Microsoft has tried and failed ot hire high-profile open-source advocate Eric Raymond, according to Raymond himself.

On Thursday, he received an e-mail from a Microsoft recruiter asking him if he'd be interested in discussing a position with the software company. The open-source guru was not impressed. "I thought it was an utterly ludicrous offer that deserved nothing but a ludicrous response," he said.

And so that's what he offered. "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, we can confirm, has not been approached by Microsoft, but he was critical of Raymond's response, saying it 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. 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.

Raymond has actually spoken at Microsoft HQ about open-source software - a term that he helped create in the first place. That was in 1998, and he said he has had very limited interaction with the company since then - possibly a reference to the fact that he has published confidential Microsoft memos, dubbed the Halloween Documents, which highlighted Microsoft's campaign against Linux and open-source software.

Microsoft declined to comment.