Sandals and ponytail set cramp Linux

Sandals and ponytail set cramp Linux

Summary: The lax dress code of the open-source community is one of the reasons behind the software's slow uptake in commercial environments, says former Massachusetts chief information officer (CIO) Peter Quinn. Quinn, who played a key role in rolling out 50,000 open-source desktops in his home state of Massachusetts in the eastern United States, said "appearance matters" when trying to convince business decision makers of the merits of open-source software.

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The lax dress code of the open-source community is one of the reasons behind the software's slow uptake in commercial environments, says former Massachusetts chief information officer (CIO) Peter Quinn.

Quinn, who played a key role in rolling out 50,000 open-source desktops in his home state of Massachusetts in the eastern United States, said "appearance matters" when trying to convince business decision makers of the merits of open-source software.

He pointed to the "sandal and ponytail set" as detracting from the business-ready appearance of open-source technology and blamed the developers for the inertia for business Linux adoption.

"Open source has an unprofessional appearance, and the community needs to be more business savvy in order to start to make inroads in areas traditionally dominated by commercial software vendors. [Having] a face on a project or agenda makes it attractive for politicians [to consider open source]."

He went on to suggest that while the open-source community was slowly beginning to come to terms with the need to dress for success, it was a "huge education process".

In terms of public sector implementation, Quinn said political considerations in the United States had prevented many technology workers from going public about their support for open-source software solutions and projects being undertaken across government.

In Australia to speak at the inaugural LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in Sydney this week, Quinn told journalists: "I can't mention [the people by name], because as soon as you mention them they get their heads taken off".

"I think there's something going on in every agency in every [US] state," he said. "Whether the CIO knows it or not, that's a different thing. I think almost everybody, they say, 'It's not happening at my shop, I promise you', but when you [go] to their shop, it's happening. So I think it's happening everywhere, but there's varying degrees."

The culture of fear was exacerbated by the fact this was an election year in the US.

Quinn, who faced plenty of scrutiny over his support of the OpenDocument standards-based office document format, said proponents of open source in government faced formidable opposition from vested interests if they went public.

"When you think about the lobbying power and the cash that's available for opponents of open source and opponents of OpenDocument, there is a significant amount of money and resource that people can and will bring to bear," he said.

However, fear of reprisal was not the only reason why open-source software had not been accepted more greatly.

Quinn also blamed the leaders of technology departments for not communicating the benefits of open-source software to their businesses effectively.

"I blame the IT community, I blame the IT leadership, over and over and over again, about their inability to articulate correctly the business opportunity that we've got here," said Quinn.

"[I blame them] for not understanding what it is that they do, for spending too much time talking and thinking in technology terms and not thinking in terms of business terms."

Massachusetts' adoption of the OpenDocument format was seen as a watershed decision by open-source evangelists. The decision, made to ensure archived documents would be interoperable between systems over many years, had effectively shut out Microsoft, which did not support the OpenDocument format.

(Redmond this month joined a committee that has a key role in the ratification of the OpenDocument format as an international standard, although observers are speculating as to the reasons why.)

Microsoft's decision not to support the format had been a "strategic mistake", according to Quinn, who had encouraged OpenDocument advocates around the world to band together.

Quinn left his Massachusetts CIO post in January, after he was investigated for unauthorised trips to conferences. He was subsequently cleared.

"You can only stand in the public arena for so long and have mud thrown at you," he said.

Topics: CXO, Linux, Open Source, Software

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32 comments
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  • sandals and ponytails

    What a complete w_nker.
    anonymous
  • For sure

    I agree totally. Man, if this is what our leaders in the I.T. industry are like then we are surely going to wrong direction. Who cares what people wear or look like. it's xenaphobes like this that make our society a bad place to live. imagine if everyone looked down on someone who dressed diffrently. I dont care what people say about professionalism or anything like that, if they can't see past what you look like on the outside as far as i'm concirned you should be treated with just as much contempt.

    Oh and by the way, i hate sandles, i dont have a pony tail and im not a Linux geek.
    anonymous
  • A bit early

    April 1 is on Saturday.
    anonymous
  • Was this written in a Microsoft PR office?

    This story reads like something from 1996 - or Microdoft FUD. The reality is that Linux, and KDE, are steadily taking over the desktop (having long since won over the server market). In five years. Microsoft Windows will be just a bad memory.
    anonymous
  • WTF?!?!?

    I work at a major US state university. Lots of the sysads here have ponytails and wear sandals. Our campus IT infrastructure pretty much runs on Linux, and has for years, and the folks with the appearance this clown is talking about are as professional as they come.

    I'd say that the difference in our culture with the private sector is that, as an organization, being civil service and whatnot, people who apply for jobs as CIOs here actually have to have real experience in IT. Therefore, we are a lot more amenable to open-source software.
    anonymous
  • he has got it upside down!

    The perception of what a professional looks like is faulty. And well worth learning about it. This would remedy a lot of other problems with so called "professionals" as well.
    anonymous
  • Guys - Peter Quinn is on YOUR side!!!

    This is all about perception and politics - both office and electoral. What Mr. Quinn is saying is that it's hard to pitch Open Source to Chairmen of the Board and to CEOs when the "perception" of Open Source is ponytails and sandals.

