March 28, 2006 8:34 AM PST

'Sandal and ponytail set' cramping Linux adoption?

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 Peter Quinn.

Quinn, who played a key role in the Bay State government's decision to mandate the use of OpenDocument-based products, said appearance matters when trying to convince decision makers of the merits of open-source software.

Peter Quinn Peter Quinn

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

"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, doing so is 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 entities.

In Australia to speak at the inaugural LinuxWorld Conference & 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 (U.S) 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 U.S., he said.

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 widely, he said. 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," Quinn said.

"(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," he said.

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

(Microsoft this month joined a committee that has a key role in the ratification of the OpenDocument format as an international standard, though observers are speculating 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 unauthorized 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.

Matthew Overington and Steven Deare reported for ZDNet Australia in Sydney.

See more CNET content tagged:
Peter Quinn, OpenDocument Format, open source, adoption, open-source software

178 comments

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Arrogance - the real problem
People who are so concerned with how others dress are simply arrogant. They believe that if you don't spend hundreds on a suit you aren't worthy.

The truth is that looks don't really matter to those who care about non-superficial things.
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
Reply Link Flag
But, the real solution....
It doesn't matter what the "real problem" is. The REAL SOLUTION is to adapt to the real business world... You can't tell your "customers" "YOU have to change!"

Or, The open source people can stay out of the business world altogether and keep it pure...
Posted by DougDbug (62 comments )
Link Flag
Don't interpret the content literally
Daniel, don't interpret the comments in this story so literally. The point the subject is trying to make is Big Business has to be able to take something seriously in order to adopt it for the enterprise. When real dollars are on the line, what is going to seem to be more legitimate, "WebSphere" or "Geronimo"? What about "Subversion" versus "PVCS"? You may read it as 'sub version' but the double entendre suggests zealotry.

Marketing may be fluff and utterly irrelevant where substance and functionality is concerned, but can you see a CIO standing in from of the board defending his use of the product "Eddie" over IBM HACMP? Functionality aside, they may do the same thing (these don't, but whatever) but you're not going to find a CxO willing to bet the farm on an open source product with a cutesy name.

Furthermore, zealotry will hamper open source projects. Rally cries of "Microsoft Sucks, Run With Tux" don't address the needs of businesses. Dollars are not made by technology - technology enables dollars to be made. If the technology is a superior performer and the risks of using it are manageable, it will win on its own merits.
Posted by scottlewis101 (19 comments )
Link Flag
Arrogant all the way
The problem is that the overly dressed corporate world is treating the software like they treat the people. The clothing problem is only a symbol of what's really wrong. The arrogance runs through and through.

If you'd rather spend zillions on something "acceptable" like a big ticket MS program rather than a less costly and infinitely more adaptable open source program, you deserve to spend too much and fail. Simple. The market will come back to bite even the most well-dressed, proper and conservative company over all this. Lean will win the day.
Posted by janetvande (5 comments )
Link Flag
Sad, but true
Nothing ever gets done if the morons are afraid, and the morons
are always afraid. A guy with sandals and a ponytail might be a
flake, or he might be the most qualified person in his field.
Judging which he is means taking a risk, and morons take as few
risks as possible. Being morons, they also believe that there's
no risk at all if he's wearing a suit. What a wonderful society the
corporate elite has created for itself! It's no doubt the reason
why IBM missed Bill Gates until he started eating their lunch --
off their own plates, no less.
Posted by timberman (6 comments )
Link Flag
Arrogance - the real problem
People who are so concerned with how others dress are simply arrogant. They believe that if you don't spend hundreds on a suit you aren't worthy.

The truth is that looks don't really matter to those who care about non-superficial things.
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
Reply Link Flag
But, the real solution....
It doesn't matter what the "real problem" is. The REAL SOLUTION is to adapt to the real business world... You can't tell your "customers" "YOU have to change!"

Or, The open source people can stay out of the business world altogether and keep it pure...
Posted by DougDbug (62 comments )
Link Flag
Don't interpret the content literally
Daniel, don't interpret the comments in this story so literally. The point the subject is trying to make is Big Business has to be able to take something seriously in order to adopt it for the enterprise. When real dollars are on the line, what is going to seem to be more legitimate, "WebSphere" or "Geronimo"? What about "Subversion" versus "PVCS"? You may read it as 'sub version' but the double entendre suggests zealotry.

Marketing may be fluff and utterly irrelevant where substance and functionality is concerned, but can you see a CIO standing in from of the board defending his use of the product "Eddie" over IBM HACMP? Functionality aside, they may do the same thing (these don't, but whatever) but you're not going to find a CxO willing to bet the farm on an open source product with a cutesy name.

