Sunday 29 May 2011

Singapore cool or boring? Stop feeding the CNNGo trolls

“Engage the trolls.”

So urged my ex-The New Paper colleague Ng Tze Yong in a column in The Straits Times on Vesak Day.

His advice totally goes against an old (by Internet standards) Internet adage: “Don’t feed the trolls.

So which advice should you heed?

In the first place, what are “trolls”?

We are, of course, not talking about those giant CGI creatures in the Lord Of The Rings movies, but the all-too-real ones you encounter online that can be even nastier.

Oxford defines a troll as a person who writes "a provocative email or posting intended to incite an angry response".

The recommended way to deal with a troll is to ignore him or her and the troll will get bored and go away.

But the troll must first be identified so that you’ll know to ignore the troll.

I believe I have just spotted a troll, but I fear I’m already too late.

Elaine Ee is a troll.

Who is Elaine Ee? you ask.

Ms Ee wrote an article for titled “The top 10 most boring things to do in Singapore”.

Her odd grabbag list includes “having dinner at the airport”, “daycamping at East Coast”, “indulge in a spot of gambler watching” and a few stock gibes at Speakers' Corner, shopping centres and local media.

(Elaine Ee declined to be interviewed by The New Paper.)

She introduced her list with: “Old habits die hard, in spite of Singapore’s efforts to shed its boring image, a lot of what happens here remains, well, boring.”

Them’s fightin’ words.

Whether you agree with her is irrelevent.

Yes, she’s entitled to her opinion, but you don’t write something like that and not expect a angry response from Singaporeans – all to drive traffic to

(The website has pulled similar stunts elsewhere.)

And it worked.

Posted on April 19, the article provoked enough online discussion that The Sunday Times reported it more than a month later, giving the website publicity and credibility it didn’t deserve.

Even today’s The New Paper On Sunday is jumping on the bandwagon by roping in actress-entrepreneur Irene Ang to rebut Ms Ee’s list item by item.

Hell, even I’m writing about it.

So why are we engaging the troll when we should be ignoring her?

According to Tze Yong, “for every troll who attacks you, there are 99 observers watching silently”.

Hence, we should “engage the trolls, but in a way that can win over the 99 bystanders”.

So all you silent bystanders out there, have you been won over yet?

If you earlier agreed with Ms Ee that Singapore is boring, you think Ang's “rebuttal” would change your mind?

Back in January, another CNNGo article by a different writer listed Singaporeans as the world's second “coolest” nationality, which also elicited some local press coverage because no one could believe it – even Singaporeans.

So Singapore is both “cool” and boring?

CNNGo should at least try to be consistent in its trolling and make it less obvious that it’s just throwing up random lists to get a rise out of people.

Remember this is the same website that listed Ris Low as someone “Who Mattered Most in Asia 2009”.

Just because it has the three letters CNN in front of its name, people actually take this site seriously.

Hey, I want to be a troll too! If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Singapore men are the sexiest in the world!

There, I’ve said it and I’m standing by it.

You’re going to ignore me, aren’t you?

Well done, grasshopper, I've taught you well.

- Published in The New Paper, 29 May 2011