Hire your enemies

Eric S. Raymond is a Free Software advocate and has done much to promote and organize Free Software efforts so it was most surprising when he got a letter from Microsoft offering him a job. ESR’s response was crass but humorous. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time.

I’d thank you for your offer of employment at Microsoft, except that it indicates that either you or your research team (or both) couldn’t get a clue if it were continued

Note: The penguin which is called Tux is the mascot of the Linux operating system. Linux is the centerpiece of the Free Software movement.

9 Replies to “Hire your enemies”

  1. Very funny response, but also very rude and immature. The best way to bring a competitor like Microsoft down is in the marketplace. It seems that some OSS advocates don’t get that, and instead resort to government coercion to bring the “monopoly” in line. Would the linux community love to have 90+% of the OS installed base? You bet they would. And the word monopoly would suddenly take on a different meaning, or disappear from the dialog altogether.

  2. I don’t have a problem with Windows owning 90% of the operating system market if it was accomplished by legal and fair means. I just think it’s cool that Linux was developed by volunteers and that the source code is available for anyone to modify and fix and redistribute. Windows may be able maintain their dominant share of the market because of the “network effect.” According to Wikipedia, the network effect is “the effect that one user of a good or service has on the value of that product to other people. When network effect is present, the value of a product or service increases as more people use it. The classic example is the telephone. The more people own telephones, the more valuable the telephone is to each owner. This creates a positive externality because a user may purchase their phone without intending to create value for other users, but does so in any case. Over time, positive network effects can create a bandwagon effect as the network becomes more valuable and more people join, in a positive feedback loop.”

    Other examples of the network effect: QWERTY keyboard vs. Dvorak keyboard and the Metric system vs. US customary units.

  3. I know people whose entire systems consist of nothing but free software. I like free software. I like free anything :-) And if Linux takes over the world, I say more power to them.

    I think we agree on that, but you mentioned that it should legal and fair. I’m not sure what you mean by fair. The marketplace is certainly not fair. When allowed to operate freely, it more often than not rewards the productive and punishes the unproductive. It rewards the innovative and punishes the stale. Some get rich and some don’t. There is nothing “fair” about that. And that’s ok.

    And sometimes the marketplace leads to monopolies. That’s ok, too, as long as they’re not government-sponsored monopolies or based on coercion.

    Even the “network effect” has its limits. The telephone is a good example of that. AT&T was broken up because it was a monopoly, but the free market has a way of dealing with monopolies. Witness the cell phone market. You can have your telephone poles and copper cabling.

    As long as competition is allowed to thrive and the government stays out of the way (unless there is coercion or fraud) both businesses and consumers will benefit.

  4. I hadn’t given much thought to what I meant by fair. Coercion and fraud certainly seem unfair. I sometimes worry about monopolies, but I suppose I shouldn’t. I’ve tried to think of an industry where a monopoly would take away choice from the consumer. Even if there were an oil monopoly we could choose to power our cars by some other means or find some other way to travel. If there were a food production monopoly we could grow food in our own gardens (at least those of use outside urban areas). There always seems to be a way to compete against monopolies. With the free market come fluctuations in prosperity but I’d prefer suffering through a depression once a century over government interference.

  5. By the way, my smileys are getting moved around on me. In the November 30, 2009 at 2:46 pm post, I had a smiley at the end, but it ended up in the middle of the sentence. Weird. :-(

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