJ or Deborah a scammer, you do imply it with one of the first lines in your post.

      "In this particular case I'm going to spare the usual biting sarcasm and corrosive vitriol I usually ladle onto online scams."

      I'm new to the site, but found the game interesting. If the contestants had only been required to post one article, it would have been difficult to get a feel for their knowledge and experience. Multiple posts gives the readers a feel for their range. Since they are competing for a prized spot on the site (that is known for helping and guiding freelance writers) then it is important to know more.

      I will admit that I can almost understand what the point of the above post is all about. The number one rule in freelancing is to never give away your work for free. But all rules are made to be broken. It has to be up to each writer to determine if the free work will be of enough benefit (at some point) to make it worth while. There is no way for me to decide this or anyone else.

      There are people that would say accepting $.02 per word is being taken advantage of, and I would agree. Unless the circumstances for that particular job made it worth while.

      In the end, competitions are always a risk and pay or no pay or byline or ghost writing will all have to come down to each individual and what is wanted or needed from the experience.

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      Texas writer 9 years ago

      Do you really have nothing better to do with your time? I've learned so much from Deb's freelance writing site over the past year, and it kills me that someone could be so hurtful.

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      Genesis 9 years ago

      I`m finding it very interesting that you mention you are sure you will be following FWJ after this Idol thing is over and you are confident that it will be useful . . . you just finished turning a ton of people away from the site. People who will never ever look at it again because of this hub.

      I have been reading Deb`s blog for a long time and have found it quite useful. The contest is definitely different, but if you took the time to actually pay attention to it, you would see that she hasn`t just offered to remove the content . . . she has offered to add bylines and bios. I don`t know about you, but having my byline on a site as big as hers is definitely an advantage. To the best of my knowledge, most of the contestants have opted for this option.

      Also, it`s a contest. People enter contests without expecting to be paid unless they win. It`s not a job asking for free samples, it`s a contest.

      You`ve totally inspired me to sign up to become a hubber and earn money for my non-combo McDonald`s meals. ;)

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      Blondie Writes 9 years ago

      Do you need traffic and hits SO much that you would do this to a fine person and their site? is a wonderful blog, and the ones that post to that blog are wonderful people. The very idea of you sinking THIS low is just sick!

      Sure, moderate the comments... you will still see this. You claim 30 years of experience... yet this one piece clearly shows that you lack writing and ethical experience. And IF you had the experience you claim, you certainly would not be writing Hubs nor would these Hubs be your only claim to fame. Yet you have the nerve to slander another who IS experienced and does very well with her work.

      You... are a shame.

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      James Chartrand - Men with Pens 9 years ago

      This is the worst case of grandiose thoughts and sweeping assumptions that I've ever seen. What's more, it preys on someone rather innocent who decided to open a volutary, unabusive contest for anyone who wanted a shot. You make some pretty big statements without looking at all sides of the coin, and I'm frankly disgusted.

      As a writer who frequently offers guest posts as a marketing strategy (and it's worked very well for me and for others, thank you very much), I'm rather angry that you feel you should choose what is right and wrong for individuals. Who are you to say what writers should do? Had I been in the Idol contest, is it not MY choice to write for free if I think it's the right thing to do?

      Deb Ng is someone who has earned my strong respect. She treats people well and makes very considerate choices. She also lets people walk all over her because she tries so hard to maintain top values and show good, desirable qualities.

      You have not done the same. Like a ravaging wolf, you've chosen to slaughter in bloodshed. What disgusting behavior.

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      Wess Stewart 9 years ago

      OK, I have been following her blog as well, and frankly, it's better than this offense.

      The contest is a cool concept. Go figure.

      Oh wait...this isn't a hit piece, it's only link get the joke now.

      Wait, you aren't joking? Surely...ok, maybe you are a dork.

      I'll have to scour your blog and make that determination, wherein I may just do a story on my blog...*evil grin*

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      Karl 9 years ago

      Anyone interestested in Deb's response from early this morning can see it here since Hal isn't posting it:

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Yes, I'm glad I checked my email one last time before heading for the lake. The disappearing comments were an unexpected glitch of when I changed the comments to be moderated (to keep the "jerkoff tard loser" comments off this page). They should all be appearing now. So, Jenn, the bottom line is simple: I only work for a fair and equitable wage and I will CONTINUE to fight to ensure that my fellow writers do as well. FWJ has always done that as well, and as I have stated ad nauseum, when this Idol catastrophe is over, I trust that they will return to their original mission that they have done so well for years. NOT RIPPING OFF WRITERS FOR 6,000+ FREE WORDS! As for my traffic, my over a quarter of a million legit page views and just check Best Hubs to see the rankings of my articles. So anyone who thinks I wrote this to get a couple of dozen hits off FWJ is clueless. Why did I write it? Because Deborah Ng crossed the line and set up a structure that exploited writers. And I will continue to write Hubs like this as long as my fingers can work my keyboard. My readers have the right to be made aware of what I perceive and believe, as they have made me one of the top writers on HubPages. Now, I'm outta here! C ya on the other side of the weekend! :)

