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The Four Way Test For Proper Hub & Blog Writing

Updated on March 20, 2011

When David Edelstein, a movie reviewer for New York Magazine, NPR, and CBS, reviewed the latest installment in the Batman saga "The Dark Knight" he found it not at all to his liking. Edelstein set off a media firestorm and was subjected to hundreds of thousands of lurid online indignities when he expressed reservations over the extent of the blatant violence and other elements he deemed too "dark" for a general audience rating. His review ran counter to many of his critic peers who heaped praise upon the film, leaving an impartial observer to wonder whether the history of modern cinema would have to rank a guy in a rubber batsuit alongside Rhett Butler, Vito Corleone, and Citizen Kane.

My own personal views of "The Dark Knight" happen to coincide with Edelstein's, so I do have to admit that I am rather biased to sympathize with his perspective. In my humble opinion "The Dark Knight" is a repugnant slasher movie wrapped up in batparaphernalia. However, stating that completely personal opinion leaves a writer open to vicious attack from all sides, citing boorish insensitivity to the "great" last performance of an Aussie actor who, it turned out, wasn't smart enough to read the instructions on the bottles in his pharmacopia.

David Edelstein gets paid to write his opinion of movies. I get paid to write my opinion on HubPages. Unlike Edelstein, I don't write film critiques as they are generally subjective: Someone can love a movie that someone else despises. There is effectively no right and wrong way to write a personal review of a motion picture. Both viewpoints must be respected if (and it's a big if) they are based on the underlying indisputable facts. It would be erroneous for Edelstein or Licino to criticize "The Dark Knight" because we didn't like the nude scene with Jessica Alba. She's not in the movie, thus our article would not be based on facts. As long as what the Hubber or Blogger is writing is based on facts they have confirmed to the best of their ability, then when the rabid throngs descend from Slashdot or Digg or other sordid assemblage of web berserkers, the writer can confront the avalanche of maniacal criticism with the utmost serenity: In many cases, being right is not popular. But it is right nonetheless. And it always will be.

  1. Tell the truth
  2. Tell it well
  3. Know and serve your readers
  4. Fear no criticism

All Hubbers or Bloggers have to be aware that they open themselves to invective with every single sentence they post online. The magnitude of the affronts can certainly create a situation where the writer may waver in their convictions, but that would be the ultimate error. There are time honored principles that guide human relations and one of the most successful ones is a basic premise of the international Rotary Club, the "Four Way Test." Hubbers and Bloggers can look to this philosophy for a basic guide.

Although this "Test" is a superlative guide to interpersonal relations in business and life, keep in mind that writing a Hub or Blog is not subject to all the points of the Rotary Club's "Four Way Test." Only the first two apply: 1) Is it the truth? 2) Is it fair to all concerned? Bloggers and Hubbers should not concern themselves with 3) Will it build good will and better friendships, and 4) Will it be beneficial to all concerned. When I attack "Doc" Cohen and his $47 pure scam formula on The Secret Code I have no intent to build good will or better friendships with him. He is a scam artist. I am exposing his scam. I don't want it to be beneficial to him. I want to see him locked up so that he doesn't prey on naive suckers who send in forty-seven of their hard-earned dollars and receive a snake oil gobbledigook code in return.

As my Hubs gain prominence and notoriety, I am attracting more and more of the vitriol that David Edelstein now knows so well. These have escalated into multiple death threats on one occasion but my dealings with the Canadian RCMP federal police proceeded to promptly squash that situation. All the rest of the negative reactions have run the gamut from mild displeasure to fanatic ranting towards my Hubs. To that I say: Fantastic! It proves that thousands of people are reading my words and they feel strongly enough to get involved. Out of over 450 Hubs I have maybe a dozen with comments showing strong disagreement, so that 40:1 ratio proves that I am not out to stir manure in return for eyeballs. I've already explained in Hal's Not So Secret Method how the money I make off each Hub's AdSense is enough to buy me a Big Mac, but only when it's on sale for $1.99, so the accumulation of pageviews are most certainly not motivating me.