Furthermore, zealotry will hamper open source projects. Rally cries of "Microsoft Sucks, Run With Tux" don't address the needs of businesses. Dollars are not made by technology - technology enables dollars to be made. If the technology is a superior performer and the risks of using it are manageable, it will win on its own merits.
Posted by scottlewis101 (19 comments )
Link Flag
Arrogant all the way
The problem is that the overly dressed corporate world is treating the software like they treat the people. The clothing problem is only a symbol of what's really wrong. The arrogance runs through and through.

If you'd rather spend zillions on something "acceptable" like a big ticket MS program rather than a less costly and infinitely more adaptable open source program, you deserve to spend too much and fail. Simple. The market will come back to bite even the most well-dressed, proper and conservative company over all this. Lean will win the day.
Posted by janetvande (5 comments )
Link Flag
Sad, but true
Nothing ever gets done if the morons are afraid, and the morons
are always afraid. A guy with sandals and a ponytail might be a
flake, or he might be the most qualified person in his field.
Judging which he is means taking a risk, and morons take as few
risks as possible. Being morons, they also believe that there's
no risk at all if he's wearing a suit. What a wonderful society the
corporate elite has created for itself! It's no doubt the reason
why IBM missed Bill Gates until he started eating their lunch --
off their own plates, no less.
Posted by timberman (6 comments )
Link Flag
Corporate Monkey Suits
cramping humanity. Burn your tie.
Posted by yellowjester (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Corporate Monkey Suits
cramping humanity. Burn your tie.
Posted by yellowjester (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Looks
probably aren't benefitting the cause, but the main issue is still lack of serious business apps. The linux desktop has become a pretty solid alternative for your basic home user, but even that won't take off like it could until you can easily buy a new PC preloaded with Linux.
Posted by Charleston Charge (362 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Preinstalled Linux
"but even that won't take off like it could until you can easily buy a new PC preloaded with Linux."


It is getting easier.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.addonshop.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.addonshop.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.emperorlinux.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.emperorlinux.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.ibexpc.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.ibexpc.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.koobox.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.koobox.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.linare.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.linare.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.linspire.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.linspire.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.linuxcertified.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.linuxcertified.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.linuxsyscorp.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.linuxsyscorp.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.microcenter.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.microcenter.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.microtelpc.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.microtelpc.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.outpost.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.outpost.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://shoprcubed.com/" target="_newWindow">http://shoprcubed.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.sub300.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.sub300.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.systemax.com/divisions.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.systemax.com/divisions.htm</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.walmart.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.walmart.com/</a>

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://tuxmobil.org/reseller.html" target="_newWindow">http://tuxmobil.org/reseller.html</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.us.debian.org/distrib/pre-installed" target="_newWindow">http://www.us.debian.org/distrib/pre-installed</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.linux.org/vendor/system/index.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.linux.org/vendor/system/index.html</a>

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://tuxmobil.org/" target="_newWindow">http://tuxmobil.org/</a> (general information)


No OS

(Sabio made by Quanta, like Dell-latitudes)
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.avadirect.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.avadirect.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.asimobile.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.asimobile.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.powernotebooks.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.powernotebooks.com/</a>
Posted by cyber_rigger (70 comments )
Link Flag
Looks
probably aren't benefitting the cause, but the main issue is still lack of serious business apps. The linux desktop has become a pretty solid alternative for your basic home user, but even that won't take off like it could until you can easily buy a new PC preloaded with Linux.
Posted by Charleston Charge (362 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Preinstalled Linux
"but even that won't take off like it could until you can easily buy a new PC preloaded with Linux."


It is getting easier.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.addonshop.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.addonshop.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.emperorlinux.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.emperorlinux.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.ibexpc.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.ibexpc.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.koobox.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.koobox.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.linare.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.linare.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.linspire.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.linspire.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.linuxcertified.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.linuxcertified.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.linuxsyscorp.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.linuxsyscorp.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.microcenter.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.microcenter.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.microtelpc.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.microtelpc.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.outpost.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.outpost.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://shoprcubed.com/" target="_newWindow">http://shoprcubed.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.sub300.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.sub300.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.systemax.com/divisions.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.systemax.com/divisions.htm</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.walmart.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.walmart.com/</a>

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://tuxmobil.org/reseller.html" target="_newWindow">http://tuxmobil.org/reseller.html</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.us.debian.org/distrib/pre-installed" target="_newWindow">http://www.us.debian.org/distrib/pre-installed</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.linux.org/vendor/system/index.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.linux.org/vendor/system/index.html</a>

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://tuxmobil.org/" target="_newWindow">http://tuxmobil.org/</a> (general information)