    • JennHollowell profile image

      JennHollowell 9 years ago from Richmond, Maine USA

      You completely missed my point when you responded with the following:

      "JennHollowell, I have discovered in my long experience that when opening my mouth, I should first pull my feet out. Might not be a bad lesson for you to learn. Had you any knowledge of HubPages, you would know that the top Hubbers get paid a very fair cash fee per Hub published. That is over and above the relatively inconsequential AdSense earnings that buy me a nice dinner at McDonalds... if I don't get a combo meal. That is why I can concentrate on the content of my writing rather than engaging in SEO-fests which I REFUSE to do. And no, your 3 Hubs in 10 months don't qualify you as a top Hubber! :) "

      I never claimed to be a top hubber, nor did I mention anything about SEO. I was commenting on your claim to only be bringing in pennies as mentioned in your comment which (along with mine) is now gone. Ironic. Why did you delete them? Is it easier to try to insult me by saying I'm not a top hubber and that I don't understand hubpages than to leave the comments intact and agree that something valid and true was pointed out?


    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      anon, I don't appreciate people who insinuate that I wrote something when I did not. Can you please point out on this page where I have called FWJ Idol a SCAM?

      Anyway, I'm off to my weekend. Please continue to post your comments and they will all be approved and published upon my return (all except the ones calling me a "jerkoff tard loser with a tiny dick.") :)

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      anon 9 years ago

      A scam is defined as "a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation". How can this contest be a "scam" if Deb was completely upfront about all the details of the contest and all the contestants knew exactly what they were getting themselves into (eg writing free content, as you have pointed out numerous times)?

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      anon, thank you for agreeing with my basic premise, and of course, you are more than free to engage in any endeavor you want. I had full confidence in FWJ prior to Idol and I am sure that once this whole mess is behind Deborah Ng, I will have full confidence in it again. However, if anything like this is done again, I'll continue to live up to the expectations of my readership and I'm going to blow the whistle again... and again! :) You'll also find that if you average out all of Jodee's Job Postings (at least the legit ones and the ones that don't get flagged at Craigslist) 2 cents is the median wage. Go to and see how Third World writers struggle to get .3 or .2 cents per word. My ghostwriting is at around 20 cents per word, and my tech writing starts at 50 cents per word. However, I often write for 2 or 3 cents per word for general content. It's worth my while as I type 90wpm and it helps to pay the rent. If you can get $1 a word for general content, then what can I say... I tip my hat! :)

      JennHollowell, I have discovered in my long experience that when opening my mouth, I should first pull my feet out. Might not be a bad lesson for you to learn. Had you any knowledge of HubPages, you would know that the top Hubbers get paid a very fair cash fee per Hub published. That is over and above the relatively inconsequential AdSense earnings that buy me a nice dinner at McDonalds... if I don't get a combo meal. That is why I can concentrate on the content of my writing rather than engaging in SEO-fests which I REFUSE to do. And no, your 3 Hubs in 10 months don't qualify you as a top Hubber! :)

      Mike Witt, so are you telling me that I can't inform my readership on my platform of what is going on elsewhere? Did I miss the CNN story on how you were elected as the official arbiter of the First Amendment? I knew that there was a Hayes Code once, but I didn't realize there was a (Nit)-Witt Code! :) (Oh, don't get your nose all out of joint, it was just a pun!)

    • profile image

      anon 9 years ago

      I'll even pay Deborah Ng for her writing at the same fair basic rate of 2 cents per word that she denies her contestants.

      1. I have never heard of being paid for a contest entry - and Deb has never "denied" us payment since that was not the deal.

      2. Not to open a can of worms, but is 2 cents a word a fair price for writing? Most of us who write professionally start at rates 10-20 times that amount and strive for $1 per word.

    • profile image

      Mike Witt 9 years ago

      Ummm, Hal. Not for nothing, but if you were such a loyal reader of Deb's blog you'd know she responded some time ago on a post at FWJ . I wouldn't reprint it without permission though. That would be stealing.

    • JennHollowell profile image

      JennHollowell 9 years ago from Richmond, Maine USA

      "- If you took time to familiarize yourself with my Hub Writing you'd realize that whatever "extra traffic" this Hub will pull in should barely equal a few pennies. I don't play the SEO game with Hubs."

