March 6, 2001

IBM is not ready to take over Linux

Author: JT Smith

- by Robin 'roblimo' Miller -

A few days ago I got an email with the subject header "IBM Linux Kernel Development Positions" that opened with the line, "My name is Robert Kemp and I recruiter [sic] representing IBM in Beaverton, Oregon. I came across your name at the website." If IBM is sending out recruiting spam to people whose names and email addresses it has harvested from Linux Web sites -- or is trying to headhunt journalists for kernel development jobs -- IBM is a long way from "taking over" Linux. Let's assume this was the act of a single IBM employee acting on his own initiative, not corporate policy. It still sucks.

After the first sentence (above) the email continued,

I know
that you are extremely busy so, please forgive my intrusion. As you might
have heard IBM is developing a world-wide virtual development team inside
of IBM working within the Linux community. Our goal is to utilize our
world-class IBM programming resources and IBM's best-of-breed software
technology to actively accelerate the maturation of Linux as an enterprise
operating system. Currently we're involved in the journaled file systems,
networking, S/390 support, logical volume manager, SMP performance,
scheduler performance, the IA-64 port of Linux, print work in both Linux
and Samba, PowerPC bring-up, probe tools for kernel debugging, glibc,
mathlibs, TCP/IP, testing and information development, internationalization
support, the Linux Standards Base and Linux cluster installation.

So, to make a long story short. If you or anyone you know would be
interested in a position with IBM here in Beaverton, Oregon or possibly
offsite work, please send me your resume at your earliest convenience. I
would greatly appreciate it.

I am really interested in talking with anyone who has experience with Linux
kernel development involving C programming experience, significant
expertise in one or more kernel areas such as: scheduling, device support,
I/O or multi-processor (SMP and/or NUMA) systems is a plus.

I have no experience or training in any of these areas, and I'm quite happy working for OSDN, but I replied anyway. I wanted to find out why IBM was sending me recruiting spam out of the (big) blue.

My email to Robert Kemp, senior staffing specialist/technical recruiter, IBM eServers, said:


I'm curious. In what context did you come across my name on
the website, and what kind of job did you
have in mind for me?


- Robin Miller

To which Kemp responded,

Hi Robin,

Thanks for your response. I located your name at
Attached is a hotsheet of jobs that IBM has open locally here in
Portland, Oregon. Please let me know if you happen to see any jobs that
might be of interest.

(See attached file: HotjobsFeb.doc)

Also, feel free to visit our website at for more exciting IBM
jobs ..

Please let me know if you have any questions.


Rob Kemp

Yeah, I still had the same question I had in the beginning: Why is IBM sending me headhunting spam meant for software engineers and developers? If you look at the Linux Journal Speakers Bureau page from which our friend Rob Kemp harvested my name and email -- the URL mentioned a few paragraphs back -- you might notice that the first words on it say,

Linux advocate and Linux-oriented
journalist since 1996. *Not* a developer;
I am the equivalent of a sportswriter in
the Open Source development community,
the guy who can't hit big-league pitching
but has a good handle on the players,
the teams, and what's generally going on.

After I got done laughing at the fact that IBM not only had trouble telling the difference between a journalist and a kernel developer, and the fact that they had sent their "hotjobs" list as an attachment in .doc format, I fired up StarOffice and read said attachment. As I suspected, not a single job shown was for a reporter or editor.

If a smart recruiter wanted names and email addresses of almost every Linux kernel developer, I can think of several great places to find them, and if you've been developing, writing about or using Linux for any length of time you probably know exactly where I'm talking about. (I'm not going to mention any of these spots here; I do not want to be responsible for unleashing a tide of headhunting spam on kernel developers.) But a recruiter Linux-hip enough to know how to find kernel developers in (shall we say) their native habitat wouldn't be spamming. He or she would know better.

IBM may be investing more than a billion dollars in Linux development, but apparently many people at IBM haven't yet realized that there is a specific Linux and Open Source culture that has its own ways of doing things. Until IBM figures this out, the chances of the company "taking over" Linux development in any meaningful way is exactly zero.

Hewlett-Packard hired Bruce Perens essentially as a native guide to Linux Country. It was a wise move, one that not only gave HP Linux credibility it couldn't have gotten by spending 100 times Bruce's salary in advertising, but one that may help HP avoid serious gaffes like sending recruiting spam to random email addresses found on popular Linux and Open Source Web sites.

Perhaps IBM should consider hiring its own Perens-style in-house Linux guru to help its management people -- and its recruiters -- deal effectively with Linux and Open Source developers .

Come to think of it, I know someone who might be perfect for that job. And if someone appropriate at IBM sent me an email requesting an introduction to that person, I just might arrange it.

But first, please stop the recruiting spam. It's bad enough when this sort of junk comes from penny-ante hustlers. A world-class corporation like IBM resorting to this tactic makes me as sad as I'd feel if I learned that Microsoft had decided to make its own proprietary version of the Java programming language instead of using the same Java used by everyone else in the world, including IBM.

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