A fellow Hubber named Danny asked me to answer these questions and I am happy to do so. I am answering it on my own Hub and he is free to incorporate these replies in his own Hub, alongside his choice of expansive praise for my witty genius or vituperative opprobrium for my practice of sacrificing infants on the Satanic Altar... let 'er rip, dude... it won't be anything I haven't heard before:

Why didn't you contact Deborah Ng first before launching your attack?

I dare any level headed individual reading that Hub to state conclusively that I attacked anyone, including Ms. Ng. Much of the Hub outlines the respect I have for her site. However, Ms. Ng failed to implement various common-sense basic safeguards to FWJ Idol that are widely applied to similar online "contests." There are many thousands of words in the Hub and comments which clearly explain my completely valid rationale for exposing those aspects to my readers, so there is no point rehashing that here. Blogs and Hubs do not work in precisely the same fashion as, say, articles in a major metropolitan daily newspaper: By their essence, they are expressions of personal views. I don't think that anyone could rationally call HubPages a news site, as a major feature of these Hubs is that they should be as timeless and evergreen as possible. I trust Ms. Ng is well aware that in the online age, the web posting has taken the place of both the press release and the business card. The full details as well as the positive and negative aspects of FWJ Idol were openly published on her site. There was nothing more that Ms. Ng could add or subtract from those extensive details, she had been free to publish any factor at her discretion. As I stated, I don't make backroom deals. I call them as I see them. That's why my readers appreciate following my Hubs and why my numbers are as high as they are.

Writing for whatever compensation is the writer's choice - why did you continue your argument when it was made clear the writers themselves did not feel used, and were all too aware of the competition stipulations?

The considerable attrition rate of contestants who bailed out of the free writing marathon proves otherwise. The ones who stuck around did not "feel used" but for whatever reasons others did, and that's why they bailed. Regardless, I've more than amply stated my views on FWJ Idol and I not only stand behind what I have written but consider the issue closed, as does Ms. Ng on her site.

What would you say to people who accuse you of not doing your research properly?

I say put your money where your mouth is and give me a list of factual errors in any of my 450+ Hubs. If you can't come up with any, and you can't, then go take a long walk off a short pier.

What have you actually written, apart from HubPages and Internet posts? You mention a "best-selling book" - what is it? Surely you should be proud of such an achievement and would want to publicize it more?

Anyone who understands that a Ghostwriter is not the dude who wrote Ghostbusters is well aware that approximately 15% of all major books are credited to people who had very little to do with writing them. I refer you to my Ghosting Out Your Book Hub, where you will learn that ghostwriting is a major industry and one that is invariably is attached to a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Publishers of various celebrity autobiographies take careful legal steps to ensure the confidentiality of the fact the celebrity is so thoroughly uneducated they can barely spell dog or cat, and that some nameless scribe working out of a dingy bedroom in Peoria wrote the bestseller. The publishers that pay me have taken the same steps to protect their credited medical "authors." I currently have two books I have ghostwritten which have been translated into over a dozen languages and have made bestseller lists in various major nations. I've just completed a new book for yet another prominent doctor pseudo-author which is sure to be an international bestseller as well. They get the glory and I do the work, but at least I also get a nice paycheck. Don't believe me and think I'm making this up? Then let me send you the directions to your nearest short pier.

Handling controversy while keeping your conscience clear and your readership happy, indeed the very essence of Blogging or Hubbing, is quite simple. It can be incorporated in the Online Writer's Four Way Test:

Everything else is just background noise.


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    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      10 years ago from Toronto

      I have a great idea, smallbizpro! Write a Hub about it! But I told ya, from my end, the conversation is O - V - E - R ! :)

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      10 years ago from Toronto

      Ananta65: Thanks for the kind words. I know I've got a long way to go before I reach average, so I can now stop struggling! :)

      Adam B: Actually the trashing was not related to The Dark Knight, but to my objection to computer enthusiasts who take soapy water and sandpaper to the top of their CPUs in the absurd assumption that they will run cooler. It's just as pointless a topic to get worked up over, I know... but the web is full of loonies! :)

      Toritseju2007: Thank you. Much appreciated!