      I"m confused. You're saying that these writers are being scammed for writing "for free" . . . does this mean that you're getting scammed by for contributing "quality content for your readers" for little/no pay? How is this different? She hasn't lead them to believe they'd be doing anything other than competing in a competition for a paid writing gig. So, in a sense, these writers have volunteered their writing as guest posts. I'm sure you've seen guest posts before, right? These guest posts contain quality content without the hope for a paying gig eventually . . . does this mean that every single blog out there are scamming people because they request and encourage guest posting?

      Back to my original point: it seems you're doing the same thing here on Hubpages as you're trying to protect these writers from doing. Unless, of course, you're not being completely honest about the pennies thing in the quote above.

    • profile image

      anon 9 years ago

      I can see the broader point you are trying to make, and I have to say that I would not have participated in a competition of this type if I did not have full confidence in Deb and the purpose of the FWJ blog. For me, it was never about the $100/month that would be offered to the winning blogger. It was about taking a break from what I have been working on and trying something new and challenging. You are correct that there are many scams out there, and it is important for the new writer in particular to avoid being taken advantage of. Perhaps what distinguished this competitions from others of its type is that all of the participants were already established writers who genuinely wanted to spend time adding something of value to Deb's blog. I did not get the sense that the participants were naïve in any way.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      This defense of your favorite writing site is touching, but it's all a bit lacking in logic and common sense.

      #6: IF you win. Yeah, IF I won the lottery ($17 million today) I'd be on my own tropical island chasing the grass skirted hula girls with a lawnmower. It's always an IF, isn't it? Writing for $ is not, however. You write. You get paid. I'm sure that you can understand the benefits.

      Shawn Norris: "If you submit a short story" to a contest you are submitting a short story to a contest. Simple. You have full rights to submitting that story to another market once you lose. FWJ participants can't do anything with those articles now as they will never pass Copyscape. Furthermore, you submit ONE story. Not a dozen.

      There are NO inaccuracies in the Hub. Prove it or go play somewhere else.

      What part of "I will be happy to publish, unedited and in full, any such rebuttal" do you not understand? Not in the comments, but in a standalone Hub. And guess what? I'll even pay Deborah Ng for her writing at the same fair basic rate of 2 cents per word that she denies her contestants.

    • profile image

      #6 9 years ago

      All of our names will be re-revealed at the end, and I now have another writing credit: Blogger on FWJ (that I will not add until the contest ends.) The brass ring: If I win I will get a byline for an international, well-respected blog.

      I also think this has been a terrific experience overall and I've learned a great deal, including this lesson: The more successful you are, the more people want to tear you down.

    • profile image

      Shawn Norris 9 years ago

      Various Points:

      "Er... why is no one addressing the issue of the contestants not getting paid?"

      --Because they are contestants in a contest for a prize. The prize is the payment. That's how most contests work. Otherwise it's called a job.

      If I submit a short story to a contest, I don't expect to be paid unless I win that contest. Many of the contests that I enter are judged by popular vote--everyone sees all of the entries. Could that be considered giving my work away free? Sure. Do I see it that way? No.

      "I don't do backroom deals."

      --There is a vast difference between getting the facts and "backroom deals." The former is responsible journalism and the latter is a defense against shoddy journalism. Inviting a response in the comments is, frankly, a ridiculous practice. "The devil is in the details," as both you and a commenter stated. Perhaps if Deb Ng had been contacted for her side of the story, rather than being "invited" in the comments section, this article's details would have been much more accurate.

      The main fault of this article is that out of everyone who reads, comments, and participated in FWJ Idol, only one person could see that this was a scam contest. Everyone else was apparently too dumb to notice that these schmucks were being scammed.

      A quick read-through of FWJ's comments, though, doesn't support this assumption. Any time a contestant stepped out of bounds or a flaw in the contest was discovered, commenters let everyone know.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      "see all the the valuable information that writers are contributing"... yeah. For free! You may have neglected to point out that little fact. :)

      IMHO, and I DO reserve the right to express "my humble opinion" on my Hubs, the "big magazine" contests are valid ONLY if the contributions are published in a large circulation targeted print periodical. The FULLY CREDITED work which will be read by hundreds of thousands of readers can be well worth the effort even for the non-winners as great resume-stuffers and massive public exposure. That does not correlate with writing a dozen free articles when you're identified only by a number or a silly nickname. I'm also not aware of a "big magazine" contest that makes its writers submit up to a dozen free articles. If Deborah had structured her contest by having each contestant write one article and having her readership vote on its merits, that would have been one thing. This Idol structure is exploitative, and that's my stand.

