Microsoft tries, and fails, to recruit open-source guru

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Microsoft Corp. may be softening its rhetoric against Linux and open-source software, but that doesn't mean the company is ever going to be able to hire Eric Raymond. Earlier this week, a recruiter from the software vendor tried to lure Raymond, one of the open-source movement's most visible boosters, he said in an interview Friday.

On Thursday, Raymond received an e-mail pitch from a Microsoft recruiter asking him if he'd be interested in discussing a position.

The open-source advocate said he never gave the offer any serious consideration. "I thought it was an utterly ludicrous offer that deserved nothing but a ludicrous response," he said.

Raymond, one of the founders of the Open Source Initiative group that defined the term open-source, has been a constant and very vocal critic of the software vendor. He has also published a number of confidential Microsoft memos, dubbed the Halloween Documents, which have shed light into Microsoft's campaign against Linux and open-source software.

In an e-mail to the recruiter, later posted on Raymond's Web site, the open-source guru rejected the offer with glee.

"What were you going to do with the rest of your afternoon, offer jobs to Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds? Or were you going to stick to something easier, like talking Pope Benedict into presiding at a Satanist orgy?" he wrote. "I've in fact been something pretty close to your company's worst nightmare since about 1997."

Torvalds, the creator of Linux, said he has not been approached by Microsoft recruiters, but he was critical of Raymond's response, which he said would discourage dialogue between Microsoft and the open-source community.

"It probably was just a mistake on the part of some headhunter who just didn't know who [Raymond] was," he said via e-mail. "It just makes it even harder for people to even approach the other side, when they then end up having to worry about ... public humiliation."

In fact, Microsoft has had some success hiring from within the Linux community. Earlier this year, it hired Daniel Robbins, the founder of the Gentoo Linux distribution, and in 2003 it hired Bill Hilf, a former IBM executive with an interest in Linux, who now runs Microsoft's Linux lab.

Though Raymond actually spoke at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus about open-source software in 1998, he said he has had very limited interaction with the company since then, and had never before been approached by recruiters.

Apparently, Microsoft is not the only company interested in talking with Raymond, who said he was also recently approached by Microsoft rival Google Inc. "I was much nicer to them," he said. "I wouldn't mind working for them."

The open-source advocate is still waiting for Google to follow up on their earlier conversation, he said.

Microsoft declined to comment.

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