A story penned by your writer and a fellow staff member here at the Builder AU offices has caused quite a stir in the last few days. The article centred around a comment made by Peter Quinn, former Massachusetts chief information officer (CIO) about the open source community having to be presentable when pitching ideas to customers. It got picked up by several news sites around the world, including Slashdot and the New York Times.

Peter Quinn is an open source advocate and a stellar mouthpiece for open source and open standards, but it has also turned out that he has a great sense of humour to boot. A day after the story went out to the world, he decided (with a little prompting from Linux Australia Vice-president Pia Waugh) to pose for a photo in exactly the guise he criticised.

Pia has posted the photo on her blog.

The cynic in me says, “If he’s so accustomed to wearing sandals, how come he hasn’t actually tightened them up?”

But that’s just being cruel. Truth is, Peter Quinn is witty, engaging, and with plenty of sage advice for IT managers weighing up the pros and cons of adopting open standards and open source software in business and government. Quinn is an avid golfer and motorcycle rider and he said to me in a conversation later at the conference that some clothes are better suited to specific situations than others.

“I’d never wear my golfing clothes while riding my motorbike, and vice versa.”

It has also been suggested to me – though not by Peter Quinn – that business attitudes need to change and that business decision makers have to realise that not everyone looks the same, but that doesn’t diminish their ability to do a job.

As a frequent sandal wearer that once had long hair (and now has precious little), I applaud this stance, though I think it’s naive to expect the change to happen quickly.

In the meantime, we’re stuck in a world where presentation matters. Whether we like it or not.