      As for my Hubs receiving financial benefits from comments, not only is that ludicrous, but at least I don't wave the carrot of a job in front of readers for the best comment! :)

      And #6, can you tell me how your international exposure as #6 is going to benefit your career? Will you now market your writing under the pen name of #6? :)

    • profile image

      #6 9 years ago

      As one of the contestants, I have mixed feelings about your post. You label us as suckers, and yet you seem to have no problem exploiting all the 'free content' your readers provide you on a daily basis by filling up your comments section.

      (If you've ever posted comments on a blog or written/added to threads on a forum, then you've written 'free content.')

      I also do not agree with you that one should "never" write for free. Instead, writers should be very judicious about doing so, using the qualifying question of, "How will this advance my career?" There are many intangible benefits to consider, such as breaking into a new market or gaining recognition on a national level. It's not always about the money, Hal.

      I have enjoyed participating in the contest and do not feel exploited in the least. I see very little difference between this and the extremely common practice of guest blogging, with the added difference that one of us 'guest bloggers' will walk away with a blogging job on one of the most respected and relevant sites to freelance writers.

      It's hard to tell whether you really take umbrage with this contest, or are just posturing and using it in the vein of one the historically best marketing tactics -- create controversy and then fan the flames.

      As the cops say to looky-loos who block traffic to watch a burning building: "Move along folks -- there's nothing to see here."

    • profile image

      Blondie Writes 9 years ago

      You edvidently do not see the contests being run by the big magazine companies. Are they also scams? I am sure that having your name associated with such an incredibly poor hub page will find clients knocking down your door. You should be ashamed for demeaning a contest that can onlt benefit writers that might not have other means for potential clients to see their style and dedication to a community.

      Deb Ng's Freelance Writing Jobs has help hundreds if not thousands of people find work. The time that goes into running this site and finding good paying jobs for us poor folk to apply for by Deb and Jodee takes time and dedication.

      Anyone that believes in your horendous misconception of the contest should check it out and see all the the valuable information that writers are contributing. It is a great way for people to show their work.

      Big magazines do this all the time.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      anon, I'm very happy with the way I get compensated for my Hubs directly from HubPages. Although it adds up to a fraction of the income I receive from my other mainstream work, I'm quite content to keep Hubbing because I enjoy providing a service to my loyal readership. I do not engage in black or gray hat SEO ploys to sneak traffic onto my Hubs for the sake of a couple of AdSense dimes. My clearly outlines why I do what I do. I write Hubs that rely on their content to be successful, not byzantine linking strategies. The excuse that contestants were aware of the terms holds water only until you realize that there are hundreds if not thousands of "writing contests" online and all of them are well-populated with naïve writers who are giving their work away for the remote chance of "winning." Sure, if that's what a writer wants to do, they're fully within their rights. However, most of these contests are outright scams where no one wins and if a prize is actually awarded it goes to the contest operator's cousin. I'm emphatically not stating that IMHO FWJ Idol is rigged, but it can be seen to be structured to take advantage of the naivete of hungry freelancers. After all, by my count, the writer who becomes the runner-up will have contributed over 6,000 words of their content for free. Even at a bare minimum 2 cents per word, they could have made $120 selling that content legitimately. I believe that if most writers who are about to engage in the various "contests" calculated their returns in this manner there would be a whole lot fewer contestants! :)

    • profile image

      anon 9 years ago

      Hal, Perhaps the reason no one is mentioning payment is because the contestants did not make an agreement to receive payment for participating in the competition. The rules and terms of the contest were clear before we started.

      Second, if you are only receiving pennies for each blog post you make, does that mean you are being scammed or exploited? Of course not, because you already know in advance what to expect and are free to stop posting if you don't find it beneficial.

    • profile image

      anon 9 years ago

      As one of the original contestants in Deb's competition (eliminated from the first round), I can say that you are wrong to call this a scam. Each contestant knew the rules of the competition and had to weigh the pros and cons of getting involved. If we (the contestants) don't have a problem with the way the competition was organized, then I fail to see why it would be a problem for anyone else.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Various points:

      - Er... why is no one addressing the issue of the contestants not getting paid?

      - 22 initial contestants were on the first FWJ Idol Poll. There are 4 now. The 13 participated in the full blown contest, but all 22 wrote SOMETHING for free. Do you want a link?

      - If you took time to familiarize yourself with my Hub Writing you'd realize that whatever "extra traffic" this Hub will pull in should barely equal a few pennies. I don't play the SEO game with Hubs.

      - It also seems that some of the contestants themselves may have "misunderstood the spirit of the whole site" judging by the ones who have pulled out for various reasons.