No OS

(Sabio made by Quanta, like Dell-latitudes)
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.avadirect.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.avadirect.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.asimobile.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.asimobile.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.powernotebooks.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.powernotebooks.com/</a>
Posted by cyber_rigger (70 comments )
Link Flag
Steve Jobs is a disgrace
I mean all he wears is that black T-shirt and jeans.
Posted by cyber_rigger (70 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't dress-up at Apple
Yeah, If you're a programmer at Apple and you come to work dressed like Wall Street, they'll beat you up!!!!!
Posted by DougDbug (62 comments )
Link Flag
Steve Jobs is a disgrace
I mean all he wears is that black T-shirt and jeans.
Posted by cyber_rigger (70 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't dress-up at Apple
Yeah, If you're a programmer at Apple and you come to work dressed like Wall Street, they'll beat you up!!!!!
Posted by DougDbug (62 comments )
Link Flag
Professional Open Source ...
... strategy for executives, that's what we (the Olliance Group) do, been doing it for 5 years with all the top tech companies. Instead of asking the community to convince a bunch of suits that Open Source is good, you need to look for other suits that can do it and can do it on their terms. And those are not things like free speech or the technical prowess of Open Source, generally.

I'm not surprised he had issues with the developers who play the most prominent and critical role in Open Source. However, those are not the same people who make the big decisions about widespread deployments. If he'd done a little homework, maybe he could have found some boardroom level advocates, and not just us, but others like IBM, Amazon, HP, Google, Sun, etc.

Chris.
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Professional Open Source ...
... strategy for executives, that's what we (the Olliance Group) do, been doing it for 5 years with all the top tech companies. Instead of asking the community to convince a bunch of suits that Open Source is good, you need to look for other suits that can do it and can do it on their terms. And those are not things like free speech or the technical prowess of Open Source, generally.

I'm not surprised he had issues with the developers who play the most prominent and critical role in Open Source. However, those are not the same people who make the big decisions about widespread deployments. If he'd done a little homework, maybe he could have found some boardroom level advocates, and not just us, but others like IBM, Amazon, HP, Google, Sun, etc.

Chris.
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What bunk
Since when have any innovators in software had 'professional appearence'?

Open Source isnt being adopted wider because 99.99% of people arent programmers or interested in the source, so the source being open or closed makes no difference because they'll never change it. So instead they prefer the more polished commercial apps with perks such as complete help files. Its not a religious issue - they just prefer paying X in dollars, and getting Y in software and support in return. People just dont have the time to wading through an endless collection of Beta version 0.2's of open source apps to find one that'll work for them, or updating their systems ever time a new bug-point-alpha build comes out. Commercial software is (not always, but usually) easier and lets them get on with their lives and jobs.
Posted by (402 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What bunk
Since when have any innovators in software had 'professional appearence'?

Open Source isnt being adopted wider because 99.99% of people arent programmers or interested in the source, so the source being open or closed makes no difference because they'll never change it. So instead they prefer the more polished commercial apps with perks such as complete help files. Its not a religious issue - they just prefer paying X in dollars, and getting Y in software and support in return. People just dont have the time to wading through an endless collection of Beta version 0.2's of open source apps to find one that'll work for them, or updating their systems ever time a new bug-point-alpha build comes out. Commercial software is (not always, but usually) easier and lets them get on with their lives and jobs.
Posted by (402 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Clothing dictates quality of software
That's right. It doesn't matter how robust the application is or how many hours were spent in its creation. What matters is that you wear a tie when you go and try to get companies to use your app. These people keep forgetting that open source software is made by volunteers. Volunteers who are not often business inclined. the initial idea of open source was to exist apart from propietary software, apart from the capitalist industry. The fact that the capitalists came to open source looking for cheaper alternatives seem to be lost on these people. If they came to the open sourcers, then telling them how to dress is basically an insult.

On the other hand, why is this a story? I guess CNET has determined that publishing stories about criticisms gets ratings or something, because frankly, I don't think this story deserves to be reported on a respectable news site. It's just not important.
Posted by Sentinel (199 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Clothing dictates quality of software
That's right. It doesn't matter how robust the application is or how many hours were spent in its creation. What matters is that you wear a tie when you go and try to get companies to use your app. These people keep forgetting that open source software is made by volunteers. Volunteers who are not often business inclined. the initial idea of open source was to exist apart from propietary software, apart from the capitalist industry. The fact that the capitalists came to open source looking for cheaper alternatives seem to be lost on these people. If they came to the open sourcers, then telling them how to dress is basically an insult.

On the other hand, why is this a story? I guess CNET has determined that publishing stories about criticisms gets ratings or something, because frankly, I don't think this story deserves to be reported on a respectable news site. It's just not important.
Posted by Sentinel (199 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And what would the properly dressed have done?
Nothing. Nothing good, anyway.