      Sally's Trove: Thank you as well. As a long time Rotarian, I've lived much of my life under the 4 way test so I believed it was an apropos motto to modify and apply to web writing.

      Shirley Anderson: It's made over $550 million so far, therefore the studio won't miss your rental fee. It's a fine movie if someone's idea of entertainment is Hostel or Saw, but if it would be wrong to think that any rational adult can take kids to see it without walking out less than halfway through it.

      talford: Thanks!

      The Old Firm: I promise to reload the fountain pen with fresh vitriol and keep enlightening and provoking. Oh, and my bro Tweedledee says Hi! :)

      ajcor: Thanks for your concern, but as soon as I turned the issue over to the Canadian RCMP police, the whole situation suddenly settled down. I consider it closed, but CPU lappers are still morons. I not only fervently believe that, I may even have it engraved on my tombstone! Especially if one of them does carry out their bravado comment! :)

      Allena Garden: Wow! Thanks! I appreciate that! I'm smiling from ear to ear! :)

    • profile image

      Allena Garden 

      10 years ago

      Hal once again you prove you're the man.

    • ajcor profile image


      10 years ago from NSW. Australia

      great hub Hal Licino - your credo works for me. Sorry about the death threats.

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 

      10 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      The way your mother dressed you explains so much. A chubby scribe who looks like Tweedledum needs vitriol in his pen for self defence. - But if you do get sick of writing enlightening Hubs any second-hand car sales yard will snap you up. Just loose the little green cricket that lives on your shoulder, shove a piano keyboard in your mouth, and invest in lots of flashy pens.

      Please don't rush of to do that just yet though, We The Great Unwashed need further enlightenment - or provoking, if beyond the other.

    • talford profile image


      10 years ago from U.S.A.

      Tell the truth Tell it well Know and serve your readers Fear no criticism

      Precise and to the point. Thanks, Tom

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 

      10 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have not seen the Dark Knight, and now have no desire to.  Thx for saving me the rental fee and waste of a couple of hours, Hal.

      Re being verbose...I've suffered from that affliction all my life.  It was one of the first 'literary' words I learned, as I heard it from my teachers constantly.  There ought to be a telethon, or something.  We could be Jerry's kids until they find a cure.  :)

      I think your Four Way Test is a good guide. You can't possibly go wrong if you use those points as your check list.

      Great and interesting, as always!

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      10 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      I took the words of your four-way test, enlarged them, and put them up on my wall as a daily reminder of how I want to approach not only writing but life in general.

      I find your last "way" stimulating in its semantic ambiguity: One can fear the absence of criticism, or one can be unafraid of its presence. Both are worthy of thought. Well said.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great piece. Very enlightening

    • profile image

      Adam B 

      10 years ago

      Hey there Hal, this is the first Hub I have read from you and I am very interested in reading more. I disagree with your opinion The Dark Knight but I can't believe someone would get so worked up about it to trash you about it. I actually do my share of movie reviewing and haven't gotten anyone who attacked me becasue of my opinion, however if the directors or actors I gave poor review attacked me, they might have a solid argument. Plus, what the hell are you writing that gets you death threats? Anyway, keep up the good work and I look forward to reading more of your hubs.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Always stay yourself, Hal :) We've got enough average people as it is.

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      10 years ago from Toronto

      Thanks for the kind words compu-smart! I appreciate it!

      Ananta65: Glad you like the test. I learned my craft way back in the day when we had column inches to fill and the current web-based paradigm of "write the equivalent of a Harvard MBA course in six bullet points, three hyperlinks and a call to action" didn't yet exist. Therefore, I am a verbose S.O.B., but that's the way I was taught, and that's the way I'll stay until my arthritic fingers are so bent they can no longer tap the keyboard! :)

    • compu-smart profile image

      Tony T 

      10 years ago from London UK

      Another excellent read and good advice!!