    I don't like it; Peter Quinn doesn't like it; Linus Torvalds doesn't like it - but don't expect to make a marketing pitch to senior execs in traditional, staid corporations, or especially <Government>, without looking the part. It's all part of the emotional appeal - and believe me. the best technology does not win the day: it's the perceived benefits to the stakeholder. Decisions are made every day in management based on insufficient data - don't bias it any worse than it is by "reinforcing" existing negative biases.

    Turn the argument on its head: If you're the owner of a board shop (skate or snow - doesn't matter), who'd you rather buy product from: someone who talks your language and dresses like you, or someone who looks like he just stepped out of a 1970's IBM Sales Training program?
    anonymous
  • Yes and no

    Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) has come as far as it has based on merit, not image. Anyone who is distracted by and chooses appearance over merit deserves what they get (shiney crap).

    Granted, merit vs. appearance may not have to be a tradeoff, but I'll have someone else wear the suit and let me focus on what's *really* important.

    Suits suck.
    anonymous
  • Sounds like...

    ...someone just signed up to be the "face" of FOSS. Mr. Quinn, I say keep your suit on and keep speaking about the benefits of Open Source....please?
    anonymous
  • Thought I was alone

    I was beginning to think that I was alone in thinking that this was a great article. The importance of appearance cannot be overstated, like it or not, it is the way the real world works outside the hallowed halls of academia.
    anonymous
  • Thought I was alone

    I was beginning to think that I was alone in thinking that this was a great article. The importance of appearance cannot be overstated, like it or not, it is the way the real world works outside the hallowed halls of academia.
    anonymous
  • Freedom is an equal-opportunity employer

    With respect, you and Peter Quinn are mostly wrong. There is no need for Free Software's leading lights to wear ties and shiny shoes. There is nothing to be ashamed of!

    The fact is, Free Software already has, and has had for a long time, 'respectable' suit-wearers at places like Bell Labs, Digital/Compaq/HP, in academia and the courtroom. Legal geniuses like Lessig and Moglen are suit-wearers (and in other countries would be wig-wearers) extraordinaire.

    That intelligent but bureaucratic stuff-shirts like Quinn himself consider themselves part of the Free Software movement is a testament to the fundamental value of freedom, no matter where in the world you might live, what you wear, or what time of day you eat breakfast.

    Freedom does not discriminate on the basis of race, disability, religion, sex, sexual preference or sartorial habit.

    Dress as you please and get some free software today!
    anonymous
  • Whatever it takes

    Leafing through Linux Magazine I see no ponytails, not even long hair (on the men), and the only beard is in a cartoon. But most of these people are European, maybe fashions are different in Massachusetts
    This week's picture in my desk diary is of a hunter, up to his neck in water, with his head inside a large stuffed bird. Moral: if you are hunting suits, wear a suit.
    anonymous
  • Sorry, we're not in it for the money.

    I really don't think he gets it. We don't need to look fancy, we don't care. If you don't like they way we look, fine go back to paying millions on crappy software, and enjoy the fancy suit the new IT guys from Microsoft wear. Becuase they aren't going to know skwat, but at least they look nice, right?
    anonymous
  • What happened to this article?

    I got lost after the first paragraph. I was expecting another article whining about how linux should do this and linux should do that in order to get world wide domination (which is WAY off of its target). But I get to the second paragraph and this article takes a 180 degree turn and starts debating politics and open source format in government!
    Lets learn some basic journalism here and stick to the topic.
    As well, can we PLEASE stop writing article after article claiming that the author knows the "Silver Bullet" that will make Linux a success. NEWS FLASH, linux IS a success.
    anonymous
  • Don't choke creativity with a rag on MY neck

    Art, that's what is coming from the open source communities. If you stifle the artist then the art suffers. If you need a 'front-man' with a rag tied around his neck to present the art - well then HIRE ONE. Don't enforce the cramped narrow-minded old-world representation of acceptability onto the new-world innovators.
    anonymous
  • Don't choke creativity with a rag on MY neck

    Art, that's what is coming from the open source communities. If you stifle the artist then the art suffers. If you need a 'front-man' with a rag tied around his neck to present the art - well then HIRE ONE. Don't enforce the cramped narrow-minded old-world representation of acceptability onto the new-world innovators.
    anonymous
  • Have you left your closet lately?

    I have been in the SW development/IT industry for 2.5 decades. The CEOs wear ties and slacks, the sales guys where ties and jeans, the FAEs and trainers wear collared shirts and jeans, the engineer wears what he wants - often he's doing his work from his couch in his underwear while watching SciFi and drinking his bottled water.
    anonymous
  • So, If I wear a skirt then the pony tail is OK - right?

    Sexist!
    anonymous
  • True true

    You're right - he IS on your side.

    Its not about if you like suits or not. And its certainly not about limiting your creativity.

    Its about presentation.

    For all you techno geeks out there - think of it like 'usability' or 'interface'. Software that looks ugly and is clanky and hard to use doesn't sell. Ditto for the way that YOU look.

    Techies have always struggled to communicate in business terms - in the same way that business people have struggled to communicate in technical terms. Both sides need to work together to bridge this gap.
    sherry1-29f05