The suit-and-tie set would still be suing each other over who owned what. Open source culture simply evades them. It's time for the suits to get over their bad selves.

Adopt Linux or stay in the Micro$oft mold (and don't we always hear about how casual MS is compared to the rest of the corporate world)?
Posted by janetvande (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And what would the properly dressed have done?
Nothing. Nothing good, anyway.

The suit-and-tie set would still be suing each other over who owned what. Open source culture simply evades them. It's time for the suits to get over their bad selves.

Adopt Linux or stay in the Micro$oft mold (and don't we always hear about how casual MS is compared to the rest of the corporate world)?
Posted by janetvande (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wanker
Presumably he has a problem with folks like this:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://blogs.zdnet.com/Burnette/?p=46" target="_newWindow">http://blogs.zdnet.com/Burnette/?p=46</a>

I'll take the hippie sover the suits any day.
Posted by xoundmind (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Example
Greg is a good example of what this story is about.
A very smart guy with a good product, but if he showed up dressed like that clients like I deal with every day (Bankers) would not listen to him. They would see him as someone that rode up on a skateboard. The only way he could have made a worse impression is to have holes in the knees of his jeans.
Dress up a little better, a nice shirt, slacks and shoes and he would be listened to.
Posted by Sboston (498 comments )
Link Flag
Wanker
Presumably he has a problem with folks like this:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://blogs.zdnet.com/Burnette/?p=46" target="_newWindow">http://blogs.zdnet.com/Burnette/?p=46</a>

I'll take the hippie sover the suits any day.
Posted by xoundmind (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Example
Greg is a good example of what this story is about.
A very smart guy with a good product, but if he showed up dressed like that clients like I deal with every day (Bankers) would not listen to him. They would see him as someone that rode up on a skateboard. The only way he could have made a worse impression is to have holes in the knees of his jeans.
Dress up a little better, a nice shirt, slacks and shoes and he would be listened to.
Posted by Sboston (498 comments )
Link Flag
Conform or...
Silly man...

If all of these "ponytails" had conformed to old-school business customs (e.g. proprietary code, secrets, etc.) the innovation of open source would never have taken place.

I think the support and longevity issues are way more important in the open source vs commercial buying decision. And... I'd hire the creative ponytail sandal-worshipper ANY day over a buzzword-puffing hot-air generating confirmist any day.

In business, there are tools &#38; Tools. Don't become one... create and play boss...
Posted by TomTester (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Give and take...
.. on both sides is needed. I would not want to have a business partner who has tunnel vision about how a business person should or not be. If that is the case then it would make me wonder what else they are narrow minded about. The flip side of this is if you are going to a company that you know has a certain perception on how people should appear then you have to either play the part or direct your business elsewhere.
Posted by VI Joker (231 comments )
Link Flag
Conform or...
Silly man...

If all of these "ponytails" had conformed to old-school business customs (e.g. proprietary code, secrets, etc.) the innovation of open source would never have taken place.

I think the support and longevity issues are way more important in the open source vs commercial buying decision. And... I'd hire the creative ponytail sandal-worshipper ANY day over a buzzword-puffing hot-air generating confirmist any day.

In business, there are tools &#38; Tools. Don't become one... create and play boss...
Posted by TomTester (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Give and take...
.. on both sides is needed. I would not want to have a business partner who has tunnel vision about how a business person should or not be. If that is the case then it would make me wonder what else they are narrow minded about. The flip side of this is if you are going to a company that you know has a certain perception on how people should appear then you have to either play the part or direct your business elsewhere.
Posted by VI Joker (231 comments )
Link Flag
Eye Abuse
A guy wearing that tie should never tell anyone else how to dress.
Posted by Ballenger (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Eye Abuse
A guy wearing that tie should never tell anyone else how to dress.
Posted by Ballenger (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The real movers and shapers are too busy to be concerned about dress
Dressing well implies pleasing others. If you have something real to
contribute, dressing well is unnecessary.
Posted by mgreere (332 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The real movers and shapers are too busy to be concerned about dress
Dressing well implies pleasing others. If you have something real to
contribute, dressing well is unnecessary.
Posted by mgreere (332 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Come on now...
Is this guy serious? To quote a line from Pirates Of Silicon Valley "The worse you look the smarter they think you are".
If you are a master kernel hacker, system administrator or Unix guru I dont believe you got there from standing in front of a mirror examining your new three piece suit. It was from thousands of hours cooped into a small dark room honing your skills.
It is my opinion that this guy is so far off base, the people really behind the scenes shaking up the industry have no need to dress to impress it is obvious big business &#38;&#38; now big brother(at least the dress code big brother) are coming for them.
Posted by skin256 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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