      Good job Hal! :)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I like the four way test. Without knowing it I've been practicing it all the time. Personally I think that you take the long road (too long for me, anyway) to get to your point, but hey, who knows? I might enjoy "The Dark Knight" :)

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      10 years ago from Toronto

      Hi, welcome and thanks for the kind words!

    • agnesgriffins profile image


      10 years ago from Philippines

      Hello all,

      This article is very useful and remarkable. Nice to be here and part of this community.

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      10 years ago from Toronto

      Welcome to the world of hubberitizalatrinacatartialitation! All Hubbers are welcome to my hub-mble pages... well... with the exception of L. Ron Hubbard. Yeah, it's a really good idea to have the bandaids ready as there are a few sharp edges, but overall it's a total blast! :)

    • 60 Second Man profile image

      60 Second Man 

      10 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I'm new to hubbing (hubbering? hubberating?) so this article is helpful for me to see the double-edged sword that comes with being part of any community is alive and here on hubpages. great reputation building advice in general, too.

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      10 years ago from Toronto

      solarcaptain: Unfortunately I'm only getting a google entry page on your link. Can you confirm?

      Chef Jeff: Thanks for the comment and the support! It's too bad that any Hub that makes the long arduous climb up the Google rankings attracts a wide variety of wingnuts who believe that describing in detail how they would hack up your genitalia substitutes handily for civilized discourse. I guess it just goes with the job. I most certainly am not a Biblical prophet as I'm far too overweight and love my ice cream to be an ascetic. As for the Taliban ruling HubPages, I'm not completely sure. I haven't seen Maddie Ruud in a burqa yet, but I did catch a glimpse on Al Jazeera of a guy in an Afghan cave who looked a lot like Paul Edmondson... (jus' kiddin'... don't shoot me...) :)

    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 

      10 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      I haven't seen the latest Batman flick, and I feel sorry that Heath Ledger is dead, but if I agree or not that the movie, or any movie, is really all that good or bad, it is my opinion.  If I wanted to get beat up (vernally or physically) over expressing my opinion then I'd move to some place where they tear your guts out (literally) or take off your head for daring to speak your mind.

      I had always thought that freedom was not simply to do and say what everyone else does or says?  I learned in Sunday School that the people who killed "prophets" ended up worse for it.

      You may not be a Biblical prophet, but your expose of a scam should be commended, not berated.

      In short, the Taliban does not yet rule over the Hub pages, so to those of you who threaten bodily or physical or any other personal harm, get used to it or get another place to vent and spew your hatred.

    • solarcaptain profile image

      mike king 

      10 years ago from california

      yes sir -you got it right. there are some of us that are even downright offended by a cross-dresser with a rubber fetish and a "boy' friend" on call. Or does he live there? I dunno?

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      10 years ago from Toronto

      Thanks for your comment, esocial. There are countless billions of web pages on the net. Never before in human history has there been any market of any type with this level of competition. In order to attract and maintain a reader who has the choice of trillions of other words to read in their precious time, they have to be well aware that the writer has their interests first and foremost. Yes, anyone can attract pageviews with some wild claims on a page that's been SEOd within an inch of its life, but will the reader ever come back?

    • esocial profile image


      10 years ago from California

      Amen to "serve your readers." Too many serve themselves!

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      10 years ago from Toronto

      Yeah, except when you look at the comments on some of my more incendiary Hubs, you'll see that most criticism is mostly attacking my sexuality or justification to exist! :)

      I took that one criticism to heart and it really worried me. I didn't wanna break my elderly mom's heart. She just loves to dress me in green checkered jackets, violet paisley bow ties, penny loafers, and puddlejumper trousers with the belt up to my armpits! :)

    • funride profile image

      Ricardo Nunes 

      10 years ago from Portugal

      LOL, 4. Never fear constructive criticism :p

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      10 years ago from Toronto

      Well, I did waver once on #4 when somebody said I was ugly and my mommy dressed me funny... because it was true! :)

    • funride profile image

      Ricardo Nunes 

      10 years ago from Portugal

      As always very good advise from you Hal. After reading many of your hubs it´s easy to determine that you always followed the 4 way test ;)


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