A spoof run by iTWire, written by Linux expert David M. Williams, and headlined "Linux beware: Microsoft acquires Novell, become UNIX copyright owner", was sufficient to cause a few people to call Novell in the US and inquire if there was some truth to the story.
Novell PR chief Ian Bruce phoned iTWire and asked that the story be retracted. iTWire editor Stan Beer had to add a paragraph to the story to state emphatically that it was an April Fool's joke.
(We don't generally submit to demands that resemble those in North Korea, not unless we are really at fault.)
An April 1 yarn works when it is good enough to be believed. We generally take care to add something at some point that provides a hint that it is fiction, not fact.
Williams was careful to do this. His story quoted someone bearing the designation "Microsoft’s Vice President of Stealth Acquisitions" and having the name Russell Sprout.
If that wasn't enough, he added this: "Sprout has already stated Novell’s recently released SUSE Linux 11 will be relaunched as Microsoft Linux Vista by the middle of this month."
That should have made it apparent to anyone with the IQ of the common cockroach that it was a spoof. The date on the story was clear: April 1. What more does one want?
I wrote to Bruce, asking him why Novell was angered by the story and pointing out that no entity, government or private, had ever taken offence at any of our April 1 spoofs.
He replied: "I wasn't angry. Unfortunately, your story was so well done as a spoof it got picked up in the US and we actually had a couple of calls. Amazing, I know. The headline did it, I think. Sorry for the alarm."
That people took such a story seriously tells us more about Novell, Microsoft and the public impression that the infamous patent contract has created, than any of the articles that have been written analysing, criticising or praising the deal.