I’ve been blogging now for around five years. In that time I’ve published about 2500 posts and gathered 4000 or so comments. Prior to blogging I wrote freelance for magazines and the odd newspaper. I’ve also sent out around 26000 missives on Twitter in the past few years – so it’s safe to say I’ve commented on a lot of things – far and wide. While the majority of my posts or tweets gain little or no feedback, there have been a memorable few that have gained lots of feedback – some positive, some not so much.

Like I said, my topic list is wide, and if you look at what has garnered attention of late – you’ll see it spans such varied topics as the problem of teenage drinking, the debate around ultrafast broadband in New Zealand, and the benefits or otherwise to New Zealand of high profile exits. I’ve also commented extensively around the problems associated with moving manufacturing away from New Zealand.

My reasons for commenting on an issue fall into one of two categories. Firstly I might write about something because I have a particular opinion that I feel deserves some attention. Secondly I might write about an issue not from the perspective of one side or another, but merely to encourage discussion and debate.

Often I’ll write opinions that differ from the widely held view. This was certainly the situation in the case of my comments around UFB and the sale of Charlies orange juice. And it is after the latter comment that someone who I have a lot of respect for made a comment that I believe was unfair. Lance Wiggs made the following comment, recorded here in perpetuity as a workaround for Twitter’s lackluster data retention;


(Some background – after the founders of Charlies orange juice sold their company to Japanese brewing giant Asahi, I questioned the general though that sales like these create serial entrepreneurship and a flow on effect for New Zealand).

Anyway – I don’t consider that my comment was trolling. Yes it was a contentious comment that goes against the generally held view of the world. But this does not equal trolling in my mind. According to Wikipedia, a troll is someone who;

posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

That’s not my gig. While my views may sometimes be inflammatory to the establishment, they’re not extraneous nor off-topic (not that anything on Twitter is truly off topic). Further I don’t post to elicit an emotional response – rather to stimulate thought and discussion. The post that was published by NBR about ultrafast broadband was accompanied by one that Lance himself wrote taking the opposing view. I respect his right to put an opposing case, and wouldn’t accuse him of trolling (or perhaps reverse trolling) – he was simply expressing an opinion.

That’s the great thing about the internet, and something that I believe should be protected: the right of people to express an opinion and to engage in discussion around a topic. So no, contention!= trolling. Vive la difference!

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • “posts inflammatory….. messages in an online community… provoking readers into an emotional response”

    Seems to sum up some of the recent posts though Ben. I’m not suggesting you toe the party line, whatever that is, but you have to admit you like to write to get a response.

    • Getting a response isn’t trolling Lance. Rather it’s a chance to stimulate discussion and debate… that’s a good thing in my books…

    • Well i guess that depends… i personally find tweets such as these from Rod inflammatory

      “@roddrury Rod Drury
      Skype video calls to the US from home office is so efficient. Imagine HD and multi-party. Come on @PacificFibre”

      “@roddrury Rod Drury
      Isn’t the introduction of competition wonderful. computerworld.co.nz/news.nsf/news/… go @PacificFibre

      mainly because its self serving BS… which Rod (as a very clever man) is actually very good at.

      You could well argue that Rod’s comments on the NBR article about Ben were inflammatory, off topic and extraneous – i’d go as far as to say deversionary … he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar… But then, Lance is a Rod fanboy so you know. (is that inflammatory??? or calling it as it is?)

      Ben, all progress is the work of unreasonable men. George Bernard Shaw

      Keep asking the questions,

  • All for healthy debate but is it really healthy when the subject at hand is a no brainer and quite clear to begin with?

    Then all the debate seems to serve is to confuse the issue and potentially hinder essential momentum forward.

    I’m thinking of your recent blog Is There a Case for Ultrafast Broadband?

    Not all negative feedback here though, for the most part I think your blogs are excellent and enjoy reading them.

    • Hi Josh – don’t want to relitigate but many of the comments around the UFB issue suggest that it is not a no-brainer at all.

      That said, thanks for the feedback – it’s nice to have a hat tip sometimes!

  • Ben, Lance

    Not on the troll point but on the point of your original twitter conversation re: Charlies.

    The point missed by both Bernard and Ben is that Stefan Lepionka, the main man behind Charlies, is a serial entrepreneur. This is his second exit. He sold Stefan’s Juice to Frucor/Enza in the late 90’s.

    I’ve no doubt that he’ll do something interesting with the proceeds of this sale.

    Also noticed that for all the ‘let’s keep these assets in NZ’ talk, juice is a global business. If you want to take it global you need global distribution partners. There are no parallels with the online world where distribution is easier (relatively).

    In my mind the appropriate comparison for Stefan’s is the 42Below deal (which, incidentally, is now funding Ecoya and the purchase of Trilogy).

    • Miki – now that is a fair comment. Stefan has done well, I remember when he started squeezing orange juice in an old washing machine while still at school. And hopefully his payout is low enough that he’ll be inspired to rinse and repeat (nice washing machine circular metaphor I got in there).

      Anyway – thanks for your comment

  • Doesn’t look like trolling to me. You blog on business issues — and as per the title of your site — with diversity.

  • what you said is not inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic ben. we all take punches from commentators (even you!) and harden our game accordingly. So just harden up i say to those against you.
    We’re all big kids here and can see a troll when one is around I personally don’t need troll nannies in the stream to help me identify one. can think for myself.

    p.s. “opinion” is only “inflammatory” if you have anger management issues. imao 😉

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