Wateen Spampaign on Pakistani Blogs

I can’t say that I’m disappointed with Wateen, as I don’t really care at all about that brand or whatever they sell, be it bandwidth, cell connection or water-balloons. I do have a serious problem though, when there is an intrusive attempt by corporations to use my belongings (this blog being one) or my surrounding to  sell their products – and Wateen did just that!

Today, around noon, I received a comment spam from Wateen advertising their broadband packages on a post that has nothing to do with broadband.

Exhibit A - Spam by Wateen
Exhibit A - Spam by Wateen

The spam was sent by a certain H. S. Kiani (probably a desi John Doe) from the IP, with the email waristerrorism@yahoo.com.

I whois’ed the IP to verify that it was official Wateen spam generated from their own servers (and not a negative marketing campaign by one of their competitors), before trying to call their tollfree number and asking them about a certain Mr. Kiani, and was amused to see that the IP belonged to PTCL.

Despite being a very satisfied PTCL customer, I sent an email to Mr. Kiani, showing my interest in their amazing offer, and I also added him up on Yahoo Messenger, but so far there has been no response from him. If he does reply (one can dream, no?) I intend to ask him a LOT of questions.

A quick look at my analytics plugin (Open Web Analytics) revealed that the visitor had hit the same post twelve times before submitting the spam.

Rasala Group Spam
Wateen Spam

In parallel, I was also asking my tweeple on Twitter if they had received the same spam today, and not surprising, many of them confirmed their blogs, or the blogs that they read, were targetted by Wateen today as well. Here are a few tweets from this noon, recording things as they were uncovered. The ones in italics are mine.

  • Nice! Wateen (or some Wateen rival) just sent some comment spam about their broadband on my blog, including their URL and phone #! about 2 hours ago from TwitterFox
  • Has anyone else from Pakistan received comment spam from Wateen about their 1mbps package today? about 1 hour ago from TwitterFox
  • UzEE @reallyvirtual Lol. Tell them you wont remove the comment if they give you 6 month subscription free. about 2 hours ago from mobile web in reply to ReallyVirtual
  • @uzee I’m emailing the guy who spammed me, and calling the Wateen # mentioned afterwards. Funny thing, they used PTCL IPs to spam! about 1 hour ago from TwitterFox in reply to UzEE
  • phpgurru @ReallyVirtual I also received wateen spam from the IP 40 minutes ago from TwitterFox in reply to ReallyVirtual
  • aqeeliz @ReallyVirtual Quite a few other Pakistani blogs I read have gotten comment spam about Wateen package. less than 5 seconds ago from web in reply to ReallyVirtual
  • harisn @aqeeliz @ReallyVirtual I also got that Wateen spam comment. Infact I still have it in my pending comments hehe 8 minutes ago from m.slandr.net in reply to aqeeliz

Shafiq from Shafiq.pk also shared that the text in the comment spam is the same as the one broadcast in Wateen’s radio ads, so this is a coordinated campaign. Aamir Atta pointed out this article by Bites85 on his blog propakistani.com that notices the recent rise in spampaigns by Wateen and other telcos very recently, so at least a few other bloggers have noticed as well.

This is the normally the point in the post where I start my rant, but it is almost my bedtime so I will not spread a lot of negativity, and instead, I will just ask a few questions and hope that the relevant people (read Mr. Kiani & Co.) will step up and answer them. What I really want to know is:


  • How could you possibly conceive a spampaign in the Pakistani Blogosphere and not worry one bit about it backfiring? Do you think the Pakistani bloggers are so naive that we will let your comments pass by unnoticed and let them stay on our blogs?
  • How can you support bloggers’ meetups all over Pakistan one month and spam the same bloggers the very next month?
  • I wrote down my email and blog URL on paper during LBM08 , which was supported by you. Did you take the URLs so that you may add me to your spam list? Did I opt-in? or are you spamming all the blogs aggregated on bloggers.pk ?
  • Do you think I will trust your brand in the future, after you abuse my contact information?
  • I was all praises for LBM08 and still think its effect as a catalyst was significant, despite whatever motivations you had as a supporter. Do you think that I’ll feel the same way the next time you support any event?



