The impact of a compliment
This is the beginning of a great compliment. Here, the President is speaking about the Attorney General of California:
You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you'd want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake.
Here's where it goes too far.
She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country.
Is it a gaffe? Is it a nightmare? Is it tacky or inappropriate or any of a dozen other adjectives? Perhaps. That's not the point. It's simply not necessary and it's completely beside the point. This happens every day and it happens often in computing and technology contexts.
How you look is a combination of things, not the least of which being a genetic roll of the dice that you can't control. How you are, how you conduct yourself and how your work is perceived by your peers is absolutely under your control. And it is from this place, where your merits lie, that compliments spring.
When you compliment someone in a work or professional environment solely on their looks you are minimizing years of hard work, struggle and mental effort.
I like compliments as much as the next person, but it's important to not conflate personal compliments ("What great shoes!") with professional compliments("What an amazing slide deck!).
I would not like to see a comment like "Watch the kind (and well-dressed and hot) Scott Hanselman presenting on HTML5."
I'd rather see "Watch this ruthlessly competent presenter talk about HTML5."
You get the idea. Compliments to other developers should always be gender non-specific like "ruthlessly competent" or "bad ass." If someone is good at their job, you can always say "you're really good at your job." No need for extras.
Too sensitive? No, this is simple. Compliment the work and the person's effort in the creation of that work.
Your favorite presenter's outfit, hair, makeup (or lack of all three) didn't make that code run.