The changing face of spam

You have to respect the sheer audacity. I wonder if some of these people go to special schools or take special classes to learn these tactics in guerilla warfare. They almost succeeded in “Trojan Horsing” their wares onto my blog. Sadly, the problem may not be the school or the classes. It’s the students…

After posting the phrase based password generation technique the other day, I was faced with a curious link in my referrer list.

Then I realized that I got a comment from someone who works at PassPack (Or PassHack) who politely encouraged me to look at their product via their “Product blog”. Very convenient indeed. I won’t turn this text into a link since they’ve already had their stay on my blog.

Passhack Spam1

Why, thank you, “L”! But you see, even the poor Jack O’Spades has already had this information spammed mentioned on his blog by “d”.

Passhack Spam2

Both employees of PassPack. Both gushing over their own product. Objectivity anyone?

You don’t think this is any serious way to advertise a product, do you? I mean, surely, there has to be a limit to how many times you can mention one product in two related posts. You guys really need to coordinate your spam activities to prevent this kind of mix-up in the future.

The really funny thing is that these folks might have been able to get away with it if they hadn’t posted a link to their corporate HelpDesk. Don’t bother trying to browse You will be greeted with the staff login page. I was checking my referrers the other day, and lookie here!

Peekaboo! I see you!
Passhack spam3

Note to spammers :
Get smarter! Or better yet, get lost!

Update 5:43 pm

I’m starting to become convinced that this is nothing more than a misunderstanding. I don’t believe that this was intentional spam, merely the result of poor employee training. I’m sure, my general attitude didn’t help much.

Tara, the founder of PassPack has been very forthcoming, so we shall see how things go on from here.

I hope for all our sakes, they drop this ridiculous tech “Evangelism” nonsense. It’s just another overhyped buzzword like “Web 2.0” or “AJAX”.

We don’t care about buzzwords! We care about originality and substance!

Update 09/2008

This post contains, by far, the the most amusing response to a comment by “L” …

Is there a “mark as spam” option for comments? Very annoying.

And “d” attempts to squeeze PassPack into a post about “Time Managment”. Now that’s ambition right there!


12 thoughts on “The changing face of spam

  1. Haha, I think I see my blog in that blurred-out list.

    I am suddenly struck by an overwhelming sense of irony by having seen my blog in a post about spam and having commented on a post about spam.

    *hangs head*

  2. HAHAHA!
    The universe is a cruel mistress of logic ;)

    I was kinda expecting individual blog owners to pick out their blogs, but as long as it’s not too easy for users to pick out each others’ blogs, it should be OK.

  3. Pingback: Transparent Evangelism « PassPack Blog

  4. Hi- as the founder of PassPack, I wanted to respond and hope you’ll allow me to do so publicly.

    First, PassPack is a free product. We started the company because we really believe in what we do, which is help people protect passwords. Because of the way we do it, calling us PassHack, while funny, really isn’t very accurate or fair.

    We have a staff of 4 people including myself. We’re obviously interested in passwords, so we follow conversations about passwords, and we participate whenever it makes sense to do so.

    Louise left a comment suggesting a solution on a post regarding passwords. Dani did the same on an entirely different blog. Both openly declared they were writing on behalf of their employer, PassPack. That’s pretty transparent for a “trojan horse”, but we would welcome suggestions on how to be more transparent- it’s a company objective, since we deal in security.

    In the name of transparency, we’ve opened a discussion on our own blog – http:// – since we believe people have the right to read all notes on our product, even negative ones. We just ask that you try it before you knock it.


  5. Dear Tara

    I have nothing against your product at all.
    In fact, I commend the effort you have put into creating your product.

    If you read my comment again, you will notice that my criticism is of your techniques in quietly sneaking in your product to blog comments.

    I.E. SPAM.

    Not once did I say your product is not worth exploring, nor did I tell anyone to not try it out. In fact, I’m just trying it out myself. But don’t tell me this isn’t what it is.

    You can call it Evangelism or Enthusiasm or whatever else you please. I call it what it is…. Spam.

    I just noticed… Why do you need to post another TinyURL link when, clearly, the post above contains the referrer to your blog post?

    Is this still “Evangelism” or can it be that you don’t actually read the blog you post in or any of the other comments?
    Do you just glance over it and think… “Hm.. This is password-ish. I’d better post another link.”

    Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  6. Really, it isn’t my goal to get into a war of opinions. I firmly believe we aren’t spamming you, but then again – that’s my opinion.

    As individuals, we each have a different level of tolerance. Obviously, we have breached yours. I’ve taken that in, and will keep it in mind.

    This is also why I opened up the discussion on our blog. I want to hear what other people think. We’ve had one reply so far, and it swings a bit in your direction. So let’s see where this goes.


    (BTW, the tinyurl is for aesthetic purposes only – it’s just shorter)

  7. I’m well aware of why TinyURL is used… I’m just wondering why you found it necessary to post a link to your blog… again… when the post above you was the referrer to that very same blog.
    Apparently, you didn’t fully read my post… again.

    Considering my email is posted on my blog, people can see that I have an exceptionally high tollerance for Spam. What I despise is what you call this “Evangelism” which you believe gives you a free license to spam without repercussions.

    And to change the definition of “Spam”, apparently.

    A company that is transparent should have transparent standards right?
    So could you take a look at those comments made by your employees and tell me exactly how it fits your own cirteria of relevancy?
    Do you have any criteria for relevancy?
    Are there steps that employees must take in order to fulfill this mission of “Evangelism”?
    How far is too far? How little is too little?

    Are your employees given any instructions on how to post links, and how not to do so? Is there any specific literature that teaches how to “Evangelize” your product?

    If so, can we see those instructions to ensure true transparency?

  8. I replied to the questions on our blog. But the tinyurl thing is really a non-issue. I had your page open for a while, then commented later. When I hit the “submit comment” button, it got posted as the fourth item — two other comments had gone up in the meantime, and the trackback was number three.

  9. was trying to find out more about pp and landed here. my take, companies will blog about themselves esp. startups is cheap marketing. I do however think passpack is going a bit OTT – in 15 minutes all the positive comments I could find outside its own site were from tara + co.

    Go to and you will see 1 positive review from,”sullof”, and guess what sullof works for PP! I dont want to see reviews of companies giving their product 5*s.

    What I suggest to Tara, given that your on a budget, is get some writeup done by other for your product and get these features in online/offline publications, get know for being an expert in your field and publish some though leadership articles and over time, if you product is actually good, your customers will do the talking for you.

  10. That’s good hunting Jack!
    Granted, I’m not part of a startup, and I work in a completely different field, but even by startup standards, that’s pretty lame.

    I create products as well, do you see me mention any of them by name or say how great they are?

    I criticise some of the work done by my predecssors… Again, do I mention any of them by name?

    I would never post a comment on someone else’s blog about how great any of the products I create are because that would be an obvious conflict of interest. It’s impossible for me to claim objectivity if I’m part of the very project that I’m trying to publicise. The only things I mention here are my personal beliefs on work ethic and intellectual honesty when it comes to social matters

    “if you product is actually good, your customers will do the talking for you.”

    Thank you!
    This is what I’ve been trying to make them understand. This self popularizing rubbish will only end up giving their company a huge black eye. For a startup, that’s usually a death sentence.

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