  • Did you receive the same spam from Wateen this week? Care to share your  blog URL?

Enough questions. Time to sleep.

Your Brain: Your Garden

brain-gardenMy son likes to watch Mr. Bean, which is a little worrisome for me, as I do not believe in ‘harmless  and silly fun’. While good humor and puns certainly  stimulate your brain-cells (aka neurons), I think that part of the reason people are amused by Mr. Bean, Charlie Chaplin (or any of the  situation comedy heroes who are typically getting into trouble because of their stupidity) is because watching such shows offers them comfort and relief in the knowledge that some other person can be dumber than themselves – and the feeling of having a relatively higher intelligence is enough to boost their self-esteem and actually make them laugh.

The above is just an unproven personal theory, and since I’m not a psychologist by trade, so I will probably not bother to research this idea any further, but that doesn’t stop me from telling my son that “If you watch too much Mr. Bean, your brain will slowly shrink into a pea-brain and you will start acting like Mr. Bean”. I believe it is fair, since he also knows that his brain grows and expands whenever he reads or plays games, so that he can balance the Mr. Bean silliness with some reading or games.

It seems that I am not that far away from the truth, as this recent neuroscience study from Leicester University suggests that we tend to dedicate whole neurons in our brains to a celebrity or even a fictional character. The study involved showing pictures of celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Oprah Winfrey to test subjects, and detecting the neurons that were fired! After this calibration, it is possible to tell whether a person is looking at a picture of Jennifer Aniston or of Halle Berry simply by monitoring their brain cells.

This phenomenon must have a lot of applications  in the Neuromarketing and the Psy-Ops markets, and is definitely the basis for  celebrity sponsorships and endorsements, but more importantly, it has implications within our own relatively ordinary daily lives. The next time you sit in front of the TV for a few hours of entertainment, or decide to watch a movie, you might want to assess whether the neuron-to-entertainment-value trade-off is worth it for you before giving away a few more precious neurons in your brain. Of course, if you don’t intend to use all those extra neurons, then you don’t really need to watch what you are watching.

So what kind of neurons are you growing in your brain, and what kind of stuff is your head filled with?  If you can spare a few, please stare at my avatar for 3 minutes without blinking 🙂

Google Says No ‘Doodle For You!’

It started with the perceptive ProPakistani people noticing how Google has never had an Islam themed doodle on their homepage, and Dr. Awab picked up the discussion the next day.

I personally think that Google not showing any Doodles for Islamic events has something to do with their “Do No Evil” policy  😉 Seriously though, while Google can not be forced to cater to each segment of their customer base, especially since doodling is the secondary responsibility of the guy who creates them, but given that Read more “Google Says No ‘Doodle For You!’”

Visual Pollution in Lahore

I often spend my early mornings on the porch, recounting the wires outside my house (twenty-four in total, including the electric, phone, cable and a couple of unidentifiable ones) while I take in my morning nicotine hit. My neighborhood is a closed ‘colony’ with no shops or commercial activity allowed inside its premises, so I was surprised to find a billboard advertising the “naturally thick relationship of Haleeb with Pakistan”, along with a Pakistani flag right outside my house on one of my favorite poles last week (true, the pole isn’t exactly pretty, but the billboard was uglier).



So, in the evening, when my son asked me if ‘our neighbors would think we have started selling milk and come to buy some’, I started thinking of my options to get rid of the hideous billboard.

  • There was the pacifist approach – going to the colony committee (or whatever they call themselves) and asking them how and why they allowed these hideous billboards inside and how much money was involved.
  • There was the vandalistic(?) approach – taking a can of black paint and painting them all black (ala The Rolling Stones)
  • There was the extremist approach – taking a knife and slashing away the billboard.
  • There was the activist approach – pasting these “You don’t need it” stickers from the Anti-Advertising Agency on all the billboards and taking a picture, and perhaps contacting the agency handling Haleeb campaigns


As I did not have a printer readily available, so I was inclined towards the one that let me use a knife. Before I could hack and slash however, the billboards were gone on the 16th of August.