      - What sour grapes could I have against a freelance writer job site? As a freelance writing job resource FWJ is one of the best around. It's this FWJ Idol thing that is highly suspect so let's not start obfuscating what is a very clear focus. And BTW, I have had nothing to do with FWJ Idol as a contestant, etc.

      - Are you stating that FWJ Idol is not a contest where contestants write multiple original unpaid content? And exactly how is whistleblowing on an unpaid contest going to "definitely affect my future?" Is jtabergas going to personally appeal to every one of the freelance writing job providers on Earth and inform them not to deal with me because I wrote this Hub and have a vendetta against Deborah Ng, as well as bad breath and an advanced case of body odor? In the famous words of Beavis as The Great Cornholio: "are you threatening me?" :)

      - I am surprised that Deborah did not address any issues other than "I should have talked to her." I don't do backroom deals. When something is placed for public consumption it has to be judged on its merits. I very clearly specified "I invite Ms. Ng to address these issues directly and give her side of the story," and that invitation is still open. I will be happy to publish, unedited and in full, any such rebuttal. I trust my readers are looking forward to such clarifications.

      As Mark Knowles pointed out, Deborah "probably never even considered that she was doing what she has been railling against all this time." I explained in my article that "I have a great deal of respect for this site, its principals and what they have accomplished," and I do believe that once this FWJ Idol debacle is behind her, Deborah will continue to provide a superlative service to freelance writers everywhere, including me! :)

    • jtabergas profile image

      jtabergas 9 years ago

      My only mistake was opening this link from FWJ. This is a very unfair judgment on a person who has done none of the things you've said. If you think that is what's happening at FWJ, then you have clearly misunderstood the spirit of the whole site. Shame on you. If you have problems with Deb, you should have talked to her first instead of launching an attack on her via this hub. This was a very unprofessional move on your part that will definitely affect your future.

    • profile image

      RobinMarie 9 years ago

      This piece seems to have just been posted for one reason: to draw in traffic. Pathetic. You call yourself a writer and experienced freelancer when you can't even get simple facts straight? I'm sure that's going great for you. Do a little research. It works wonders. For those who've read this post, you should really check out the site for yourself.

    • profile image

      Juanita 9 years ago

      You're right, the devil is in the details. Too bad you didn't pay attention to the details or you wouldn't have gotten some of the facts so blatently wrong.

      Ther are not 21 writers writing for FWJ - there were over 20 *applicants*. Of the remaining writers, as they are eliminated, they can have their material removed. No-one is forcing them to keep their material online.

      Sad tht you choose to trash such a popular site. Sounds like you've got some sour grapes.

    • profile image

      Nikki 9 years ago

      I've been a long time reader and commenter at Deb's site and I can say that Deb's a fair person. The writers who participate know what they're doing and they know how the content is being used. I don't see this as exploitation of any kind and I'm sorry to see someone does.

    • profile image

      Roberta 9 years ago

      This piece was written by someone just looking for a link back for some traffic. I'm now dumber for having read this post. Moving right along.

    • profile image

      Deb Ng 9 years ago

      I really wish you had contacted me prior to writing this piece for a more fair and balanced blog post.

    • Mark Knowles profile image

      Mark Knowles 9 years ago

      This is a shame. I can't say Deb is a personal friend, but we have interacted in the past and I have always found her to be honest and up front.

      I would hazard a guess that like many of us, she is having trouble turning a successful blog into an income stream, and this may have clouded her judgement.

      She probably never even considered that she was doing what she has been railling against all this time.

      Good hub.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      I do not know her personally, but as I stated in the article I have been following her site for years and I have always listed it among the best and most respectable online freelance writer resources. I don't know what has caused this sudden and appalling lapse, but I invite Ms. Ng to address these issues directly and give her side of the story.

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Deb is a personal friend of mine. I am not sure what is going on but I will continue to believe that she is completely upfront and ethical. She has, as you say, helped many, many bloggers and writers and I am sure will continue to do so.

    • Karen N profile image

      Karen N 9 years ago from United States

      What a shame, I had no idea that was going on over there.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      As a faithful reader of this superlative site for years, when I first realized what was going on with FWJ Idol you could have knocked me over with a feather. :(

    • Marian Swift profile image

      Marian Swift 9 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      I was just looking at that site for use in an existing hub and as a possible venue for my own stuff. Thanks for the heads-up. (...sigh...)

    • talented_ink profile image

      talented_ink 9 years ago from USA

      This is the first time I've heard of this site, but it's ashamed how a site that is supposed to be so helpful to all freelance writers can end up abusing the talents of those who entered the contest.


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