I used to think that we do not have underground electricity in most of Lahore due to the high installation costs, but my new conspiracy theory is that the advertising agencies probably pay LESCO and PTCL to make sure they have plenty of poles available.

We should take a long and hard look at Brazil. Before we can solve a problem, first we have to identify it and acknowledge its existence. Only then can we come together and draw the lines to make our city/country a better place and improve our quality of life just a tiny bit.

Haleeb, by the way, is not getting any more of my business in the future.

Over-Promised and Under-Delivered

It is better to promise little and deliver more, instead of the other way round – this is a valuable lesson that we shouldn't have to learn – it should be painfully obvious. And yet, when we enter the 'real world' with infinite energy and little experience but enough ambition to conquer the world, we hastily agree to overly optimistic deadlines. Most often, we end up revising the same deadlines that seemed easily manageable a month ago, apologizing to the boss/client all the time, and putting in all-nighters and watching in desperation as two new bugs surface after one is fixed. Then we grow up, and learn to multiply both time and cost by a number much greater than 1.0 before estimating anything. We still miss deadlines… but we feel less stupid about them, and can charge more in some cases… but I digress…

What I wanted to say is, PTCL botched it.

PTCL announced that they will double the bandwidth on the 1st of March. They failed to deliver on that promise, the reason: "it's a weekend, our staff is not available, we will do it on monday".

The bandwidth was still not upgraded the next week – the reason: "We need to upgrade the ports from Islamabad, so it will happen in a single transaction for ALL the Pakistani users".

Yesterday (14th of March, half the month gone), I got an SMS from PTCL when I woke up at noon, telling me that my package has been upgraded to 512kbps 'according to my request' – so I turned on my machine, but the router was still showing 256kbps. After 4 hours, I called their helpline and asked them why had they sent me the SMS when I was still getting the same old speed? The lady (who sounded overwhelmed) asked me for my phone number, and then told me that my upgrade was in its final stage, I asked her how many stages do they have, she said "four". She said it should be complete "any time now", so I said thank you and hung up.

24 hours later (almost 9AM, 15th of March, 2008), I still have the same speed. After looking at the time and realizing that it is morning already, I just called their helpline again (yes, you can call this live blogging too) and told the PTCL rep that I was getting the same old speed despite their SMS – the girl at the other end took my number, checked her system and told me "Sir, our systems are still showing 256kbps". I swallowed the compulsory "No shit!" retort (I am beginning to understand why they prefer female customer relations employees), and asked her why, with their promise of 1st March, have they been unable to upgrade the bandwidth after two weeks. Her response: "Sir, we had till the 15th of March to upgrade. You can call in one hour and check again".

Now this is not right! I can see that they had to rush their price-cuts to meet the competition, and I realize that the 1st of the month is when most of the customers would consider switching, so PTCL had to try to retain that segment of their customer base by promising them the shiny new deal – but why did they have to promise the exact date if they were unsure that they could handle the upgrade workload, why the hell are they still considering 15th of March as their deadline (which is from PTA), and more importantly, why can't they apologize about it, as they have basically swindled me out of 653.50 Rs.

After the prescribed one hour wait, I called 1236 again – this time their support gal simplified it for me and told me in no uncertain terms that "Many customers have already had their account upgraded, yours will be done soon too, perhaps in a day or two. PTCL has promised the upgrades so you will get the upgrade soon". I asked the same 'why promise…' question, and she gave me the same 'please wait for a couple of days…' response.

I would have been perfectly okay with waiting for a few weeks while PTCL upgraded, but the above situation has converted me into an irked customer (note: not a completely 'unsatisfied' customer, their actual wares are good, even though their customer 'service' is lacking) when they could have used the chance to convert me into a super-satisfied customer. I can survive with my current 256kbps, but I hate being manipulated like this. PTCL should fire its marketing department and hire a few more techs – to get things done.

Time to sleep.